Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Amazing Adventures of Reptile Woman!* Vol. 32:5

We join our heroine on yet another of her adventures into uncharted territory in the Mysterious East. Followed by her loyal crew, she starts off on anthropological endeavors guaranteed to make her name in the academic world and bring added prestige to her already prestigious university. Unknown by the others on the trip, though, bookish, friendly Suzanne Powell moonlights at REPTILE WOMAN - the scaly savior of the down-trodden, excluded, and inconvenienced.

The expedition begins at the crowded Visakhapatanam railroad station where Suzanne and her university colleagues are being subject to curious stares from locals and requests for pictures. They graciously accept and pose, though Suzanne is saddened by all of the pleas for money she forces herself to ignore. Unfortunately the beggars do need to be ignored but, Suzanne vows, one day she will come back and right these wrongs!

The trains begins boarding and Suzanne notices a problem. There are way too many people that need to get on and not nearly enough seats. How are we ever going to fit? she asks herself. Problem solving mode!

Chikchika! Zing!

All of a sudden Suzanne and two of her companions are sitting on top of the luggage rack above the seats. A flash of her discolored ankle as she moves to cross her legs causes Suzanne to recall how she came to possess her unnaturally high I.Q., quick reflexes, and tendency to have more energy the hotter it gets.

It was a (social) science experiment gone horribly wrong. Suzanne, and independent university student, confident in her ability to handle anything that could come her way and headed off for parts unknown for some hands-on, real-world experience. Over the course of her travels she noticed a growing prickly heat rash on her legs and arms. Too busy to pay it any attention, she had foolishly believed that her body would be able to take care of itself. Little did she know, her body was already undergoing changes too big to deal with or fully understand.

Toweling off after a bucket shower one day, Suzanne noticed the rash was gone. In its place were scales! Panicking, she fled to the mirror and, sure enough, there were scales on her arms, on her back, and running all down her legs! She had mutated into a lizard! The next few weeks were a confused haze as SUzanne tried creams, tried powders, mets with doctors under fake names, all to no avail. In time, she had come to accept the changes, accept the ability to climb walls and trees with no available handholds, accept the strange cravings for insects. Only lately had she realized how this curse really was a blessing, a gift that enabled her to go further in her chosen profession and to help those around her.

The train swam back into view as Suzanne's memory-clouded eyes cleared. They were pulling into a station in a small town surrounded by luscious vegetation and anthropological oddities waiting to be researched.

Unloading, the corps of scientists and explorers tramp off along the now deserted train traacks into the jungle's depths. Before long, the warning call of a tribe of monkeys reaches their ears. The racket grows louder and louder crescendo-ing into a cacophony of panicked birds and screeching primates until, stepping into a clearing, Suzanne and her team see the mouth of an ancient, vine-covered cave, The surrounding trees suddenly become unnaturally still. Swallowing, glancing for confirmation from her fellow researchers, Suzanne moves cautiously towards and into the cave.

A timeless scene of glass-calm pools, awe-inspiring stalactites and towering stalagmites meet their eyes as tthey slowly adjust to the gloom. Dripping water and the quiet scratching of bats overhead seemed to echo throughout the enormous cavity. They move further and further in, carefully training their electric torches pn the groun in front of them and then sweeping up to view the rocky walls. There seems to be no end to the cavernous depths. They folloe natural steps, down, down until they reach a dead-end and then, moving to make the ascent back up, Suzanne's reptilian eyes, glowing faintly with reflected light from the torches, catches sight of stairs, carefully blended in with the rest of the surrounding rock, but showing tell-tale signs of human craftsmanship.

Intrigued, she signals the rest of her team to wait for her as she climbs the steep, narrow steps. Higher and higher she foes, her scaly limbs giving her the endurance to keep going where normal, human legs would have been uncontrollably shaking from the exersion. A whiff of sandalwood on the still air grows stronfer, and Suzanne knows she is reaching the end of her climb, whatever the end may be. Noticing lights up ahead, she switches off her torch and finishes the last few steps in semidarkness. Rounding the corner, she halts in her tracks, surprised.
It's a shrine. A shrine in the middle of a mountain. A shrine which, after cursory examination, appears to be dedicated to Vishne and his consort Lakshmi. Removing her shoes out of respect, she moves closer. The votive candles are burning brightly and the incense was recently lit. But who had lit them? Suzanne glanced around for hidden alcoves and dust on the ground for another set of foot prints. Nothing. No clue as to who the mysterious devotee was. Checking once more and with one last look at the shrine, Suzanne turns and, replacing her shoes, begins the long descent.

Emerging from the cave with the rest of the group, Suzanne fills them in on everything she had seen. It was now late in the afternoon, so rendezvousing with the Jeeps they had arranges to meet at the check point, the team rumbles down a mountain path to the next village.
Once there, however, they receive word from their local contact, village gossip Kiliash Giri, that the train has been delayed for at least the next four hours. From his network all up and down the mountainside, Giri was also able to inform them that the Maoist Separatist guerillas were currently active in that part of the countryside, the local police having just foiled one of their plots the day before to blow up the local post office. It was imperative that the Americans leave the village that night, the sooner the better, since their presence put them and the rest of the village in great risk.

Stunned by this latest bit of news, Suzanne and her compatriots move to the bus depot hoping transportation will come by soon to take them and their guides back to safety. As dusk moves in, they begin darting furtive glances into the shadows and down alleyways. What would happen if they were caught by the red rebels?
Night comes and still no luck finding a ride. Suddenly, a set of headlights appears up the road winding towards them. A bus had found them! As it pulls up, the excitement and sighs of relief die unexpressed. The bus is packed. There is no way there will be room for all of them. Despite their protests, Suzanne and her team convince their guides and friends to get on board and head back to safety. As the bus pulls away, the gamely waving hands of Suzanne and her colleagues falter and fall. Gloom descends. What were they to do now? Well, thought Suzanne, if there was a time for Reptile WOman, it would be now. Problem solving mode!

Whiziwhizi! Bang!

By her reptilian sixth sense, Suzanne senses that one of the Indians waiting with them is from nearby. A quick bit of bargaining, and in a very short bit for the second time that night headlights cut through the dark, and the SUV belonging to them pull in front of the weary explorers. As they pile in and start off, loud, brash Indian dance music bursts from the dashboard. Unknowlingly, they had happened upon the fabled Indian Techno Dance Party of Awesomeness. And they jived and shimmied all the way home.

Stay tuned for the next chapter in which Reptile Woman braves student protests, the yellow press, and gets one step closer to publishing her thesis!

*Inspired by actual events

1 comment:

  1. im nervous about your rash...hope you enjoy being reptillian