Holly Marshall descended into the seemingly bottomless chasm in
search of Will, she was suddenly confronted by two mammoth pterosaurs.
The giant, winged reptiles flapped up out of the Stygian darkness
below, rending the blackness with their shrill cries. Holly shrieked
and clutched to her rope. She gasped as she felt one of the beasts
nip at her, its jagged, toothless beak ripping through her shirt,
and gnashing the flesh beneath. Panic threatened to drown her,
as the pteranodons' wingbeats drummed in her ears. Some portion
of her mind realized that the beasts were only playing with her
at the moment, that the one who nipped her could easily have killed
her it had chosen. But the creatures were clearly hostile, and
Holly felt certain they would finish her off before much longer.
Her head spinning, her next action was on survival impulse. Holly
thrust her hand into her pocket and grasped two of the crystals
she carried in case of an emergency. A scream from the nearest
winged reptile deafened her ears, and she took only one brief
glance at the stones in her palm. But that was long enough for
her to see clearly that she had selected a red and a yellow. Certain
that one of the beasts would come at her in the next instant,
thrusting at her with its barbed beak, Holly made to hurl the
stones at it.
But then something extraordinary happened; the two crystals, now
connecting with one another emitted a brilliant light, bathing
Holly's face and chest with white radiance. But it was the light's
effect on the pterosaurs which astonished her. They squawked at
one another in apparent confusion, as they hung in the air about
her, suspended by their thrashing wings. They did not attack.
And then Holly noticed: there was a red crystal, identical to
the one she held except that it was larger embedded in the pteranodon's
skull, square between its bird-like sockets, and directly below
the boney crest. Holly looked at the beast's companion to confirm,
what she knew without looking. The other pteronodon had a yellow
crystal embedded in the dead-center of its forehead as well. The
pteranodons cried weakly, but ceased diving at her. After an impossibly
long moment had passed, both reptiles flapped off in to the darkness
Holly shuddered as a sigh of pure relief passed through her. The
pteranodons appeared to be gone, as the wingbeats faded into the
dark, but she did not dare to relax her grip on the two stones.
Then she wondered: where had the pterosaurs come from? There was
no hole anywhere in the vault of the cavern that she could see,
other than the one she had come down through; certainly nothing
that emitted daylight and therefore indicated a opening. The winged
dinosaurs, therefore, must have their nesting area somewhere below.
But that clearly made no sense either.
Holly strained her eyes as she peered into the darkness below
her, and shivered. But she could see absolutely nothing, for which
she was partially thankful. And yet.if the pterosaurs were down
there, then this pit had to have a bottom after all, and another
"Holly!" her father called from above. "Are you alright?"
"I-I'm okay, Daddy!" she managed to choke out. It frightened her
how quaky her own voice sounded, and how faint the sound of Rick
Marshall's voice was.
At length, Holly felt her feet touch solid rock Still holding
onto the rope with one hand, she swung off the makeshift platform,
and began to take a step forward-and felt a dizzying nothingness
beneath. Holly gasped and drew back, almost fainting with the
fresh wave of nausea which swept over her. She now saw by the
piercing light of the crystals that she was standing on a narrow
ledge. The hole continued down further into unguessed depths.
She drew the crystals apart, then, looking up from where she began
descent she pressed the crystals together once, and then a second.
She waited a moent until she received two answering flashes from
Dad. Holly turned around, and, returning the crystals to her pocket,
took several cautious paces into the darkness. There was a good
measure of solid footing here, as she soon discovered. Soon she
reached the entrance to a tunnel in the side of the chasm.
Holly reasoned that it might lead to wherever the Sleestak had
taken Will (I'm assuming here that the "lizard men" mentioned
in Ellison's original story were indeed the Sleestak). She swallowed,
and summoning her courage, began her way down the corridor. This
chasm was fairly distant from the Lost City, but these caverns
seemed endless, and clearly the Sleestak could get from there
to here. She considered calling Will's name, but decided that
would be too dangerous. She would just have to search until she
found him. She remembered the crystals she had brought in case
she were attacked, and the thought brought mild comfort as she
crept through the twisting corridors, here eyes scanning the gloom.
In the cave above, Rick Marshall felt the rope go lax. Momentary
fear flushed through him. Had Holly finally touched the floor
of the huge cavern..or had she tumbled into the vast unknown darkness?
Rick didn't even want to contemplate the latter, but he braced
his mind to be prepared for the worst.
"Holly!" he called down into the endless chasm. "Holly, can you
There was nothing.
Panic surging through him, Rick strained his eyes down into the
pit. After what seemed to be interminable seconds, he saw the
two welcome flashes of light from Holly's crystals. The signal
was alarmingly faint-little more than a flicker. But at least
it registered that Holly was still safe. Quickly he gave two answering
Quickly, Rick secured his end of the rope to a stalagmite, making
certain it was anchored. He heard Grumpy roar again from the cavern's
entrance. It had been many hours now since the tyrannosaurus rex
had them trapped in the cave near Emily swamp. Rick relighted
one of the torches, and waved it at the beast's muzzle. At the
sight of the orange flame, the carnosaur retreated roaring in
disgruntlement. Grumpy reared up, but did not retreat.
Then Rick saw Spot the coelophysis emerge from a thick crush of
cycads at the edge of the forest beyond. The small, fleet theropod,
skittered up to grumpy, and pecked the tyrannosaur on the tail.
Enraged, Grumply turned to attack Spot, as the coelurosaur sped
off into the jungle. As the screams and roars of the two dinosaurs
faded, Rick turned his attention back to the hole in the cavern
Will Marshall lay on the carvern floor with his hands bound to
a stalactite with thick cords. It seemed like an eternity since
the sleestak had seized him, though he reasoned that it probably
couldn't have been more than half an hour ago. His head was still
swimming were one of the reptiloids had struck his skull with
some manner of blunt implement. Blearily, Will saw that he was
in an antechamber, which opened up into a larger cavern, which
lay beyond him. This other chamber radiated with weird, violet-colored
light. As his eyes focused, he could see clearly the reason for
this: the chamber a few meters in front of him was embedded, floor
to ceiling with purplish-colored crystals. They didn't have the
exact shade or hue of any of the other crystals they had seen
in the matrix tables or caverns. And Will guessed the new crystals
contained some power foreign to the others. What they might do
he had no way of knowing-nor did he particularly wish to at the
moment- but he guessed they might be giving off some sort of deadly
invisible rays-something like the waves of light that were invisible
to the human spectrum-or like the gamma rays he'd read about in
science class. Or perhaps something worse. A faint but nonetheless
high-pitched wail emitted from the chamber (reeeeeeeeeeeeeeee).
Will guessed the crystals were somehow the source of the sound.
Faint though it was, something about it ate into his eardrums
and up into his brain. But there was nothing Will could do about
it until he got out or was rescued-if and when that ever was.
He wondered if Dad or Holly would be able to find him, -if they
had been even able to follow. He had tried rubbing his bonds against
the rough, granulated stone, but the cords were two thick. Though
he might eventually be able to work his bonds loose, by then,
Will somehow felt certain, it would be too late.
Will tried to guess why he had been left here. At first he had
assumed , naturally, that the sleestak had captured him to appease
the hunger of their god. But he wasn't taken to the god-chamber,
even though he feared that wherever he was, his fate was to be
equally unpleasant. And the source of that unpleasantness, he
felt with equal certainty, lay in the direct center of the chamber
of purple crystals. What lay embedded in the crystals that e carpeted
the very floor of the chamber was what appeared to be an egg.
Will had not seen a sleestak egg before-at least nothing he knew
was a sleestak egg, and not a dinosaur's-but somehow this object
felt...wrong-in a manner that a normal sleestak egg wouldn't.
It was almost as large as a basketball, and a deep, ugly shade
of muddy green, but so dark that it bordered on being black.
The call sounded far back in the caverns, and it sounded like
Holly's voice. But it was so faint Will couldn't be certain that
he'd even heard it. He listened intently as innumerable seconds
passed, but he heard nothing else beside the steady reeeeeeeee
the purple crystals.
Then he heard his name again. "Holly!" Will cried, certain this
time that it was really his sister.
Holly followed the sound of Will's voice until at last she located
the chamber he was in.
"Will-are you all right?" holly cried as she knelt down and began
working at her brother's bonds.
"I'm okay so far." Will answered. "Where's dad?"
"He's still up in the cave. Are there any sleestak around?"
"I don't know. They could be anywhere.."
Holly looked toward the crystal chamber with the strange greenish
black object. "Wha-what is that ?"
"I don't know, and I'd hate to wait around to find out! Hurry!"
Holly kept working at Will's bonds, but she found they were worked
tighter than he'd first thought. Then they heard a loud snap from
the crystal chamber.
"What was that?" Holly exclaimed.
Their eyes glued to the eye-hurting chamber, they witnessed the
egg, if that's what it was, begin to quiver, and to their horror
saw a long crack knife its way down the side.
"That thing's breaking up!" said Will.
"Or hatching!" Holly added.
"You had to say that." Will murmured his gaze still frozen.
More cracks appeared in the glossy surface. Holly began working
feverishly at Will's bonds. She was horribly afraid that whatever
the black egg might contain, it would be particularly nasty. Forcing
back a rising tide of panic, she undid the last strands of chord.
Will dizzily got to his feet.
There was another ear-splitting crack. The kids both looked once
more toward the black object, which had now split entirely in
two halves. They heard the creature it contained emit at harsh
squeak, as it begin to emerge. It was slick and slimey, and shown
like black oil in the crystals' light, even reflecting the purplish
gleams in the same manner that a pool of spilt oil sometimes will
contain irridescant violet. It oozed up out of its shell, in appearance
similar to a slug found at the bottom of a well-only it was somehow
swifter than a slug, and both the kids felt certain it would be
after them if they stayed longer.
""C'mon!" Will cried. They dashed out of the chamber, but not
before they had an impression of the creature's two goggling eyes
of deep crimson and an abundance of writhing feelers and appendages.
"This way!" Holly said, as she guided Will through the twisting
labyrinth of corridors. They had not gone very much further when
one of the Sleestak emerged from an adjoining tunnel."
"Holly, run!" Will cried as they backed up in fear.
"No wait!" said Holly. Once more, she delved into the pocket of
her trousers and found the two crystals. Hissing, the bulging-eyed
reptilian staggered up the chamber. The kids backed up, but then
heard more hissing further back in the tunnel. The other sleestaks
must have discovered their escape. Holly was about to toss her
crystals at the devolved Altrusian, but something in her mind
stopped her. Instead she pressed the two crystals together once
again, creating a brilliant light. Startled, the sleestak backed
away with a shrill hiss, shielding his sensitive vision from the
light with his pincers.
As Will and Holly began to edge around the creature, a sleestak
crossbow bolt jarred into the wall above Will's shoulder. They
saw the other sleestaks already emerging up the tunnel, their
crossbows at the ready. Their scales and neck ruffs were already
clear in the diminishing light.
"C'mon!" Will shouted again, and they raced up the tunnel. "This
way!" shouted Holly, as they plunged into a tunnel on their right.
Holly continued to guide her brother through an array of tunnels
until at last they reached the vast chamber of the pit. Even though
he could see nothing of the extent of the chamber, Will had the
impression of stupefying vastness. Holly reached out for the rope
and platform she'd descended on, but found nothing.
"Will, the rope!" she cried. "It's gone!"
"Great." Said Will. "Now, how're we going to get out of
Frantic, Holly began groping around on the ledge. At length, her
fingers found the chorded rope. Rising shakily to her feet, she
pulled it up. "It.it's been cut!"
"Something must have happened to Dad!"
A screeching cry echoed in the dark vastness above.
"No..no, I don't think so." quivered Holly, glancing in the sound's
direction. "Those pteranodons. They tried to attack me on my way
down here. I think they must have cut the rope."
"Then we've got to find another way out!"
"But there's sleestaks everywhere!"
Will shook his head. "Then we'll just have to fight our way through
An awesome sound came to their ears-like the taut thrashing of
"The pterosaurs-they've come back!" Will shouted. He was about
to pull his sister back down the tunnel.
"No!" Holly cried. "Wait!" She waited on the ledge until the
first of the winged reptiles hove into view. Its great leather
wings beat the air, as it dove toward Holly like a hawk toward
a ground squirrel, intent on killing.
Holly held out the crystals, jammed them together. The effect
stopped the winged reptile in mid-flight. The beast hovered a
few centimeters from the ledge. Its screams tore into the kids'
ears, but gradually they subsided into a submissive cooing that
sounded almost docile. The second flying monster hove in beside
his fellow and also hovered there, making no attempt to attack.
Then Will noticed. "The crystals.they've got crystals embedded
in their foreheads."
"Yeah, I noticed." Holly said. "I think the sleestaks must have
done that. They have some kind of control over them."
"Like maybe they captured them when they were young, and trained
them to be guardians."
"But what are they supposed to be guarding?"
"I think that what-eve-it-was they had back in the crystal chamber."
"Wait!" Holly said. "I want to see what happens.." She moved toward
the edge of the ledge, still holding the stones together. The
pterosaurs cried weakly and moved back, and then above her.
An idea came suddenly to Holly's mind. She closed her eyes and
concentrated on the two flying reptiles focusing her thoughts
on what she wanted them to do, which right now was to stay where
they were, and not flap off into the gloom like the last time.
Stay here. Holly commanded in her mind.
She opened her eyes, but kept her mind focused on the flying reptiles.
"What did you do?" asked Will.
"I asked them to not to fly away. I think maybe they can help
Will sighed in exasperation."C'mon Holly-you really think they're
going to carry us out of here?"
Holly shook her head. "I'm not really sure. I think the sleestak
control them somehow, with those crystals. They must have a matrix
somewhere, and that's how they do it. But they're really controlled
by.our minds, I guess. Psychic energy, I think that's what dad
called it. The crystals are just senders and receivers."
"Like for radio waves!" Will said excitedly. "You think you can
"A little." said Holly. " I think getting them to pick us up and
fly us out of here would be a little too complicated. But this
"I know what you're thinking-c'mon!"
They pulled up the rest of the rope and what remained of the platform.
Will used his knife to cut the rope from the wood shafts. Holly
made the pteranodons move closer to the ledge. They bound each
of the pterosaurs' hook-taloned feet with the rope, and then tied
the rope around each of their wrists.
Nor were they one moment two soon, as they soon heard shrill hissing
issue from the depths of the tunnel. The sleestak had found them.
Holly shut her eyes again against the chill of the abyss, as the
great creature's wings fanned above her. Now carry us. She
willed. Fly up-up!
The pterosaurs flapped off into the darkness. The hissing of the
sleestaks was blotted out but the deafening boom of their wings.
Will looked back over his shoulder, and saw the tall green figures
on the ledge behind them. In anger, the sleestak fired their crossbows
off into the darkness after them, shooting low at Will and Holly,
taking care not to injure their pets. But already the pteranodons
were too far away, and the bolts hissed through empty air.
Holly felt an even fiercer chill rip at her shirt. There was a
definite draft here, but it seemed to be coming from below.
Then she realized...
The flying reptiles were bearing them up toward the cavern ceiling
at all, even though that was what she had willed them to do. Instead,
they were bearing them deeper and deeper in to the black bowels
of the planet. Horrified, Holly shut her eyes once more, and forced
herself to concentrated projecting clear images of the sky and
freedom into the pteradactyls' brains.
Still, the beasts and their passengers spiraled down, down, down
into the ungues sable reaches beneath Altrusia's surface.
Holly felt blind panic-panic as black and as deep as that darkness-engulf
her in waves. Where were they going? The pteranodons must have
a nest somewhere underground, where the sleestak fed and cared
for them, but she had willed them to head for the sky. Perhaps
the suggestion of their artificial nesting site had been programmed
so deeply into the implanted crystals that it had completely blotted
out their natural instincts.
Then the rush of wind redoubled its intensity. Holly stared, horrified,
out into the black gulfs, her thoughts drowning in an vortex of
And the darkness blow suddenly lessoned, then gave way to light.
The black of the pit faded, becoming the clear blue of an afternoon
But the sky was below them, a vast uncanny nothingness, while
Holly looked up- and saw the familiar terrain of the Land of the
Lost, mountains, forests, all suspended above her in the vault
of the heavens.
The effect caused the blood the surge from her head, and a dizzying
nausea to grip her. She nearly screamed with the shock. Where
the sun and clouds should have been, there was the crevasse that
divided the valley, and the gorge with the towering mountains
of pink, sedimentary rock, the ones that had always reminded her
of a mammoth birthday cake. And beyond that, the vast forest of
primitive conifers. She could even make out the lost city with
its huge cliffs of white limestone in the distance...
She thought she saw the moving forms of dinosaurs on the surface,
and other pteranodons, gliding across the sky upside down, as
though oblivious to the overwhelming incredulity of whole thing...
And then she felt a sensation like an electrical jolt surge through
the flying reptile's talon and into her, course down her left
arm, and engulf her. It nearly caused her to black out again,
and left her dizzy.
But oddly, that was all that seemed wrong in the next instant,
other than a slight tingling sensation. Holly looked down.
And saw what she somehow knew she would see. There was
the world, spread out gorgeously, meters and meters below her.
The high white cliffs, the jungles of giant conifers and tree
ferns. From the emerald and blue-green depths, she thought she
recognized the gleam of a pylon.
She saw the great swamp in the distance, as well as the cliffs
where they'd found the cave where all this had started. She could
even make out the lumbering, slate-gray forms of grazing brontosaurs.
Collecting her dizzied thoughts, Holly pressed the two crystals
together, and forced herself to concentrate on the pterosaurs'
brains. She concentrated on the direction she wanted them to fly.
To her vast relief, they obeyed, arrowing toward the swamp and
Back at High Bluff, after Will and Holly had cut the pteranodons
loose and were reunited with their father, they were gathered
around the table, having a second helping of Holly's carrot cake.
Rick had managed to snare one of the red-white-and-blue chicken-like
birds, and all of them had eaten well after the past ordeal.
"And after we'd gotten away from the sleestaks, and the pteranodons
had carried us off.. it's like the world was upside down." Will
was saying. "We could see the crevasse, and the Lost City where
the sky was supposed to be, only the sky and the sun were below
"It was like that time in the Lost City." Holly said. "When I
saw the crevasse and the mountains above when I was hanging on
to the rope, and I remembered to look at the earth."
"Well,"Rick said. "I think maybe it's because this is a closed
universe. If we go far enough in any direction-even even
up or down-we'll end up back where we started."
"Yeah, I guess that must be it." Holly said. "But how did everything
get turned around..back to normal?"
"Well, you said you both felt a current." Rick said thoughtfully.
"You know what I think that was? I think that's partly the reason
for the crystals in the pterosaurs' skulls. Not only so the sleestak
can have control over them, but to make it so they can interact
with the physics of the Land of the Lost. I think the crystals
can cause living matter to align itself properly in some way."
"I wonder what the pteranodons were supposed to be guarding?"
you think it was that thing back in the cave? I can't imagine
what that thing was."
Suddenly, Holly thought of something. "I know! I t could have
been another sleestak god. You said what ever that thing is in
the pit was 'hatched'."
"Maybe those crystals are some kind of incubator." Will suggested.
Rick shook his head. "I guess we'll never know." He said. "But
if we do happen to find out some day, I hope it's not for
a long time."