Piqued - A Toki Ponist Adventure
Chapter 1: Bedrock
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jan li pakala e noka ona la, lawa ona li tawa ala kin.
– Toki Ponist Pu
It was not a loud sound. Nobody noticed it amidst the rumbustious activity of the crowded village street. But this teensy sound carried extreme significance for one particular person—right on par with being born.
“Na!” he yelled, lifting his arms and seeking aid from the ancients. But the alignment of the stars offered no solace. “The agony!”
The pavement, on which this all was taking place, was wide enough to dance on, and very new. The village council had renovated the entire street only last month. And except for the unsightly flower urns and the sudden appearance of surveillance cameras at strategic positions, there wasn’t much to complain about. However, one tile stuck out an inch above the rest.
Human feet can rise with ease over such satanic summits. The big toe of the left foot of this person, often addressed as Tipi, would agree if it could. Instead, it propelled forward as part of an extensive network of bones, ligaments, muscles, and nerves. Too many things prevented pinpointing a single scapegoat. Without the option of free will, the toe hit the concrete.
There was immediate damage. The nail—due for maintenance for some time—tore just beyond acceptance. Blood dripped from a slight cut. The nerve endings took even more time before coming to terms with the current situation and to gather enough confidence to send a distress signal to the brain. It resulted in Tipi’s first yelp.
Feeling powerless, the nerves sent an all-out panic wave that the brain translated into losing the entire nail, having crushed bones in multiple places, and being skinned alive. This perception resulted in a disintegration of mind and body no longer occupying the same region of space-time. At this instant Tipi swirled off the true path, his backchannel to the whole and the indescribable divine: the state of enlightenment.
A middle-aged woman had reacted to the outcries of Tipi. She dropped her groceries and scuttled towards the agonized figure. Not sure what to do, she rubbed his back. This resulted in Tipi descending into an uncontrollable coughing fit, to which the woman responded with even more violent patting on the back.
“Stop it!” Tipi managed between coughs. “As if I’m not in enough agony.”
“Are you alright?” the woman said, undeterred.
“No, I am not alright!” He pointed at his left foot. “It’s my foot. It hurts. Who did this?”
Tipi looked around to see who could have committed this heinous act, but his eyes met only the confused faces of business professionals, tourists, and giggling kids that should have been in school. Everyone looked suspiciously innocent. But what scared him more was the dawning sensation of not knowing where the hell he was. He returned his attention to his podiatric problem.
“Why am I barefoot?” he said out loud. “Who doesn’t wear shoes in the middle of the street? What kind of person am I?” He looked around again, knowing full well nobody would respond to his rhetorical questions.
The helpful woman, who did not know any of the answers to the questions, also could not help feel ignored by Tipi and was seriously considering whether her help would reap the virtue points she was hoping to get out of the interaction.
Tipi sensed the woman felt left out.
“And what are you still looking at? Shoo! Get lost! Or do you want to comb my hair with a fork or do something equally painful to another unrelated body part?”
After an outcry of unmistaken indignation, she picked up her groceries and took off, leaving Tipi unattended. He hopped on one leg and observed his reflection in a shopping window. He wore extremely loud, yellow shorts and a shirt with a print of a mystical-looking geometric pattern. He felt his chin to confirm that he carried around more beard than he had hoped.
“Tipi!” someone yelled from across the street. Three men dodged the slow traffic. Their faces looked very familiar. At least they would if he could remember them, which he couldn’t.
“Tipi, master, are you alright?”
“Yes, yes, fine, “ Tipi said while the word master sung around in his head, disabling the alarms that had made him respond like a jack-ass moments before.
Two of the three men lifted Tipi at the shoulders, while the third opened the door to a nearby coffee shop. They took him inside and draped him into a booth. The pale, tall, curly guy gestured to a server for coffee, while the even paler, bearded, stocky one dropped to the floor to bandage Tipi’s foot. The dark-skinned man in glasses put things on the table in order insofar that was not already the case. This included sorting the condiments in alphabetical order.
Pampered, bandaged and caffeinated, Tipi gazed into the blank stares of his three rescuers.
“Who are you again?”
The three exchanged eye contact. “You know us, Tipi.
mi mute li jan Powe li jan Sikejo li jan Palisame.“
Tipi looked at them in wonder.
“Why are you talking funny? Who are you? And don’t give me any of that
jan that business.”
“I’m Lenny,” the bearded man said. “And they are Alex and Ford.” He pointed at the curly man and his spectacled companion.
“Great. Lenny, Alex, Ford. Who are you?” Tipi said while taking a sip of his coffee. And while the caffeine flipped some switches in his brain, he added: “And who am I?”
“We’re your most devout followers,” Alex said.
“Disciples, although you hate the word. You are our guru, grand master, enlightened soul and guiding compass on the path of light.”
“I’m enlightened? Is this how that feels? Because my foot hurts and I am not happy about that. I feel irritated and this strong coffee is only making that worse. I’m not afraid to admit that I am in fact terrified about not knowing who I am and,” Tipi squinted. “I am particularly peeved about that stupid beard of yours, Benny.”
“Lenny,” Lenny said. “And I modeled my beard after yours.”
“Exactly,” Tipi fondled his chin again, “I have to get rid of this tout-de-suite.” He searched for reflective surfaces and grimaced at his own doppel-image whenever he found one. “Everyone is looking at me funnily too, “ Tipi said.
Alex turned to Ford and whispered in his ear. “He’s off his rockers. What are we gonna do?”
“I dunno man,” Ford answered. “We have to get him off the street before he embarrasses us all.”
“We’re gonna take you to a place where you can rest, master,” Alex said out loud to Tipi. “Lenny, pay for the coffee while we help Tipi into a taxi.”
“Me again?” Lenny said but took out his wallet.
“Money isn’t important, Lenny. How about some compassion and gratitude?”
Lenny snorted right before radiating a smile to the server, who grasped a handful of bills from Lenny’s hands.
“Now let’s go, go, go,” Ford said. He pushed both Alex and Tipi out of the booth, using the vigorous gesticulations of a stressful man with germophobia.
“Now hold on. All of you,” Tipi said. “I’m not going anywhere with a bunch of strangers just like that.” He got up from his seat, not in compliance, but to strike a defensive tai chi pose. “And don’t I have any female followers?”
Tipi noticed a large framed picture at the far end of the coffee shop. There was something strange about that picture, he was sure.
Alex sighed. “You have plenty of those, half the world knows you. And we’re not kidnapping you. We’re just going to drop you into a taxi and get you to a pleasant hotel where you can get back your senses in peace.”
“Wouldn’t a hospital be a better place for me?” Tipi said. “I don’t feel sane at the moment, and I would hate to get hurt without a proper re-introduction to my entire soul.”
The three turned to each other and shook their heads.
“No,” they said in unison. “Meditation will do you some good, I am sure,” Alex said.
“Fine then,” Tipi said, and he walked out of the coffee shop being gently pushed along by Ford. “See you soon!” said the framed picture of the mountain as Tipi left the premises and Lenny closed the door behind them.
About half an hour and an awkwardly silent taxi ride later, Tipi found himself alone in a double room of The Kucha hotel. He did not know what memory loss did to someone’s perception of things, but this seemed to him a rather quaint hotel. It occupied only the sixth floor of an otherwise ordinary apartment building.
“They only speak Russian here,” Alex had said. “But that is ok.”
“How is that ok?” Tipi had interjected while being pushed by Ford into the elevator. “Are we in Russia?”
He had pressed the button labeled six next to a red plaque with gold plated letters which probably said something like “The Kucha” in Cyrillic. “Now don’t you worry, Tipi, you just take your time and we’ll be back tomorrow morning after breakfast.” Lenny had said.
“Don’t go anywhere,” Ford had added.
“Do some meditation, let your foot heal, that sort of thing,” Alex had said.
So there he was. Alone in his room with two beds to choose from. He first let himself fall backwards on the bed closest to the window. Immediately the sun punished his eyes with relentless afternoon rays of light. Tipi squinted, got up, closed the curtains and tried the other bed. He now gazed right into the small bathroom. There was carpet everywhere, even in the bathroom. I have to pee with care, he thought.Read the next chapter