"Who are you?" I croaked to the blurry figure in black. It laughed at me again and proffered a coffee mug. "Take a drink before you try talking. Your whistle needs wetted." She was right. (It sounded like a she, but to be honest my eyes were not yet filling me in on such nuances of personality.) I sat up and took the proffered cup and poured a healthy portion in my mouth. It mixed poorly with the sand and seaweed already in there, and I heaved most of it out. Which was good on the one hand because it washed some of the sand and seaweed out of my mouth. On the other hand, my head was still in "Torture Device" mode, and dry heaving sand, seaweed and some kind of wine seemed to be encouraging its cruelty. Not wanting to be ungrateful, I tried to hand the mug back.
"You got any water?" I asked, my voice a bit smoother this time. (I mean, I was not yet as smooth as Tom Jones, but I had passed the Leonard Cohen stage at least.) "Water?" the lady in black asked, sounding confused. "There is an entire ocean of it right behind you. Why would you want some in a cup?" I strained to focus my eyes and see her face, to try and decide if she was kidding or not. I still couldn't tell. "I think I should try some water before I start into the hair of the dog." I said, but that does not seem to have answered her question. "Are you one of those people who prefer straight liquor?" she asked, her voice tinged with disdain. I shook my head, which was a mistake. After the world stopped spinning and the gong orchestra in my head wandered off for a union break, I tried to explain. "I am not sure how I got here, but I am pretty sure it involved adult beverages in rather large quantities. I think I had better stick with something a bit softer for a bit, at least until I can hold down some water. Also, I want to wash the seaweed and sand out of my throat." I was pleading now. The lady in black seemed unmoved. "Too good for my sherry are ya?" she snorted. "Find yer own water then." and she got up and stalked off. I sat there, watching her go. Part of me wanted to just collapse back to the sand and go back to sleep. The rest of me wanted to get the sand out of the various crevices it was lodged in. That part won. I struggled to my feet and limped after her, the gong orchestra back to work and doing their darndest to earn that Christmas bonus.
I limped after her as fast as I could. For some reason I was starting to panic. I had no idea where I was, how I got here, and the sight of another human being was somehow comforting. Plus, if she had sherry, I couldn't be too far from civilization could I? My eyes were squinted mostly shut with the pain of the pounding in my head, and so I didn't see the sign until my forehead cleverly pointed it out to me. I fell backwards onto the sand, and lay there rehearsing my entire curse word vocabulary at the cruel fate that I found myself living. And then the elephant showed up. Actually, the water preceded the elephant, since she was spraying it from her trunk. Nevertheless, I was suddenly doused by what felt like a high-pressure water hose. It succeeded in washing the sand off of my face and the part of my body that was not lying in sand, for which I was somewhat grateful, once I coughed my lungs clear. I looked around for the source of the sudden shower only to see what my fevered mind told me was an elephant butt disappearing into the treeline. Whatever it was, it was crashing through the trees away from me at high speed. As I sat staring after the departing... umm... creature, a voice startled me.
"She can be so helpful! What a wonderful animal she is!" I whipped my head around, (greatly distressing the gong players) and found the source. A slender woman with graying hair reclined nearby on a frayed beach chair. I stared at her for a moment, before shaking the water out of my (mostly) sand-free eyes and blinking like a newborn.
"Huh-whuh-who?" I managed to mumble. But the woman had already returned her attention to the shiny silver Macbook on her lap. She was pounding away at the keys with a rapid-fire pace. Every so often she would giggle to herself, as if her writing was unbelievably funny. I was about to make another attempt at communication, when the ground began to shake. I stood up as quickly as my sand and waterlogged body would allow, and turned to see an elephant charging towards me. I froze in terror. I was about to be trampled. By an elephant. With a bow behind each ear. What? Who puts bows behind an elephant's ears? The elephant skidded to a halt a few feet away and pointed her trunk at me. I stood there trembling, wondering what new pain I was about to experience. The wet kind. The elephant discharged her entire trunkful of water at me with the force of a firehose. The watery blast knocked me back off my feet, and I landed at the feet of the slender woman in the chaise lounge. She had somehow managed to open a ragged umbrella to protect herself from the deluge, which she now daintily shook the water off of and stowed beneath the lounge. Then, picking up a large mug of what I strongly suspected was cooking sherry, looked at me over the top of her sunglasses and remarked calmly: "I told you she was helpful."
The elephant had rumbled back off towards the treeline again, I assumed to refill her mobile shower device. I stood up and shook the water out of my eyes, which caught sight of the sign that had so recently met my forehead. It took a moment for the words on it to register with my brain, but when they did I was not sure whether I felt more scared, confused, or just plain high on crack.
The sign had three panels, each emblazoned with a different phrase that looked as if it had been spraypainted by a delirious monkey. The first read:
"Abandon hope, all ye who enter here!"
"This way lies madness!"
and the last,
"Beware of the Leopard!"
As I pondered these three phrases, the elephant returned and washed the rest of the sand off my back.
"Good Clara!" The lounging typist said.
(To be continued...)
(To be continued...)
© 2009 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved
© 2009 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved