Chapter 10 – The Great Out There
Dawn happened. The four travelers continued north through yard after yard, until finally, in early morning, they came to a street that went directly east, down a slope toward the opening that Buzz had told them about. The wall around the city opened like a mouth to allow the party egress to that world out there, the Great Out There that Rollie had envisioned.
“Rollie, Rollie, I think I see something ahead of us,” Fred croaked. Buzz and Millie flew down to them and hovered above them.
“See, Rollie, just like I told you,” Buzz hummed with pride. “Here it is, the beginning of the next stage in our adventure.”
“But from what I’ve seen out there,” Millie countered, “I can’t think it’s a better place than the Arbor. This looks just scary.”
The four of them looked out to the east, through the gap in the wall, Fred and Rollie standing, Buzz and Millie hovering. What they saw was this: a slope just beyond the street for cars that led down to a dry stream, plants and weeds and bushes and trees of greens and grays and browns. And on the other side of the dry stream was an even steeper slope that went up and up, and on the horizon were saguaros silhouetted against the sky. “All right, then,” Rollie said to them. That’s where the way leads us.”
Rollie had found and stripped another walking stick and was now using it to tap his steps down the slope toward the opening. Across the black of the street, they noticed six white lines painted just at the point where the walls opened. None of the travelers knew what they were for. Magic of some kind to keep out spooks and goblins. What they didn’t know, not even Rollie with his mysterious perceptions, was that the lines were called a cattle guard, to keep cows from entering the city. But it was a fake cattle guard, and apparently the city leaders, in all their wisdom, felt that cows could read signs indicating what the lines were, a cattle guard, and would therefore not dare to cross them. Any cow smart enough to read the sign would surely be smart enough to see the falsity of the guard. But since Rollie had never seen any cows and no one else in the party had ever seen any cows, the sign must have been working.
Rollie and Fred kept well off the road, for there were many cars moving in and out of the entrance to the city. But no one took notice of one small rabbit and one very small lizard, nor of the whizzing hummingbird and fluttering butterfly.
They paused as they got to the opening, gazing across a highway toward the east. No humans, no houses, not much of anything but mesquite and sage and tired saguaros pointing cactusy arms at the sky.
“Hmmm,” Fred croaked sarcastically, “so this is the paradise we were looking for, huh, Rollie?”
“No, Fred, my doubtful friend, this is just the beginning of our trip. What you see ahead of us is just the gate through which we have to pass to get to the glory we seek.”
“Whew, Rollie. Those words must smell bad even to you. Did I really hear you say what I thought I heard you say? ‘The gate through which we have to pass to get to the glory we seek’?”
Rollie pulled his ears down and used them to cover the smile on his face. “All right, all right. That did sound a bit stuffy, didn’t it. I think I just fell into the trap my mother built around my speech. I apologize, Fred.”
Fred and Rollie waited until all traffic had passed, and when the road was clear they hurried across and down the slope on the other side. Their two aerial friends flew along with them. Rollie may have been happy about the sight ahead of them, but the other three were a bit apprehensive about what they saw. Was this desolation all there would be or would there be glory beyond?