come on. Hurry up!" Will Marshall looked back to see what
his little sister was doing.
glimpsed her bright blonde hair amidst the dark leafy jungle plants.
Holly twisted and tugged at a blueberry the size of a playground's
rubber ball, but she was not strong enough to get it off the giant
vine. The enormous branches bowed and swayed.
have enough already," Will scolded. "Come on, we're
going to be late getting home to Uncle Jack."
blueberries are so good," Holly insisted, and gave one last
berry popped loose, squirting blue dye on the front of her red
emerged from the jungle foliage with an odd expression on her
face, both triumphant and on the verge of crying. "My only
wash it, somehow," Will told her hurriedly, glancing up at
the darkening afternoon sky. "Let's just get home before
the Sleestaks come out!"
came around the wheel of their makeshift wagon. She was about
to put the giant blueberry on the pile with the other treasures
they gathered when she froze in place.
looked in the direction that his sister's big blue eyes darted.
Three years of surviving in this alien world, on a day-to-day
basis, had taught him not to make foolish movements or ask aloud,
"What is it?"
heard it too, now, a clumsy crashing of footsteps through the
underbrush. Too small to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Too staccato
to be the shuffling gait of their verbose apish friend, Cha-Ka.
Too swift to be Sleestak.
grabbed his sister around the waist and together they scooted
under the shelter of their vegetable wagon. The wheels had no
spokes, being solid disks of crudely hewn wood, and so made the
perfect cover for their cautious faces.
trio of pint-sized dinosaurs sprang into the clearing and stopped.
Each of them no taller than an ostrich, they resembled geckos
standing upright and built for bi-pedal speed. In their pointy
clawed hands, they grasped the largest green marbled eggs that
Will had ever seen.
nudged him. In the sand, she quickly wrote the words, Sleestak
thought, Man, are those little scavengers going to be in trouble
if the Sleestaks find them.
dinosaurs' sharp beady eyes glanced around, sure of their safety,
and then settled down to crack the eggs and slurp up the contents.
In a few moments, the eggshells were licked clean.
hungry, the dinosaurs squawked at each other with voices sounding
like hoarse seagulls, and they darted off into the bushes as swiftly
as they had arrived.
scrambled out from under the wagon. "Come on, Holly, let's
hurry home to Uncle Jack."
she said, and got up to help him push.
Marshall, meanwhile, scoured the jungle for firewood around the
abandoned ancient Temple the Marshalls called home. Not an easy
task, as most of the fallen branches were fairly fresh and green
and would make too much smoke if they burned. Every day, he had
to increase the diameter of his circle, looking for the scraps
of twigs and fronds torn loose by the great herbivores and trampled
under their gigantic feet.
task of gathering firewood became less appealing when he had nothing
to look forward to cooking. Sure, he liked carrots and radishes
and strawberries as well as the next person. But every once in
a while, he got to dreaming about a really good porterhouse steak,
lamb chops and onions, or a grilled salmon. Gnawing on the Tyrannosaurus
Rex's leftovers -- stringy, chewy, dead dinosaur meat -- just
wasn't the same.
ahead, he spotted a pile of branches as if stacked there for a
beach party bonfire. It looked like some huge herbivore had started
munching and then moved on, leaving its mess behind.
on," he said to himself.
few steps and he was there. Whistling the theme song of a television
program he'd watched in his youth, Jack gathered as many of the
dry twigs as he could hold.
more ought to do it....
shifted his foot to the left.
ground gave way. Dust, dry leaves and stones flushed into the
ground, dragging Jack down with it. He clutched for anything solid
to hang onto and found nothing but sand trickling through his
fingers. All he could do was close his eyes, hold his breath,
and wait to hit bottom.
landed on his feet and crumpled into a crouch to shield his head
with his arms. Duck and cover. Dry dirt and branches cascaded
down around him, as he prayed not to be buried alive.
Marshall climbed up out of the knee-deep detritus of the jungle
floor. He coughed and blinked, looking around to get his bearings.
far from the Lost City where the Sleestak dwelled in their shadowy
catacombs, he stood in a stone-walled chamber that appeared too
uniform to be natural. As the dust settled, Jack felt surer that
the tools of the ancient extinct civilization also sculpted this
waded through the sand and branches, reaching for the walls. He
touched the cold slate, frowning that it was too smooth to gain
a finger hold much less climb up.
the mouth of the pit framed the jungle canopy and part of the
alien world's strangely colored sky. Soon, it would be dark, and
Will and Holly would be worried about him.
do I need help," Jack muttered, his hand still on the wall.
felt his way around the circumference of the chamber. When he
had gone halfway around, the texture of the wall changed from
a smooth sheet of rock. Soft, white orbs were inlaid like the
bricks of a fireplace, as round as children's plastic bouncing
balls. No good for finger holds.
bent closer to the orbs, curious. They didn't feel like any of
the rocks he'd ever seen, on this world or back on Earth. Slightly
grainy, they more resembled...
he whispered in awe.
eggs. Holly had told him about her time in the pit with the
scrambled back to the center of the pit, directly beneath the
opening. He cupped his hands around his mouth and hollered up
to the sky, "Will, Holly! Help!"
and Holly returned with their wagonload of treasures to their
Temple home. Uncle Jack wasn't there.
he's out collecting firewood," Holly said.
Will agreed, looking worriedly at the darkening sky. "But
he wouldn't be out this late, so close to dark. You stay here,
I think I'll go look for him."
do I always have to put away the groceries?" Holly whined.
you're the girl," Will quipped with a grin, as he scooted
off into the jungle.
spiraled outwards from their home base, twice, in an ever-widening
circle. "Uncle Jack, Uncle Jack," he called into the
green foliage on the third time around. By now, he started to
get really concerned. It wasn't like Jack to be so far out this
late in the day.
cry of a nocturnal pterodactyl ripped through the air.
considered doubling back to their home base, to check on Holly,
when he heard it.
Jack's voice was faint and hoarse; he'd been calling out for some
time, it sounded like.
rushed over but skidded to a stop at the edge of the leafy pit.
"Are you down there?"
Will. Be careful. The ground isn't very stable."
on, I'll get you out in a jiffy."
yanked a vine free and lowered its tip into the dark pit. "Here,
I can't quite reach it."
trying... It's not long enough. Can you jump for it?"
below came a few crashing, snapping sounds. "Can't,"
Uncle Jack panted. "I'm like eighteen, twenty feet down."
I'll, uh..." Will looked around for anything longer but saw
nothing other than half-chewed vines and the leftover scraps of
an herbivore's lunch. "I'll run back and get one of the nylon
Will, it's too...."
stay put!" he cried.
man's voice spoke from behind, "Perhaps I can be of service,
señor, con tu permiso."
Will let a taller man approach the pit.
all in black, with a cape and a flat round hat, the stranger carried
a huge coil of white rope. He dropped one end into the pit, and
turned his back on Will to walk a few steps to the rear -- to
grand, black stallion stood ready. The stranger tied the other
end of the rope onto the horn of the most ridiculously decorated
saddle that Will had ever seen. That saddle had more silver studs
than leather showing.
strangely, there was something familiar about this mysterious
back, Toronado," said the man dressed in black to his horse.
horse backed up.
Jack emerged from the pit, clutching the rope.
took hold of his uncle's elbow and helped him to his feet. "Are
Marshalls turned to their rescuer and gawked without shame.
masked man saluted politely, two gloved fingers to the brim of
his sombrero. "People call me, El Zorro."
Jack Marshall repeated in an awed whisper. "Now I have seen
Jack, being the rescued one, got to ride the horse. Zorro insisted.
Will walked alongside the masked man, leading the way back to
the home base. Both Marshalls being too stunned, still, it was
Zorro who asked all the questions and they who responded as best
place, señores, is perhaps an undiscovered island beyond
Santa Catalina or the Baja peninsula?"
by monsters, no doubt?"
took an old-fashioned pirate pistol from his belt, and checked
it -- Will assumed -- to be sure it was loaded. He also had a
fancy swashbuckler sword and a coiled whip, making his belt look
as heavy as a carpenter's tool belt.
I to assume you are marooned here?"
answered, "Will's been here for three years. I just dropped
in myself last year. We've tried, but there's no way out."
si, that is most unfortunate. Perhaps, in the morning,
I can be of some help. Toronado and I can cover more ground."
Will responded. "Holly is not going to believe this."
is 'Olly?" Zorro asked, his Spanish accent dropping
the hard H.
señor, but I have never known any pioneering Americanos
to bring women on their expeditions to California, much less their
just shrugged and kept walking.
come on out!" Will called as they approached the Temple.
"You've got to see this."
pivoted the massive stone door on the balanced hinge Uncle Jack
had jerry-rigged. Her mouth fell open almost as wide.
Will teased. "You'll catch a dinosaur fly."
dismounted Zorro's fabulous stallion. "You know, this may
sound odd, but I think we should bring your horse inside. There
are things out here in the night that could swallow Toronado in
señor, I understand. For tonight, I will forego the customs
of a caballero, and do as the unbaptized natives would
do. You see, they sleep with their horses."
of them went inside, where Holly had a small fire started, some
broth boiling dinosaur bones, and a piece of fruit cut up.
did you come from?" she blurted before the masked man could
even take a seat on a rock.
Zorro grinned a bright white smile beneath a pencil-thin Spanish
moustache. "The señorita is direct as well as beautiful."
slipped a protective arm around his sister's shoulders. Even if
he was Zorro, he had no business smiling at Holly like that. After
all, she was only fourteen.
smiled and blushed.
see, I had just finished foiling another one of the alcalde's
wicked schemes. Something to do with forging a land grant from
the King of Spain and swindling honest neophytes out of the property
promised to them by the mission padres. Perhaps later, I will
tell you more of that adventure."
nodded, eager to accept the promise.
was being pursued by Sergeant Garcia and a dozen of his soldiers,
galloping by the light of the moon over the hills around the pueblo
de Los Angeles."
of the night, when the full moon is bright...." Uncle Jack
glanced at him sideways; that sounded vaguely familiar.
startled at a rattlesnake and jumped aside. We fell together into
a gully full of fog, and found ourselves.... here."
arrived just minutes before you came to help me?" Jack asked.
It is most fortunate we could help each other, is it not, señor?"
took off his black leather gloves to eat, daintily, like the gentleman
they all knew he was.
Marshalls all ate in silence, their eyes darting back and forth,
silently challenging each other to ask.
finally said it, "Why don't you take off your mask, Zorro?
Uh, Mister Zorro, sir? I mean, we're all friends here."
right," Will chimed in. "You're not in Mexico anymore."
took a handkerchief from his embroidered black vest, and he dabbed
at the corners of his moustache. "Correction, señor.
I am a Californio, not a Mexican."
nudged his nephew. "California is still a Spanish colony
to him, Will. Jeez, what you're missing not being in school."
Holly said. "Will you take the mask off?"
tensed, waiting for it and yet dreading it at the same time.
If he looks just like Guy Williams, I am going to freak out.
touched the hem of his mask, hesitated, then returned his hand
to his lap. "I believe it would be wise to conceal my identity,
señorita. True, Sergeant Garcia is far away from here,
but as you yourselves have perhaps learned, the future is most
unpredictable. The less you know about me, the safer you will
we--" Will started.
Jack put a hand on his nephew's knee and stared him into silence.
"Let the man have his privacy, kids. We don't need him to
take the mask off, all right?"
Don't mention it. Look, it's been a long day. Why don't we all
get some sleep?"
shifted around in their nylon sleeping bags to bed down for the
night. Zorro borrowed the extra one that had belonged to Will
and Holly's father. Borrowing only, Will emphasized in
his mind, until they found Dad again.
Jack watched the horse standing to sleep, as he himself drifted
into unconsciousness. One of his last thoughts, before entering
a dream, was, That is the tidiest horse I have ever seen. Hasn't
dropped a crap yet.
Marshall dreamed in black and white of galloping over gray grassy
hills. A chorus of male cowboys sang, "This bold renegade
carves a Z with his blade, a Z that stands for Zorro..."
awoke feeling thirteen years old again, back in that magical summer
just before he discovered girls; when the most exciting
things on his mind were baseball cards, Bazooka bubble gum, and
watching Zorro on television.
sat up and looked around their cold, stone Temple home.
black stallion was gone.
brother Rick Marshall's sleeping bag was neatly rolled up as if
it had never been used.
he had dreamed it all, he started to think. A crazy hallucination.
Maybe he'd banged his head when he fell in that pit of Sleestak
even a pile of horse crap proved that anyone but the three Marshalls
had ever been there.
started making breakfast.
Will sat up in his sleeping bag. "Hey, where is he?"
was real. "I don't know. Gone."
said, "This place just gets more far out every day, doesn't
it? I mean, first it's Medusa. The Flying Dutchman. Civil War
soldiers and American Indians, and now this."
It's like fiction and fact, fantasy and reality, they've got no
meaning here. We're seeing characters from our own literature
and mythology that seem as real as the dinosaurs or the Sleestak."
Will said, scooting closer. "I remember a time when the Sleestak
tricked me and Holly. Somehow, one of them took on the appearance
of our Dad. He seemed as real as you are now, but he wasn't Dad
led us into the Lost City, to the pit of the Sleestak God, where
they tried to sacrifice us."
sighed. "I suppose there might be a connection, Will. But
these other characters haven't tried to hurt us."
Medusa. Or that caveman warlord, Malak."
yeah. Still, I can't imagine Zorro is a Sleestak."
that's what he wants us to think," Will insisted. "If
we trust him.... If he looks like a hero figure, we'll follow
reluctantly nodded. "I guess it can't hurt to be careful."
outside called a male voice the opposite of Zorro's unassuming,
gentlemanly tone. He commanded, "Marshalls, come out. I must
speak to you!"
Will grumbled. "What does he want so early in the morning?"
Jack stood up and opened the door.
amphibious-faced Altrusian stomped inside, his arms stiff at his
sides, appearing even more uptight than usual. "When are
you going to learn not to tamper with sophisticated technologies
that are beyond your puny human comprehension?"
morning to you, too," Jack answered.
are you talking about?" Will asked.
groaned awake and rubbed her eyes. She looked around, grasped
the scene, and stayed silent to watch.
security system?" Jack asked.
one which protects the breeding areas, especially the clutches
of eggs, of course. It has failed in several places, and now the
wild predators are feasting themselves on the next generation."
said, "Great, like we need more of those things hatching."
matter what they are to you, Holly Marshall, they are still all
that remains of my people."
Jack agreed, "He's right. We don't have the right to pass
judgment on a species just because they're inconvenient for us.
The grizzly bear, the coyote, the timber wolf are nearly extinct
because people find them threatening but they have their place
in their habitat. Remember, Enik's people built this world, and
we're just guests here."
said, "But how is that our fault? We didn't touch anything."
must have tampered with something. Are you not constantly tinkering
with the pylons and the crystals in the hopes of finding a way
back to your world?"
telling the truth, Enik," Jack insisted.
know he is. I can see the truth in his thoughts, Jack Marshall.
Yet, what you perceive as the truth, and what you have inadvertently
destroyed by your bumbling, are two different things."
so what can we do to help?" Jack asked.
with me to my chamber in the Lost City. I will attempt to isolate
the source of the malfunction by re-creating your actions in detail
for the last two days."
do we have to?" Will cried out. "Can't you just believe
us? We didn't go near any pylons, and we didn't screw up any crystals,
nest's security system can be accessed in other ways. Have you
not learned by now that this so-called Land of the Lost is a closed
universe, and each seemingly innocuous segment constitutes part
of a greater whole?"
sighed. "Fine. We'll go."
Enik's chamber, the Marshalls stood united watching the claw-fingered
Altrusian manipulate the tray of glowing colored crystals on a
square stone table. How easily he seemed to read signs in the
constant shifting of colors; touching each one as surely as a
typist transcribed dictation.
read several occasions when the security system was breached.
The dates are given, of course, in the ancient calendar. They
will mean nothing to you."
opened his hands. "We want to help, Enik, but you got to
cut us a little slack, here."
system managed to re-set itself each time before the nest was
invaded by predators. However, the most recent incident was --
in your terms -- yesterday."
yesterday?" Will asked.
four jewels past zenith. In other words, midway between noon and
the fall of dark."
said, "Will and I were out gathering vegetables and fruits.
We didn't touch anything else."
said, "I was cleaning up and gathering firewood. Likewise,
I didn't mess with anything out of the ordinary."
accused, "Which implies you ordinarily 'mess with things',
I didn't say that."
tell me what you did. Every detail."
fell into a hole, all right? If your nest has such great security,
then how did the roof cave in?"
nodded, touching a few crystals at the corner. "Clutch number
four hundred ninety seven, yes, I see it now."
hundred," Holly breathed, and shuddered. "That's a lot
this is not the source of the malfunction," Enik said. "The
security was already breached before that point."
do you know?" Jack asked.
am reading a discharge of material that is a vital component of
the security system. In terms you can understand, I will refer
to it as 'blue wax.'"
Marshalls traded looks of shared annoyance, but said nothing to
the pompous Altrusian.
continued, "What does this 'blue wax do?"
Enik touched a few crystals, then pointed to the blank wall.
section of the stone oozed blue goo that glittered like liquid
plastic. The blob gradually took on anthropoid form -- two legs
and two arms and a head -- as if sculpted by a small child in
is it?" Will asked.
have a few of those," Enik said. "One per hundred eggs,
or so. A simple construct of liquid crystal, it is capable of
learning a few functional tasks."
a robot?" asked Uncle Jack.
looked at him oddly. "What is that?"
curious. It has no joints but it appears solid..." Holly
moved forward and touched it.
aware," Enik warned. "The construct has a function to..."
Holly touched it, the blue fluid crystal shimmered and generated
a veneer of human flesh. It became a perfect twin of Holly herself,
matching strand for strand her golden pigtails, her maroon corduroy
slacks and her red checkered shirt. Holly let go.
fondled his crystal pendant, flashed a light at the construct,
and it returned to being a fluid walking crystal puppet.
just happened?" Holly gasped.
necessary function of these caretakers. The hatchlings require
feeding at frequent intervals during the initial phase of their
life, while their skin is still soft before the exoskeleton forms
and they are ready to leave the nest. It is a period of perhaps,
in your terms, three months. Our infants, as you may call them,
go through a process of imprinting."
Jack snapped his fingers. "I've heard about birds doing that.
Some scientist hatched a bunch of ducks and got them to follow
him around and eat out of his mouth, as if he the man were their
mother. They didn't recognize a duck mother and didn't think of
themselves as ducks at all."
paused, as if disturbed by this. "Yes. We long ago recognized
the importance of our infants bonding to adult figures at the
moment of hatching, and they need to fed and tended to by something
that appears to be an Altrusian adult so that when they leave
the nest they will be prepared to join society."
see," Holly said.
crystal constructs have the function of projecting appearance.
The advanced models can actually generate a temporary exoskeleton."
asked, "They can appear to be anything or anybody?"
clapped her hands. "That happened to us too! A Sleestak disguised
itself as my Dad and lured me and Will into the Lost City to try
and kill us."
must question the plausibility of your story. A constructed caretaker
would not behave in such a predatory manner."
argued, "You just said their job is to feed the hatchlings,
right? Then a construct would be in the business of procuring
during the breeding season."
course," Will said. "The Sleestaks only did it once
and I wondered why they never tried that ploy again. It worked
is not logical. How many hatchlings can two human children feed?
Given the unlikely premise, it makes more sense to prey on larger
dinosaurs," Uncle Jack whispered. Then more loudly, "What
do the constructs do in their off hours? You know, when they're
not caring for eggs in the breeding season?"
go into a dormant state where they remain until they are called
for. Which is what you must have done, Jack Marshall."
can you explain, then, that a quantity of 'blue wax' sufficient
for the construction of one caretaker is missing from the inventory?
Admit it, Jack Marshall." Enik pointed his clawed hand accusingly.
"You have reconfigured a crystal construct for your own purposes.
You are using it, not to protect the eggs for which it was designed
but to attack and infiltrate its creators."
telepathy radiated from his big, bug-like eyes. His thoughts penetrated
the Marshalls' minds, pressing them into place, turning back their
memories from the present and rewinding to every minor detail
of the past few days.
you are too ignorant to realize the damage you have done, then
I am forced to seek the truth myself.
Jack, sweat pouring off his fair-haired brow, strained to speak.
"You have no right to go probing around in our minds."
have every right to protect the innocent hatchlings yet to be
burst a new voice into the scene, "Perhaps, señor,
I can give you a lesson in what is right!"
leaped into the midst of the chamber. Sword drawn, he slashed
a "Z" on the front of Enik's glittery tunic.
exhaled a long gasp of shock, almost sounding like the hiss of
a Sleestak himself.
laughed aloud, "Ha ha," and skipped backward to cover
the Marshalls' escape.
on, Holly, let's run for it!" Will grabbed his sister, and
fled with Uncle Jack into the sunshine.
Marshalls ran, with Zorro behind them, until their lungs were
glass and their legs could move no more.
they dropped to rest near a stream of running water. The three
Marshalls bent over to scoop handfuls to their parched mouths.
stood guard. "I think we foiled them, eh?"
you thirsty?" Jack asked.
shook his head as he casually sheathed his beautiful sword. "I
am well accustomed to going thirsty for long periods in the deserts
around the pueblo de Los Angeles."
your horse?" Will asked.
put two fingers to his lips, whistled, and the stallion galloped
out from the bushes.
here," Zorro said. "I will lead them away...."
They're not after you."
Jack, they are always after me."
this time. You see, they're after us because we...." Jack
hesitated, glancing to the children. "I created you."
not real, Zorro. I created you, somehow, from that 'blue stuff'
because I needed a hero. You're just a walking, talking sculpture
fabricated from my memories and dreams."
grinned. "How do you expect me to believe this?"
used to watch you on television back when I was Will's age. Your
real name is Don Diego de la Vega, and you masquerade as Zorro
because you're afraid of speaking out against injustice and losing
your lands, your home and your family."
stopped smiling. "How...?"
have one servant who knows the truth. He's a mute named, uh..."
Jack snapped his fingers to jog his memory. "Bernardo."
put a tender hand on Zorro's wrist. He was actually shaking. "I'm
know what you look like," Jack said.
you?" Zorro pinched the hem of his mask and yanked it down
to under his chin.
face of Guy Williams frowned straight back at them all.
Will said softly to his uncle. "It's that guy from 'Lost
job. He was Zorro first."
at me!" Zorro shouted. "I sweat. I bleed. I cry. How
can you say I am not as real a man as you are? I remember everything
of my life. My father...."
insisted, "You're nothing but what I remember Zorro to be.
Your life is a well-constructed, popular fiction."
shook his head.
have to go back to whatever pylon or rock or cave you came out
of. Set this thing right."
me, I hate to do this to you, man. But you need to accept the
truth of what you are."
You don't even speak Spanish."
Zorro scoffed. "Of course I do."
Marshalls waited, expectant, all three of them half hoping that
he would launch into a fluent monologue.
face of Guy Williams as Zorro gritted his teeth with the anguish
of being unable to go on.
can't," Jack said, sadly. "Because I can't."
whirled about, his black cape going full circle in mid-air. He
leapt onto his grand black stallion, yelled, "Ha!" and
Will said. "Now, what?"
Marshalls walked back towards their Temple home, talking about
the experience the whole way.
horse too?" Holly asked.
said Uncle Jack. "The horse too. I don't suppose you noticed
it didn't drop any, uh, manure when we brought it inside. Not
that I'm an expert on horses, but it struck me at the time as
a little unusual. It makes sense, now."
Will agreed. "T.V. horses never..."
cut in, "I have to wonder if some of the amazing visitors
and creatures we have seen lately are these crystal clay constructs.
That must be why it isn't any more crowded, despite the variety
of strangers that pop up. We seem to see them briefly."
never again," Holly agreed.
no evidence of how they come and go so easily."
we're stuck here," Will finished.
three of them nodded and kept walking.
Jack stopped suddenly and pointed. "Here. We're near the
path I was on when I fell into that clutch of eggs."
around," Will urged. "Is there anything out of the ordinary?
Anything you could have touched?"
bent over too, and searched the ground for unusual stones their
uncle may have stepped on, crystals half-buried in the dust, a
pylon hidden by an overgrowth of vines.
don't know," Jack said. "I was picking up sticks for
firewood all over this place. I could've touched anything within
a mile all around here."
voice cut through to them: "Not simply anything, Jack Marshall.
over-sized reptilian feet scratched at the soil, and the talons
of his thick toes revealed a black marble tile about three feet
square. As soon as he had exposed the stone, Enik stepped aside.
followed us," Will accused.
Perhaps not as efficient as my first technique for ascertaining
the truth, but in the end the result is the same." Enik pointed
at the black tile buried in the dust. "This, Jack Marshall,
is a touch point. An 'on-off' switch, if you will, to put it in
the most crude terms that you can understand."
didn't know it was there."
course not," Enik said, haughtily. "You trample through
the jungle as carelessly as the dinosaurs. The one difference
being, you are marginally sentient."
Jack began. "If we touch one of these switches, whatever
we're thinking of at that moment becomes real?"
yes. The liquid crystal construct will take on whatever form is
required by the individual who called it into being."
nodded. "I guess I'm sorry, Enik. I'll turn him off, if you
tell me how."
hiss of Sleestak hunters interrupted.
Marshalls shrieked and ducked into the bushes. Crude crossbow
arrows wobbled through the air, in their general direction.
stood his ground, waving his stumpy amphibious arms and crying
out, "Don't shoot them. I have a use for the humans today."
descended as rapidly as someone turning the dimmer switch on a
living room lamp, and the bright colors of the jungle faded to
various shades of dark gray. The Sleestak continued hissing in
their bloody-thirsty rage, louder and louder as more of them emerged
to surround the Marshalls.
something," Holly shrieked. "Enik, help us!"
will find the Sleestak Leader and urge him to talk some sense
into this out-of-control mob. Stay here. I will return."
Marshalls gawked at the Altrusian calmly strolling away from them,
and their spirits sank as the hiss of predatory Sleestak closed
in around them from all sides.
Jack put his arms around both of his brother's children and hugged
them close. "Maybe if we surprise them, we can break a hole
in their line and run for it."
our only chance."
on three. One. Two...."
whip cracked in the air. Steel chimed in accompaniment to the
smashing of jungle foliage.
Marshalls all three grinned at each other.
ha!" Zorro cried. The bright point of his sword knocked their
crossbows from their clawed paws. He slashed at their scaly green
arms so that they bled bluish-gray. They tried to grab him, but
he spun free.
whirled down the row of Sleestak warriors like a shadowy Tasmanian
Sleestak grouped up to chase him. Zorro kicked the one in the
front of the line, and falling took five others down in a stack.
Jack looked to the black tile beneath the dust, noticing that
faint streaks of blue appeared on it like colored chalk on a blackboard.
Weird alphabet symbols were unreadable, to him, but he hesitated
to go nearer or touch them.
this was an on-off switch, the last thing he wanted to do at this
moment was turn Zorro "off."
masked man kicked one Sleestak from behind the stumpy pointed
tail and sent him careening into the bushes. His sword twinkled
and danced in the air, left and right, as he scratched a "Z"
in the scaly armor of another's abdomen.
the Sleestak warriors gathered their crude weapons and galumphed
away, running with their monstrous feet into the jungle night.
slouched, panting hard from the exertion.
Marshall and the two kids burst from their hiding place to be
at his side.
were great!" Will exclaimed.
we really owe you," Holly said.
Jack touched Zorro's arm, and felt a thick handful of liquid trickle
over his wrist. "You're bleeding."
looked down at it. "I feel no pain. Perhaps it is a splash
from the monsters."
Jack peeled open the rip in the black satin blouse.
light shined up at his chin.
Zorro's arm, beneath the veneer of human flesh, crystalline fiber
optic filaments glimmered of their own luminescence. Leaning in
for a close look, as one would look into a microscope, Jack Marshall
saw deeply into the viscous transparent center of the man's arm.
No bones. No muscles.
shaking, Jack let go.
put his black-gloved hand atop the wound and covered up the blue
man," Jack said. "There's your proof."
matters not, señor, the color of my blood. I am still Don
Diego de la Vega, a caballero of California. I am El Zorro."
sure are," Will said with emotion glistening in his pearly
real enough for me," Holly added.
began to breathe with difficulty. His skin lost its healthy brown
flesh tone and began to fade to a bluish gray. More and more,
he looked like the image on a black-and-white television.
have to go back," Uncle Jack told him.
started crying as she said, "We'll miss you."
kissed her hand like a gentleman from the old movies, and he said
to them all, "Whenever you need me, I will always be here."
he shuffled hunchbacked onto the black tile. He went down onto
one knee and flashed them a quick triumphant grin.
moment later, his body outline sparkled blue. The brightness filled
in the black of his cape and his caballero clothes until his entire
form had turned to crystal wax. It melted down the middle, sank
like a bad soufflé, and blended into the black tile.
twinkle, and it all went dark.
can't believe he's gone," Holly sniffled.
Jack put an arm around her shoulders. "One thing I know for
sure, Zorro never goes away."
picked up a rock and went to a large boulder nearby. He leaned
in make a deep horizontal scratch, next a downward diagonal, then
a third line to finish the "Z."
I was five years old, my older brother convinced me he had the
magic power to walk through trees. He showed me, and proved it
with footprints in the snow. (A Will Marshall kind of big brother
this guy was not.) My parents scolded him for teasing his little
sister and playing with her mind, and assured me that he just
tricked me by stepping around the roots in the back. I kept insisting,
"I saw it, I was there! Why don't you believe me?" Thus began
by disconnect from reality.
have been reading fantasy and science fiction since I could read.
You name it: Tolkein, Burroughs, Bradbury, King. I watched way
too much t.v. and I was a Star Trek and Star Wars fan from the
ancient days. Now I am (supposedly) all grown up. In the daytime
I am a regular mommy who volunteers at the elementary school.
I have two daughters, so I have to tape X-Files and watch it after
they've gone to sleep.
call myself Queen of the Zines because my work has appeared in
Doctor Who and Star Trek fan publications on a regular basis.
It's very encouraging because zines don't give me the high degree
of Rejection that I've run into when submitting original fiction
to professional magazines and the Big Guys (the book publishers.)
I have a fantasy novel I'm trying to sell that's part of a trilogy,
or heck maybe a series at this point. Every slush reader on the
list has chucked it back at me. Boo-hoo-hoo. So writing this LOTL
story was a lot of fun.