and The Quest to See
Chapter 12 - Ngrongo's fingers
The girls had to wait until the following Sunday because of the thirteen
hour time zone difference between Australia and South America, which
could only be accommodated if they were to arrive there at dusk.
'This is Brazil. Down there is the Negro river that joins the Amazon.
Somewhere far along its long, long length is the place of the
moon-flower, the wonderful, fragile blooms that only open at night
beneath the moon's pale beams and then die off before the dawn. If you
guys want the full Margaret Mee experience I can arrange that, but...'
Priscilla's brow furrowed, 'Give up with the "but" Harry, and remember
it'll be your butt when we get back. Dog-wash day for poor old pets!'
'I hear you loud and clear Miss Black and I don't need The Sword of
Damocles hanging over me...'
'What are you on about? Sword of damn what?'
'Never mind.' Harry answered. 'The 'but' is that I want you to make
contact with Ngrongo.'
'Ngghhum-who? Another of your alien pals? Is he or she a native, or
maybe a friendly Piranha?'
Harry snorted. 'You're being extremely childish Priscilla, Ngrongo is
one of ours... Of course he has to stay in character.'
'Sure, sure, but what or who is...'
'He's outside somewhere right now. You're down on the banks of the Negro
before it flows into the Amazon.'
'I always thought that Amazon was just on-line. I'm not so sure about
this.' Priscilla muttered.
'Get set,' said Harry. 'Usual routine, press all the buttons on your
activators, but be very careful when you step outside. No fast
movements, just let your guide come to you.'
'Thanks heaps Harry,' Priscilla said, passing through the open portal
and down onto a patch of scrubby grass and drying mud. Before her lay
a shock of dense undergrowth overhung by masses of trees that crowded out
the daylight. Behind her, John-boy led Marsha out of the BlackEagle,
carefully negotiating the step.
'So hokay Harry, where's Drongo or whatever his name is?' Priscilla
demanded into her Hand Activator.
'About an arm's length from you,' came Harry's subdued voice. 'Don't
make any sudden movements! Just stand still.'
'Harry! If he's a crocodiles or python or whatever, get ready for
gelding!' Priscilla hissed, trying to make sense of the riot of greenery
that crowded out all her vision.
'Hello. I am Ngrongo.' A voice that was a sob on the breeze and a sudden
pressure on Priscilla's back made her shrink with abject fear and turn
about to find nothing behind her and realization that the owner of the
voice was actually clinging to the small of her back just below her
'Yarch! Who are you? What are you!'
'Don't be frightened, I am one of Harry's folk. I can't help being a
little weighty ...'
'I... don't... want... to... know... what... you... weigh... or...
what... you... look... like... just... get... off... my... back!'
Priscilla managed through stringy lips.
John-boy began a low growling.
'Easy Johnny,' said Marsha soothingly. 'I know you can see whatever
Ngrongo is and Priscilla can't because he's behind her, but I'm certain
Harry wouldn't allow any of his people to hurt us.'
'Hurt us nothing!' Priscilla cried, her fists at her mouth. 'Whatever,
feels like a big ball hanging off my shoulders. What are you? Some kind
'He's your guide,' came Harry's breezy voice from Priscilla's Activator.
'Excepting that you will proceed and he will direct from behind. Miss
Marsha, aided by John-boy, will follow on. You can help the dog find his
way by using the flashlight in your pocket. But shield it, we don't want
to alarm the entire forest.'
'I am absolutely harmless to you Miss Priscilla.' said the silky voice
at her back. 'As harmless as those moths fluttering through the
twilight, ummm... Please turnabout and begin to walk forward along the
rough path before you. Can you see it with your poor eyes?'
Priscilla, trembling and feeling extremely hot, began to follow a faded,
overgrown way through the dimming undergrowth.
Patterns of glittering, fantastic spiderwebs gleamed in the trees and
foliage all about and the flapping sounds of bird-life rustling to roost
filtered through the high canopy above.
'Those squawking sounds come from macaws and toucans and various forest
parrots.' Whispered Ngrongo. 'Soon the night will silence them and the
Spectacled Owls will come out to hunt.'
But it was not the wild screeching of the birds that sent constant
shivers up Priscilla's spine. It was the clinging creature at her back.
The dusk deepened swiftly as they travelled, winding through vast
forest-jungle. At times, small creatures darted across their path, and
Priscilla, wearing her Night-Sights could easily pick out their
scurrying forms. To her right, the liquid sound of the Negro river
poured endlessly on.
A chorus of long, mournful cries whooped through the roof-top foliage
away from the river, drowning even its rumblings. Hanging at her back,
her hidden guide maintained a whispered commentary.
'Those are Black Howler Monkeys, don't be afraid. They will not harm you
The calls of the creatures reverberated through the deep forest, echoing
John-boy whined and grumbled, but kept resolutely plodding on until a
large four-legged animal darted between him and Priscilla. He barked,
'Steady dog, it is only a Capybara hurrying home.' Whispered Ngrongo.
'That, whatever you called it, was as big as a dog!' Priscilla managed,
catching sight of it through her Night-Sight's as the creature darted
into the undergrowth.
'Yes of course, a dog but not a dog. The world's largest rodent in
'A giant rat! You're kidding me Ngron... now where did you g...'
Priscilla said as she swung around, again realizing that her informant
was attached firmly like a back-pack on her back.
Somewhere far off, a roar shattered the quiet that had descended as they
moved further from the river.
'Jaguar, big cat, bigger than an ocelot, but not a night-time hunter.'
Ngrongo quietly offered.
The moon rose majestically over the jungle, washing through the trees
and casting its bright light across their shadowed pathway.
'We are nearing the place that you seek,' said the whispering voice at
Priscilla's shoulder. 'Dim your torch with your forward-probing arms, it
is best to keep light at a minimum if you wish to see the Moonflower's
bloom, since they are sensitive to other sources and will not open.'
With only the faintest glimmering of Priscilla's torch they came into an
open area over-hung by the crowding forest on all sides.
'We are here. This is where the plant hides from the sunlight and opens
by moonbeams,' whispered Priscilla's close companion upon her back. She
experienced a weird, creepy feeling as Ngrongo slightly altered position
between her shoulder blades. It was rather like the movement of a large
hand's fingers, except with more fingers than a hand should have.
John-boy's growl slowly ended in a whimper.
'Steady Johnny, steady,' Marsha soothed him, reaching out to gently rub
Automatically, Priscilla turned about to play her tiny, dancing light
upon the dog and his mistress. John-boy's whine faded, though his wide
eyes glimmered with a spark of shining alarm.
'It's alright pal,' said Priscilla, still experiencing the discomforting
movement and inwardly shivering. 'We're here now and maybe Harry's
friend Ngron... Ngrongo... will leave me, us...'
'That is a solution, Miss Priscilla. I will say goodbye to you humans
and your animal and return to my solitude. Who knows what might have
come into my parlour?'
Priscilla felt a sudden release of weight from her back and a sound like
a coconut hitting the ground. She turned in time to play a tiny splash
of light from her masked torch across the retreating form of a huge,
grey spider, the size of a football, making away into the undergrowth.
'Yuck! An eight-legged giant creepy-crawly all over my back! Harry! How
'Hey! Seven or nine legs blows the spider test. Ngrongo is a Goliath
spider by the way. Me? I only got four legs and you do O.K. on two.
What's the big deal with eight?'
'I'm gonna pass-out, that's what's the big deal! And anyway. So
Grongo-Drongo is one of your guys, what's he, it, here in the middle of
the Amazon basin for? Like haven't you noticed? Only us dumb-dumbs, lots
of really scary critters and a few locals hang here. Why do guys from
Watzat, or whatever you call it, need an outpost where nobody lives?'
'Ahem! Miss Priscilla, us... Wasats... Wasatians... denizens of... Wasat
matter anyhow? Point is that we have guys into all Planet Earth. They
don't have to be where Humans are, they do have to monitor your world
and report their findings. How the hell do you think us guys could be of
help to you guys? Ngrongo and our agents out here track logging,
poaching, mineral extraction, pollution by mining companies, slaving,
abductions... Need I go on?'
'No, no more Harry, I'm like, almost over Monster Spiders and now you're
trying to turn me into an info-zombie. I guess we have to look around to
find the Moonflowers, so let's get on with it... oh, look at that!' she
said, shining her light upon a looming tree.
'What is it Priscilla?' Marsha asked, hopefully.
'Oh no, its closing up again!'
'You're giving it too much torchlight Priscilla, mask off most of it
with your hand and just allow enough glimmer to see.' Said Harry.
'Yes, that's right. It's a bit of a balancing act. Apparently when
Margaret Mee and her crew were here she could only sketch the flowers in
the faintest light. Anything too powerful like film lamps simply made
the blooms hide again.'
Ohh! It's like really amazing that some kind of mechanical thing, which
it isn't cos it's nature, is happening here right before our... my
eyes... The petals are slowly clicking open again. I wonder if this
place is exactly where Miss Mee came to to do her work?'
'Here abouts, I'd guess.' said Harry from their Hand Activators, but
that's why the BlackEagle couldn't get it exact to within a kilometer.
Bring on Ngrongo. Nothing like a local guide.'
'Tell me what it looks like Priscilla. I want to know every detail about
the Moonflower and its setting, about the night-sky and the jungle
around us and the way the moonlight comes through the trees, and most of
all about the flower, how it opens its petals, how long it glimmers for
the moon. What is its colour? Would the colour be like the taste of
cream or vanilla or chocolate or apple?'
Priscilla screwed up her eyes, then blinked in the faint light of her
shielded torch. 'Hang on Marsha, can't you see for yourself now? Like
hazy maybe, but at least a little bit, I mean I thought you said that
when we finally got here you'd get your sight back, that you'd see
again? All because of the Moon-Flower. What do I have to do? Do I pick
them and crush the petals together and rub them on your eyes or do you
have to eat them or what?'
Marsha managed a torn smile. 'I think you took what I said differently
to what I actually meant. As I told you, I have been fascinated by the
story of Margret Mee for quite some time. It's such a romantic
adventure, for her to come all the way from England to South America and
journey up the Amazon many times over and finally to find a plant that
only blooms at night beneath a shining moon, A moon that I can only
imagine. You have been the means for John-boy and myself to do this. The
BlackEagle Girls and Harry, of course, have made it possible that me and
my dog are here at this special moment.'
'But can't you begin to see a little bit?'
'Yes. Through you. You are my eyes Cilla. And yes, I have John-boy. He's
my guide. But he can't speak, he can't describe this place. He can only
witness it. You... you can tell me everything. Don't you see? That is
what this is all about. I am blind, yet I will see. You can see, and yet
you want to be blind. Do you want to go through the rest of your life
'No,' said Priscilla in a small voice.
'Then see. See Priscilla! I know you can do it. You have the faith, you
have the honesty to understand. You know that you have got this all
wrong, that it wasn't somebody else at fault: not your Dad or Rachael.
It's you. And we have to come all this way to the middle of a jungle in
the deeps of the Amazon wilderness, with a very strange companion, to
confront your fear. Now you have to overcome it. Is Fear a giant spider
on your back or the discovery that your Mother committed suicide, or
that you, or your Brother, might one day become insane?'
Priscilla wiped at her eyes. 'You came all this way to teach me a
Marsha reached out a searching hand and found Priscilla's arm.
'I came all this way to learn a lesson. I'm just a girl, like you,
except with a guide dog. Sure, I'm one of Harry's girls. One of all his
people's friends from all over the world, and I know you are too. We're
all part of Harry and his kind's way to show the young of the world a
path to peace. We could be anywhere in the world right now, except that
I know and trust John-boy. He won't let me down Priscilla. Will you?
Your eyes, to tell me everything, my mind to understand and visualise.
Your eyes to read the words of your Mother and find a way through, for
yourself and your Brother. Have the courage. Don't turn away into
darkness. Face whatever must be faced. See!'
Priscilla took a deep breath, clutching her hands and the torch to her
mouth. 'This isn't about the Moonflower, it's about me. All along, it's
about me. Getting me to have the balls to read what my Mother did to
herself. Right! Alright! I'll tell you what the flowers look like! I'll
tell you anything you want to know! When I'm done we go home. Harry!'
'You little mongrel! I'm bringing my Mom's diaries back and I'm going to
read them with Moni. Marsha and Johnny have got me sorted out. Now I
have to do what I'm here for.' Priscilla heaved a huge sigh, took a
couple of long breaths and began. 'Marsha, the moonlight is pouring like
the air you breathe, soft and gently, through the jungle canopy of
trees. Think of the taste of vanilla and lime and bananas. Vanilla
especially for the flowers, their petals are white and creamy yellow,
think the taste of real cream, vanilla ice-cream and lemon sorbet...'
'You might want to adjust your earlier comment to "Intestinal
fortitude". Anatomically you don't qualify for ball...'
'Harry! Sit on it!'
Chapter 13 next