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The Search for Jim Thompson, Part 3

Surrounded by limestone hills and dense jungle, the wooden 'castle' is bold and imposing. The tree's version of shadow play are much more intense here, the fog and oil lamps are caught in age old parasitic war. They say here, there never is day or night. The place exists outside time, and quite literally there is no modernity there. The evolution of the Red river created a horse shoe lake, where much of its banks were used for vegetation. Around the Shaman Kings abode are huts, many of them actually, and theres a population of natives. While this is not a tourist route or even an adventure trail, the Shaman Kings are revered for their amulets and spells. Many try to come here for spells, but not many can cross the Red River, its alive and it protects the Shaman. Not binding to any ethic codes, they don't differentiate good or bad people, but they do protect some of the oldest cultures and traditions of earth. Along with most of its mysteries.

The first glimpse of the Fire Shaman King revealed nothing as fiery as the history books or folk tales. A simple man, well build with battle scars and tattoos. But he knows why we are here, there is nothing to reveal personally in the quest for the truth, nothing to carry on but his guide and wisdom. No handshakes, just a short introduction by the native and a nod. I handed him the message by the shaman guide. Not looking at the note he spoke to me in a strong voice. 'If you dont believe in the magic, then why did you come here?'. As my heart beat faster, I'm lost for words to complete my sentence, I could only open my mouth but everything that came out are broken parts of an incomplete puzzle. A puzzle that haven't even outlined the surroundings. Seeing me stumble and tremble, the native guide spoke in some alien words to the Shaman King; even if I can understand it, my fears are masking it, even my eyes became foggy. All this will end in vain if we didn't continue.

He spoke again 'You come here with your own magic, you rape the world and you write your own words and you think you answered everything?'.
An odd sense of strength opened in me, I knew i hard to answer him 'I'm sorry if I do not follow your beliefs. This world is big enough for any belief, any science...what you call magic, we call science'.
He, and I sense something has amused him, said 'Then why do you need me?. Why you need any of us, why don't you just use your flying machines and go straight to where it starts and ends. Why don't you use your machines to explore the belly of the earth, why do you need the shamans words for your journey?'.
'What we need is your permission, we believe you hold more than what any man can even know in a hundred years. My science can explain it later, but for now you are the light that will take us to him.'
'But your heart does not believe in myth and magic, not culture, not even human. All of you come here ready to die and that is one fate even I cant understand.'
He is more relaxed now, or maybe I just got a bit more wise 'The call of the unknown is as strong as anything else in this world. You have lived for ages knowing one day only one belief will stand, but that day is not today or tomorrow. What we seek is the other world, there may be many of them, but we need to open the doors one by one'.
'And when I tell you this you will do what? You will bring your machines and claim your new worlds? You will seek to destroy the Shaman Kings?'
'The Shaman Kings is beyond this world, beyond anything the humans understand. Not many know of you or believe you even exist. You carry the answers thats etched in every living memory of earth. How many earths in the universe that carry your wisdom is something bigger than what I know or science knows. You are not fearing the science, do I sense that you are fearing that we might not come back?'
'Any life is precious, even the ant on the jungle floor, it carries the answer and memories. And all that comes from what you see and feel. And I have seen but a fraction of your desires. We dream the same dream, I know more because I lived longer and we Shaman's are very patient. I don't see you patient enough to trace the star trails but just to answer how it's made.'
Smiling, I said 'The vagaries of the human mind, it pushes us forward, even if its just for another day.'
He remained focused, looking at all of us, dissecting us to gain more of what we are made of, he said 'I learned all this from that man Thompson, your philosophical whims, your fascinations with your make believe king and queens. Most of you are useless, are mere rubbish in this great land.'
His sudden answer woke us from the trail of his eyes, what really rattled us was his perfect Queen's English. Just like the native said, he knows many tongues. 'But some of us are important and we do important things. We need to find him...or at least find what he was seeking.'
'You came here prepared, not many would have believed it, but you did. Your numbers are low, I shall give you my men, but make sure you do only what you came for. Seek not more than answer for your fate, everything else will disturb the balance of the time lines. Remember that and you shall come back one day. '
A joyous moment, akin to an eureka moment, in a comical dream this is like a victory in negotiations between the naive traveler and the head hunting tribe. All I can say was...'Thank you, you shall know what we will see.' But what he meant by time lines, thats a strong physics notation. What he meant by one day is more unnerving.

We spent a full day there checking the rations. The food will last for a few weeks, and reluctantly we had to take the jungle produces from the natives. How would we survive on roots alone is a mystery even greater. The Shaman King advised us to eat only once a day and keep on going until the guides stop to rest. We would not feel tired or hungry before it's time he promised that. When the time came for us to see the guides, our senses were shattered. The guides, all six of them looked nothing more than androids. Bald and skin powdery white, they carry many battle marks but they're fully earth white blending into the fog sometimes. Even their eyes are glassy white. While here we're worrying of what we will see in the caves, what's more terrifying is the ghosts that will guide us through. It did not take long for us to realize who they are. They're Thompson's men! The air ship crew, the slaves of the Shaman king and they did not look a hundred years old. They are our amulets, they are our guide. Whatever happens in the caves, they will be protecting us, nothing else. No spell or magic potion to guide is but zombies on a century old spell. Do they still have their souls in them?

We descended into the caves on a Thursday morning, at least thats what the watches were telling us. We carried our packs while the guides brought the gear and flares. Something more disturbing is that we had just enough battery power for our cap lamps for a week of exploring. Thats what left from Mercy, after all our equipment died. We had a compass but that would not do any good if the cave is laced with magnetic stones, the ferric magnet stones are pests during caving trips. We changed into waterproof caving gear and packed the food and sleeping bags for the treacherous trek into the unknown. The caves are long, thousands of miles long if the old notes were to be believed. And it goes deep, sometimes broken and sabotaged by weathering or on purposes. It has many entrances, but none would connect the main chambers that starts at the Sarisarinama sinkhole. What's even stranger is when the native mentioned that we can exit the caves at many places but cant enter it once we are out. Maybe the whole cave is an illusion, an alternate world creation. Whatever it is, Thompson entered it and he went somewhere. And never came back. We are going to find him.

The first few miles of the cave is cold and wet. Bats still lived deep in there because of the many air holes which permitted vegetation, scattered on the walls and floor where guano fed them. There were no river there, only trickles of seeping rain water from stalactites. Apart from the cave spiders and bats, the only other critter we found was the poisonous centipede. Cave's are important ecosystems of its own, creating a balance or sorts between the surface of the earth and the subterranean world. Some of the deepest caves are miles in depth and many more are being found, but in extreme conditions nothing lived there. In cave rivers lived blind fishes and other strange evolution of nature. They just adapted to live there, just like the bats who developed sonar senses. But the bats were not the nemesis of the cave, the poisonous critters are. Something that the Shaman protected us from, so we wondered what else could be there waiting for us in this first few miles. The real danger is when we reach the river that snakes into the caves from the Darkness falls. That is one of only a few large enough opening for us to go out for some air or to dry our gears. Once we got deeper into the ground, the whole trail is of a gradient that slopes over hundreds of miles, with chambers sometimes only big enough to crawl.

Knowing well we have walked into a point of no return, the world of science gave way to myth and magic. At least that much sacrifice had to be done if we were to believe what happened in the caves. It turned out we did not need our lamps at all, the guides, the white ghosts illuminated the caves like fluorescent sticks. Whatever they pasted on their skin is making them glow or the walls to glow. Another thing that kept playing in our minds were the last words of the Shaman King. Something to do with the 'furry ones' and the 'ice snakes' with clear instructions to just stay away and walk on. If we meet any of them...probably...

End of part 3
[Disclaimer: This story is Pure Fiction, no names or places present here coincide with any real life events (though the places might really exist). The story is protected under the creative commons license 3.0, free to distribute but please refer the authors name and website]

Comments

Keshi said…
Ghosty why dun u search for me? :)

Keshi.
Alok said…
I think Siva, this is fantastically written .... not only the quality of the stuff that u have written, u have raised so many valid questions ... i was seeking answers in my mind to the questions of Shaman king, but I failed ....

Wornderfully done, and I am sure this is not the last one becoz u didnt provide ... (dots) after "end of part 3" i seriously wld like to know whether the narrator was succesful and wht were his experience, was he able to return etc etc ....

alok

PS: just a simple editing point "'But you heart does not believe in myth and magic" - i guess u meant 'your' instead of 'you'
Ghost Particle said…
[alok] thanks for the pointer alok...and yes its not over yet...there will be a few more parts before it finishes. thanx buddy.
Ghost Particle said…
[keshi] I will search for you keshi...
Jeevan said…
Was very deep into the story as so much deep the group enters the cave.

The narration put us on to imagine the scenes on the search. "Remember that and you shall come back one day. Thank you, you shall know what we will see?" Interesting bro.

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