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Further Adventures of The Borderland Biker - Chapter 8

We Come Up With A Plan

by Derrel Whitemyer

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Editor's note: The following story is from the book, "The Further Adventures of The Borderland Biker, In Memory of Indian Larry and Doo Wop Music," by Derrel Whitemyer.
“I get some ideas of kind of what I want to do then whatever it takes to see it through; that’s the way I do it. I treat it like sculpture; I like to see the frame up there and then let it flow, let it happen, whatever comes natural…When you hear the bike breathe its first breath that’s probably the biggest reward…Every bike is like a child or work of art, like a creation that goes from dream to reality.” -Kendall Johnson of KENDALL JOHNSON CUSTOMS
“I get some ideas of kind of what I want to do then whatever it takes to see it through; that’s the way I do it. I treat it like sculpture; I like to see the frame up there and then let it flow, let it happen, whatever comes natural…When you hear the bike breathe its first breath that’s probably the biggest reward…Every bike is like a child or work of art, like a creation that goes from dream to reality.” -Kendall Johnson of KENDALL JOHNSON CUSTOMS

Two seconds later and from what seemed like far underground I could hear Charon’s voice, “It’s not what I thought; I can’t get back out!”
“Empty all the water in your boots; don’t leave a drop,” shouted Hilts as he and Larry began pouring water from their own boots down the hole.
“Charon’s too?” I asked as I lifted one of them up to pour. “Won’t he need this water to get back to the Styx?”
The water from Hilts’ and Larry’s boots had slowed the closing of the portal. Charon’s voice sounded much closer. Behind us the town had suddenly changed into a cardboard cutout of a town. Every feature had been replicated in exact scale but in cardboard.
“Pour all the water down the hole or he won’t make it to the surface,” said Hilts as I emptied the water from Charon’s other boot into the opening in the ground. 
Steaming like something squeezed from the backend of a horse on a cold day, Charon shot out of the quickly closing hole; when he was still three feet in the air the hole slammed shut.
Whatever strength he’d used to make it to the surface was nearly gone. Charon staggered forward a few feet then stumbled; he was barely able to stand. Larry ran to his side to keep him from falling.
“Who’d you find down there?”
“Not an old man or woman, there was no dreamer…I’ll tell you later,” gasped Charon, now completely enveloped in a cloud of steam.
A hundred yards of street lined with cardboard buildings, moments before wooden buildings, lay ahead of us. Once we were past them we’d be able to see the river Styx; but Charon wouldn’t make it, he was already beginning to fade. Maybe if we could find a shortcut, a door a window, but all doors and windows were now simply drawings of doors and windows on cardboard. Speaking of shortcuts, maybe we could cut our way through, maybe if we tore open one of the…and then Larry and Hilts thought of doing the same thing at the same time.
“We’ll burn ourselves a door. We don’t have the time or tools to cut ourselves a doorway to the other side nor do we have the strength to tear one,” yelled Hilts at the same time he and Larry lit both sides of a doorway that had been drawn on the cardboard. 
But as if it had been soaked in gasoline the whole building, not just the doorway, burst into a wall of fire; we’d be cremated if we attempted to run through now.
Charon stumbled towards the fire which was spreading to other buildings, “Stay as close to me as possible.”
Instead of just surrounding everyone in a cloud of steam, Charon became a protective shower. Heat so intense I would’ve turned back had Hilts not grabbed my arm washed over us and then as quickly as it came it was gone; we’d passed through the flames.
Once on the other side, Charon, now practically transparent and as light as a feather, was lifted by Larry to his shoulders like you’d lift a small child so they could see a parade. 
“Look,” yelled Larry, holding Charon over his head, “you can see it; you can see the river Styx from here!”
“Can’t see,” Charon said, struggling to look where Larry was pointing, and then he saw the river and suddenly grew so heavy Larry had to set him down.
“We came close,” said Hilts, as he rubbed his blisters, “to becoming toast; let’s get back to the river. Charon can regain his strength, I could use its healing powers on my hands, and you,” looking at me, “can get your eyebrows back.”
As Achilles was held by his heel when his mother bathed him in the river Styx, Larry and I bathed in the river Styx tied to a rope held by Charon standing on the bank. We healed fast and yet it seemed to take forever for one of us to get up the nerve to ask Charon what had happened when he dove down the hole underneath the rollercoaster.
Larry became the brave one, “I’m just glad you made it out of the hole, but tell us what happened; it didn’t seem you were down there long enough to stop anyone from dreaming.”
“Time’s a relative thing. I’ll explain someday how I was there long enough to not only see what was creating those dreams but to find out where they were coming from. It’s, in fact, the city with the airfield where Hilts is working.”
“The same city,” interjected Larry, where Hilts is working on the F-105?”
“Yes. And I found,” continued Charon, “a computer, not a person; it was in some type of sleep mode. I awakened it, but must’ve shorted it out before its systems could power up. It’ll take time for it to reset and become active again but it’ll eventually reboot. Ideally someone should go back and reprogram it not to enter the dreams of other people. Realistically you should destroy it and if possible from here.
“The terminal’s just a small laptop on a table in an empty alcove but the processor in the next room is big enough to fill the floor of a building. It’s in the city you and Hilts described. The city’s tiered with elevated highways and in sight of the airfield. The mystery, and I’ve visited every Borderland, is that the Styx joins them all together; some with tributaries much smaller than the stream I rescued you from near the village of Tres Pinos. The mystery, if in fact it really is a Borderland, is the river Styx doesn’t flow into it."
“If the river Styx cannot flow to a Borderland then it has either been abandoned or it’s not really a Borderland. In either case entries into it will be hard to find. Your futuristic city, until I literally dropped in on it from the hole at the carnival, is one I’ve never heard of. More importantly, now that I have awakened it you’ll find it prepared to defend itself if you return.”  
“How,” I asked, it’s just a computer?”
“It’ll most likely be back online by then and it’ll want to protect itself. My guess is it’ll treat you as if you’re a threat…which you are of course. Based upon the fact it was sending nightmares into Marnie’s Borderland we can assume the worst. It’s either malevolent or has been altered to do evil things. Whether by accident or design it’s dangerous.”
“Threat or not, I’ve no choice but to go back,” interjected Hilts. “The work on the F-105 is complete. I just need some extra time to assemble everything and I think I know of a way of getting that extra time. When Andy returns I’ll fly us to a small airport north of Gilroy; from there Andy can return home. As long as it’s nighttime Larry and I will be ok. After I’ve dropped all of you off I’ll fly back and finish my work." 
“My way for getting us that extra time is for you and Larry,” continued Hilts pointing at me, “to enter the city through a motorcycle shop in Gilroy and stop the computer from sending nightmares. Like I said, I’ve no choice; the window period for helping Ma n’ Pa is closing.”
“Why not just fly all of us on to the city;” I asked, “wouldn’t it be easier if we stuck together? And how do we even know this Gilroy motorcycle shop has an entrance that’ll get us into the city?”
Flames from town, once towering as high as the rollercoaster, had burned the cardboard structures to the ground; the few embers that remained were already being blown away by the wind. Behind the town was the carnival, still there and ready to invite children of all ages to come and have fun. It wouldn’t be long before Marnie dreamed of it again and returned with her friends. It had to be made safe. 
When Hilts turned to answer the carnival’s neon lights reflected off his face, “I know it’s an entrance because a friend I trust used it to visit the city a number of times. His name’s Clark; he’s the head mechanic at Gilroy Motorcycle Center. He said you could ride there, but to accelerate and decelerate slowly; he said if you didn’t the Wheelers would stop you." 
“Clark said it was by accident he discovered written instructions on how to get to the city and how to behave once you were there. The instructions had been left on some bikes that’d been brought in for service. Clark wanted to sell them to pay for the unpaid bill but the shop’s owner picked up the tab and locked them in a backroom. The owner took the key to the room but not before Clark had made a duplicate." 
“It was when Clark was looking for the registrations that he found the instructions as well as directions on how to get to the city under each bike’s seat. When he showed them to Gilroy Motorcycle Center’s owner the owner just laughed, tore them up, and said to forget about it. Luckily Clark had, as with the key, made copies.”
Charon, now fully recovered, had finished coiling about a hundred feet of rope he’d pulled from the river Styx. He held the coil in one arm as effortlessly as if it had been loops of yarn, “I’ve got some loose ends,” laughed Charon, looking at the rope and at the same time transferring it to his shoulder, “no pun intended, I’ve got to tie up. For the computer to have dreams means Morpheus may have visited its programmer. If that’s true I’ve got to find Morpheus and learn how he got into the city. If I can I’ll retrace his route, find you, and help you in any way I can, but don’t count on it." 
“I’m normally not in favor of violent solutions and will pursue peaceful alternatives; but if you didn’t have to go back in and fly the F-105 out of there to save Ma n’ Pa I’d say the three of you focus on destroying the computer to protect the dreams of children then get out,” continued Charon staring directly at Hilts. “I just wish there were a way to do it from here. That place gives me the creeps. And to make matters worse something else was awakened. I felt its presence after I shorted out the computer. Whatever it is, it sensed I was there and came close to finding me before I fled like Alice but back up the rabbit hole.” 
From far away the deep twin engine drone of an approaching B-25 interrupted our conversation. Growing louder, the big radials could be heard throttling back as Andy lined up for his landing. Gear down, he painted the plane’s wheels across the road leading from town then taxied to within fifty feet of the bridge. Almost stopped, Andy locked the port brake, cut the port engine and spun, as he’d once done outside Hollister with his Corsair, the B-25 around to where it was facing the direction it had come.
“The children are home and safe,” yelled Andy from the cockpit window over an idling starboard engine. 
Charon was already wading into the Styx. I would’ve sworn there was no sign his legs went below the surface; it was as if his body ended where the water began. 
“I need to find Morpheus,” Charon shouted back at Andy. “However, these brave lads will fly with you to an airport north of Gilroy. Hilts will fill you in on the details.”
Seconds later Charon submerged completely.
“It’s really not that complicated,” Hilts said, at the same time motioning for all of us to get aboard the plane. “I’ll fly to an airport outside Gilroy, drop you three off and then fly the plane on to where I’m working on the F-105.”
While Hilts was climbing into the cockpit and Larry and I were strapping ourselves into cargo chairs, Andy asked the obvious, “Why not the three of you just fly on to the city?”
Hilts had taken the pilot’s seat and was already restarting the port engine when he answered, “Two different entries will provide two distractions, each one for the other. I’ll be entering the city from the airfield; they’ll be entering from a motorcycle shop in Gilroy. A mechanic by the name of Clark told me of a way to enter the city from a backroom at the shop. He said there were instructions on how to do it left with some special bikes that’d been dropped off for service. Clark said that to pass through the portal you could only use these bikes.”
Jimmy Doolittle was the first man to fly a B-25 off an aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Hornet. By locking his brakes and revving his engines to maximum power Hilts used the same technique to take off and had us airborne halfway to the carnival. Trimmed, with flaps and wheels retracted, Hilts circled the wooden rollercoaster by banking, standing the plane on one wing. By the time we’d straightened out and were heading for the huge cloud on the horizon that was really Ma n’ Pa we were at cruising speed. Never more than 500 feet above the ground we skimmed across the land. Cornfields interrupted with grassland made a checkerboard below. 
Maybe Borderlands were painted across some giant would’ve, should’ve and could’ve canvas with only the dreamers and the dreams they dream providing the contrasting colors and shades? Or maybe there was only one dreamer and we were all just facets, like in a hologram, of that dreamer acting as a supporting character for all the other supporting characters; and our role was to discover, hopefully not before the dream ended, there really were no other actors? 
Charon had said the Borderlands of children were made of innocent things and the fact that someone or something could force their way into a child’s dream underlined the vulnerability of children. 
Our mission into the city would be twofold. First, we’d be giving Hilts more time to complete the work on the F-105 he’d need to fly to the top of the huge thunderhead to reboot Ma n’ Pa. Secondly, we’d be making sure the computer couldn’t send anymore nightmares into the Borderlands of Marnie or any other dreaming children.
Speaking of Ma n’ Pa, rising ahead and blocking most everything in front of us was the thunderhead. Contrary to being afraid I felt safe flying underneath; it was as if we were being protected rather than menaced by its power. Bright bolts of lightning outlined its base just a thousand feet above us. I could feel Ma n’ Pa’s presence; they were, in fact, the cloud. How long they could remain in that shape, estranged from their true forms was anyone’s guess; I knew it couldn’t be forever.
“We’re lining up to land; we’ve maybe two hours to sunrise,” Hilts shouted, awakening me. “That’s enough time to drop you guys off and then fly back to the airfield near the city.”
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