Zoe then bent down until she was in a squatting position, examining elephant tracks in the mud, knees bent with her face almost as close to the mud as she could get it without falling over. "Elephants!" Zoe exclaimed to herself. She grabbed her camera from her backpack, and quickly snapped a close-up of Rainforest Elephant footprints in the almost dried-up mud. Zoe noticed streaks of muddied white mixed in with the elephant tracks and lightly touched her finger to the soil, then as she drew her finger to her lips to taste for [salt, minerals, clay] the mysterious stranger shouted suddenly "No! Wait!"
Zoe, startled out of her quiet reverie, shrieked, lost her balance and fell sideways into the mud puddle. She couldn't immediately detect where the voice had come from, so she paused for a moment and listened to the sounds of the rainforest while her eyes adjusted to the dim light of the clearing. The mysterious stranger stepped view and covered the distance from the cave to Zoe in a few long strides. He reached out to grab Zoe's outstretched hand and pulled her up easily with a quick tug. Standing upright again, Zoe peered up into the mysterious stranger's dark brown eyes with a look of exasperation, "What'd you make me do that for? I was just going to taste the mud for salt!" Zoe exclaimed. The mysterious stranger's eyes smiled at Zoe - a smile that came from the inside, not the outside. "I'm Levi. What's your name?" Zoe peered up at the vampire with intense curiosity. "My name is Zoe. And I read your Egyptian name in the lining of your cape by the way. What are were doing here together in the middle of the jungle? I myself am looking for a way to save the Rainforest from those who wish to destroy it. It seems a few elephants have returned here after an eternity of absence. These trees have been patiently awaiting their return."
Levi bent down to examine the elephant tracks and even tasted the mud himself. "Tastes like clay and minerals and salt!" Levi exclaimed as he stood up. Levi glanced around them and saw nothing but giant trees and dense uninhabited jungle. Monkeys and scarlet macaws chattered loudly in the trees overhead. Levi gestured to the dark cove behind him, "Perhaps our answer lies inside the cave behind me. I myself have travelled here on 'business' of my own, but the cave itself might harbor a few answers within. Why don't we check and see."
Zoe stored her camera away in her travel pack, brushed the dried mud off her knees and glanced briefly at the cave's dark interior. "Sure thing Levi." Zoe and Levi stepped carefully around the mud and the elephant tracks, heading towards the cave's entrance. Levi kicked aside the remains of his campfire and looked around the interior of the cave for clues. He seemed to be searching for something on the inside walls of the wet, gloomy cave. Zoe wondered what Levi was looking at. She stepped a few feet closer to him and peered up at the cave's wall where Levi's finger was tracing symbols on the damp stone.
"What are you doing Levi? Is there something on the walls?" Zoe pulled her camera back out of her travel pack, and after making a few quick adjustments for lighting and exposure, she snapped a few quick shots of the cave wall Levi was examining. Zoe took a look at her camera's viewfinder and saw a variety of what looked like lines and scribbles, but not much else. She put the camera away and waited for Levi. Levi brushed the wall's surface with his fingers and he rubbed a damp, rust-colored substance off his fingertips.
"Did you take a few pictures Zoe? These look like cave paintings from time immemorial to me. What do you think?" Zoe wasn't sure, but the camera would definitely hold more clues. "Let's step outside and look at the pictures in better light than this dim cave." Zoe headed back out of the cave and sat down in a sunny spot not too far from the salty mud. Levi followed her. Zoe's camera was a special gift from a Wheel Turning King and could project its images onto any surface with almost complete clarity. Zoe focused her first picture onto the trunk of a large tree.
Levi stood next to her while an image made up mostly of lines and scribbles gradually appeared before them on the surface of the tree's enormous trunk. To Zoe, the cave painting looked like a collection of symbols related to water and perhaps the storage of water, but she didn't know for sure. Maybe Levi would know more. Zoe wondered who had drawn these paintings on the cave's wall and wondered what had happened in the past. Why had someone come along hundreds of years later, only to cross out the water with a big, black "X?" What had happened to their water source and what was the dual meaning of the vase pictogram? Zoe and Levi sat down together for a snack on the forest floor while examining the cave paintings in the dim forest light. Monkeys chattered overheard and a leopard growled off in the distance as Zoe pulled a water-proof notebook and pen out of her travel pack. She studied her camera's pictures in the viewfinder and began making a few notes in her notebook. It looked as if someone else had come along hundreds of years after the original painting had been inscribed, but whoever it was had only added to the mystery.
Zoe checked her camera's settings and flipped the date / year switch to the "On" position. Her camera was a slightly older model, so it only detected the date / year of the subject material within a century or so. The newer models could approximate within 50 years. Maybe Levi would have a better understanding.
Zoe glanced over at Levi and watched silently as he finished his snack and took his own camera out of his travel pack. "What time inscription does your camera say?" Zoe asked Levi, as he examined the cave drawings / paintings in his camera's viewfinder. "It looks like there are at least two, maybe three different time inscriptions listed for this painting. Levi scooted over a bit and held out his camera's viewfinder so Zoe could see for herself. "Wow! This must be the latest and greatest camera model! Mine only reads the date within one hundred years!" Zoe exclaimed as she peered closely at the viewfinder's window. "What does it read Zoe?" Levi waited for Zoe to finish looking at the pictogram.
"It's very puzzling, Zoe. I see at least three different time inscriptions, plus a small mark at the end, that might indicate a fourth time inscription added for the last symbol." The last symbol was a tree, but all the rest were related to water, wildlife and the sun. "Maybe we should find the Pygmy tribes that live near this watering hole. They might have a better understanding of the pictogram's meaning." Zoe stood up to see what Levi thought. Levi helped Zoe brush mud off her clothes and, pointing in the direction of small footpath leading away from the Watering Hole and into the dense jungle, Levi grabbed Zoe's hand, "Let's take this path and see where it leads. We can check our direction in a few minutes." Zoe had already pulled her Crystal Clasp out of her Travel Pack, but she shoved it into her jacket pocket for safe-keeping until they stopped for directions. The Rainforest floor was damp and spongy beneath their feet and birds and monkeys chattered overhead. Levi had Ruby with him, and her bright, sparkly wings would help them find their way through the rainforest. He pulled the little ruby-colored sunbird out of his pocket and let her fly up into the trees ahead of them. "Go on, Ruby. Have a look and see what's ahead of us on the path."
Just then, a dark, silent shadow appeared before them on the footpath and Zoe knew they had encountered their first indigenous rainforest friend. Zoe stopped her slow stride and waited for Levi to catch up. Ruby's sparkly red wings flitted about in the jungle vines above them. The dark shadow approached them cautiously and stopped within a few feet of where Zoe was standing. Zoe saw one small palm raised slightly, but she wasn't sure if this was a greeting or if it was a sign for them to stop. She held up her own hand towards the Pygmy in a similar fashion. "What do you suppose she means, Levi?" Zoe turned back to ask Levi, but he was fumbling around in his Travel Pack, searching for his Interstellar Communication Device, hoping it was outfitted with Pygmy languages of the African Rainforest.
It should have everything we need Zoe thought to herself. After all Levi always managed to get ahold of the latest and greatest when it came to travel devices and interstellar technology. "Ah ha!" Zoe heard Levi's excited exclamation at encountering what he was looking for, presumably the interpretation of the Pygmy's hand signal. "It says here that the Pygmy palm open signal is offered to strangers in a gesture of greeting or departure. We're in luck!" Levi smiled at Zoe and offered his open palm to the Pygmy in return. The Pygmy smiled at Levi and Zoe and Ruby flew down from the trees to say "Hello."
"Hello strangers!" The Pygmy greeted them in a friendly manner. "Welcome to my rainforest home. What brings you to the African Rainforest?" Ruby had alit on Levi's shoulder and was happily chirping a rainforest greeting in her own language. The Pygmy smiled at Ruby. "What a beautiful little bird!" the Pygmy exclaimed. "Here, we call these the Superb Sunbird." "Yes, Levi explained, "This is our little sunbird, Ruby, and she usually travels with us." The Pygmy glanced over at Zoe. "Who is this?" "This is Zoe, my traveling companion. We are searching for the meaning behind a drawing we found in a cave not too far from here. Can you help us?" "Yes, of course," the Pygmy replied. "I am familiar with the cave painting not far from here. Let's turn around and walk back down the path you came from. Don't forget Ruby!" The Pygmy smiled at Levi and Zoe as she stepped past them and continued on down the footpath, heading back in the direction of the cave. Levi and Zoe followed her footsteps while Ruby's sparkly purple wings flitted above them in the trees. The rainforest sun was beginning to set as the Pygmy walked ahead of Levi and Zoe until they reached the Watering Hole. Then, she carefully picked her way around the mud and the few elephants who were still left sucking up the mud and minerals and made her way towards the cave's entrance. Ruby stayed in the tree tops outside, while Levi and Zoe stood behind the Pygmy, examining the cave painting and their pictures by torchlight.
The first picture was easy enough to understand. The Pygmy was pointing at the symbol that obviously meant "sun," a round, eight-pointed star. Zoe had already written down "sun" in her notebook, and she looked at the next pictogram on the cave's wall. The Pygmy explained that the first two drawings stood for "sun" and "water," respectively. Levi translated while Zoe took notes. The second cave drawing was a little more complicated. They all understood that the four ripples stood for water, but according to their camera, someone had come along around 2500 years after the cave painting was originally drawn around 500 BC, and painted a big, black X over the water symbol. They had also added a few dead animals lying on their backs underneath. The Pygmy seemed confused, but continued with her interpretation in her native Pygmy language. Levi translated and Zoe took notes. "Someone has crossed out the water symbol and added dead animals underneath, as if to indicate severe drought or a lack of water. Perhaps this was a warning for the future of the inhabitants of the area."
Next, the Pygmy examined the third pictogram. To Zoe, it looked like a large, perhaps clay vase with another symbol drawn underneath it. The Pygmy explained about using large clay pots to store and transport water, and then she moved on to the second symbol underneath the clay jug. She very carefully blew off the dust that had gathered on the drawing and squinted at the cave wall in the dim light. "Ah ha!" The Pygmy smiled as she realized the meaning of the pictogram. "Here, we have a symbol which indicates treasure or something very valuable that is to be stored in the big vases." The Pygmy looked at Levi and Zoe expectantly, as if everything suddenly made sense, but Zoe was still confused. "What about the fourth drawing? What does that one mean?" The Pygmy carefully examined the fourth and last drawing and then turned around to Levi and Zoe to explain the meaning. The last picture is the symbol for agriculture or crops, as water is required for a bountiful harvest. The Pygmy didn't seem to understand the meaning of the big, black X that had been drawn over the original cave drawing. When Zoe asked her about it, she simply pointed to the picture of the vase and then the symbol for healthy crops. Zoe couldn't figure out how to translate time travel into the Pygmy's language, so she turned back to her camera to study the time inscriptions again.
Levi politely declined the Pygmy's hunting camp dinner invitation, and both Levi and Zoe bid their Pygmy guide a fond farewell. Ruby chirped cheerfully from Levi's shoulder as the Pygmy headed off down the footpath in the direction of their hunting camp and disappeared into the trees. Levi pulled his camera out of his travel pack, and sat down with Zoe to study the different time inscriptions on their respective cameras. Perhaps a journey back in time would be necessary to solve the mystery of the Water Treasure.
They decided to use Levi's camera, since it had the latest time inscription technology, and they would be able to determine the time period to the closest possible year. Levi set Ruby down on a nearby tree branch, gave her a small snack and then pulled up the first symbol A) in his camera's viewfinder. This one was easy: it was a drawing of the sun. Levi's camera showed a date of around 500 BC. Zoe made a note in her notebook and waited for Levi to pull up the second drawing. The second cave painting B) was the symbol for water, but with the added black X and dead animals underneath it. "Let's check the water symbol first, and then see if the black X was drawn over the water symbol in later years," Zoe suggested.
"Sure thing Zoe! At your service!" Levi smiled at Zoe and peered into his camera's viewfinder window. "It looks like the water symbol was inscribed at the same time as the sun symbol, around 500 BC. Let me take a closer look at the black X and the dead animals." Levi peered into his viewfinder again, "My camera's time inscription shows that the black X and the dead animals were added to the original cave painting about 2500 years later, or around 2000 AD, perhaps as a warning or a prophecy for the future. "The third symbol," Levi continued, "is the vase used for water storage. The vase was drawn at the same time as the water and the sun symbols along with the symbol underneath the vase that means treasure. D) The fourth symbol stands for crops, and this was also carved into the cave wall about 500 BC." Zoe was busy writing the years and dates down in her notebook. "It looks like the original cave painting was drawn about 500 BC, but with a warning for the future that went unheeded" Zoe concluded.