Tag Archives: travelogue

Like Rats in the Air Vents – Fantastic Travelogue #12

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They took Ain-Mai away and put Sing-ga and I in a room with a bunch of other men who all looked drugged. It looked a bit like a harem. They gave us something to drink, which made Sing-ga very sleepy but had the opposite effect on me. We got out and found Ain-Mai in a cage, hundreds of feet above the floor, in a room with thousands of cages. I rescued her, fighting off dragons as I did. We got away, but they tore my right foot up a bit.

Rats in Air Vent

I have never been on drugs, so I don’t know what it’s like to come down from a high, but after my experience in that cavernous, dragon-infested fortress, I think I have some idea.

Ain-Mai, Sing-ga and I were moving as fast as we could down the corridor we had come from, away from the room with the cages. I was in the lead and was at first thinking of going straight back to the round transporter room—just powering through everything and risking everything to get back right away. Then the pain started. This was troubling, since I hadn’t felt any pain since they had forced that potion down my throat, even when I was punching dragons in the face.

It started as a dull ache in my foot and hands and just kept growing. I looked back and realized I was leaving bloody footprints from my right foot where the dragon had ripped off my boot. After that, it only took a few minutes for the pain to grow to the point where I could barely walk. Sing-ga was still lethargic from the potion they had given him, and Ain-Mai was shaken up from being in the cage and being attacked by dragons, so none of us were in great shape.

The pain was starting to overwhelm my senses. I felt Ain-Mai take me by the arm and lead me to the side, into darkness. We were walking through a small, fetid passage, barely big enough to stand up in. The floor was rough and bolts of pain shot up through my injured foot with every step. After a while, we were in total darkness and felt our way forward with our hands outstretched. The air was moist and warm and smelled like mold.

I don’t how long we went like that, but it was probably about an hour. Before long, I was crawling on hands and knees. We passed shafts cut in the walls with water pouring down through them and even drank a little. The water was hot and tasted metallic, but it quenched our thirst. Ain-Mai was leading us now. I don’t know where she thought she was going, but we followed her instinctively, going further and further into the dark labyrinth.

We seemed to be in a system of air vents. They criss-crossed at intervals and strong, warm wind blew in from some. We heard snatches of sound from cross-tunnels: rumbles and roars as of huge machinery, and screams and yells of monstrous beasts, or something worse. The sounds rose and then faded and died away, like the turning of a radio dial.

At last, when I thought I could go no further, we saw light ahead: warm, tan daylight. It was coming from a cross-tunnel and a strong, dry wind blew out of it. We pushed against the wind until we came to the end of the tunnel and looked outside.

Rats in Air Vent

The opening was barred with a cross of metal, but we still could have squeezed outside if we had wanted to. We were very high up—at least 5000 feet, I would guess, and I looked out over a wide, desolate landscape. Far below were the remains of towns and cities, dry riverbeds still crossed by bridges, and roads bordering dead fields. Everything I saw was brown and withered.

As I watched, a dragon floated into view far beneath me. I craned my neck to see where it was going and saw that we were in some sort of monstrous tower, with walls that fell away almost straight down. The outside surface was covered with plates that stuck up, just like the cage room. Here I could see dragons hanging off them and I realized that was what they were for. The dragons used them to hang on and rest, like birds perching on a branch.

Sing-ga was already lying down on the passage floor. I mimed sleep to Ain-Mai and she nodded. She lay down in front of Sing-ga and motioned for me to lie down in front of her. I lay down on the hard floor and felt her warmth behind me. Just before I drifted off to sleep, I felt her hand on my shoulder. With that simple act of human contact, I realized how much I had missed it. Ain-Mai’s hand on my shoulder filled my mind with peace and helped to soothe some of the throbbing pain that wracked my body. Still, when I finally fell asleep, I dreamed of my wife standing far away, across an abyss that I could not hope to cross.

(to be continued…)

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Cage Jumping and Dragon Punching – Fantastic Travelogue #11

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They took Ain-Mai away and put Sing-ga and I in a room with a bunch of other men who all looked drugged. It looked a bit like a harem. They gave us something to drink, which made Sing-ga very sleepy but had the opposite effect on me. We got out and found Ain-Mai in a cage, hundreds of feet above the floor, in a room with thousands of cages.

Cage Jumping Dragon Punching

I leaped, straight out over two hundred feet of empty space and landed on the top of the nearest cage. It was a crazy thing to do, but luckily my confidence in that accelerated state was equally matched by my ability. The cage started to swing as it reached its apex, I leapt again, bounding from cage to cage, towards the cage where Ain-Mai was trapped.

As I was jumping from cage to cage, I began to notice details about the room and cages. The ones I had landed on were empty and the bottoms were open on all of them, as if the bottom had split into four parts and fallen open. There was a wide lever on top of the cage that I could see was connected to the cage floor. The floor of the room far below was stained and splashed with red and tiny white bones were scattered wantonly around. It didn’t take long to put all these implications together.

This was the dragons’ feeding ground. People were kept in the cages until a dragon pushed the cage’s lever and the prey fell and died on the hard floor, far below. Then the dragon went down and ate them.

They’re like vending machines, I thought with horrified fascination. I am still glad that I never saw one in operation.

empty cage

I was getting closer to Ain-Mai’s cage. It had stopped descending about ten feet above my current level, just five cages away from her. I couldn’t tell if I had been spotted or not, but I couldn’t turn back now.

Ain-Mai saw me just before I leapt onto her cage. The look of hope and amazement on her face was clear. I jumped and landed on the side of the cage, my fingers clinging to the bars. I tugged at them, but even as strong as I felt, I couldn’t tear steel bars away.

“Hold on!” I said, miming for her to hold onto the bars with her hands and feet. When I saw that she had, I climbed up to the top and stomped on the iron lever. The floor of the cage collapsed and Ain-Mai gave a little scream.

I was still just working off adrenaline and drug-induced bravado, which was probably good, since otherwise I would never have had the nerve to do what I did next. I climbed down the side of the cage until I was hanging from the very bottom. Then I reached inside, through the pieces of the collapsed floor, and grabbed onto the bars on the inside. I swung down and started climbing up the inside of the cage, next to where Ain-Mai was clinging on for her life. She was crying and holding onto the bars with a death-grip. It took me a lot of coaxing to get her to take her hands off the bars and scramble onto my back. Then she was on and death-gripping me around the neck instead.

She was pretty light, thankfully, but going back was much slower. There was a very tricky moment at the bottom of the cage. I was hanging on by one hand on the inside and reached out to grab the outside of the cage. However, with Ain-Mai on my back, we couldn’t fit through the triangular pieces of the floor that were now hanging straight down. I yanked and jerked us back and forth, scraping her back and my front pretty badly against the metal floor plates. Finally, what I had to do was relax and let myself hang down as far as I could go, all our weight on four of my fingers. Then, finally, we slipped through and I could start to climb up the outside again.

I had been too busy to notice before, but we had definitely been spotted now. People were shouting above us and I could feel the cage start to rise. I leapt off, just making it to the side of the next cage. My hands didn’t hurt, but I could see that they were pretty badly scraped and both were bleeding.

Then as if that wasn’t enough, here came the dragons. I guess they didn’t like me running off with their food. The first few just flew nearby, but then one came straight it us and I kicked it in the snout. I couldn’t jump as far now with Ain-Mai on my back so I had to get the cages swinging and wait until they were close to each other to jump across. It was slow going.

They were a bit like this, except with no ridge on the back and their legs were shorter. Source.

They were a bit like this, except with no ridge on the back and their legs were shorter. Source.

On the fifth cage, two came at me at once. I punched the one under its jaw and tried to kick the other one, but it bit into my hiking boot and ripped most of it off, tearing into the sides of my foot with its teeth. This was how things went for another five minutes or so. I fought them off as best I could and slowly, cage by cage, moved back towards the wall. I was mostly worried about Ain-Mai, that one of the monsters would come up from behind and snatch her off my back. I kept whirling from side to side, keeping them all in sight.

I looked ahead to the wall and saw that Sing-ga was climbing up the plates on the wall. Idiot, I thought. There was no way he could do anything except get himself killed. He was moving painfully slowly. The dragons were still intent on me, but if they saw him, it would be like a drunk geriatric fighting a tiger.

I made a leap to the last cage, only to see a dragon rushing at me from below with jaws open wide. I manage to twist in the air to avoid getting my legs bitten off, but then I was falling. I reached out blindly and grabbed the dragon’s body as it went by.

There wasn’t anything else I could do, but this was danger of an insane level. The dragon responded by snapping its body violently like a whip, trying to shake us off. Ain-Mai was gripping my neck so hard it was cutting off my air. I reached around the dragon as far as I could reach and started squeezing it with all my strength. I heard a few bones crack and the dragon gave a roar. It slammed us against the nearest cage and then headed to the wall to scrape us off there.

It turned towards the wall, and there was Sing-ga, clinging to the wall and swaying like a drunk. The dragon seemed to forget about us for a second and went straight for Sing-ga, jaws open. Just as he got there, Sing-ga stuck out his hand and I saw for the first time that he had a piece of broken spear in his hand.

When had he picked that up? I marveled at the presence of mind he had to pick a weapon on our way out of the room. His hand was shaking as he held it but the dragon did not have time to turn away. The spear went straight into the dragon’s mouth and out through the back of its skull. I managed to leap from its back and grab the wall plates as it crashed down.

I learned something about dragons that day: they are cannibals. As soon as the dragon we had been clinging to plummeted to the floor below, the rest of the dragons sped straight down, fighting each other to get at the body first. Apparently dragon meat tastes delicious.

Ain-Mai slid off my back and onto the plates on the wall, but she was shaking so hard I had to keep an eye on her, as well as Sing-ga. Somehow we all got back down to the corridor. I was bleeding from my foot, my hands and several other places and the other two were exhausted and Sing-ga was still not doing well. My dizzying self-confidence was starting to dim a little, but there was nothing to do but go back down the corridor. So that’s what we did.

(to be continued…)

 


I am . . . a Superhero – Fantastic Travelogue #10

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They took Ain-Mai away and put Sing-ga and I in a room with a bunch of other men who all looked drugged. It looked a bit like a harem. They gave us something to drink, which made Sing-ga very sleepy but had the opposite effect on me.

I am a Superhero

Sing-ga was acting like he was drugged. He was moving slowly and unsteadily and seemed to be having trouble staying awake. I was having the opposite sort of experience. Whatever they had forced us to drink had made me faster, stronger, and smarter than I had ever been before. It was the same liquid, so obviously, the stuff had a very different effect on my physiology than on the others. I honestly think that while I was in that state, I could have learned a language in a day. At least that’s how I felt.

I tried to explain to Sing-ga how I wanted to escape, but he was not in any state to communicate. Not that my plan was all that complicated: punch the guards and run out, try to find Ain-Mai, then get back to the circular room and . . . I honestly don’t remember now if I had an ending to that plan. I had a lot of confidence though.

The guards came back ten minutes later and I could tell immediately they were furious that we hadn’t changed. The lead one started yelling at us and lowered her spear at me. I grabbed it by the shaft and pulled it out of her hand. Then I cracked it in half. I can tell you, there is no greater feeling of satisfaction than snapping a two-inch-thick spear in half like it’s a candy cane.

It was on then. Forget getting me to change clothes—they were trying to kill me now. I ducked under a spear, punched the lead guard in the chest, probably breaking a few ribs. The other guards backed off a bit and then I was suddenly surrounded by guards, maybe fifteen of them. However, I could tell that some of them were illusions. They all moved the same way, like puppets on the same string. That must have been what had happened in the forest when I tried to escape.

Honestly, I don’t exactly remember much about what happened next, except that it felt really good. It was a confusion of ducking spears, punching, and kicking whenever I saw an opening. The next thing I remember clearly was the guards lying around, unconscious, injured and bloody. There was also a man on the ground whom I had apparently punched in my excitement. Oops.

None of the other men had really reacted, although they were all watching by now. I felt like uttering a William Wallace yell and leading this rag tag army to freedom, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen. So I grabbed Sing-ga and pulled him out the door, taking one last look at the defeated guards lying on the ground as I left. Man, I wish I had my camera!

I didn’t know where Ain-Mai was, but I went in the direction I had seen them take her. Sing-ga seemed to have recovered a little and was trying to keep up with me, although it was hard. I was probably sprinting. The corridor we were in was mostly deserted. I say mostly because every now and then, we would come across one of those funny little four-legged creatures about a foot tall that moved really slowly. We flew by them and they didn’t seem to pay us any attention.

The corridor ended before too long, opening into a monstrously big room and even as hyped up as I was, I stopped short in amazement. I couldn’t tell how big the room was—perhaps half a mile square and a few hundred feet high. It was filled with thousands of cages suspended by chains from the ceiling. A lot of the cages were empty, but I saw figures in some of them. At the same time, there were cages being raised and lowered from holes in the ceiling.

I didn’t know what to do. The corridor ended here and I couldn’t see Ain-Mai anywhere. Sing-ga was gasping and reeling behind me as if he had just run a marathon.

empty cage

A cage began to descend from the ceiling, about two hundred feet away from us, and inside I saw Ain-Mai. She was crouched in the corner of the cage and a few strands of her long, black hair came out through the bars and floated in the open air.

I didn’t think hard on the situation; I just acted. The closest cage to me was about fifteen feet away horizontally, but also about twenty feet up. The walls were covered with overlapping plates that stuck out and gave a lot of good hand and footholds. I bounded up this, and then, when I was a little bit above the closest cage, I leaped.


The World of Darkness and Dragons – Fantastic Travelogue #9

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. She came there to eat a certain fruit called gaan-shi and also kidnapped all the men she found, which was why the men hid when she came. The brother and sister tried to help me escape but Hengfel’s guards overtook us in the woods and captured us. I tried to escape, but the guards seemed to be insanely fast, and recaptured me. At night, Hengfel stood on the stone circle and when she held up a medallion, light gathered around her. Then she was gone. The guards pushed us onto the stone circle too, and the light surrounded us.

World of Darkness and Dragons

I think I’m dead, I thought.

The brilliant light coming from the stone circle had enveloped me and for a timeless moment, I felt suspended in a world of empty light that seemed to burn out the inside of my head. Then I found that there was something solid under my feet and the utter brilliance faded to a blackness filled with the kind of flashing colors you get if you look at the sun for too long.

I don’t know how long it took me to recover, but slowly I began to hear voices around me. They had an echoing quality, as if we were in a cathedral. I realized that I had fallen to my knees when someone grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet. I opened my eyes and looked around.

Even under the circumstances, I was blown away by what I saw. We were standing in a huge round room a few hundred feet in diameter and at least that tall. The floor was carved like the stone circle in the forest clearing, only much, much bigger. Around the outside was a trench or chasm, so that the only way to get to the outer wall was by three bridges that spanned. Strips of light around the walls and on the floor lit up the fantastic scene.

The strangest thing were the creatures that were moving around in the open air above us. They were about fifteen feet long and looked like thick, hairy snakes with clawed legs and horses’ heads. In fact, they looked a lot like the Chinese version of a dragon.

Ain-Mai and Sing-ga were both standing next to me, staring around them with a disbelieving expression that was probably very similar to what was on my face. Now that we were here, amazement temporarily drowned out our fear.

The world of darkness and dragons

Then I saw Hengfel, the old witch herself, and all my fear and apprehension came flooding back. She was on the back of a large red dragon and flew straight out one of the three large doors. That made me feel better, for the moment. The further away she was, the happier I was.

A procession of little creatures was moving slowly towards us from the opposite direction. They were dark gray and very short and broad—about a foot tall and about as wide—with flattened heads, four legs and two long arms. They each took one of the baskets of fruit and moved slowly back. It was a weird sight.

The guards herded me, Ain-Mai and Sing-ga towards the third door. As we went over the bridge, I looked down into utter blackness. The bridge was about twenty feet wide, but had no railing. Beyond the bridge were two doors that opened to each side as we approached.

Everything in that place seemed to be huge. As we walked through the towering gate, I saw we were on a stone path fifty feet wide and hundreds of feet high. Everything was lit by strips of pale-yellow light along the walls. Next to the path was another trench that went down out of sight. It was lit up and I tried to go to the edge to see how far down it went, but I was pushed back into place.

We probably walked half a mile along that path and then through smaller corridors until we came to a large door with windows on either side. Inside, I could see a well-lit room filled with men sitting around or standing. The guards opened the door and pushed me and Sing-ga inside. I heard Ain-Mai’s anguished cry just before the doors shut. We ran to the windows and watched as they led her away.

Even today the thought of that room makes me shudder a little. It was well lit and nicely decorated in green and gold. There were probably forty males in it, just sitting listlessly or wandering around slowly. I say they were all male, although they weren’t all human. You know how you can tell if someone is male or female in a glance, but you might not be able to articulate why you know that? It was like that. I could tell they were male, even though I wasn’t sure why I knew.

They were all dressed very nice, but the way they were moving reminded me of a movie scene of a mental institution, where everyone is drugged up or catatonic. Still, the overall effect of the room brought a very uncomfortable word to mind: harem. If the guys were all replaced with nubile women, I wouldn’t have doubted it at all.

Sing-ga started running through the room, looking at all the men and calling something out over and over again. None of the men said anything to him and very few even looked at him. They were almost like zombies, although less interested in the world around them.

He finally stopped and sat down on a bench by the wall. I went and sat by him.

“You are looking for someone?” I wrote—or tried to—with my finger on the cushion of the bench. Still, he understood.

“Father,” he wrote. “He was taken when I was small. I thought he was here.”

I wanted to say I was sorry, but I didn’t know how to write it, so I just nodded.

Then he pointed to himself, and then drew out the Chinese character for woman.

He’s a woman? I thought. However, he kept going, drawing earnestly with his finger again and again until I understood. He had a wife, back in Dwengshink. And two children. My heart sank more and more as he kept going. He had risked himself—both he and Ain-Mai—just to help me. Now we were all paying for it.

I told him I had a wife too and we silently commiserated with each other, drawing out characters with our fingers on the cushioned bench where we sat.

The guards interrupted us a few minutes later to hand us new clothes to wear: green satin overalls that belted around the chest, waist and legs. I was wearing jeans, an increasingly dirty T-shirt, and a hoodie, and I had no intention of changing into anything else. So I spit on the guard: a big loogie right in the chest. She didn’t do anything, except pull out two small metal vials and hand them to us, making motions to drink. I poured mine on the ground.

Yeah . . . that apparently wasn’t a good idea. A minute later, I had bruises forming all over me, a slight concussion, and I had two guards holding me down while another poured another vial of liquid down my throat. I tried to struggle but they held me like a vise. I saw two more doing something similar to Sing-ga.

The liquid they poured down my throat tasted slightly sweet, with a bitter aftertaste. As soon as I had drunk it, they let me up, pointed to the clothes, and then left.

Sing-ga started to get drowsy right away. I could see it in his face and the sudden unsteadiness of his movements. He looked at the clothes, gave a little shrug and started to put them on, until I stopped him. I didn’t feel any difference at first, but then I started to feel really good, as if I had all the energy in the world. I almost felt like I could fly. The ceiling of the room was about fifteen feet up and when I jumped, I almost touched it. I punched the bench where we were sitting and my fist smashed right through it. It didn’t hurt at all. Whatever they had given me, I loved it.

And now I couldn’t wait for the guards to come back.


The Great, Terrible Stone Circle – Fantastic Travelogue #8

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here. From now on, I’m going to include a short synopsis at the beginning for those who haven’t read the previous episodes and don’t have the time. Skip it if you know the story.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I met a young woman sweeping a stone circle. She was friendly but then she and some other women locked me in a room; for my safety, I found out later. That night I heard weird sounds and noises coming from the woods. I escaped into the forest and saw a creepy woman standing on the stone circle. She mesmerized me and I went over to her. She couldn’t speak my language, but brought me to a building with a golden dome and showed me a map of the area, which wasn’t Korea. That scared me and I managed to get away. I met up with the young woman I had first met and through Chinese characters, we were able to communicate. Her name was Ain-Mai and her brother was Sing-ga. The creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. She came there to eat a certain fruit called gaan-shi and also kidnapped all the men she found, which was why they hid when she came. The brother and sister tried to help me escape but Hengfel’s guards overtook us in the woods and captured us.

Great Terrible Stone Circle

The woman known as Hengfel walked towards me, smiling in triumph. She ignored Ain-Mai and Sing-ga and came right up to me. She said something to me, very slowly and deliberately, enunciating every word. Of course, I didn’t understand any of it, but I replied, very slowly, “You’re a hideous old crone, who walks like an arthritic baboon.” It was childish and it wasn’t true, but I also knew she couldn’t understand me. I was about to keep going when she slapped me and walked away. I guess my tone was clear enough.

They sat us down together at the edge of the clearing, surrounded by four guards. The other two—Ain-Mai and Sing-ga—looked dull and defeated, but I wasn’t going to give up yet. If I could get away into the woods—even with restraints on my hands—I could still make it up the valley by nightfall. I hadn’t really looked at the guards closely before. The night before, it had been dark and when they grabbed us, I didn’t really have time, but now that I looked at them, I saw they were different from the other women I had seen. They were definitely female, but muscular and very serious. They weren’t paying attention to me; just staring straight ahead.

I inched my way backwards, and then in a moment of breathless apprehension, stood up slowly. Still, they didn’t notice me. I looked down to see Ain-Mai looking up at me, a tragic expression on her face. I motioned with my head for them to come with me, but she just looked back at the ground.

Well, I was going. I took two steps before my foot cracked a dead twig on the ground. Then I was off, running for all I was worth, not looking back. As long as I could lose them in the woods, I could make my way back up to the ridge.

I had gone about 200 feet when a guard appeared among the trees just ahead of me.

You got to be kidding me! She has guards out this far? I thought.

I changed direction , but another one appeared in front of me there as well, pointing her spear at me. I tried another direction, but the same thing happened. I stopped and the guard stepped back into the trees. A moment later, I felt a spear point in my back. It was the same guard and with an impassive expression, she led me back to the clearing. Sure enough, there were only three guards there now. But how could they be so fast? Unless it was just an illusion. We got back to the tree where the other two were and the guard suddenly hit the back of my legs with her spear, knocking me flat on my back.

I wasn’t ready to give up, but the hopelessness of the situation began to dawn on me. Two of the four guards remained facing us with their spears leveled. So instead, I watched the activity in the clearing. Women from the fortress village were bringing baskets of the yellow gaan-shi fruit and putting them next to the stone circle. Hengfel wasn’t in sight, but she appeared as the sun was setting.

The guards got us on our feet and moved us closer. I started to get a feeling of apprehension deep in my stomach and all I could think of was what Ain-Mai had said about them taking men and them not coming back. I was getting frantic to get back home. I thought of my wife back in Jeonju, not even knowing that there was a problem yet. My plan had been to go for six days and although I usually called every day, she would just assume I was out of range or that my battery had died. I had left my phone back with my backpack and I wondered if she had called.

Strange Meeting

Hengfel stepped onto the stone circle. The clearing had darkened and I could barely see her, until a glow started to form around her. It grew stronger until it lit up the whole clearing and cast strong shadows. A pillar of white light formed around her and she held her hand straight up. I saw that she was holding a medallion, with a complicated, snaky pattern on it. Ball lightning formed on the medallion and shot out into the forest. A sound like a scream began to build to an ear-splitting pitch. My hands were bound in the front and I put my fingers in my ears. I saw that the women from the town were doing the same. The guards and Hengfel herself seemed unaffected.

The scream built into a high, shuddering roar. The light seemed to thicken, however that’s possible, until it enveloped Hengfel. Then she was just gone, just like that.

The guards nudged us forward.

As I looked at the column of pure light and felt the sound reverberate inside my body, I felt like I was approaching a guillotine. Sing-ga finally found his spirit. He sprinted to one side, but it was far too late for that. A spear shaft caught him on the side of the head and he crashed to the ground. One of the guards stooped and picked him up with one arm and motioned for us to follow. Watching a woman carry a stunned man in one arm like a rag-doll gave me a very strange feeling inside. I looked over at Ain-Mai and saw that she looked terrified.

A spear jabbed me in the back, going through my fleece and breaking the skin. I lurched forward, staying just in front of the spear until I climbed slowly onto the stone platform. Light surrounded us, taking us into itself, until the rest of the world disappeared.


A Long, Disjointed, Enlightening Chat – Fantastic Travelogue #7

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

I woke up with a jolt and an incoherent exclamation, which is about the least dignified way a person can wake up. I had been dreaming about that horrible woman and her weird stare and creepy smile. In the dream, she had been searching for me everywhere, until I had nowhere to run. Waking up was not much better, since I realized that it was mostly true.

I was still in the small room by the secret gate in the fortress. The young woman was not there and what I could tell, from the light coming in from under the door, it was full daylight outside. I was just wondering what I should do when the door opened and the young woman stepped inside, followed by a man.

A man! It was the first one I had seen in the last two days. Not that I minded being around women all the time, but it was nice to know men existed here. The man seemed pretty surprised to see me too and he and the woman had an intense conversation back and forth. Finally, I got up and with my finger, I wrote “Who are you?” in the dirt, the best I could (誰是你). It was a mixture of Japanese and Chinese characters and I didn’t know the right syntax, but at least it got their attention.

They knew Chinese characters, and began writing some in the dirt as well. What followed took several hours and a lot of miscommunication. They knew characters that I didn’t and I knew ones they didn’t and dirt isn’t the best medium for making lots of tiny strokes. There were a lot of dead-ends and a lot of good-natured frustration, but here is the gist of our conversation. I’m going to present it as if we spoke it all, just to make it easier to read.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I am Ain-Mai,” the woman said (she wrote it as 安美). “This is my brother, Sing-ga (石鋼)”. (I only learned later that they were brother and sister. At the time, I had no idea what she wrote and the whole thing was very confusing.)

“I am David. I live in Korea. What is this place called?”

“This is Dwengshink (東山). How did you get here?” Sing-ga asked. He kept staring at me in curiosity, especially my beard.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I was walking in the mountains and I lost my way and came here. Who was that woman?”

When they understood who I meant, it sparked a lot of what seemed like angry cursing from them. “She is like a queen,” Ain-Mai said finally. “She has magic and lives in another world. Whenever she finds a man here that she likes, she takes him back with her and they don’t come back. So when she comes, all the men hide in the mountains.”

I asked them more, but they did not know anything about where she came from or who she really was, at least not that they could express through writing in the dirt. They called her Hengfel, although I didn’t recognize the characters they wrote. As far as they knew, she had always come, since the time of their parents, at least. The golden dome was her residence in Dwengshink and no one else used it.

“She comes every six months or so,” Sing-ga said, “and stays about two days.”

“But why does she come here?” I asked. “Is she the queen of Dwengshink?”

“No, she is not our queen,” they said. “She only comes to this valley. She comes to eat gaan-shi.” That was how they pronounced it. They didn’t know how to write it, but I gathered that it was a kind of fruit.

“I want to go back to Korea,” I said. This sparked a lot of discussion between the two of them, presumably about how.

“Hengfel goes back tonight,” Sing-ga said eventually, “and I think it would be good if you went before then.”

I couldn’t agree more. I never wanted to see that Hengfel woman again and I could only imagine what was happening back at the sanjang where my backpack was. I had been gone almost two whole days and they probably thought I was dead.

Ain-Mai left for an hour or so, while Sing-ga sat there with me in mostly awkward silence. He tried to talk a bit, but gave up when I clearly didn’t understand. Now that Ain-Mai wasn’t there, he did not seem to have any interest in writing in the dirt.

Ain-Mai came back with a basket of food, mostly fruit and flatbread. There were grapes, apples and things that looked like really long persimmons and finally one thickly wrinkled yellow fruit the size of a baseball that Ain-Mai said was a gaan-shi. They let me eat most of it. It was sweet and tart at the same time; really good, although I don’t think I’d travel across worlds to get it.

After we had eaten, Sing-ga said we should be going and they led the way out, on the inside of the fortress. It was mid-afternoon and the sky was blue. Ain-Mai led the way along a small path through the woods, while Sing-ga kept us fifty feet behind her, presumably in case she met anyone.

We gave the clearing with the stone circle a wide berth and kept climbing up the slope. The trees were mostly evergreens and the smell in the warm air was wonderful.

After another ten minutes, Ain-Mai stopped and motioned for us to come closer. I saw that we had reached the main path, which I had taken the day before. The old woman’s cottage, where I had gotten a drink, was right in front of us. We were approaching the house when the woman appeared at her gate. She looked scared and when she saw us, she started making motions with her hands, warding us away.

Old woman's house

I got a sick feeling of fear in the pit of my stomach and turned to to run. Ain-Mai and Sing-ga were doing the same. I saw two female guards appear on the path, up the valley ahead of us. We turned to flee, but more appeared out of the trees below as well. There was nothing to be done. I could tell that Ain-Mai and Sing-ga had both given up; I could see the defeat on their faces. As for myself, my upbringing hadn’t involved fighting multiple spearmen (or women) unarmed, so I didn’t try to be a hero. One of them clipped metal restraints around our wrists and marched us back down the valley. I heard Ain-Mai crying behind me but when I turned, I saw that it was actually Sing-ga who was crying. That freaked me out more than being handcuffed and escorted at spear point. What on earth does this woman do to men?

We went around a bend in the path and came out into the stone circle clearing. There she was, the woman they called Hengfel, standing in the middle of the clearing, with her animal skins and purple veil and her creepy, creepy smile.


“Well, I’m back,” he said.

As you probably know if you saw my Sunday post, I was away last week on  a trip. I went by myself to a couple of small islands in the southwest of Korea, called Heuksando (흑산도) and Hongdo (홍도). They’re part of a national park, which is not surprising, considering all the natural beauty there. As promised, here are some pictures I took there. It’s very visual, although not fiction; it’s a travelogue, and actually was pretty fantastic. Enjoy~

I left here on Sunday and went down to the port city of Mokpo. The next day I took this ferry. It was very fast and the water was very rough, making it fun for me, until other people starting getting sick and throwing up. The guy behind me kept saying, “I’m dying. I’m dying. I want to live. I should have gotten off at the last island.”

fast ferryOn the first island, I took a bus around the island on a road that wound up and down mountains on hairpin turns and steep grades. Between the cliffs and mountains, were tiny, idyllic coves with fishing villages.CoveHere is one of the roads. This one is famous on the island and has twelves switchbacks in a row. It was quite something going up this in a bus.

Snake RoadThe next day, it was crazy windy so I walked along the beach to see the waves crashing up on the rocks.

Wind and wavesAfter a while, I hiked back inland, through the forest and through pastures. I came across a lot of cow dung, but only 4 cows the whole time. This was a bull, a cow and a calf. The calf was very cute, but I didn’t want to get close, since the cow kept bellowing at me, even when I was out of sight.

CowsThe forest on the island was almost all broad-leaf evergreens and there were vines and ivy everywhere. It is much different from the rest of Korea.

Heuksando ForestThis is a view of the harbor looking back across the peninsula where I was hiking. I could easily have stayed there for a long time. It was so peaceful.

Heuksando ViewAt sunset, I went back to the harbor where my motel was. It was the off-season for tourism, so I think I was the only one in the hotel. I never ate at a restaurant with any other customers; just the owners eating their supper.

Sunset at Yeri HarborThen I climbed up the hill behind my hotel, where I was rewarded with this view:

Sunset over HeuksandoThe next day, I took a ferry thirty minutes to the island of Hongdo, which has some of the best craggy rock formations I’ve seen. Just like on Heuksando, I was one of the only tourists there.

Hongdo harborI climbed up the mountain and had a beautiful overview of the whole southern half of the island.

Hongdo overviewThe only problem with this island was that it was quite inaccessible. A lot of cliffs, like the one below, were off-limits, with no trails or safe ways to get to them. Which is too bad, since I would really liked to climb up on some of them.

Hongdo CliffsThe day was absolutely beautiful. As opposed to the previous cloudy and windy days, this day was sunny, warm, and serene.

Hongdo ocean viewI found a hotel, then struck out to the south side of the island and fought my way through the forest of vines and thorns down to a small beach. This island was just offshore from there.

Hongdo IslandA lot of where I walked was quite close to the edges of cliffs that plunged more than a hundred feet straight down to the ocean. I was careful, of course, but I’m sure my wife would have had a heart attack if she’d seen me.

Cliffs on HongdoHongdo is much smaller than Heuksando and everyone lives in one village in the middle of the island. Probably half the buildings are hotels or restaurants, the vast majority of which were closed for the season. Here is a shot of the harbor as I was coming back in late afternoon.

Hongdo harborI walked down to a dock on the far side of the island to see the sun set behind the island.

Hongdo SunsetThe next day I got up way too early for the ferry, so I went down to the harbor and watched the sunrise.

Sunrise over HongdoThen it just better and better as I waited.

Sunrise over Hongdo

Sun and cloud over Hongdo

I hope you enjoyed the tour. Now that I’m back, I am slowly climbing the long, winding steps up into the Green-walled Tower to see what other fantastic worlds I can spy. More fiction coming up tomorrow.

P.S. Bonus points if you can name the reference in the title. It doesn’t count if you’re related to me, since I KNOW you know. 🙂


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