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Illustrations by Victoria Assanelli
Guest art by Ramon Sierra (Cocor)
Episode 4: The Map of Ultimate Treasure
Hana spent Sunday locked in her room doing homework, so she had to wait until Monday to be shocked by James’ new appearance. When he showed up late for school it was with an eyepatch covering his left eye, drawing the attention of everyone in class. The teacher did not seem to notice or care, having come to expect things like eyepatches from James.
James bumped into a few desks on his way to his seat. One of his bumps knocked down a pencil and he accidentally caught his head on the edge of a desk when he bent to pick it up. He clutched his smarting head but managed not to make a sound; instead he quietly replaced the pencil and headed to his desk much more carefully. He casually took his seat behind Hana and asked what he had missed.
‘Why are you wearing an eyepatch?’ Hana whispered back to him, thinking it more important.
‘It looks silly!’
‘Shh!’ their teacher shushed them.
James flipped up his eyepatch so he could see the notes on the blackboard more clearly. Then he flipped it back down.
‘I saw that, James,’ Hana whispered accusingly.
James merely shrugged and focused on the teacher. Hana had no choice but to do likewise, for their teacher had crossed his arms and was glaring at them from over his glasses. Once he was certain he had regained their attention, the teacher continued on with his lesson, which concerned local history and how many of the city’s early buildings, despite being made of brick, were completely white.
Hana thought of the true founder of their city, the man from whom she had inherited her power: Daniel Druff. The way king and Dan Druff were the only sources Hana felt she needed for local history, but she knew that, since her teacher’s version of events would always differ, she had to pay attention to him if she wished to get good marks.
As soon as the class ended, Hana turned in her seat and grabbed James’ eyepatch, pulling on it until he willingly let it up.
‘What’s the big idea?’ he asked.
‘I take back what I said before,’ she said. ‘Not everyone looks cool with an eyepatch.’ Then she put it on and tapped Henri’s shoulder in front of her. He turned around after shuffling his papers and placing them in his binder.
‘It looks better on you,’ Henri said, and then he got up out of his seat, ready for recess.
Hana turned back to James and smiled. ‘Maybe I should keep it,’ she said.
‘No,’ he told her. ‘It looks stupid.’
Hana pulled it off, a few flakes of dandruff bouncing out of her hair with it, and gave it back to him. He shoved it in his pocket as he stood up.
‘Where did you get that thing, anyway?’ she asked him.
‘You can get eyepatches anywhere,’ he said. ‘My mom picked it up for me at the grocery store. She said they had them by the popcorn and bb guns.’
‘Well, it’s a good thing you weren’t seriously hurt by Brussel’s hand,’ Hana said. ‘I don’t think I could handle being around you if you were forced to be a pirate all day.’
‘Hey, that’s not fair – you have to be a dandruff girl all day and I don’t mind being around you at all.’
Hana kicked him in the shin and he held his leg in pain.
‘Are you guys ready to go now?’ Henri asked them.
They decided that they were and followed him out of the class, James limping as he walked. Hana wanted to practice pitching so they headed to the school’s back field, which was large enough that James could hit the ball without worrying about knocking someone unconscious. Henri put himself in charge of catching the ball.
Near the end of recess James hit the ball to the tree they usually sat under, and Henri ran to it. He came back holding the ball and a large piece of paper.
‘What’s that?’ Hana called to him while shielding her eyes from the sun.
‘It looks like a map,’ Henri said as he walked towards them.
‘Is it a treasure map?’ James asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Henri said, ‘but it has Hana’s name on it.’
‘Give it here!’ Hana said, running up to him and grabbing it out of his hands. Her name was indeed written on the paper, in very fine cursive writing. There was a portion of a map on the back and she found that the paper could be unfolded to form the complete version.
‘That looks like a map all right,’ James said as he joined them.
‘There’s some writing at the top,’ Henri pointed out.
‘“Follow this map to obtain the ultimate treasure”,’ Hana read aloud. ‘I’m guessing “the ultimate treasure” is something that fell off of Brussel.’
‘Look: there’s another, smaller map drawn in the corner,’ James said as he pointed to the tiny map.
‘This whole thing is just a stupid trick by Kohlrabi,’ Hana said angrily. ‘I can’t believe he thinks we’d actually fall for it.’
‘Yeah, it’s like they’re not even trying anymore,’ James said.
‘I don’t think they were trying very hard before,’ Henri said. ‘With that other piece of paper, I mean. If Kohlrabi still had his recorder then I think we’d have something to worry about, but as it is the only thing that might be a bother is Brussel.’
Hana tried not to think about how Brussel could be more of a bother. The bell rang and she dropped the map in a garbage can as they headed back to the school. James went back for the map after Hana and Henri went inside, however, and folded it until it was small enough for him to fit in his pocket.
When he returned to the building, Hana and Henri were waiting for him, and Hana had her arms crossed as she tapped the floor with her foot.
‘What’s up?’ James asked innocently. ‘Aren’t you going to be late for class?’
Without saying anything, Hana held out her hand. James looked at it for a moment and then gave her a high-five.
‘That’s not what I wanted, James,’ she told him as she rubbed her sore palm. ‘Give me the map.’
James sighed, fished the map out of his pocket and slapped it into her hand. He then dejectedly shoved his hands in his pockets and kicked up imaginary dust.
‘If you really, really want to be caught in Kohlrabi’s trap that badly, then we’ll check it out after school,’ she said consolingly. ‘We’ll just have to figure out a way to protect ourselves from trouble.’
‘I think that, by default, following the map is going to be the opposite of protecting ourselves from trouble,’ Henri said.
‘Trouble is what I’m looking for,’ James said. ‘That’s what the ultimate treasure is for me: finding Kohlrabi and Brussel and beating them up. I think that’s something we can all enjoy.’
Hana sighed. ‘I guess we’ll find out what the ultimate treasure is later,’ she said resignedly. ‘For now we should try sneaking back into class. This dumb map’s already causing enough trouble for us.’
They made it through their next set of lessons with difficulty, for all of them had to do with food: first they were taught how to bake an apple pie, and then they had to memorise as many pizza toppings as possible in French. By the time lunch finally rolled around, all of the students were climbing over each other to reach the cafeteria.
Hana, James and Henri picked out their meals and then sat together at a large table by an open window. They opened up the map before them and ate over it as they tried to recognise the various landmarks.
‘None of these places look familiar,’ Hana said after chewing and swallowing most of her sandwich.
James and Henri nodded in agreement as they nibbled on their own food. The first half of the map was made up of a large piece of land, and in the middle of this land was a short series of green, wavy lines. Beside the lines were neatly-written words, naming them The Plains of Humble Origins. A little bit above the lines was a drawing of a cave, which was apparently called The Cave of Mystery. The cave looked like a hump with a large black dot on it. Above The Cave of Mystery, on its own separate island, were The Mountains of the North, which consisted of jagged lines and a few stray Vs. At the bottom of the map were the Southern Mountains, and to the left of The Plains of Humble Origins was Lake Murk, which was marked by a big blue fish. To the far right of the map, taking up most of its second half, was Magma Fortress. Magma Fortress was drawn as a menacing castle below an active volcano, and from the top of the volcano exploded streams of red.
A single dotted line led from The Plains of Humble Origins to The Cave of Mystery, and then that same line somehow led from The Cave of Mystery to Magma Fortress; from there the line traversed the sea to the Southern Mountains, and before the line became too dry it splashed into Lake Murk, all so that it could finally end up in The Mountains of the North. According to the map, that was where the ultimate treasure lay.
‘I think we’re supposed to assume that The Plains of Humble Origins are our school,’ Hana said.
‘So we have to walk everywhere this line goes?’ James asked, suddenly discouraged. ‘That’s going to take forever! And I definitely don’t want to go to wherever this Magma Fortress place is.’
‘If this map is correct, then all we have to do is walk up from The Plains of Humble Origins to The Mountains of the North,’ Henri pointed out.
‘Yeah, but then we wouldn’t be following the map,’ James said.
‘We’d still be following the map,’ Henri said. ‘Think of it as a shortcut.’
‘If we’re going to do this then we’re going to take Henri’s shortcut,’ Hana told James with finality. ‘We’re not going to go into The Cave of Mystery so we can end up in a place called Magma Fortress. And I don’t think I feel like swimming in a place called Lake Murk.’
‘I don’t, either,’ James said. ‘I was only thinking about the rules.’
‘Since when do you follow the rules?’ Henri asked.
‘Since baseball,’ he said, and nobody felt like disagreeing with him.
‘I wonder what The Mountains of the North are,’ Hana said as she leaned over the map, her elbows holding it stiffly in place.
‘The only thing that’s directly north of us is the forest,’ Henri said. ‘I imagine that would be it.’
‘Hey, I think the tiny map drawn in the corner is a clue,’ James said.
They looked at the tiny map. Above it were the words ‘Look here, you idiots!’. The tiny map was almost exactly the same as the large one, but all of the names were changed: The Plains of Humble Origins became the name of their school; Lake Murk was the nearby apartment complex; The Cave of Mystery was the Very Convenience Variety Mart; the Southern Mountains were the school’s parking lot; Magma Fortress was a school they had never heard of before; and The Mountains of the North were indeed the forest to the north of their school.
‘Ah,’ Henri said, summing up the others’ thoughts with one syllable. They quietly sipped their drinks until the bell rang.
Hana had gym class with Pitaya but she did not tell her friend about the map, for she knew that Pitaya would decide to go with them. She did not think it would be fair for Pitaya to become involved in whatever mischief Kohlrabi had cooked up this time, or any other time for that matter, when her friend never wished any harm on anybody.
Pitaya could tell Hana was distracted while they played badminton with their friends Bobby and Sara. Hana’s sister was named after Sara, which was not a long story but rather a very short one. Pitaya kept trying to ask Hana what was wrong, but whenever she did so Bobby or Sara would hit the birdie incorrectly and have to be shown the proper way again. By the time gym class ended, Pitaya had become so distracted herself that she simply forgot about her concern for Hana.
During the last recess of the day, Hana met up with James and Henri again, this time to discuss their plans for escape. They decided that if something were to go wrong, Hana would pull out a herd of dandruff sheep and have them carry the group to safety.
They then felt ready to head to the forest, so after school they made last-minute preparations – such as James and Henri double-checking the locks on their bicycles at the bicycle rack, for they had to abandon them there – and bravely entered The Mountains of the North. As the map was not very specific about where the ultimate treasure was, placing it vaguely in the middle of the forest, Hana and James appointed Henri as their leader, for he seemed to know the most about mysterious maps. He also acted as a human compass, able to tell which direction they were heading in without having to check for the direction moss was facing or the position of the sun.
They walked until they became too thirsty to go on. The time did not matter so much to them as their parents expected the trio to always hang out together after school.
‘I’m so thirsty that I could drink banana juice,’ Hana said.
‘I’ve never heard of banana juice before,’ Henri said. ‘Is that even real?’
‘I could go for some as well, either way,’ James said.
Though the idea of turning back and seeking out banana juice had suddenly become very much appealing to them, they decided to check out some clattering and twanging sounds that were coming from just up ahead first. The mess of sounds appeared to be coming from a clearing, and according to Henri the clearing was almost in the exact centre of the forest.
As they drew near the cacophony, they noticed a small, red, wooden platform, almost like a stage, and on the stage were small creatures moving about. When they entered the clearing they found that the creatures were a chicken, a bird, a cat, and a pair of rats, all of them with a different musical instrument tied around their bodies. The animals were trying to get the instruments off of themselves, and as they moved around they performed a concert of unspeakable noise.
‘It’s awful!’ Hana tried to shout above the din.
‘Isn’t it wonderful?’ a small, sure voice came from behind them, and the trio jumped in unison.
They turned around to see a young boy wearing a green school uniform. They immediately recognised the boy as Jack, a rich child who lived with his family in a mansion in the forest. The last time they had seen him was when they had helped him reunite with his afro-wearing cool cat.
‘What is all this?’ Hana asked, wincing as she desperately tried to cover her ears with her hands.
‘That’s Las Chapaletas,’ Jack explained. ‘It’s a band I put together.’
‘Hana! Hurry! Use the sheep!’ James cried out.
Jack looked at James with scowling confusion. ‘What sheep?’ he asked. ‘I arranged this performance for you guys. It’s Las Chapaletas.’
‘You already said that,’ James said. ‘I didn’t understand what it meant then and I don’t understand what it means now.’
‘That’s the name of my animal band,’ Jack explained impatiently.
‘Jack, did you put together this map?’ Henri asked as he handed the map to him. ‘Is this the ultimate treasure?’
‘Of course it is,’ Jack said.
‘This is the ultimate treasure?’ Hana asked.
‘You can dance if you like. I won’t stop you.’
Hana took more notice of the green school uniform that he was wearing. ‘So you’ve finally shown your true colour,’ she said through slit eyes as she inspected his clothing.
‘What? My splendid school uniform? Even I have to go to school, you know.’
‘Jack, did you put Las Chapaletas together yourself?’ Henri asked him.
‘I had some help from some older boys,’ Jack said. ‘They told me to make the map so you could come see my band.’
Henri pointed to the tiny map in the corner of the paper. ‘Did Kohlrabi draw this?’
‘Yes, he drew that,’ Jack said, ‘and he wrote all the words as well. All I did was draw the pictures.’
‘Ugh. I can’t believe Kohlrabi corrupted you,’ Hana said, almost pityingly. ‘As far as you can be corrupted, I mean.’
‘If you’re not going to watch the show then you might as well leave,’ Jack told the trio.
‘I’m afraid we do have to leave, Jack, but it’s not because we don’t want to see the show,’ Hana said.
‘Yes it is!’ James shouted, and Hana stepped on his foot.
‘Anyway, I don’t think you should hang out with Kohlrabi anymore,’ Hana told Jack. ‘He’s not a very good boy. If you’re not careful, he’ll try to trick you into doing something bad. Okay? It’s better to stick with kids who are your own age.’
Jack was not paying her much attention, though, for something on the stage had caught his eye.
‘No!’ he cried out. ‘The rat took off his saxophone!’ And then he pushed past Hana and James to reach the stage.
‘Should we let him play with a rat?’ Henri asked.
‘It’s a step up from Kohlrabi,’ Hana said. ‘Anyway, let’s get out of here. My ears are hemorrhaging.’
With that they left the forest and returned to James’ and Henri’s bicycles. They rode them to Hana’s place, with Hana riding with James as she always did, and once there they got out the stuff for making banana smoothies.
‘Can we just pretend that these are the ultimate treasure?’ James asked before gulping down his drink.
‘They are for today,’ Hana said. ‘The ultimate treasure could be something very different tomorrow.’
‘Like more smoothies?’
‘Yeah,’ Hana said. ‘Or getting revenge on Kohlrabi. One of those. I mean, they’re practically the same thing.’
To Be Continued In Episode Five: Down the Drain