Ally & Oz

The Importance of being Ally (Fourth)

by William L. J. Galaini

That night, while William and Ashley were sleeping in the tower’s peek, Oz awoke. His little pink ears perked up and his snout snorted softly. He couldn't smell Ally. Sniffing about, Oz rooted through the sheets as though on a mission for supposed truffles. She wasn't sleeping in Ashley's hair, or under her feet, so Oz became worried. Figuring that he was overreacting, Oz let Ashley and William continue their rest while he proceeded to search for her. Slipping down the blankets hanging from the corner of the bed, Oz lost his grip. Thumping against the stone floor, he grunted with a mixture of pain and annoyance. Hooves were not meant for climbing.

Sorely wriggling himself upright he oinked in self-pity, then slowly made his way down the spiral stairs. Normally William carried him up to bed, so this was very scary. Oz tried backing down them by first lowering his hind-legs, and taking things step by step. This was slow going, and after a while Oz desired a better method. He scanned the staircase until his eyes spied the railing. Using a vertical support bar to climb up, Oz grappled onto the railing and slowly shimmied his way down headfirst. A couple of times he lost his grip and swung uncontrollably downward, his little rear hooves dangling down toward the sharp stairs below. He wanted to squeal, and cry out, so that William and Ashley would come running. But a flush of shame ran over him, ashamed that he couldn't do it on his own. Determination followed, and he pulled himself up. With a steady motion he continued down, down, down, down until the bottom. Trying to land gently, Oz dangled by the tips of his gentle little hooves while his hind legs flailed about. He let loose, and landed hard on his bottom. Feeling even sorer, he walking into the lounge with a limp.

The fireplace was burning very low, giving little more than a red glow to the room. The tapestries were indistinct, but the brass fixings had a crimson tinge to them. Ashley and William's chairs were side-by-side, with twisted-wooden structures and soft cushioning. William's was woollier, and Ashley's was nearly all fur, with a large fur flap that she could pull around she and Ally for warmth, now that the season has changed.

Ally. Where was she?

Oz continued the mission, and made his way across the Spanish tiled floor to the dining hall. The walls couldn't even be seen from all of the fronds and vines that curled and sprang from various pots, either set on the floor or bound into the wall. The room had a natural foresty smell, and felt slightly moist. Oz froze as soon as he entered. Ally must be here! It was their favorite indoor place to play. While Ashley and William ate and talked, Ally and Oz would play hide and seek. Ally was very good at it, often scaring Oz by popping out of nowhere.

But not this time. Oz dived into the nearest fern and began romping about for Ally. "Ally? Ally? W-Where is you Ally!?" Oz checked thoroughly, but there was no Ally.

He moved onto the kitchen, and examined the freezer in case Ally went for ice cream. Next was the small guest bathroom in case Ally was ill.

Oz was now officially worried. He was really scared, and he began to whimper with fear at the possibility that he may never find her. Scrambling to the foot of the steps, Oz called up for Ashley and William. His little squeaky voice was chocked by his stress, and he barely stirred an echo. He became enraged with himself.

"I'm such a stupid pig!" he whimpered, pulling his little ears in frustration. It might take him hours, or even WEEKS to climb the stairs again, all the while Ally could be in danger! He had to help her! She came for him when he ran away. She found him!

Oz, remembering his promise to Ally, stopped hurting himself. “If somebodies was here, I would have to asks them for a kiss . . .”

For no certain reason Oz went back to the kitchen, and sniffed under the storage room door. Ally had been here! Oz pushed it open with his snout, and looked down into the endless darkness of the basement bellow. The stairs creaked whenever William walked up and down them, and Oz was concerned about their stability. Also, the wooden railing was very high, and of no use to him. Luckily, though, the stairs were wide and much easier to navigate than the stone ones that lead to the bedroom. Oz decended clumsily until the bottom, which wasn't very far, and waited for his little eyes to adjust to the dark cellar. He suddenly remembered he was scared of the dark. Terrified even. With a lump in his cotton-fluff throat Oz pushed on.

Large round barrels filled with cheeses and wines were stacked, along with sacks of rice and noodles. The entire room hummed with the sound of several large freezers keeping their contents solid. Oz looked about, afraid to make any noise for fear of monsters or hungry shadows, and tip-toed forward.

"Ally?" he whispered. "Ally? Where is you? Ally, I is scared . . ." As Oz slowly crept along the dusty floor, his front-most hoof sunk into nothing. There was no floor! He nearly slipped forward, but smartly flattened himself onto his belly to balance his weight. Moving his hooves about, he felt the perimeter of the hole. And a hole it was. It seemed as though someone had lifted a small drainage grate in the floor. "Hello?" Oz's voice echoed. "Ally? Dids you fall?" The image of Ally fallen and hurt broke Oz's heart, and he quickly scrambled down. Using his hooves on the rough walls, he squeezed himself down through the narrow passage. As he went down and down into the blackness, he could feel a rush of electric air and he could hear the pouring of falling and flowing water. Suddenly the tunnel fell away, and Oz found himself in a free fall. He didn't have time to react or move or anything. Out of instinct he squealed, but it was cut short as he hit water. It was warm and deep enough to where he couldn't feel the bottom despite being submerged from his high fall. Not knowing where 'up' was he flailed his hooves about, trying to right himself. The shockwave of something diving into the water rippled past, and Ally's yellow body darted right at him, snatching him up to the surface. Oz gasped, and Ally took him to a rocky shore. She licked him and nuzzled him, making sure he was okay. "Ally? Ally!" Oz squealled, cuddling her. "Is you okay! What is happening!?" Ally suddenly looked sad. Oz gasped, thinking themselves hopelessly stranded. "Are we goings to DIE!? Will we starves!? Do I looks like a hotdog yet!?" Gravely leaning toward Ally, Oz offered himself in sacrifice. "If you needs to eats me, you can. Is okay." Ally shook her head in bewilderment, but hugged Oz all the same. She was still sad, though. Ally's eyes wandered about and that's when Oz realized where they were.

It was some kind of underground cavern-like vault. It was huge and a warm, clean blast of water streamed from the high wall and poured into a pool. The water then overflowed and slithered and slinked down all the sides of a large rock pile, wearing everything smooth and polished. A blue-green algae gave everything a warm, soft feeling that illuminated the entire cavern. The water gathered into a large pool at the rock pile's base, and ran off deep into the earth.

"Well, it is a pretty place to die." Oz lamented. Ally nudged him hard with her nose. She shook her head 'no' and squiggled down the rocks to the pool. Looking down, she gazed at her reflection. Oz followed. "Is you sad, Ally? Is you hiding?" Ally nodded, and a little tear dropped from her eye. Though it be an alligator tear, it was genuine. Oz wiped it away gently with his snout, and whispered to where he thought her ear must be. "Did somebody hurts you?" Ally shook her head, and looked back at her reflection. "Oh . . ." Oz began to understand. "You is thinking. Sad thinking, right? Ashey does that, I saw her once. She followed Mr. Williams around when she did and kept askings for hugs. Mr. Williams, I thinks, likes to be alone when he sad thinks. It is hard to sad-think when people you love is close by, I guesses." Another tear ran down Ally's soft snout and it vanished into the rippling water.

“I keep thinking about ‘The Undiscovered Country. What I read, in Hamlet.” Ally finally voiced. I don’t know what the future is like . . . where are we going?”

“No wheres, apparently.” Oz observed, looking up into the darkness from whence he fell.

Ally began to sob, and Oz felt miserable in that he didn’t know how to help. He didn’t know anything about this ‘Hamlet’ and Oz had never traveled, so he didn’t know where the ‘Undiscovered Country’ was.

"I will finds the Undiscovered Counties, Ally! I promises!” it made no difference. “I wishes there was some way I could understands why you is so sad, Ally." Oz apologized. "I should know . . ." Oz began to get a sniffle himself. "I shoulds be a better pig, for my friend . . ." Oz began to cry too. "I was so scared and the stairs were so hards and this castle was nots built for me. I can not do anythings . . . even look for my bestest friend when she is in dangers!" Ally turned and nuzzled into Oz, both crying together. "I is sorry . . ." Oz patted her head. "You is sad and here I is boo-hooing. Is you okay? I was really scared!"

Ally looked quizzical.

"Really I was! I went downs the staircase and searched the downstairs! In the dark!"

Ally was shocked.

"And I wents into the basement!"

Ally was even more shocked. Everyone knew that Oz was terrified of the dark. Ally looked so concerned.

"Ninjas where about to get me, but I fell into the waters! But you saved me, and it is okay."

Ally was relieved, and even touched. She approached Oz with big pools in her eyes. Oz gave her a loving little oink and she smiled, squeezing the tears out to roll down the sides of her cheeks. "I may not understand what you is feeling, or if you is scared of the future or whatever. But I loves you. Hopefully I can helps just by wanting to helps?"

Ally nodded, and whispered in Oz's ear.

"The future? I heards." Oz replied after she pulled away. "You is afraid of the future? But why?"

Ally whispered in Oz's ear again.

Oz laughed. "Ally, you is an alligator! Alligator is what you is! What else is you goings to be!?"

“I’m afraid I’ll one day be like them.” She said.

“Mr. Williams and Ashey are nice peoples. What is wrongs with that?”

“No. Them.” Ally said, breaking an unspoken rule. It was the first time they had really mentioned them to each other.

“Oh . . .” Oz thought for a moment, lost in the past. “You is nothing likes them. You is wonderful, lovings, and an alligator to boots!”

“Alligator . . . I don’t know if I’m meant to be an alligator. There was a stain glass window with an alligator, and I’ll never be that . . .”

"You thinks you is not doing a good job being an alligator?"

Ally began to cry again, her little grunting inspiring more hugs from Oz.

"Oh! Oh!" Oz exclaimed. "You swim so well! You saved me in the water! And you is fearsome in the bathtub! And you always win at Uh-Oh Alligator! I think you is a wonderful alligator."

Ally looked longingly toward the darkness where the water ran off to.

"Is you scared of always beings an alligator?"

Ally nodded.

"Is that what you means by the future? You is afraid of always beings an alligator, or not beings a good one?"

Ally nodded again, but a little more pathetically this time. Her nostrils quivering as she held in another bout of tears.

"Well . . ." Oz stroked her back. "I is just a pig, so I do nots know so much. But I thinks you is a wonderful thing, alligators or not. I could never wishes for a better friend to looks out for me, save me when I fall, and cuddles me."

This seemed to make Ally feel a bit better. Oz continued. "The future will not goes away. It should not. Is we not happy here with Ashey and Mr. William?"

Ally seemed suddenly taken by fear. Oz knew exactly what she had just thought.

"I rans away, and everybodies came looking for me. Ashey and Mr. Williams care. We must accept that we is safe here. No more . . . hurting. No more . . . okay? Let us just be happy for that. I think we has earned it."

They both sat for a while, looking out into the darkness where the water slipped deeper into the Earth. "I is afraid of the dark, and you is afraid of the future. They is both the same, I think."

Ally seemed to contemplate over this for a moment, then she burst into motion! Tossing Oz up into the air with her long muzzle, she hurled him onto her back. Off the rocks they dove, Oz’s squealing turned into a bubbling yelp as they submerged. Ally came back up for Oz to get his breath. He gasped deep, and as soon as his little lungs were full they went down again, deep into the wall-less black void of warm water. Oz gripped Ally tight as she fired like a torpedo into the depths. Deeper and deeper they went until the water came alive and spun them about out of control. It twisted and curled and Ally and Oz clung onto each other, not knowing up from down or left from right. They spiraled and swirled and finally popped into freezing air! Above was the starry night sky and they both flopped onto their backs. It took a moment for them to figure out where they were. They had somehow sprung up into the fountain in the middle of the courtyard. It was the fountain by the oak, and it murmured amongst the snow-covered bushes and icicle tipped trees. Ally checked Oz over, making sure he was okay.

"I think avoidings the future was not all that bads an idea . . ." Oz said wearily.

Ally looked guilty.

"I is sorry, Ally. I is. You is right, and very brave. I is glad you brought me with you. Anywhere you go, scary future or not, I wants to go to." they floated around the pond for a bit and stared at the beautiful starry sky. The cold made it clearer, and it was overwhelmingly detailed with sweeping points of light high above. "The future is so pretty on the other side . . ." Oz remarked. "I never woulds have seen this without you."

Ally whispered something into Oz' pink little ear. Oz smiled lovingly in return.

“No, I do not thinks it is snowing in the Undiscover Counties. I guesses that they is warm there.”

© William L. J. Galaini