Thursday, September 30, 2010

Yellow Bandana

Continued from “The Howl”

The howl was followed by a moment of eerie silence. Then came the ear splitting clanging as someone half tripped, jumped, and tumbled down the metal stairway to the pavement below.

Three figures in dark hoodies stared up at Gonga, their mouths half open while the fourth and fifth members of their group hurtled back down the stairs towards them.

“What kind of a clown is that?” the guy wearing a yellow bandana demanded.

The echoes stopped as his two stair climbing companions picked themselves up off the pavement.

“It’s a gorilla,” the first one panted, shouldering his way past the yellow bandana and heading toward the street.

“Come on, you’re not going to let that purse get away that easy, are you?” yellow bandana demanded, catching him by the shoulder.

His hood fell back as he turned, showing a mane of black hair.

“Dude, I ain’t fighting a wild gorilla for anything. Don’t you watch TV? Those things are ten times stronger than humans.”

“Well, then go call the zoo,” yellow bandana sneered. “Better yet, Pete, you got that gun back at home still?”

“Maybe,” Pete grunted, his hoodie pulled low over his face, hiding his expression.

“Go get it, we’ll stake this place out while you’re gone. There’s no other way down from here. I’ve looked before.” Yellow bandana turned away, his orders given.

Pete scowled in the shadow of his hood, but turned to go.

I pulled back from the top of the ladder, into the shadows. Gonga dissolved into the darkness. “Are you OK?” I whispered softly, hoping the girl was still close enough to hear me.

“Who are you, and where did you get that costume?” she asked from less than five feet away.

I jumped. But no one could tell from inside my Gonga suit.

“I’m Gonga, I work for The Textbook Game,” I hissed, trying to do my Gonga voice in an undertone. It came out somewhat garbled.

“Never mind,” I switched back to my normal voice, “the real question is, what are you doing out this late at night?”

“Going home.”


“More to the point,” I said, hearing movement at the bottom of the ladder, “have you explored this roof yet? We need to find another way down. I don’t think I can take on five at once. At least not if Pete gets his gun.”

“I didn’t see anything,” she said, “but I haven’t explored everything yet.”

To be continued…

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Howl

Continued from “The Rooftop”

Gonga drifted about halfway up the metal stairway and paused to flatten himself against the wall as the security guard passed by overhead. He counted the seconds as the guard paused and continued his round. Breathing out gently, Gonga crept up the remaining stairs and swung down the waist high ledge surrounding the roof. He took a couple steps into the middle of the black roofing material, then flattened himself on the ground to observe.

Above, the stars shone faintly, fighting their way through the glare of Columbia’s lights to make an appearance on the rooftop.

A light switched on in a window about twenty feet from Gonga’s position on the roof. Someone rummaged past the turned window shades and around the desk. The shadow captured Gonga’s attention for a minute, then the light flicked off again and a door slammed.

It was late. Gonga realized that he didn’t even hear traffic from his rooftop hiding place.

What time was it? Two in the morning?

Then he heard it.

A shriek. Sneakers pounding across pavement.

A panicked whimper. Then someone wildly clanging up the stairway.

I snaked over to the edge of the roof and rose, carefully lifting my head over the edge of the parapet.

A second set of footsteps charged up the stairway, doubling the echoes crashing back and forth in the alleyway.

With a frightened gasp, a girl flung herself over the edge of the wall. “Help!” she shouted, stumbling forward into the darkness.

Half turning towards the ladder she snarled, “Leave me alone!” Her words held the dangerous note of an animal at bay.

At that moment, Gonga stepped into the full force of his rightfull glory. His huge, shaggy body loomed up in the moonlight, fists pounding his chest. He took one leap forward onto the top step of the ladder and flung his head back in a howl; a wild, pulsing howl that straight from the depths of his home in Africa.

To be continued…

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Rooftop

Continued from “Couldn’t Sleep”

A dark figure moved across the top of the stairway at the top of the building. It paused at the corner of the roof and then drifted back into the darkness.

Gonga’s eyes moved back and forth. He let his eyes lose focus, concentrating on his peripheral vision, searching for light, for movement, for anything that would give him a clue as to the identity of the unknown roof walker.

Who in their right mind would be out at this time of night? Gonga wondered. It had to be a trap of some sort.

Cautiously, he removed his hand from the railing and stepped back, off the metal ladder.

He stood perfectly still, letting his ears filter through the crickets and other night sounds. He was searching for something. Anything.

After an agonizing coffee buzzing fifteen minutes, he finally heard something other than the sound of his racing pulse. Footsteps. Muffled, going along the roof-top.

Once again, the figure moved across the top of the stairway and paused at the roof corner.

A light-bulb flashed in his brain and Gonga paused, momentarily blinded by his own brilliance. A security guard. That’s who this was. A security guard assigned to patrol the rooftop of the engineering building.

Hopefully he wasn’t carrying textbooks in his backpack to hurl down at trespassers.

Gonga searched fruitlessly for a “Keep Off” sign or a chain, or any other signal that would tell him to slowly back away from the stairway and exit the premises.

He stepped softly onto the first metal step. He was glad that red shows as black at night. He had taken the precaution of turning his bright red T-shirt with white “The Textbook Game” letters inside-out before leaving the house. And now he blended into the night.

To be continued…

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Couldn’t Sleep

I couldn’t sleep last night. For some reason, I felt a sense of oppression, a sense of dread. The weather was fine, no ominous thunder clouds to make me worry. Nothing on the news aside from various budget cuts the governor had proposed. Those would worry someone. Not me. What was wrong? Why couldn’t I sleep?

Maybe it was the fifteen crispy cream donuts I had consumed along with two tall glasses of milk less than half an hour before midnight. Maybe it was the coffee I had nursed since eight pm that night. Or maybe I was just worried about nothing.

I had to get out, I needed to DO something.

But it was almost midnight.

I felt a grin creeping across my usually stoic countenance. That had to be the coffee. I don’t smile.

In a few seconds I had pulled my Gonga costume out of the closet and transformed. Now I was ready to brave the night.

The air was cool, with a hint of fall tingling my cheeks through the eye holes in the mask. For once, I appreciated the extra fur Gonga’s costume provided. I turned the corner on the street and headed onto campus.

Gonga’s night vision kicked into high gear as he peered down the street between the engineering buildings. The lamps lit up all but a few dark patches. And those dark patches are what interested Gonga. He prowled past the north west entrance to engineering building east (EBE) and squinted his eyes into the darkness.

A white gleam of stairway caught his attention. Gonga gave a little grunt of curiosity and hurried towards the stairway. As he got closer, his plasticized face displayed no emotion, but his steps became quicker. There was no chain blocking this metal stairway, not even a “keep off” sign, or yellow caution tape!

He began climbing, stealthily placing one foot above another.

Then he froze.

To be continued…

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How To Not Get Hurt

As a general rule of thumb, you should never try to climb a building if there is a security guard walking around. Those guards really will try to stop you. Especially if there are chains on the gates you try to go over, or padlocks on the fire escapes you try to climb or yellow caution tape draped about the premises.

I speak from personal experience. Those guards really aren’t interested in protecting you. At first I thought that was their job. But I, Gonga, am a gorilla. And everyone knows that gorillas are capable of navigating heights fairly safely. The guard thought otherwise.

Another place to avoid is the stair wells in parking garages. Only if you are six four and over 250 pounds should you venture into those traps after two in the morning. Being Gonga, I can safely do such things. I just have to start one of my long winded gorilla howls, and perpetrators usually turn tail and run. Not sure if it’s the shock of seeing a gorilla in a parking garage stairwell after two in the morning or whether my yell is simply so deafening that they’re forced to retreat. At any rate.

Don’t go in a parking garage stairwell on your own early in the morning. Please. I don’t want to have to rescue you.

Another place to avoid is lecture halls in the middle of the lecture. No, I don’t mean skip class. But definitely avoid walking across stage by mistake. Especially if it’s an engineering class. And the professor is in a bad mood. And he happens to be teaching ballistics. And he brought his model trebuchet into class that day. No. I don’t want to talk about it.

And, as a side note. If you ever decide to have a note burning party…don’t try to do it in a bookstore. Even if you have a carefully insulated metal container and a filter rigged to that you don’t let any smoke escape. You may think your model incinerator is a feat of engineering brilliance. But don’t use it at the bookstore. Because I WON’T come rescue you. After all, you have to remember where I work.