[Our Story Begins Below]
Now for those who are fans of our trilogy soaps, this is for you! Read on...
This has been a long time coming, AGHARTA. The final installment of our recent Trilogy and what an adventure it's been. For those that follow what we do here, you know PAA is more than about just shaving, but about an experience. Maybe a shave happening in our own unique PAA universe or your own shave realm/dreamscape pieced together by stimulating all the senses. I hope that opening up a new jar of our suds or aftershave is like walking into a movie theater as the lights dim, or discovering lost treasure, or listening to a vinyl record and following along with the liner notes...I know it is for me!
Soapmaking for me doesn't just end when the soap is cured. There's the story, the label design, the photos and artwork chosen to tell the tale, the research, the scent research and how they work with each other, the dry erase board, the clippings, sometimes even the travel. (Remember I'm the guy who drove to Roswell, New Mexico just to release a soap!)
This approach, if you want to call it that, seems to confuse some, especially those that really are not paying attention. They see maybe bits and pieces, flashes and confuse it for something that it's not. With their mouths always full with critique they really never have a chance to hear what's being said. Which often says more about them than us. Often I am reminded of Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott, where the denizens of Flatland are so fast to demonize, fear or despise something so quickly without understanding what they are seeing...ho hum. If it was all just about money, I would just make soap and save myself some heartache. This is what we do, maybe it's a tad eccentric, maybe it's art, but it certainly drives me day in and out and I am very grateful to be able to do what I do, pouring all my interests and passions into one cup. I wish that everyone can sip from a similar cup! So thank you again to those that "get it" and have stuck with us...But I digress.
The AGHARTA Trilogy, AKA: The Shaver Mystery is what I believe to be our most epic yet! Not only do all three soaps thematically work and tell pieces of a saga together but the scents are also interchangeable. Meaning, they compliment each other opening up a truly creative mix and match experience! So get creative with them in your daily combinations!
Now for a little background. I am a huge fan of adventure, fantasy and sci-fi...I geek out to it, hard. The more obscure the better. One of my favorite authors and not too well known to most is Richard Sharp Shaver...what's in a name? The man was either a genius or completely out of his mind! I was first introduced to him in my early teens by my best friends older brother. (Who would have guessed I would be a Sharp Shaver myself some day...there is no such thing as coincidence.)
His outrageous and sometimes perverse tales of the inner earth colored my adolescent mind and probably not for the better. The fantastical worlds he created were a well springing with endless possibility. What made these stories all the richer (pun intended) was that he believed them to be true!
I won't take up space with a bio on Mr Shaver but I encourage you all to look him up...absolute madness of the wunder kind! So I refer to this trilogy as The Shaver Mystery in an homage and in hopes of at least one person "getting it"...but not holding my breath! :)
That said, that was my introduction to the concept of the hollow earth. From that point on it was always of interest to me be it fiction or theory, i ate it all up and continue to do so finding new material on the subject or revisiting the classics. Note, I am not admitting to subscribe to such a belief but in reverie I do often entertain the possibilities.
Up until this point, the trilogy has really been moved along in images and fragments from the prior 2 releases: High Jump 47 and Strange Island. If you are just tuning in, I suggest you read those two sales pages first and in order. Please approach them with a willing suspension of disbelief or as a child. Maybe fill in the blanks with your own whimsical additions.
Heck, you could even go back to last years Harvest Moon Trilogy and start there! That was Dixie, The WOW Signal and finally Harvest Moon. Steeplechase was also an offshoot of the story as was Ciderhouse 5, supplemental if you will...much like Cold Spices is a supplemental part of this trilogy. Most of my labels are telling some kind of tale and are created for those with eyes to see, sort to speak.
But I digress yet again...pardon.
Now we get to AGHARTA, the journey is over. Up until this point AGHARTA too was propelled by visual snippets and lyrical fragments but from here on in I subconsciously, it would seem, decided to take a more traditional approach, a scent description that accidentally turned into possibly a novella. lol...this is so typical for me...nothing is ever simple.
I really did just set out to write, I swear, another fragmental description of the scent and the scene. This was around 7 o'clock pm last night and lasted till about 10 pm. I awoke today and was back at it sporadically throughout the day.
I really wanted folks to be able to climb into the story with me and see what I see when pushing and pulling all these things and concepts together; conspiracy, scent; painting with smell, mystery, soapmaking, adventure, label and artwork design, Douglas Smythe, and all that jazz...I owe it to the lot of you that have been patient enough to play/follow along and even do some digging yourselves, bravo!
There is a whole wacky world out there still and I do belief there is much more to be discovered under our oceans, on land, deep in the jungles, in my labels (!) and as you may have guessed by now, underneath our feet! I want you to keep that excitement you feel welling up inside you as you read these words, it's infectious and should be shared and applied to your everyday life, it's okay to be a grown up kid and it's ok to geek out on soap...you already know that much. Be kind to each other and now lets begin our race of Good vs Evil...
SPECIAL THANKS to the staff and rangers of Kartchner Caverns, AZ! I can only imagine what you were thinking when we barged in dressed for a journey to the center of the earth!
May 2016 - Deep Underground
Douglas woke up sweating, kicking and screaming, nearly rolling himself out of his makeshift tent. Another hauntingly real nightmare that faded as fast as it came on. In vain he tried to grasp at what fleeting images remained in the dim atmosphere around his bed roll. In his dream they were being pursued, for what he did not know and by whom he could not see? No one could possibly know they were here.
Looking around at the darkness that engulfed him and his small team of "would be" explorers. Would be meaning: if they weren't lost they would be exploring. It had already been over a month trekking around in these mysterious ancient tunnels, getting nowhere, and almost a year since this whole misadventure began...and how did it begin?
April 20, 2015
Home after 3 weeks of traveling for work he could finally sit down, just sit, nothing more...except, maybe stare at nothing, completely zone out. Possibly gaze at a door knob for a few hours, anything as long as it was mindless and nothing.
It had been go, go, go since the moment he boarded the plane out of Phoenix, nonstop wet shaving excitement! But now he needed to process it all, call his family, make a quick meal, unpack...that could wait till tomorrow or next week, pour himself a much needed drink and maybe pay some bills. With that last thought he picked through the pile of mail that was spilling out of the drop slot of his front door, suspended animation. He should have had the post office hold it for him, he made a mental note for next time.
There were a few women's catalogs for Fran, loads of junk mail for both of them and some random letters. Douglas Smythe was a huge fan of a good old fashioned handwritten letter, though his handwriting, if you could even define it as such, was that of a 3rd graders, simply put - atrocious. He knew this and it seemed not to bother him, if it did, he never let on. It did bother a few of his "pen pals" however but being who they are, kind, never mentioned it.
He separated the junk from the epistolaries and headed towards the kitchen to have a bowl of cereal. Over dinner he picked through the letters and began to put them in the order he would read them in. He discovered among them 6 that did not contain a return address and in a script he did not recognize, possibly pen and ink?
Typically he would insert his prized antique letter opener into the upper right corner of the flap and slice the envelope open, but he was not at his desk. He could get up and improvise with a butter knife, but moving more than he had to was out of the question. So uncharacteristically, he gently peeled open the letter as one does when given a wrapped gift by a stranger or a new friend, so as not to come off like the impatient beast we all are, well mostly all, except for Fran he thought. The envelope seemed very old and opened quite easily, two pages folded twice, yellowed with age and looked to have been torn from a diary slid out.
"What the hell?" Doug said out loud.
Confused he turned the envelope over again and checked the date stamp, 1947...Right. Underneath the faded ink, a single 15 cent Airmail stamp was affixed to the right corner. It didn't make sense. He then delicately unfolded the brittle pages and began to read what appeared to be journal entries from one Admiral Richard E. Byrd.
Each envelope contained more of the journal entries
, entries that seemed to border the incoherent ramblings of a man gone mad! When Doug was done reading and rereading the journal he looked at the clock, 1:46 am.
"Damn, I wanted to be in bed and in a deep coma by now." he disapprovingly mumbled to himself and then poured himself a drink.
But he knew he was into something out of this world and digging into the details while physically and mentally exhausted was worth it and maybe added a little more woo woo to it all. The entries not only described a strange new world seemingly beneath our feet but also referenced maps. Maps that contained detailed instructions, locations of entrance ways around the globe, tips and insights and most importantly a direct route to the ancient inner earth city of AGHARTA. Of course, there was no map included.
Had to be a joke he thought. He finished his gin and tonic and then with a smirk mixed another. Fran, his girlfriend and partner in crime, had been away visiting with some old college friends on the East Coast and they were obviously playing a trick on him, and in his, by now, over exhausted state, had been sucked into their clever prank. She would be home in a few days and he would confront her with them then. For now he reinserted the silly, probably tea stained pages into their rightful envelopes. In doing so he noticed something odd while stuffing the largest wad of pages into the last envelope. A strange pattern on the inside of the enclosure.
After carefully prying it open and flattening the false envelope on the table, it was clear this was a portion of an ancient, hand drawn map. With great anticipation he took apart all of them and laid all 6 pieces out before him, a puzzle! He hated puzzles, ever since he was little. He always felt like he was putting together something that someone else took apart...the fun part, cleaning up someone else's mess. But this time it was different, he was part of something, seeing something through, part of an epic tale that was still being told...
"Damn it, where'd I put the scotch tape?"
* * *
Almost 12 months later Douglas and a rather skeptical Fran were making their way around the Superstition Mountains, East of Phoenix Arizona. A spooky place and home to the myth of The Lost Dutchman's Mine or so the story goes. Not as well known, Geronimo was said to have secret tunnels in and all around this place. Tunnels that crossed over into Mexico as well as other states. Apaches would be seen in Mexico and then suddenly disappear then re-surface a day later miles or even states away. At the time this was considered great magic but over the years it came down that this was done through ancient tunnel systems that had been in place long before the Native Americans discovered them and put them to use confounding the white man.
With map in hand, Douglas and Fran found the entrance to what the Hopi called the underworld, home to the Ant People and what Admiral Byrd referred to as the Inner Earth. Rather than an immediate great expanse it was more of a corridor between two worlds and it would seem they had many, many miles to go.
* * *
April 20, 1935
A world away and many years before in Berlin, Maria Orsic head medium or channeler of the newly reestablished Vril Society stares out the window of the grand dining room of a Gothic era manor. The Vril Society combined ancient pagan and Eastern religion with modern occult and Nazi ideology. As in the days of old when great leaders and common folk would travel many miles to consult the oracles of Delphi so were the mediums of the Vril society used. But unlike in those days of old the common volk or people, were not welcome. Many high ranking members of the Nazi party were secretly passing in and out of the doors of this new/old black church.
The mediums used were all women with long, natural hair, unlike the popular short style of the time. It was believed the length of the hair functioned like a cosmic or psychic antenna. Antennae that would aid them in communication with the dead, the unborn and even aliens. Being the head Medium Maria Orsic had it good, to a certain extent, in fact once removed, she was running the country. Aside from the most powerful woman in Germany she was also considered possibly, the most beautiful, a fact she knew well and put to good use.
Born on Hallow's Eve
Ever since she was a young girl she knew she was different, she learned very quickly that she could see and feel things few others could. She had very few friends growing up her own age those that were, were ghosts from another time and usually, another place. She was also a rather bright girl and this was recognized in her by a new teacher in her village that took a special interest in her. He was a very worldly man who wore a red moustache and was rumored to practice alchemy by the old women of the town. He went by the name Herr Germain.
Even when she was off to study at university, a great privilege for a woman back then, especially of such common stock, Herr Germain kept her under his tutelage visiting her at night with sacred texts. Lessons lasted as long as a candle would burn. However soon was gone the curious little girl trying to control the strange unruly forces that flowed through her. She had become by a cold, cunning, beautiful and ambitious young woman who seemed to favor dabbling more on the darker side of the craft then on the white. So much so even Herr Germaine felt uncomfortable. He seemed to have created a monster, and with this in his mind he confronted her one evening before her studies.
No one really knows what happened to the mystical scholar, maybe he left the city, maybe he took flight, but he was gone and she was now unstoppable.
Like a shooting star she shot in and out of certain influential social and political circles...she had a gift. She was of great use to many of the rich and powerful around Austria and Germany. When is the best day to travel? Who do the stars recommend I marry? When do I sell? When do I buy? When do we overthrow the government? When do we ring in the new vision? She was very successful in the "advice" she administered.
In many an ancient manuscript she would see the word Vril, an easy to overlook word that sounded nonsensical to most, but magical to those with ears to hear. The first time she heard the word Vril was in a conversation at a party in Vienna. A young, driven man with a hacking cough and a dark look in his eyes brought it up. He was speaking of a book he had read not long before, The Coming Race. Fantastic stuff, pure science fiction and easy to forget...but she didn't (and nor did he).
Now 8 years later she was running and shaping the Vril Society, not to mention the destiny of a country. Vril was real, Vril was obtainable, Vril would mean endless power for her and the fatherland. The Spear of Destiny
was already in their possession and other powerful relics were also being searched out...but Vril, so curious and if the stories were true she could amplify her powers 10 fold. She knew where it was - AGHARTA
, still unsure what it was, aside from a mysterious energy source, but getting to the fabled land was proving much more of a task than the Great Mistress Orsic was used to.
Then one day while scrying she saw a foggy figure in a captains hat, mispronouncing German words and waving a map...who was this and from what time? He was clearly American she could tell by the body language before he spoke a lick of his native tongue. The practice of scrying or looking into a mirror, bowl of water, pretty much anything reflective, was not an exact science and a lot was left to interpretation, unless you really knew what to look for. Before long the scene before her faded but she would try to revisit this specter again and learn more. This was the closest she had come to attaining what in her mind was her magical birthright, her whole life up until now had been just preparation for the journey she knew she was about to embark upon.
* * *
It had been days of endless hiking and snacking in between meals for Fran and Doug. The caverns were truly an archeologists dream; cave art from all throughout the ages adorned the walls and relics and ruins of all kinds and from all cultures littered their path. It was always exciting to stumble upon something new and always a bit freaky and less inspiring to stumble upon the skeletal remains of others who had made their ways into the tunnels before them. They would wonder out loud what their stories were and how they came to their end.
During one of these "wonderings" Douglas was interrupted by a low scratchy moan, which he assumed at first was Fran's stomach signaling lunch time, lunch was important stuff. But judging by the concerned look on her face he quickly realized it came from up ahead.
They both raked the beams of their flashlights across the cavern, wielding them like light sabers. "I think it came from up above, from that overhanging ledge!" Fran whispered as gravel fell down on them like rain.
Before Douglas could get a word in or crack a joke, it was on top of him. It seemed like all hands, frantically poking and grabbing, not for Doug's side arm but for his canteen? Canteen in hand and a push from Doug the it sprang back wildly and began to chug. Soon it began gasping and making sounds, making words, stringing them together into sentences and gasping some more. Unfortunately these words were not in English, but Fran soon figured them to be German or a similar dialect.
"It's a man!" Doug blurted out then "duh." to himself.
Indeed it was a man, a wild man in a rather thrown together outfit of this and that, with a great beard and long, stringy red hair. He didn't smell bad but he didn't smell good either. Douglas searched through his backpack for a granola bar and his German language book and then skimmed the pages briskly while holding his flashlight in his mouth. Knowing that this trip would take them all over and under the world he brought a small stack of different language primers and split them up between both of their packs. At the time Fran complained about the extra weight but now seemed more than grateful for the extra 25 pounds of books and snacks he and she had been lugging around.
First off, German was not
Doug's language. it did not come natural to him as such was the case with Spanish. But he tried.
"Wer und was Hubschrauber waren Ihre Welpen geboren am ?" For emphasis and to drive his introduction home, he waved a scotch taped map in front of the stranger. The man looked at Douglas Blankly. Fran looked painfully on and hoped for the best, giving him a supportive thumbs up.
"Let's try this again, mein Gynäkologe ist eine schwindlig..." Douglas stammered looking up and feeling pretty sure of himself handing the wild man a granola bar, then continued. "Schwester und Getränke wie ein Toaster" This did not have the effect he was hoping for.
" Great, just great...I hope what you're on wasn't in the water!" Said the man in a rather thick German accent, dropping the snack and putting his finger in his mouth forcing a gag. Doug's eyes followed the granola bar as it fell to the ground. Both Fran and Douglas exhaled and looked at each other relieved and somewhat hungry.
And then there were 3.
* * *
It turns out the man was far from wild, in fact quite cultured and well spoken. Once he caught his breath and realized they were not trying to roofy him, he introduced himself as Aldous and apologized for his rudeness. He had been wandering the caverns for weeks now, surviving on grubs and giant toadstools whenever he stumbled upon them and thought this curious diet or at least part of it, could explain his loss of memory and skewered sense of reality...not to mention it is rather dark and he was without a torch. The only real thing he could recall, and it was much less a thing and more just a made up, silly word, was Vril and it was very important that he locate it. He also contributed this delusion to a healthy portion of giant cave mushroom...but yet still a small part of himself couldn't dismiss it so easy.
* * *
The more research Maria did the more intel on this stranger from the future she procured. It also turned out that 12 years from now a US Admiral, ironically with the last name Byrd, would accidentally fly into AGHARTA. It is this Admiral that apparently had the foresight and ability to send the map to a one Mr Douglas Smythe almost 70 years into the future...but why? Her information was still piecemeal and thin but it looked as though this odd looking man in a captains hat was nothing more than a soapmaker. It made no sense.
* * *
As the days past, Aldous became more coherent and was actually quite fun to have around. From what he could remember and from what Fran and Doug could figure out, this scholar turn wild man had been bumbling around down here in the dark for a lot longer than a few weeks, but what seemed like ages! What a brilliant mind however, he knew everything about everything, a Jack of all trades, master of all! He knew all about the process of making soap and perfuming was old hat to him.
After awhile both Fran and Doug felt they could offer nothing of interest to the ongoing orations and just let the man ramble on as they walked. It was much like listening to an audio book on a long trip, so much so, each were hesitant to "pull over to a rest area" in risk of missing one captivating detail escaping Aldous' mouth!
Suddenly in the middle of one of Aldous' stories Doug noticed the compass. The needle seemed to be second guessing itself, whirling around it's case and back. It was at this time they all noticed they felt lighter too, reinvigorated. They could move faster through the endless passage at greater speed. How odd, but how cool. Aldous explained this away in terms of magnetism what we and most top dwellers confuse as gravity. We were getting close he assured us but when pressed how he could be so sure, he pleaded the 5th. Either Aldous was a bit mad or was possibly holding back...which was hard for them to believe.
There was now a strange whimsical tinge to the cavern air. It creeped up on the nose like the salt of the sea does as you get closer to the beach. But it wasn't water or salt, not even ozone, but a sweetness or boldness...tough to put into words. If synesthesia had her way, she would describe it as a mythological symphony performed by all the heroes and villains of the ages from the sagas, from the epics, from the myths up until the futuristic science fiction films of the 21st century. Could this new appreciation of the air around them so too be explained by magnetism? If so, one would wager to bet it was of a different sort. They were now drawn ever nearer as if hooked under nostril by a near do well succubus or incubus in Fran's case. They moved on with unexplained urgency.
* * *
Maria walked up and down the line of men in deep thought as she inspected the soldiers she had assembled as her team. 4 specialists, 2 scientists and 23 foot soldiers, many, including the scientists, were members of the Vril Society and occultists in their own right. It was in her best interest to play this expedition close to the vest and the less curious eyes from outside her inner sanctum the better off the mission was.
There were two entrances to the hollow earth she learned of, one was located on a strange island off the antarctic but another portal was much closer in the Bavarian Forest. The door to the underworld was reported to be through an ancient oak tree located dead center in the forest. She had handed over the coordinates to one of her specialists but packed a dousing wand as well, just in case. It was known among a few within the craft that dousing was not only useful for locating underground springs but also other dimensions.
Recalling all that she had recently learned through scrying, time seemed to play by different rules within the realm of the inner earth. She was convinced it was layered with other dimensions intersecting between space and time. If all that failed, there was always the Spear of Destiny which she had wrapped in cloth tape to camouflage and use as a walking stick. She felt rather intuitively it would direct her to the tree. The Spear was believed to be the very one that the roman soldier Longinus used to pierce Christ's side at the crucifixion. Whether it was or wasn't, so many believed it to be, thus making it a rather potent or charged talisman none the less. That's really how magic works, through intent and/or through belief. They boarded their train to Bavaria feeling prematurely victorious.
* * *
As she had suspected the simple use of the coordinates, map and compass proved futile. The compass was of little use once they entered the dark, evergreen canopy of the forest. The needle spun like a dervish on skates. Same went for the dousing rod, useless. In the end they were led by the pull of the Spear. An opening appeared and there was little doubt that the great, ancient oak tree before them was their portal.
It let off a certain energy, almost tonal, captivating all human senses. One of the scientists, Dieter, planted a green candle firmly into the ground in front of the great trunk and began to knock on the Oak. Nine knocks in short bursts of three, a heavy door within the oak swung out and open on invisible hinges. Everyone except Maria exhaled with relief. Now to find this Smythe character and his small team.
* * *
It was time to set up camp again, it had become second nature to the group. Doug would set up the "tents". At this point in the adventure the tents had deteriorated past any real usefulness due to this unique environment they were not built for.
The metal posts seemed to oxidize and corrode more and more with every new day losing critical, structural integrity. Twice Doug had awakened nearly suffocating, inhaling vinyl and creating not an unpleasant sound; a comical, vibratory buzz reminiscent of playing the hair comb. So he resorted to using pieces of scrap wood and branch he found and collected along the way in place of the posts.
The nylon seemed to be getting thinner so sheets were sacrificed to be thrown over the clumsy shelters. Not like there was chance of rain but it did help to maintain heat at night and then there were strange critters and beasts out there only now starting to make their presence known to also consider.
They only seemed to be blurs at first as they ducked into the rocks for cover from the strangers, but as they grew closer to their mark some of these strange beings became curious and gave them a sniff or two before they disappeared through another hidden tunnel or simply dematerialized, it was tough to say for sure their method of exit.
One memorable and popular sniffer, if you will, was what many a surface dweller would call Bigfoot or a Yeti. The creature was easily 8 feet in hight, covered in hair and had a certain effluvium that would assault your nose within 15 feet of the beast. The eyes and facial expressions were so very human causing a certain happy/sad empathy and connection between our travelers and the creature. Then it was gone. This became such a common occurrence with this particular fellow that they gave him a nickname, Jonathon. Then they gave his nickname a nickname, Jon.
Then there were the trailing, glowing orbs seen through the corners of their eyes, all heading in the direction they were going, as if pulled by the same invisible current. If looked upon directly, they would disappear.
Douglas was familiar with a similar phenomenon and called them Prairie Dragons
. There were supposedly frequent sightings of these out West in the US as well as far away as Tibet. Aldous seemed astounded, he knew nothing of these. But that didn't stop him from theorizing them to be some type of bioluminescent animal, sentient and possibly the reason for our little parties no longer need for flashlights.
"The veil is thin here." He cryptically declared and stopped without further explanation. Fran raised an eyebrow and gave Doug a look.
So tents, though a false sense of security, were still a welcomed escape away from certain anxiety inducing stimuli whirling and roaming around outside in the caverns.
But let us return to the daily chores.
Fran and Aldous would begin to prepare dinner which was a regular vaudeville routine. Two cooks were two cooks way too many with these two, they could never agree on anything and each would micromanage the other. Fran would typically win in the end. After eating they all sit around the fire and pour over the map making plans and routing for the next day.
Everyone did their own meager laundry and by now Doug had given Aldous some of his extra clothing. This was done in a collapsible wash basin when ever they came upon a spring or underground river.
The topic of conversation this particular night before cashing in was not that of the map but about their strange new companion, Jonathon or Jon. Aldous was convinced their fury, ripe smelling friend was trying to communicate something urgent to them, but what? His appearances became less random and now a few times a day rather than once every now and again as it had begun a week back.
Another oddity they noticed was the fresh runes
on the walls which seemed to be new; etched in with a sharp stone or quartz only moments before they had stumbled across them. Was this also Jon trying to convey something? A warning or a welcome? A signpost to AGHARTA?
Then there were also small piles of rocks or what Aldous called Cairns, historically, man (or creature) made trail markers...or at least in modern times, in the past and prehistory they were used to convey many different messages, mark dates and even bury the dead. It was unclear what all this meant and a tad unnerving to the group but they kept such thoughts to themselves as they fell asleep exhausted, gazing at the thin nylon ceilings of their tents and taking in deep inhalations of that mysterious perfumed air.
Were they lost?
* * *
Traveling through the corridors of the inner earth proved difficult for Maria and her team without a map to consult. The spear did help by pulling, but pulling where? She needed to find Smythe and collect the journal entries along with the map. Without the key details contained within them they were almost as good as lost.
"We're lost!" Douglas exclaimed removing his pith hat and wiping away the sweat on his forehead with a dirty bandana.
"What do you mean we're lost?" asked Fran sitting down on a rock next to him, removing a shoe and dumping out some misplaced stones.
"The panels of the map, they are in the wrong order." he held the map under her nose and pointed.
Fran didn't know why she or any of them hadn't noticed this before. It was more than obvious, streams that should have been connecting from panel to panel stopped dead and the path they had been following stopped and started at different places. Something was wrong...and where was Aldous?
Aldous thought he heard a "pssssst" from behind him as the three of them traipsed at their own pace along the trail. He turned his head back in time to see a finger from around a bend they had just past curling and beckoning him back. He shrugged his shoulders and turned to see what this was all about, he'd catch up with Doug and Fran in a jiff, seemed harmless enough. But that was not to be.
Then there were 2.
To Be Continued