May the Hyperborean


Chapter Four

May stopped running and she collapsed in the grass. Digger's tongue hung dripping sweat and May's heart was beating like jungle drums. She lay on her back in the shade in the tall cool grass with the blades of jade. As she lay, one of the larger moons began to eclipse the sun and it got very dark. With a multitude of moons orbiting the earth, there was nothing uncommon about eclipses, so May made no effort to get up and witness this non-phenomenon.

"The grass is very long here, isn't it, Digger?" May remarked. "I hope there ain't any more zombies and vampires running around these parts. Hey, I'd swear this grass is growing!" And so it was! The grass was growing right over May's body like a thousand vines, coiling around her arms and legs, creeping across her body from all sides, the ends twisting together, locking May to the ground. She struggled against her bonds. Digger suffered the same fate, and, growling, tore viciously at the grass with his teeth, but the grass kept growing over him. So May and Digger were stuck until the moon moved away from the sun and the grass sank into the ground again except for those blades which were hopelessly tangled, but these they managed to tear free from with no great difficulty.

May swore and said, "The next time I lay down I'm lying on a rock! Come, Digger!"

A few steps later, May found a coin on the ground, shining. This, too, she dropped in her top for safekeeping. A minute later she came to an odd sight, but a welcome one: a stand in the shade with a sign overhead upon which was written CAVE WATER 25 CENTS. This was attended by two young ladies, blonde twins, each wearing a colourful sarong.

May approached the ladies while Digger sniffed around. “Am I on the right road to the Bay of Wolves?”

One of the twins spoke: "I'm Up Hilda and this is my twister, Down Dale. You look like you could use some refreshment."

"I don't have any money," said May.

The twins looked at each other in surprise and one said, "Are you sure?"


"Maybe some water might refresh your memory," Dale declared.

May was glowering at these twins. Something was amiss. She reckoned that, despite appearances, these were the witches, Fee and Fie. Digger's sixth sense could not penetrate their clever disguise, but one had called the other her "twister", and May was sure they'd left the coin on the trail so she could buy their concoction, probably poisoned. "I'll pass," was all she said.

Hilda's response was to pick up the pitcher of water and fill two cups. She and Dale drank heartily, because, it is said, witches can drink their own poison without dropping dead.

"Yup!" said Dale. "I could drink a pool of this stuff."

Now May was convinced that the water was genuine, unmixed with poison. "W-e-l-l," she drawled, digging out the coin, "I was hoping to save this, but I'm thirsty!"

Hilda took the coin and poured a cup for May. "This should kill your thirst, Yam."

"My name is May, not Yam."

The twins looked at each other in surprise, and both said in unison, "May?!"

May brought the cup to her lips and Dale slapped it out of her hand so that it fell to the ground.

"Whoops!" said Dale.

"That does it!" May snapped, and she leaped back, spear poised.

"What's with you, barbarian?" asked Dale.

"I know who you are. You're Fee and Fie, the metal-faced witches!"

Hilda spoke: "You caused my robot to kill me, jungle-girl! But I'm willing to forget our petty quarrel. Besides, if we wanted to kill you we would have let you drink the ---"

"Hah! So it is poison!"

"Whatever!" said Hilda.

Dale interjected, "We didn't know your name is May. We need you to save us from Plop."

"Plop?" May was intrigued and wanted to know more.

Hilda spoke: "Plop is a monster, scourge of the land. He never sleeps: during the day he's a nightmare, and at night he's more terrible than terror, more horrible than horror. He has molten metal flowing through his veins. His only purpose is to destroy! He's a demon conjured by a sorcerer named Az, who had a house not far from here. Plop was to be his servant, but Az screwed up the incantation and the spell went awry. With his terrible fist, Plop crushed the necromancer’s skull and went dashing into the woods, and now we are all at his mercy."

"Did you see it happen?" inquired May.

"No," said Dale. "Az told us himself. We were just coming to his house to spy on him and learn new magic. But we saw him stumbling around the woods, almost dead, animated only by sorcery and a supreme act of will. He collapsed and warned us of Plop and told us of the Achilles' heel he included in the spell. He said, 'There's one thing that can kill Plop: May!' And then he died."

May let it sink in for a moment. "What a stupid story! You're plotting to kill me!"

"You’re delirious, barbarian!" Hilda declared.

"Come on, Digger, let's go," said May, backing away. She didn't take her eyes off the twins, and Digger, impatient to move on, gave a few barks to hurry her up. May turned and managed to take only a step or two through the tall grass before tripping over something, and she fell in the sward. Only when she rolled over did she see what tripped her, and that her ankle was caught in the rib cage of a human skeleton!

The girls giggled like ghouls giggling at a gargoyle gargling boiling oil. May got up and brushed off some of the mud and grass.

"How convenient," Hilda said, "for you to fall over the bones of Az. That's where he collapsed and died."

May examined the skull and saw that it was caved in on top.

"We may be able to revive him," said Hilda, "just long enough for him to repeat his last dying words. Then you'll believe us."

The twins made weird gestures in the air with their hands and fingers, and where they described circles and abstract designs trails of coloured light hung in the air. May gaped in astonishment as the collection of bones stirred and the skeleton rose shakily to its feet. The skull stared at them from eyeless sockets. May drew back in revulsion.

Dale stepped in front of the uncanny figure. "Talk, warlock! Repeat your dying words!"

The jaw moved stiffly and a death-rattle voice emanated from the skull: "Plop has molten metal flowing through his veins. As intended, he'll reside in the Frost Region to stay cool. But beware! He'll do his haunting in these woods. There's only one thing that can kill Plop: May..." And these being Az's last words, the skeleton said no more.

"There," said Dale. "You heard it straight from the horror's mouth. Now do you believe us?"

May was too stunned to respond.

"We don't need you anymore," said Hilda to the skeleton. With a simple wave of her hand the skeleton collapsed to the ground with a clatter. Hilda turned to May: "Now will you kill Plop for us?"

"What do I care if there's a monster running around your yard?" said May.

Hilda, batting small stones with one of Az's femurs, said "Why should you care? Tell her, Down Dale. Tell her in monosyllables so she'll understand."

"Because..." Dale began, and she thought for a moment. "Do you see your whistle?"

May looked down at her whistle. Suddenly it vanished, vine and all!

"Now you don't!"

"Hey!" said May. "What did you do with my whistle? I need it!"

"Oh, it's still around," said Dale. "I can bring it back -- after you kill Plop for us!"

Hilda taunted her: "What do you say, punk?"

May grumbled, "Where is Plop?”


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