A Misjudged City: Part Three
“Hello?” said the voice again.
Artemesa was shaking, obviously afraid to speak, and Kyren was shying away as though being poked by something sharp.
“Who’s there?” snarled Sorren, trying to sound brave and fierce.
Between the bars of the trap, a person came into view. They could clearly see her in the moonlight; it was a Split Lenny. She wasn’t an Islander, and she wore what looked like archaeologist clothing.
“Who are you?” she asked. “What are you doing over there? C’mon, before you get yourselves killed!” As they walked closer, she interrogated them, “Are you alright? Are you hurt? Did you see anything strange? What were you thinking, coming in here?”
Artemesa whimpered and looked at the ground.
But the Lenny didn’t scold them. “What in Neopia...?” Mumbling to herself, she took out a knife and began cutting at the wooden poles of the trap to get them out.
“Who are you?” asked Sorren, his voice shaking.
“I’m Dr. Vanderwalker. Saphra Vanderwalker. I’m an archaeologist, if you haven’t already guessed that.” She chuckled to herself, still sawing the trap, but then her voice turned sharp and businesslike. “But you’re asking me what I’m doing here? I should be asking you! You shouldn’t be here!”
“I’m Sorren, and these are my friends, Artemesa and Kyren.” He didn’t reply to why they were there.
“Well. You could be in a great amount of trouble, the lot of you.”
All three bowed their heads in shame.
“But you’re not.”
When Sorren looked up, a grin had crossed Dr. Vanderwalker’s face.
“We--we’re not?” Artemesa choked out.
“No. I saw the ghost.” She pointed to the pool of silver moonlight where the ghost had been. “It disappeared as soon as it saw me coming. But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that I heard you talking, theorizing.” Her grin turned to a half-smile. “And I think you’re right...” Her voice trailed off and she eyed Sorren.
“Sorren,” he said.
“Sorren,” she repeated. “Right. I think you’re correct about that opening in the ceiling. It makes sense. And this must be the night Geraptiku was destroyed. I’ve been studying the remains of this city for ten years.” She shook her head. “But it’s such a shame that the jungle is overtaking it.”
“I thought that was a good thing,” said Kyren.
“Yeah,” agreed Artemesa. “The Islanders seem to think so.”
“The Islanders are afraid. They have very strong beliefs in the spirits. They believe if they make the same choice that they will end up like Geraptiku, lost. But I don’t think that can ever happen to Mystery Island. It’s such a shame,” she said again.
“Wait. I know you’re an archaeologist, but what are you doing here in the middle of the night?” asked Sorren.
Dr. Vanderwalker smiled that half-smile again. “It’s the only place I can come without the Islanders disturbing me. They always tell me I’ll see things too terrible for my eyes, for my imagination, and that I will regret ever coming in here. But I don’t. I like studying here.”
By this time, she had finished sawing the trap, leaving a gap in it for them to cross over. “Now c’mon,” she said.
Relieved, they crossed over the trap and ran outside. It was great to see the outside again, feel the rustling wind and see the trees, smell the tropical Mystery Island air.
“I have a question. How come the ghost left when it saw you?” asked Kyren. “It told us to run, and it even knew our names.”
“I don’t know that for sure. I suppose because the spirits are still alive, if that makes sense. I mean, they’re still here, they still come to Geraptiku. But they know archaeologists, and they’re scared. They know that if an archaeologist sees them that they will be discovered, and they don’t want that. I don’t know why, but that’s what I suspect.”
“It make sense,” said Artemesa, nodding.
They were standing outside the tomb. Sorren looked over across Geraptiku. Suddenly, it didn’t seem so scary, but it seemed timid, afraid. Afraid of the superstitious Islanders. Afraid of being lost forever in the jungle. Sorren almost felt sorry for it.
Dr. Vanderwalker looked around, too. She looked at the outskirts, at the growing Mystery Island and jungle that would soon take Geraptiku in its clutches forever.
“It’s a shame Geraptiku won’t be lasting much longer,” she said. “It really is a marvel. But soon both the growing popularity of the Island and the jungle will conceal it, and a past cultural city will be lost. No one will even recognize the name ‘Geraptiku’, or they will simply wave it off as though it never existed. It’s sad, really.”
It was sad. But Sorren didn’t understand. He knew the Islanders couldn’t be convinced out of their superstitions, but still, they needed to know.
“Are you going to tell the Islanders?” he asked.
“No,” replied Dr. Vanderwalker. “I could never.”
“Why not? Maybe the Islanders will try to preserve it then,” Artemesa pointed out.
Dr. Vanderwalker shook her head. “They will become even more illogical then. They’ll definitely want it taken into the jungle. Artemesa, these kinds of people are a spirit-fearing people. They will do anything to keep out of their way and keep the spirits happy. That’s just the way they live.” She shrugged. “Even if it means doing away with a cultural artifact like the City of Geraptiku.”
“That’s awful,” said Kyren.
“It is,” agreed Dr. Vanderwalker.
“But why are they a spirit-fearing people?” wondered Sorren.
“I don’t know. They are just afraid of upsetting them. But they have taken great care in making sure something like this never happens again. If you’ve noticed, Mystery Island is set in a few scattered villages, rather than one big city.”
“Mm.” Sorren nodded. He had noticed that but had never thought anything of it before.
“Also, did you notice that round stone on top of the Deserted Tomb?”
“Yes,” said Artemesa.
“The natives call the stone “kalahnto”, and that means ‘judgment’. I suppose it sends a warning to what can happen if one is arrogant, like the people of Geraptiku were.”
Sorren hardly noticed they were back at the entrance to Geraptiku. Above them, the sign bearing the city’s name hovered. Like an omen? Hardly. Sorren thought it more a token than an omen. Something the Islanders could say meant a lot to their culture, something other places in Neopia didn’t have, but the Islanders were all too scared and superstitious to admit they did have something very special in their hands.
Geraptiku, Sorren realized, was like a book with a horrid picture on its cover and worn yellow pages, things that made it redundant. It reminded Sorren of this book being crammed on the back of a shelf at the Book Shop where no one would find it, and those who did took one look at it and shivered, thrusting it back, when really the book was marvelous, a book everyone would enjoy. It was a book that was something very precious, and people refused to admit it, just because it had unattractive features, like the picture on the cover. Things that made the Islanders unsure.
Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Sorren’s mother had always told him that, but he never really understood. But now he did. Geraptiku had opened his eyes. The place really wasn’t horrible at all. It was only misjudged.
Sorren looked at the small Mystery Island huts in the distance. He could see the soft yellow glow from the windows as the Islanders still celebrated and talked with their family members about the Gadgadsbogen celebration. He noticed how far away all the houses and stores were from Geraptiku. No one even gave it a chance. And it was a shame; Dr. Vanderwalker was right.
“Huh?” he snapped back to reality.
“I just wanted to say... thanks for taking us here,” said Artemesa. “If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have learned about Geraptiku. It really is a magnificent place.”
“I agree,” said Kyren, nodding earnestly.
“Hey!” came a sudden voice. “Hey, what are you doing?”
They looked over, and standing by one of the huts was an Islander, a Nimmo.
“What are you doing? If you valued your lives, you’d get out of there!”
“But I do value my life,” said Dr. Vanderwalker. “Very much.”
“Then what are you doing in there?” asked the Nimmo.
“Admiring.” Dr. Vanderwalker smiled.
The Nimmo looked at them like they were crazy, and shaking his head, he walked back into his hut.
Sorren looked back at Artemesa and Kyren. “You’re welcome,” he answered them.
“Well, perhaps we should get out of here before we get any more compliments.” Dr. Vanderwalker chuckled to herself.
“Do you really think it’s true?” said Artemesa. “That Geraptiku will be forgotten?”
Dr. Vanderwalker’s smile turned upside down. “I do,” she said sincerely. “I really do. But for those who actually visited Geraptiku and gave it a chance--” she paused and smiled at the three, “--well, it will always be in their memories.”
Smiling, the four walked out of Geraptiku and back into Mystery Island. “Wait!” said Sorren. “So you’re really not going to tell anyone about our theory?”
“No,” said Dr. Vanderwalker. “Why should I? No one would believe it. Besides, the secret of Geraptiku should be kept only with those who have not judged it.”
Sorren smiled and nodded, following his friends out of Geraptiku. Turning once more, he looked at the soon-to-be-forgotten city.
I guess some secrets are better left untold, he thought.