Off to the Land of the Percopotomus – (Short Story)

“Just what is a percopotomus and where can I find such a creature?” I asked my mentor.

He puffed slowly on his water pipe, rolled his eyes upward, then bellowed out a plume of gray smoke. He looked uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure why. He knew the answers to all my questions. But this time he stuttered, then coughed. He grasped the red hose of his pipe and stared not at me, but into the water pipe itself as if the answer lie somewhere in the murky waters that bubbled up and down.

“I suppose one would find a percopotomus in the Land of the Percopotomus,” he replied. “Where else would you find such a creature? I suggest you take a trip to this country and find out for yourself as I know your curiosity will never be satisfied unless you discover your own answers to your impossible questions.”

“Great idea. Then I’m off to the Land of the Percopotomus as soon as I get a map of the country I am about to explore and the creature I am about to conquer.”

That night I tossed and turned. My over-confidence surprised even me. My mentor seemed to have taken it all in with a shrug of his shoulders and a mutter into his water pipe. Next day I set off aboard my pet camel Hardy. I slung my duffel bag onto the back of my makeshift saddle, grabbed the reins, patted Hardy on the neck and then whispered in his ear. “Let’s go my friend. I’ve got the map Mentor drew for me on goat’s skin. The Land of the Percopotomus lies several days ride north of us according to the map.”

Hardy stepped briskly into the morning sun. He batted his long lashes and continued to chew whatever it was he had breakfasted on moments before. I held on tightly with one hand and gripped the map in the other. The saddle swung back and forth, up and down. The sun rose yellow in the desert sky and everywhere I looked, sand abounded. Sometimes the terrain undulated gently into dunes of sand. Sometimes large boulders occupied desert hills. And sometimes, these boulders seemed part of an enormous barbecue burnt by some ancient fire. Around noon, I jumped off my white camel, spread out my lunch on my trail blanket in the shade of one of the burned looking boulders. I blinked my eyes. There was no sign of human habitation and all of a sudden, I felt quite lonely. I decided to guzzle down some of the water I kept cool in my canteen and then grab a quick nap. Soon I was sound asleep. Later, Hardy nudged me awake. I packed away my trail blanket and ascended my ride.

As dusk fell, the orange moon rose in the maroon sky. An eagle spread its wings and flew off into the horizon. Stars twinkled and one seemed to wink at me. Hardy and I kept moving until we grew weary of our long trek. I heard the trickle of water and steered my ride towards the direction of the sound. Sure enough, a small spring bubbled up out of the ground. I tethered Hardy and we made camp for the night. Over an open fire, I brewed a cup of coffee in my old tin pot. Hardy munched on clumps of brush and I chewed on some jerky Mentor had packed for me.  Visions of what a percopotomus looked like danced in my head and soon, to the tune of wild birds and stars blinking of wonders to come, I fell asleep.

A week after an arduous journey, I finally reached the Land of the Percopotomus. My heart pounded with excitement. Even Hardy seemed more alive with each step he took.  I looked all around me at trees reaching towards the sky, of flowers of every imaginable color spreading over fertile hills, and of houses painted in an array of bright shades. People filled the streets on their way to their daily destinations and the laughter of young children rang like music in the air. This was a land, I thought, where people from every profession, from every ethnic group, from every belief flourished. My curiosity about where the percopotomus dwelled, drove me forward.

“Excuse me,” I said to an elderly woman with white hair. I still perched myself on top of Hardy. The woman stared up at me while shading her eyes from the sun. “Can you direct me to where a percopotomus is?”

She looked so prim and proper in her dark navy blue suit. Her pink cheeks glistened and her pink lips said, “The only percopotomus that exists is down two streets to your right and then at the next corner make a left turn. It lives in a cave.”

I nodded and thanked the lady, then followed her directions. On the way to the cave, all I could think of was what did this percopotomus look like. Was it half hippo and half some other creature? Was it pink and purple? Was it orange and green? Was it huge or very tiny? Would it snort, howl, screech, or just grumble? Would it be friendly or hostile? Would it bite me, devour me, or snuggle up to me? I would soon find out.

Hardy continued to chew on the thorny shrub he had snatched up along the way. His thick broad sole pads moved smoothly along the pavement. Suddenly he jerked to a halt. His white hair bristled. He snorted. He shuffled back and forth. I patted him, trying to reassure him that everything would be ok. In seemingly disbelief, he grunted and then slowly plodded onward. Soon we stood before a stone cave. Purple and golden rays emanated from within the entrance. There was an aura I could not explain. A feeling of something frightening yet magical swept over me. I descended Hardy and tethered him to a railing. He grunted again not too happily. My heart thumped thumped thumped and my head pounded but I made my way to the entrance of the cave. Something smelled like ambrosia. Something furry brushed against my leg. Something flew by the side of my face. I squinted, trying to adjust my eyes to the initial darkness of the cave. Then I saw it. I gasped. There it was, the percopotomus. It kneeled itself on the floor of the cave, more towards the center. The purple and golden rays emanated from the creature. It looked half hippo, half dinosaur. It was not huge. In fact, it could fit in my pocket. I shuddered though the air was neither hot nor cold.

Then it spoke. “Welcome to the Land of Percopotomus. My cave is where all writers great and small meet. It is your land of opportunity. Don’t be afraid to live your dreams. Don’t be afraid to write even if you think you trip and fall. The secret is to keep writing, to keep trying, and hey, this is the marathon for all. Keep those fingers moving.”