Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31 Number 14. June 25, 1968
The Return Of The Triboldies — Part 14
The Return Of The Triboldies
According to the ancient chronicles we are lost; I have taken all the 31,813 pages down from the shelves and hunted through for an indication of this place. Not a word. Perhaps we are more to the south. Or (but let us hope this is not so) the ancients were not using any consistent compass: so we may as well have travelled west as east. We may now be further from our destination than when we left Coldplace—if there are two Aggabugs—which is very likely if the man is as symmetrical as we are. Behind me there are fifteen wagons—ahead there are also fifteen. Above me there is something—below me there is also something.
A drawback. We arrived at the top of a hill only to find that the road disappears into a lake. But we must still follow the road; therefore we are stopped to caulk the cracks in the undersides of our wagons. The ancient chronicles mention no large lakes; I think we may have lost our way, but Ocarina swears that we are taking the correct route. I do not understand how he knows, unless he has made an interpretation of the Chronicle of Hexatriximenia and does not care to disclose it to me; such an action seems unfair, but not impossible for Ocarina. He purposefully wedged his wagon in an Aggabug street corner, that Cantilever should not pass*, and that he might keep Mazinta and Nenuphar trapped so that they could say nothing. All this time he implored Mazinta to Rive herself to him in a particular mode, but she declined fearfully. * So that 1 could meet Cantilever without seeing Ocarina. A cunning trick.
Nenuphar was unfortunately caught, so he says, in the lowest room of Ocarina's wagon, from which there is no exit apart from a door opening toward the outside. This door was jammed close by the corner of a nearby house. Therefore, while the wagon remained wedged in the street corner, Nenuphar could not emerge and had only the food to console him. Mazinta and Ocarina had to be fed by means of a small knothole in the floor of the main compartment of the wagon, through which Nenuphar poked sticks of licorice.
Ottoman has been talking to a local man, who seemed to be interested in our caravanserai, and was found lying on his back looking up at the underside of Ottoman's wagon. Otto, fearing that this man might have designs on our timepiece, had him surrounded by a number of our people. The man turned out to be harmless, but also to speak the Shajat tongue. Otto himself possesses the rudiments of this language, and held a conversation with the man, a wandering minstrel become a shepherd. The man, Clodagh by name, has reported that the road on which we are travelling runs along the bottom of a valley falling to our right hand side. What we took to be a lake we find now to be a swollen stream which till a few days ago ran as a trickle beside the road. Perhaps last week's cataclysm has caused a flood. However our way is clear: we shall let our wagons float like buns with the current, till the current cease; and then, perhaps, the animals can draw us along by swimming. But in the meantime, we must find a way for the animals to travel with us. It is of no use for them to walk, since most cannot breathe under water. Perhaps they should walk beside us along the hills. But what when they reach abysses and impassable jungles? I shall propose that we inflate bladders from bong trees—of which we passed a grove yesterday—and tie them to the tails, legs, and heads of the animals who will then float comfortably down the little stream.
Ottoman wants the man Clodagh to accompany us; Ocarina is not at all pleased with this idea, for reasons, he says, which are not describable but very cogent. I feel that reasons which cannot be put into words do not matter, and that there is good reason for allowing the man to accompany us, the foremost reason being that he knows where we are which we do not. Many of us shall talk to Ocarina . . . He has grudgingly agreed; Clodagh is to travel with Ottoman.
Today we made an expedition to gather bong bladders, leaving encampment guarded by only a few invalids. We returned slowly, struggling against the fierce wind which repeatedly tore the bladders from my grasp until I thought to tie them together with a creeper. But the creeper retarded our progress more than the wind might have done. We returned to our camping place, only to find that we were totally immersed in water and our wagons afloat far above us. However when the creeper, which had been lagging behind, caught up with us, the buoyancy of the long bladders brought us abruptly to the surface. This we took to be a sign that the water level had risen. So now we are drying ourselves as we float slowly along the road.
The valley becomes wider and wider; yesterday I lost sight of the left bank (we are keeping to the right, owing to occasional swimming by the animals); Laughing Gas could still see it clearly, were it not, he says, that a mist has come over it. I see no sign of any mist.
Now a mist has come over the right bank, and it as if we were in a giant lake like that which is mentioned in the chronicle of Hexatriximenia: no land can be seen (not even by Laughing Gas). I wonder why. Perhaps we have reached a particularly convex point on the. man, such as the ball of his thumb. Surely we cannot be on his thumb. All the indications of the ancients are that our Coldplace was somewhere near the knee; this hypothesis is corroborated by the phenomenon of the land's disappearance at a distance. Many years ago just after we had left the valley of Troppos, and we came upon some curious stones. I took them to be a skin disease occurring most commonly (according to Phenoketylinuria) on the groin, but never on the hand. No: we cannot be on the thumb now; we must be on some part of the body, which is shown by the pronounced lack of ridges which are always found on the fingers. In fingers there are mountains and hot water. Perhaps the clash of times has produced a wet wart on the groin, even a wound with a drop of blood . . . but we'd have noticed the steep climb up the sides of the drop. The man is truly a paradox!
There is nothing to judge our motion by in this vast stream; we may have stopped moving, or we may even be moving backwards. The sun is assuming a curious pattern; it rises firstly in what may be the east, then again an hour later in the south-west; at noon it meets itself, encircles itself, and rapidly drops. It has been doing this for about ten days.
I wonder how far below us the water extends; I shall collect up pieces of string and tie them together and drop it over the edge held down by a rock with a hole in the middle which I happen to have had in my pocket for a long, long time. It is over the edge and still pulling; I have sent messages to the other thirty wagons, asking to borrow string. Many animals are swimming towards me, bearing on their backs riders, bearing in their hands string (and sometimes messages). Were it not for fear, we should find it very pleasant to live on the water. As it is, I have now used all the string of our people, and the weight still pulls. The meaning is either— the water is alarmingly deep or somebody is pulling on the string. Both prospects fill us with horror; the first because we are so alone, the second because we may not be. My hand is misbehaving; it must stop.