Mr. Musk was excited like a little bleating lamb at the sight of his Shooting Star hovering over the viewing platform of the great red oak tree in the dreamy landscape of Pluto. They roped down onto the thick branch that wrapped its arms around the platform. Arlo, Spot and Spinosaurus were ecstatic from being back in their tree home. The fragrant string of flowers hanging off the branches, the red lobe leaves unfurling and their pet owlets snuggling up to their necks brought the warmest embrace of homeliness.
And standing vertically adjacent, in contrast to the majestic organic life-giving tree, was the erect space rocket Starship SN111 parked three metres away. Mr. Musk stood gaping, transfixed in awe.
The most enchanting sight was the intertwining of the two verticalities. The robust roots of the oak tree which had entangled itself onto the wings of the rocket when it got uprooted, had continued to clasp and clutch the interiors of the stainless steel craft and the mineral rich soil around it. And from there, time brought with it the birth of a magical concoction. It was an extraordinary chemistry of uniting the elements of Earth and the abundance of nourishment in the geology of Pluto. A novel seed that had the characteristic of a library had sprouted. It was a seed that grew and grew, into a thick sturdy fatherly trunk and supported a latticework of branches with a motherly caress. It was a seed that continued growing into a Bodhi-like tree with a cosmic wisdom that held the blossoms of perfumed flowers. The scent had brought together the dance of bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, birds, ants and beetles to pollinate in the Plutonian sunbeams. And then, tendrils grew from the intersection of its shoots to patiently a-wait and cusp a newborn book that would sprout tenderly from a pollinated flower.
It was a seed that had somehow develop the ability to assimilate with its virtual and physical surroundings.
“This is the heart of Pluto, where the Tree of Books has rooted itself.”
“Would you like to harvest a book Mr. Musk?” Arlo asked.
“Why yes! Could, could, could… I?” stuttered Mr. Musk in disbelief.
“Let me introduce you to the owlets. Mrs Owl and her dutiful owlets uphold their task faithfully as loyal book-keepers. They keep the library immaculate and the community in balance,” continued Arlo.
There were long vines of swings growing from the branches for readers and knotted vines to climb and hang upside down for a skewed perspective. Hatchlings which have taken flight left their empty nests to allow storage of little books. Spiders weaved their webs to keep the books from the nibbling caterpillars.
“Could I try the orange bud over there?” Mr. Musk enquired with Mrs. Owl as he pointed to a cluster of hanging petals. He carefully peeled the petal to reveal a book entitled, ‘The Book of Useless Information’.
“Oh, do let me have that book. There is a long waiting list for this one. Why don’t you try another one dear.”
Mr. Musk ruffled through the vines on the other corner and peeked through a blossoming pink flower. It was a sleek book entitled, “The Ultimate Guide to Becoming A Galactic Citizen.” A sticker on the front cover revealed that the book was the Galactic’s #1 Bestselller of the Year. He held his breath and murmured, “This is a wonderful surprise! Who wrote this? The author’s name is not printed here,” He turned to Mrs. Owl, searching her eyes for answers.
“Kevin Adams, a distant relative of Douglas Adams.” replied Mrs. Owl amusingly. “He is a rather shy man. He writes all day but expects no one to read his books. And therefore, refuses to have his name on it,” she continued.
“You mean THE Douglas Adams?
“He’s the one.”
“The genius to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy! He must be why I am here.”
“Where is Kevin Adams from, Mrs. Owl? Earth? Pluto?” Mr. Musk implored. “I wish to visit him.”
But Mr. Musk did not get a chance to find out.
“Mr. Musk! Mr. Musk! Come with me. You must be hungry. We have a feast waiting for you.” Spot gripped Mr. Musk by his hand, led him out of the Starship library, across the gangplank, back to the tree home and into the kitchen. Spinosaurus had made a swift order with the Milky Way Food Panda Delivery Service. The order was of incredulous proportion that Spinosaurus had set the dining arrangements in a large circle which required each diner to be seated against the four walls of the kitchen.
Arlo had harvested plots of asparagus, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and rosemary from his vast vegetable plots that swept into kilometres of goodness. He had prepared his finest salad for their guest. Take-away food was not agreeable for an apatosaurus for in his eyes, the green leaves were always found wilted in its tiny carton and there was never enough to fill his tummy. Mr. Musk looked out of the window and at the flourishing vegetation. He made a mental note to take samples of the soil and water in Pluto and enquired if the conditions were exceptionally fertile. Arlo shared that the seedlings were just like babies and would likely grow happily in any conditions that offered love, care and song.
After the hearty meal, Spinosaurus and Spot took Mr. Musk ice-skating in the frozen Lake Turquoise that reflected the peppery red desert dunes in the West and the glassy snow capped mountains in the East.
“I have never felt so amazing in the longest time! I feel like a kid again! I feel like Peter Pan!” exclaimed the man, his shirt tucked out in relief and his tie, long gone. He was an adventurous skater and went far out into the lake. Spot had never seen a man in a suit looking so free and joyous; almost as if he was a bird in a cage but with an open door, involuntarily not wanting to fly out but had finally taken to the skies. His troubled brow had disappeared and his eyes sparkled with life. He was gliding across the ice with an aura that radiated a youthful spirit. Even the seals stopped fishing and lay languidly to watch.
Lost in his euphoric world, Mr. Musk slipped and fell into an ice fishing hole and plunged all the way down into the mystical blue depths of Lake Turquoise.
He caught a glimpse of the roots of the magnificent oak tree reaching for the underworld and providing an expansive habitat for the aquatic creatures. Down and down he continued into deeper shades of the darkest green and blue where the water became thick, and heavy, and murky. He was pulled by an invisible vertical force that he could not break free from but was eventually grateful for. For in a short time before his last breath was to be exhausted, he felt himself floating upwards again as if the world had spin down-side-up. Luckily, his star was faithfully waiting to pull the drenched and shivering man who had appeared from the other end of the mini planet.
That frightful but invigorating fall had awoken him from his brief escapade in Pluto.
He had much to do. He was going to undertake yet another project that may divert the course of his lifetime ambition – that of a livelihood in Pluto. He waved goodbye to Spot, Arlo and Spinosaurus from the window and shouted that he would be back.
“Please tell Mrs. Owl I will be back to chat with her!”
After a good many weeks of nurturing their pets and plots, Spot remembered something. There was an entangled knot at the back of his head, a sense of an unfinished adventure, something that was started but not completed.
He wondered, how it was that they had travelled to the Himalaya and not meet up with Big A and Little A in Astam. And what had happened to Professor Goat? Was he still at the City of Yeti?
“Let’s go boys! We have yet to catch up with Big A and Little A as promised!” said Spot. “And we should find out what happened to Professor Goat!”
“Have you forgotten the evil clouds there? They have a mind of their own.” mumbled Spinosaurus.
“I think the Oh-No Valley may have something to do with the strange occurrences of the clouds. There was nothing strange about Astam,” Arlo said thoughtfully. “And I was meant to exchange the Inheritance Cycle with Big A and they are still in my backpack,” he added.
“We didn’t stay long enough to find out, did we? But, I do remember the 73 chickens!” Spinosaurus lighted up suddenly.
“I’ll call the Musk Shooting Star Express! I can’t wait to slide down the roof of the School of Glitter and Gold again! I am sure Little A loves it just as much as I do!” Spot scrambled to his feet animatedly. “
Once again, the trio said their goodbyes to the owlets and zoomed away towards Astam.
Arlo found Big A with his nose tucked in a book. Big A was only too happy to see his old friend’s long neck poking in through the window to greet him. It wasn’t long before Arlo got into a convincing debate with Big A about his collection of books. Arlo wanted to exchange ‘How to Keep Your Plants Happy’ for Big A’s Harry Potter series but Big A, unconvinced, refused flatly. He wanted to re-read the series for the 6th time. With a glint in his eye, Big A suggested two other books that he could trade off with Arlo – ‘The World’s Most Rude and Marvellous Stupid Words’ and ‘How to Untie your Belly Button and Make your Butt Fall Off’. Arlo decided to keep his happy plant book instead.
Meanwhile, Little A and Spot had spend the last 4 hours sliding down the roof of the School of Glitter and Gold and made a landing of soft, delightful mud. They were in a ghastly state as one can imagine, and they went home looking like two blocks of walking mud. When Little A had finished cleaning up, he found Spot still brown as ever and was refusing a wash. He tricked Spot into the washing machine, poured in cupfuls of detergent and started the white wash cycle.
Spot came out SPOT-LESS. Alarmed that he could not see himself, he went in search for a murky puddle. He found a little one and sat, and sank in soft, warm mud. Ah, he felt like himself again. The sky turned a shade of brown, brewed from the light potion of red, yellow and blue. Just like the shade of Spot. He felt right at home.
The song of the unforeseen impatient winds of the North came uninvited to Astam. Doors slammed, roofs rattled, window frames shuddered and sheets from the laundry line were blown out of sight. The wind that passes through the snow capped Annapurna is often outspoken and raging. It is of a merciless kind that often sweeps and displaces everything in its way, leaving the village in disarray after it is gone. And it was this one raging wind that came while Spinosaurus was found in the chicken shed of the Lodge once again. The wind swirled around the shelter with a hurricane effect and within seconds, swallowed up the metal roof, wood planks, Spinosaurus and the 73 chickens. It carried them to a soaring height and swept them across the River Mardi to a familiar place. The wicked wind left its hold and they landed on top of a rainbow arch that had morphed into a brownbow. And down they slide, back into the cusp of the Oh-No valley.
An unusual white shaggy figure with yellow moon-shaped headphones was seen walking with 2 large sacks over his shoulders. He seemed to be whistling to the tune of the Moondance as he doodled along the trail where the brownbow ended. Spinosaurus and the 73 chickens landed right into the path of the dancing figure who was only too delighted from what seemed to be a phenomenon of chickens falling from the sky. It so happened that Kevin was the yeti that owned the chains of Yeti Fried Chicken Restaurants at the City of Yeti and was out to replenish his stock of chickens. Spinosaurus did think he looked rather familiar especially with his striking yellow moon-shaped headphones. He eyed him suspiciously for the yeti was now unpacking his nets from the sack. It didn’t take Spinosaurus too long to figure out what the Yeti was up to.
A fight ensued, both claiming for the ownership of the chickens. Both were equally determined in their sparring and neither was winning. When at last they fell in exhaustion, they noticed the disappearance of the chickens. Instead, the appearance of a wispy cirrus cloud at the fringe of the Oh-No valley caught their attention. That particular cloud seemed to be raining chocolate popsicles. On that event, Kevin hurriedly collected his belongings and without exchange of words, made his way back the way he came from.
The chickens were eventually found lying on their backs with their beaks opened, crunching chocolate popsicles hailing from the icy cirrus clouds. Their tummies were inflating to unusual proportions as they gulped them in gluttony, eventually causing a symphony of flatulence that stirred the stillness of the valley. The people living in their blue metal roof houses reported witnessing a sighting of chickens, all 73 of them, zooming across the skies like inflated balloons released from its knots. It wasn’t long before they ran out of gas and fell from the skies, one after another, limped but delirious from the popsicles. Spinosaurus carefully picked every one of them in his arms and tenderly laid them to rest on a bed of grass under the cinnamon tree. The scent from the aromatic bark calmed their nerves and soon they were brooding in a state of glee.
When Spinosaurus came back with armfuls of wild corn to feed them, he found 73 brown eggs lying quietly on the bed of grass.
At that very endearing moment, he made a vow never to eat chickens again.
*Cloud illustration by Igor Zubkov*