Encounter in Vunu Vunu
It was back in year ’386 that Udi and I fled Mecnita. Plubac, a xenophobic gang, had targeted me, as a foreigner in Ung, and with me, Udi herself, as my companion. Actually, unbeknownst to me, Udi was the Queen of Ung, traveling incognito, and Jilndij, the would-be usurpers, were using my foreignness as a pretext to get Plubac to persecute us.
Plubac’s men, led by one Torcbu, followed us persistently about the streets of Mecnita, and eventually they managed to kidnap Udi. Assuming the role of a detective, I traced Udi to Torcbu’s townhouse at
But Udi and I knew that that was not the end of our troubles, as Torcbu’s henchmen would only redouble their efforts to track us down and capture us, playing into Jilndij’s hands as Jilndij reached for the throne.
So we went by train from Mecnita to Fwascren, the great metropolis of western Ung. Supposing we had made a clean getaway, we breathed easy, and began to enjoy the sights and sounds of the famous city. There’s a large park in downtown Fwascren with dozens of garlanded ferris wheels, and every day Udi and I would eat a leisurely lunch, revolving slowly and gracefully on a wheel. And there were malls, theaters, landmarks and other attractions that we visited, strolling arm in arm, or cycling, or sometimes riding on one of the many bridle paths that network the city.
Ferris Wheel in Fwascren
One afternoon, she and I had stopped at a sidewalk café near Squingba and Nurúshul Boulevards, the main intersection in town. We were drinking tall cold drinks and chatting merrily about this and that. It was a perfect, warm, sunny day.
Suddenly, I noticed in the distance the figure of a man who looked for all the world like Torcbu—seven feet tall,
“Isn’t that Torcbu? How the hell did Torcbu get out of jail? And what the hell is he doing in Fwascren?” I asked myself.
He was walking in our direction, as if he would march right up to us in broad daylight. I almost jumped out of my seat. But as he approached, he seemed not to notice us at all. He walked right by the railing that separated us from the sidewalk without even glancing our way. “Hmm!” I thought, “What is this all about?”
When I told Udi about it a few minutes later, it became clear that, if we stayed in Fwascren, Torcbu, if he hadn’t seen us already, certainly would see us sooner or later. So we agreed to go to Vunu Vunu.
Vunu Vunu is an ancient village spattered on the side of Mount Calabampa, one of Ung’s highest peaks. It is situated
So Udi and I went by monorail, and immediately as we arrived, we rented tiny twin stone cottages surrounded by a high rubblework wall and sharing a veranda. On the veranda, at the railing, we could peer down
In the coming days, we devoted most of our time to cultivating our dear, dear friendship, but there were attractions in the village too. The famous sopranos of Vunu Vunu sing traditional songs that centuries of singing have brought to near perfection. We visited a cabaret or an inn every night, wearing our ponchos against the evening cold, to listen to the melodious ladies.
Then there were Vunu Vunu Caverns. In my native Motinia, as a youth, I had been an amateur spelunker, spending many an afternoon at famous
Still I was with Udi on our veranda more often than not. It so happened that there were a number of walkways terraced on the side of the mountain. Above us about fifty feet, a walkway emerged from one tunnel and disappeared into another a few yards away, so that an idle pedestrian walking the walkway could glance down and see Udi and me in our veranda. But this was no problem. It was like sitting in your garden with an occasional passer-by.
One day though, I noticed a very large man, not Torcbu for sure, but much like him. He seemed to be peering down intently at Udi and me. I got anxious, but it wasn’t enough to conclude that any evil was afoot. However, he appeared again and again in the next three or four days, always spending 15 or 20 minutes scrutinizing us.
Asking around, I learned that his name was Zergfa, and he had come by monorail with two others, namely Wezmim and Piluglag. This was nothing noteworthy, however, it was explained to me, for there was always a small flow of tourists who would come by monorail, spend 2 or 3 days or a week, and then return.
Donning ponchos, clogs and straw hats as a disguise, Udi and I took the monorail train surreptitiously back to Fwascren. Visiting the provincial archive, we looked up the three men. Fortunately, in Ung, everyone has a single name, without a surname, and all names are unique. So there were only one Zergfa, one Wezmim and one Piluglag in the kingdom. In the archive, we got biographies of the three men, and there was nothing unusual in them. There was no mention of Plubac or Jilndij at all. Everything seemed innocent. The only thing that bothered me was that Zergfa’s address was listed as
Udi and I trained back to Vunu Vunu, where Zergfa continued his obnoxious surveillance. Finally, my anxiety and irritation got the best of me, so, grabbing a hammer, I went up to the upper walkway when Zergfa was standing there, perched on a rail, peering evilly down.
“What the hell are you doing, Zergfa? What the hell are you looking at? I want you to get the hell off this walkway and mind your own damned business.”
“Why you insolent little jackanapes! I’ll tear you limb from limb!” Zergfa was also about seven feet tall and weighed at least 300. His arms were like branches of oak trees. I could see in a minute that my little hammer was a mere toy, so I took to my heels.
Zergfa came running after, bellowing, “Wezmim! Piluglag! Help me catch this impudent little imbecile.”
Soon I had the three giants pursuing me precipitately, spelling certain death if they caught me. I ran into Vunu Vunu Caverns, past the restaurant in the mouth of the cave, which had no customers at the moment. Then I ran into the eerie interior, with its underground rivers and tunnels, chasms, abysses, stalagmites and stalactites, turning on my super-flashlight, which lit the grotto like a ball room.
The three malefactors came stampeding after, hardly realizing that it was I who was providing the light. So when we reached a particularly narrow spot on a ledge at the very brink of a precipice, I flicked off the light, and one of the men went careening into the abyss below. He screamed mournfully and long, and finally crashed in the
I calmed myself when I reached the restaurant, which now had a few customers, but no one paid the least attention to me as I walked by.
Udi and I spent the afternoon on the veranda fairly pacifically, but I was still nervous. Just before sundown, someone knocked the gate in our rubblework wall off its hinges with a colossal bang. It was Zergfa! Udi ran screeching away.
I picked up a chair, hoping to put a leg through Zergfa’s eye, but he snatched the chair and broke it to pieces. I grabbed the other chair, but Zergfa took that away from me too and tossed it onto the plains below.
“Now what are going to do, you shameless little catamite?” Zergfa laughed satanically, as he went for my neck with his oaken hands.
Just as he was about to lay hands on me, Udi appeared from her cottage with the andiron from her fireplace. She struck Zergfa a good, solid blow on the back of his skull, and he fell unconscious to the floor.
It took all our might, but we got Zergfa to the railing at the edge of our veranda, and pitched him down the side of the mountain. We could see that he ricocheted on the rocks several times in his fatal fall.
The local authorities, finding Zergfa’s body, were unable to determine whether Zergfa had been murdered, committed suicide or fell accidentally to his death while climbing on the mountain.
Queen Udi and I waited two or three days, then bulleted back to Fwascren on the monorail train, there to figure out how we would deal with Torcbu.