Part 10 of the diary of famed explorer F.H. Longwell.
Longwell and his trusty man servant Tipton recover from the giant spider attack and continue on their quest for the Golden Pants!
F.H. Longwell III was a gentleman explorer, a renowned naturalist and a scholar who traveled with his manservant Tipton on behalf of The World’s Most Curious Curiosities Museum in the early hours of the 19th century.
The Caves of Queasiness
There’s only one way to explain a trip over a waterfalls. Fast. Perhaps two words. Fast and wet. I climbed atop the pack as it bobbed in the foaming turbulence and grabbed hold of Tipton’s leg and paddled us to shore.
He scrambled out quickly to avoid any more contact with the toothy fish. Once we were both ashore we shared a good laugh. At least I thought we were laughing. It took a moment for me to realize that Tipton was just coughing and sputtering maybe even crying. A bit. I really need to teach him to swim.
I reminded him that the road to treasure is always fraught with dangers. He explained that he had spent many minutes yelling at me and trying to turn the raft around and that I didn’t listen to him. I’m not so sure about that, I said. I wasn’t listening.
July 14, 1830
We dried our goods under the unrelenting sun and I examined the map. Tipton was correct when he jeeringly said that the map was nearly impossible to read. ‘Nearly’ was the key word and it didn’t take me long to gather my bearings. Looking downstream I could see the dark cavern the map indicated.
How’s that old man! I said. Cave on the map, cave on the shore. It’s not a cave on the map it’s a bit of debris he said. He wiped it off. Still, there was a dark spot. Sort of. Prepare for some spelunking Tipton, get the helmets out!
The cave was tucked under fallen tree limbs and forest vines big around as Tipton’s thigh. I secured the rope around my waist that lead to a harness that fit Tipton.
Tipton lead the way. The cave is dark, the cave is mysterious, the cave smells horrible. Like we had never experienced any of that before.
With the candles in our helmets lit, we ventured in. But even walking slowly was dangerous. Tipton kept hitting his head against the rock overhang. That must hurt. But most likely not as much as what those toothy fish did to him. Tipton is a mysterious being. At times he seems to feel no pain. But at other times his screams can wake the dead. (18)
The cave featured 3 corridors. I marked each one with white chalk on the wall as we ventured down. The first two ended as the roof of the cave met the floor. Dead ends. I saw a series of mysterious, large footprints in the cave. And not just Tiptons. I wondered what we would do if this cave lead not just to the secret valley of the ancient kings, but also into the den of some sort of lion-cougar-tusked-beast. I decided that as long as Tipton goes first, I shouldn’t worry.
The hours passed slowly in the gloom. The final corridor started to grow large. Our candles couldn’t brighten the space it was so large. The drips of water echoed. At one point the ceiling seemed alive so I held my candle aloft and saw it was literally crawling with bats. They appeared to be diphlla ecaudata. Vampire bats. However; none that I saw were wearing capes.
Tipton asked what I had seen. Nothing, I replied quickly. Of all the animals in the world he fears bats the most. A close second would be eothenomys custos, which I don’t understand at all. (19) Anyway, best I keep the blood sucking bats a secret. Suddenly two large eyes shine from the dark, reflecting the light from our candles. Something big is moving towards us. I run into Tipton knocking him over. His helmet clanks off loudly. His candlelight shines to the ceiling. Tipton’s screams send the bats rushing down. The wind from their flight extinguishes my candle.
My eyes adjust to the darkness slowly. I hear the lovely purr of Tipton’s breathing as I struggle to light my candle again. I’m starting to think that the purr I hear is not Tipton, because I’m pretty sure the muffled screams are his. I light the candle and am faced with the most amazing site. I don’t know what you would call the black beast. Something left over from pre-history perhaps? A cougar, a leopard, a lion, panther or a night tiger? But it’s large. Large enough to have quite a bit of Tipton stuffed in its mouth!
I was frozen in place with fear and curiosity. The curiosity dissolved quickly. But the fear stayed. I wasn’t sure I could go on. I was pretty sure Tipton couldn’t go on as most of his head was in the mouth of the cougar-lion-tiger-beast!
18- No matter Longwell’s insistence there has never been any proof that Tipton didn’t feel pain. Tipton’s super-human abilities are cause of much debate but seem mostly due to dire circumstances or the ingestion of sweets, rich sauces, fatty meats or some combination of these items.
19- Actually Tipton has a long list of animals that scared him including eothenomys custos, the Southwest China Vole. His list also included: kittens, kangaroos, werewolves and koala bears.