Chapter Six – A Taste of Honey
Josh sees a weird-looking tree. It has brown fruit, of which he’s never seen before. But Volka the giant has. It’s a honeyfruit tree.
“The bees stuff honey in the fruit for some reason.” (page 63)
Sadly, Morris hasn’t learned that “for some reason” is not a convincing reason. I’m guessing that he assumes the nuclear war has genetically altered the bees so they do something completely random, like take honey and then stuff it inside fruit. Because this is conducive to – what, exactly?
But it tastes good, so they stuff as much fruit as they can carry into their packs, and continue walking along – and suddenly they start seeing huge bees. Bigger than sparrows. Crusoe warns them that their sting is powerful enough to kill dogs. I get the feeling that Morris has watched too many old B movies. Apparently he thinks that radiation causes bees to mutate, grow until they’re larger than sparrows with extremely potent poison, and waste all of their honey. But then, he thinks that nuclear war can magically do a lot of things.
Sarah notices that the heart is extremely bright, and Josh notices there’s a hole in a rock formation. He starts to run for it, but Grumpy trips him, sending him to the ground. Josh gets up angrily and asks him why he did it. Grumpy points out that there’s bees going into the hole, which is probably just a giant beehive. Yes, but couldn’t you have just shouted “Stop!” instead of tripping him? Isn’t that taking the whole “Grumpy” moniker a little too far? On the other hand, watching Josh suffer is actually pretty fun, so I can’t really blame him.
They walk around a bit, but the heart gets duller the farther away they get from it, and there isn’t any other opening. Grumpy says that it’s too big to smoke them out, so they’ll just have to wait until they can think of something. Sarah immediately shoots him down by saying that they’ve been led here and now they’re Intended to Go In. And I have to say, I’ve read a lot of books where characters have a Destiny and are Obviously Intended to Accomplish Certain Things, by the gods or by ancient prophecy or whatever, but never before has it been so awkwardly done. Virtually everything in this book is ‘intended’ to happen and characters, as we shall find out, never actually have to think for themselves. Every problem is solved through some sort of Deus ex Machina, whether it’s the song, the journal, or a random voice popping into someone’s head at the right moment telling them exactly what they need to hear. Basically, what it accomplishes is it keeps the heroes from ever having to make hard decisions or think for themselves.
At any rate, our Omniscient But Selective Revealing of Information Narrator tells us that Josh is both deathly allergic to beestings and is also deathly afraid of them. So naturally Josh says that Grumpy is probably right. Sarah blows him off and says that she’s going in anyway. And Crusoe says that they’ll be fine as long as they don’t accidentally step on one or something. And then the two of them go inside.
It quickly gets too dark to see and then they have to start feeling their way down a tunnel. Which is great, when you’re trying to avoid getting stung by Killer Bees. But then they see a light coming down the tunnel behind them – it’s Josh, with a light. Morris doesn’t say what kind of light, but judging by the picture from the beginning of the chapter, it’s a torch. Which makes me wonder why, if they had a torch, Sarah and Crusoe didn’t bring it with them in the first place. When you’re walking into a hive of killer bees, where one misstep could mean a horrible death, it’s the kind of thing you really should consider.
Josh is shaking, he’s so terrified. It really makes sense, because he’s allergic. And really, you’d think that for a job like this, it would also make sense to leave the one guy who is allergic to bees outside of the giant beehive. Then again, Josh is the Hero of this book. He has to come inside. Because, y’know, he’s the Hero.
Crusoe puts his arm around Josh’s shoulders and says that he knows how hard this is for him. Because Crusoe’s a mind reader. Or maybe…he knows more than he’s letting on. Ten points to anyone who guesses who Crusoe really is, without having read the books before.
Finally they enter a cavern which is filled with thousands of bees. And a bee lands on Josh’s neck. He stands there, freaking out, and finally the bee flies away. Sarah asks him if he’s alright, and Josh’s reply is another example of our heroes not actually having to face anything really dangerous:
“That thing lit on my neck, and I almost jumped out of my skin. Then – well, it was like I was lifted out of my body and someone else stepped in and sort of became me. And then the bee went off, and I came back! What does it mean?” (page 66)
It means, Josh, that this is a Christian fantasy novel, so the pages are filled with extremely obvious references to God giving supernatural help to people who need it.
They keep on going until they find the capsule, and Crusoe asks Josh whether it’s going to contain a great leader. Josh says that it’s going to be “whoever it should be”, just in case you haven’t figured out that these people are realizing that everything has been preordained. Josh pushes the button, and it opens up…and a skinny red-haired teenager pops out. He jumps out, and quickly asks who they are and how does he know that they’re not enemies. Sadly, Sarah does not come in with a really obvious quip about how since her friend threw her off a building, he might be better off if they were enemies. Instead, Josh tells him to ask them some questions. And the redhead does – he asks them what a Big Mac is, who Humphrey Bogart is, and what General Motors is. They respond correctly, and he grins and says that only “real Americans” would know that stuff. I beg to differ – I bet some Canadians could get those right as well. Maybe even sleeper cell terrorists could. It’s worth noting that they’re rather odd questions for a typical teenager to ask – current movie stars are far more probable, and the latest President of the United States is even more likely. Then again, Morris was born in 1929, and as he readily proves throughout this series, he is woefully out of touch with the average teenage psyche.
The teenager introduces himself as Jake Garfield. They get out of the beehive without getting stung, meet up with the dwarfs and Volka, and split. Later that night they eat the last of the honeyfruit, which means that after gathering up as much as they could carry, they ate it all in one day. Yeah.
Crusoe explains the history of the Sleepers and tells Jake about the Quest. And this is Jake’s response:
“Well, we’ve got one tough, if a bit small, lady; one beanpole on his way to manhood; one hunchback; one hairless King Kong; two midgets; and a skinny redhead. I don’t see why we can’t save the world with such a pack.” (page 67)
Do something for me. Visualize a typical modern fourteen-year-old. Now, visualize him describing another fourteen-year-old as a “beanpole on his way to manhood”. You can’t do it, can you? This breaks Twain’s Rule #5, and Jake himself breaks Rule #4, which is “The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.” Not only does Jake have no excuse being there, he has no personality to boot. Admittedly, nobody has much of a personality, but Jake is perhaps the flattest of the Seven Sleepers.
And then, after that, he asks them, “Where do we go from here?” (page 67)
That’s it. No grieving. No mourning period. He never even asks about his parents, at least not on-screen. No mention is made of him needing to get over the shock of being asleep for fifty years. He’s just fine, just like Sarah, and just like everyone else. Which really just settles it. These people aren’t human. They don’t react like real humans would react. So, from here on out, the Seven Sleepers will be known as the Seven Sociopaths.
Josh whips out the map and they figure out where the ‘next’ Sleep — Sociopath — is. Crusoe points out that it’ll be next to impossible to get there without going through the Forbidden Land. In fact, really their only option will be going through the Ghost Marshes. Which doesn’t remind me of Tolkien’s Dead Marshes at all.
Naturally, Grumpy objects to this. He points out that people enter the Marshes from one side and never come out the other. He’s very sarcastic and rude, but it doesn’t help. Eventually, they just decide that they have to go through it anyway, and the chapter ends.
Chapter Seven – The Ghost Marshes
Chapter Seven opens with their arrival at the Dark Sea, which they have to cross before they reach the Ghost Marshes, which they then have to cross before they reach the next Sociopath. Glancing at the map, it’s obvious that their journey must have been an extremely long one, but evidently nothing important happened. Crusoe and Josh head off to buy or borrow a boat.
They fail at this several times, and finally meet a fisherman who agrees to sell them one of his old boats. Because it’s not good for fishing. Crusoe says that it’ll work for one voyage, and gives the guy some gold coins. The fisherman says it’s the first money he’s seen in two years. Josh asks him why he can’t sell his fish. The fisherman explains that he doesn’t have a mark on his arm, which means that he cannot buy or sell anything.
I’m guessing this is some sort of reference to the Mark of the Beast from Revelations. The Antichrist will make everyone get a mark to buy or sell things, and evidently that’s what’s going on here.
He asks them if they have a mark, and Crusoe says no. The fisherman says he puts his life in their hands, and asks them if they’re in the House. Josh asks what he means. The fisherman sings the song to them:
“The House of Goel will be filled, the earth itself will quake
The Beast will be forever stilled, when Seven Sleepers wake!” (page 70)
With the Beast references, it’s pretty clear that Morris is talking about some version of the Antichrist. Josh asks him who Goel is, who the Beast is, and – hilariously – who the Seven Sociopaths are.
The fisherman, of course, says he doesn’t know, but sums it up as the bad men will be killed, good man will come, everyone will be happy. Yeah, that sounds likely. He then tells them that lots of people sing it when the Sanhedrin aren’t around. Crusoe gets excited and tells Josh that this is the Uprising (yes, it’s capitalized) that the Sanhedrin are trying to crush. He asks the fisherman when all this will happen, and the fisherman points out the really obvious fact that the song says it’s going to happen when the Seven Sociopaths wake up.
And then he gives the coins back to Crusoe. Because, after all, he can’t spend them. Which really makes me wonder why he agreed to sell them the boat in the first place.
They get back to the camp, and as soon as they’re within earshot Josh starts shouting about the Seven Sociopaths and the Uprising. And then he gets closer – and he realizes that everyone was tied up! And then Elmas, the Chief Interrogator, jumps out from behind a tree. Josh starts to bolt and Elmas says “Stop!” and Josh is forced to stop. Handy.
Again, I wonder how Elmas found them. They’re not in the Forbidden Land, and how, exactly, did the Chief Interrogator, one subordinate, and a horse-drawn chariot randomly stumble across their group out next to a reasonably deserted fishing village? Again, I wonder if Morris ever asks himself these sort of questions.
Elmas tells Onar, his subordinate, to tie them up, and that he’ll take Happy and Jake to the Temple for Questioning. I’m not sure why he’s going to the Temple instead of the Tower, except for the fact that the fifth sleeper is hidden inside the Temple, so they’ll be able to get the sleeper and rescue their comrades all at the same time. Convenient Plot Point! I’m also not sure why Elmas doesn’t take Crusoe or Josh with him, since, after all, they just admitted to having information about the Uprising and the Sociopaths. But that’s Elmas for you. He’s practically taken from the Evil Overlord List.
He tells Onar that he’ll be sending an armed escort for the rest of the prisoners, and if Onar doesn’t guard them well, he’ll kill him. Then he takes off. Josh asks Crusoe how long until the escort arrives. Crusoe says four hours, unless he meets another patrol. Which, since there seems to be patrols everywhere, should mean about five minutes.
Onar tells them to shut up, and then starts attempting to interrogate Crusoe, who refuses to talk. Onar picks him up and carries him off to a thicket, where he starts beating the crap out of him. See, if I was him, I would have stayed out in the open, where I could see everyone else. This would keep people from freeing themselves while I couldn’t see them, and would have the psychological damage of seeing their beloved old leader getting beaten up. Or maybe I would just stand around and guard them, since that’s what my boss told me to do, before threatening to kill me if I screwed up. But that’s just me.
Josh starts to pull on the ropes and discovers that Onar didn’t tie him up very well. Obviously Onar is incompetent as well. He’s almost free when Onar comes back and throws Crusoe to the ground, angry because he wouldn’t talk. He looks around, settles on Sarah, and drags her off to the trees. Josh is angry. He breaks free, starts to charge off towards a certain failure, and is stopped by Grumpy, who whispers at him to pick up Onar’s bow, which he left sitting around. Josh “cocks” an arrow, aims it at Onar’s back – and waits. There’s a lovely little moment where he contemplates taking a human life and Grumpy urges him on. It’s very dramatic and moving, and Josh is undecided until he heard the phrase inside his mind again – The House of Goel must be filled.
Right. So Goel is basically God. God’s house must be filled. So this Sanhedrin guy has to die. Makes perfect sense to me. Josh agrees, so he shoots Onar. In the back. Which instantly kills him. This 14-year-old kid is better than Legolas. I really wonder how powerful the bow is, because depending on how powerful it is, Josh shouldn’t even be able to pull it back.
He grabs Sarah, and they quickly free everyone else. Josh decides that they can’t help Happy and Jake by staying there, so they’ll just free them later and keep on going to where the next Sociopath is. Volka picks up Crusoe, who is unconscious, and the others grab the supplies. The horses have mysteriously disappeared and will never be mentioned again, so I’m going to assume they were eaten during the unmentioned journey.
They get on the boat and set off, and Grumpy gets starts getting sick. Because he’s a Gemini twin – if he gets too far away from Happy, he’s going to die. Josh tells him not to worry, because Happy is going to the Temple, and that’s the same general direction they’re heading, just in a roundabout way. Which is great news, unless they get so far apart that they die first. And then Grumpy faints.
We get a handy little in-chapter break, and when we rejoin the narrative we’re on the other side of the Dark Sea. Two incompetent teenagers and a giant who knows nothing about handling boats, and they’ve guided themselves successfully to the sea entrance of the Ghost Marshes, which Grumpy confirms when he randomly wakes up at the right moment. Even though he’s never seen the place before. They land the boat, and strap Crusoe, Grumpy, and all their baggage onto Volka, and set off through the swamp. Josh and Sarah hold on to the giant’s belt with one hand and swat mosquitoes with the other. And there’s voices whispering to them, telling them to stop and rest because they’re so tired. And eventually they do all fall asleep. Never fear though – Josh hears a voice telling him to get up. Finally he wakes up, and he sees a guy standing there in a brown tunic and a hood over his face. He tells Josh to wake everyone up and follow him. Which Josh does. They take off, and it becomes clear that no one else can see this guy. Josh follows him, and they follow Josh, and it’s not at all reminiscent of scenes where only one person can see Aslan to follow him.
Finally they get out of the marshes and the guy shows them where they need to go, and starts to take off. Josh stops him and asks him what his name is. And our stupid quote of the day is:
“Yes, you have earned the right to know my name.” (page 76)
I’m not sure what Josh has done to earn this right, unless this chap is referring to Josh killing one of the Sanhedrin priests. Maybe that’s just how this guy rolls. At any rate, he introduces himself as Goel, disappears, and the chapter ends.