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The Helmsman, Chapter 2 - The Geyser Monster

It was mid morning. Dolly was sulking by the stable picking at the frayed ends of her cut off shorts. Matthew shoveled out the last stable. Matthew put the rake down against the wall. “Wanna go riding to cheer your spirits?”
Dolly looked up and squinted. “Not on Bart again”,
“Bambi,” Matthew said in a low voice.
Dolly jumped up. “Serious?”
“Yes. She will let us ride her. She's very tame,” Matthew said with a wink. “Maybe we will find the answer to your questions. I am not as quick to dismiss your stories as Grandpa is.”
Dolly was following Matthew to the little barn. “No?”
“No, We have one of the creatures in the barn don't we?” Matthew opened the barn door to see Bambi with her saddle already on. It seemed like she had fluffed up the leafy part of her foliage for the occasion. Matthew helped Dolly onto the saddle and climbed on behind her. The saddle was padded and lined with suede making it very comfortable. Bambi started out the door of the barn. Her gait was more of a glide rather than a trot. Matthew felt as though he was sailing and gliding through the woods.
“This is about the spot where I saw the Geyser Thing”, Dolly said as they passed into a green meadow. The air was feeling decidedly humid.
“Try turning back,” Matthew said.
“I will try,” Bambi said softly.
“You do talk,” Dolly blurted as the tree creature turned around facing a stand of tall fir. It seemed as though Posey California was gone. Bambi still headed North.
“The window has closed,” she said. “I doubt if any of us will get back”.
“Yay!” Dolly said. “No more Mom and her drunk boyfriends”.
“Are they mean to you?” the Oak lady asked.
“They ignore me and just party or make me do work all the time". Dolly replied. "They don't really want me around. Never any time to play, Oh and they give me blah sandwiches all the time while they have pizza".
“Since you two ended up coming through with me, I am now responsible for you. You will find I am a kind guardian. I hope you do not still wish to shoot me and mount my head. I could not help but overhear that discussion. I have keen ears”.
“No,” said Dolly. “What exactly are you?”
“Well I am not a What's It's, what ever that is. I am a Green Blood. Some of you kind call me a Dendrite. The men are called Boles and women are called Boughs. You guessed it right. I am female. It is regrettable that you ended up here. No doubt Jeb will be calling a search party for you. It will sadden him to find you gone. It will take him a while to recover from the grief. I will pray that the Creator will comfort him.
“What's that?” Dolly blurted pointing ahead. There was what looked like a puff of white cloud sitting on a pile of sticks and straw. At one end was a glistening round ball that reminded her of the top of someone's head. The front of the head appeared to be cleft into lobes. “Oh it looks like a baby Geyser thing”. Bambi came to a stop at the odd nest. Dolly hopped off when she saw all the glittering stones piled around the nest. The nest was situated at the edge of a field of bare grey stone. She plucked up a glistening feather off the ground. She admired how it gleamed rainbows in the sun. She shoved it in her pocket. She turned to see a large hole gasping hot air and steam. At the line of trees floated a cloud that looked like a larger version of the cloud pup.
“That is his father,” said Bambi. “I suggest we get out of here.”
“His?” Dolly repeated.
“It's a male. It doesn't have a plume on its head,” Bambi explained.
“Shouldn't the males be the one's that have the plume? That's how it is in the animal kingdom.” Dolly said in mild protest.
Bambi motioned for Dolly to get into the saddle. “Sherals are not animals. They are very intelligent sentient beings with a soul. God happens to give women fancier hair on their head in this world”.
Dolly continued to stare at the Pup. She realized now that the cleft effect was created by a part in the middle of his puffy hair. “Ooh I want to pet him,” Dolly said. The Pup's pale eyes turned on Dolly. They were oddly intelligent. He had a stubby nose and round cheeks. The rest of his face was covered in what looked like a fluffy beard. He seemed to understand Dolly and laid his head down with her reach. He made squeaking sounds. Bambi backed away. “Get on the saddle Dolly”. The ground started to rumble. More heat shot from that hole. Dolly was frozen in terror. Bambi grabbed her and nudged her to climb into the saddle. Then the hole started to belch solid white steam or smoke. Dolly was not sure which. The white grew until another of those cloud things had issued out of the hole. It was a bar of cloud with three boiling plumes above it. The one in the front churned the most and glowed at its base. Dolly realized it was attached to the front of a round head. Under cloud brows were eyes that glowed orange. Bambi broke into a gallop. Dolly was staring at the thing as it rumbled and churned above the tree tops. There was a white flash and a crackling thunder clap. “Oh lovely! It has lightning,” Dolly said sarcastically.
“Did you do something to get Mama Breeze upset?” Matthew asked. Now they were galloping through a grove of fir and ceder. Dolly's hopes rose somewhat that they might land back in Posey. This looked a little bit like the Sierras. She even spotted what looked like black Oak when a meadow opened out. Her hoped were dashed when the Oak started to move, scattering before the cloud thing like frightened cattle. One fat old Oak found a pond full of reeds and 'hid' in there. It was joined by a mannish looking thing with fuzz on its head instead of leaves.
“Can we hide for real?” Dolly asked. She was going to say more before their was a rustle through the fir. A thing like a slim rope tornado came down through the trees and knocked Dolly from the saddle. It had left a big wet spot on her back where it had struck her. It continued to lick Dolly soaking the back of her shirt and her hair. It didn't let up until it had smacked her square in the face. Then that was when there was a shock that jolted through her body followed by blackness.
The flash momentarily blinded Matthew and Bambi. The burning smell caused them to rub their eyes. When their eyes cleared Matthew looked down to see a large Barn Owl laying on the blackened earth. “Oh dear!” Bambi exclaimed. She scooped up the creature in her branches. Matthew didn't understand what was going on.
“Where is Dolly?” he asked.
“I am holding Dolly,” Bambi replied. “Unfortunate combination of a Sheral lick and Owl feather. The creature meant to give her Shraller's fever. We have to get her home—to my place”
Bambi found a carriage trail and followed it through the tawny hills. It did look more like home to Matthew and yet it was not home. To the East, was a body of water. To the West was more mountains instead of the San Joaquin Valley. The farms along the road didn't have cattle. They were full of the Oaks. One even had apple trees that moved about and bathed themselves. The road finally rounded a bend the turned westward. Nestled in the trio of big firs was as large red barn. A scrawny fellow with green hair was shoveling hay. One of those mannish looking tree things with fuzz on the head came up to greet Bambi. His beard wagged. “Oak Leaf darling, where did you find that sorry looking creature?”
Oak leaf opened her branches just enough to show the Owl she was holding. “. A Sheral got her. She had a feather in her pocket. Make a bed for her quick,” Bambi replied. “And get Emma. We need to inoculate the other one so he doesn't get Sheraller's fever”.
The Tree man disappeared. Matthew climbed down. Bambi looked at him. “That is my husband Charles Leaf. Now you know what our menfolk look like”.
Out of the barn rustled a thick looking Oak with orange foliage. Her face looked matronly with smile lines around her mouth. She was carrying a metal plate with a large pin on it sitting in some kind of liquid. Somebody needs inoculation you say?” Bambi pointed at Matthew. Emma took the pin and poked Matthew in the arm with it.
“Oww!” Matthew protested.
“That's all it takes,” Emma replied. “You will get something—Something a lot less severe than Shraller's Fever. People that come here from Kurey wind up with a fever of some kind. Better you get this one. You'll thank us when its all over”. Emma gave him a pat on the arm.

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