|The Golden Ghost Lion
Once upon a time, there was a girl with no name. It was not that she had forgotten her name. She had not misplaced it or lost it. Nobody had stolen or swiped or borrowed her name. She simply had no name. And when they took the roll call in school, each day, she would raise her hand when there was silence........
Now we wonít start at the beginning, because that would make it seem like it all made sense, and very little ordinary sense, the girl found, could be made of things. So weíll start in the middle, for that is where she always found herself- in the middle of the most wonderful adventures.
The-girl-with-no-name was in the second inner chamber of the Sibedian cavern. She had been there many other times and the walls had always been decorated with the most wonderful drawings, but this time the walls were spinning around her very quickly. There was a small burbling noise and the walls began to move away from her, leaving her in an immense grassy plain. The walls became part of the horizon. The ceiling pulled upwards and become something very much like a sky. So although she couldn't tell whether she was inside or outside, she did hear the roar of a lion and she did hear someone singing. Whether they were all inside or outside didnít matter now. What did seem to matter was that there was a lion nearby and that there was someone singing and that she had no idea of what this was all about, where she was, or who was telling the story and that she had nothing to rely on but her own quick wit and natural abilities.
She listened more closely. She realized that there was a boy who was singing the song. The boy saw her and waved and then she waved back, and then they introduced themselves. His name was Stanley. Her name, of course, was the-girl-with-no-name. Stanley and the-girl-with-no-name talked for some time. And she was so happy with this new friendship that she forgot all about the terrible lion she had just heard. They talked of their homes, and their families and their friends and adventures, of their hopes for the future and of their memories of the past, and then, as she and Stanley found themselves running out of things to say, she realized that there was still a lion somewhere nearby and that she was still anxious about it.
"Stanley, have you ever seen or heard a lion anywhere near here? I thought I heard something."
"Oh, yes, of course! you did,Ē he said. ďAnd that's a special lion. It cannot be harmed or injured because it is the Golden Ghost Lion. And the Golden Ghost Lion only appears in certain places at special times. Most people have never seen the Golden Ghost Lion and most people will never see the Golden Ghost Lion. So they canít tell you a thing about it. But there are a few people who do manage to lay their eyes upon the beast but they are so changed by the experience that they can never ever even talk about the Golden Ghost Lion either!Ē
"Do you mean that even the people who've seen the Golden Ghost Lion don't like to talk about it?Ē she said.
"That's right," said Stanley. "It is such an extraordinay experience that people prefer not to talk about it. And so neither the people who have seen the Golden Ghost Lion, nor the people who have never seen the Golden Ghost Lion, are able to talk about it. Nobody talks about the Golden Ghost Lion, nobody thinks about the Golden Ghost Lion, nobody remembers the Golden Ghost Lion, and nobody dreams about the Golden Ghost Lion even if they have sat down and had dinner with it.Ē
ďBut I notice that you have been speaking about the Golden Ghost Llion. If youíve seen it, as you say, how are you able to talk about it, then?"
"Well," said Stanley "not only have I seen the Golden Ghost Lion, and not only have I sung about him, but I have had the great fortune of riding upon his very back."
"You've ridden on the Golden Ghost Lion?Ē she asked excitedly.
"Yes. And it took me on an adventure I could never even begin to describe- why I donít even have words for the things he showed me. I can only tell you that he letís me talk about it and I am forever grateful."
"Well," said the-girl-with-no-name, "I've had some experience in the virtual world. Did the Golden Ghost Lion take you to the virtual world?"
"I really don't know what the virtual world is," said Stanley. "Perhaps the lion does, perhaps he doesnít. The only way you'll find out is to get a ride on the Golden Ghost Lion, and if you enter your virtual world you'll know that he is one of the creatures that can get there. But it is quite possible," said the young boy, "that the Golden Ghost Lion goes to another dimension altogether, neither in the Real world nor in the Virtual world nor in the Dream world, but somewhere far beyond those three."
"Well, where do we find the Golden Ghost Lion? I hear its roar, but exactly how do we go about finding it?"
"Oh you don't find the lion," said the boy, "it finds you. And if you're lucky it finds you in the daytime, for nothing is worse than waking up and feeling its hot, sickly breath on your brow."
The-girl-with-no-name was not anxious to meet this creature in the dark, nor was she anxious to meet it in the daylight, nor was she in fact anxious to meet it at all, but she figured she'd be a sport about it and very quickly started speaking as if it was the most natural thing in the world for her to go out and seek the acquaintance of the Golden Ghost Lion.
Her strategy was clever. ďWe shall just wait here," she said, "until the Golden Ghost Lion approaches and then I shall have a little chat with it."
"Yes indeed," said Stanley. "You'll have a chat all right. That lion is one of the most talkative creatures I've ever met. Iíve never understood a word that the lion has said, but I know that he speaks because there are many words and phrases and sounds that seem to tumble forth from his giant lips, and I would be interested if you could perhaps translate what the lion says, if in fact you can speak lionish."
"Well," said the-girl-with-no-name, "I studied with Zubinel Genubie the Shimba for a while, and I was able to master many animal languages, and I'm sure lion is no more difficult than, say, alligator, wombat, tiger or raccoon. In fact, the most difficult languages to speak," she said, "are the insect languages. These appear to be very simple on the surface, but they are filled with sounds, and sentences, and punctuation marks that Iíve never ever learned and I canít even understand my own thinking when Iím speaking them. But Iím sure that the lion, being a mammal, a fellow mammal such as myself, will speak a language with which I have much greater familiarity." And so the-girl-with-no-name and Stanley continued talking into that late twilight, and began to think of what they would do when the Golden Ghost Lion appeared. And it became clear that their stories would not continue until they had met the beast.
Stanley told the-girl-with-no-name that meeting the lion had been one of the most marvelous experiences of his life. ďYou can ride the lion for as long as you can manage to stay on,Ē he said, ďbut the Golden Ghost Lion runs very fast, and if you don't hold on tight, you can fall right off. You have to hold onto his mane. If you hold on to enough of the lion's hair it doesnít hurt him at all and you get a good grip,Ē he said, ďbut you also have to put your legs around the lion and to hold on that way too.Ē Stanley was very good at this.
The-girl-with-no-name and Stanley sat and waited. And Stanley told her stories of the things the Golden Ghost Lion had done, of the strange events which were associated with the beast: the flickering flames on the tops of mountains, the sudden evaporation of familiar streams, the musical wind that sometimes blew after the colored ice balls fell. Whenever anything strange happened in that part of the world, people would always talk about the Golden Ghost Lion. If, for example, on some summer day it rained frogs and cats, people would say, ďOh, it's the Golden Ghost Lion taking his nap." Or if there was a loud explosion of bells in the middle of the night people would say, "Oh, it must be the Golden Ghost Lion. Heís remembering something" Or if there were millions of butterflies making big letters in the sky under the midnight moon, they would say, "Oh the Golden Ghost Lion's up to his tricks again- heís probably dreaming."
The-girl-with-no-name wanted very much to meet the him. She hoped that she might be able to have a conversation since, of course, she spoke the animal languages. But as she and Stanley sat in the midst of the veldt, waiting, the-girl-with-no-name had the strange feeling that this Golden Ghost Lion was going to be a lot more difficult to deal with than any of the other animals she had ever encountered.
Pigeons, alligators, hummingbirds, otters. Most of the other animals were quite friendly. All you had to do was to say hello and chat a bit, exchange pleasantries, the names of neighbors, the last classes you had been in, hobbies, vacations and favorite foods, and soon the animal was on your side, if not even a best friend. But the Golden Ghost Lion was going to be different. First of all the Golden Ghost Lion did not talk very easily. It was said, in fact, that sometimes several years went by between each of his words. It could take forever to have a conversation with the Golden Ghost Lion, and the-girl-with-no-name was not at all sure that she could be that patient.
Soon they heard heavy footsteps approaching through a forest. Then they heard a panting noise, and a flurry of paws, and a deep purr, the sound of something heavy striking the dirt and then there it was before them- the largest, most radiant lion the-girl-with-no-name had ever seen. It was not simply that the lion was a brilliant yellow, not simply that each hair had a little mirror on it that reflected the sun in the most dazzling and ingenious manner, not simply that it looked as if the lion were glowing with its own internal light, and it was not simply that the lion's roar was more magnificent and chilling than any that she had ever heard before. It was also that in the lion's eyes she saw a reflection of the light given off by shooting stars. She looked into the lionís eyes and she felt herself growing sleepy. The-girl-with-no-name looked into the eyes of the Golden Ghost Lion and she felt very soft, and very very very safe.
The girl-with-no-name was starting to fall asleep.
But as she started to doze, the-girl-with-no-name remembered how she had learned to sit in front of the Levinia tree. Each of the leaves of the Levinia tree has a pair of lips and they speak the most wonderful, comforting thoughts. Sometimes many leaves will speak together, and it is like chorus of whispering grass. Other times they each speak in their own mesmerizing cadence, and it is like the babble of brooks, the warbling of thrush, the sigh of the wind. The Levinia tree was usually used to put agitated children to sleep, and the girl-with-no-name had often passed into the Invisible world when she was unable to resist its charms. But many years of practice, discipline, and concentration had provided her with the stamina to stay awake while listening to the Levinia leaves. Nobody else had ever been able to do this. And so she now roused herself and looked right back at the lion without blinking.
As she looked, the lion was startled to find himself thinking. He not had had to do this in a long while.
"Hmm, this is the first child I've met who does not give in to my powerful gaze." So the lion looked at her even more intently, still believing that it was only a matter of time before she fell asleep. But stare as hard as he might, the lion could not put the-girl-with-no-name to sleep.
"You wonít fool me," she said to the lion in his own language. "I have learned to sit under the Levinia tree while the lipped leaves seek my slumber. You, sir, will have no more luck than they."
"The Levinia tree?Ē the lion asked. ďHave you sat under of the Levinia tree?"
"Do you know the Levinia tree?" said the-girl-with-no-name, with a sudden eager excitement. "Iíve had the greatest time sitting with the Leviniaís. I love sitting there!! And itís great for snacks, too"
"Yes, of course, but the Levinia tree is in the virtual world," said the lion.
"Why yes it is," said the-girl-with-no-name, now that you mention it."
"So youíve been to the virtual world?" said the lion. "Iíve never actually met any Real people who have been there. Animals often go there in their sleep- you can watch them while theyíre dreaming and see them running there- but most of the people I've met have never been able even to imagine the Virtual world. How did you get there?"
"Well," said the-girl-with-no-name, "I guess I've had many adventures and Iíve learned many things. The Levinia tree was only just the start. Iíve sung with canaries in the Yanomamo jungle; Iíve gone backwards and forwards in time, Iíve seen the dinosaurs; Iíve learned to read the stories told by the stars; I have seen the obsidian towers and the wall of birds, Iíve met the Mansaquango sisters and I have sung songs with a band of invisible musicians. The Virtual world was really just a short trip for me!!!"
"Well," said the lion, "this is most intriguing. Iíve never met anyone quite like you." And with that he did something that he had never done before. All of the others who had ridden the Golden Ghost Lion had managed to do so by cunning, stealth, craft and guile. Some of them had climbed trees and dropped onto the lion's back as he passed below. Others buried themselves in piles of leaves, and sprang up when the lion came scampering by, leaping onto his back and riding for many miles before finally falling off. But this was the first time the lion had actually invited someone to take a ride.
The-girl-with-no-name promised to tell The Golden Ghost Lion of some of her adventures by way of exchange.
As Stanley watched, the-girl-with-no-name climbed onto the lion's back and gently held his mane and the two of them set off across the gamboling veldt.
The lion talked for a long time, as he had not done for many years, and the-girl-with-no-name listened patiently to all he had to say. The lion was filled with advice. "Never sleep in the mornings when greeblings crackle," said the lion. "Turn your ladders wentworth and the crops grow gladly. Make your thumb your augure, for when it's lavish time the thistles whistle. It's crackers to slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide." And so on and so forth.
The-girl-with-no-name listened carefully. If truth be told she did not understand very many of the words that the lion spoke. And his phrases seemed rather perplexing. What sense could she make of his advice to 'Tarry not beyond a bludgeon waddle" or to "Crick the harnswatt softly?"' These were not very helpful to the-girl-with-no-name, unaccustomed as she was to leonage.
They passed their time in pleasant talk and after many hours they came to a great chasm. Vast waterfalls cascaded down the opposing face; flocks of exhausted birds spiralled upwards from the dizzying depths. The lion scratched his nose, he sneezed, and then he took a gigantic leap and before she knew it the-girl-with-no-name and the Golden Ghost Lion had vaulted into the virtual world. And we will find oiut what happened in the next installment of