The formation of the bum cloud, a heavy brown mammatus hovering at 3000 meters, was a ghastly sight. It was dotted with dark lumps and curved around like a buttock. A strange, foul whiff lingered in the air, nothing like they have ever encountered. The wild flowers wilted away. The marmots retreated into their deep burrows. Caterpillars crawled to the underside of the leaves that they were mulching and huddled together. The birds took flight. Only the pesky flies were in delirium. Everything and everyone felt something menacing was to take place.
Arlo, Spot, Spinosaurus and Professor Goat clambered on ahead nervously looking for shelter, sensing the imminent revolting outcome, but not having much luck in the barrenness of the Annapurna. Their trail led to black granite and white snow. A frightened marmot stopped Arlo in his track. He leaned forwards to soothe the little furball. Instead, he stumbled and crashed head down into a dark something. Spot, who was riding on Arlo, was inevitably pulled along. Down and down they plunged, into a void of black. Spinosaurus looked around in disbelief. With the bum cloud closing fast on them and with Professor Goat who was oblivious to the disappearance of their two companions, and whose attention was still stuck in the virtual world of Google Maps, Spinosaurus made a choice of diving into the unknown darkness. Not too long, Professor Goat mindlessly fell through and arrived at the end of the vertical something. In that very moment, the bum cloud erupted. Through the verticality, plops landed.
In a spontaneous act, Spinosaurus was quick to use the goat as a cork to stop the blobs of cloud diarrhoea.
Horrified by his act, Spot bit Spinosaurus in the leg and kicked him aside. The little one yanked Professor Goat’s legs down and Arlo stuffed, what appeared to be a ventilation shaft, a giant beanbag that they grabbed within reach. The goat, being a muddled and calm sort of creature by nature, never quite knew what happened. Except for the revolting lumpy blobs on his head, he felt quite well.
On leaving the cavern furnished with extra-large sized bean bags and scattered strands of white hair, they discovered an infinite labyrinth of passageways and doors. Steep stone-carved steps led to myriad levels of darkness. Deep into that darkness, they stood there wondering, fearing, doubting. Curiosity got the better of them.
“I wonder if this is what it feels like inside the underground cities in Cappadocia.” Arlo whispered to Professor Goat.
“Ah, yes indeed, Arlo. The subterranean shelters in Cappadocia are legendary. They were carved within the soft layers of lava and ash. But here we are, walking through metamorphic rocks and crystalline formed from the ocean floor and pushed up by tectonic forces.” Professor Goat added enthusiastically.
“Who could have built this incredible maze?” Arlo asked in wonderment.
After 127 rock steps later, they arrived at an intersection. There was another deep shaft that brought a powerful light beam from the surface into the un-illuminated network of passageways. Adjacent to it was an opening, like an atrium that gave them a clue of where they were. Their eyes feasted on an overview of a soaring vertical rock city, carved miraculously from the depths of the mountain. According to Professor Goat, they had stumbled upon the mythical City of the Yeti. There were stories of Yetis passed down for generations in the Himalaya but no one has actually ever seen them. They were stories shared over a campfire, quite often shaped and reshaped into interesting permutations as they were passed down from one storyteller to another storyteller.
His guess was confirmed when they noticed Yeti Fried Chicken eatery signs lit up on almost every precipitous ledge of a ravine-like city. It reminded Spinosaurus how famished he was.
He sniffed and snuffled the air, hoping to pick up the scent of chicken. Navigating through the maze with his flaring nostrils, he led the quartet through the sunless and moonless play of penumbra and shadows. In the hope of finding one of the many chicken eateries they had spotted, Spinosaurus stopped at a marked door that looked like an outline of a chicken. He tapped on it. And rapped. And knocked. They went unanswered. He opened it impatiently. In there, he found a shaggy back of a large creature with yellow moon-shaped headphones, perched on a wide brass bowl resembling a toilet. Spinosaurus, disheartened by his find shut the door behind him. He rubbed his nostrils. His senses were acting odd, perhaps a side effect from the chocolate overdose.
Then they came to a heavy door with an iconic knob – a familiar figure of Jon Bon Jovi. Spot could not resist opening that door.
They discovered that Yetis were groovy break-dancing creatures.
They entered a thunderous cave with music blaring on speakers and thumping of hundreds of shaggy white yetis dancing to the rhythm of ‘It’s my Life’. The reverberations on the dance floor shook the chamber like a boat on a rough stormy sea. In the centre, there stood a colossal contraption that seemed to measure the magnitude of the vibrations picked up from their groovy dance stomps. Professor Goat was sure that it resembled the instrument used by human scientists to measure earthquakes. It consisted of a heavy weight pendulum hung by wire from a supporting frame, and a pen that recorded on chart paper. The length of chart paper unfolded continuously from a rotating drum planted securely on the ground. The setup looked similar to a seismograph. It was measuring the intensity of energy that was being released into the ground by the stomping dancing Yetis.
Professor Goat was excited and took a closer inspection. A yeti with pink headphones was studying the seismometer. She looked up. She stretched her long limb into the air, flicked her tight fist, encouraging the other Yetis to change their rhythm as she simultaneously adjusted the beat of the music on the DJ controller. The voice of Skillet brought an enthusiastic uproar from the dance floor. They broke into a fervent break dance. Spot and Spinosaurus were hypnotised by the atmosphere and danced away with the waves of Yetis.
One can only imagine the magnitude caused by hundreds of frenetic dancing, large-footed Yetis. It produced an earthquake effect and one may question if avalanches and the regular tremors on the Himalaya may have something to do with zealous Yetis partying in the bellies of the Annapurna.
Meanwhile, Professor Goat and Arlo had strike up a conversation with the yeti scratching the disk at the DJ controller. They were informed that there was a lift shaft built in the core of the city that could transport them up to the top of Annapurna South. From there, they could catch a shooting star.
Her name was Arya. Carrying an air of nonchalance, she agreed to show them the way to the lift shaft. The quartet followed her up a flight of spiral steps and through a passageway lit by fireflies in a bottle. They approached the Chamber of Water where a couple of Yetis were melting barrels of snow that were brought down through the lift shaft. When the last barrel was unloaded, they stepped into the transparent carriage. Arya pushed a star-shaped button and within seconds, they were soaring upwards, slicing through the mountain at break-neck speed.
“Hold on tight. It should take us about 2 minutes to get there,” she smiled, showing a set of perfect white teeth. Even her eyelashes were white. Only her pink headphones gave colour to her iciness.
The lift travelled at 39.5 metres per second through 4 kilometres of mountain. In precisely 102 seconds, they had reached an incredible height of Annapurna South.
Meanwhile, Chinese satellites picked up images of un-identified footprints in the snow.
A search on Baidu, the popular Chinese internet search engine, tells them that there are the footprints of an apatosaurus, a spinosaurus, a mountain goat and a human youngling. The Chinese are utterly confused but wholly curious. The President is informed. He orders the findings to be of national top priority. News leaked out and went viral instantly as social media platforms created a domino effect of publicising it to the public. The Chinese people were ecstatic. But not quite in the way that other cultures would react with such startling news.
Restaurateurs’ went frantic searching for an authentic source and poachers had their phones buzzing all day. Chefs were informed of the possible rare delicacy that may soon appear in their kitchens. Recipes were whipped up and advance bookings were made in the finest restaurants of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu. China was about to embrace a fresh culinary cuisine, an event worth noting in their history of the 21st century.
Colonel Shen, a reputable no-nonsense leader of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Ground Force was deployed with his troops by the Chinese government to investigate this matter. They were flown across Tibet and were expected to continue by foot toward the Annapurna.
In another part of Earth, nobody quite knew where Woolly had sent Lady Buckshot flying through the Arctic after her murderous escapades.
The pages of Ice Monster came to an end, yet the mystery of her fate was untold. So the sequel to Lady Buckshot’s fate somehow got entwined with the pages here. Nobody could have guessed the incredible strength of Woolly, a one-year-old furious Arctic mammoth. And so the story goes that this heartless lady had somehow, and fortunately for her, had landed on the lap of Colonel Shen just as he was lighting up a cigar in the mountains. Lady Buckshot, aghast with her inconvenient dislocation, impatiently slid the cigar from Colonel Shen’s fingers. She took the first puff to reset her composure although her nerves of steel were rarely ruffled. She recklessly blew a cloud of smoke into Colonel Shen’s face and as the air cleared between them, their eyes met for the first time. It was love at first sight.
Note: Ice Monster by David Walliams has been read to Little A, a gazillion times. The villain, Lady Buckshot, has a lifetime mission that may interest her in this story.
*Cloud illustration by Igor Zubkov*