Men Not Afraid: Quarter Moon

  1. Chapter 12: The Sleeping City
  2. Men Not Afraid
  3. Chapter 14: Mexicha Madness

There was no stopping the rush to get outside. Thirty-five Asian slaves—ex-slaves—gulped down fresh air and scrambled down the mountain. There was a lake below, among the intense green of the foliage. Once again overriding Sam and Laura’s orders, they tumbled down towards it; some fell; some thought to sleep and reach their friends later. But sleep could not come, so free, and those rushed all the more to catch up.

Sam and Laura walked with Mai.

“You know, they’re going to die if they don’t learn to pay attention to us. When we tell them to do something its to keep them alive.”

“They’ve been taking orders for years,” said Mai. “It’s going to take a while for them to figure which are good orders and which aren’t.”

“It is always better, when in doubt, to assume that an order is not to be followed,” muttered Laura.

“If you have a sword to back it up,” said Mai. “These people haven’t. Our culture says that weapons are for royalty. That’s probably why we have royalty, and you don’t. Now, they’re going the other way—to chaos. Freedom without training?”

“Well, perhaps you should get weapons—and training,” said Sam. “There’s a new group Stateside whose goal is firearms training. Look them up if we get back.”

When we get back,” said Mai. “We’ve made it through caves and mountains. We can’t fail now!”

“If there’s one thing we’ve found,” said Laura, “it is that the end of the trail always holds its own dangers.”

The water was freezing. The first to reach it were already done with it by the time the stragglers approached. (Sam, Laura, and Mai were still far behind.) They left their dirty slave clothes piled about and danced in paradise.As the water steamed off of them in the morning sunshine, they discovered the fruits of the area. Some were wise enough to choose only fruit of a kind that animals had already observably eaten. (Others, at the mention of animals, glanced nervously around.)

The fruit of the trees was rich and sweet. The flavor exploded into their gullets as the juice rolled down their faces. There were red bulbous balls with black seeds, bitter red berries with an enervating tang, sweet yellow fruit in rubbery skins, and they ate them all. When their mouths were too full of sugary sweetness, they washed it down with icy mountain water.

One of the group, at the edge of the merriment, pointed out an odd shadow in the trees to her companion.

The companion blinked at it. The shadow was all wrong.

The shadow moved. It growled. It turned its head towards them.

A huge, black, cat-like creature glared at them with yellow eyes. It hissed and they froze. It hissed again and they ran and it leaped into the air.

There was a loud crack as of thunder, and the creature fell in a twitching heap atop its target, the young companion of the woman who had first seen it. He fainted; but while scratched he was essentially unhurt from the attack: the great black cat was dead.

Sam stepped into the clear with her Marlin and a command: “skin that thing and dress it for food.”

“Nice shootin’, Tex,” said Mai, coming into the open with Laura.

“That could’ve gone either way,” muttered Sam. “If you could please ask them not to run off like that I wouldn’t need to make such dramatic shots.”

Cold water woke the victim.

“They’re learning,” said Mai.

Very quickly everyone fell asleep. Sam and Laura began to build a fire, but it was already so warm they put it off. They awoke when it turned cold, and the sun was about to set. Everyone else was snoring and sneezing fitfully. They finished their fire, brewed hot tea, and looked into the sky. A few of the ex-slaves awoke; most slept away. It had been a long time.

The night was cold, and the stars brighter than they remembered they could be. While Sam and Laura hadn’t seen starlight for days, some of the others hadn’t seen starlight for weeks—or years.

Just before the sun set, two stars shone in the sky; one high, one low, across from a quarter moon.

“Jupiter,” said Laura, wistfully, pointing to the high star. “The largest planet. And that’s Venus over there, by the horizon. The brightest light in the heavens except the moon. Some call it the sister to the Earth.”

Slowly other lights winked into existence.

“That’s Sirius,” she said, before the sun had completely died away. “It really is a star. Stars are as big as the sun, you know. We have no idea how far away they are.”

“Perhaps we’ll find out,” said Sam.

“I don’t know the most of these,” Laura continued, as the sun’s last light slippedaway and more stars popped into the sky. “We’re near South America if we aren’t in it. Look! There’s Saturn! So many planets from this lonely mountain.”

“That’s the one with the rings, isn’t it?” asked Sam.

“Yes it is,” she replied.

“We need to visit them,” she continued, after a long pause.

“We’ll need supplies,” said Sam. “That isn’t like popping over to France. How much food will we need to get to Saturn? How much water in the emptiness we saw up there?”

“We’ll start with the near ones. Venus is nearby us now.”

Sam looked at her quizzically. Laura laughed.

“Relatively speaking,” she said.

“The first thing we need to do is figure out where we are, and then I need to contact John,” said Laura after another long while passed. “Pierre would know exactly where we are,” she continued.

“Sure, he’d look at his compass, look up into the sky, and announce in all seriousness that we’re in downtain Paris and that tree you’re leaning against is Eiffel’s Tower.”

Sam squinted at the tree.

“What?” asked Laura.

“Stay still.”

Sam pulled out her revolver and shot above Laura’s head. A dead snake fell into her lap.

“Don’t know if its poisonous, but it’ll go good with the jaguar tomorrow.”

Laura put her hand to her forehead.

“Okaaaayyyy… we need to figure out where we are so we can go home before you kill me.”

“You need to start working on that instant map spell again,” said Sam, smirking.

“Yeah, yeah. It should be possible.”

Some of the others woke up momentarily from the gunshot, then went back to sleep. Mai awoke and came over to the twins.

“So what comes next, honorable rescuers?”

“We’re ready to call in the cavalry,” said Sam. “But we have to figure out where we are so we can tell them where to land.”

“I don’t see any road signs out here.”

“No,” said Sam. “But we think we’re somewhere in Mexicha or the mid-Americas. That means either going east, to the gulf, or west to the ocean.”

“East means going back over that mountain.”

“Right. So we’re going west.”

“How much further do you think these people can go?”

“I don’t know. You tell me? But not yet: tomorrow we celebrate coming back into the open. We roast the jaguar and eat fruit salads and swim.”


“That big black cat we killed.”

“Captain Smith?”

“Sam, please. We’ve been through too much for Captain.”

“Thank you. Thank you for getting us out of there. No matter where we are, it is better than where we were.”

Mai kissed Sam on the forehead. Sam blushed bright red.

“I think I was more comfortable when you were sarcastic,” she said. “We’ll do our best to get everyone safely… wherever home is.”

They sat and watched the fire and talked about America, China, Miami, mothers, and travel. Sometime after midnight the waning moon sank below the trees, and they decided to return to sleep until morning. Sam and Laura missed the appearance of Mars and Mercury, the last “stars” to disappear before the sun, but Mai slept fitfully and watched with approval as the sun overcame them and the two tiny lights disappeared into the day.

  1. Chapter 12: The Sleeping City
  2. Men Not Afraid
  3. Chapter 14: Mexicha Madness