The trip to Torrtia lasted maybe an hour. The ride, in darkness and completely uneventful, seemed longer than that. Now they wait for the crates to be moved off the transport and into the storage bunker.
Johnny waits and listens. Other than the occasional orders being called out by the supervisory crew and the occasional clank of metal on metal as crates grind and clatter against each other, he hears nothing out of the ordinary.
At least that’s how it begins. Within a few minutes, however, he can hear more peculiar sounds in the distance. The sounds match that of soft screeches and howls, mingled with squishy squirts and bubbly pops. They aren’t sounds he’s familiar with. The lower register sounds are more deep moans and hushed whispers, like voices on a summer wind. The whispers seem to be communicating with each other. The language is foreign, an ancient raw dialect of sorts.
An occasional guttural scream echoes overhead, bouncing off this side and that. Hiding in a crate removes the advantage of seeing where it all comes from. He only listens, experiences and focuses on each individual sound. Yet, with each new one, he finds himself drawn back to the hushed whispers. The whispers aren’t clear enough to fully understand. They moan and float on soft breezes. Their seductive fluctuations mesmerize and sing anything but sweet lullabies.
Within a few minutes, the crates stop moving and lower to the ground. A few procedural exchanges ensue between supervisor and tech, before all goes silent. He uses the silent opportunity to lift the top of the crate and climb out…
The forest is lush and overgrown with the largest variety of plant life he’s ever seen. The plant life is nothing out of the ordinary. There are a few large trees, most that stand like sentinels or act as protectors, and the occasional grassy meadow; No rocks or shrubbery of any sort appear. The forest is more like a rainforest than mountain wilderness.
It’s all a peculiar yet fascinating sight to behold. Torrtia may not host sentient life, but the planet is indeed very much alive. Tall plants with gaping jaws tower over the landscape while other shorter plants use vines and large leaves to trap their prey. There are ferns and smaller grass-like plants. Most of them provide cover and camouflage for the floor below. Unknown pitfalls and dangers peek out from under this cover.
It’s a horrifying wonderland of beauty and death.
As he observes, it dawns on him where the hushed whispers are coming from. It seems that some of the larger trap plants are communicating with some flowering lilies in almost a flirtatious like manner. The lilies respond with waves and slight blushing of their colorful faces. Some of the plants appear to have some form of facial feature – mouths, slits for eyes and nubs for ears.
They continue their journey across the forest floor until they come upon a small cave buried in a mountainous hill of sorts. The hill is covered in moss and varieties of ground covers that dangle over the opening. Vines also intertwine over and around the opening. A canopy of large leaves covers the entrance and outer limits of the cave.
A mammoth tree rests on top of the hill. Its roots plunge deep into the hill and back out again like interwoven thread on a tapestry. The tree towers over the rest of the jungle, reaching its branches and large leaves out like a bowery over the vegetation, spreading for miles and miles. A hut of some sort stands perched next to the base of the tree. The hut is derived of clay, vines and leaves. A jutted outcropping of flat stone extends over the entrance to the cave. Vines and moss drape this outcropping and splash over its sides, extending to the ground.
Two stone statues flank both sides of the cave. The statues look like large humanoid hunters. However upon closer examination, the figures are less human and more like large plant-like beasts. Vines drape over their shoulders, around their waste and twist around their strong upper legs. Their feet appear to be root-like in shape and seem to plunge into the dirt or ground upon which they stand. Fingers, like twigs and branches, wrap around large clubs and bows. Thorns and briars shape out their mouths giving them a fearsome appearance.
They stand as protectors of the cave and its contents. The breeze swirls and wraps itself around the glade leading up to the cave and whips past the stone statues giving them a life-like appearance. Soft moans and muffled whispers float on the wind as it whips past the transport and then turns and roars into the cave.
***Stay tuned for more of the adventures of Johnny Pheryl – © Alan “Jedi” Zaugg 2018***