Sunday, August 2, 2009

Shu Shu's Odyssey - Part 1

One day, while reading a dusty old book that he had found buried beneath a long-forgotten stack of nautical tomes, Shu Shu T. Dragon (my little buddy, who as you may recall is an extremely avid reader) came across an ancient map detailing the location of a mysterious island. The book (which was actually the diary of a grizzled old sea captain by the name of Jones) described the island as an enchanted place located somewhere in the South Pacific. Captain Jones and his crew had found it entirely by accident after a terrible storm had damaged their ship and blew them far off course. After drifting for ten days, the bedraggled crew saw the island appear on the horizon like a beautiful beacon of hope.

"I just love these nautical tomes."

According to his diary, Captain Jones and his crew spent nearly two years on the island, which they explored and mapped while repairing their ship. During this time, he chronicled the island's many wondrous features such as its beautiful mountains, pristine beaches, colorful birds, and abundance of tropical fruit. One of the island's most curious inhabitants were, as described by the Captain, "...a race of small brown creatures, close in size to a field mouse and slightly resembling a mythical dragon." He goes on to write of their "pleasant demeanor" and "tough, rocky bodies resembling hardened clay." At one point in his diary the Captain wrote, " of their most unusual habits is a daily hike to the island's highest peak. Their final destination is a natural hot spring with crystal-clear water that smells as though it has been infused with jasmine flowers. They will spend hours soaking in this fragrant bath..."

Upon reading this, Shu Shu's mouth dropped open. He knew he must find this fantastic island. Perhaps he would even find a society of other tea dragons and thus unlock the mystery of his very existence... but mostly he just wanted to soak in that hot spring.

And so it was that Shu Shu T. Dragon set out on a most epic journey. He packed the book in a small rucksack and borrowed our friend's pedal-powered, zero-emissions hot air balloon! The following three paragraphs were taken directly from Shu Shu's journal and the remainder of the story he shared with me after his returned to Seattle.

June 28, 2009
After 3 days of nonstop flight I have arrived at Fiji. The Captain's peculiar map has precise instructions which I now must follow if I wish to find the island. "Starting at Fiji's southernmost point, travel south for 2 days at the speed of a tuna in his prime. Turn gracefully toward the east as though you were a sooty tern. Spend the next 3 days traveling east by southeast, using the stars for guidance, and at dawn on the third day, if you're lucky, the island will appear on the horizon."

July 4, 2009
I have found the island! It is a very beautiful place indeed, much as Captain Jones had described it, but it is oddly quiet and devoid of life. Although the island seems rich with exotic foliage, I do not see a single bird in the sky nor spider in a tree. I called out often but received no response. After a brief rest, I will begin to explore the island. I sure hope I can find the hot spring that Captain Jones wrote about in his diary!

"Cool rocks."

"Beautiful white sand beaches."

"Lush green forests."

July 5, 2009
I have spent the better part of today flying around and mapping the island. At about 4 miles wide and 6 miles long, it is quite small. There is a tall green mountain near its center and after searching for several hours I believe I've found a meadow where I can safely land my balloon and camp for the night.

(Written after Shu Shu's recent return to Seattle.)
The mountain seemed cold and foreboding, not at all the pleasant place described by the Captain. Shadows seem to move in unnatural ways and my sleep was burdened with nightmares.

Because the terrain was getting rocky and the wind erratic, I was not able to take the balloon any further, and continued on foot. I was on a trail leading off into the dark forest. Judging by its lack of vines and debris, I thought it must have been used frequently. I hiked the trail all morning as the tropical sun burned down on my scaly brown back. By mid-afternoon I seemed to be nearing the summit and decided to take a short rest by a small stream. While bending down to splash a little water on my parched body, everything went black. A dark bag had been put over my head and I was being wrestled to the ground by several strong men. I felt a blow to the back of my head and blacked out.

I awoke in a dark cave with my hands and feet bound by thick ropes. Soft voices could be heard from somewhere nearby. I yelled and the voices stopped. Moments later an old man approached me. His dirty face was lit by a blazing torch. He wore a loincloth tied together from worn-out clothing and had a long, grey beard.

"Mew Mew Muh Muh," the man barked at me in a questioning manner.

"Huh? My name is Shu Shu and I'm from Seattle," I replied.

"You speak English?" asked the man in a surprised British-sounding voice.

"Yeah! What the heck were you speaking?"

"Mews. It is the language of your race. Don't you speak it too?" asked the man.

"Look man, there has been some sort of mix-up. I have no clue what you're talking about. My name is Shu Shu T. Dragon and I'm a 5000-year-old Chinese tea dragon who recently moved to America to read books and have hot tea poured on my head. I came to this island a few days ago because I read about in a dude named Captain Jones' diary. I come in peace!!!"

The old man signaled to several similar looking men standing in the darkness behind him. They stepped forward, some carrying large sticks, one with a knife. The man with the knife started walking menacingly toward me... but luckily he just cut me free of the ropes!

"I'm sorry, Shu Shu," began the man. "My name is Ben Jones. Captain Jones was my father. He died many years ago when I was just 18. Before he passed he often told me stories of this enchanted isle. Did you know that he returned twice more since his first visit? It's all in his book."

"Actually... I haven't finished reading his book yet." I replied sheepishly. "Once I got to the part about the hot spring and the little creatures that looked like me, I got all excited and set out immediately."

"I see," replied Ben. "You are missing most of the story. Follow me and I will explain."

Ben and I walked slowly out of the dark cave and into a beautiful garden. As we walked, he explained to me that I was a "Mew," an ancient race of tiny stone dragons that had lived on this island since it was formed.

"Over the years, your race had created a peaceful and productive society, and they even sent several peace missions to different parts of the world," he said. "Also, the Mew can live forever as long as they bathe often in hot fragrant water or unless they meet some other untimely end."

"Whoa," I replied. "No wonder I love my tea showers so much!"

"My father didn't know any of this at first," continued Ben. "On his third and final visit, he managed to learn the language of the Mew and began to fully understand them. According to my father, the Mew liked him very much and they also liked my mother Marie, who accompanied him on that final voyage. They had planned to stay here for the rest of their lives, eating simple foods and soaking daily in the purifying waters of..."

At this point we stood before the thick hanging branches of a large banyan tree. Ben brushed them aside and we stepped forward revealing a rocky pool of brackish warm water fed by a pitiful waterfall.

"What happened?" I exclaimed. "Is this the legendary hot spring that I've been searching for?!"

"Unfortunately, yes," replied Ben in a sad voice. "It has been cursed."

"Cursed... but how could that happen?" I said with disbelief.

"During my father's final stay on the island, he met an ill-tempered Mew by the name of Wuhh. Wuhh was a witch doctor who spent a lot of time alone in a hut on the far side of the island. He was known for experimenting with different herbs and potions and for hating outsiders. He treated my parents terribly, but because all the other Mew were so nice to my parents it was never really a big problem. A few years later I was born and Wuhh started spreading rumors about how we had come to take over their island and destroy their way of life.

"When I was two years old I became very sick. My father accused Wuhh of poisoning me. Wuhh claimed he was innocent and used my father's allegations as further proof that we were trouble. My father, who was convinced that Wuhh was lying, grabbed him and stuck him in a cage in our house. He told Wuhh that he would not let him bathe in the spring until he confessed... but Wuhh would not confess. After a few days his rocky skin started to dry out and he began to wither and die. No Mew had ever lasted more than a week without hot fragrant water."

"That's rough!" I interjected. "I can't imagine going even two days without a tea shower!"

Ben continued his story. "My father and several Mew leaders searched Wuhh's hut for evidence. His house was filled with old bones, blackened iron pots and peculiar fauna of all types. Among all this, they found an ancient trunk sealed with a black lock. They busted it open to reveal three small vials of different colored liquids, an old book and a glowing red stone in the shape of an egg. The book was filled with recipes for poisons and dark magic. They seized the possible evidence and began walking back to confront Wuhh. When they returned, the cage was empty with its small door left open. They made a frantic search in and around the house, but Wuhh was nowhere to be found.

"Over the next few days my father looked everywhere and a team of Mew police kept constant guard over the hot spring. It was my mother who finally cracked the case. She had been studying Wuhh's evil book while my father was out searching the island. She discovered recipes in the book with descriptions that perfectly matched the aromas and colors of the three liquids my father had seized. One was a vile poison that would slowly suck the life out of any human who tasted it. One had the ability to turn its creator invisible, and the last potion would allow any Mew who drank it to survive for months without a hot fragrant bath! Naturally my parents were scared. An invisible murderer could be anywhere, and my condition was getting worse and worse.

"A trusted Mew friend of my father's recommended that they perform an ancient healing ritual. They placed me in the hot spring with a handful of wild Camellia leaves and chanted a prayer of renewal. The poison in my blood was strong but it was no match for the curative spring. After a week of this treatment I had regained my health but for my safety my parents decided to move back to England.

"I grew up hearing this tale and learning Mews from my father. He never returned to the island and never knew what happened to Wuhh. He always felt regret about leaving while Wuhh was on the loose, but he told himself it had to be done for the safety of his family. When he died, I decided it was my fate to return to this island. I learned to sail and became a Captain. Using my fathers diary, I found the island but sadly it was as it is now. A cursed place filled with ghosts! During our first night here, our ship caught fire. A week later, while exploring the west side of the mountain, 10 of my crew were buried in a landslide. Those five men waiting in the garden are the last of my crew. We have now lived here for 50 years trying to solve the mystery of what happened to all the Mew and the hotspring. So far we have learned very little and our dreams are plagued with nightmares."

"Oh man!" I said. "This is terrible. I have a pedal-powered hot air balloon but it can only carry two men. I will return to Seattle and find a way to rescue you."

"Thank you, Shu Shu, but we do not want to be rescued. We are too old now. This island is the only life we know. We work hard everyday to keep the hot spring as clean as possible. It seems to help a little."

"Then I will return as soon as I can!" I exclaimed. "I will bring my friend Brett and we will help you to save this island!"

"Brett and I will solve the case!"

"Hello Starfish!"

to be continued...


Alanna said...

Such an exciting adventure! Can't wait to find out what happens next. Great way to celebrate your 100th post... congratulations!

Nicole Manha said...

I'm very excited...

Terry said...

You sir, are quite delightfully mad!