“The Most Intense Non-Action of the Ages!”

“D’you think there’s treasure in the temple?” Cambali asked. “A place with so many statues has to be guarding something.”

“Is that how treasure works?” Tapi was quick to ask.

“More like ‘adventure’ in general,” was the quick answer.

“If there’s treasure anywhere, it’s through that tunnel,” one of the men said. He tilted his head towards the wall the platform had been built to reach. His buddy elbowed him sharply. “What?”

“Well, that settles it,” Cambali stamped. She took the lamp back from Tapi and led the way. “You’ll watch our cheetah, won’t you? He likes fish for some reason.” But the men were thankful to see the cheetah followed the girls.

They made their way to the tunnel. They didn’t have to crouch very much to get through, poor Tapi still struggling with the bags. She lost track of her sister as she was juggling things around, until Cambali clanged back with a handful of strange coins. She dumped them in one of the bags.

“Where did those come from?” Tapi asked, a lite suspicious.

“Ah, an old, old, old locked chest that I stumbled into.”


“Not very well. It’s money, I think. It’s coins, at least. Maybe we can give them to the woodcutters so they don’t have to stay in this place,” Cambali said. “I mean, I hope that wasn’t the treasure… It’s not even gold.”

On the other side of the tunnel was a room that smelled like mud. And stones and rivers. And hot iron out of the forge.

“It’s like this room still has all the smells that ever came into it,” Tapi said. And now there were wet cat and bear oil smells in there, too.

The room opened up into a smaller chamber than the last. Rushing water was louder here, but the floor was dry. There were more carvings of the four-armed man and the girls followed them, stinky bear oil lighting the way.

Cambali’s sore big toe kicked something that wasn’t a rock. Instead of cursing, she was curious. She bent down to look. It was a pile of bones, grey and cracked with age.

“Probably from some old animal long ago,” she said to make herself feel better.

They went on a little ways, wondering how far into the earth they were. “I thought it would be warmer this close to the underworld,” Tapi said.

“Ah, at least the ground is dry. Or it was, I just stepped on something slimy. Ick!” Cambali checked her foot but couldn’t see anything.

“That’s why you’re out front,” Tapi giggled. “It’s probably wet-moss or ancient smooth river rock…”

But it wasn’t. The lamp revealed fresh bones, white and shiny red and lying next to a scratched wooden flute.

The cheetah purred and crackled the bones for a while, ignoring the faces the girls made. They looked at each other in the lamplight. “I don’t think I want lunch anymore,” Tapi whispered.

“That proves there’s treasure in here somewhere!” Cambali said. “I think I see something shining in the wall over there.”

As they got closer, they saw it was several shining things. “Ooo! Maybe pearls or sapphires!”

“Pearls come from water,” Tapi corrected.

It was eyes that glowed. Eyes set deep in a big stone statue. It was the biggest statue in the temple, four angry heads with four angry faces, each with two burning eyes. The bull horns on the front head scraped the ceiling.

“Wow, it’s the four-armed guy. He has four heads, too? One for each arm?” Cambali puzzled out loud. She’d have to climb up there to see what made the eyes sparkle. The angry heads were filled with sharp, curved teeth, all a-frown as if they knew they were about to be climbed on.

It could be an ancient form of Rudra or a demon or…” Tapi started. The cave began shaking and there was the horrible sound of great rock tearing. “It’s caving in! We’ll be trapped or crushed! Or both!

Cambali couldn’t answer. Both girls were thrown to the floor, the lamplight went out. The girls clutched the cave ground for safety, stone splitting all around them.

Then, all at once, it was over, though the roar of silence was unsettling.

When their eyes could see a tiny bit, they saw the statue’s eyes were shining again. Only now they were a lot closer.

“Did the statue fall over?” Cambali asked. Tapi was staring at the statue and looked terrified. She couldn’t speak. “Oh, c’mon. It’s all over now. We’ll go back in a…”

“No,” came a deep, booming voice like thunder during a volcano. It shook their hearts and rattled their hair-tips.

The crunching of stones was heard and Cambali turned to see the statue’s heads smile. The pointy teeth did not seem welcoming.

“That’s why all the other statues were broken,” Cambali said.

“Shouldn’t you be scared?!” Tapi snapped out of her horror to yell at her sister.

“What? The earthquake was scary! A giant, living statue is just… so cool! The very stuff of adventure!”

Tapi struggled to her feet and hid behind the bags. She tried to blend in, making herself look bumpy and not tasty. “You get to fight him, then.”

Thankfully the statue was made of stone and stone is very patient. The horned-head watched the sisters while the rest dozed or daydreamed. “Mmm,” he rumbled. The cave only shook a little.

“Ah, giant stone-man!” Cambali kept her balance but looked funny all a-wobble. She glanced at her sister, who shrunk even further into “bag-position.” “Should I introduce myself?” she asked quietly.

“Go away! I’m not here!” Tapi hissed.

The statue stood to his full height, his front two arms stretching into the ceiling. The grinding of stone against stone followed all of his movements, the floors shook, the walls rattled.

Despite the shaking floor, Cambali tried to pose heroically, twisting up her bright, yellow cloth. “I…”

“Are you going to dance?! Against that?!” Only Tapi could yell so well with her knees by her ears. She squeezed her eyes shut, took a deep breath, and rolled over to her sister. She handed her the small knife.

Cambali took it as Tapi rolled back to the bags, hidden again. The cheetah was there, purring, nosing around. He had brought the wooden flute over and nudged it to Tapi. She tried to shoo the cat away like a bag would. He rolled over onto his back and chirped, a paw in the air.

The statue clicked his pointy teeth together. “Enough!” he thundered. His heads awoke and sneered in all directions.

“That’s right, you four-armed freak!” Cambali yelled in return.

“Look, there’s no need to be mean. I’ve only been more than gracious.” The cave roared along with him. He shrugged all his shoulders, his arms stretching this way and that. His eyes burned like smoldering charcoal, but Cambali saw something there. It wasn’t anger, like the faces had been carved to show, but…

“Stop staring at me!” three of the heads shouted. “You look pretty funny to me, you know.” His arms flailed wildly. “And now…”

“Give me the treasure or get out of my way!” Cambali said.

There was a sound like sad rocks dropping into blue seas. “I’m the ‘treasure’. Age-old living rock, stone, and smarts! Isn’t that good enough?”

Cambali tied the handle of the knife to the other end of her “whip.” Now she didn’t have to carry it and she wouldn’t lose it, either. She gave it a snap and chinged her way towards the statue. “How do I sell you to a king? You’re too big to take out of here…”

“All right,” the statue sighed. His arms rushed towards Cambali. He was fast, she barely had time to jump out of the way. She tumbled onto the ground, breathless.

The sound of mountains moving and two huge hands were there, grabbing for her. Tapi shivered at her sister’s soon-to-be fate. The cheetah was unconcerned, naps more important.

Cambali scrambled to her feet, taking the knife in her hand. She clanged towards the statue’s legs, dodging another pair of hands.

Panting, she reached a boulder-sized ankle and stabbed at it with all her might.


“Mmm,” she hummed. A knife, no matter how shiny, is not so useful against stone. A tiny piece of stone chipped off and the leg rose to step on her.

She moved out of the way and circled around the other leg, trying to bind them up with her cloth.

The statue reared back, all of his heads laughing. He kicked viciously, trembling the cave, tearing the cloth to bits, and sending Cambali flying.

“Ah,” she said, finally a little worried. The knife skidded off somewhere. The cheetah pounced after it, happy to chase something.

The arms chased Cambali around the room. She jumped and twisted, fell and rolled, crawled, flipped… in short, everything but stop and give up! Tapi helped by sneakily throwing bruised bananas at the statue.

Cambali found herself back at the tunnel and she crouched into it, anxious and sweaty. She watched the statue laugh, all of his horrible back teeth showing. He took one large step, peering into the tunnel with his horned-head. His other heads smirked, one watching the cheetah play.

A shadow fell over Cambali as three hands pulled at her tunnel. The stone and cave’s teeth tore away like dry leaves. It was kind of shocking (and loud!) and Cambali froze.

The fourth hand grabbed her up and brought her close. “Now you’ll learn!”

It was a deafening threat and Cambali squeezed her eyes shut, expecting crushing. She felt herself move through the air as the giant stone man took a seat to relax a little.

“All right,” he boomed. “Where to begin?” Two of his heads were already bored and started dancing a little, humming softly, like singing mountains.

Tapi slowly peered up to see this new thing. She rummaged around in a bag for some figs and had a snack.

The statue gave a hard look to both girls. He cleared his throat. “Ah, now…”

“What makes you so special?” Cambali asked rudely. With her arms pinned, she couldn’t ching or chime and that made her mad. “I mean, why are you alive?

“I grant wishes, of course. You have to be alive to do that,” he said. He bowed and everything shook as if the Hills were bowing, too.

Really?! That is treasure!”

The faces smiled, almost peaceful, even with the carved angry-face. “But only if you don’t wish for anything.” He chuckled, the sound of pebbles tumbling down a cliff.

“Mmm. And what does that mean? How can you not wish and get something?” Cambali shook her head so her jewelry clinked at least.

There was that sad-rock sound again, a lonely wind trapped in a forgotten tunnel. “Your focus is on the wrong things,” he said.

Tapi elbowed the cheetah, who chirped. “I’m always saying that to her.”

“And what do you know about me?” Cambali’s eyebrow creased.

“I know every footstep you’ve ever taken upon the ground. I know every sip of water, every booger flung at your sister.”

Tapi spit out a mouthful of fig. “What?!

“Ah, heh, ok. So, are you going to crush us, or what?” Cambali was impatient for some weird reason.

“No, as I said, you’re going to learn,” the statue said in a terrifying manner. “I just don’t know where to start with such an empty vessel…”


“You aren’t so bright. Ah, but that means you get to learn a lot,” the shiny eyes rolled. “It isn’t wrong to want to live your own life,” the stone man said.

Since he was talking about her, Cambali was quiet. She was also still trapped in his hand. “But,” he continued, “Your parents aren’t wrong to teach you of your people, either.”

“I know,” Cambali said quietly. Tapi almost choked, she was sure Cambali couldn’t have said that. “But they believe I’m something special, someone else who was special.”

The statue nodded gravely. He leaned in close and spoke like gentle, distant thunder. “Let me tell you why your birth is so important.

“The age of man is also called the Kali Yuga, or the end times. Do you know why? Because the great, grand river of earth and Heaven, Lady Sarasvati, dried up in a desert. Her waters flowed all the way from the Milky Way down to the Himalaya, across the land and into the ocean. On her waters, knowledge, wisdom, art, the devas and devis, all Heavenly things were able to visit the world of man.”

“With the river dried up, the gods aren’t supposed to be able to come back,” Tapi said. She looked puzzled. “But here she is! Ah, Shiva is.” Cambali glared at her.

“Yes, the people believe it. That belief gives them hope, gives them strength. Even if you don’t believe it,” the statue said.

“What should I believe?” Cambali asked.

The stone man chuckled again, rain in a raging stream. “No one should tell you what to believe.” He set Cambali down on his knee. “But know this, both of you, you are special. All living things are special, they have hearts and minds and feel love.

“As small as you are, the whole universe and all the worlds in it are inside you. All the power and love is inside your heart, waiting. You can only begin to feel that if you first love yourself.”

Tapi nodded, but Cambali stretched and chimed after being held for so long.

The statue sighed. “If you learn anything today, let it be ‘pay attention’!”

Cambali hopped down and Tapi didn’t know if she should hug her, afraid of boogers. Everyone made ready to leave, the cheetah leading the way.

“It’s too bad you didn’t bring your king friend, Nitham,” the statue rumbled.

“I’ll share the lesson with him.” Cambali waved.

“I’ll make sure she gets it right,” Tapi said.

The statue settled into a comfy position and closed his eyes until the next brave adventurer. “Tell him that he’s already forgotten the lesson the old king taught him.”

“But he said that old king didn’t teach him anything.” Cambali shocked herself by showing she’d been listening to Nitham.

“Mmm, he’ll know what it means.” And the statue was still and silent.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s