“Mr. Clement tells his story”

“Mr. Clement tells his story” – a short story by Mike Michelsen

———-

THE LITTLE RIVER GAZETTE

**EXCLUSIVE**

MR. CLEMENT TELLS HIS STORY

June 21, 2012 –  John Richards, reporter.  Recently, the news has been filled with the claims of Roger Clement, 39, a lifelong resident of Little River.  The reader is no doubt already familiar with what has been circulating in the media about his claims, so I will not bore you with the details.  In general, the reaction is that his claims have been largely dismissed by most people.  Many people feel its a weird fancy created in his mind.  One person in particular, Hank Harrison of the Johnsonville Herald, feels convinced that its nothing but a publicity stunt, one man’s attempt to get attention.  Many people have even gone so far to say that he is mentally disturbed and should seek medical attention.  One Physican, Dr. Gerald Thomas of the South Valley Medical Center, has speculated that he may of developed amnesia and wandered off and somehow made it to China avoiding official channels.  In the process he developed this story in his mind to explain his situation to himself.  To most of the general population, though, he has become someone to mock and make fun of.  For example, in many schools here in Little River, the school children have begun to say that a person is “pulling a Clement” when someone is telling a tall tale.   In short, he has become the brunt of many jokes and has been viewed as something of a madman by many people. 

On first glance, his claims seems to be nothing but the product of someones wild imagination.  But there are many unanswered questions.  No one, for example, can explain how he got from Little River to China, half way around the world.  All attempts at trying to find any record of a plane or ship ticket have failed.  There is not even a record of any bus or taxi trip as well.  In addition, no one has so far recognized him.  There appears to be no record of his travelling to China.  Not even Chinese customs show him as ever entering China.  No one there has ever heard of him.  There has even been much speculation as to why he would of first made these claims in China, of all places.  In addition, his car was found parked at a trailhead, the very trail he claimed to be walking when the events described first began, which is about 18 miles from his home and in a secluded area of the forest.  If he left his car there then how did he get to China from there?

For me, personally, the questions and uncertainties attracted my curiosity.  It made me question that there may be more to his story than what it seems.  Because of this, I asked Mr. Clement to tell us his story and to give us an exclusive interview so that we can judge for ourselves the validity of his story.  Fortunately, I was able to contact him while still in China, shortly before he left for home.  While there he agreed to an interview with me on his return. 

The following is a transcript of that interview:

Exclusive Interview with Roger Clement

Interviewer –

There is much interest in you story here in Little River, as you now know.   You’ve become like a celebrity here, one of the few local boys who made world news.

Mr. Clement –

Yes . . . I saw all the people outside.

Interviewer –

Can you tell our readers, and the public, your complete story?

Mr. Clement –

Well, I’ve already told some of it before, while in China, as I’m sure you know, though I found that I left a lot of things out . . . my mind was just overwhelmed with things . . . besides, I was a nervous wreck . . . with all that happened and the situation I was in. . . not to mention finding myself in a foreign country like China, with no money . . . uh, where I didn’t know anyone, or anything . . . and . . . couldn’t speak a word.  That’s not a good feeling John, and its a situation that throws your whole world on its head.  In fact, these past some odd months . . . or weeks . . . or whatever, have turned my world upside down, and that’s no exaggeration either.

But, on the way back home, I had time to sort it out in my brain and a greater image came true, that’s more complete.  I could remember all these details and happenings that I did not mention before.  I think I’m prepared to give a more accurate version of the story . . .

Interveiwer –

Would you like to tell us yo . . .

Mr. Clement –

Certainly!  That’s what I’m here for.  You know, its hard for me to believe it when I think about it.  I sometimes wonder if it was a dream? 

It was on May 29 . . .

Interviewer –

About three weeks ago, I believe.

Mr. Clement –

Uh, yeah . . . yeah, I guess that’s about right.  Seems an eternity ago to me . . . seems so unreal . . . Sometimes I wonder if some of those people are right.  Maybe it was a dream?  Maybe its insanity?  You don’t know how many times I wondered this  . . maybe I even hit my head somewhere? 

But, when I found that necklace . . .

Interviewer –

Necklace!  I don’t recall any mention of a necklace.

Mr. Clement –

I never mentioned it.  Oddly, I forgot about it.  I found it by accident . . . on the way home. . . I just forgot . . . can’t imagine why.   But more of that later. 

Where was I?  Oh!  May 29 . . . I went for a walk in the woods.   Nice day, sunny, a few puffs of clouds, birds chirping . . . a nice day for a walk.  Everything so bright.  So relaxing too.  After some walking I decided to stop and take a rest by this small stream.  It was sort in a steep valley with walls that went almost straight up, oh, 80 degree’s on both sides.  I could here the water echoing in the valley.  Very nice and cool.  I could feel the spray on my face. 

Anyways, while I was bending down and washing my face with water from the stream I heard a muffled voice.  I stopped and listened . . . nothing.  So I picked up some more water and splashed it on my face.  There it was again!  I stopped and listened.  I could hear something.  I wondered what it was.  I heard it again. 

I stood up and determined it was coming from behind me, down the valley a ways.  I slowly walked down and could hear it, like muffled voices, but they were unlike any voices I have ever heard.  I walked down further and saw that they voices were coming from a small valley to my left that was coming into this valley.  It was so narrow I could almost touch both sides with my hands.  I peered down the valley.  There were many bushes, and overgrowth, and an overhanging tree that made it so dark that you couldn’t see down it very well.  It seemed to abruptly end under the tree somewhere.  The small stream coming out must be a spring.  Of course, I had to go see.  I bent down and felt the water . . . cold and clean.  I knew it had to be a spring. 

I then could make out the voices, ” . . . way it is.  You went out now blubberhead.  You did your thing.  When are you going to close the door?  If they find out you left it open . . . ”  “But, but, I didn’t mean to . . .”. 

I walked and walked, crouching below the overgrowth.  It got dark . . . and cold and damp.  The next thing I knew I fell.

Interviewer –

You mean you tripped?

Mr. Clement –

No, I fell . . . and I fell in a most peculiar way.  I fell UP!

Interviewer –

What do you mean you fell up?

Mr. Clement –

I tell you I fell up.  Unstead of falling toward the ground I fell up toward the sky.  I know its hard to believe but I did.  It was even weirder feeling it.  I was expecting my body to hit the ground on one side of my body but it hit on the opposite side.  That, I tell you, was the most weirdest feeling.

Buts whats even more weird is that I fell up . . . and hit ground!

Interviewer –

Ground . . . you mean earth?

Mr. Clement –

Earth!  After I hit the ground I felt around.  I could feel the soil. 

I looked around and it seemed like everything was still sort of dark.  At first I wondered if some storm clouds had rolled in.  I looked toward the sky and it was this dark bluish color . . . no sun!  This all so mystified me. 

Then I noticed the air.  It seemed to be, I don’t know how to describe it, thinner?  It also seemed cooler and damp.  I found myself taking deeper breaths, inhaling very deeply. 

While I was doing this I noticed that the voices were still going on. ” . . . gone down.  Don’t worry.  You don’t see the underworld anymore . . . doors sealed shut.”  “If they found out . . . ” 

At this point I found myself feeling light headed.  I inhaled more and more deeply.  I felt as if I couldn’t catch my breath.  I felt weak, layed flat on the ground . . . apparently, I passed out.

Interviewer –

This is a part of the story I have never heard.

Mr. Clement –

Yes, I remembered it all on the way back home . . . and there’s a lot more I remembered too. 

Anyways, I must of passed out.   When I awoke I was in a dark damp cave with only a single candle in the distance.  It was a little chilly, I remember, and I folded my arms to try to keep warm.  I noticed that I felt a little sick and I seemed to still be inhaling deeply. 

Then I heard a noise . . . something was there in the darkness.  I thought I saw two flashes in the darkness, like the reflections of someones eyes. 

Then I heard movement and several soft ‘thumps’ of footsteps, as if from something very heavy.  I was petrified. 

“Oh, look at that, my pet underworlder is awake.” 

I stared into the darkness . . . I could occasionally make out the image of two eyes but I could not say for sure. 

Then I noticed this horrid stench, like garbage . . . but I was too frightened to give that too much notice. 

“I’m going to name you Bampy, after my favourite hero”. 

Then I heard faint voices in the distance.  And then it said, “Oh be quiet . . . I’m not supposed to have you.  No one is supposed to have an underworlder.  You’re my little secret.” 

Then I heard, “Kaffe, where are you?” 

“I’m coming!” was the reply. 

What was all this? 

I felt around and noticed I was in a small cage made out of wood, lashed together with what seemed to be a twine or grass.  I sat there stunned.  I didn’t know what to do.  I don’t know how long I sat there . . . it seemed like hours.  My mind was as if unable to comprehend this.  Then I heard the thumps again and they got louder and stopped. 

“Hey there, little fella,” I heard, “brought you some food”.  I heard something fall in front of me.  Faintly, in the dim light, I could see something piled in the cage.  Then the thumps started and receded away. 

I reached out for the pile.  My hand went out into a lumpy goo of something.  I pulled my hand back and smelled my hand.  It smelt like rotten fish.  I put out my tongue and got a small taste . . . I never tasted anything so horrid in my life.  I knew that I had to get away. 

Quickly, I began to find the lashing of the cage and tried to pull it apart.  Since it was made out of grass . . . or, at least, I think it was . . . I was able to slowly tear it apart.  It took maybe half an hour.  When I got that done I could only push the branch a foot or so.  I couldn’t reach the lashing up above.  I then started to tear the next one apart then the next one.  After about four hours, or so, I was able to get on my side and roll out under the branches. 

I was free! 

I must tell you that this was now the most frightening time of my life.  I was now an ‘escapee’ in a dark cave with creatures I have not seen.  Where do I go?  Which ways out?  I was so scared I felt like going back into my cage.  But, I looked at the small candle in the distance.  The darkness seemed to surround me and engulf me.  I had to get out.  I did what I had to do.  I reached out with my arms and took small steps.  Once I hit a wall I walked along it, taking small steps as I go.  The wall was cold and damp stone.  Inch by inch I made my way around til I found what appeared to be a doorway.  I walked and walked.  Every so often I’d hear the ‘thumps’ and murmured voices.

Interviewer –

What did they say?

Mr. Clement –

You know, I really don’t know.  I guess I was too worried about being found out.  I wanted to get out of their as fast as I could. 

Anyways, as I inched along I felt like the edge of leather along the wall, as if there was a drap hanging on the wall, which is what I thought it was.  As I kept going I noticed the noise changed and, seemed to get more quieter, and then, all of a sudden, I hit something . . . not sure what it was.  I felt around trying to find out what it was but got disoriented.  I soon found that it was a dead end, it was closed on three sides.  I then made my way back, going the same way I came when I heard the ‘thump’, ‘thump’. 

Then, all of a sudden, the floor was as if swept up from beneath me.  I found myself on my back on some things, which I could not make out.  I seemed to be moving in space.  I was completely disoriented in the darkness.  I just tried to hold on as I seemed to be swaying back and forth.  Then I glanced upward and noticed open sky, that dark blue sunless sky . . . I was outside!  It was a wonderful feeling.  But where was I?  There was no cause to get too joyous about it. 

Then, something came through the opening, big and hairy.  I layed there petrified.  I thought this was it.  Then it landed on me.  I thought it would attack me but it didn’t move at all.  After some time I discovered it was a dead goat. 

What was going on? 

Then, as suddenly as I was swept in motion, I stopped.  I heard murmurs.  As near as I can tell they said, “I put a snack in your knapsack.  Don’t forget.” 

Then I heard wheels rolling on rocks and I began to jostle back and forth.  Luckily, with the jostling the opening of the leather bag I was in, for thats what I could tell I was in, started to go sideways, allowing me walk out the entrance.  I found myself in the rear of a wooden wagon, a rather large wooden wagon.  It was maybe 20 feet wide.  I looked up and saw the rear of some creature, shaped somewhat like a man, but big, about 10 feet high.  He was large, blackish, and with rough skin.  What it was I had no idea.

Interviewer –

Are you sure it was a man?  There’s no known creature like that.

Mr. Clement –

I don’t know what it was . . . I still don’t.  I sat there in the back of the wagon for a bit, I guess soaking up the situation.  Now, at last, I had an idea what was going on.  There was a satisfaction in that and, more importantly, I knew I was somewhat safe, at least for the moment. 

Every so often, the creature would make these weirdest noise as he pulled up some phlegm and spit.  At one point, it was so funny I almost laughed outloud.  I guess that shows how relaxed I became.  As I think of it now, there was a wonderful calm and peacefullness, which is sort of odd. 

But, after about 30 minutes, I looked around to determine how I could get off.  I noticed that the wagen had all sorts of stuff in it, various bags, boxes, an axe, a hammer . . . and me!  The sides were about 5 feet high.  I sneeked a peak over and so the ground going past very quickly.  Not only that, the ground was 20 or so feet down.  I didn’t dare jump off.  I just stood there wondering what to do.  I found myself looking around at where I was at.  It was a mountainous area and wooded.  The sky was still this dark bluish color.  I never saw a sun . . . I was to find out later that there was no sun.

Interviewer –

How did they see then?  I mean, where did the light come from?

Mr. Clement

I was to learn later that there was this great diamond, jewel, or emerald, the size of a mountain, that emitted the light.  It was called the Kolnel or, more commonly, the Bright Source.  As you’ll see I was able to see this and it would play a big part in this story.  The closer you got to it the brighter it got.  In fact, it got so bright that there was a point where no living thing could go, the brightness was just too much.  The closest you could look at it is from a distance of about 10 or 20 miles.  It was always glowing so there is never any night.  This, actually, became hard for me to adjust to as I could not tell when to go to sleep.  After some time, I was able to adjust to the sleep patterns of the inhabitants.  I’m not sure but it seemed similar to our sleep pattern.

Interviewer –

That’s interesting.

Mr. Clement –

I’ll tell you about all that latter.  As I sat leaning against the side of the wagon, swaying back and forth, I looked up ahead and noticed these buildings . . . homes and shops.  We were approaching a town. 

With this, I paniced.  Now what was I going to do?  I was stuck in the back of a wagon.  I didn’t feel I should get in the knapsack again.  There’s only one choice:  hide amidst all the other stuff.  I quickly wedged myself between two bags and a box.  Hopefully, he won’t look there. 

As we approached the town the noise got louder, wagons, people, and who knows what else, and the smell!  I wanted so much to take a look but didn’t dare. 

Soon the wagon stopped.

I heard him walk around and I saw, in the gap between the sacks, that he grabbed the knapsack.  I then heard his thumps diminish. 

Quickly, I got out and carefully looked around.   We were next to a large home or shop, I couldn’t tell.  Luckily, it was on a side road.  I looked around and quickly mounted the side of the wagon and hung from the side as I tried to put my feet on the wheel.  I then let go and pushed myself onto the ground.  I then ran to the side of one of the walls and took a quick glance in all directions.  I noticed the single large horse, or I guess that’s what it was, that pulled the wagon.  It looked old and decrepid, just like the creatures.  As I did before, I sort of inched my way along.  I could hear where the main road was so I walked away from it.  Then I was on the edge of the forest.  I ran into it as fast as I could.

Interviewer –

How big was of a town was it?  I mean, how much area did it take?

Mr. Clement –

I don’t know.  What I saw was that it was at least half a mile long.  Remember that I was small.  The creatures were about twice as tall as I am, so everything was twice as big.  I felt like a kid in there.  As a result, the homes were quite tall.  It was like being in a city, in a way.  I couldn’t get a good view of it all. 

Anyways, after I made it to the forest I ran into the woods.  I ran and ran until I got tired and started to walk.  Soon I was by this small quiet expanse of a river.  I had to take a rest.  I sat on the ground and looked around.  Everything seemed darkish and black and wet. 

It was here that I began to feel a terror.  Now what was I going to do.  I don’t know where I am.  I don’t know what to eat.  What do I do?  Because there was a flat area of ground I decided to make a fire and get some leaves to make a bed on the ground.  I made the fire and sat by it.  All I could hear was the crackle of the fire and bugs flying to and fro.  As the fire died down I layed down and dozed off. 

Then it happened! 

I heard the ground shake:  varoom, varoom.  I woke up and sat up in a flash.  It was getting louder and louder.  I sat petrified, unable to move, and looked around.  I heard something, a noise, leaves being moved, the breaking of twigs.  My heart fluttered in terror. 

What was it? 

Then it came:  a small creature about 4 feet tall, and somewhat plump, with a wide-brimmed hat and a leather apron.  My first reaction was startlement.  How could he make the big vibrations.  Then, with a shrill voice, he yelled, “RRUUNN!!”  Stunned, I sat there motionless as he passed by.  I seemed to utter, “what?” 

Then I heard it:  varoom, varoom. 

I didn’t hear the cracking of twigs, anymore, but branches breaking.  Quickly, without a thought, I stood up and followed the small creature.  I kept losing it in the thick brush but, every so often, I’d see his head bob up to keep my bearings.  My heart seemed to pound.  I found myself wet with sweat.  I don’t know how far we ran, seems like it was 100 miles, but I saw him duck into a hole in a tree.  And so, off I went, and tried to get in the hole but I seemed a little big. 

I was stuck. 

Behind me I could hear it:  varoom, varoom.  I knew I had to get in, I squeezed and squirmed til I found myself inside.

Interviewer –

It must of been a big tree.

Mr. Clement –

It was probably 5 feet in diameter at the base.  The hole was only about 24″ wide, or thereabouts.  But what was weird is that the inside was bigger than the outside!

Interviewer –

Is that possible?

Mr. Clement –

I saw it, I tell you, I was in it.  After squeezing myself in, and scraping up my arms, I found myself in what resembled a large hall at the base of the tree.  Looking up, I could see upward into the inside of the tree.  I could see various openings going in all the different directions.  I wondered what to do?  I decided to sit there for a bit and catch my breath. 

I must of been tired as I dozed off again.

When I woke up the air seemed damp and thick.  I found myself coughing from time to time.  As I coughed I could hear it echo.  This gave me the idea of listening down each passageway.  So I layed on my front and listened.  There were, I think, nine passageways.  Three had noises in them.  Only one I could make it out:  music!

Interviewer –

Music?

Mr. Clement –

Sounded like a flute but I wasn’t sure.  Well, I felt this would be the best way to go.  The small creature helped me before so maybe he’d help me again.  That’s what I hoped. 

I had to stoop down the passageway.  It was actually about four and a half or five feet in diameter, like a hole burrowed in the ground.  I walked for maybe 30 feet and saw up ahead a light.  As I got closer I could see that it was coming through cracks around a wooden door.  I then found myself in front of the door. 

I could here it clearly now, a weird mesmorizing flute playing a haunting-like tune.  Actually, it was very good. 

I sat there and wondered what to do.  How I handle the next event could critical.  I sat and wondered as I listened to the flute music.  It seemed to as if put me in a half-trance as I thought about what to do. 

Should I just walk in?  No.  Should I knock?  How should I respond when its opened?  Maybe I could barge in?  Or, maybe I should just sit here?  I didn’t know what to do.  My mind was a blank as the music seemed to infiltrate me and seep into every pore.  I don’t know how long I sat there. 

But then it stopped. 

With that I actually seemed to as if wake up from a trance and sat up as alert as can be.

Now what? 

The next thing I knew the door opened and a great wave of light flooded my eyes.  I put up my arms to shield the light. 

“You could of knocked”, it said, for I still couldn’t see it.  Everytime I looked the light blinded me. 

“I . . . I was going to”.  I then added, “is it OK . . . I mean, my being here?” 

“What?!  Silly question.  Have some tea.  I could hear you breathing on the other side of the door for the past quarter of an hour.” 

With this I slowly put my arm down and squinted.  I saw a brightly lit room as if dug out of the ground.  Chairs and furniture were hewn out of solid pieces of wood.  The walls were covered in a cloth and a carpet covered the floor.  Lanterns hung from the ceiling.  On one wall I could see what seemed like a fireplace with a kettle on it, boiling in fact. 

I then looked at my host.  As I said, he was a small creature, chubby.  This time he had no hat on and could see his dark black head of hair.  His face was plump with a wide mouth and almost growing a beard.  His skin was a greenish blackish color.  He had a jolly like character with a big smile. 

“Come in, come in, you might as well.” 

The wooden seats he had were a bit too narrow for me so I sat on the floor.  “So, how you been keeping time?” he said to me. 

“What?  With a watch . . . why?” 

“Oh”, he said as if disappointed. 

And then, in a frank way, I said, “Where am I?” 

“You are here, in my bungalow.” 

“But where is here?” 

“Under the tree named Tesk.” 

“But where is that?” 

“Its in the forest.” 

“I don’t think you understand me.”  Then I reflected:  how was I going to tell him that I come from some other world.  I became stumped.  Where do I go with my conversation now? 

“Try some tea. It will calm you after being chased by the Hermer . . . you’re still dishevelled, I can see that.” 

I then took a sip.  It tasted like oak leaves with a hint of honey and mint.  He was right, though, it was soothing.  I seemed to calm right down and not say a word. 

“Don’t bother”, he said as he picked up the flute.  He began to play a few tunes rather haphazardly, as if he was just playing around. 

“Tune . . . what tune?  Oh, the difficulty.  The wrong tune can ruin everything.  The wrong timing and ‘woosh’.  Better no tune than the wrong tune, I always say.”  I didn’t have a clue what he meant.

Interviewer –

He seemed friendly.

Mr. Clement –

Yes, in fact, he sort of saved me.  I am greatly indebted to him.

Interviewer –

Did he have a name?

Mr. Clement –

You know, he never said what his name was.  I often heard him refer to himself as Tesk’s Warden.

Interviewer –

Tesk is the name of the tree he was living under . . .

Mr. Clement –

Yes.  

In the growing days I would watch him take off down the different passageways from time to time.  One day, I followed him.  He went down one of the passageways quite a ways.  He carried a bag with him as he did so.  At a certain point, the passageway opened up and you could see all these roots exposed.  He then took out a brush and opened a jar and started to brush the roots! 

Why, I don’t know. 

What he’d do is dig around the roots, exposing them.  Then he’d scrub them really good, and then cover them up with dirt again.  As he exposed the roots of one section he would throw the dirt on the scrubbed section and he’d work his way down the roots.  Many passageways went down to many roots and he would do many different roots in a day.  It was all so very weird.

Interviewer

Didn’t you ask him?

Mr. Clement –

I didn’t dare.  I was his guest and felt it was too imposing.  Besides, he hardly spoke.  We’d sit in his little bungalow for hours and he wouldn’t say a word.  I’d ask him questions or make conversations and he’d have weird replies.

Interviewer –

In what way?

Mr. Clement –

Once I did ask him what he did when he left.  His reply was “furrowing down the path, making haste, making haste”.  What he did, exactly, and who he was I do not know.

Interviewer –

How long were you with him?

Mr. Clement –

A month or two it seems. 

It was the same all the time.  He’d wake up, have tea and breakfast, leave for most of the day, come back for tea and lunch, leave again, come back for dinner and tea, and sit and play his flute.

Interviewer –

What did you and he eat?

Mr. Clement –

I don’t know for sure.  It varied though.  A lot of it tasted like wood, leaves, or moss.  I also know we had eggs.  The tea varied, tasting of different types of trees. 

But, I couldn’t just sit there in his room all day or follow him around.  I decided to go outside one day. 

I slowly squirmed my way out of the hole I came in and looked around.  There was a wonderful light cool breeze but the same dark bluish sky. 

But, when I looked around, the hole was gone! 

I reached down and tried to dig the ground as if to find the hole. 

There was no hole! 

I didn’t know what to make of it.  But, more importantly, I lost the security and a safety I felt with Tesk’s Warden.  In a single second it was all gone! 

I stood there bewildered. 

And then I heard a voice, ” . . . so you’re the underworlder” 

It came from above, in the tree.  I could see something in the leaves but couldn’t make it out. 

” . . . so you’re the underworlder.” 

“What?  Who is that?” 

Then he said in a diminished tone, as if walking away, ” . . . so you’re the underworlder.” 

I could then tell he had left.  I didn’t know what to make of that.  Then I looked around and noticed that I was completely alone in these woods with no idea where I was or which direction to go, and with no one to help me.  I realized that the only thing I knew just left . . . and he called me an ‘underworlder’, as if he knew who I was. 

Almost immediately, I yelled, “Come back!  Come back!” and I chased after him.  I ran for maybe a 100 feet and stopped. 

Where did he go?  I sat and listened . . . nothing.  I just began to walk slowly, what else was there to do?  I was hoping I’d hear him somewhere in the woods.  Then I heard something and turned around.  Was it a broken twig?  I couldn’t say. 

Then I heard, ” . . . so you’re the underworlder” and turned around. 

There, standing upon a rock, was this tall skinny man, with a long beard.  He seemed to be dressed in old skins that looks like they had been on him for years.  His face and skin was filthy.  I could slilghtly detect a stench coming from his direction. 

” . . . underworlder?”, I asked. 

“You are!”, was his reply as if he made a big discovery, “I’ve never seen an underworlder.” 

“What’s an underworlder?” I asked.

“You’re from down below, in the lower regions, come up from the depths of that hell.” 

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about.  I’m from -“.  At this point I could not determine what to say.  How could I say where I was from when I didn’t know where I was at?  I stuttered, “I’m from . . . home.” 

He looked at me so closely that his eyes seemed to pierce my very soul. 

“Yes, I know.  I knew you were here, I could smell you.”  I winced and felt baffled at this statement. 

” . . . that underworld smell.  I’ve smelt it before, when I stood near the doorways.  Yes, I stood in front of the doorway and peered into that world . . . yes, much in my youth.”

To be frank, I was at a loss.  I didn’t know what to do or where to take the conversation. 

He jumped off the rock and said, “So I guess you’re wanting to get back?” and started walking through the bushes. 

“That would be nice.”  I figured I better follow him.

He just kept walking and walking.  I had to almost run to keep up.  I finally said, “do you know how I am to go back?”

“A doorway, just find a doorway,” was his reply.

“But what doorway”, I said. 

“The same way you came in, what do you think?” 

I told him that the problem is that I don’t know how I came in.  I just found myself here.  Not only that, I don’t know where it was anyways. 

Then he said, “oh, I just realized . . . you need someone to open the door.  There’s NO WAY someone LIKE YOU is going to OPEN a DOORWAY.”  He said this in a degrading sort of way. 

“But who could?” I replied.

He told me that he would if he knew how.  Then he went on about his childhood how they used to watch people open the doors and look out.  That’s when he used to hang around the Ezrils.  “They know how,” he says. 

“But where are they at?”

“Uh, over in the Dark Glade valley . . . yeah, there’s a lot of them there.”

After some time, and about a 10 mile walk it seemed, he finally agreed to take me to them, but in a few weeks, as he had to “graze”, to use his expression.  In the meantime, I would have to stay with him so that “I, an underworlder, would not get lost”. 

Those few weeks weren’t easy.  We wandered almost continuasly through the forest.  We slept out in the open, where it often got cold and, a few times, rained.  He was like a deer wandering around continuously for food.  Whenever he saw food he would stop and eat it directly off the bush.  He also spent a lot of time lounging around, that is, when he wasn’t wandering and eating.  It occurred to me that he was very much like a deer and jokingly called him the “deer” in my head, as he never told me his name. 

And then, one day, while wandering around, he just pointed in a specific direction, and said, “there, there is a village of Ezrils.” 

I looked out and saw what looked like a miniature city in a walled in area.   When I first looked at it I thought it was just the perspective that made them look small or that it was an optical illusion but, no, it was a minature city.  They were only about two feet tall.  They had small homes, shops, and such.  They were very nicely constructed.  As we walked down I noticed how incredibly large the walls were, probably 15 feet tall. 

When we reached the gate he banged on the gate.  Almost immediately, a small opening opened in the gate where I could barely make out a face framed in its shape. 

The ‘deer’ said, “he needs to see Poolo” and walked away. 

There I stood alone in front of a gate with no idea who or what I was going to see.  Not a good bye, not a nice to know ya, or anything. 

“Who’s asking?” I heard the voice say.

“Uh . . . me.”

“Hold on.” 

I felt so uneasy of what was going to happen that I turned around and looked for the ‘deer’ and I could see him some 300 feet away, eating some berries off a tree, as if nothing was going on. 

I waited at the gate for about 15 minutes, and kept glancing at the ‘deer’ hoping he’d come back and help me in some way.  I could also feel my gut churning from all the berries I had eaten the past week.  

Then I hear a ‘falup’ and a ‘creek’.  I looked and saw the door opening.   I quickly stood up and waited.  The door was only about 4 feet tall.  A man walked out.  He stood about 2 feet, with blond hair and what looked like a suit and tie, colored purple with a velvet trim.  I thought it odd to see that here out in the forest. 

In a deep voice he said, “Yeeees.”  At first I was stunned but I figured I should say something. 

“I’m supposed to see Poolo or Pooplo . . . ”

“Yeeees,” was the reply. 

“Are you him?”

“Yeeees,” was the reply.

“I don’t know exactly what I’m supposed to do but a man told me I should ask for you to open a doorway.”

“Yeeees, I have opened a doorway, this doorway.”

“No, I mean a doorway to the underworld.”

His face went blank and cold.  I thought he was going to go straight back in and leave me out here. 

“What do you have to do with the underworld?”

“I, apparently, am from the underworld.”

“You don’t look like your from around here . . . but the underworld?  That’s hard to believe.”  He went on to say that when underworlders come in the Bosin Hounds chase them down and kill them.  He said that there’s no way I could of escaped them.  They can sniff an underworlder down like they were nothing.  He said that it usually only takes a matter of minutes before they are caught and killed.  But, I told him that I must of got passed them . . . whatever they are. 

Interviewer –

Did they mean hound dogs?

Mr. Clement –

They were, in fact, hound dogs . . . three of them . . . as I’ll tell you later.  But once he told me this I became frightened because it basically I am now a hunted person.  Somewhere out there are some hounds that can smell me, chase me down, and kill me.  I felt like an outlaw.  To be frank, I grew terrified and didn’t want to be in the forest anymore. 

He seemed to be gazing at me wondering what to do.  He asked me if I had a place to stay.  Of course, I said no.  He offered me a place inside the walls where he said it would be safe.  This was a great relief to me and I was hoping he would say this. 

He then went through the door.  I had to get on my hands and knees to get through.  When I finally stood up inside the walled area it was like toyland.  Miniature people, minature homes, miniature wagons, miniature tools.  The horses were actually dogs!  I followed him through the main road.  As I walked along everyone stopped and looked as the ‘giant’ went by but they did not seemed alarmed by me at all. 

We then went into a large building, apparently a palace.  The door was large enough that I only had to stoop a little.  Inside was incredibly spacious and ornate. It opened to a large hall with columns on either side.  Naturally, everyone in there stopped and looked as I entered.  Then, after a few seconds, went on their way. 

I followed Poolo who walked toward a group of, maybe, five people who were talking.  It was there that I first saw the man who would be very instrumental in the upcoming events.  He seemed nothing spectacular at the time.  He was talking to several other people.  He looked tall and skinny, even though he was about one foot nine inches, a little shorter than most people there.  He was introduced to me as Jogl and was supposed to be the ‘Conniver’, whatever that was.  I often wondered if it was sort of a public relations man.

After Poolo spoke with him abit, Jogl looked up at me and told me to follow him.  He took me to this room that had some large padding on the floor, making something like a bed.  Apparently, they’ve had visitors my size before.  He told me he’d get something for me to eat.  I just sat in the room and waited.  There was nothing else to do.  I looked around the room.  Everything was in miniature.  Everything was made for their size.  There was a desk, chair, and sofa, but they were too small for me to use.  The only thing I could really use was the large padding, which I sat on. 

After some time they brought in some food.  I think it was some sort of beef, though it tasted different – I wondered if it was dog – and vegetables and some sort of a fruit juice.  Since I was bigger they gave me larger portions and actually put the food on what looked like their serving plates.  They did not have any fork, spoon, or knife that were my size so I had to use theres.  It was not easy cutting things with a fork and knife half-size.  I had nothing but difficulty trying to keep grasp of the knife, especially, as it kept slipping out of my fingers.  

The meat was a little bland and tasted blah.  I wanted to see if they might have any pepper to make it more palatable.  I got up and stooped and walked out the door.  The place seemed eerily deserted and quiet.  It was almost as if everyone left me there by myself.  I decided to walk around until I found someone.  As I walked I was amazed by all the artwork, sculpture, and painting on the walls.  This appeared to be a palace of sorts.  At certain points I had to stoop or get on my hands and knees to go through the hallways.  It made me feel like a kid at play.  The more I looked the more I had to see and I continued wandering around.  It was actually quite a large building.  Oddly, I never saw a soul.  

Then, as I was crawling through a passageway, I heard a pounding.  It was coming from the other side of the wall.  Since it was the only sign of life I put my ear to the wall.  I could hear muffled voices.  I figured I’d go in and ask those people for pepper.  I crawled along abit and found the door around the corner.  When I was about to knock I could hear the muffled voices.  There was a strange quality with the voices.  Slowly, I opened the door just a crack. 

Inside, I saw several men, one of which was Jogl.  One of them was pounding a piece of metal.  They seemed to be trying to bend it to a particular shape.  They seemed to be in quite a debate on how it should be bent.  I recall some of the conversation:  “No! No! No! That won’t do.  It needs to be curved so it will dig in.”  “But you curved it too deep . . we don’t need it that curved.”  “How will we grasp it then?”

Then Jogl added an unusual statement:  “Either way, I often feel we are going in over our heads.  Do we really know what we are doing?”

“Who does?” another man replied, “no one ever does.  A person has to go to whatever they got to do.”

I got to admit that I had this feeling that they were planning on something like robbing a bank, something forbidden, but what it could be I could not say.  It was actually sort of exciting.  But, I didn’t want to be found out so I decided to close the door and leave. 

The next morning I decided to talk to Jogl to get closer to him and, I must admit, to see if I can figure out what was going on.  I guess I was getting a little ‘nosy’.  As I talked to him, though, I found him to be a very a friendly, agreeable man, and we seemed to get along. 

At one point I told him I was an underworlder.  He stepped back and looked at me with apprehension. 

“What, that’s not possible,” and he quickly looked around in terror. 

“Why is that?” I asked. 

“Underworlders are always hunted down and killed, not unless . . . ”

“Unless what?” I asked.

He seemed hesitant to tell me.  After some prying he went on to say that it was amazing I got this far. 

“Underworlders have always been a threat to us, a great pestilence”, he said. 

“But why would that be?” I asked, “Why would we be such a threat?”

“Whenever the underworlders came here they created problems for us.  The underworlders are a special breed of animal.  They do not have a place here and don’t belong.  In our world they don’t seem to know what they are or who they are.  They have nowhere to go and nothing to belong to.  Because of this, they keep going places they shouldn’t.  They wander around like lost wild beasts trying to find their home.  I’ve never seen any other creature that is like that.  To have the underworlders have free reign here would probably destroy this place.  We still tell the story of the Battle of Quimleau where a number of underworlders came down and we had to fight them.  At first, they weren’t a problem, but that soon changed.  They became as if disoriented down here and lost, as if delirious.  They wandered and roved around the place.  Everywhere they went they seemed to destroy or disrupt everything.  This caused a great battle between them and the people here.  Despite their being outnumbered they still won.  It was then that Numer, The Great Lord at the time, took his large hounds and trained them to sniff them down and kill them.  With these hounds, they were finally defeated.  But even that was not enough.  Over the years, many underworlders came down and caused disruption here.  They were impinging on our world.  It became clear that their world was not our world and we needed to separate them from us.  At the Council of Koomray, the sorcerer Feltsper suggested that he make up a concoction, some special brew that he had created.  He would release it into the air in the underworld.  There it acted like a drug.  It would affect their brain, restricting their thinking and awareness.  He originally created it so that they would not be aware of this world.  As a result, they would not want to come here.  But it had some weird side effects.  It made the underworlders think certain things and have certain beliefs.  They began to think very logically and analyze everything, for example.  They also began to see strange things that aren’t there.  They thought there was a sun, they thought their world is a sphere, they also thought that they originated from fish, and other things.  It caused all sorts of weird things in their world but it kept them out of ours.  Feltsper called this drug Dilaphraceous.   Not only that, The Great Lord put special guardians at the doorway to the underworld . . . us, the Ezrils!  Between the gas, the guardians, and the hounds, we’ve had no problem with underworlders since.”

“So you’re saying that all of humanity – I mean, the underworlders – have been drugged by this Diapranasseas . . . ”

“Dilaphraceous . . . yes.  All the underworlders are drugged.”

“That’s hard to believe.  How can our whole world be drugged?”

“Feltsper did it, but he took its secret to the grave.  The legend is that this drug is supposed to be slowly emitted from thousands of blocks of Dilaphraceous that he placed throughout the underworld.  They say it looked like a greenish black stone about the size of an eighteen inch cube.  He buried them at various places in the underworld but no one knows where.  Slowly, over time, the blocks of Dilaphraceous would emit this gas until it was all gone.  He claimed it will last about 10,000 years.”

“How long ago was that?” I asked.

“I believe about 4,000 years ago.  During that time generations of hounds have been taught to hunt down underworlders and we Ezrils have been taught to guard the doorways.  But, how could you of gotten through a doorway?  You didn’t come from one of ours?  Unless . . . there are stories of hidden unknown doorways.  I guess its possible.  There’s even stories that some people build doorways in the hope the underworlders will come and disrupt things.  But is it true?”  He then looked at me with a deep look and said, ” . . . perhaps you’re proof?  But, perhaps there’s something else wrong?”  With great authority he then spoke, “In a few days time, we are planning on going to The Great Lord for a conference.  Perhaps you should come?  I shall ask Poolo.”  I agreed and he left. 

In those few days I pittered and pattered about inside the walls.  I didn’t dare go outside.  I spent the time in this great sense of bewilderment, trying to digest what he told me and the whole situation I was in.

Interviewer –

So Poolo allowed you to come along?

Mr. Clement –

Oh yes, didn’t I say that?  Yes he did.  Everytime I talked to Jogl about this subject he would reply, “that will all come out at the conference.”  He basically shut up.  I couldn’t get anything out of him.  Something seemed to be bothering him.

When we left we had a large retinue of dogs, wagons and people. Several hundred people I should think.  I asked Poolo about the hounds and what would happen if they ccme after me.  His reply, “Don’t worry” but I could tell that he was.  Deep down I knew that I was unprotected and vulnerable – a sitting duck. 

When we finally went outside the fence I can recall how I peered into the tree’s and the forest and listened intently.  Every noise, every sturring made me jump.  I knew I was frightened.  I also knew, deep down, that I may die on this journey.  It was horrifying.

Interviewer –

How long did it take you to get there?

Mr. Clement –

Three, no . . . four days.   Nighttime – that is, when we slept – was especially horrible.  I hardly slept.  I had a few nightmares where I saw myself being attacked by dogs.  There were times when every breeze, every fluttering of a leaf sounded like a barking dog.  I thought I would go out of my mind.  I must of aged 10 years on that trip.

All in all, though, it was uneventful.  A few broken wheels, a babies birth.  If it wasn’t for the terror of the dogs, it would of been a pleasant journey.

But when we finally came around the bend and I saw the great castle of The Great Lord I was stunned.  It was a stone structure on the side of a rocky mountain . . . very spectacular.  I noticed that the sky was brighter than where I was originally, which I thought was strange.

As we approached, though, the great fear came . . . I heard dogs!  They were in the distance and seemed very loud.  But we kept going and all they did is bark.  As we got closer and closer they barked even more and louder.  Did they know I was coming? 

Me and Jogl talked about it and wondered if they were unable to leave the castle grounds. He said this was strange as they were always let loose to go over the land.  I got the feeling that he was beginning to suspect that something was wrong.  I could tell he was growing uneasy. 

As we approached the gates the dogs became particularly loud.  I glanced to the right and saw this huge pen, made of tree trunks.  In there were three dog-like creatures the size of rhinos.  They were barking so much that froth was coming out of their mouth.  I could also see a number of people in there with whips as if trying to silence them. 

Jogl turned to me and said, “why are they in their pens?”

As we walked into the gates it was as if everyone was static, immobile.  Time seemed to of slowed to a crawl.  Many people were as if stopped or slowly moving.  It was the strangest thing I ever saw.  They all seemed to be looking in a specific direction:  toward the palace.  Everyones face was emotionless, like stone.

We were shown into the main hall of the Great Lord and went into the Throne Room.  There was no one there on the throne, nor around it.  I should point out that the “throne” was not a throne at all but an inclined bed, higher in the front than the rear.  As I’d find out later, they lay prone on it.  Sort of unusual . . .

It seemed eerily quiet in there.  Every sounded seemed to echo.  I looked at Jogl and he had this great worry on his face.

They then took us through a doorway, to the side of the Throne Room, and we passed through a number of hallways where we found ourselves looking into an open doorway into a room.  As I peered in, I could see a man laying on a bed, apparently sick or dying.  There were a number of people as if attending him. 

We slowly walked in, one by one.  Quickly, a man walked up to us and said, “It doesn’t look good”.  He was the physician.  He told us that The Great Lord had an illness that will kill him in a few days.  There was only one way to save him.  He needs medication from the Bright Source.  Its the only thing that has the life-giving properties he needs.  He told us that we needed to get an expedition to get it. 

Jogl replied, “We don’t know how!  Only one person has ever claimed they did it, and even his account is questionable.  We are risking our lives to get it.” 

The man replied, “. . . that’s what you’re going to have to do.” 

The physician would not let us disturb the Great Lord so I never saw him up close.  He looked like a man, in his 50’s, with a white beard.  That’s all I could tell at that distance.

We all walked out into the hallway and Jogl and the other men began to speak to themselves.

“This explains everything,” said Jogl, “when the Great Lord is sick all the world is sick.  Problems begin to appear, strange occurances take place, the hounds will not leave the castle grounds, the people as if stopped in their tracks, no one leaves the castle.  That’s why we never knew about it.  And, what’s worse, people run amok and start to do evil things, such as trying to find pathways to the underworld, which explains why the underworlder is here as well as why he was never chased.  This has happened many times in the past.  It is called ‘The Great Waining Sickness of the Great Lord’.  It often precedes his death.  I fear this is serious.  Everything is at stake.  We need to attempt an expedition as soon as possible.”

They then went off by themselves and began talking about some things which I could not hear.  I gather they were making plans.  I did catch this much:  they’re leaving the next morning!

They later showed us to our room and fed us.  The food, I remember, was bland.  Even Jogl said that this was a sign.  Usually, the food at the Great Lord’s castle is some of the most tasteful in all the world.  Even the sickness has altered the food. 

As we sat around the fire, they discussed things.  One of the scholars from the castle, a close freind of Jogl’s, came in and talked to us in whispers.  What he basically said is that the queen is now trying to get control.   She is starting to think that she is the Great Lord.  He said that a little known aspect of ‘The Great Waining Sickness of the Great Lord’ is that the queen starts thinking she is the Great Lord and wants to usurp him.  The old annals state the warning that when the Great Lord is sick the queen will often try to take his position and become him.  It is a strange sickness.  In addition, part of the sickness is that many people will side with her.  Many will claim that she is the Great Lord and always has been.  This, he said, has been happening recently.  A faction has been growing promoting the queen as the Great Lord.  There have even been plots to kill him.  He has even suspected that the queen may be the one plotting to kill the Great Lord.  But, he said, the annals state that the queen can never become the Great Lord.  The power of the Great Lord, he said, is greatly hinged on the fact that he marries the land.  It becomes his wife.  A female cannot marry the land, a female.  If this were to happen, all sorts of bad things will happen.  Things will become skewed and distorted.  The world will go awry.  He said that we must hurry as fast as possible and that there was no time to spare.

All I remember is this sense of horribleness after hearing this, like some horrible doom.  They talked as if the world was on the verge of being destroyed. 

Later, after everyone went to sleep, I was awoken by some noise.  I heard hushed voices.  I looked and saw Jogl, and the other men, standing near the door whispering.  They had the tool they had earlier.  Slowly, and quietly, they all walked out the door in a very hushed way.  I, being curious, got up and followed them, being careful not to be seen. 

They went to the Throne Room.  They were all standing looking down on a specific spot on the floor.  I noticed that, inset into the floor, was what looked like a reddish stone, about the size of a grapefruit.  There was great decorative tiles all around the stone, as if it was very important.  There was even a rail all around it, about one foot high.  They all stood around it as if wondering what to do.  Jogl, and several others, leant down to get a closer look at it.  One of them grabbed it and tried to yank it out but couldn’t.  He even hit it on the side with his hand and then tried to dislodge it by kicking it with the bottom of his foot.  He was then handed the crowbar and positioned it so it was under the edge of the stone.  I could almost see Jogl saying, “be careful!”  Slowly he pressed down.

Nothing.

I wondered what this was all about.  They were trying to steal the stone, but what for?  It didn’t look like anything precious.

After a few more tries the stone seemed to budge.  They grabbed the stone and tried to move it.  It moved abit more.  They tried it again.  It was more looser.  They grabbed it and twisted it.  Finally, it came off.  They all looked at it closely.  They then pulled a similar looking one out of a leather bag.  One of them gets what seems to be glue and glues it in the place where the original was located, to hide their theft.  They then made haste out of there.  I had to hurry to the room before them so I took off.  I watched them come in as I pretended to sleep. 

In the morning they all looked calm as they got everything ready for the expedition, almost as if nothing happened.  Everyone seemed busy trying to get prepared.

As we prepared to leave in the courtyard a man comes running up, apparently agitated and concerned.  I hear him say, “The the seed is gone!   The seed is gone!”

Everyone turnes, wide-eyed, with an expression of shock.

“Who would steal such a thing?” I hear someone say.  “Oh, this is a bad omen,” another says.  “What are we going to do?”, a man exclaims.

I stood there mystified, wondering what was so special about a seed.  Frankly, I thought it was silly at the time.  Unbenownst to me, this seed would play an important part as you’ll see.

We finally set off, fifty or so of us, with wagons.  Where this Bright Source was, I had no idea.  But, as we turned and headed out I could see that where we were headed had a bright horizon, much like a sunrise . . . the Bright Source?

I heard one of the guys say that we want to approach the Bright Source by keeping in the shade of the mountain in front of us.  This really surprised me as I didn’t think we were in the shade.  I looked around and it had the appearance of being overcast but, as I looked up, I saw no clouds.  Looking further in front I could see that we were, in fact, in the shadow of a mountain. 

Finally, we came around the bend and were in full view of the Bright Source.  I heard one of the guys say that we should all stop, once in full view, and close our eyes, even so much as covering our eyes with our hands.  Then, slowly, we should open our eyes, as much as possible, and let our eyes get accustomed to it.  He said that some people will not be able to handle it.  He said that “if you’re eyes can’t take it then its best for you to stay behind the mountain and make camp”.  He also went on to say that some of us may even get ‘bright sickness’, at which point we should head back. 

I did as he said and found it difficult to open my eyes.  The brightness was intense.  It took about 15 minutes before I could fully open my eyes, though squinting heavily.  Some of the other guys took as long as half an hour to get their eyes accustomed to the glow.  Quite a few decided to go behind the mountain and wait.  A couple complained of nausea, and one even vomitted, and had chills.  This was, apparently, some of the beginning signs of ‘bright sickness’ and so they went behind the mountain to wait. 

After a while we were told to get some cardboard and make what are basically snow goggles.  We’d cut the cardboard to fit around our eyes, much like spectacles, and then get a string and tie it around our head.  We would make small slits in the cardboard to see through.  This helped with the glare but was awkward to wear. 

I looked out at the Bright Source, as best I could, and saw what appeared to be a whitish glowing mountain.  It was so bright I couldn’t make out any features, its shape, or anything about it.  All I saw is a bright glow in the middle of the desert.  As I looked around the area I noticed that, the closer you got to the Bright Source, the more deserty it became with the disappearance of trees first, then bushes, then small plants.  After a point, there were no plants at all.  I also noticed that, the closer you got to the Bright Source, the less hills, rocks, or boulders there were.  Near the Bright Source was nothing but a desert of flat fine sand.  The color of the sand was difficult to determine.  It looked a tannish white but I think the light of the Bright Source made it look that way.  I also noticed that there was no increase in heat as you’d see in a desert.  It did seem warmer but not uncomfortably warm.  Apparently, the Bright Source was not putting out any heat.  The sand was only slightly warm or not warm at all.  Getting close to it, I thought, was going to be difficult. 

Once we all seemed adjusted to the light the question was asked, “how are we going to get close to it and get a piece of it?”

Silence.

Then someone ventured an idea: “Could we build a structure, like an enclosure, that we surround ourselves with, perhaps on wheels, and then we can walk closer and closer to it.  We could have a small slit or pinhole for the driver to use.” 

Everyone agreed that this was an excellent idea and that we should try it.  Since there were no trees or vegetation out there, we began to dismantle one of the wagons, using skins to cover the sides and top.  There was to be six of us inside.  We did not want to venture any horses (who we left behind the mountain) and knew we’d have to push it there ourselves.  This means it had to be light. 

After some time, we got it built and started to push it out.  It worked great.  Luckily, the ground was smooth flat hard soil, with very little rocks or boulders.  This made it easy to push.  Slowly, we inched our way forward.  Even though it seemed light at first, it actually was tiresome to push, so we had to take frequent stops. 

Of course, there were things we never considered that came up and created problems.  For one, as we got closer the light coming from the bottom of the wagon became immense.  In fact, it was so intense that we had to wear the covers over our eyes inside the encosure!  One of the guys came up with the idea that we should get some blankets and drap around the bottom.  This helped alot, at least at first.  Another thing we didn’t realize is how far we had to push this thing, probably 10-15 miles.  The more we pushed it the more we questioned how long it would take.  It was tiring, cramped inside the wagon, and we didn’t take that many provisions.  We were, really, like sardines in a can.  It became clear that it would be days to push it there and back again.  Going to the bathroom, also, became a problem.  Not only that, the sweat, heat, and irratability that began to appear after awhile made it almost unbearable. 

Naturally, after a while there were murmurings that we should turn back.  Several did decide to venture back.  But the rest of us kept going, as difficult as it was. 

It didn’t take long for the intense light to come in every crack and crevice and gap that there was.  The inside seemed to crisscross with intense white light, like some laser show.  It became even too intense to look out of the pinhole in the front. 

Then the driver muttered:  “I don’t know.  I can’t see anything.  I have no idea where we are going.” 

“Should we just keep going til we hit the mountain?” asked someone.  Everyone felt that, since we have gone this far, we should go as far as we can. 

And so we continued on. 

Soon, we were so exhausted and tired that we could go no farther.  We decided to spend the night – that is sleep – as we surely couldn’t go back.  Besides, we were wiped out and exhausted.

I must tell you that this was the most miserable night I have ever experienced.  There were now four of us crammed in the wagon with our provisions.  Getting comforable was no easy affair.  If anyone moved it was sure to upset or wake someone else up.  I was probably woken up maybe 100 times.  One of the guys kept kicking me in he side.  Who knows how many times I woke someone else up.  And, in our cramped state, my muscles kept aching.  This was further compounded by the fact that they were aching and sore anyways, from pushing the wagon.  Then there was the smell.  I don’t even want to talk about that.  Oh, and the heat . . . how horrible.  You see, since the light was so bright we tried to cover up every little crevise and hole so it wouldn’t come in.  We used just about everything from bits of cloth to pieces of wood.  This made the whole wagon like a big sweat lodge, with no circulation at all.  Yes, truly, this was one of the worst nights in my life.

When we awoke we found that many of us couldn’t even open our eyes.  Several of us had swollen eyes.  A great majority of us started to feel sick and several guys vomited . . . to add to the wonderful smell already there.  It was quite clear that we couldn’t go on.  It would, and was, an accomplishment just making it back.   But we made it.

Once we made it back to the forest we  literally fell down from exhaustion in the shade.  I think it was unanimous that that we needed to take our time and, at least, have a days rest.  Almost everyone covered their eyes up, usually by tying some cloth around our head.  Then we all layed down and slept or half-slept.  Of course, the people who did not go with us helped us, fixing our meals, and helping us move about.  We decided that some people should head on back to let them know what has happened and maybe see if some other people were willing to give it a try.

Looking back on it now, it was quite amazing the devestation it caused us.  We were all drained of energy and the light seemed to as if sear us inside, scorching our very souls.  

It was while lying there, half asleep, when I heard Jogl speak to the others.  “Is it possible to use the seed?” he asked.

“But, if we do, it will give us away”

“Does anyone here know how to use it?”

” . . . does it work at all?”

“We may have to enlist Florsin to do it but then that’s like admiting theft of a sacred object.”

“Maybe he’ll help us, though, because it is for the sake of the Great Lord?”

“Do you think they’d pardon us?” another asked.

“We’re no conviced yet,” was the reply.

“Why did we steal it to begin with?”

“I don’t know,” said Jogl.  “I have often thought that we stole it because we were influenced by The Great Waining Disease of the Great Lord.  Maybe it had a mysterious sway over us . . . I mean, what are we going to do with it?  It was as if something compelled us to do it.” 

“We could tell them that,” someone offered.

“But they’ve had the seed for centuries.  Why has no one ever asked this question?  Do you think someone else has ever asked this question?”

“No,” said Jogl.  “This situation is new.   Perhaps it is luck that made us bring it?  Had we not of stolen it we would not be able to consult it.  Perhaps our stealing is will turn out to be our saving grace?”

“Yes, maybe we should see if Florsin can read it.”

Interviewer –

Who is this Florsin?

Mr. Clement –

He was an official of the palace who was in charge of rituals, ceremonies, and things like that.  He was also involved with the sacred things of the Great Lord.

But they were all intent on seeing if Florsin could read the seed to determine what to do.  At the time, though, I had no idea what that meant.  I mean, how does one “read” a seed?

In the morning I saw them go up to Florsin, as a group, and tell him about the situation.  As I watched them I saw shock in Florsin’s face and a great look of disgust.  When Jogl handed the seed over, there was a look of surprise as if to say, “so it is true.”  But I can see that, in the back of his mind, he did agree with them and seemed forgiving in his manner. 

At this point I was curious to see how they read the seed.  They decided to do it in a few hours.  Apparently, Florsin had to do some sort of a ritual to prepare for it.

First, they got many large tree stumps and placed them vertically in the ground so that it made a large C-shaped in the ground, about 10 or 15 feet in diameter.  They then got smaller branches and laced them inbetween.  They then filled the gaps with small branches, dead leaves, and such, so that something like a small wall was built.  It was about 6 or 7 feet high. 

While this was going on Florsin went to a stream and washed himself.  When they were finished he went, complet;y nude, into the center of the wooden wall using the hole in the C as a door.  

They then lit the wood on fire. 

At first, I thought they were going to kill him, as I thought it would surely cook him.  No one else seemed concerned . . . which sort of calmed me down. 

I could see through some of the gaps what was happening.  He went in and placed the seed on the floor.  He then knelt down beside it.  I couldn’t quite tell what was happening next as the flames got higher and higher and higher.  I saw him lean over the seed.  He waved his arms as if he was trying to cause an air current over the seed, which he inhaled.  I don’t know how many times he had done this.  The flames were very bright and, my eyes being already oversensitive, they couldn’t stand a whole lot.  I kept squinting and closing my eyes.  Then I looked and he seemed to be lying on the ground, almost as if he had passed out. 

“Shouldn’t we go get him?” I asked.

“No,” says Jogl,  “This is where he really finds out.  Let’s hope its good.”

It was so hot I had to get away from it and sat down watching at a distance.  I felt that Florsin, and the seed, would be cooked. 

Then, about an hour later, the flames were down and we could see him laying on his side inside.  I thought he was dead. 

But no one did anything.  The flames slowly died down and turned into crackling smouldering embers.  Florsin lay inside . . . didn’t move an inch. 

As we were there eating some fruit one of the guys saw him move and said, “He’s up!  He’s up!”

Like a spring we all jumped up to look.  By this time he was sitting up, half dazed.  We went over to see.  He was all sweat, one side covered with sand, the other with black embers.  Then he said, “I saw a great tunnel burrowing deep, going down down.  I thought I was in the underworld.  There I saw such horrors, machines and noise, and people packed together.  I saw our underworlder.  He went down the tunnel.  For some weird reason, I followed him as if to see where to go, to have him lead me.  But, it seems, he followed another, a short squat man.  We seemed to walk and walk and walk and the next thing I knew I hit my head on something hard.  I seemed to see stars and passed out.  . . . . I’m not sure what to make of it.”

We all sat that wondering what it meant.  I was unnerved since it referred to me.  I could see everyone casting glances at me . . . wondering.  That only added to my nervousness.  

Interviewer –

So it appears that he passed out from the heat and had a dream?

Mr. Clement –

They told me that he goes inside, places the seed on the ground, and keeps repeating the question in his head.  As it gets hot, the seed releases some fumes, which he inhales while asking the question.  He asks and asks, focusing on the question til he passes out.  He then gets an answer in a dream.

Interviewer –

What kind of seed is it?  What tree is it from?

Mr. Clement –

They told me that it was from a great and magical tree which no one can see.  One thing is for sure, there is no tree, that anyone knows of, that has a seed that big.

Interviewer –

Then how did someone get it?

Mr. Clement –

I asked the same question and they said they don’t know for sure.  They told me a legend of its origin, though.  A story of how there was a boy who was playing beside a pond one day.  As he played he looked into the pond and saw a reflection of a tree that went way up in the sky.  He thought that it would be fun to climb that tree, then he could go way up high, as high as the birds.  When he looked up the tree was not there.  Baffled, he looks in the pond and see’s it, but when he looks up, its not there.  Thinking its the pond he reaches in the water and the image breaks up in the waves.  For some time, he sits there looking at the tree in the pond, then up, where it should be.  Then, as he glanced at the image, he see’s a seed dropping from the tree.  By looking at the image he could see about where it will fall, so he jumps in the pond, swims over and runs to the spot, holding his arms out to catch it.  Later that day his sister finds him laying there dead, with a large seed next to him.  She runs home to get her parents.  They come over and take his body.  His little brother finds the seed and, thinking it interesting, takes it home.  Later, they put the boy in a coffin.  The little brother, who has been carrying the seed, is asked to do something and puts the seed on the coffin.  Within minutes they hear banging in the coffin.  When they open it they find the boy alive.  Ever since then the seed has been associated with magical powers.

Interviewer –

That’s quite a story.

Mr. Clement –

At any rate, I didn’t think too much about my being in the dream that Florsin had.  I figured that it wasn’t my concern and layed back and closed my eyes.  Then my mind drifted to the leaves swaying in the breeze, such a wonderful sight.  My eyes followed the leaves to the branches, to the woody trunk, and I thought of my friend, Tesk’s Warden, and all of a sudden, I stood up. 

“Could it be?!” I thought to myself, but I quickly layed down. 

First of all, what could he do to help us?  Well, he did dig tunnels.  No, that can’t be it, I thought.  Besides, where would I find him?  I’m far away from where his tree was.  Even if I looked I don’t think I could find it again.  It was a thought.

The next morning no one could figure out what it meant and no one knew what to do.  We decided to start off on our way back to the castle.  I could see everyone was thinking deeply inside, trying to figure out what it meant . . . but no one could.

At one point, we stopped and made camp.  While asleep, I woke up to this weird noise.  It had an eerie quality, but seemed vaguely familiar.  I thought it was nothing and turned on my side.  But I heard it even more clearly.  It seemed to be coming from under the ground.  It made me think of Tesk’s Warden.  For some reason I couldn’t get him out of my head.  It must all be in my mind, I thought.  I told myself to quit thinking about it and go to sleep.

Sometime later I had to go to go to the bathroom and staggered through some bushes where I leaned up against a tree and was about to urinate when I saw a hole at the bottom of the tree.  Half asleep I crouched down and looked inside.  I then thought, “I could squeeze through that one, just like I did the other one.” 

I bent down and squeezed myself through.

The inside was similar to the other one I had seen before.  In the distance I could hear a faint trace of music, eerily similar to what I had heard before.  I slowly crawled toward it.  Again, I see a door and the light in the cracks.  It was quite strange as I kept having this dejavu feeling, as if I had been here.  Sure, it was similar to the last one, but it couldn’t be the same.  As I looked at the door I was amazed at its similarity.  It even had the same wear marks and scruffed on it, just like Tesk’s Wardens door!.  All I could mutter was, “that’s odd.”  Not only that, the music seemed so much like Tesk’s Wardens that it was uncanny.

But I stopped. 

Again, I wondered how I should enter.  I mean I don’t want to barge in.  What am I going to say?  As before, I sat and hesitated.  Almost the same thoughts came to me as before and I sat stumped. 

Minutes pass.

And then the music stopped . . . and I heard:  “You going to come in?”

I straightened and thought, “was he talking to me?”  He must of.  I mean, I thought he must be.  Who else would he be talking to?

Slowly, I creeked the door open and . . . lo and behold . . . Tesk’s Warden was standing there . . . or someone who looks like him.

“I’ve never seen anyone who spends so much time in front of the door,” was his first statement.

“What?  Are you Tesk’s Warden?  I mean the one I met before? . . . you can’t be!”

“Why?  I am.  Who else was I supposed to be?”

“How can you be here, you’re tree is miles from here,” I started in bewilderment.

“What?  No!  This is my tree.”

“Well, then, what about the other tree?”

“Thats my tree too.  I am in all the tree’s.  I am the warden of them all.”

“How can you be in all the tree’s?”

“Because I am in all the tree’s”

“But then that would mean there are thousands of you . . . I’m . . . I’m just confused.”

“Don’t be . . . ”

“How did you know I needed you?”

“I didn’t.”

“But you played music while I slept . . . almost as if you were trying to let me know where you were.”

“I always play music, you know that.  The difference, probably, is that you could hear it now.  Before you couldn’t.  You now know what to listen for.”

“Perhaps.”  Frankly, I was stumped by all this.  “Can I get your help?”

“In what?”

“To dig a tunnel!”

“A tunnel?  I’ve got plenty of tunnels.  Why do I need another?”

“But those are your own.  Can you build one for me?”

After some urging and proding he says he might consider it.  I tell him that we will have to tunnel toward the Bright Source.  I tell him that that it will probably have to be long, and that this is the problem.  I guess we would have to start somewhere behind the mountain, where we are in the shade.  But that’s like 10-15 miles away from the Bright Source!  It seemed impossible to dig a tunnel that long but, deep down, I guess I was just hoping that he might be able to perform some miracle or something.

“Why go that way?” he replies.

Stunned, I can only reply, “What do you mean?”

“There’s another way.  Yes, by tracing the root, that goes past Endarns Meadow and then branch off toward Clists Spring.  Yes!  Yes!  That’s right!  We can get there in no time.”

I had no idea what he was talking about . . . tracing the roots . . . but, I figure, he’s got to know what he’s doing? 

We began by going down one of the holes and traveling along some roots.  At one point he starts to dig in a specific direction.  “Its in this direction, I can feel it”, he keeps saying. 

I hope he’s right.

I must admit it was not easy digging.  He’d dig in front, put the dirt behind him, then I had to put the dirt behind me.  It was horrible.  It was humid, too, and the soil was moist.  The air was hardly breathable.  I could taste the soil.  There always seemed to be grains of dirt in my mouth and, after a while, my insides felt like dirt.  At times I felt claustrophobic and became frightened, though I never told him that.  I continually feared the soil would collapse all around us.  If it did, then what would I do? . . . what can I do?  I can’t dig out . . . dig out to what?  All I could do is trust in Tesk’s Warden.  I had no choice but to put my faith in him.  Oh, and I should also point out that this was all done in complete darkness . . . I couldn’t see a thing.  That just added to the horror of it! 

Onward and onward we went til he hit a root.  “Which way?  Which way?” he would say to himself.  “This way!  This way!  It’s been a long time.”  This happened quite a few times.

As he dug I, all of a sudden, heard a ‘flup’ and felt something like a breeze, or at least a movement of fresh air.  The inrush of fresh air was a relief and I breathed in as much as I could.  I can’t tell you how good it felt after being in the moist musty dirty air that I had been breathing for god knows how long.

And then I hear:  “Come on!  Come on!” and hear movement ahead.  I slowly crawl forward, expecting more dirt but, unstead, finding an opening.  The next thing I knew the ground inclined downward and I fell forward with my head digging into the ground.  As I got up I had to spit dirt out of my mouth.  It tasted like the air!

“Where are we?” I asked.

“Under the tree.”

This mystified me as I thought we were following roots away from the tree.  I couldn’t help staring into the darkness, almost as if I thought I could see in the dark!  I could hear water dropping and the static of silence. 

“Can I light my lantern?” I asked.  I clumsily reached into my pack and fumbled around trying to find it.  While I was skirmering around inside it finally occurred to me that I didn’t even have a shovel! . . . of all places.  Once I found it I had nothing but difficulty trying to light it that in the dark moist air down there.  It took many tries but I finally got it lit.  I know that Tresk’s Warden was chuckling at me, watching me struggle with it so much.  I think he thought it was a comedy.

Once it was lit I held it up and looked around.  As my eyes got adjusted I saw that we were in what appeared to be a huge cavern.  I did not know how long it was as the light did not shine bright enough to see the end of it.  I looked and saw that, above me, was the root system of a massive tree.  It seemed to spread out in all directions appearing much like veins in the soil.  They were huge dark wet roots.  Some of them had to be 20 feet in diameter!  Occasionally, you’d see sparkling specs in the air:  water dripping off at various places throughout the cavern.  To be frank, it looked quite majestic. 

And then Tesk’s Warden says, “Yup, there it is.  The great tree, the big one.  I haven’t been here since I was a youngster . . . came here with my dad and uncle.  Its nice to be here again.”  He went on to say that this tree spread out over all the land and its roots spread out below all the land.  “Where the roots end, the land ends and the world stops,” he said.  But, I pointed out that, this tree must be huge.  With the size of this tree it would stand above everything, every tree, every mountain, and have a trunk a hundred feet in diamater. 

“I never saw a tree like that up there,” I said.

“You can’t see it . . . unless you know how.”

“I don’t understand.” 

” . . . you see, it’s more than just a tree.”

“How can it be . . . a tree’s a tree.”

“Not this one.  This is THE TREE.”

He then begins to walk below one of the roots, apparently following it.  “This way!” he says, as he begins to disappear into the darkness.  I jumped up and followed him.  I was mystified by the tree, and what it was, but figured I’ll have to talk to him about that later.

As I walked along I would hold my lantern up to see the ground, walls, and ceiling.   Water made small streams in the caverns below the roots.  I often had to walk on the sides to avoid walking in the wet mud.  But, that was almost impossible to do most of the time.  Soon, my feet began to get wet and increasinglly cold.  Not only that, they were caked in mud and became heavy.  Every so often I had to try to kick the mud off, which often didn’t come off easy.  Up above, the moist roots glistened in the lantern glow creating a great show of speckles as I walked along.  As I walked water kept dripping on me.  It wasn’t too long before I was soaked and, in the cool moist air down below, I began to get cold.  Every so often I caught myself shaking or my teeth chattering.

But, as I looked up ahead I could see Tesk’s Wardens backside in the faint darkness.  Naturally, he didn’t seem to be having any problems.  He just jotted along like it was nothing.  Not once did he even look back to see if I was following him.  I guess he assumed I’d keep up? 

I continued to follow him into the darkness not knowing where we were going.  On and on for I don’t know how long.  In the darkness, I found it hard to gauge distance, of how far we walked.  We could of walked a hundred miles for all I know . . . or a few hundred feet.

Then he stopped. 

“Here!”

“What’s here?”

“What you seek . . . dig here.”

And so, with my hands I reached up to the damp dark earth and began to dig into the soil.  After about a foot of soil my hand hit a stone. 

“Yup,” he says.

“Looks like there’s a stone here.”

“Yup.  Stone is what you seek.”

I then turned to the stone and looked at it closely.  With all the mud it looked like any other muddy stone.  I began to clean some of the mud off and noticed a glow coming through.  I reached down and picked up some water from the stream at the bottom of the cavern and used it to clean off some of the mud.  I could see it! . . . The glow . . . and, miraculously, the whole area we were in was lit up, almost as if someone turned on the lights.  As I looked around I could see clearly all the roots, large and small, which made a wonderful pattern on the ceiling.  Some was even on the walls. I could see the small streams on the floor, and the water glistening in the moist walls.  It made the light of my lantern look like a small match.

Grabbing my hammer out of my bag, I began to pound the stone.  Soon a small piece came off.  But how much do I need?  I never thought about that.  I decided I should get a small bag full at least. 

Often, when I chipped off the stone, it shined with such brightness that I had to quickly cover it with mud, both the pieces and the wall.  In fact, I ended up covering it all with mud and placed them in my leather knapsack.  I then covered the wall back up with mud, as well, as it was when I found it, and the wonderful brilliance of the inside vanished into blackness.  All that was left was the tiny miniscule glow of my lantern. 

Then we headed back.  After what seemed like an eternity we finally made it back.  I was wiped out, cold, wet.  I had to carry I don’t know how many pounds of stone I carried walking in mud and soaking wet in almost pitch-black conditions.  Despite this, I was so excited I couldn’t wait to get back.  Once we got back to the entrance I immediately crawled outside.  Turning back, I expected to see Tesk’s Warden but found that the hole was gone . . . disappeared as before.

I shouted that I appreciated his help and that I was in his debt.  I don’t know if he heard me.  I hope he did.

I then proceeded back to the castle, wore out, wet, and muddy as I was.  On the way back, I found I seemed to stagger and was often unable to keep my balance, falling a few times.  I decided that I had to stop and rest, otherwise I may never make it.  I dozed off for I don’t know how long and woke up very refreshed.  I then looked at myself and couldn’t believe how much mud was on me.  I decided to wash myself in the next stream that I confronted. 

Amazingly, I found my way back.  On arriving I could see that conditions have not changed.  I happened to meet several people who were on the expedition with us on the street.  They said that they all wondered where I had gone to, as I seemed to of just left while everyone was asleep.  “They just figured you decided to leave . . . being an underworlder.”

“I had to go see someone . . . uh, where is everyone?” I replied.

“They are around here, there and abouts.  Sad thing about Jogl and the others.”

“Why . . . what happened?”

“Oh, of course you don’t know.  They’ve been locked in the dungeon.”

“What? . . . I mean, what for?”

“For stealing the seed, of course . . . you were there.  They haven’t decided on the execution date yet.”

“What?!!! Execution!  Are you kidding?” 

I was completely stumped and bewildered.  I immediately stomped up to the Throne Room entrance and asked for Florsin.  After voicing my bewilderment he says, “there’s nothing you or I can do for them now.”  I was so bewildered I completely forgot about all the rocks I had and started to walk away. 

Then it occured to me:  the rocks!  I quickly turned back and said that I had something that may get them off.

“What would you have that would get them off?” he said in a unbelieving way.

“Can I talk to the physician?  I need to talk to the physician?”

He said he’d go see if he is available and told me to wait there at the door.  I thought it would be a few minutes but then it went to half an hour, an hour, two hours.  I started to doze off when I was startled by the door opening.

“I haven’t got that much time,” the physician says as he pokes his head out the doorway. 

Quickly, I get up and say, “I have something you might be interested in.  Can we go inside?”

On a table near the door I placed my knacksack and uncinched the bag with the rocks in it.  I reached in and pulled out a muddy glob of goo.

“What is that?” exclaimed the physician in a disgusted way, “I haven’t got time for this.”

“Let me show you,” I said as I tried to clean off the mud.  I found, though, that this was not as easy as it looks.  With my hands being muddy I was really doing nothing but wiping off mud and putting more on from my hands.

I looked up and noticed that there was a vase with flowers on the table.  I quickly grab it and shake it:  water.  Quickly, I pour some water on one of the rocks and an incredibly glow appeared that was so bright we all had to shield our eyes.

“Could it be? . . . ” the physician said haphazardly.  Shielding his eyes he reaches out to grasp it from my hand.  With an amazed expression, he holds it up, as he desperately tries to see the stone through his squinting eyes. 

“I can’t believe it,” was all that could come out of his mouth.  He then turns to the servant and says, “get Herzel,  Blain, and Jost . . . hurry!”

To make a long story short:  I gave them the rocks.  After I gave them the stones I could of kicked myself.  I was planning on saving just a little piece for myself.  But, at the time, I was so desperate and worried over my friends that it never even occurred to me. 

Anyways, some time after I gave them the rocks they invited me to supper at the palace.  It was quite an affair I can tell you.  There were about a hundred people seated on two long tables in this very large room.  Everyone seemed rather chipper and happy.  The food consisted of a soup, with vegatables with some sort of meat in it.  Then there was a roast meat, then vegetables, then fruit.  During this we could have as much beer as we wanted.  This was the finest meal I ever ate.  I think I was just in an elated state.  Besides, after what I just been through, I was starving!

After the meal there were these acrobats who came out and did a performance.  They were quite good, doing all sorts of tricks.  Then these musicians appeared who played this very soft mellow music.  I thought I was going to fall asleep, particularly after that good meal. 

It was during one of their numbers that a man came out and interrupted them, announcing that the Great Lord would appear.  Everyone was elated.

A few minutes later an older man appeared with a long white beard, accompanied by many other people, one of which was Florsin.  The older man had a resemblance to the man I saw laying on the bed some days ago.  With his presence everyone cheered.  He then said, “I was sick but now I am cured.”

I found out later that they had ground up some of the stone and made some sort of a brew with it.  This is what they gave the Great Lord to drink.  Within hours, he was able to get up, walk around, and wanted to show himself at the dinner.

After dinner I was given a room and slept soundly.  In the morning, after breakfast, I was told to go to the Throne Room.  To be frank, as I walked there I became increasingly frightened.  I didn’t know what they were going to do to me.  Would they throw me in the dungeon?

As I walked through the door I saw many people on either side of the Throne Room.  As I walked in every head turned to look at me.  I hesitated and stopped.  Then I heard someone say, “walk forward, he’s not going to wait forever.”  With every eye on me I felt like sticking my head into the ground and my feet didn’t want to move.  Finally, I got my feet to move.  As I looked up I could see The Great Lord laying prone on his throne, a most peculiar position I thought.  On either side there appeared many officials.  Slowly I walked up and I became even more frightened.  I kept having thoughts of being executed.

“So this is the underworlder who saved me?” he states in a low ungratious tone.

“Yes . . . sir,” was all I could say.

“How can I repay you for this wonderful deed?”

I blurted out the first things that came to my head:  “I would like it if you will let my friends out of the dungeon and not to execute them.  I would also like it if you don’t let the dogs loose, as they will chase me down.  I would also like it if you can  help me to get back to my home.”

His reply:  “I will let your friends out and I can now see that The Great Waining Sickness of the Great Lord made them do it and, in so doing this misdeed, they were able to save the Great Lord.  For this I am grateful to them.  As for the dogs, I will keep them in their dog pen.  As for helping you get back home I know of no other to help you than Jogl.  But, as a personal gratitude I would like to give you this,” and he handed me what looked like a gold tear drop on a leather cord.  He said that, within it, was a piece of the stone that I recovered from the Bright Source.  “Because of its brightness we have totally encased it in gold.   But, we have allowed a small pinhole on the bottom that, if you look through it, you can see the brightness, to remind you of it.”   He went on to tell me that when I go back to the underworld it will change form, as the light that emits from this stone cannot be seen there.  And since the stone is the light, it will seem empty as if nothing is there, but it is there as long as its encased in the gold.  He warned me that if I opened it the stone will disappear.  He told me to prize this necklace for the light of the world was in it.  From this light all life originates.  Because of this, life is in this necklace.  Having it near me will give me strength.

I thanked him for all this and left. 

Later I was to meet up with Jogl and the others and we proceeded to go back to their place.  On the way I asked Jogl to see if he could make a doorway for me to get back home.  He said he would as this, he said, this was a special request of the Great Lord. 

“The doorway you came through was not ‘legal’ or proper.  Someone did it out of mischief.  To make a proper doorway requires some time and the right time,” he says.  He told me we would have to wait awhile for the right time, when its the right season.  For some reason, he would not reveal to me when this season was.

After some months I was out looking for berries with Jogl, as I often did, and Jogl pointed toward a clump of bushes.  “There!  Look there!” 

I looked . . . I just saw a dark clump of bushes.

“In there, crawl in there . . . you better hurry!”

Was this the doorway he was speaking of?  I decided to move.   I got down on my hands and feet and crawled through the bushes, having to move away brush as I went.  I crawled into a darkness.

And then, all of a sudden, I felt as if thrown, as if someone picked me up and threw me.  I came crashing down on hard ground.  When I landed I fell on my hand and clinched it in pain.  I was worried it was broken. 

Then the air, it seemed very thick.  I had to inhale deeply to get it into my lungs.  At one point I thought I was going to pass out.  I layed flat, clunching my hand and breathing deeply.  After some minutes I seemed to be OK enough to look around.

I was in a forest again.  I could hear noises in the distance, people and wagons.  I got up to look and could see a village.  As I got up I realized how sore I was and seemed to ache.  I felt I was thrown quite a distance. 

But as I stood up I realized that I was not thrown but fell up, as I did before. 

Could I be back?

I looked toward the village.  The homes, the wagons, the people . . . this wasn’t the same place I was.  It also isn’t the place I came from?  I seemed to be somewhere else.

“Now,” I thought, “where am I?”

I slowly walked toward the village and noticed that everyone was Chinese. 

I went up to one and said, “Can you help me?”  He gave me this perplexed look, so I went up to the next one and the next one.  To make a long story short, no one seemed to speak english but I happened to find the Magistrate, or so he called himself, who happened to speak a difficult-to-understand english.  From him I found that it was the same month and year I left but only several days had passed!  I thought I had to of been in that other land for months.  I began to wonder if the Chinese were using some other calender. 

The Magistrate was able to contact my home was able to arrange my return.  As I waited I told an abbreviated version of my story to a Chinese newspaper man who, I think, greatly exaggerated what I said.  This, apparently, was repeated, and exaggerated, by the other newspapers which made it seem even more farsical and ridiculous.  That, of course, is why everyone got this wild story much of which is untrue.

Interviewer –

Its nice of you to tell us the whole true story.  I think, though, that many people will continue to questioned its validity though . . . you’re describing hard-to-believe things.

Mr. Clement –

Of course.  I often wonder if its true myself.  But, like I said, I thought it was a dream until I found the necklace, the one the Great Lord gave me.

Interviewer –

Do you have it with you?

Mr. Clement –

Yes, I always keep it with me.  Here it is [taking it off his neck].

Interviewer –

It looks like an oblong drop-shaped gold metal container, about a half an inch long, on a leather cord.  Its not much.  No decoration . . . plain.  If I shake it, there’s no noise . . . seems to be empty.  Its not at all heavy.

Mr. Clement –

I know, but that’s what he gave me. 

Interviewer –

 . . . but what is this? . . . yes . . . uh . . . there’s . . . there’s a stamp on the base . . . have you seen this? . . . its says . . . “China” . . . it’s made in China!

Mr. Clement –

I noticed that too.  It makes me wonder.  But its what he gave me.  I wanted to open it but he told me not to.

Interviewer –

But that puts this even more under question though.  This appears to be a trinket from China . . . you could of bought it anywhere over there.  To me, it makes your story even more unbelievable.  You see, unstead of offering proof you offer more doubt. 

Do you really believe all that you said happened?

Mr. Clement –

Yes.  I know it happened. 

Interviewer –

To be honest Mr. Clement, I, as a reporter, have my doubts.  Its just too fantastical and the proof you offered puts it even in more doubt.

Mr. Clement –

I understand.  I think I’d feel the same way in your position.  And, like I said, I wonder myself.  I have my doubts too but, yet, I can’t help but think:  what does it mean for something to be real?  I know it was real . . . it happened?

Interviewer –

Well, having proof is a good start to know if something is real or not.

Mr. Clement –

I don’t know . . . there’s something more.  I can’t put my finger on it.  I know that this happened but, I must admit, I don’t know in what way. 

But, despite this, I have told you my story and that is what I remember.

With that, the interview ended.  We shook hands, thanked each other, and went our separate ways. 

I found Mr. Clement to be a friendly, sincere, and seemingly honest man with no apparent hint of mental disorder or aberration of any kind.  I saw no evidence that he was making the account up or that this was a publicity stunt.  He struck me as a man describing something he had been through.  I sincerely feel that, deep down, he believes his story to be true.  

But for me, as a reporter, I find it hard to believe that his story could of happened.  I found that I left Roger Clement with an unsatisified feeling, that I did not get the answer I had hoped for.  I do not believe his story to be true but I cannot explain why he would of made it up or why he believes it to be true.   Regardless of this, it does make a wonderful, fantastical, and entertaining story.

———-

I wrote some things about this story in an article called “On the writing and meaning of “Mr. Clement tells his story” – Trying to grasp “life’“.

———-

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Short Stories and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s