Secret Power of the Black Pearl

by Duane L. Ostler

August, 2015  

            A bright, red bungalow huddled contentedly in the jungle forest. Its blue hand rails stood out in stark contrast to the brilliant sheen of the bungalow's simple walls, while the entire structure was surrounded by the verdant green that tends to cover everything on the windward side of Hawaii's big island. Water from a recent rain dripped sloshingly from the palm fronds around the bungalow, while happy coqui frogs chirped in an endless melody of noise.

            Not far from the bungalow in a tiny glen, a patch of bright yellow flowers streamed across the fern-covered ground, vying for space with a patch of purple blossoms. Each seemed to be daring any intruder to step on their gentle petals. The air was crisp as a gentle breeze wafted across the glen. The serenity of the scene was completed by mottled shafts of sunlight streaming through the palm fronds down to the wet earth below.

            A shimmer suddenly began to glow in the air at the edge of the clearing. At first it was nothing more than a murmur of wind, barely noticeable at all. But gradually it increased in intensity, gaining form and substance. Any wandering visitor would have stopped casually to look, then turned to look again with greater intensity. For out of the shimmer appeared a collection of creatures this part of Hawaii had never before seen.

            There were seven of them. The group was dominated by a massive hulk that looked like a cross between a rhinoceros and a kangaroo. This huge creature sported facial hair that all but obscured three beady eyes and a protruding snout, which twitched inquisitively to and fro. Next to this monster crouched a supple, snake-like figure that stood on a single leg, its upper torso swaying gently back and forth. To its left was a being which was the most ordinary looking of the bunch (by earthly standards), looking for all the world like a paunchy man one would expect to be a fry cook in a greasy restaurant. His "normal"  appearance was betrayed however by the presence of only one eye in his massive skull. He wore a scowl on his face that seemed to be etched there permanently, so deep were the wrinkles on his brow above the single eye.

            Standing back from these three was a creature that looked for all the world like a gazelle. It seemed completely out of place surrounded by the other frowning creatures, since it wore a serene, otherworldly look of perpetual peace on its face. A squat, hairy creature similar to a walking barrel cactus leaned over and said in the gazelle's ear, "Doreth, are you sure this is the right place?" The hairy barrel peered around curiously at the dripping trees and helpless flowers. "I thought you said the pearl would be guarded better than the penitentiary planet!" Barrel hair snorted. "This is just a disgusting garden!"

            "Shut up, Garf!" snarled a cat-like creature with 2 noses, who was standing behind the gazelle. It lifted its luminous eyes to gaze cruelly at the hairy barrel, who started to tremble. "If Doreth said this is the place, then this is the place! He never lies."

            "Agreed," snapped a twig-like creature that looked more like a collection of ugly old sticks than a living being. "One does not question the greatest mind in the universe. The pearl is here, all right." The twig creature twitched its wooden nose. "I can smell it!"

            "Let me at it!" rumbled the massive rhino/kangaroo beast. "No amount of guards or traps can stop me from taking it!" The creature took a step forward, flattening an entire palm tree.

            "Patience, Narg," whispered the gazelle in a voice so soft it sounded like a whisper. Yet there was an element of command in the gentle voice, so powerful that it stopped the rhino creatures in its tracks. "We must study the terrain for a moment," said the gazelle, its eyes flitting back and forth like hungry bees after honey. "Certainly a being such as you, with the reputation of being able to endure more pain than anyone in the galaxy, has learned that it is not wise to rush into danger."

            "Hmmph!" snorted the catlike creature behind Doreth. "I'd wager the opposite is true. Rushing thoughtlessly into danger is how noodle brain Narg gained his reputation for enduring so much pain!"

            "I'll noodle your brain, you living hairball!" growled Narg, turning on the cat with surprising speed. The hairy barrel creature ducked out of the path of destruction, but just as Narg's massive fist came sailing toward the cat creature's sneering face, Doreth whispered, "Enough, you fools! Don't you realize you're being watched?"

            Instantly every creature froze, their wary eyes darting furtively around the glen. "How many are there?" mumbled the twigman in a cross voice that betrayed his worry.

            "I can't see any," said the hairy barrel, shielding his eyes for no good reason, since it was not bright or glaring in the glen. "Who are they? And better yet, where are they?"

            "Over there," said the gazelle in its cold, whisper voice. "Under that palm frond, next to the cut logs--"

            "It's the black pearl!" cried the one-eyed, paunchy creature. "The treasure we traveled 3 million parsecs to steal!" Drool started to drip out of the creature's sizeable mouth at the thought of how close they were to untold wealth.

            "But I don't see any other creature around it," mumbled hairy barrel Garf, straining his eyes. "I thought you said we were being watched." He turned to stare inquisitively at Doreth.

            "We are," said Doreth simply. "By the pearl itself. It has been contemplating our arrival and observing us continuously. It is far more dangerous than a casual glance would suggest, and apparently needs no guards or watchmen to keep it safe."

            "Hmmph!" grumbled the one-legged snake creature. "How can a simple stone like that be so powerful? All anyone has to do is walk over and pick it up!"

            The gazelle laughed with a sound like scraping metal. "Fools! You know the legends about how hard it is to steal! Nearly impossible, actually. Why do you think I gathered you to come here, to help me get it if snatching it was really all that easy--YOU, who are the foremost in your fields!" The gazelle turned toward the massive rhino-kangaroo. "Narg, whose muscles and ability to endure untold pain have made him an unbeatable fighter." He turned to look at the one-legged, snake-like creature and continued. "Belth, the one-legged master of all weapons. And next to him, Danist, the one-eyed expert of all deadly gases, which can suffocate any attacker instantly."

            The group began to eye each other self consciously as Doreth continued speaking, pointing his gazelle antlers at the cat-like creature. "And here we have Walyt, supple as mist, and able to move so fast no attacker can keep her in his sights. Then there is Morug, seemingly made of sticks and wood, whose passion is how to administer poisons that cause instant, excruciating death!"

            Suddenly everyone turned to look at barrel cactus Garf. "What about him?" asked Walyt, voicing the question that was in all of their minds. "What is he good at?"

            Doreth shrugged his gazelle shoulders. "Asking annoying questions and being a general nuisance," replied Doreth. "He is my personal servant, and came along to bring our lunch." Garf smiled awkwardly and waived a large lunch bag at them all.

            "Enough nonsense and chatter!" bellowed Narg, shaking his shaggy head from side to side. "Shall we attack or not?"

            "Be my guest," said Doreth abruptly, surprising them all. "Although the pearl has been watching us, it has taken no action to stop us, nor has any other creature appeared to prevent our passage. Perhaps the legends about how well guarded the pearl is and how impossible it is to take are nothing more than myths that keep it safe by way of rumors alone! At any rate, there is probably no more need to wait."

            Narg shook his head once more, then suddenly charged across the glen, trampling many of the cute little yellow and purple flowers in his rush. The other creatures leaned forward in anticipation. He was so massive and frightening, it was hard to imagine ANY creature standing in his way. He only had a few steps to go before the pearl was in his grasp, and no weapons of any kind had been fired at him from any direction. Were the legends about how impossible it was to get the pearl mere nonsense?

            Abruptly, Narg stopped, only one step away from the pearl. He began to tremble, then shake, his massive frame moving the entire ground so much it felt like another one of the volcanic earth tremors which often struck the glen. "I feel pain," he said through a strained voice, turning to look back at his companions.

            "Pain?" repeated stickman Morug dumbly. "So what! Pain is nothing to you! Why should you care?"

            "You don't understand," said Narg, gritting his teeth, which were roughly the size of small watermelons. "This is real PAIN!"

            "Where is it coming from?" demanded Belth. "And why in blazes aren't you picking up the pearl?"

            Narg suddenly gripped his shaggy, massive head in his giant paws. "Pearl!" he screeched. "Who cares about the pearl!"He began to sway from side to side, while moaning piteously. "Oh, great stars of Vesuvius! Such pain. SUCH AGONY!"

            "Where is the pain coming from?" asked Doreth in a concerned whisper. "Were you struck with darts? Is there an unseen laser beam trained on you? Where are you feeling the pain? What is its source?"

            "Oh, the PAIN!" wailed Narg, starting to stumble back toward his companions, flattening palm trees, flowers and everything else in his path. "It's everywhere! Inside me! All around me! And its getting worse! So much worse! So much more than I've ever felt at one time!" He suddenly issued a bellowing cry of agony that caused the group of watchers to shrink back in alarm.

            "Where is the pain coming from?" repeated Doreth anxiously. "Please tell us, while you still can! We must know!"

            Suddenly, all three of Narg's eyes opened wide as he stared unseeing at Doreth. "The pain is coming from me," he said in a surprisingly calm voice. "All of it is coming from deep inside of me." Then with a horrendous crash he fell flat on his face and saw no more.

            The group stared at his still form in startled silence for a moment. His crashing fall had startled even the Coqui frogs into an unexpected stillness which was so deep, the group could even hear each other breathing. Finally, Garf said stupidly, "That was unexpected." He turned to stare at Doreth, his master. "I thought you said he could endure more pain than anyone. But it doesn't look like he could endure much after all. What happened? And what did he mean about the pain coming from inside himself?"

            Doreth did not reply at first, merely pawing one of his hind hoofs gently across the ground. Finally he let out a sigh and said softly, "This is not good. But it is also not unexpected. The pearl's reputation is true, after all. We saw no guards, no attackers, no weapons, yet Narg was prevented from taking it. The pearl truly has a very powerful protection. Somehow it caused more pain than even Narg could bear."

            "Nonsense!" cried Danist, blinking his one eye rapidly. "Narg was a wimp, after all. No weapon and no power can stand against my deadly gases!" He strode boldly into the glen, pulling several small containers out of his cloak. Without any hesitation he opened one of the containers and blew the green gas that erupted from it toward the pearl. Even though the watchers were several paces away, they all instantly perceived the disgusting, putrid stench of the green gas, and their eyes began to water.

            But Danist was not done. With all his strength he threw another bottle at the pearl, which crashed and broke on the volcanic rocks beneath it. Instantly a red gas erupted, mixing with the green gas that was shrouding the pearl from view. Stepping ever closer, Danist tossed in another bottle of gas--yellow this time--and then yet another, this one being purple. The stench in the glen was overpowering, and Garf swayed on his feet, then dropped to his chubby knees as the powerful, deadly gases filled the air.

            With a satisfied smirk, Danist reached down for the pearl. But as his hand drew near the simple black object he suddenly began to shiver. "Gas!" he cried unexpectedly. "I smell gas!" Pulling his hand back, he turned to stare at his companions, his eyes wide and staring. "I smell gas!!" he repeated dumbly.

            "Of course you smell gas, you idiot!" cried Walyt. "We all do! We're all about to suffocate from it too!"

            Danist shook his head, as he began to stagger back toward his companions, the pearl now forgotten. "You don't understand," he said in a slurred voice. "I smell GAS! Not this little yellow and green stuff from the bottles I just used--that's nothing to me! I've handled thousands of gases for years, and the little bit I just opened is so tame I don't even smell it, and it has no effect on me at all. But now I smell gas--real, powerful GAS!! There's so much of it! So much! I never would have believed there could be so much gas …"

            Danist stumbled, his eyes beginning to glaze over. It was obvious he would soon faint. "Quick!" cried Doreth. "Tell us where the gas is coming from!" Danist stared at him blankly. Then as his eyes began to roll back into his head he raised a trembling finger and pointed it at his own chest. Then in another instant he collapsed, rolling next to Narg where he lay very still.

            The twigman Morug and hairy barrel Garf were coughing profusely. Everyone's eyes stung, and for a moment it looked like Garf was going to pass out. But slowly the fog of multicolored gas that Danist had released drifted up into the air and disappeared. All was still once again in the glen, and the coqui frogs struck up their dissonant chorus once more.

            "So," said Doreth slowly, "the legends are more than real. There is some power protecting the pearl which made these two monsters, unstoppable as they are, fail to obtain it. And somehow this power made them feel their agony within themselves!" He shook his gazelle head sadly. "Perhaps there simply is no way to gain this great treasure," he said with a sigh.

            "I think there is!" said cat Walyt, as she stepped lightly past the still forms of her two fallen companions and advanced toward the pearl. Then to the amazement of all, she seemed to vanish, only to reappear on the other side of the glen. Then she vanished once more, reappearing on the far side of the glen opposite to where she had been only a second before. In staggeringly quick succession she then appeared at dozens of points all over the glen, each of which was closer to the pearl as she gradually proceeded toward it.

            "I don't get this at all," said Garf, holding his head to stop it from spinning. "How is she doing that? It's making me dizzy!"

            "It is her amazing speed," said Doreth with a slight smile. "That is her special power. She can move so fast, it is impossible for the eye to keep her in sight. Her speed makes her almost invisible, unless she wants to be seen!"

            And then suddenly she reappeared again, this time hovering over the pearl, her hand a mere fraction from its dull surface. "Eureka!" she cried as she picked it up. "I have it!" she cried as she turned to face her companions. "I have the--"

            She stopped so abruptly it caught them all off guard. "Blazing hicofanes!" she said suddenly, as she dropped the pearl back on its perch, then took a staggering step toward her companions. Her eyes were wide and staring, and she started to blink rapidly. "I can't believe it! I just can't believe it!"

            "What?" cried Garf, taking a step toward her, then quickly stepping back. "Is it gas or pain? What are you talking about?"

            "My eyes!" cried Walyt, clapping her hands over her eyes. "I can't take it! I CAN’T TAKE IT!" She began stumbling about the glen, smashing flowers and tripping over vines, her speed of movement completely gone in complete contrast with the amazing agility she had used before. "It's too much--FAR TOO MUCH FOR ME!" She suddenly let out a piercing scream that set their skin on edge.

            "Quickly, tell us what you mean!" cried Doreth. "What is too much?"

            "It's what I can see!" wailed Walyt forlornly, trying to look at him with unseeing eyes. "I can see so much! Far too much! It's like everything that's visible, all rolled together. I see everything! I see it all! Everything I've ever seen is before my eyes! I can't take it! I just can't take it! It's blinding me, and overloading my brain!" In a series of jerky, uncoordinated steps she tried to stumble closer to her companions. And then she abruptly collapsed in a heap, next to her two previously fallen companions.

            There was a long, quiet pause as the remaining four figures tried to make sense of what they had just witnessed. Meanwhile, the coqui frogs were at their chorus again, completely heedless of the drama that was playing out in the glen. As every big islander knows, there is NOTHING that can make them stop for long.

            Stickman Morug suddenly cleared his throat. "You know," he said, trying to sound casual, "maybe coming here wasn't such a good idea …"

            "Not scared, are you?" said Belth abruptly. "I thought you were 'Mr. Poison,' and nothing could scare you!"

            Morug bristled and turned to glare at Belth. "I have special poisons for unbelievers such as you," he mumbled. "The kind that makes you scream for mercy while your flesh melts."

            "Rubbish!" cried Belth. "If your poisons are so powerful, use them to get the pearl! Don't waste them on me!"

            Morug glared at Belth for an instant, then turned and charged suddenly into the glen. From his belt he pulled a number of glass vials, each of which contained a bubbling liquid. In rapid succession he threw them at the pearl, and as each container smashed and broke, their wretched contents oozed out onto the dull, black surface of the pearl and on the surrounding volcanic rock on which it perched.

            The group watched in fascination as the few plants around the pearl that came in contact with Morug's poisons instantly shriveled and died. And in an instant, Morug had reached his destination. He stood over the pearl for a moment, looking down at it in triumph. "That was far easier than I expected. What on earth was wrong with those three other morons? Must've been a bunch of weakling sissies, after all." He reached down and picked up the pearl, then turned to look at them.

            "A piece of cake!" he cried happily as he raised his arms in triumph. And then, without warning, his face turned ashen, and he dropped the pearl, which rolled back to its former perch.

            "My stars!" he cried in a choked voice, his hands suddenly gripping his throat. He mumbled some unintelligible sounds as he took a staggering step toward his companions.

            "What is it?" asked Doreth anxiously in his whisper voice. "What did the pearl do to you?"

            "Not the pearl," mumbled Morug in a strangled voice that could hardly be understood. "All inside me! Poison! Lots and lots of poison!"

            "Did the pearl put it there somehow, when you touched it?" asked Doreth urgently. "You must tell us!"

            Morug shook his head. "Pearl did nothing," he choked. "This is MY poison. Every poison I've ever tasted. It's all coming back. All at once--" And then, without warning, Morug flopped on the ground, lifeless as an old stone.

            There was stunned, nervous silence in the glen once more, until Garf suddenly hiccupped. "That was unexpected," he said again. "I thought you told me earlier that he could eat his own poison and not get hurt." Garf turned an inquisitive eye on his master, Doreth.

            "That is true," replied the gazelle, its eyes thoughtful. "He did indeed partake of vast quantities of poison in his lifetime in order to build up an immunity. From his last statements, it sounded like all of those poisons were coming back to him at once…"

            "Just like Danist smelled an overpowering gas!" said Belth. "As if it was every gas he had ever smelled! And Narg felt every pain he had ever felt all at once, which was too much for even him to endure! And Walyt saw again everything she had ever seen!"

            "So THAT is the power of the pearl!" said the gazelle in a sad voice. "Bringing back every pain or gas or poison or vision a person has ever experienced." He suddenly turned to look at Belth. "I release you," he said unexpectedly. "It is obvious that the pearl is too powerful. I release you from your obligation to try to get it. You are free to go."

            Belth suddenly sneered. "Release ME?" he said derisively. "Why? I'm no gas freak or poison hound! My specialty is weapons, remember! And unlike Narg and his pain, and Morug and his poisons, I've never eaten a weapon! So the pearl can't stop ME!"

            With a decisive air, he turned and strode into the glen. As he did so he pulled a blaster from his belt and shot a quick succession of laser bolts onto the volcanic shelf supporting the pearl, instantly reducing the shelf to rubble. He then tossed an explosive on either side of the pearl, each of which erupted in a belch of ear-shattering sound. And then he pointed his blaster directly at the pearl and fired. Unlike the volcanic shelf, the pearl did not disintegrate, but merely wobbled slightly from side to side as it was struck by the laser bolt.

            "Easy as pie," said Belth casually as he stooped over and picked up the pearl. "NOTHING can beat weapons, I always say." He holstered his blaster, then casually tossed the pearl from one hand to the other. "When you want a job done, just get a weapons man to do it. Don't waste time with poison or jumping around so fast you can't be seen, or gas, or--"

            Suddenly Belth jerked back as if he had been hit in the face. "Galaxy horrendous!" he exploded, as he dropped the pearl. He clapped his hands to his ears and gritted his teeth. "Make it stop! Oh please, MAKE IT STOP!"

            "Make what stop!" asked Doreth anxiously. "What has happened?" But Belth didn't seem to hear him. He began staggering around the glen, his hands tightly holding his ears, while moaning with quivering lips, "Oh, PLEASE make it stop! Please! Please! It's too much! I just can't stand it!"

            "Can't stand what?" cried Doreth, raising his voice. "What's going on? How did the pearl attack you?"

            Once again, Belth didn't seem to hear him. His stumbling became wilder, and he began to wail in a screeching, pleading way that made Garf's hair stand on end. He began to run even though he had no idea where he was going, since he had tightly shut his eyes. Then he suddenly bellowed, "The noise! Oh, the noise! My ears! It's every explosion I've ever heard! I can't take it!! I can't--"

            Abruptly he keeled over and lay very still.

            Now there were only two standing figures at the edge of the glen. Two figures where before there had been seven. Neither said anything for a very long time. They stared at their fallen comrades, marveling at the power of the pearl. Never could it have been imagined that things would turn out like THIS!

            Finally, Garf turned tremblingly on his master. "What now, Doreth?" he asked in a low voice. "The five gifted ones you brought have all failed! It's impossible to obtain the pearl!" Doreth turned to gaze at Garf with his large, gazelle eyes.

            And then he started to laugh. The sound was so abrupt, it was like an explosion of color on a pitch black night. Garf jumped back at the unexpected jibbering, staring at his master as if he had completely lost his senses. What was going on?

            "Oh, wondrous plan!" cried Doreth for no apparent reason. "It worked! IT WORKED! And now the pearl is mine! All mine!" Then he erupted in another fit of laughter, completely unnerving his poor servant Garf.

            "I don't understand," said Garf in a concerned voice. "What are you talking about?"

            "Don't you see!" screeched Doreth, his gazelle face leering. "The five senses! I always knew that was the true power of the pearl! It intensifies the strongest of the five senses of whoever gets close to it, increasing them within that person to a point where they finally can't stand the overload! But it can only do so once, on any given day!"

            Garf simply stared at his master, his mind completely blank and numb.

            "You still don't get it?" cried Doreth, as he suddenly trotted over to the five fallen heroes. "I carefully selected each of these fools to come and sap the power of the pearl in respect to each of the five senses. Narg with his pain was the sense of touch. Danist with his gases was the sense of smell. Walyt with her incredibly fast movements was the sense of sight. Morug with his poisons was the sense of taste. And finally Belth with his noisy weapons was the sense of hearing. And now, after having depleted the power of the pearl to amplify any of these senses--because it has spent all its strength battling these five--I can simply go over and pick up the pearl and take it, with no harm to me at all!"

            Garf watched in wonder as his master trotted casually over to the pearl, then reached down and picked up the dull, black object with his gazelle teeth. He then flipped the pearl into a pouch that hung from his neck, and trotted back over to his servant.

            "See?" said Doreth triumphantly. "Wasn't that easy?" He began to laugh again with a sound like breaking glass.

            "The five warriors …?" queried Garf, taking a step back from his master in horror. "You purposefully used them, knowing they would be destroyed?"

            "Naturally," said Doreth with a casual toss of his neck. "They were a pack of fools, and were dangerous too. I've accomplished two great things this day. I've rid the world of these obnoxious characters, and I've gained the precious pearl for myself! The beauty of my plan should be overwhelmingly obvious, even to you! After all, as Morug said, I have the greatest mind in the universe! That is MY strength. And that mind has both conquered these dolts and gained one of the greatest treasures ever to--"

            Doreth suddenly lurched, as if stung by a bee. "What was that?" he asked curiously, his voice suddenly sounding hollow and empty. He shook his head as if to clear it from a fog. Then he began to prance about, his eyes opening wide in disbelief. In a panicked voice he suddenly cried, "No! It cannot be! It is impossible! It was the five senses, nothing more! That was all the pearl could do--just intensify the five senses! It HAD TO be just the five senses!"

            Suddenly Doreth seemed to go completely crazy. He danced across the clearing, trampling the yellow and purple flowers in his heedless stumbling. He swung his head crazily from side to side. He jumped up and down and cavorted about as if being stung by a dozen bees at once. Then suddenly he cried, "Don't just stand there, you idiot! Get it out! Pull the pearl out of the bag around my neck before it kills me!"

            Garf didn't move.

            "YOU MORON!" screeched Doreth, pawing the ground madly and spraying the flowers with the foam that started to fleck out of his frenzied mouth. "PULL OUT THE PEARL!"

            Garf still stood his ground, trembling like a leaf. Impatiently, Doreth lowered his head and charged at his servant, pointing his antlers at his heart. "All right! All right!" cried Garf in a panicked voice as Doreth stopped a hair's breadth before him. "I'll pull out the pearl!" Quickly he reached in the bag around his master's neck and yanked out the dull stone, holding it disdainfully as if it was a piece of stinking garbage. He quickly tossed it back across the glen to its original resting place. Then he dropped to the ground and began rubbing his hand wildly on the ferns and grass, trying vainly to wipe off whatever the pearl may have left on his fingers.

            "You fool!" said Doreth madly as he pranced insanely around the glen, trampling more flowers. "You utter moron!" Then Doreth started to laugh, his voice sounding utterly insane. "You have nothing to fear from the pearl! It wasted its strength on the five senses already, and now used up its power on another sense I foolishly overlooked."

            Garf stared at his master, completely mystified.

            "It's my brain, you dolt!" cried Doreth, now staggering so badly it was obvious he would keel over any second. The gazelle's speech was slurred and strained as he spoke his final words. "The pearl did the same thing to me it did to the others. It brought back every thought and every memory of my incredible brain--all at once! I am being overloaded right now with a flood of ideas that is consuming my very being! I can't stand it anymore! My thoughts are overpowering! But you have nothing to fear, not only because the pearl just used up all of its brain-intensifying power, but also since your brain has always been the size of a pea!"

            Garf staggered back, not out of distaste at this obvious put-down, but at the insane laughter that emanated from the throat of his master. "And now you, the ultimate fool, get the pearl for yourself!" cried Doreth madly. "Oh, the irony! The one among us lacking any power gets it all. The least deserving! The weakest, stupidest, most--"

            With a gasping, choking sound, the gazelle suddenly flopped over and then lay very still. Garf stared at his former master in wide-eyed wonder, almost wishing and hoping beyond hope that Doreth would rise to his feet again, cursing and belittling Garf for being a mindless oaf of a servant. Yet at the same time the thought of a resurrected Doreth filled him with utter dread and horror.

            Garf looked down at his shaking hands. They were trembling so badly, they were nothing but a blur. Had the pearl infected him as well? Was he going to die from an overload, just like all the others?

            And then, with a sickening realization, he came to see the overload the pearl could inflict upon him. He would be overloaded and killed by his own stupidity! He had always been a dolt (or so Doreth had kept telling him over the years), and now all that doltishness would come rising back, overwhelming him in a wave of overpowering idiocy while the memory of all the stupid things he had ever done overloaded his simple brain! Then he would sink to the earth and join his comrades in defeated slumber!

            But amazingly, it didn't happen. As the minutes ticked by, and to Garf's amazed and overwhelmingly grateful relief, nothing happened at all. A wave of stupidity did not overpower him. He was not consumed by a surge of massive idiocy. He had no idea why, and was too stupid to figure it out anyway. He was simply left trembling at the edge of the glen with no change at all--the only being to ever touch the pearl and live.

            The pearl! It was his! It had not killed him as it had the others! It was his for the taking, and was a treasure known across the galaxy as being without price! He could live for the rest of his life like a king with that pearl! He took a tentative step forward--

            And then he stopped. No. He would not do it. He COULD not do it. With sudden, startled realization he understood that nothing on earth could make him reach out and touch that deadly stone again. Even if it meant living the rest of his life in poverty, he could not and would not take the pearl. And if only he had been smart enough to realize it, that is the very reason it had not overpowered him as well--because it could read the cowardice in his heart. And so it was his own cowardice, as well as his stupidity, that saved him.

            Suddenly Garf was seized with an overpowering urge to get out of the accursed glen. He turned and ran blindly, crashing through the fern and palm fronds, stubbing his toes on the cut logs and volcanic rock that strewed his path. Then as the bright red bungalow with is equally bright blue railing came into view, he stopped short.

            What was he running for! He didn't belong on this planet, and there was nowhere he could run to for safety anyway. Cursing himself for his stupidity, he pulled out a small metal box. It was the transformer that had brought him and the six others here from their spaceship far above. Quickly he flipped a few dials, and in seconds began to fade. After another minute he had completely disappeared, and nothing remained to indicate his passing except a gentle breeze.

            And then all was still, just as before. Sunlight danced lazily across the palm fronds, while mindless insects buzzed their annoying songs and zipped around on their pointless journeys. The coqui frogs continued their chirping chorus, while the Hawaii humidity hung in the air like a perpetual, wet blanket.

            Back in the glen, the little yellow and purple flowers were gently nodding their heads as if being stirred by a soft breeze. However, any observer would have noticed to his surprise that at the moment there was no breeze in the glen. None at all.

            A sudden, gentle voice floated effortlessly from one of the taller flowers. "How many were lost today?" it asked plaintively. "From the gas, the poison, the explosions and the trampling?" A softer voice from a nearby flower answered, "Almost 100."

            At hearing the news, all of the flowers again swayed gently as if being moved by a breeze, but this time did so with the soft accompaniment of mourning voices.

            "One hundred!" whispered the tall flower. "Such a loss! Such a terrible loss!"

            "But at least our secret is safe," whispered the other flower in answer. "Thinking the pearl holds all the power, the intruders failed to even notice us. And now they are gone, the pearl is still here, and most of us are safe. And even though the silly black pearl has no power at all, we are protected from intruders who might otherwise come to realize the truth about us. If they knew our secret, they could kill us all easily by swiftly trampling or burning us, no matter how fast we tried to increase and intensify their senses …"