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The Ninth Pylon

By
anonymous

 

Holly stopped sweeping. An eerie sensation trickled across her shoulders and down her spine, like a tiny spider drumming his eight legs just over the surface of her skin. She was being watched. Her father and brother were working in the garden area just a few hundred feet away into the jungle beyond their cave, High Bluff, so it couldn't be them. There was heavy work to do today, as Daddy called it, breaking up the red sand and amending it with rotted dinosaur manure to make the soil fertile for the garden. It was work that Holly had no interest in doing. So she had stayed home to sweep the cave, bake bread, and work on the mending.

"Daddy? Will?" she called softly. She watched the entrance to the cave anxiously. Nothing but blue sky filled the entrance way.

"Will Marshall!" she called, a little louder this time. "Is that you? Stop playing tricks on me, you hear?"

A slight snuffling sound echoed in the cave. Holly backed up and caught her calf on the edge of a cot, tumbling backwards, the broom flying from her grasp and crashing to the stone floor.

A squeak and grunt from the door betrayed her visitor, as the Pakuni jumped at the noise and fled. But he too was clumsy this morning, and tripped over a boulder. Chaka lay sprawled, face down, on the slight plateau outside of High Bluff, while Holly lay sprawled on her back on the cot.

"Chaka!" she giggled, rolling to her side and rising to her feet. "What are you doing there? You scared me half to death! Come on out."

Chaka muttered and rose to his feet. His furry brown knees were covered with sand, and he had twigs and seeds knotted in clumps on his shoulders and upper back.

"Chaka find Ahree," he said, entering the cave cautiously in a slightly knuckle-dragging way. "Chaka find Weera and Marashara. Ta, Sa, oganza bisacha!" He spread his arms wide, indicating the 'big magic' facing his parents, Ta and Sa.

Holly walked over to the fallen broom, picked it up, and continued with her sweeping. "Oh yeah?" she asked. "What big magic, Chaka?" She was only mildly curious. To the Pakuni, sunrise was still a magic event.

He stood as tall as he could, on tip toes, and spread his arms wide, then raised them in a sweeping motion to form a point. "Oganza!" he breathed, his eyes growing wide and his nostrils flaring. "Oganza bisacha!"

Holly stopped sweeping. "A pylon, Chaka? Ta and Sa found big magic in a pylon?" This was important. Daddy would want to know about this.

Chaka nodded eagerly. "Oganza! Humani sa leeti!"

"Sa leeti?" The word was unfamiliar. Human of leeti? What was leeti? She began pointed to things in the cave, the gourds, the cots, the sleeping bags, their clothes, but Chaka shook his head at each object. It wasn't until she pointed at their fire pit did he jump up and down with excitement as she understood what he was saying. But it wasn't exactly fire he was after. Chaka raced forward and picked up a log, smashing it into the glowing coals so that sparks jumped in a fiery cloud of orange and red. "Leeti!" he called, pointing to the sparks. "Leeti!"

"Leeti?" Holly asked. "Sparks? Little lights!" Chaka nodded happily. "A human made of sparks?" Suddenly, the cold feeling of spider legs on her back came back. A human made of little lights could only mean one thingtheir old friend and enemy, the Zarn.

"He went into the pylon? And made big magic?" Holly asked the Pakuni again. Chaka nodded. "And Sa and Ta are afraid?" Chaka grinned.

"Ahree! Sa effi!" Holly understands.

Holly leaned her broom against the cave wall and grabbed her pendant from the gourd where they kept them. She placed it around her neck on its cool, slender chain. Then she also took her mirror, a rough communication device her father had taught her to use, and also hung it around her neck. She completed her gear with her canteen and several crystals taken from other gourds lined up neatly on a shelf near the cave entrance, carefully keeping the colored stones from touching by placing certain colors in certain pockets. The crystals were powerful energy forces that could be unleashed when particular colors touched, making small bombs useful for fending off angry Sleestak, rampaging dinosaurs, or other unknowns in the Land of the Lost.

She grabbed Chaka's hand. "Come on!" she cried. "We've got to find Daddy and Will and tell them about this."

* * *

Rick leaned on his shovel, placing a hand on the small of his back. Every muscle in his back ached, and the breeze dried the sweat to his skin, chilling him. It was a good morning. So far they had dug up another few dozen feet of garden with only limited interruption from the animals in the jungle. Will had collected piles of rotted brontosaurus manure from the edges of the swamp, trundling it back to the garden in a wheelbarrow Rick had created from rough planks made of palm trees and wheels hewn from the soft wood. It was smelly, dirty, hot work, but the extra acreage could be used to raise their staple crops potatoes, carrots, and smilax roots with enough to dry and store in the cave against a possible famine. Although escape was paramount, survival too was ever on Marshall's mind, particularly making sure that Will and Holly would be provided for should something ever happen to him

His sharp eyes caught a flash of blonde braids and he straightened up as his daughter Holly burst into the clearing, dragging Chaka in tow. Her flushed face and dancing eyes told him immediately something was wrong.

"Holly? Are you all right?" he asked.

"I'm fine Daddy, but Chaka came to the cave all in a tizzy," she said. "He was so scared he wouldn't even enter the cave to find me, but hid on the edge."

Rick knelt down and addressed the Pakuni as he would a very young child. "Chaka? What's wrong?"

Chaka babbled in Pakuni while Holly translated. "Daddy, he says Ta and Sa sent him to find us. A man made of sparks went into the pylon and made 'big magic.' I think it's the Zarn, Daddy."

Rick's face grew grave. This was dangerous to all in the land of the Lost The last time the Zarn had meddled with the Land of the Lost, the gravity drive on his spaceship had nearly destroyed the precarious balance of the closed universe they were all stranded in. It was impossible to blast out of the Land of the Lost Rick and the Altrusian, Enik, another time traveler like themselves stranded in the land, had surmised that the circular world only allowed one being to leave when another entered. So far, no one but the three Marshalls, the Altrusian Enik, and the alien Zarn were in the land. So if one of them were to leave, another being, presumably of the same mass, had to enter. Another human, humanoid, or alien.

The second danger was from the pylons themselves. Although Rick supposed that the Zarn was advanced enough scientifically (as opposed to the Pakuni, for example), to be very careful when experimenting with the crystal technology, he wasn't comfortable leaving the amoral alien experimenting with the weather, time, and the time doorways, the three things the humans had discovered with certainty that the pylons controlled. Depending upon which of the golden obelisks the Zarn had entered, he could alternately stop the sun from rising or setting, send violent thunder and hail storms onto the land, raise a wind to hurricane force, or open time doorways to other lands. All powers Rick would prefer none of them play with, until they were sure what to do with them, or at least in control enough of the experiment not to hurt any beings in the land.

"Which pylon, Chaka?" Rick asked, then translated his question into rudimentary Pakuni. Chaka gave directions. Rick grew even more apprehensive.

"Which pylon is that, Daddy?" Holly asked. "I don't remember a pylon that close to the Lost City, except for the big matrix table in that old temple."

"I don't know of one over there, either, honey," Rick replied. "Sounds like the Zarn beat us to finding another one. This one is east of the Lost City. We've only explored the areas to the north and west. Let's wait for your brother and then go over together. We'll need to stop back at the cave for crystals"

"I already have them," Holly replied triumphantly, patting her bulging jeans pockets. She took out a yellow and blue crystal, holding them far apart on the palm of her hand. "Some of each color."

"Good thinking, honey!" Rick said proudly. "Do you have your pendant?"

"Yup, and my mirror, too."

"Holly, I'm so proud of you!" Rick said. "You are really growing up, you know that?" She beamed at the unexpected and generous compliment from her father.

The squeak and crunch of the wheelbarrow heralded Will's approach from the jungle, as did the smell. A terrible smell. Worse than horse manure, worse than fresh cow manure, it was like a closed up pig sty on a hot August day. "Ugh!" Holly said. "What is that awful smell?"

"Me," Will said glumly as he pushed the bulging wheelbarrow into the clearing. His hands were smudged with the dark substance, and the cuffs of his jeans were caked with manure. "Here I am, the sh-"

"Will," his father warned.

"- poop master," Will finished, correcting his word. "I have had the unique distinction of being the Land of the Lost's garbage man today. Emily makes a ton of poop. Dopey too, for that matter," he said, referring to Holly's pet dinosaur, and Emily's offspring. The brontosaurs lived near the marshy edge of the river.

"Why do you want that stuff?" Holly asked.

"It makes an excellent fertilizer, Holly," Rick pointed out. "At home, I used cow manure from Farmer Evans down the road. In the spring and the fall, I mix it into the vegetable beds. That's what makes the tomatoes grow so well, and the corn, and the string beans. Plants need nutrients, and they take them from the soil. The fertilizers provides a good source of broken down nitrogen, which I believe the Land of the Lost's soil lacks, because it's a new world."

"But the plants do okay in the jungle," Holly protested.

"That's because they grow wherever their seeds or their roots find places to grow," Rick said. "But it would be very inconvenient for us if we continue foraging every day for our food. There could be a point when the nearest food is very near the Lost City, or where Big Alice sleeps during the day. It could become dangerous to harvest the food, or a famine could strike, and the plants in the jungle could die off. By making the garden here and concentrating our crops, we can grow what we want where we want, and ensure a good harvest."

Will dumped the wheelbarrow of manure into the four-foot wide trench his father had dug. "Is this the last for the day?" he asked. "If it is, I'd like to just run back to the cave and wash, and change my jeans, if that's okay with you."

"Yeah, please do," Holly said, holding her nose in an exaggerated gesture.

"Stinks no worse than that awful perfume you pour on," Will retorted.

"Sure, poop-man," Holly agreed nasally through her pinched nose.

Will had an angry reply but his father held up the "cease and desist" hand. "Will, go back and change. We've got to go and investigate whatever set Chaka off."

"Anything can set Chaka off," Will protested. "It's probably nothing."

"If it's about a pylon, it could mean the difference between going home and being stranded here forever," Rick said. "So get changed and hurry back, because we're investigating with you, or without you. We'll wait for you on the edge of the Lost City clearing."

"Okay, Dad. But please, wait for me, okay?" Will loved an adventure. He was already jogging back towards their cave before Rick could answer.

"Come on, Holly, let's start off," Rick said, and the three began the hike to the Lost City.

* * *

 

Will joined them on the edge of the clearing, just beyond the large paving stones that made up the plaza in front of the Lost City building. Holly, Rick and Chaka were crouched behind the huge rock bearing the warning, "Beware of Sleestak."

"What's wrong?" Will whispered.

"Big Alice, " Rick replied in a whisper. "She's very agitated about something. She's pacing back and forth on the plaza, and we can't run past."

Sure enough, they heard the heavy tread of the allosaurus as she turned and paced from the east to the west towards the ancient Temple, her heavy tail twisting on the ground the way a cat's tail would when she's been angered.

"Something sure set her off," Will whispered back.

"Chaka says the pylon is off to the right," Rick replied, pointing to the far right, opposite the plaza where the Temple with the large matrix table lay half-hidden in the thick jungle overgrowth. "Just a little bit into the jungle, due east."

"Can we approach from the jungle?" Will asked.

Rick shook his head. "The day shift is foraging in there," he said. "I scouted ahead before you came, while Holly and Chaka remained here waiting for you. It's not just Spike. There's a whole herd of diplosaurs, as well as triceratops, eating in the berry patch to the east. They seem to like the new shoots from the strawberry plants. We don't dare to disturb them. If they charge, the jungle is too thick for us to get away quickly. We have to cross the Lost City plaza or wait until nightfall when they move out of the berry patch."

"And if we wait for nightfall, the Sleestak emerge to hunt the Altrusian moths," Will sighed. "It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario."

"Will, you need to watch your mouth," Rick said sharply. "I don't approve of foul language. That's the second swear word I've heard out of you all day. And I won't accept the excuse that you're learning this from TV, or that your friends have been a bad influence. The only bad influence has been your own mind and lack of self control."

"Sorry, Dad," Will murmured, although inwardly, he wondered what was the big deal. After all, speech was only offensive when someone was there to hear it and be offended by it. A swear was only a swear to some people. Here it was just his dad and Holly, and of course the Pakuni, but who cared, really?

"Sounds and words can be extremely powerful," Rick lectured, "The mark of an intelligent man is his speech, Will. A weak man relies on weak words, like swear words, to make his point."

"You were in the army," Will protested. "Don't tell me you didn't hear worse there!"

"That's neither here nor there," Rick said. "Here you're in my army, the Marshall army, and you'll do as you're told, Land of the Lost or not. Quiet. Wait. Big Alice looks like she's slowing down."

And indeed, Big Alice had paused by the ancient temple. She lowered her large, blocky head to sniff at the temple roof, nudging the stone cross beams with her enormous bulk. The beam rocked slightly, and thousands of pebbles and small stones clattered to the stone floor. She began using the temple as a scratching post, rubbing her leathery hide against the jagged, crumbling edges of the pillars. A small crooning of contentment issued from her massive throat, like a cat's purr. The cascade of pebbles and Alice's happy murmur made a noise as loud as a truck rattling past.

"Quick, everyone, that's the noise we need for our cover!" Rick cried. "Run!"

Grabbing Chaka by the hand, Rick dashed first out into the plaza, followed closely behind by Holly and lastly, Will. The race was swift and short, but for the Marshalls, running across the exposed plaza with a ferocious carnivorous dinosaur not two hundred feet away, it was terrifying. They made it to the overgrown edge of the jungle to the east of the Lost City, panting and exhausted, without incident.

"Thank God Big Alice needed a scratch," Will sighed.

"Everyone all right?" Rick asked. Nods and "Yes!" answered him from the family and Chaka. "Chaka, which way?"

The Pakuni pointed deeper into the jungle due east. Then he pointed to tiny, humanoid footprints on the sandy soil. "Ta, Sa," he cried.

"They went this way," Rick affirmed. "Let's go."

They hiked through the thick jungle at a fast clip, slowing only to use their knives and the hatchet Rick carried on his belt to hack away the tough, sinewy vines growing across the path. The Pakuni had probably ducked or swung through them like chimpanzees. This path looked as if it wasn't used frequently, not by Sleestak, Pakuni or dinosaurs, and the Marshalls hadn't really explored this way very much. Rick didn't like to explore in this area of the jungle because it was too far away from the safety of High Bluff and too close to their enemy, the Sleestak. Although the Sleestak hated the bright light of day, occasionally they strayed from their cool, dark caves and into the forest edges where the thick canopy of leaves blocked out the direct sunlight, and Rick never wanted to surprise a Sleestak hunting party while the Marshalls were exploring.

Finally, they reached an area so overgrown that the palms and rubber trees overhead almost completely blocked out the sun, and the ferns were head-high. Holly and Will drew close to their father as the chill, clammy air swirled around them.

"Daddy, I don't like this," Holly said.

"It's likelike the Mist Marsh" Will said. "Dad, I don't think we should go there!"

"It's dangerous!" Holly cried, trying to break away from her father's protective arms.

"Dad, we mustn't go there!" Will cried.

Rick had felt the warning signs of the Zarn nearby in his mind, and he knew Will and Holly were succumbing to the telepathic alien's fear broadcast, designed to keep the curious away from his nefarious deeds. He had felt the cold, clammy fingers of fear rifling through his brain like fingers rifling through a card catalog, searching, measuring, probing. The Zarn. "Will, Holly, snap out of it!" Rick cried, shaking them slightly. "It's the Zarn, remember? He can make us feel fear only if we let him. Stick together!"

Holly whimpered, but seemed to find her center in her father's voice. Will's breathing was panicked, but he glanced at Holly, and he'd be damned if he would let his little sister be braver than he was. Chaka squealed and fled, however, running back into the jungle. For a split second both Holly and Will felt their muscles twitch of their own accord, their legs and feet ready to turn and dash into the safety of the jungle. If it weren't for their father's comforting arms, they would have followed Chaka.

But they held their own, and the feeling passed. The eerie clearing seemed less frightening now, and just a dark, overgrown corner of the jungle. A bright, jewel-toned lizard leapt from rock to rock, his red and orange body glittering in the gloom. A scarab beetle snoozed on another rock, and Altrusian moths, iridescent white insects the size of Rick's hand, fluttered among the ferns, alighting on minute flowers blooming in the plant's center. It was a typical jungle clearing, in an atypical world, but a world with which the Marshalls were now familiar.

"The Zarn," Will breathed. "He can still do that, even though we crippled his spaceship."

"He is very powerful," Rick's voice sounded in the clearing.

"Dad?" Holly turned to her father.

Rick shook his head. "I didn't say that. It's the Zarn, playing tricks again."

"The Zarn's playing tricks again!" the voice that issued from the ether was now Holly's, ending in a girlish giggle. "Oh, fat rats!"

"Here now, Will Marshall, learn from your sister and swear like a girl!" the Zarn mocked. The familiar tinkling sound of wind chimes heralded his approach. He entered the clearing, a glittering form made of tiny white lights, outlining a vaguely humanoid form of head, torso, hips, arms, legs, hands and feet. The lights changed color according to his emotional status, and now they glittered white hot, and gleeful.

"Zarn, we want to talk to you!"

The Zarn's voice changed and became the voice of Julie Andrews, singing a show tune from My Fair Lady plucked neatly from some dark corner of Rick's mind:

"Words, words, words,

I'm so sick of words!

I get words all day through,

First from him, now from you!

Is that all you blighters can do?"

"Zarn!" Rick called. "Stop this nonsense. What are you doing out here?"

"Oh, just out for a Sunday afternoon stroll," the Zarn replied. His voice now changed back to Holly's. "Like back home in Indiana, Daddy!"

"Stop reading our minds, and start answering," Rick snapped. "Chaka came to us and said you were messing around with a new pylon. He was terrified and babbled something about his parents, Ta and Sa, seeing 'great magic'. What have you found? It's dangerous to play with these things, Zarn. The Altrusian technology"

"Those little scheming apes," the Zarn muttered, "I ought to bring them back to the inter-species zoo in the Crab Nebula. Perhaps we could release the Pakuni into the enclosure with the carnivorous scarzoid from the Andromeda Galaxy. I wager the Pakuni would last only five of your Earth minutes before they were eaten. What is your wager, Rick Marshall?"

"My wager is that your chatter is meant to hide something, that you found out more information about leaving the Land of the Lost," Rick said. "Out with it, Zarn. We know you've been investigating a pylon, one we haven't found yet."

"Finders keepers, losers, weepers!" the Zarn replied again in Holly's voice, erupting into a fit of giggles, bent over and clutching his glowing abdomen. He was so happy, the light illuminated the dark clearing, sending shimmers from his form and touching the plants. He disturbed the scarab beetle, who crept away, flipping his jeweled body under the safety of a rock.

"Zarn, anything you do to disrupt the time doorways could have a negative impact on us all," Rick said. "Didn't you learn your lesson the last time, when you tried to use the gravity drive on your spaceship to blast out of here, and you nearly killed us with the impact of the G forces?"

"The Land of the Lost has had a negative impact on me," the Zarn said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Look, Rick Marshall, I don't have time to stand here and chat with you and your family. You no longer interest me, not from a scientific perspective, and not from a commercial perspective either. The Crab Nebula zoo has plenty of humans already there. And creatures from your world called cows, I believe. The Crab Nebulans love to snatch cows from your world. They find the creatures amusing. I admit I do not see their charm, but they are far more charming than you, Rick Marshall.

"But enough. I have no time for idle chatter. Leave this place at once." The ground shook alarmingly underfoot. Will grabbed onto Holly, Holly grabbed onto Will, and Rick caught both their shirts in his fist to steady them.

"Earthquake!" Will said.

"No. A time window, opened just enough to let the breeze in." The Zarn turned away from them.

"Zarn! If you disrupt the Land of the Lost's equilibrium, we could all die!"

"No small loss," the Zarn replied, and disappeared back into the jungle.

"Dad, what's going on?" Will asked.

"I don't know, son. But I do know the Zarn's up to something! Let's follow him. Holly, stay between your brother and me."

And with that, Rick plunged into the foliage in pursuit of the Zarn.

* * *

They emerged at the edge of the pylon clearing. >From all outward appearances, this pylon was the same as the other eight they had found in the Land of the Lost. A golden obelisk, vaguely pyramidal in structure, with a crystalline pyramid key over a trapezoidal doorway. The door was open, revealing the inky blackness inside. The inside of the pylon was larger than its outside, a conundrum Rick Marshall was at a loss to explain. As with the other pylons, the sand underfoot changed from oxidized iron to quartzite, glittering like tiny diamonds. He had often wondered if the pylons required a certain crystalline structure as their base, and if the ancient Altrusians had mined this quartzite and used it as that base, of if they had merely located these awe-inspiring power sources over naturally occurring beds of quartz.

"Well, sure enough, Chaka was right," Rick said. "There is a pylon here. According to our map, we thought there might another on this side of the valley. Taking the six we found down here, the seventh you two found on top of the mountain, and the eighth the one Will and I found on top of the small mountain, that would bring the total pylons in the Land of the Lost up to nine." Rick shivered.

Holly, ever sensitive to his moods, asked, "Daddy? Why did you shiver when you said 'nine'?"

Rick paused for a moment. "There are many legends around the number nine, back on Earth, honey," he said.

"Like what?" Will asked.

"Nine is always the number for sound," Rick said. "My music teacher in high school loved to spice up class with anecdotes. The ancient Greeks felt the number nine to be sacred to music and the arts. There are nine muses, for examples. Depending upon various harmonic combinations, the intervalsspaces between the notesalways add up to nine. The myth linking the number nine to music and sound continues among classical musicians in our day. Beethoven wrote nine symphonies, and his ninth is considered an absolute masterpiece. Dvorak too wrote nine symphonies, with his ninth being the New World symphony, another masterpiece. There are many, many other examples. And nine was also the number of the spheresthe number the Mediaeval alchemists ascribed to heaven."

"I don't get it," Will said flatly. "I mean, I understand the superstitions arising about music, but what's Mediaeval alchemists got to do with it?"

"They separated the heavens into nine spheres," Rick said. "Each sphere was inhabited by an order of intelligent beingsmen, angels, cherubim, seraphim and the like. But at ninethat's the throne of God."

"And?" Will asked.

"Sounds," Rick said. "In the ninth sphere, sounds become real, and thoughts are made manifest. Supposedly one can hear God directly in the ninth sphere. Nine. It's always related to sound, and the magic of sound."

Holly drew closer to her father. "But that's just superstition, right Daddy?"
Rick was still staring in fascination at the ninth pylon. "What? Oh sure, honey." He smiled fondly at his daughter and ruffled the edge of her pigtail. "I'm just engaging in speculation. More so than usual." Will's grin widened.

A burst of light filled the entrance to the pylon, then disappeared. Rick started forward. "Come on kids," he said. "Whatever the Zarn is doing in there, we should know about it. If he disrupts the balance of things in the Land of the Lost, the results could be catastrophic."

They walked quietly towards the pylon, trying not to disturb the Zarn. But the telepathic alien had long ago sensed their presence.

"Rick Marshall, you are a tiresome creature," the Zarn said. "Go away."

"We want to know what you're doing, Zarn."

"Using sound waves to knock a little porthole into the fourth dimension is what I'm doing. Now leave me!"

The ground underneath shook again. Will felt the hairs on his arms rise, and Holly began looked fearfully around the clearing. "Daddy, it suddenly feels like there's a freight train going through here."

"It's like standing on an airfield when the planes are taking off," Will said. He pressed his hands to his head. "Ow!"

Rick felt the sound vibrations rattle him to the bone. Sound could be as potent a weapon as light, or heat. The waves, when intensified, were just as deadly. "Okay, Zarn, we'll stay back here. Just cut the sound off." The vibrations ceased. "Is that what you were doing before?"

"Yes. It's just one of the charming capabilities of this pylon."

"No wonder Big Alice was so upset," Rick mused. He grabbed the children by the shoulders and they all took a step backwards, away from the pylon. They were within three feet of the entranceway, close enough to see the Zarn's glittering light body and the pulsing matrix table through the door, but not close enough to see exactly what he was doing.

"Big Alice?" Will asked.

"Sure, son," Rick answered. "Animals can hear sounds that we can't. Dog trainers use those whistles, remember?" Will and Holly nodded. "So perhaps Big Alice can hear other sounds. If the Zarn was playing around with the pylon"

"Experimenting!" the alien scientist snapped.

"Big Alice may have heard the noises, and become angry!" Holly concluded. "No wonder she was upset more on the east side of the plaza. As she moved to the left, the west, she walked away from the sound."

"That's right, Holly!"

"But I still don't get this pylon," Will said. "I mean, sound? What does it do? Is it a weapon?"

"I'm not sure, son," Rick replied. He tried to take a step forward, but it was like an invisible hand reached out and hit him in the chest. He tumbled backwards, the wind knocked out of him.

"Daddy!" Holly cried, racing to her father's side. She and Will helped him sit up. "Are you okay? What happened?"

"Rick Marshall, I am warning you. Do not try that again," the Zarn said. "Next time I won't be so merciful."

"A force field of some kind, I imagine," Rick struggled to get his breathing under control. He said quietly to the children, "Just stand back, but watch what he does, carefully. We may need to replicate it later."

They resumed their places three feet from the entrance to the pylon. "Zarn, can you at least tell us what you're doing?" Rick asked.

The Zarn hesitated, his hands hovering over the quickly pulsing matrix table. "Oh, very well," he sighed. "Since you'll pester me to death if I don't tell you. This pylon opens a time window."

"A time what?"

"A time window. Smaller than a time doorway. A fissure in the wall of the fourth dimension. Not enough to travel through back to my own world, but enough to beam through a telepathic message. The pylon appears to amplify my telepathic energy signal. It also amplifies sound waves. I am attempting to calibrate the temporal frequencies to my alpha wave pattern. Once this is accomplished, I can send a message to the Zarn home world, requesting aid."

"Yeah, but how can they find you?" Will asked. "I mean, if we knew where we were, we could do it, but we don't know where, or when, this land exists."

"I am leaving them the coordinates where my ship was last in our galaxy, before I ran into the time door," the Zarn explained. "As you must have been on Earth coordinates when your time doorway opened."

"Do you mean," Rick said excitedly, "that we can use this too, to send a message back to Earth, telling them where exactly on the river we were when the time doorway opened? And perhaps a rescue party could go through the time door too?"

"Perhaps," the Zarn acknowledged. "But it is a perhaps, Rick Marshall, and not a certainty. You must also tell them when you were."

"When we were?"

"When. The date, time and location," the Zarn said. "Fourth dimensional coordinates involve time, as well as space. You must not leave out the when."

"How does it work?"

"Patience, Rick Marshall, patience," the Zarn chided. "Be a good boy, nice and quiet, and I will tell you"

The three Marshalls stood in frustrated silence for many minutes, peeking through the pylon doorway. It was like looking into a lit living room window at night from the street into a home they've often admired, but were never invited into.

The Zarn made a satisfied, "Ah-ha!" sound, and a ruby light suffused the interior of the pylon. Holly raised a hand to shield her eyes from the glare.

The Zarn stood, head bowed over the matrix table, just the tips of his fingers touching ruby crystals near the corner of the matrix table.

"What's he doing?" Will whispered.

"Ssh, just watch, son," Rick replied.

After what seemed like an eternity, Holly thought she heard the Zarn's voice. It was like a whisper in the wind. "Zarn home world, this is the Zarn"

"Daddy, I can hear him, in my head!" Holly said excitedly.

"Me too!" Will cried.

"coordinates 389 x 2117, time vector 218, traveling at 62 x 1.82 meters per second squared"

"It works! He's calling his home!"

"We read you, Zarn. This is Zarn home world. Do you know what star system you are stranded in?"

"We can use it to call our home," Will said. "Maybe NASA could send scientists"

"Or the Forest Service," Rick mused, "could send a rescue party down the river"

"We should tell Uncle Jack," Holly said quietly. The two men turned to her. "Well," Holly explained, "NASA won't know who you are, Daddy, even if they hear your voice. And how will you find them? Do you know anybody from NASA? The Zarn looked like he just sort of concentrated, and his thoughts were amplifiedso I guess it would be hard for you to call NASA."

"Go on, honey."

"Well, and your idea about the Forest Service is good, but they've probably searched that river already. You've often told us about search parties you were on, Daddy, looking for lost hikers and kids and stuff like that. They search for a certain amount of time, right? Then they call it off."

"That's true, Holly."

"Plus, if they heard your voice in their heads, they'd probably dismiss it," Holly said. "But not Uncle Jack."

"What about Aunt Ruth?" Will asked, mentioning Rick's sister.

"She would hear you too, but she can't go get a raft and go on the Galatin River to find us," Holly said. "She's got Uncle George and our cousins to look after. Jack's the one, Daddy."

"By goodness, Holly, I think you're right," Rick said quietly. He shook his head slightly, marveling at how his pig-tailed daughter's mind worked. She had not only sensitivity, but a method of deductive logic that took into account human relationships as well. What intellectual powers she was developing!

"So, do we try it?" Will asked.

The Zarn dropped his hands from the matrix table. "It is done," he said. He stepped out of the pylon and into the clearing. "I have contacted my home world, and they are sending a rescue ship into the void, to the exact fourth dimensional coordinates where I disappeared. If they can get the time doorway open, I will be rescued. No thanks to you, Rick Marshall."

"Now look here, Zarn"

The Zarn stepped forward and thrust his face close to Rick's. It was extremely unpleasant, for Rick was now closer to the telepathic being than he had ever been before, and the effect in his mind was almost unbearable, static spikes drawn into his mind and raked through with every breath.

"No, you look here, Rick Marshall," the Zarn snapped. "You've done more harm to me than any other being in this awful world, and more harm than almost any other being in the universe. First, you destroyed my research scientist, the android named Sharon, when I specifically warned you not to touch her. Next, you destroyed my defensive weapon, the android called Fred, by luring him to the top of the high plateau so that his metal body would attract and conduct lightning. Lastly, you and your male offspring thoroughly crippled my interstellar ship, a ship I have enjoyed for a millennium and my only means of escaping this world. You have tortured me with your hot emotions, crippled me, and made me defenseless.

"If I ever get home to the Zarn home world, I am sending a war party to Earth, and I will attack you and wipe every one on your planet who shares so much as one common drop of DNA with you. Do you understand?"

"Zarn, I "

"I hate you, Rick Marshall. And your offspring. And your world. Now get away from the pylon. You don't know how to use it. You are not a telepathic being like the Zarn or the Altrusian. I warn you, Rick Marshall, do not play with this pylon. Now leave me alone."

With the tinkling of wind chimes, the Zarn turned and walked swiftly through the jungle. Will started walking as if to follow him, but Rick reached out a hand and caught him.

"No, son, let him go."

"But Dad! He isn't being fair. Destroying his assistant was an accident. Fred the android was trying to kill us, so that was self-defense. And if he had used the gravity drive on his ship to blast out of the Land of the Lost, we all would have been killed!"

"I know son. But words are tricky things. We could never explain what we mean to him, not in our words."

"I don't understand, Daddy," Holly asked. "You're always teaching me and Will to talk out our differences."

"We can only speak in words," Rick said. "And the Zarn can only speak in telepathy. We can't 'talk' out our differences if we speak different languages. Our telepathic abilities, if any, are so under developed compared with his. He, on the other hand, does not trust words."

"Telepathy must be hard to live with," Holly said, shaking her head. "No wonder Enik's people like logic instead of emotion."

Rick eyed the still-open entrance to the pylon. "Well," he said, "we still have another few hours until sundown. If the Zarn can get a message out to his home world, we might be able to get a message back to Earth. Would you like to see if we can get the pylon to broadcast our message?"

"Yes!" the children cried in unison.

Now that the force field was down, they were able to enter the pylon easily. Rick stood over the matrix table, facing the door, while Will and Holly stood to his right and left. "I saw what the Zarn did at the beginning," Rick said, touching the first sequence of crystals. "But the end sequencewhat if red isn't the color for humans?"

"We'll never know until we try it," Will said. "We've got to try, Dad. This may be our only chance to get a message home."

Rick began touching the crystal sequences, aided by Will and Holly. Soon, a faint hum suffused the pylon.

"It's working!" Holly cried.

* * *

Outside in the jungle, the Zarn paused. The humans had taken the bait and walked directly into his trap. Oh, what a glorious day! He had thought they might see through his telepathic conversation with himself and realize that he had not contacted the Zarn home world. But he had counted on Rick Marshall's cursed curiosity, and the human's drive to escape this wretched world.

He wasn't sure how to make the pylon actually work. His calculations and measurements had indicated it to be a communications center of some sort, creating and amplifying sound as well as broadcasting a stronger telepathic frequency but he had not been able to achieve link up with the alien technology. Frustrated beyond belief, he was delighted to discover that the crystals could in fact produce a gigantic psychic shock wave, a mixture of telepathic and sound waves that would injure even the most advanced brain. He himself had been momentarily stunned when he had stumbled across it. What it would do to a human?

He had lured the Pakuni inside, and gotten the two big ones to touch the crystals as the first part of his experiment. What a mess they had made! Shocked out of their minds, lying on the floor in a smelly heap. The Zarn had levitated their bodies into the jungle and monitored them for hours. They were still in shock, and their vital signs weakened. They would die, he surmised happily. If not from the shock, a carnivore would find their lifeless bodies and eat them alive. The young one would die too, left alone in the jungle. The offspring Pakuni had run into the jungle for help, as the Zarn assumed he would, heading towards the humans.

It worked. Rick Marshall would join Ta and Sa in the jungle. Dying. At last!

The Zarn chuckled gleefully to himself and waited beyond the clearing, monitoring the Marshalls.

* * *

Rick paused and took a deep breath. "Okay, kids," he said. "I'm going to touch the red crystals now, the same way as the Zarn did. Stand back. I'm not surethat isit might not work as well for me. Our minds are different. It might"

"Daddy no!" Holly cried. She grabbed her father's arm. "Don't do anything that dangerous, please!"

"It might be okay, honey," Rick tried to reassure her, although his own heart was beating painfully in his chest. He swallowed. "We have to try. If we can get a message across to someone on Earth, they can work to get us out of here, while we work from within."

"Dad, I'll be right here," Will said, trying to offer support. His eyes said, I'll take care of Holly. Don't worry.

"Daddy, don't!"

"I have to, Holly. If we don't try this, we might never be able to do it."

Leaning his elbows onto the matrix table, Rick reached out and, stretching his hand so painfully that the joints popped and crackled, his touched the tips of his fingers to the same ruby crystals the Zarn had touched.

A bright, painful explosion rocked the inside of the pylon. A red light filled the air, and the sound, high pitched and dreadful, was deafening.

"Daddy!" Holly cried in horror.

Rick sank to the floor.

* * *

The transition was painless. Rick felt his mind drifting and floating, drifting and floating, through a dark void. A bright golden light shone ahead. It's like the time doorway, he thought, but smaller. It really is like a time window. He was icily calm. That's where I have to go, he thought, and his mind drifted towards the light.

His mind took him through the light. He was floating above the Earth. He thought of Jack, Ruth, and the white clapboard house set on the rolling Indiana fields. Home, he thought. I need to find Jack.

As if viewing the world through a telescopic lens, he suddenly rushed lower and lower, until he was directly over a scene so dearly familiar to him, the pain nearly drove him back to the his body in the Land of the Lost. There his family gathered around the picnic table. Ruth and George stood at either end, dishing out enormous plates of potato salad, baked beans, and corn on the cob to their five children. His brother Jack stood at the barbecue grill, flipping hamburgers. The tablecloth on the cedar picnic table was red, white and blue.

It's fourth of July, Rick thought.

The scene was running quickly, like a film sped up. Now the family had finished eating. Ruth emerged from the house bearing a large sheet cake decorated with strawberries and blueberries to form the American flag. She displayed it proudly and the family clapped.

Something's wrong with that flag, Rick thought. The stars are in a circle.

It's the bicentennial, he thought, remembering a Life magazine article he had read just before they had left on their ill-fated expedition. He had seen the design of the proposed bicentennial flags in the article. That's it, he thought. We've been in the Land of the Lost for two years. It's July 4, 1976.

The scene shifted again. He was growing tired, very tired, and his mind was wandering again, pulling away from the scene on Earth. For an instant, he heard the whisper of Holly's crying, thought he heard Will calling his name, over and over, urgently. No, children, he thought, I can't go back yet. Not yet. I haven't gotten my message across.

The scene shifted. It was dusk. The sunset was a glow of indigo, red and orange light across the horizon. Jack Marshall walked alone by the fence line of Ruth and George's farm, thoughtfully chewing on a blade of grass. He looked sad, and tired. He leaned against a fence post and stared into the night sky, alone with his thoughts.

Jack, Rick thought. Jack, it's me, Rick.

Shock registered on Jack's face. The blade of grass dropped from his mouth.

It's working, Rick thought excitedly. He can hear me!

Jack, I know you think this is a hallucination, but it's not, it's me, Rick. We're alive. Holly and Will and me. But we're trapped. I don't know where.

"Rick," Jack whispered. "Oh my God. Where are you?"

Take the left fork of the Galatin River, Rick whispered. That was my mistake. I read the map wrong. I thought it said the left for. The safe way is the right fork. Take the left fork towards the Colorado River. Pack a survival kit. Leave detailed instructions with the Forest Service showing where you're going. Rescue us, Jack. You're our only hope.

"This can't be happening," Jack said. "I'm going nuts."

No, you're not, Rick projected urgently. Jack! Left fork of the Galatin River. July 28, at 10:17 a.m. Go!

He could hold on no longer. He felt his mind pulling away, wrenched from the scene. He was back in the inky blackness between the worlds.

But he was stuck. There was no light to guide him back to the pylon. He had no idea what to do now, no idea how to get his mind back into his body. Holly! Will! It was up to the children now to rescue him.

His mind floated in the inky blackness, and his panic grew.

* * *

The blast of sound and light knocked all three Marshalls to the floor. Even though Rick's hands lost contact with the matrix table, he lay on the floor, eyes staring sightless at the ceiling of the pylon.

"Daddy!" Holly cried. She leaned over and put her ear on his chest, listening for a heart beat. His heart sounded like a drum all out of rhythm, galloping madly. "Will, do something!"

Will tried to remember his Red Cross first aid course. He shook his father, tapped his cheeks, rubbed his breastbone. Nothing. He poured some cold water from his canteen over his father's face. He could not get a response.

"Will, what do we do?"

"He's in shock," Will said with certainty.

"Maybe his mind is stuck," Holly said. "Can he hear us?"

"I don't know," Will said. "Let's try to rouse him."

They shouted, they rubbed his wrists, they tried pouring water into his mouth. It didn't work. Rick lay motionless on the floor of the pylon.

Will searched his mind frantically for something to do. What would rouse his father? How do you pull someone's mind back from a time window? Could his father hear him? They hadn't been sure if the pylon worked with both sound and telepathy, or just sound. A sudden idea struck him. It just might work, Will thought, biting his lower lip. If his father could hear them, then they'd bring him back. If Rick couldn't hear them but could feel their emotions telepathically, it might work then, too!

"Quick, Holly," Will said. "You've got to swear."

"What? Are you out of your mind, Will Marshall?"

"I think it's the way to get Daddy back," Will said. "We've got to get him good and mad, so he concentrates on us. Just trust me, okay Holly?"

"I think we're both going to get in trouble," Holly said doubtfully. She glanced down at her father and her lower lip trembled. Resolutely, she set her jaw and held back the tears. "Okay, let's do it."

 

* * *

Floating in the inky blackness, Rick suddenly heard, loud and clear, the one word he had absolutely forbidden Will and Holly ever, ever to say. It was his pet peeve. He hated it. Hated foul language. And his son and daughter were swearing like sailors!

Will Marshall, he thought angrily, you are in so much trouble for teaching your little sister that word

The anger focused his thoughts on his eldest child. He was so angry that he visualized his eldest child, saw with clarity his face, Holly's face. He was so angry he could reach out and slap Will right across the face.

Suddenly, light pierced the blackness. He saw through the light Holly and Will, kneeling over something on the floor of the pylon. But more than that, he heard loud and clear,

".fucking things to happen in this shit-hole place"

With a painful gasp, he was back in his body.

* * *

The Zarn lifted his chin and sniffed the air like a dog who has encountered an unexpected scent. His telepathic senses picked up the last thing he had expected: Rick Marshall's consciousness had returned to the Land of the Lost.

This is not possible, he thought. I couldn't get the pylon to work. Could those incompetent humans have stumbled upon its secrets?

What if the pylon really did function as a mental microphone, broadcasting and enhancing telepathic messages? What if Rick Marshall had managed to do what the Zarn was unable to do?

I will get him, the Zarn vowed. Rick Marshall, you have not seen the last of me yet!

* * *

Rick's whole body ached, his head hurt, and he gasped his words. "William Richard Marshall," Rick said, "I'm going to tan your hide within an inch of your life."

Will rocked back on his heels, his shoulders sagging in relief. "Thank goodness it worked!" he said. Rick sat up on the floor of the pylon, wiping the water away from his face. Why was the front of his shirt soaked?

"Daddy!" Holly hugged her father.

"I'm sorry Dad, but I couldn't think of anything to get to you except that," Will said.

"What? Are you telling me you did this on purpose?" Rick eyed his eldest son. He blinked several times. His eyes ached. Everything ached.

"You were out there," Will tapped his own temple with his index finger. "The crystals shocked you, there was an explosion. We didn't know what to do. We couldn't wake you. I remembered how you said that words could affect a person. And emotion. So I bet that if you could hear us with our words, you'd react, and if you could only hear us telepathically, because the pylon had affected you, then you'd feel our anger"

"I needed a focal point," Rick said. "Something to concentrate on to get back. You provided me with something to concentrate on, all right."

"Daddy, you're all right!" Holly couldn't contain her joy. "I'm so sorry, Daddy, I'll never swear again. Will made me do it."

Rick smile wanly at his children. "And in this case, I'm glad Will made you do it. But if I ever catch either of you using that kind of language again"

"Can you walk, Dad?" Will inquired, changing the subject.

"If I lean on you two, I can," Rick said.

"Did you get through to Uncle Jack, Daddy?" Holly asked. They helped their father to his feet.

"I think I did," Rick said. "When we get back to High Bluff, I'll tell you about it."

They exited the pylon, and Will reached up and shut the door with the crystal key. The door closed, revealing no seam, just a flat golden surface.

"Dad, now that you and the Zarn both got your messages out theredo you think we have a better chance of being rescued?"

"Count on it, son," Rick said happily. He felt weary and queasy from the shock, but joyful too. Just seeing the rest of their family, and making contact with Jack, filled him with an inner peace.

Suddenly, Ta and Sa burst into the clearing. "Humani!" Ta cried. In Pakuni, he said, "Run! Danger!"

"Man made of sparks!" Sa cried. "Danger!"

"We know, Ta, Sa," Will said sarcastically. "As usual, you're late with the news."

"Go and find Chaka," Holly said. She pointed to the forest. "Chaka's worried about you. Go on home!"

The Pakuni ran back into the forest, jibbering and crying.

"Come on," Rick said. "Let's go back to High Bluff and celebrate. Holly, can you whip up something special?"

"Sure Daddy," Holly said proudly, "I can make a neat strawberry pie, I think, if we have enough smilax and potato flour for the crust."

"Yum!" Will said.

"You actually liked something that I cooked?" Holly asked, astonished.

"A few things," Will admitted. "Your pies are almost as good as Aunt Ruthie's cakes."

"I think you'll get to taste Aunt Ruthie's cakes again, soon enough." Rick said happily as three walked towards home.
 

THE END

Copyright Notices

The Land of the Lost and all of its characters are copyrighted by Sid and Marty Krofft and Krofft Productions. No harm or infringement of copyright was intended by this story. The story was written for fun only, and the author received no remuneration for her work. The story is copyright 2000 by  anonymous.