All Your Caves are Belong to Us!!
In which the true origins of Cyan are revealed
The van slowly rolled through town, its occupants hidden from view by the tinted glass. Johnny had noticed more and more of these oddly colored vehicles - was that a blue or a green? - each emblazoned with a C wrapped around some kind of golden ball. This one was different, though. It stopped right in front of him, and two men got out. One was wearing a strange t-shirt, with a penguin covered with a circle and slash on the front; the other wore an even stranger t-shirt, with a spider-web design spread over the front and back; and both wore shades and hats, the hats again with that C business. Johnny stood his ground.
"Good afternoon," penguin man said. "We understand there are some . . . . . caves nearby."
"Yes," spider man said. "Caves."
"Caves? I don't know anything about any . . . . . caves," Johnny replied, unsure of how to proceed. The town had known for years that someone would come, that someone would want to know about the . . . . . caves. No one had thought they would come this soon, however. Johnny looked down at his shoes, which he had forgotten to tie.
"Your . . . . . cave system is of great interest to us," penguin man continued, as if he hadn't heard Johnny at all.
"Yes," spider man said. "Great interest."
"I don't know anything about any - what did you say you were looking for?" Johnny said, smiling at his clever attempt to guide the conversation away from the . . . . . caves.
"Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny - that is your name, isn't it?" penguin man said. Johnny was taken aback. How did he know my name? he thought to himself as he coolly took his sunglasses off and slid them into the pocket of his monogrammed shirt.
"Yes," spider man said. "Johnny."
"Look," penguin man said, slowly walking to the right as spider man sauntered a step or two to the left. "We don't want any trouble - Hey! Your shoe's untied!"
Hah. Johnny wasn't going to fall for that one - wait a minute, my shoes are untied! He bent down to tie them - and then darkness.
Johnny woke up with a headache a mile wide and an inch deep - and a bump that went both ways and back again. He was in some kind of room - no, it was more like a garage. His hands were tied behind his back and his legs bound to the chair in which he was sitting. Across the table was a new guy - did he have a beard or not, Johnny couldn't tell, the light wasn't so good.
Beard man sat silently in front of a machine of some sort, like a small typewriter, with some kind of fruit stamped on the lid. He looked up as Johnny struggled in vain to tie his shoes.
"Ah, welcome, my friend," beard man said. "I need your help, but I can tell you'll need some convincing. So I've prepared a little demonstration." The lights went out and an image appeared on the wall across the garage.
"What's that," Johnny said, "it looks like some kind of submarine."
"Close," beard man said, "but not quite. We'd like you to take something out for a test drive. We call it the . . . . . Mazerunner."
* * * * *
"Order! Order!!" Big Sam banged the gavel down on the podium, as the last few townspeople filed into the room. Johnny had never seen this many people at a meeting before, and that went all the way back thirty years.
"Now, we've all heard what happened to Johnny," Big Sam said as the crowd settled down. "So we all have to decide how we're going to protect the . . . . . caves."
"By the Maker, Sam," said a voice from the crowd. Johnny strained to see who was talking -- it looked like the widow Sal, but it was so hard to tell when everyone wore sunglasses. "What in tarnation have you got in mind?" she continued. "We wouldn't be in this situation if someone hadn't gone and written that book!"
The crowd began murmuring, the noise quickly growing into a buzz, then rising in a crescendo to a roar, peaking at a cacophony, before finally settling into a steady rumble. Big Sam gavelled the crowd into submission. "Look, we knew this day was going to come no matter what, so let's quit pointing fingers, especially cuz Johnny is really sorry for what he did." Johnny cringed at the memories that flooded over him, as his mind went back to that fateful day in 1989 . . . . .
Cave of Dreams
Johnny sat on an edge protruding from the stalagmite. He had made the journey down to the Chandelier Ballroom in record time, and stopped to rest before heading back up. That's when he had heard the voice. Now he was frozen with terror. He once knew a guy who heard voices, and he wasn't ready to adopt that lifestyle. But then it came again, echoing throughout the chamber:
If you map it, they will come come come come
"Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello?" he called out, praying that someone would answer. "Is anyone there? there? there? there?"
If you map it, they will -
- sorry got a cave bug stuck in my throat -
- come come come come
After a moment, Johnny headed for the surface, which he also made in record time . . . .
"Okay, so those in favor, say 'aye'." Johnny shook his head, clearing his mind of the cobwebs that had plagued him ever since he had stumbled into the nest of daddy longlegs. He had indeed mapped the cave, just as the voice had said. How was he to know that "they" were going to be them?
A chorus of "ayes" shook the hall. Big Sam fixed Johnny with a stare. "Okay, son, you got us into this mess. Now you're going to get us out of it."
* * * * *
Johnny checked his watch for the umpteenth time. 12 noon. He could never remember whether 12 noon was am or pm. It was just like that Year Zero problem - was there a Year Zero or not, because what happened when 1 B.C. ended, did 1 A.D. begin, or was it 0 A.D., but then what kind of year was that, because it wasn't the first year after dominoes, that was 1 A.D., and it wasn't the first year before croutons, that was 1 B.C., so would it be 0 A.D./B.C, but he could swear that was a rock band of some sort -
The van roared up the street, the sun glaring off that strange color - was it green or blue? - giving the vehicle an eerie glow. Johnny took a deep breath and tried to remember what his great-grandfather had told him when he was just six years old. Buy high, sell low - no, that wasn't it, what was it he had said?
One day some strangers will come and want to see the caves. You must test them first. Give them obscure instructions and force them to read journals with half the pages missing. Make them push many strange buttons on machines whose purpose can only be discerned after they wind their way through a long, infuriating maze. Play loud, eerie music, and if any of them goes by the name "Mac," make them wait a long time. And above all, above everything else -
Yes, Grandy A? he recalled saying.
DON'T LISTEN TO ANY VOICES!!
Johnny cringed as that memory finally surfaced. I could have sworn he said listen to the voices. Oh well . . . . .
The van's sliding door opened, and beard man got out. Johnny could tell he was not alone, as there were other people with him. Thinking back to their last encounter, Johnny hoped his shoes were firmly tied.
"I still would like to know how you did it," beard man said. "It's almost as if you've been there before, as if you knew the way out, as if - I think you know why we're here."
"Sure," Johnny said. "You're still interested in the . . . . . caves. There's something I've got to ask first, though."
"What's that?" beard man asked.
"Did you buy a copy of my book or merely check it out of the library, because, you see, I still owe my publisher some money from the advance, and I've got some extra copies in case you checked it out . . . . ."
Beard man nodded slowly, then reached inside his jacket. Johnny tensed, holding his breath, waiting for the inevitable - "Where did you get that?" he cried when beard man's hand emerged.
"This? This is why we're here. Oh, your book caught our eye, but it was merely the final piece of the puzzle. This - this is our Rosetta Stone, the Tabula Rosa, the Magna Carta, you get my drift."
Johnny stared at the piece of paper in beard man's hand, the white piece of paper, the white page. "So, you already know, you know about Dunny?"
"Is that how you pronounce it?" beard man said. He looked at penguin man, who shrugged. "We thought it was Deeny."
"Yes," spider man said. "Deeny."
Beard man smiled, and with that smile a weight was lifted from Johnny's shoulders. For the first time, he viewed the future with some hope. Hesitating just a moment, he stepped forward to offer his hand, to make this stranger welcome, to put to rest the townspeople's fears and redeem himself in their eyes, to bring the curtain down on more than one hundred years of protecting the town's secret, his great-grandfather Atrus's secret, the secret of D'ni. His smile turned to chagrin as he stumbled, hopelessly entangled in his shoelaces.
Beard man caught him before he fell, helping him regain his feet. "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
Johnny nodded. "Let's start over there," he said, pointing across the street to the building with the pillars. "Over there, to the . . . . . library."