The Outside-In World

pellucidar 1

Pellucidar artwork by J. Allen St. John

“Dani?” Eight-year-old Landon’s brain figuratively froze at the thought that his two-and-a-half-year-old sister could wake up over ten years older than she went to sleep. Further, she was dressed in animal skins like what Grandpa might call a “refugee from an old Tarzan movie,” whoever “Tarzan” was.

“I know this is a shock Landon, but I’m the only one who can help accomplish your mission and put the evil spirit back where it belongs.”

Landon just blinked and stared, unable to process the fact that his sister was now older than he was by about five or six years.

“Sorry about the shock old boy,” Gerlilanum added. “I guess I should have given you some warning, but I wasn’t sure the spell would work.”

“Spell?”

“Yes, Landon. I derived the probable origin of the evil spirit and that led me to the adventures you and your sister will have in the future.”

“Future?”

Landon was still in shock. Then he remembered his experience with the dragon Shay and teenaged Dani. This had happened before.

“Okay, now what, Dani?”

“Gerlilanum has taken the liberty of preparing three backpacks, one for each of us.”

“Yes, they are in the entryway upstairs,” uttered the dragon.

“If you’re ready, we need to leave, brother. Time is running out for the outside world not to mention the Gremlins. If the spirit suspects too soon what we’re going to try, it could torment and even kill countless innocents. Now follow us.”

Gerlilanum slowly trudged up the long spiral staircase making Dani wish she’d have gone first. Landon took up the rear still having a hard time believing his sister was now taller than he was.

At the entrance, he saw three backpacks, a bow and quiver of arrows, and a spear.

“Are the bow and arrows for me, Dani?”

“No, for me,” she said donning her pack. “I’ve been trained and you haven’t. I wouldn’t want you to shoot yourself in the foot.”

He knew she was teasing him and he felt embarrassed. His younger sister was now his older sister and he just discovered he was glad he was normally the oldest child.

“He put on his own pack and saw that the dragon was wearing his. “I’ll get the door, Gerlilanum said.

The old dragon opened the door but Landon couldn’t see the forest outside. In fact, he couldn’t see anything at all. It was entirely black, not like night-time, but like an infinite, inky void.

“I’ll lead the way.” With that, Dani, having also donned the bow and quiver, picked up her spear and stepped through into nothingness.

“Gerlilanum! Where did she go?”

“Calm yourself, Landon. It’s quite alright. You go next.”

He trusted the dragon but was still intimidated. But if Dani could do it, then he could too. The lad stepped through the blackness and came out the other side…in a jungle in an upside down, inside out world. Actually, it was more like a jungle at the edge of a swamp.

Landon heard a thud and realized the rather chubby dragon had arrived behind him.

“What the heck?”

They were inside a hollow ball, except the ball was enormous and covered with plant life. There was a bright thing in the exact center of the ball like the Sun, if the Sun could hang in the middle of the air.

“Where are we?”

“Someplace not real and therefore very dangerous.”

Dani sounded like she knew what she was talking about but it also made no sense.

“It’s where he has decided to hide.”

Landon heard what sounded like a combination of a screech and a roar above them and looked up to see a gigantic flying dinosaur swooping down at the three of them.

“A Pteranodon! Duck!” Dani’s warning came just in time as they dove to the ground causing the winged predator to barely miss them. It climbed, turned, and came back down for another try, but this time Dani was ready. She let it get closer, closer, closer, and then hurled her spear at it, striking the airborne beast at the left shoulder where the wing connected to its body.

In shock and surprise, it paused in midair and tried to climb but instead floundered and then crashed among the brush some yards distant. It wasn’t dead as was evidenced by the furious thrashing they heard and the violent movements of the nearby trees and bushes.

“Damn! I really liked that spear. I can’t get it back now. It could take hours for that thing to die.”

“We must be going, Dani,” the dragon intoned.

“You’re right. Let’s move.”

Landon’s eyes were as wide as twin flying saucers as he continued to stare where the Pteranodon had crashed. Then he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“We’ve got to go, Landon. Come on.”

Turns out his sister was just as bossy now as she was as a toddler.

He was glad he’d been working out with Dad because he had a tough time keeping up with his sister, but not as hard as the old dragon. Landon hated to admit it, but he found himself wondering if they shouldn’t have left the aged Gerlilanum back in his tree.

Finally Dani stopped but it wasn’t for a rest. “I should have expected something like this. A Dyryth.”

“A what?” Landon had never seen anything like what was blocking their path before. From head to tail, it was about twenty feet long, standing on its hind legs, apparently so it could reach some fruit in a tree high above, and when it walked, the ground shook under its massive weight.

“On Earth, they’re called Megatherium. Basically a giant ground sloth the size of an elephant. They’ve been extinct for about 10,000 years, but not here.”

“Are we in the past? No, that can’t be right. We’re not on the surface of a planet. It’s like we’re on the inside of a hollow planet.”

“That’s about right, brother.”

While Landon and Dani were talking, Gerlilanum had pulled something out of his pack and was jiggling it in the air while doing a little dance. It looked like a mobile you’d hang above an infant’s crib, and there were lots of pieces of colored glass and glitter dangling off of each of its arms.

The dragon stepped off of the trail and into the brush and the Dyryth followed. Then Gerlilanum threw the shiny distraction as far as he could, which as a lot farther than Landon thought he could, given his short arms and old age, and then ran back to the trail. The Dyryth slowly, lazily, ponderously followed it making moaning noises.

“That should do it. They like shiny things, you know.”

“No, Gerlilanum, I didn’t.” Landon was relieved that the massive creature was out of their way but wished the dragon had let him in on the plan to get rid of it.

“Well, we’ve had a nice rest. It’s time to go again.” With that, Dani continued at a fast walk in the direction they’d been going in before.

About an hour later she slowed down. Fortunately, she’d let the dragon and boy rest a few times along the way. How did his little sister get to be so fast and strong?

Then Dani stopped and ducked down behind some bushes. She motioned for Landon and Gerlilanum to do the same. They quietly crept up next to her.

“Of all the luck. I should have expected this.”

Landon looked past his sister and through a small break in the bushes to what was beyond.

“Horibs,” she whispered.

“What?” They were shaped like people but had skin like lizards or snakes. In fact, their heads looked like big snake heads except they had pointed ears and two sharp horns. All of them were carrying spears and seemed to be camped out at the edge of a lagoon.

“I see. Very clever.” Gerlilanum was stroking thin wisps of hair growing out of his chin.

“Yeah, clever,” Dani mused. “At least they aren’t Gorbuses.”

“What are they?”

“Albino creatures who eat human flesh. You don’t want to meet them.”

“I sure don’t.” Landon thought he’d been in some pretty bad places before, but this seemed to be worse than all of the others combined.

“Look. In the lagoon.” The dragon pointed with one claw.

tarzan horib

Artwork by Frank Franzetta for “Tarzan at the Earth’s Core (originally published in 1929).

The water just behind the Horibs bubbled and churned. The lizard men turned toward the disturbance and then bowed. Slowly something began to rise from the water, something Landon recognized.

“It’s the Creature I fought when I was in the Gremlin world, or when a little Gremlin girl was kidnapped and I had to rescue her.”

“Yes.” Dani’s eyes narrowed with hate. “The Creature.”

The Creature walked up onto the shore and the Horibs bowed in submission and adoration at the appearance of the ancient amphibian water spirit.

“It makes sense that the Creature would use Horibs as guards.”

“So what do we do now, Dani?”

“I’m thinking, I’m thinking.”

Landon saw the dragon was motioning and gesturing, weaving a mystic spell. Moments later, there was a different disturbance to their left. A large group of what looked like gorillas burst forth from the undergrowth and attacked the Horibs.

“Sagoths!” Dani cried. “The servants of the Manats. Now there’ll be real trouble.”

“Not to worry, Dani,” Gerlilanum muttered. “Another distraction.”

The Horibs and the Sagoths engaged in fierce battle. Much blood was spilled and dismemberments were not uncommon. Landon thought he was going to lose his lunch.

Roaring mightily, the Creature waded into the middle of the battle and with his razor-sharp claws, did equal damage to both sides of the conflict not caring if he was killing his own allies along with those attacking them.

“Now’s our chance.” Dani stood and using her bow, started shooting arrows into the Creature’s chest. He bellowed with pain and rage and then charged them. Both the Horib and Sagoth warriors retreated, or rather those few who survived the battle.

“Landon, now!”

“Now what, Dani?” He had no idea what he was supposed to do. Then the gray dragon touched his head and he remembered the spell he used to shut the portal between the Creature’s domain and the Gremlin world. He had to send the Creature back and this time make sure he stayed there.

The magic lantern amulet around his next glowed brightly as the boy stood and weaved his spell right in front of the wounded and bleeding creature. A portal opened at his feet and he fell through, just like a person would if the walked over an open manhole.

Landon spoke the magic words in the tongue of the ancient masters and the portal closed. Instantly, the world around them began to fade and shimmer.

“You did it, Landon. You broke the spell. Now the fantasy world the evil water spirit created is evaporating. I love you Landon.” She hugged him. “See you again in about twelve years or so.”

“But by then I’ll be…”

Then everything went black.

Landon woke up. He had to pee, so he got up and stumbled down a long hall to the bathroom. He turned on the light and looked in the mirror shocked. He wasn’t eight years old anymore and this wasn’t the bathroom at Grandpa’s house. It was one of the bathrooms in his dorm. He was in college and he was twenty years old.

This story immediately follows The Girl in the Tiny World and continues the adventures of Landon, the ancient dragon Gerlilanum, and his magically aged sister Dani.

Some of you may have recognized elements of the Edgar Rice Burroughs book series Pellucidar. I didn’t identify it specifically in the body of the story since I don’t think I’ve read any of them and am depending on Wikipedia for my references. Still, I thought it would be fun to write a “hollow Earth” tale.

Oh, Burroughs allowed his most famous creation Tarzan to “crossover” into Pellucidar and lately, I’ve been reading the Sunday edition of some older Tarzan comic strips featuring the famous ape man in the world at the Earth’s core.

It was real-life Landon who suggested telling a story from the point of view of his “adult” self in the future, so that’s where we’ll start next time. I just have to figure out how to write it first.

Welcome to the latest entry in the series of adventures I’ve been writing for my grandson for almost a year-and-a-half now. To read the series from the beginning, go to The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us. At the bottom of that story is a link to the next. Each subsequent story has a link to the next chapter, so all you have to do is keep reading and clicking and you’ll eventually get back here.

The next chapter is Of Ice and Anna.

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