STUCK IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
"You're getting warmer! Much warmer!" said Von Drake on the radar.
"Do you have to remind us every minute, Luddy?" Marina fanned herself with her hand. "It's hot enough out here as it is."
"Where are we anyway?" Donald looked over the bow of the longboat. "The last town was forty miles back."
"Thirty miles," Von Drake corrected him. "That was the town of Bixby."
"The sun will be gone in a few minutes," said Silver. "We'll be seeing Nightmares soon."
"Say, uh. . ." Goofy scratched his scalp. "Is it just me or does this valley look a bit familiar?"
"How?" asked José.
"Oh, I dunno," Goofy shrugged. "I j'st think I've seen pictures of this place before."
"I was thinking the same thing," Marina leaned upon the bow. She grew a smile for the beauty of the land surrounding them. The mountains to the east and west were of strong solid rock and off in the far north was the visibility of cliffs. From the south was a single paved road leading into the valley. Nobody in the boat had much of a view of where the road was going as Silver was bringing it closer to the ground.
Marina spoke, "Are you sure this is the right spot? The shadows of the mountains are completely covering the valley at this time. I don't see any movement down there."
"Then you is not looking hard enough," said Von Drake. "I'm picking up a bit of movement somewhere in the valley."
Goofy nervously held on to the bow, "Uh, guys. I've got a bad feeling about this place. I know I've seen this place before somewhere."
"Don't worry to much, Goofy," said Panchito. "Whatever that is here causing trouble, we'll handle it."
"Wait a moment!" Von Drake started typing fast at his computer. "Ah, nuts! What's with the kooky reading going in and out?!"
"Que pasa, Profesor?" asked Panchito.
Donald shook and tapped the radar, "Something's wrong. The reading's getting fuzzy."
"Must be some interference of a kind," Silver slowed the boat down as it was six feet from the ground. He looked about the valley with his cyborg eye opened up all the way and out like a tiny telescope. He scanned the area and said, "There be some sort of radar wave. It's comin' all over the valley."
"Ja. They is seismographic radar," Von Drake explained. "I'm pickin' up a bunch of waves from many places of valley."
José asked, "What is seismographic?"
Marina answered, "It's means, uh. . . there're some kind of machines around that measures vibrations. . . or something like that."
"Exact-tically!" said Von Drake. "This valley you is in must be getting quite a few earthy-quakes."
"I don't think it's earthquakes, Professor," Goofy shook his head. "I really think there's somethin' about this place that gives me the willies!"
"Ah, phooey," Donald placed the radar down. "It's probably jusht the Nightmares gettin' ready to pounce on us. Let's just get ready." He stood up on the bow ready to jump.
"Espera!" José grabbed a hold of Donald's wrist. "I too have a bad feeling about this place. Goofy's right about it being a bit familiar."
"Si," Panchito nodded. "I think it's starting to look familiar too. Maybe I saw this valley in a brochure back at the Tropicana."
"Why would there be a brochure of a place in the middle of nowhere?" Donald yanked his arm out of José's grip. "There's nothing here. . . yet. Let's go and wait for the Nightmares to come out." He jumped out of the boat and brought out his hammer, "Well, c'mon! Let's go."
Panchito hopped out and took his guns out of their holsters, "Si, amigo! Let's get this show on the road. ¡Ándalé!"
José followed and opened his umbrella ready to protect himself and the others.
Jiminy hopped out and landed on Donald's hat, "Let's all be careful, boys. I'm starting to get a strange feeling about this place too."
"See?" said Goofy. "He's got a feelin' too." He stood up with his shield, but before he thought of jumping out, he was pushed out by Silver.
"J'st get out there so we c'n get this over with," Silver growled. He stood to look down at Goofy, who remained lying on the ground watching the stars coming out early. He came out of the boat and crackled his neck, "Consider this the chance for each of yeh to see what I'm like against the Nightmares."
Marina climbed out and went down to help Goofy. She asked, "You guys think we should split up or stay together on this one?
"Nay," Silver nodded. "We'll be stronger together for now. If the Nightmares decide to spread out, we'll do the same. I j'st--" He stopped in mid-sentence as something caught his attention. His cyborg eye opened and zoomed in on something.
"Silver?" Marina asked.
Everyone looked in the direction he was zoomed in on and immediately saw puffs of dust rising from the ground and heading their way. That was when the group spotted the dust was coming from a mound that moving toward them.
"What the devil?!" Silver cried.
"Graboid!!" called Panchito.
Everyone gasped and scattered into two groups as the mound came rushing at them. Like an explosion, the ground busted open where they were once standing. Roaring out of the ground was a giant monstrosity of a worm-like creature with a large beaked mouth that brought out three snake-like tongues reaching out for the group.
Panchito started shooting his guns at the tongues, but missed as he tripped over a rock.
"Panchi!!" Marina screamed.
Goofy quickly scooped up the gaucho rooster and hurried away from the tongues. Panchito yelled, "Everyone off the ground! ¡Ándalé! To the rocks!"
Silver and Marina took off in one direction while Donald, Goofy, José, and Panchito took another. Each climbed up two separate boulders that were large enough to keep everyone out of the reach of the monster. Everyone watched while they caught their breath. The monster slowly brought in its tongues and sunk back into the dirt.
"What in the name of Bartholomew was that?!" Silver stood up.
"A. . . a Graboid!" Marina shivered. "I never thought I'd. . . I'd actually see one."
"Are you two okay?" Goofy called from the other boulder even though they were all at least fifteen feet apart.
"I'm fine. I'm just. . . just really shaken up," Marina caught her breath. Then she winced in disgusted, "Oh my god! It stinks! Ugh! I always knew they smelled, but not this bad!"
"Eesh! You're right. Ugh!" Donald pinched his nostrils.
Everyone else slightly twitched at the horrible smell that forced them all to breathe through their mouths.
"I can't believe this," José shook his head. "El Graboid. I knew this valley was familiar."
"It's Perfection Valley," said Panchito. "Of course! Ay-ay-ay. I can't believe I have forgotten about it. Many touristas come out here to catch a glimpse of El Blanco."
"El what?" Silver asked.
"El Blanco," Panchito explained. "The Great White Graboid who roams this valley."
"A-hyuck," smiled Goofy. "I knew this place looked familiar. I saw a thing of it on t.v. some time ago. It was really interestin' about how El Blanket and Graboids live."
"It's name is El Blanco," Donald corrected him.
"But. . . but that wasn't him," said Marina. "El Blanco's an albino. Hints his name. That thing we just saw was as brown as the dirt it came out of."
"Then that means they're coming back around," said Panchito. "Maybe that's what the radar was picking up."
"Let's see about that," Donald reached into his pocket. When he found that the radar wasn't there he patted his other pocket.
"Donald! Where's the radar?!" asked José.
After patting his pockets once more, Donald remembered. He rolled his eyes and moaned, "On my seat in the longboat."
"Donald, you dumb buzzard beak!" Marina stomped her foot. "How could you leave it there?!"
"Hey, don't call me buzzard beak! I didn't know we were gonna run into a giant worm!"
"It's not exactly a worm, Donald," Marina crossed her arms. "It's a creature that descends from the pre. . . . uh, what's-it-called era? Pre. . . candri. . .oh. . . something."
"Precambrian?" asked Jiminy.
"Yes!! That's the word! Precambrian!"
"How is that possible?" asked Jiminy. "Precambrian is the one of the oldest eons of 97% of all the worlds in the galaxies. And how is that I've never heard of such a creature?"
Silver answered, "Not all worlds know of what goes on in other worlds, Cricket. Especially if they do not share the same time era."
"Graboids are known most in the modern worlds," said Marina. "At least, that's what I've read."
"Well, 'tis no matter," Silver straightened his hat. "Let's j'st get that radar and get out of this."
Marina stood in his way.
"What's all this?" he prepared to walk around her.
She stopped him again, "Obviously you don't know much of these creatures either, Captain. You step off the rock and you're as good as dog food."
"What are you blabberin' of?"
He gently pushed her aside, but she got in his way once more. "You don't get it, do you? If I really have to explain this, then you owe me a new hair pin!" She pulled her brand new butterfly hair pin out of her bangs and tossed it to the dirt like she was skipping a rock in a pond. Seconds after it bounced, one of the snake-tongues popped out of the ground and grabbed it. When it was gone, Marina grunted, "There! See? And I'm only glad that the hair pin was fake gold and gems."
Silver growled, "So that means we're stuck?! Blast it all! And the longboat is driftin' away!"
"Stuck?" asked Jiminy. "How? Won't it just give up on us?"
"No, Señor Jiminy," Panchito sat down. "These creatures will just sit and wait as long as it takes. Ay-carumba. We can only hope that someone will come and help. After all there is a town nearby."
"Oh, shucks," said Goofy. "I hope they'll come. That thing sure is scary."
"Stop bein' such a coward, Goof," Silver frowned. "There's got to be a way outta this and shivering like a rattlesnake isn't gonna help. If the lot o' yeh are just gonna sit around and wait like live bait for the Nightmares. . . so be it. Now start puttin' yer empty heads together and think o' somet'in' before we lose the longboat."
"Aye, aye, sir" the boys saluted not wanting to start an argument.
"In the meantime. . . perhaps you and I can get better acquainted, Lassie," Silver spoke in a teasing tone.
Marina sat down and crossed her arms in frustration as she began to mumble something to herself.
"What's that you say?" Silver raised a brow.
"I was just saying I can't believe that of all the boulders this valley has to offer I end up stuck with you."
"You got somet'ing to say about me, Lass, you best say it to me face!"
Marina could feel his anger as she found herself under the red glow of his cyborg eye. A shiver went down her spine for a moment, but she just looked away to ignore him. It didn't work.
"Well?" Silver spoke with impatience.
"You want me to say it?! Fine! I'll say it!!" Marina stood back up and faced him.
"Marina! Don't you start!" Jiminy yelled.
Her teeth gritted and her jaw tightened as Marina glared into Silver's red glowing eye. Like a boiling kettle, she just wanted to burst her anger out and yell at Silver. Her arms tensed up ready to start a fight against him.
He took a step toward her and bent over to look down on her from his height. His cyborg eye turned from red to orange as he grew a smile, "Gotta say, Lassie. . . you're attractive when you're angry."
Fire burned under Marina spine as her cheeks turned red with embarrassment. She immediately looked away and crossed her arms.
"Oh, don't be that way, Lass," Silver chuckled. "I was just kiddin' with yeh. But I wasn't kiddin' about you being attractive."
Marina didn't say a word or budge.
"Now what say we think our way off this boulder," he gently placed his metal hand on her shoulder. "You seem to know a lot of these worms. Maybe we can figure somet'ing out with your wisdom."
Marina looked down at his metal hand. Her flame of anger started to sizzle out as she was remembering seeing his great strength the day before when he snapped the rope in half. Now he was touching her shoulder as gently as anyone had touched her before. She sighed quietly turned to face him, "I don't know everything there is to know about the Graboids, Captain. It's been a while since I last read about them. All I can remember is they sense vibrations in the ground, eat whatever moves above the ground, and later can evolve into Squealers."
"Shriekers," Panchito called out the correction.
"Shriekers! That's the name," Marina snapped her fingers. "And those things hunt by sensing body heat."
"Infrared?" Silver asked.
"Yes. They are blind and deaf, but they have this. . . this heat sensing organ on their heads."
"Si," Panchito smiled. "You've been studying, Marina. Always got your nose in the books."
José asked, "Panchito, there have been reports of el Graboids in Mexico many times. Have you come across them?"
"There have been a few reports of Graboids in Mexico," Panchito sat down. "The largest report was nearly twenty years ago around the Petromaya Oil Fields."
"I remember reading of that," said Goofy. "Wull, actually it was my son who read about it and I listened in. It was the first encounter of the Squealers. Right?"
"Shriekers!" Donald corrected him.
"Let's just hope that this Graboid didn't eat to much and is ready to evolve," said Marina.
"Aye, but that's the reason why he wishes to snack on us," said Silver. "Let's get off this rock before the worm gets too impatient."
Marina looked around the valley seeing nothing but the rolling hills. Her gaze moved up to the sky and spotted a few stars appearing. She said, "Well. . . it's starting to dark. The only thing left for us to do is. . . signal for help. The town of Perfection isn't too far from here. The locals should know what to do about this more than we do."
"And if there are Nightmares around," said José. "Then someone of the valley is bound to know about it, too."
"Panchi," said Marina. "You've got a flare?"
"Si si!" Panchito twirled his gun around his finger. He aimed for the sky and called, "LLAMARADA!!!"
A red light shot out of his gun and exploded in the sky. The shadowy area they were in lit up as the flare stayed in the air.
"Olé," Panchito twirled his gun once more before he place it back in its holster. "We'll get help in no time."
"And let's hope that they'll know what they're doing," José nodded.
"No worries," said Panchito. "Everyone knows of the one hombre who lives in the valley who knows everything there is to do with handling el Graboids."
"Who?" asked Silver.
"A survivalist of. . . sorts," Marina answered. "Some say he's some anti-social paranoid or. . . something like that. All in all, we'll be lucky enough to meet him with his expert ways."
Minutes passed. No help came. Panchito shot another flare after the first one burned out. Silver was sitting on the boulder scanning the ground with his cyborg eye. He watched the Graboid as it was moving back and forth to each boulder waiting for more movement from anyone. Donald, José, and Marina were dosing off from the boredom of waiting. Goofy was staring at the flare all glazed eyed as though he were hypnotized by the bright light.
"You really shouldn't stare up at that light, Goofy," said Jiminy. "It's bad for your eyes."
Goofy looked at Jiminy, "Oh you shouldn't worry about me, Jiminy. You should worry more about those spots on your face." He rubbed his eyes and said, "After all, I wasn't looking at the light. Just at the little critter flying around it. I think it's a hummingbird."
Jiminy looked up, "Hummingbirds don't fly around this time of night. It must be a bat."
"I see nada," said Panchito. "You must be staring at the light too long."
"But if it is a bat. . ." Jiminy inched his way toward Goofy, "I'm not taking a chance." He eyed Goofy's vest pocket, but right when he took another step, he went frozen. He and everyone else heard a tiny squeak in the air. Without a second thought, Jiminy leaped into Goofy's pocket.
Everyone was startled when Goofy jumped to his feet waving his arms around trying to swat something away from his face. Some thought they saw a large bat flapping in front him, but. . . something was off. They could see right through the animal!
"What the. . ." Silver stood up.
Goofy kept waving his arms and taking a few steps back from it. He didn't realize that he was getting too close to the edge of the boulder.
"Goofy!!" Marina gasped.
The bat-like creature finally flew away and Goofy was losing his balance as he was standing on one toe at the edge. Panchito and José grabbed his ankle and pulled him back. He balance was still lost, but the best of it was he fell over on the rock. Jiminy came out of the pocket unharmed and looked around.
"You were right, Goofy," he panted. "It was a bat! At least. . . I think it was."
"Couldn't be a pure blood bat," Silver scanned the sky with his cyborg eye. "Looked like some kind o' mutation."
Marina stood up, "It's wings were flapping like a bird, but. . . it was. . . invisible."
"And yet slightly visible," said Silver. "T'was transparent like. . . like a Yautja hunter."
Goofy sat up and rubbed his head, "Gawrsh, you think it was some kind of Nightmare?"
"Maybe it was," said Jiminy.
"Yeah, and if only we still had the radar!" Marina looked sternly at Donald.
"Hey, don't shtart with me again, Marina!" he yelled.
"Relax!" said Silver. "Whatever it was. . . it's gone. It's nowhere in me sight."
Jiminy patted his chest, "Phew. Good. It was a close call."
Goofy asked, "You're scared of bats, Jiminy?"
"What do you think they eat?"
"Uh. . . ."
"Crickets, Goofy!" Donald stomped his foot. "They eat crickets!"
"Don't worry, Señor Cricket," said José. "We'll protect you."
"Si," Panchito nodded. "I just hope those people of Perfection would come and get us outta here." He looked up and shot another flare as the last one was preparing to go out.
Marina sat back down and gazed up to the sky as it was getting darker by the minute. The stars were shining brighter than before but the temperature was still dropping. She had a slight shiver and held her arms until she heard a slight chuckle coming from behind. Her brow lowered as she looked in the corner of her eye.
Standing on the ground with an evil smile was Blackbeard. Of course, she knew it was all in her imagination once again. For that she move her lips, but didn't speak out loud. In her mind she spoke, "You find this funny? Us stuck up on these rocks because of a giant worm?"
"Yes, m'dear," Blackbeard hissed. "I find it quite funny indeed."
"You're only lucky you're just a figment, Teach. The good thing about it. . . I can just imagine that Graboid coming out of the ground and tearing you to pieces any minute."
"That won't do you any good, Ms. Seadrift," Blackbeard paced around the rock to get into her front view. "Even if you imagine that worm eat me. I'll still come back. It took everything there was to kill me by Maynard and his men. Not one of his gunshots made me flinch."
"Not until he sliced off your head. I'll bet he held you up by the scalp an made you look at your dead body as it flopped around like a fish."
He growled and reached for his cutlass, "Why you rotten little--"
"Yes! Go ahead and try to skewer me! You're completely outnumbered. That's the very same mistake you made with Maynard."
Blackbeard looked at each of Marina's friends even though none of them could see him. He sheathed his cutlass, "Very well. You have the upper hand on this one. Yet I'll still laugh for it's the worm who has the upper hand on you." He started to fade out like a ghost as he laughed at her evilly. His voice echoed through the valley causing Marina's spine to reverberate from the sound. She shivered once again.
That was when a large coat was placed on her shoulders. When she recognized it as Silver's, she spoke out loud, "I don't need it."
"Don't be stubborn. It's getting cold out here," he patted her shoulders.
She couldn't disagree with him with that. She wrapped the coat around herself, "Thank you."
"T'is nothin'," he sat down behind her.
"I don't think I'll understand you, Captain," she looked at him over her shoulder. "One moment you're teasing me. . . the next you're a gentleman with me."
"T'is j'st the way I am, Lass," he smirked at her. "Not'ing if I ain't a kidder."
She cracked a smile in return.
"So. . . You seem to be knowledgeable about these worm creatures."
"I told you before. I read a lot. Daddy always told me that if I want to prepare for the future, then the past must be studied. Or something like that."
"Yer father wantin' yeh to follow his footsteps?"
Marina shook her head, "No. Daddy told me that I have my own path to follow. He made that decision shortly after my mother died."
Silver noticed how she looked away from him the moment she mentioned her mother. He guessed that her death must've been a sad one for Marina.
"Thank you," she glanced at him. "So. . . anyway. . . Daddy thought it would be best for me to stay in the palace where I would live a good life."
"Not much of a father if he decided not to raise you himself."
"Hey," Marina looked at him with a glare. "Don't think things like that about him."
Silver spoke awkwardly, "I didn't mean any offense, Lass."
She sighed and wrapped her arms around her knees, "I know you didn't. It's just that Daddy loves me very much as I love him. He just. . . couldn't see me all the time. You see. . . after the funeral, he really wanted to continue where my mother left off in raising me. The only obstacle was that. . . he's such a busy man, what with his duty to the queen and all. He knew that he would be away from me too much and I would just end up being raised by some nanny most of my life. He just knew that I wouldn't grow up happy with him. That was when Mickey and Minnie told him that they would be glad to raise me since they were very close friends to Mother and that he could come and visit whenever he had the chance."
She paused to lean back, "It was a done deal. Mickey and Minnie practically adopted me and Daddy came to visit me for a week every other month, and every Christmas, and every birthday. The moment he would enter the palace. . . he would greet me with a great big smile, a hug and kiss, and new gift. He told me how much he loved to see me so happy all the time thanks to Mickey and Minnie." She looked over to the other boulder, "And, of course, Donald and Goofy. The two of them were always brothers to me. Sometimes we butt heads, sometimes we need comfort, but all in all, we're always together. Nothing can make me--" She paused once more to look at Silver. Even though she saw him smiling, she felt so embarrassed, "I'm sorry. Am I boring you?"
"No," he answered. "Not at all. I don't t'ink I can get bored from you."
From the sight of him smiling and raising brow in a coy way, Marina grew a half smile in return. She looked away as her cheeks turned pink.
"One o' these days, I hope to see that smile o' yers, Lass."
Her cheeks turned from pink to red, but her half smile remained. It prepared to grow wider when she saw the twinkle of kindness in his eye. That was until she notice him looking behind her and his own smile disappeared.
He stood up, "It's about time!"
Everyone looked in the direction he did and saw a large Jeep Gladiator pickup truck rushing towards them with off road lights shining brightly.
"Olé!" José jumped to his feet. "We're saved!!"
"Oh boy!" Donald waved his arms. "Over here! Over here!!"
The truck was moving at a good speed over the rocks and dirt with its four wheel drive.
"Does he know what he's doing?" Goofy asked. "What about the worm?"
He got his answer when the mound of dirt started moving toward the jeep. The vehicle swerved to the side when it hit the brakes. With the Graboid still heading towards the vibrations of the engine, the driver stood up and threw something toward the moving mound.
"Granada!" Panchito yelled.
Everyone except Silver ducked and covered as the grenade exploded. There wasn't much of a loud bang from the explosion, but there was a loud scream coming from the Graboid. The mound of dirt rushed faster than before away from the jeep and from the boulders.
"What happened?" Donald peeked under his hands.
"Concussion grenades," said Silver. "It got rid of the worm."
"Only temporarily," called the man from the truck. "It'll scare them away, but it won't keep them away. So unless you all want to camp out on those rocks, you better climb aboard!"
No one could disagree. Everyone on the rocks hustled their way to the jeep. They climbed into the back and nearly piled on each other as the driver put the petal to the metal. It was a bumpy ride, but it was a relief to get off the boulders.
Marina leaned over the cargo bed and called toward the driver side window, "Thank you! You're a saint!"
"Next time, be prepared when you enter the valley!"
Marina looked at the driver's face through the rear view mirror. He was a man in his mid-fifties with a thick mustache over his lip, grey temples, wore a baseball cap of the Atlanta Hawks, and a vest that had several different pockets.
She recognized him from a magazine article she read years before, "You're Burt Gummer, aren't you?"
He responded, "Welcome to Perfection!"