“Ahhhhh,” Phil let out an awful sounding groan as he woke up from yet another ridiculous bed situation. He rubbed his eyes for an inordinate amount of time in hopes of putting off actually waking up, while still knowing that he had to keep moving sooner rather than later. Another couple of seconds and he finally accepted his fate as a wide awake man. This was thanks in large part to the sun beaming down on him, and the countless critters crawling about that had apparently already had their morning coffee. He stood up and began to look around for his partner, but couldn’t see Mitch anywhere. Initially this gave him no real worry because Mitch’s lack of height finds him accidentally hiding behind everyday objects many times. But after a quick search of his immediate surroundings, Phil began to worry about how he’d progress without the sole reason he was on this quest.
“Mitch!!” he holla’d only to find there to be no holla back. “Mitchel!!! Where you at?” he yelled again to no avail. Left all alone at the base of a mountain range knowing only that he was supposed to cross it, Phil decided to trudge on in hopes that Mitch would be somewhere nearby. Being alone with only his angry thoughts, it took Phil a long time to realize what his nose was trying to tell him. There was the delicious smell of breakfast coming from just off to the side of the beaten path. Even Phil couldn’t pass up this smell despite being in his perpetually bad mood. The idea of following the scent became even more enticing as he realized that Mitch had probably gone towards the smell as soon as he woke up. The potential for food and finding his partner was enough to get Phil walking at a hurried pace. As he got closer, the smell got stronger and he began to hear more conversation. Beginning to make out that there was a clearing ahead had him close enough to really hear what was being said. This had him more confused than before about what was ahead because he could tell that there seemed to be just one man talking, and that man sounded a lot like the eccentric from the bonfire the previous night, Daniel.
“I’ll tell you, but then you’d know!” Daniel shouted to what Phil could only imagine was still nobody in particular. Phil peered around a tree to get a better look as he saw that Daniel was indeed just talking to himself as he sat at a picnic table with Mitch and a random girl. Looking all around the cleared area as he walked out, he noticed a feast of all kinds of breakfast food that had made the delicious smell drawing both he and Mitch to it.
“SonofaMitch…” Phil said quietly as if talking to himself surprised that he could still be surprised after all he had encountered.
“Hey!” Mitch shouted looking up from his massive meal, “Watch your language!”
“I said ‘Mitch’ not…” Phil began to reply.
“C’mon son!” Mitch cut him off with his head turned slightly skyward resembling Ed Lover, “Look, I found food, and Daniel! This guy is just as crazy as ever.” Mitch paused for a beat to allow Phil to respond as most humans would in a normal conversation, but Phil was too dumbfounded by all the nonsense prevalent to think.
“No bread!” Daniel raised his voice again assuming the silence was his moment to shine. “Nuts maybe, but no to bread!” His shouting was accompanied by Mitch’s laughter.
“Just too much,” Mitch spoke while laughing and eating at the same time. A trifecta that is not only a choking hazard, but is just downright disgusting to watch in person. “This is Lauren, by the dubs. She’s the reason for the fantastic food that is all about. And the passed out gentleman to your left lying on the grass holding a half-eaten loaf of bread is Phíl.”
“He does that a lot,” Lauren talked as her voice trailed off towards the end of her sentence. “He shows up, eats everything I make, and then passes out.” Once more her voice started with a normal amount of certainty in what she was saying before wavering off in an asymptotic path until it was as if she never really finished either sentence. Phil was impressed at the number of peculiar talkers he had met in such a short period of time. So much to take in all at once, and it appeared that he was the only one that found anything happening to be abnormal. He pondered these thoughts while eating nuts and not bread; inadvertently hopping on Daniel’s bandwagon.
“I just don’t know where to begin,” Phil began, thereby contradicting himself, “How did Daniel get here? Why do you make these giant breakfasts, Lauren? And why does that drawing on the wall over there seem to be constantly moving?” Phil’s last question got Mitch looking across to the chalk drawing that was indeed moving in a random pattern, but never straying far from where it already was.
“Well, Daniel here apparently will be gone in a couple of weeks or so,” Mitch tried to answer the one question he could handle. “Apparently his method is to lent his home to a friend this time each year while he heads East err…something like that.” Mitch simultaneously shrugged and rolled his eyes as he said, “I didn’t get it either.” Phil noticed something interesting about what Mitch said that had him intrigued, but before he could rerun Mitch’s report of Daniel’s ramblings through his head once more, Lauren explained the big question on everyone’s mind.
“That drawing is my bad,” Lauren spoke with the same pattern of trailing off as before, “I found some chalk one day, and it turns out it’s kinda magic and opens up this portal to another world that takes place within the mountain.”
“Portal?” Phil asked aloud what he and Mitch were thinking as each chowed down on their respective meals.
“Yeah,” Lauren seemed really excited which meant that this next sentence would have be long-winded to continue her pattern of dropping off in volume. “So, like, you can pretty much just walk straight in if you draw a hole on that wall and you can walk all the way through to the other side of the mountain, and then you don’t have to walk over it or around because those would take super long.” And just like that, she had kept the pattern going.
“Sign us up,” Phil looked at Mitch like they had just stumbled upon the deal of a lifetime. Mitch was just as eager to avoid any extra work, and they both started to head towards the moving door.
Lauren tried to give them both a fair warning before they lunged into yet another new world, “Just saying, if you guys don’t get to the other side in time, the portal will close and you’ll be locked in there forever.”
“How can you know that?” Mitch asked slightly scared of the upcoming answer.
“Well, the hole closes steadily if I don’t redraw it, and I can’t use the chalk when I’m in there,” Lauren’s words were terrifying, but her tone for some reason wasn’t.
“Then draw a giant hole and we’ll run as fast as we can,” Phil said more scared of the thought of having to walk up and down an entire mountain than at getting locked in a world within a world for the rest of his angry life.
“Well,” Lauren began already quiet meaning she didn’t have much to say, “I’m out of chalk.” Phil and Mitch had begun to take off as soon as they heard the word “out” trying not to be rude, but focusing on the task at hand.
“Lata,” they each yelled at Lauren and her two oddball friends: Daniel and Phíl. As they hopped into yet another world, things once again took a weird turn. Suddenly, everything had a two dimensional quality about it, and appeared to be made with chalk. Perhaps in a different scenario, they both would’ve taken some more time to inspect their atypical surroundings, but they had a time limit to beat as they each jogged at a hurried pace. Right from the start Mitch and Phil could make out the finishing hole off in the distance giving them both a fair idea of how far they had to go. What they didn’t know – and didn’t have time to bother calculating – was how much time before that hole shrunk until it was too small to pass through. Thankfully both had had extensive training for various 5K’s over the years making them comfortable with how fast they were currently moving.
“I think we might be good to go if we can just keep up this pace,” Phil said amidst his huffing and the occasional puffing, “I don’t see any immediate dangers.” No sooner than Mitch gave him the Ed Lover look in chalk form did they begin to hear a distant but loud Gregorian type chant.
“Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, KU,” the words ostensibly came from all around albeit with no source to be found.
“Man, you just had to say something didn’t you?” Mitch asked Phil rhetorically. “On the bright side, I think we’re going to see what a real Jayhawk looks like.”
“I don’t know that that’s really a positive, Mitch,” Phil responded with his sarcasm turned up to eleven even as he tried to conserve energy along his run. And just as the chant finished providing a brief moment of silence, a magnificently bright blue and red bird made of chalk shot out of the sky headed straight towards them both. Mitch and Phil both had just a second to split up in an attempt to avoid the bird racing at them. They each did so just in time as they avoided getting stomped by the bird’s comically large shoes which were trumped only in size by the bird’s massive beak.
“Wow, we’re getting attacked by a real, live chalk drawing of a Jayhawk,” Mitch shouted to Phil. In a way, Mitch almost seemed happy that as this madness ensued along their march, it involved cartoons all en a field housed by a world within a world. Maybe he was just delirious from all of the chalk, but he still knew there was plenty of danger to be respected involving a bird whose beak alone was enough to comfortably hold each of them. But just as quickly as the Jayhawk came from one direction, a blue devil came from a separate corner. It was darting straight for Phil before the Jayhawk pounced on it sending it tumbling. Phil looked on in terror at the two mammoth beasts that were so near him as Mitch watched giddily jumping up and down from the other side. While the blue devil got to its feet, a bulldog entered from the west coast and a man in a truck with an Indiana license plate drove in from the North. Each had a glare in their eyes as if on a mission to destroy, and fortunately for Mitch and Phil they were all more focused more on each other than anyone else.
“Mitch, let’s get out of here!” Phil shouted as he started on his way towards their destination.
“Wait just a second,” Mitch said still bouncing with excitement, “I’ve been waiting all year for these four to finally show up!” The disgust in Phil’s face as he realized Mitchel was serious had both of his chalk eyebrows pointed down and in at 45 degree angles. This was because there were no other indicators in the chalk world to show anger.
“Mitch, we don’t have time! Let’s go!” Phil shouted catching the attention of the bulldog who was then smashed by the blue devil. Mitch’s sadness was palpable as he realized Phil was right and that they had better head towards the gate before it closed for good.
“Fine,” he said as he began to run towards Phil and the hole off in the distance. They each had a little bit of adrenaline aiding in the process now as they sped towards the closing passageway. A combination of being attacked by a blue bird wearing size 24 sneakers and hearing that same bird in an intense struggle with three other crazy chalk drawings added plenty of motivation to get out of there as quickly as possible. Luckily for them and their quest, they did just that as Phil went through first knowing that if he could get through then any small child, Mitch included, could easily get through. Hopping through the portal, Mitch took one longing glance back to watch what he could of the epic showdown. But before it came close to being finished, another minute passed and the entrance was sealed shut for good. A slight tear came to Mitch’s eye as Phil did his best to comfort him. They had just missed out on a really good view, but all things considered they were sitting in pretty good shape. They had just traversed an entire mountain in a day as they began to walk down its opposite side. Still unaware of their every movement being watched, Mitch and Phil continued onward discussing the pros and cons of the one-and-done rule of college basketball.