Chapter 6: Wild Encounters

Congratulations Shrek. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Julia Roberts as Julianne Potter in My Best Friend’s Wedding.

Best Actor: John Cusack as Craig Schwartz in Being John Malkovich.

Best Quote: “Now really, it’s rude enough being alive when no one wants you, but showing up uninvited to a wedding?” — John Lithgow as Lord Farquaad in Shrek.

Chapter 6

A king cobra wasn’t what Brody thought he’d find while running for his life at Wrestlemania. He had been running for at least ten minutes but seeing no sign of Cable. He kept looking for elevators, since that was where he’d seen her last. At the third set he’d come upon he decided to try hitting the down button. He had no idea what to do, but without her, much less Anita and Chester, his every decision was a big guessing game.

Ding. The doors slid open and that’s when he first saw it. A frighteningly large snake was inside, its body sprawled randomly on the floor as if it was a thick cord dropped carelessly. Its head, however, was up and doing just what Brody was doing: waiting to see what was on the other side. Seeing him standing there caused the serpent to stand, as cobras do, widening its scaly neck. When Brody was just 8 years-old he’d watched a video of a king cobra attacking a lion and had nightmares about it for weeks. This was his greatest fear. For this reason he’d never even given a thought to travelling anywhere in Africa or Asia. He wasn’t all that crazy about going anywhere south of the Tropic of Cancer for that matter. He froze as the snake hissed and growled, standing high enough to be looking him straight in the eye.

It was uncertain to him where he mustered the courage to do so, but Brody managed to turn himself around and run. He knew if he looked back he’d regret it. Seeing a king cobra is terrifying, but not anywhere near as much as seeing one chase you. But he couldn’t help himself. He had to look.

Yup, it was chasing him alright. What made it worse was that he could hear that familiar Richard Strauss orchestral music blaring from inside the stadium. He knew that song meant only two things: the 1968 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey or Ric Flair. Knowing just where he was made it easy to know the music’s purpose, but it was playing just as he’d caught sight of the snake and was still playing as he ran. He felt like he did in those bad dreams where you’re being chased but your legs aren’t working right and it feels as if you’re running through waist-high water.

The snake was gaining on him. This could be a fake. A figment of my own imagination. But that thought wasn’t helping. The idea that this could be something other-worldly meant he didn’t know if it was better or worse than what he thought. Taking a lightning-quick look back a third time he was sure the snake could catch up to him and dig its fangs into his neck at any moment. Then he felt something grab his wrist and jolt him to a stop, his legs flying up in the air like they were going to keep going without him. He stumbled and fumbled his way to a standing position to see that it was Cable. “Finally I found you! Follow me.” The snake had stopped short but kept its gaze. “Oh, don’t be afraid of that. It’s from Odium.”

“So it’s… not real?”

“Oh no it’s very real. You’re lucky it didn’t catch you before I did. One bite could kill twenty of you.”

And you want me to NOT be afraid of it? Brody wondered how she could be so calm and cool around this writhing embodiment of terror. And then she did the unthinkable. “Hsssssssss! ….come on! Come get us!” she seethed, extending her harm in a taunting gesture. Is she insane?! Brody thought.

“Cable… what are you…” the snake lunged just as it had in the video that 8-year-old Brody regrettably witnessed. Seeing it coming towards him made him yelp in fear loud enough to drown out any of the cheers and jeers coming from inside the stadium.

But just as the snake lurched, Cable made a diagonal slicing motion through the air with her arm. It left a trail of white shiny dust like you’d see in the tail of a comet. The snake appeared to dive right into that thin arc and vanish into it. Then the arc of light dust disappeared as fast as it had shown up. Brody stood stiff as a board with an ashen face and widened eyes.

“It’s ok Brody. It’s gone.”

“Where’d it go?” he managed with a quiet, shaky voice.

“It’s now entering through that thing you folks call a black hole. It’ll be fine. He’s gone somewhere good for him.”

I wasn’t concerned about its safety! Thought Brody.

“Now come on, we have to act quick!” said Cable grabbing him again by the wrist. The two ran in the opposite direction that Brody and the cobra were heading. They were moving quickly, though were almost stopped by another cobra. In fact, cobras were appearing from every corner; yet, disappearing almost as fast with every slash through the air Cable made with her arms. They finally arrived at an elevator when they heard a roar from behind them. Once again Brody was paralyzed with fear as he beheld a giant lion bounding in their direction.

“I got this Brody. Just open the doors!”

More and more lethal animals appeared, each one with obvious and direct intent on attacking and killing the two of them. There were cobras and mambas, lions and panthers, tigers and cheetahs. Even a giant bear ran at them monstrously, its body barely filling the hall.

“How is it that no one else is seeing this?” cried Brody. It was true. They had passed by plenty of people as they were running for their lives and none of them seemed concerned at all, let alone horrified.

“I’m protecting them from it. They’re not seeing any of this.” The animals kept coming, and not one at a time anymore either. “Are the doors open yet?”

Brody looked up and saw the number 2 lit. Then 3. “It’s getting there!”

With one gesture Cable created a bigger portal that stayed visible and functioning as vicious animals poured into it. Cable grabbed Brody by the shoulders and looked him in the eyes.

“When that door opens, you don’t move until I say so. No matter what’s in there!”

DING

Brody wasn’t ready for this, but he had to be. The doors slowly parted and revealed a beast beyond his (or anyone’s)  imagination. It looked like a giant wolf on its hind legs with human arms and claws that would make Wolverine looks like a kitten. It had enormous fangs dripping with saliva and a forked tongue fluttering in and out of its mouth. The haunting growl it made shot currents of electricity through Brody’s body. Even being with the rock-steady Cable didn’t stop Brody from believing that he was about to die a horrifying death.

“Stay where you are,” whispered Cable. “Don’t. Move.”

The creature let out a blood curdling scream, then crouched.

“MOVE!” yelled Cable and kicked Brody to the side as the beast jumped forward with the speed of a shot arrow. But Cable didn’t move herself. She stood strong and absorbed the tackle. She wrestled and fought with it as she yelled out directions to Brody.

“Get in the elevator Brody. Quick!” He felt like he was abandoning Cable, but he didn’t know what else he could do but follow her lead. She could only grunt sentence fragments as she tussled with the immensely powerful monster.

“Let the doors close… the lights… are going to… go out. Don’t be afraid…”

He watched her seem to weaken in her fight as the doors closed. This time they didn’t slide slowly like elevator doors normally do. In a jarring and unforgiving fashion they slammed shut. Hard. And just as Cable had said, the lights went out. Complete blackness.

Now it was time for just another dose of fear and despair. The elevator dropped straight down as if someone had snapped the cables. No one can truly understand the sheer terror of free-falling, no matter what scary theme park ride they’d been on. Only those who’d been in an airplane falling to the earth, or who’d been suddenly pushed from the top of a building, could possibly appreciate the shockwaves pulsing through the veins and the feeling of electricity leaping from the naval to the forehead.

Then, a splash. Brody suddenly felt cold and couldn’t breathe. He could hardly move as well. But he did see light. It was above him, waving. It took him a second to realize he was in water. His arms and legs instinctively moved about against the liquid, trying to get him up to the light. He could taste salt on his lips and was afraid the water would enter his mouth and then his lungs if he didn’t reach the surface soon.

To be continued…

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