The Summerqueen’s Tour’nament
By Amanda Cad (EGT) & Randy S. (STTF)
Evander’s friend Bessie shouted above the noise. The Howling had taken so much of their energy; the rest of the group barely noticed. Evander pushed ahead to the Seeker position to get a better look. It was difficult to see anything past the shuffle of his feet. But Bessie was right; something seemed to be flashing a low light on a nearby ridge.
“I’ll go check it out. Tell them I’m headed for the hills.” Evander nodded at their fellow Travelers and moved swiftly away. In a moment Bessie was right behind him; he appreciated her company and quiet support.
As he got closer, Evander could see it was actually a reflection set into the ridgeline. Evander could make out something pressed into the gravel. It was a feather the size of the one he had carried with him for so long now. “I guess that’s just the shape of it,” Evander thought to himself and took the feather from his stash pocket. With a steady pulse, he placed it on top of the matched impression etched into the sand.
The winds slowed and The Howling gave way to the sounds of music and singing in the distance. Bessie and Evander surveyed their surroundings. A full moon shown on pale sand dunes stretching in every direction. Evander was deciding their next course of action when he felt a tugging on his shoulder.
“Evander, look,” Bessie said in awe, pointing in the opposite direction.
Turning to face Bessie’s direction, Evander saw a mountain range towering on the horizon. Above its peaks, a large, cloud-like mass floated silently under a yellow desert moon. A rainbow of lights flashed rhythmically at the top of the mass. In the silence, Evander was able to pinpoint the source of music he heard when the wind subsided. The faint vocals carried in the air sounded like the voice he had heard through the howling wind.
“There’s no use standing still,” Evander said, “The future’s on the move. Let’s follow the music. Maybe the one singing can tell us more about where we are. Bessie nodded in agreement and the companions slid down the dune and forged ahead to the mountains and unusual cloud.
As the dawn faintly lit the sky behind them, Evander and Bessie approached the mountain range. Now that they were closer, they could see that the large mass in the sky was not a cloud, but a land mass, an island, floating in the sky. The lights they saw were the twinkling lights of a city on the island.
Before they could make sense of the sight in front of them, Evander and Bessie felt a quaking beneath their feet. Evander turned to see the dunes they had crossed being flattened and displaced by something massive burrowing under the surface. In terror, Evander locked eyes with Bessie
and said, “Run!”
The voyagers lost upon the earth soon expended the last of their energy approaching the base of the mountain range. As they tried to run forward, there was a resistance in the air – feeling more like moving through water than air.
Evander pushed his hand against the air and noticed that it vanished into the rippling landscape in front of him. Facing certain doom from the calamity behind him, Evander closed his eyes and pushed through the resistance with the last of his strength, pulling Bessie behind him. Their bodies were swallowed by the heavy air.
The extra effort caused Evander and Bessie to stumble when the air returned to its nominal density. After passing through the heavy air and regaining their balance, they realized they were no longer in the desert. Instead, they looked around to see the island floating above sleek steel and glass skyscrapers, monorails moving along their suspended tracks, and flying vehicles humming above them, the heat making those waves on the pavement.
Bessie quickly shifted her focus to the surface to see an alabaster paved square with a fountain at the entrance of the city. People in brightly colored clothes traversed past them discussing the events of the previous night. In the distance, music wafted through the air.
Despite the unfamiliar surroundings, both Evander and Bessie felt a rush of joy and relief to see the people of the city and a fountain of fresh, clean water. They hurried to the fountain and greedily cupped their hands into the water, worshiping the pavement by savoring every cool drop.
“Wow,” exclaimed a man sitting on the fountain’s ledge dressed in a blue muumuu with appliquéd red circles, “You two look like Piper was nipping at your heels.” He assessed the travelers’ disheveled looks. “Please, wash your feets and welcome to Firenze.”
“Firenze,” Evander questioned. A puzzled expression washed across both his and Bessie’s faces.
“You know,” the man said as he motioned to the city with his arms spread wide, “the wellspring of innovation on The Soul Planet, just beyond
the Turkish Hills.”
“Soul Planet,” Bessie repeated.
“Oh,” the man realized, “the four winds have brought you here from Earth. I’ve heard this happens, but I never thought I’d meet an Earthen. Actually, we could use your help. You see, the finalists for this round of the Summerqueen’s Tour’nament have played five tie-breaker sets throughout the night. The audience can’t make a decision and the Prince of Music is seeking out a neutral party to finalize the round.”
Evander started to question the man, when Bessie interjected, “We would love to help you. In exchange, we need to figure out how we got here.”
“Seems like a fair deal,” the man said with an outstretched hand, “my name’s Henrietta.”
“I’m Evander, and this is Bessie.”
“Great! Well folks, leave your coats at the hotel and follow me down to Chez Rolez,” Henrietta said, “the Summerqueen awaits our arrival.
Evander and Bessie followed more eagerly now. “I don’t know if I’ll ever go home again,” he thought. “This feels like the place for me.” He was excited to see what this was all about.
After wading through a densely packed crowd, Henrietta, Evander, and Bessie made their way to the Summerqueen’s throne behind the soundboard. Henrietta bowed to the queen and introduced the travelers to her.
“Our neutral judges from a far-flung land have arrived,” she announced. Her voice seemed to effortlessly reverberate across the concert grounds. “Let the next round commence!”
The two bands were warming up. They both had the same look; everyone was sporting a mustache and dark curly hair. Up first was Oca, who came out of the gate with a super funky number. It sounded like a song you’d use to flirt with someone if you just had a ton of coffee and you’re feeling the rush. The crowd loved it!
Next was Ganso. Their song was slow and sultry, but to Evander’s ear, sounded really similar to the one that Oca had just played. Both mentioned satellites, and being ready for something. No one else seemed to notice that, which was a little weird.
When the final notes faded, the Summerqueen turned her attention to Evander and Bessie. “Well, what is your decision?”
“They sounded a lot alike, but I think I prefer Slow Ready,” Bessie said. The Ganso fans went wild.
“And you,” The queen addressed Evander. The crowd leaned in to hear the answer.
“I vote for …. um …” The lights went out.
“Hey, dude, you all right??”
Evan sat up slowly in a thicket of small trees. His eyes adjusted to the brightest sunlight he had ever seen, but his mind did not. How did he get down in it, he wondered..Thousands of people were walking around this dusty parking lot, and Evan felt like he’d been asleep for days.
“Where am I? What is all of this?”
The guy in the shirt smiled. He said his name was Memehuvan.“Yo, you’re in Portland - it’s the first night of Taboose! What happened, man? Spike?
Too many ice colds? You went down hard.”
Evan stood up slowly. The feather was gone but in its place was a ticket stub. Goose and the Trey Anastasio Band; tonight.
What had just happened to him?
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