The Adventures of Tracy and James! Chapter 2: Beneath The Dirt

Zach Lewis

“Don’t make this complicated,” Tracy says. “We’re on another planet whose atmosphere is breathable and contains no known predators. It’s all in the manual, also in the glove box, but just look.” Tracy opens the car door. Electric guitar music can be heard off in the distance. The red clay desert stays silent.  

“Is that Santana?” James asks.  

“Yes, yes it is.”  

“Feels like a dimensional thing. I brought the steel wool, tubes and other materials  

necessary to test the level of oxygen in the atmosphere,” James says. “We’re stuck here forever,  

aren’t we?”  

“Think of it like a vacation that’s possibly permanent, but you can nerd out all you want,  

and I won’t judge you too much. Oh cool, a dirt creature is walking toward us. Be nice,” Tracy says. James steps on the cute and seemingly defenseless creature, vaguely reminiscent of a gecko. “James!” 

“What! What did I do?” he asks, twirling around and stamping his foot repeatedly on the spot where the creature was singing a cute tune that to the ears of the adventurers sounded like beep beep beep and so on. 

“You’re crushing the poor thing, stop it!” Tracy pushes James over and he falls onto a soft patch of orange rocks. “There, there, that mean ol’ man won’t hurt you anymore,” she glares at James as she pets the creature on its head and says, “I will call you ZoopZoop.” The gecko creature beeps and changes its skin to a vibrant green color. “Why were you harming ZoopZoop?” Tracy asks James. 

“I didn’t know ZoopZoop was a thing. You said dirt creature so I’m expecting some large, I don’t know, like sci-fi monster,” James says and walks over to ZoopZoop. “I’m sorry ZoopZoop—” ZoopZoop beeps happily, according to James, as he goes to pet the gecko-esque creature. Tracy blocks this action. 

“You don’t hurt ZoopZoop,” Tracy says. 

“I won’t,” James says as he pets ZoopZoop. “But what do we do now?” he asks. 

“Well, did you happen to see the readout on the dashboard before we landed on this planet?” 

“Yes, I was fully cognizant of what was going on and was picking up the smallest details on our intergalactic travel,” James says. 

“Sarcasm isn’t attractive, James,” Tracy says as she holds a Riccola that ZoopZoop is licking. “First, you would know that we are about one parsec away from Earth, which is?” she asks James. His face is silent. “Which is 3.3 light years away. How fast is the speed of light James?” 

“The speed of light is, um, it’s 3×10^5 kilometers per, what is that?” James asks, pointing toward a large ball of fire in the sky. 

“That’s a star, buddy.” 

“No, that!” A black and green spider was lounging on Tracy’s shoulder. 

“That’s a spider,” Tracy says and ZoopZoop’s red tongue lassos the arachnid into its mouth. “You’re pretty jumpy right now, how about we—” the two (now three) heroes fall through a sinkhole that opens directly underneath them.  

“I think I found the source of the spiders,” James says. “Are you two okay?”  

Beep,” ZoopZoop replies. 

“Beep,” Tracy says. They all stand up and notice they are in a much different terrain than a moment before. The desert is replaced with a medieval-esque cave structure. Tracy, James and ZoopZoop are in the middle of a cobblestone path that is lit by a series of torches and lined with countless books. 

 “Who lit all of these torches?” James asks. 

“There’s a green minotaur named Humphrey that roams around down here, I believe,” Tracy says. 

“And he lights these torches?” 

“Yes.” Tracy leads James down a path of the labyrinth they were currently traveling.  

“His name’s Humphrey?” James asks. “How do you know all of this? Have you been here before?” He glances down at the cover of the book on the top of the stack that was in his hands: “The Dhammapada of Electricity.” “More importantly, What’s ‘The Dhammapada of Electricity’?” 

“It’s about how every molecule in your body follows a certain path and that the buildup of stress, anger or basically any thought apart from a specific oneness with the universe blocks energy in your body and causes illness. A healthy body creates a healthy mind and vice versa. There’s lots of stuff like that in that stack. Good, we’re here.” Tracy knocks three times onto a slim steel door.  

The door creaks open.  

 “This is amazing,” James says. Countless bookshelves lined the walls as the tops vanished toward an unseen ceiling. The room seemed to figure-eight itself outward for eternity. The symbol for infinity was replicated in the architecture. A myriad of oriental rugs collaged on the floor of each circular area. Lamps are peppered in periodically that gave the space a glow, like the aurora around the moon before it snowed. Wooden ladders are spaced along the shelves between the lamps. Suede and leather chairs and couches wait patiently for inhabitants. 

 “I’m confused,” James says. 

 “Beep beep,” ZoopZoop says. 

“I’ll explain more as we go along but right now I want you to help me find 10 specific books,” Tracy says. “But first,” she clears her throat, “I need to show you the desk and introduce you to Ozburtle The Wizard. Don’t be scared, he loves new people.” Ozburtle The Wizard hated new people. A loud crash booms deep inside the library. 

To be continued…