Rick Marshall eased another small piece of wood under the
grill of the cook-fire as the tin kettle of water and pine needles sitting upon
it neared boiling. He leaned wearily back, watching the kettle as it began to
rattle. After a few minutes, it was ready. It had become a morning ritual for
him to fix a hot pot of the “backwoods tea.” He poured only one cup of the brew;
his son, Will, had never developed a taste for it in all their time here.
He took a sip and walked over to the small dining table of the cave, where
Will sat picking at a two-stack of smilax pancakes. “Will, remember how
Holly started us all on giving the wildlife around here funny names?”
“Yeah,” his son answered, looking wistful at the thought. “First there was
Bashful, that old ankylosaur down by the swamp. Then Spot. The she got us doing
it with Dopey and Spike. Grumpy.” Will was watching his father with concern as he
spoke, wishing he could cheer up his old man. “Hey, remember that pterodactyl
that used to land on that branch outside the cave? You’re the one who started
calling him Herman!”
Rick chuckled at that. “Yeah, I wonder whatever happened to that proud, old
guy? You know he stopped coming around about the same time you and Holly
opened that time doorway in the sky. I hope Mr. Jackson didn’t wind up taking
our friend home with him!”
“You think so? I never thought of that, but you’re right. Have I apologized
lately about the debacle with that pylon?” But Will realized he had
inadvertently hit his father’s tender nerves again as Rick frowned and looked
down into his drink.
“Pylon…” he mumbled.
Will cleared his throat and scooped up his plate, still with the unfinished
breakfast on it. “As much as I used to kid her, her smilax pancakes were 10
times better than mine.”
“She really matured after merging with the other Holly during that time doorway
incident. The alternate memories she had of that other family’s adventures in
this place really effected
her. She spent more time and care on her cooking; on being responsible; doing
her chores without issue…” Rick wandered to the back of the cave and lifted the
sleeve of his daughter’s brown jean jacket to his nose. He could still faintly
smell the perfume she had spilled on it well over a year ago.
Will was about to break his father’s melancholy reminiscence when someone else
did it for him.
“Me tobi yeni,” Cha-ka said quietly in
greeting as he cautiously entered from the dawn-lit mouth of the cave.
“Me tobi ye, Cha-ka,” Will said, using
the words he had learned from the young Paku as they progressively taught each
other their respective languages. “Hey, you want the rest of my pancakes?”
The Paku held his hands out and Will placed the plate in them. “Cha-ka
rike pan cacas.”
“Cha-ka, they’re pan cakes. Not caca.
My cooking’s not that bad.”
The Paku began shoving the pancakes into his mouth, smacking loudly.
Rick spoke up with an amused but stern tone. “Cha-ka, don’t you remember how
Holly taught you to eat?”
Cha-ka looked up at him sheepishly. “With knife and fork,” he mumbled through
his stuffed mouth, the spongy debris falling about.
Rick patted him on top of the head. “What brings you hear today, Cha-ka?”
The Paku looked around nervously and seemed about to bolt. Will pressed him.
“What is it?”
Cha-ka grabbed Will’s cup of water and washed down the hasty meal. Then he
seemingly walked as far from Rick as possible before muttering, “Ta.”
“Ta?” Rick’s head snapped around and his eyes narrowed at the young paku.
Looking down at his feet, Cha-ka said, “Yo.”
All affection left his voice as Rick asked, “What does Ta want?”
“Ta ma ima. Ma ima Ari.” Although he had
learned how to use mostly human words when he was with the Marshalls, he still reverted to Pakuni when
“A gift for Holly?”
Rick said. “Ta wants to give a gift to Holly?” Cha-ka still wouldn’t look at
him, but nodded his head. “Holly’s dead. Or has Ta somehow forgotten that?”
Cha-ka suddenly became fascinated by his own hands; he kept his head down and
fidgeted his interlaced fingers. But he said, “Ta know what is today…all Pakuni
“Dad…” Will began, but he was interrupted by his father.
“Cha-ka, you tell Ta…in no uncertain terms. The answer is no.” Then he stormed
outside to the ledge of High Bluff, his temper barely held in check. “Ta!” he
shouted into the jungle. “I know you’re out there listening. The answer is no!
We don’t want anything from you! We don’t even want you anywhere near our cave,
do you understand me? Ye pu? No ba!”
Spinning on his heel, Rick stalked back inside where he found his son sitting
with Cha-ka, comforting the Paku. He caught himself short and paused for a
moment to calm himself, then moved over to the Paku and
knelt down in front him. “I’m sorry, Cha-ka. You know you and
Sa are always welcome here. Especially you. But I don’t ever want to see Ta around here
and I don’t want anything from him. Tell him that. And tell him if he sees or
hears me in the jungle he better go the other way.”
Rick tempered his outrage with a fatherly hand and squeeze on Cha-ka’s shoulder.
“Cha-ka pu,” the youngster said. “Cha-ka
know your feering. Cha-ka miss Ari. Cha-ka sorry!”
With that, Cha-ka ran from the humans’ cave. Will made a half-hearted move to go
after him, just to distract himself from his own pain and the tears that
threatened to spill from his eyes at the thought of his sister.
It was as exactly one year ago as could be measured in the Land of the Lost that
Holly had been awakened by the sound of Pakuni chanting in the dark, wee hours
of the morning. She woke her father and brother and they followed the sounds
into the dark, verdant jungle, being led towards that first pylon they had ever
discovered near the swamp back on the day after their arrival to this strange
world. They had never been able to open this pylon for it had no key on it.
What was the controlling function of this pylon? Perhaps the Pakuni knew, for
Ta, Sa and Cha-ka were found to be chanting and dancing
around the obelisk this night.
misa meni re. Ema bisa ometa eram,
ometa eram meni ma."
Observing from atop a nearby hillock, the humans watched
the tableau in hiding, Holly taking particular pains to stay behind the giant
leaves of a plant to hide her bright, yellow shirt from the Pakuni. Will remarked to his sister, “They dance about as well as you do!
Why don’t you go join them?”
“What are they doing, Dad? What’s going to happen?” she said, ignoring her
“I don’t know, hard to say.”
The three humans continued to watch the three Pakuni clandestinely as the sun
finally peaked over the horizon, bringing dawn.
The familiar hum of a pylon door opening suddenly issued forth and, as the door
dematerialized, Ta quickly grabbed up a squash from a pile in front of him and
threw it into the pylon. To the humans’ astonishment, a pile of canned, bagged
and boxed grocery items spilled forth from the pylon door.
“Look at all those groceries!” Will whispered.
“Dad, I think that’s our way home!” Holly said, excitedly. As she spoke more
groceries and even a shopping cart fell out through the pylon door. “Dad, there’s
a time doorway in that pylon!”
“There sure is. Let’s go.” Rick led his children down to the clearing where
Sa and Cha-ka were shocked to see them, and Ta angry at their intrusion.
Will fell to his knees at the pile of groceries, grabbing items and exclaiming,
“A can opener!
Potato chips! Soap! Raisins! Cheese!” Ta angrily
smacked the packages out of the boy’s hands.
“Excuse me!” Will said in a huff.
Under his breath he mumbled to his father and sister, “Those potato chips sure
“Forget that, Will, we can get back to Earth through this
pylon!” Holly said.
Rick stepped between them. “Remember what happened with the
black Sleestak and how we thought we were going to get to go home? We wound up
trapped in solid rock. It’s only because our other selves helped us that we
escaped that wall at all.” Clearly this decision was weighing on him. “Every
time we mess around with these matrix tables we create a mess.”
“So, what do we do?” Holly asked.
Ta was standing at the door, gesturing them in.
“You want us to go through?” Rick asked him.
“Yeni ku. Yeni wu. Me ko
edobe chi amurani.”
Cha-ka translated as his older brother spoke. “Ta say you go. You see. Ta keep door open for friends.”
Will and Holly watched their father expectantly. Rick took
a look around them at the jungle, at the moons, at the sun, at the pterodactyls
flying overhead. Grumpy’s roar sounded in the distance.
“Okay, you’re right.” He looked at the Pakuni, who had
resumed throwing groceries into the shopping cart. “Cha-ka.
If we don’t come back out for a day or so, the Pakuni can have the stuff in our
cave. But don’t tell Ta and Sa about that until a day
has come and gone. Pu?”
Cha-ka nodded but looked confused.
pu. Marashara…Wirra…Ari…yeni ku? You go?”
“Oh, Cha-ka!” Holly fell to her knees and hugged
him, tears in her eyes.
“Take it easy, Cha-ka,” Will said.
As Holly let him go, Cha-ka held up one closed hand in a
sort of gesture of farewell, saying, “Acuba ne, amurani.”
The three humans stepped through the pylon doorway, looking
forward to a journey home.
And then Ta ran to the door and tossed in another squash.
The door rematerialized, sealing the pylon shut.
Just inside the pylon Rick turned in time to see Ta throw
the vegetable through the open door. But, somehow, the squash
never made it inside. In mid-arc it suddenly
vanished into thin air and the door materialized, closing them in. Running
towards the location of the door, he never reached it. Not only had the door
been closed, but the wall itself had seemingly vanished! Only the glowing matrix
table remained in the center of nothingness.
“Dad?” Will asked an unspoken question.
“Ta somehow knows how to close the door. He closed it on
Holly interjected. “If the time doorway works we won’t need
to go out through the normal door anyway.”
Rick was greatly disturbed, but wanted to put the best face
on it possible. “Okay. Let’s take a look at this matrix table.”
They covered the distance to the crystal-covered tabletop
and Rick cautioned his children from touching anything.
Just then a strange, metallic ticking sound permeated the
environment and a swirl of lights, like Christmas tree lights, descended from
above and surrounded them and the matrix table. Looking around, they saw that
the diamond shaped outline of the pylon door was now visible in the darkness.
Rick tried to move toward it, but the lights seemed to trap them all within
their enclosure. After several seconds, the lights ascended again and the
pressure keeping them around the matrix table ceased as the ticking was replaced
by the hum of the dematerializing door.
Stepping toward it cautiously, Rick in the lead, the family
observed a snowy mountaintop outside. Cold blasts of air issued through the
door, driven by a fierce wind.
“Dad, I think this is the spot where the other pylon used
to be…the one that brought Mr. Jackson. It looks like the same view,” Holly
said, gesturing at the valley below.
Rick almost suggested they get out here and return to High
Bluff. But a renewed noise indicated the door would close any second and they
all stepped back as it did so and the lights descended once again.
This time the door opened to a desert canyon landscape.
Primitive adobe buildings dotted the fissures and holes in the canyon walls. “Dad?” Will and Holly asked in unison.
“It could be
Earth. Those look sort of like the cliff dwellings of the Navajo in Canyon de
Chelly in Arizona.
But less worn than any I’ve seen as a ranger. This may be Earth’s past.”
“Should we go?” Will asked.
But, again, the door rematerialized before a decision was
made. The “tour guide” lights returned and proceeded to show the Marshalls a myriad of
worlds, none of which appeared to be Earth and many of which appeared to be
An hour passed and all three were growing frustrated. What
they had begun to notice is that each door to a new world was taking longer to
appear; their ride was slowing, possibly about to come to a halt that would
leave them trapped inside this pylon without food and only what little water
they had in their canteens. What could they do? Rick made a command decision. “I
want you to be ready to jump through the door when I say so. If I see a world
through that door looks like either Earth or back to the Land of the Lost, we
take it." His kids nodded agreement.
A couple more doors opened upon desolate or unforgiving
worlds. Then a door to a jungle and small clearing that looked remarkably like
the one they had left behind.
“Go! Holly, you first, then Will, then I’ll follow.”
Holly braced both hands along either side of the doorway
and hoisted her legs up and over the lip of the diamond shaped opening. Both of
her feet hit the red ground simultaneously.
And then she screamed.
Her legs had burst into flame, or more accurately, into a
kind of super-heated plasma.
“Holly!” Rick yelled.
She fell to the soil and her entire body exploded in a
blast of heat, disintegrating before the horrified eyes of her father and
Standing in shock, Will hung halfway through the door as
the doorway hum returned. Rick forced himself back to reality, pulling his son
away as the door closed on the world that had just taken his daughter forever.
Stunned beyond belief, grief-stricken, the two men didn’t
even realize that the tour-guide did not return this time. They sat in the
darkness of the pylon for long minutes before Rick silently started to touch on
combinations of colored crystals on the matrix table. But the pylon refused to
acknowledge his actions. No sound, no lights, no door.
Days passed and Rick and Will had long ago used up their
meager supply of water. They had tried finding the limits of the pylon’s
interior boundaries to no avail. They were trapped in an endless darkness with
only the matrix table at the center of it all. Rick had even tried calling out
for the possessor of the pylon (if there was one) to help them, but received no
Now father and son had barely the strength to move. They
lay on their backs a few feet from the matrix table, waiting for inevitable
death in the dim multi-colored light of the crystals.
And then, an electronic throbbing sound issued from the
floor nearby. Rick and Will lifted their heads weakly as a hole opened in the
floor and two figures emerged. They heard voices.
“Do not be overly concerned, Paku. My telepathic senses
reveal they are alive. Dehydrated, malnourished and exhausted, but they will
Cha-ka and the Sleestak called S’latch helped the Marshall men up into a
sitting position. S’latch examined the matrix table while Cha-ka gave Rick and Will water and fruit.
“Cha-ka, S’latch. How did you two get here?” Rick
croaked through his parched throat.
“Through floor door!” Cha-ka exclaimed excitedly,
bouncing on his bent knees.
S’latch answered more thoroughly. “Your Paku friend found
me and told me you had been locked inside this pylon. Since there was no key, we
could not let you out right away. But I recalled hearing there were alternate
methods of entering the pylons. I didn’t know how, but I went and learned from
the Library of Skulls that there was a special crystal that could open a door
placed in the floor of the pylons. I was able to obtain one of these crystals
from a hidden storage chamber of the Lost City.
With directions provided by the Skulls, the Paku and I made our way through the
tunnels until we arrived under this pylon and opened the ‘floor door.’ I am
afraid we must leave the same way, but we must be cautious of the other
“The matrix table,” Rick said. “We lost my daughter, Holly.
Can we go back? Back in time to save her?”
S’latch shook his head. “That is not possible. The matrix
table appears to be inoperable now. Did you try to use it while you were trapped
“Yes, but I didn’t think it would do any harm…”
“I do not know how to repair it. The time-doorway you
witnessed is no longer operable from this end, though it is possible it might
still open to admit a being travelling from another.”
“Ari gone? Where?”
Cha-ka was looking around, peering into the darkness. “Cha-ka not
“She…she’s dead, Cha-ka,” Will whispered.
After the humans told their story to their two friends, S’latch commented, “You
truly have my condolences Rick and Will Marshall. Holly must have stepped out
onto an opposite Altrusia…an anti-matter world and this resulted in her
annihilation. But my ancestral instincts tell me it is not wise to tamper with
the events of history. As you learned from the black Sleestak, the time doorways
are dangerous to use at the best of times, when you know the time and place you
are looking for. We do not even know that.”
Then S’latch urged them all to make haste before the Sleestak discovered them.
They made their way safely through the tunnels with S’latch’s
help. When Rick and Will had returned to High Bluff, Rick’s strength finally
broke and he fell to his knees, sobbing.
“I couldn’t protect her. A father is supposed to protect
“She would never blame you for what happened, Dad.”
“I couldn’t save her,” he said again.
Will tried to get his father to go to bed, but he just wanted to sit at the
table, staring into the flame of a homemade candle.
Maybe his dad just needed to talk it out, Will thought.
“That world she stepped into…do you suppose it was the anti-matter universe of
those other Marshalls?”
“I don’t know. I…you’re right, it could be, I suppose…in fact, that other Holly
out there…did they make the same mistake? Did that Holly step into our universe
“Maybe for them, it didn’t happen at all.”
“The way the time doorway’s work, it still could. It could
be happening now. Or any time!” Rick stood up with
determination on his face. “If there’s the slightest chance that could happen
again, to her...I’ll be damned if I’ll
just let it!”
And, in the present, Rick finished his mind’s eye
recollection of the events of that terrible day, choking back tears. “I hope the
other Rick Marshall was a better protector than I am.”
“You’ve done everything you could our whole lives to
protect us, Dad,” Will said in a comforting tone.
Rick wasn’t aware he had said his thought out loud.
“Do you want me to go instead this morning?” Will asked.
“No. Thank you, Will, but no.”
Rick left the cave and Will watched as his father
disappeared into the jungle.
As Rick made his way through the jungle towards the keyless
Moongiver pylon, he was unaware of being tailed by another. Ta used all his
stealth to not warn the human of his presence. The alpha male of the Tropi tribe
of Pakuni knew he had made an enemy of the wise human with the big magic; he
knew it was his fault the human girl was no longer of the Land.
Ta had wanted to meet with the leader of the Marashara
tribe to make amends as was Pakuni custom, but the man’s grief and anger
prevented any reconciliation. Admittedly, Ta was relieved not to have to meet
him face-to-face. Still, custom had to be met to the degree possible and, in truth, Ta genuinely felt remorse over his actions that had
led to the loss of the human female. Both the human tribe and the Pakuni had
played dirty tricks on each other during the year after they’d first met, but
they’d also helped each other as well. Perhaps not friends,
but, occasionally, allies.
Reaching his destination, Ta observed from a distance as
the human knelt down in front of Moongiver as he had every morning (and often
several times a day during bad weather) for the past year. Shortly, Rick left,
headed back toward his cave home.
Remaining where he was hidden for several minutes to be
sure the human had truly gone, Ta finally emerged and approached Moongiver.
Kneeling before the golden edifice, he set down a small stick figure decorated
with flower petals, grass and paint in a crude likeness of the human girl, Ari.
He looked up at the smallest of the triple moons in the
sky, uttering a prayer for the girl’s return, though he knew that even the
Moongiver was probably not that
His mind and heart heavy with guilt and regret, Ta looked
down at the dirt in front of Moongiver for a moment more and then he ambled
away. He would never know the meaning of the marks Rick Marshall made in the
ground at the foot of the pylon door every day…