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Piqued - A Toki Ponist Adventure
Chapter 14: Indecent descent

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lape li pona la, moli li monsuta tan seme?
lape pi pini ala li ike ala tawa sina lape.
Toki Ponist Pu

Kalisa fidgeted with the thingamabob she excavated from Joakim’s toe and trailed behind Joakim and Julian. They searched around a rocky patch in the direction where Georg had sent them.

“We have nothing to go on,” Joakim said to Kalisa. “And while I have to admit, I am rather intrigued that this Georg person recognized a good friend in me, I think it is about time to send Julian home.”

“I’m fine,” Julian said. “It’s a secret adventure!”

“No, it’s not fine at all. This isn’t some children’s fantasy adventure. You are not fine when you try to throw yourself off a cliff in the middle of the night.”

Julian hunched up. Kalisa stepped in and for the first time showed some affection for the young boy. “Joakim!” she said. “He’s just a boy, mind your words, please.”

Joakim squatted next to his two travel companions and rubbed Julian’s hair. “Sorry. But I am out of ideas now. My memory has not returned and I don’t recognize any landmarks. How will we ever find where I’ve been hiding for two years?”

“I might have an idea,” Kalisa said. Before Joakim could turn to ask what it was, she pushed Joakim with his face in the sand. She jumped on his back, took a knife from her satchel and cut his neck with one fast swipe. Joakim yelped and tried to feel his neck before everything turned dark.

People fear dying. But they don’t mind falling asleep every night. And the sleeping mind does not care if it ever wakes up or not.

Joakim woke up. It was dark. And they were inside. Inside where? He felt his neck. Someone had put a bandaid on it, but it still hurt. He looked around and saw Kalisa and Julian rummaging through papers and boxes. “Where are we?” he said. “What did you do to me, you stupid—“

“Hush,” Kalisa said. “I love you and you know it. You found it! You uncovered the secret hideout.”

“I did?” Joakim rubbed his eyes. “I think I had a blackout again, I don’t remember a thing.”

“It’s this little fellow,” Kalisa said while holding up the small black sliver from Joakim’s toe. “I thought it stopped working after you stumped your toe, but it was just no longer connected deep enough. So I inserted it into your neck.”

“It was awesome,” Julian said. “You got up and didn’t recognize us at all! Then you started running.”

“We followed you, which was quite a sight. You flew across the terrain like you were doing parkour. We almost lost you,” Kalisa said.

“Then you disappeared into this hole and almost shut the door in front of our eyes. Kalisa jumped in just in time and wrestled you to the floor.”

Joakim rubbed his aching back and even more chafed knees. “Again?”

“I had to get the chip out,” Kalisa said. “Or you’d stay like that forever. The big unknown was whether you’d start with a clean slate again once you would wake up or that this episode was short enough for you to keep some of your former self.”

“Next time talk it through before you do something funny like that?”

“You must read this stuff,” Kalisa said, holding a notebook. “It’s your alter ego’s diary.”

Joakim took the notebook and opened it somewhere halfway. He started reading out loud.

“Every day, the vehicle brings up loads of fat and lazy mountain tourists to the observation deck. Here they marvel at the landscape of a dying planet. They act like they’ve achieved something, but their immaculate clean outfits betray the fact that they made no effort except fashionwise to climb this mountain. Their only achievement is killing the planet and taking selfies as proof. To make matters worse, they soil this pristine rocky peak with their litter. I spent a good two hours yesterday to clean it all up.”

“I didn’t know you were such an environmentalist,” Kalisa said. “You sound like a lot of fun.”

“I didn’t write this, but who did?”

“It was the entity who claimed our title of The Toki Ponist on the Mountain. The moment I planted the chip, you connected with the other consciousness, like I predicted. Read on.”

“Georg gave me a bag with three large ham-filled Knödeln. I spent the rest of the day inside and tried to not give in to my fears and nightmares. I don’t know how long I can keep this up, but there is nowhere else to go.”

“That sounds more like you,” she said.

Joakim scowled, but it did not feel untrue.

“So my theory is this,” she continued. “Somehow, you got connected with this neural interface to interdimensional being. The moment you did that, you shared a single consciousness, wiping out both your individual identities. This combined being must be terrified of the world. When you reconnected, it fled back to its hideout.”

“It’s some kind of war bunker!” Julian said.

“On a mountaintop?” Joakim said.

“It’s a hole in the ground at least,” Kalisa said. “And you fled from us into the hole like a rat running from a forest fire.”

“Who is this other being then?”

“I don’t know yet. But it seems to think our planet is becoming uninhabitable soon. This is in fact something we had been working on to turn around when we were The Toki Ponist together.”

“So what is all this stuff? It’s a mess!”

“That is our doing,” Kalisa said.

“Hers!” Julian exclaimed.

“Fine, my doing. You are looking at a menagerie of non-essential knickknacks and typical stuff to keep a human alive. It was very tidy when we arrived, already less so after our brief struggle. But there are a few interesting manuscripts here with weird ideas and even weirder markings in a language even I do not recognize.”

“Let’s take the notes with us and get out of this hole,” Joakim said, feeling rather uncomfortable in this small dark space. He could not believe he would ever flee in here and live in such a cramped pit for so long.

Joakim let Julian climb out using the small support ladder, while Kalisa gathered notebooks in her satchel. Then he crawled out. The moment his eyes adjusted to the bright sunshine, two powerful arms grabbed him. “Go!” Joakim yelled at Julian. He looked at the hole, hoping that Kalisa would crawl out. She didn’t. He couldn’t look behind him to see who had grabbed him. Joakim tried to wriggle loose, but it was hopeless. Then one of the bird watchers walked around the pit and glanced into it.

“Well, well. Even a blind crow may sometimes find a grain of wheat,” he said to Joakim. “We’ve been trying to find this place for a very long time.” He climbed down the ladder and Joakim expected a surprise encounter with Kalisa, but there was nothing. He heard the bird watcher go through some stuff, just like they had done a few minutes earlier.

Then he heard a high-pitched yell from behind him, a thump and a cry of pain from the man holding him. His grip loosened and Joakim freed himself. “Run, Joakim!”

“Where to?”

“Get on the cable car, just follow Julian!”

Joakim ran. Looking back, he saw Kalisa close the hatch of the pit while one guy tried to pull her back. Joakim’s cowardice triumphed over his intention to turn back and help Kalisa. She could handle such situations better than he could.

He caught up on Julian and together they entered the cable car station. He pushed Julian under the turnstile and jumped over it himself. They jumped in the car right before the doors closed on them. Catching their breath, Joakim looked back to the station zipping away from them. One security guard pressed his hand against a window, looking straight at him. He was talking into a phone.

Joakim sighed in relief. They shared the car with an older couple. The woman adorned herself with a flowery dress while the man touted a traditional lederhosen. Joakim shivered. The man tapped his cane twice on a floor panel, then he took out a small flask of Schnapps from his breast-pocket and gestured a sláinte to Joakim before taking an extensive tug. In the meantime, the elderly woman’s gaze followed Julian around the cabin. He had been going around to check the view from all sides while they swung back and forth. The windows were filthy and people seemed to have made small drawings on them.

The trip seemed to take forever. Every twenty seconds there was a swelling of the sound of gears and motors when they were passing a support. They were now going into the last leg of the descent. Joakim looked out the side window and saw the ground rise, almost brushing the cable car. The window was nasty here. Someone had written a bunch of nonsense words like zıpla, ugrás, neidio, lele and most prominently tawaselo in the soot. A precipice replaced the gentle meadow, after which they could see the base station a hundred meters below. Joakim called out to Julian to sit next to him. He held him close. These may well be their last moments together before handing the boy over to the authorities and back to his parents. Julian rested his head on Joakim’s shoulder. The car slowed down but swayed more violently. They entered base station.

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