“My little boy is all grown up!”
Gregory’s mother bounced around their home with glee as she spoke the words. Her other offspring had already flown the nest, but Gregory, ever the cautious one, had always voiced his reservations about the Wide World as his siblings had departed for parts unknown.
Until this morning, that is. Over breakfast, he had announced that he was going to leave home and go on a Quest. He wished to see the world and perhaps make a home of his own. “It’s time, Mother,” he had said, standing tall and decisive, “for me to make something of myself.”
Gregory’s mother knew that this decision was long overdue, and she wasted no time getting him ready for his adventure. “Be prepared,” she told him as she packed his lunch, nice and snug, just the way he liked it. “You never know what strange and wonderful things you might encounter, and not all of them are nice.” She pointed at the silk ropes he was preparing. “And don’t waste your silk. The first thing you should do when you are on your own is find a nice place to build a home. If you don’t have any silk, you won’t be able to do that very well.”
Gregory looked around at his home — their home, the only home he had ever known. “I think I will make a very nice home, Mother. I will make you proud.”
Gregory’s mother smiled. She reached out a leg and touched her son’s leg lovingly. “You’ll be fine,” she assured him. But before he had a chance to respond, she fixed all her eyes on Gregory with a serious stare. “Just keep this one thing in mind as you move about the Wide World: don’t tempt the wrath of the Whatever, high atop the Thing.”
Gregory nodded soberly. He had grown up on horror stories of the Whatever chasing those of his kind down, killing them, or cruelly trapping them in airtight jails for them to suffocate slowly. Nobody knew what the Whatever looked like, but it was always a good idea to stay away from anything large enough to do damage. In a world of fight or flight, the latter was preferable for survival.
After he had readied himself as well as he possibly could, he kissed his mother goodbye and jumped backwards, out of their house, down, down, down, climbing slowly but steadily through the air on the silken rope he had prepared. Just when he thought his descent would never end, his feet touched the ground, and he looked around in wonder.
Gregory had never seen a wooden floor before. He knew what wood was, of course; he and his family had all lived in the corner of two wooden beams his whole life. But to see an entire plane of nothing but wood astounded him. Not wanting to be caught out in the open, he scampered towards the wall.
Where should he build his home? What would be the best location to attract a mate? Or more importantly, to attract food? He remembered one of his sisters saying that she would build her home near a Bright Light, to get the very best dinners. He looked up and saw a large Bright Light not too far away, hanging off of a wooden pole. Next to the pole was a large mountain that seemed to be made of something soft; he couldn’t really tell what it was from this distance, but he knew it was not wood.
It took him the better part of the day to get to his destination. Walking on wooden floors was easy, but halfway there, the wooden ground gave way to a softer and bumpier surface, which took a little practice navigating. At one point on his journey, a huge dragon with one blindingly bright eye roared over the soft surface, pacing back and forth with a nauseating smell emanating forth from its mouth. It was sucking in everything in its sight. Gregory had to quickly swing one of his ropes up to a nearby ledge to pull himself up and away from danger, and his poor heart nearly burst from fear.
That near-death experience made Gregory realize that he needed to set up his home, and quickly. He redoubled his efforts to reach the Bright Light, and before he knew it, he was at the base of the wooden pole. The wood was too slick to climb, so he would have to get to the top by climbing the mountain next to the pole.
Before making his ascent, he studied the structure. It was lumpy, made of some material similar to the floor, but slightly smoother. It would be easy to climb, so Gregory counted that as a blessing. He pulled out the lunch his mother had packed for him and ate it quickly, knowing he would need the energy to get all the way up there and to build his home.
The trek up the large, soft mountain wasn’t nearly as bad as his overland journey. There was something warm on one side of the mountain, and traveling on top of it gave him a boost of energy. The warm thing was also made up of different textured surfaces: some bumpy, some smooth, and some with short ropes the width of his own ropes, sticking straight out of the ground. He marveled at the wonders of the Wide World.
He was almost to the top of the mountain when he encountered the three Strange Caves. One cave was very wet, with strange rock formations just on the inside of the cave, and a very small stream trickling out of one side. He knew that was no place for someone like him to tread. The other two caves, on the other hand, much smaller than the wet cave, almost seemed like a great hiding place until they started making that horrible noise. It was even a worse noise than that dragon! Warm, humid air puffed out of the two caves, and Gregory climbed to the very top of the caves to avoid being blown away.
At the top of the caves, Gregory stopped to survey his surroundings. Slightly above the two caves there were two recesses on a slope, each with two rows of large black ropes sticking out. But just when Gregory was about to investigate those rows of ropes, the ground shook. The black rows suddenly separated, and between them appeared a circle of bright blue with a black center, resting on a dome of white.
Gregory had never seen anything like this before, but something inside him immediately recognized it. This was an Eye. It was the Eye of the Whatever. And it was looking at him. At his soul. At all the things he had ever done and ever would do.
He had climbed to the top of the Thing without even knowing it.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Major Bedhead challenged me with “Don’t tempt the wrath of the whatever, high atop the thing.” and I challenged Kurt with “Go here (http://www.flickr.com/groups/indieink/pool/) and write something based on a photo that inspires you. Post the photo in your response (or link to it if Flickr won’t let you embed it).”