Story by Doo
Gosh! They chose ME to teach Kjumen how to drive the Lakewall Vehicle!
"Manies", they said, "you are probably the best Lakewall driver in the Neverhood."
"Why this?" I asked them.
"Because we saw you flee with it from the Cannon Monument you set on fire last week. Nobody else here can drive SO fast and yet so smooth. And you know all wallways."
"So what?" I asked, ignoring their nasty comment about the Cannon - I DIDN'T set it on fire. I just aimed wrong.
"Well, it's about Kjumen. He's in the age now to learn how to use it. And since you are very patient, you've got instinctive feeling and you know how to explain things, you'd be perfect."
"Kjumen? I thought he's frightened of the Lakewall Vehicle! And wouldn't Serco be a much better teacher?"
"Just in history."
"And what about, well, Klaymen. He drives this thing much longer than me now."
If you'd ever met Kjumen, you'd know why I was argueing. Kjumen is a good, if not the best, friend of mine, but he's VERY sensitive. It's hard to teach him things.
"Naa, Klaymen is not too good in explanations."
"How about Willie? He LIVES on the Lakewall!"
I nearly begged and fell on my knees - I wanted to try my new invention, the 'Piping Crackler', today...
"Don't argue, Manies. You're perfect for the job."
I gave up. "Oh well, ok."
"And there is one other thing..."
I knew it. I knew it before they said that. Say 'ok' to one thing and you can be sure not to get to your hobbies for the whole day.
"Yes?" I asked weakly.
"Thull. He never drove it, maybe you can convince him what FUN it is!"
"Thull??" my resignation turned into shock. "*I* shall convince THULL that something in his life could be FUN?? No way!"
You surely heard of Thull. I bet he's the most depressing being in the universe. He surely isn't the type for having FUN.
"Come on, Manies. They NEED you!"
"Awwww...." I knew I had no choice. And fact is, I AM good at driving the vehicle - sometimes it's useful to leave a place VERY FAST with it, especially if you have my hobbies. And Kjumen really should learn it, since his favorite playing room is only reachable through a Wall passage, and we always have to bring him there, while he closed his eyes with his hands and whimpered. Thull on the other hand... Ah well. Bye, Piping Cracklers...
"Okay then, to the Lakewall."
They were yet waiting there - Kjumen carefully touching and examining the green vehicle, while Thull was just standing there, together with his brother Rem who tried to explain the advantages of driving on the Lakewalls in funny verses. Thull didn't seem to be too impressed.
"Well then, good luck to you!" said one of my brothers who came with me, patted me on the shoulder and left.
I stood there and looked at Kjumen and Thull, trying to think about whom of them I should take first. I decided for Thull, since Kjumen still had a look on his face as if he had seen a Skullmonkey. And it wouldn't take too long with Thull. He already knew how to drive, he just didn't want to. And Kjumen could watch us, maybe he'd be not so frightened later.
"Okay", I said to Thull as we got into the vehicle. "I suppose I don't need to tell you how to use this thing."
Thull looked at me in his pitiful whiny way. "Why do we do this? I know the controls, and I don't want to drive anywhere."
I gave him an excusing blink. "Don't ask me. They said I should take a ride with you so you can see what fun it is."
"Huh?" Thull looked puzzled at me by the thought of the meaning of the word 'fun'. After a while, him just holding the controls and looking at me that way, I told him to start.
"Come on, just drive a bit around with me, then we go back here and you tell your brother what fun you had, ok? Else we'll still sit here next Hoborg's Day and argue. And we'll take Kju with us, so he can get used to this thing."
Kjumen, who stood with a certain safe distance from the vehicle, widened his eyes and backed yet another step, hands stretched out protectively in front of him.
"Ick! Nonononono! I d-don't want t-to drive in thith thing! I-I'm jutht fine, really! I jutht wanto go back to my playroom in the Nurthery! Pleathe!"
"There is no room for us three in this vehicle", Thull stated, "It would just get even more uncomfy than it is now."
I looked at them both, unsure what to say. I KNEW there would just be problems. Why didn't they leave it to nature who drives this thing and who not? Most people here knew from the day of their birth how to drive it, and the ones who didn't haven't missed anything up to now. I guess my fellow Hoodians only started this here so they can bet if I make it or not. Well, fine by me.
"This vehicle is big enough", I said finally, "You, Thull, stay at the controls. Kjumen will sit right behind you and I can sit behind Kju on the rear, I'm used to that. Now start, the earlier we do it, the earlier we all can go back home again."
Thull had this 'why me?' look on his face when he pulled the controls and Kjumen tried to sink into the seat, but else the start wasn't too bad. While we were underway I tried to explain a few things to Kjumen, who, once again, held his hands in front of his eyes, shivering slighly.
"Now look, Kju. What is wrong with this vehicle? You often use the teleporters, and you aren't frightened of them. So why those problems with the Lakewall?"
Kjumen opened one of his eyes to look at me. "It'th moving tho fatht! And it'th up tho high - I could fall down and hurt me!" He closed both eyes again and spoke in an even softer voice: "And I really don't know how thothe controlth work."
I looked at Kjumen. The poor chap really had no idea how to use this stuff. So not his fear for big heights was the main problem, but the fact that he never tried things out until he knew them exactly. Well, showing him the controls wouldn't be such a big prob. But what should I do with Thull?
He drove the wallway to the Cannon, but in a speed that was perfectly Thull. He pulled the controls in his depressive way, and we weren't much faster than we would be as pedestrians. In this way we'd need all day. I leaned forward so I could talk to him: "Hey Thull, can't you get a BIT faster? When you do all things in this speed it's no wonder you never have fun."
Thull looked at me over his shoulder. "I don't want to get faster. I can't concentrate on my thoughts if we'd be faster." He turned around again.
"That's exactly your problem, Thull. You think too much. You sometimes just should do something that prevents you from thinking. You'd feel much better. Get yourself a nice hobby. Take me for example - I know that I sometimes have troubles because I made a mistake with my explosives experiments, but I have much fun with it! I don't worry about what might happen. I just try things out. You should do that too."
My speech just bounced off Thull's mental wall of self-pity, but we finally had reached the Monument. As the vehicle slipped into the ending point of the wallway, Thull stood up and climbed out of the car to the Cannon platform. From there he turned around to us, rolling his eyes. "Well, that's it. I'm off. I think I had enough 'fun' for today."
With that he left, leaving Kjumen and me alone in the vehicle. I didn't call after him, since I knew it would have no sense - if Thull has decided to leave, not even a rabid FwaCattle could hold him back. I watched him shuffle along until he reached the little staircase in front of the Bridge Control Center, where he sat down and fell back into his depressive thoughts. He looked up to us and said tiredly: "Just off you go. I'll tell Rem that it was a pleasure to ride with you."
So only Kjumen and me were left. I concentrated on him.
"I guess it's your turn, Kju. Grab the controls, I'll tell you how to use them."
Kjumen, still holding his hands in front of his eyes, didn't move, except that he tried to back a bit from the controls.
"Kjumen..." I softly touched him on the shoulder. "Come on, it isn't as hard as it looks."
Kjumen tried to make himself smaller.
"Nonononononono! I can't do that! Drive me back! Pleathe drive me back to the ground!"
I watched him a little while, but he didn't seem to change his mind. So I carefully climbed across him to the controls, grabbing them.
"Okay, you can open your eyes. I'll drive us down again now, and there I'll teach you the controls, all right? But please TRY to open your eyes now or you'll learn it never."
He slowly removed his hands from his eyes, staring tensely at me, so that he would not accidently look down.
"Not bad for a start." I said, smiling encouragely. Then I turned to the controls, ready to pull -
"Klenn?" I heard his timid voice behind me.
"What's it?" I asked without turning around.
"Er... nothing... could you jutht pleathe put your boom pack away - I'm afraid of boom thtickth if they are tho clothe in front of me. They're dangerouth!"
"Oh. Okay." I always wear that big dynamite pack with me on my back, which contains a few very small sticks and some of my experimental mixtures. But I understood Kju that he didn't want to have them right in front of his eyes. I took off the pack and put it in front of me.
"Wow!" he said, still staring at me, "I didn't know that you've got backthpiketh! Neat!"
Most people didn't know. Like Willie Trombone I had three spikes on my back, but they were normally covered by my dynamite satchel. I didn't know why this fascinated Kjumen so much - there are lots of other guys with spikes in the Neverhood - but it seemed to distract him from his fear. We drove back to the starting point.
"Here we are", I told Kjumen, "Now it's up to you. Come here to the controls, I'll explain you how they work."
I turned to look at Kju, but he wasn't sitting behind me any more. Instead he had left the vehicle and headed to the Radar, walking on his toe-tips in the hope I wouldn't hear him.
"Kjumen..." I called after him. He stopped, looking ashamed to the ground. Eyeing over his shoulder he answered:" Pleathe! I can't do it! Thothe controlth are a mythtery!"
He went another step forward, searching for the staircase that leaded up to the buildings. It wasn't there. Someone must have needed the bridge, and so the stairs had been set to bridge-mode, which is unreachable from down here. Kjumen peered at the bridge high above him, groaning silently. There was no way out from the Lakeground. No way, except for one: The Lakewall Vehicle. Kjumen realized this, and so he slowly turned back to me, creeping with heavy steps into my direction. I smiled.
"It's not so hard, really." I said as Kjumen climbed awkwardly behind the controls. When he sat there, his hands clawed at the seat, I got in behind him, leaning forward so I could look over his shoulder.
"All right, for a start: This lever you see in front of you is the controls. Just lie your both hands on, will you?"
Kjumen hesitated for a second or two, but then he carefully put his hands on the handle.
"How can I thteer it with jutht one lever?" he asked doubtfully.
"Just pull it." I said.
He pulled, just a few inches and very slowly. The vehicle shook and moved a tiny bit upwards, and smashed down again as its driver let off the controller in panic. Kjumen whimpered.
"That's okay", I comforted him, "Not everyone knows how to drive this thing on his first day of life. Pick the controls again."
He did, but with an even longer hesitate than before. I decided to explain the whole system of the cars before starting the practise.
"Okay, listen: When you pull the lever the vehicle starts driving along the Lakewall, see? It just can follow those dark lines you can see in the wall, so you can't make anything wrong."
"How DO they drive?" Kjumen interrupted me.
"What? Er... they....... well... They are creaking. I guess there is some whirling device or so in it that keeps them running. Dunno. Only Hoborg knows. Doesn't matter anyway."
"Aha." He stayed silent, waiting for me to continue my driving lesson. I was still fascinated from Kju's question, I never thought about how the cars actually worked. Then I shook my head to get out of my train of thoughts and went on with my explanations.
"Now, the more and faster you pull, the more speed the vehicle gets. It stops again when you let off the controls, and that's where you have to take care - if you stop in a line that leads up and down, the vehicle starts falling down. If you don't want that, push the lever a bit, that activates the breaks. And you losen the breaks again by pulling the lever, ok? Now try it."
Kjumen, who had listened very careful, stared at the controls again and gulped. Then he pulled. The vehicle wobbled a bit, but then moved smoothly upwards, until it reached the first intersection. Kjumen pushed the lever and the car stopped. He looked at me.
"Fine!" I said, clapping my hands once. "Now I'll show you how to steer. I'd say we drive the way to the Dead End, yes? To get there, we have to go right. The vehicle is now pointing to the left, see, and so we have to change the direction. Lean back."
Kjumen looked puzzled. "Lean back? How should that help?"
"Just do it. And press your feet against the front side in the car."
He did it and waited for my next orders.
"Good. Now pull the lever again."
When he pulled it the vehicle moved again, but backwards. After a short while it turned into the other direction, so that we could see where we drive again. Kjumen abruptly pushed the lever to the limit and let him fall back in the seat.
"Ack! It'll fall down!" he said panicked.
"Don't worry, that's normal. When you change your balance like you did now, the vehicle drives into the other direction. The turning is a bit tough, but you'll get used to it. Now sit straight again and drive on."
We passed the next part of the way without problems, Kjumen even increased the speed a bit by pulling the controls a few times while driving. He just groaned a bit when we had to drive yet a bit more upwards, feeling not quite well because of the height.
We reached the next intersection.
"Right, the way up is the one we want to go. It's a bit tricky to reach, but you'll get it. Turn the vehicle when it's in the intersection point, and it will change to the upper way. If you're not exactly in that point the car will just drive back the way we came."
"How can I dethide between driving up and down? There'th no pothibility to choothe!"
Kjumen slowly seemed to get interested in the Lakewall driving.
"Oh, that's easy", I told him. "The vehicle always tends to drive upwards. Just if it's yet moving into some direction it'll continue moving there. So, if you wanted here to drive straight instead of up, you'd just have not to stop the car in the interpoint. And if you are in a up/down way and want to drive down, you'd just have to loose the breaks so the car falls down slowly, and it'll continue driving down if you accelerate. You understand?"
Kjumen thought for a second, repeating my words in his mind. Then he smiled slighly.
"Okay. I think I got it."
The rest of the way was simple. I just warned Kju about the two points of the Lakewall where the vehicle sometimes falls down when you wanted to drive up because of the nasty bend the road makes there. When we had reached the Dead End, Kjumen let off the controls and looked at me happily.
"I made it , Klenn! Wow, that'th tho great! And it wathn't tho bad, jutht ath you told me!"
I hopped from the vehicle to the ground and walked up to Kjumen, so I could look into his eyes while talking.
"See, I knew you'll get it. The other's will be astonished! Now you can drive to your favorite playroom all by yourself!"
Kjumens smile vanished, and he turned his head away from me.
"No, I can't..."
I was surprised.
"What? Why not?? You learned fast, you drove much better then Thull did!"
Kjumen climbed out of the vehicle and carefully slided down to the ground.
"That'th not it... My playroom can jutht be reached by the OTHER Wallcar, the RED one..."
I knew at once what his problem was.
"...and you are afraid of using that because it's on the outside of the Neverhood, right?"
He just looked down at his feet.
I carefully held him at both arms and shook him softly so he lifted his head and looked me into the eyes.
"Hey, that's no problem, Kju. You'll get used to that too."
I thought for a moment. It wouldn't be too good if I'd practise with him right with the red vehicle, which drove partly on the outer wall of our world and had for this no ground beneath. We'd better start with smaller heights.
"I know", I finally told Kjumen, "We'll now drive to the highest point of the Lakewall way so you can learn to get used to the looking-down, agree?"
He wasn't too enthusiastic with this, but he agreed. First, we drove back to the last intersection. That is, I drove, Kjumen sitting behind me having a break from the exitement he had today. From time to time he tried to look down, glancing unsurely over the edge of the vehicle. Then he took over the controls again.
"Okay, now you just drive where I tell you, and try to look down as often as you can. We'll visit Willie in his little house."
Kjumen turned around shocked.
"HUH?! Up to Willie'th houthe?? It'th up to the top!! No! I can't do that!!!"
I tried to calm him down.
"Hey, we were pretty high up when you drove to the Dead End. You just didn't notice. Come on, it's not so bad. You can drive slowly, and I'm with you if you can't go any further. Trust me."
Maybe was 'Trust me' not quite the phrase I should have said, since nine out of ten 'Trust me's end up in some disaster, but Kju finally saw that he had to learn it some day, and he took the controls.
"Go left." I said, pointing into the direction. "And you can speed up a bit - it's a long way straight to go.
"But Willie'th houthe ith right over uth, look up!" he pointed out.
"I know this", I answered, "but there's no way to reach it directly. Don't ask me why, the Wallways are a bit fuzzy in some parts."
So we drove along until we reached the long way up to Wil's house. There Kjumen stopped again.
"Now just move on." I said. "I think it's best if you drive slower now, and always look down, ok? You learned how to drive this thing, now it would be a pity if you can't use it because of your fear of heights. Do it, little scaredy-cat." I smiled at him. I knew he'd get it.
Kju sighed and pulled, very softly. We were underway.
Up to about the half of the way all was going well. Kjumen looked down, not very happy, but on the other hand not panicked, too. But then he became nervous again, and out of a reflex he slapped both hands in front of his eyes. The controls clicked back to middle position, and the vehicle fell down again, in a rather high speed. I immediately reached over Kjumen's shoulder for the lever and activated the breaks. Kjumen sat there with closed eyes, whimpering. I wondered if we'd better stop for today, since Kjumen was close to break into tears, but then he made a decision of his own. He opened his eyes, grabbed the controls and PULLED them as hard as he could. I had to hold tight to the seats not to fall out. He looked down and screamed in panic, but didn't stop. As we reached the ending point of the way, Kju jumped out of the vehicle through the entrance to Willie's room and crouched there under the bed, shivering.
Willie, who had been lying ON his bed, staring at the ceiling, blinked as he upside down from where he sat looked at Kjumen. He tapped him on the arm as he said: "Hey friend, what you do down there? There much more space if you come out. Want an apple?"
Kjumen kept on shivering. Willie looked up when I came into the room, carefully climbing through the window. I walked up to him and ducked so I could see under the bed.
"Your friend not feeling well?" Willie asked as he hopped from his bed, standing next to me.
"No, he just had his first driving lesson on the Lakewall. I think he overdid it a bit." I tried to pull out Kju from his hiding place, and with Willie's help I finally made it.
"Driving on the Walls being much fun. Willie like driving on the Walls", stated W.T.
I looked at him. "I think Kju's opinion is not QUITE the same. After this he'll probably never drive the thing again..."
He was still lying on the ground. He had stopped shivering, but he tried to make himself as small as possible, and his eyes were covered by his hands again.
"Kju?" I asked, worried about his condition. Why had he done that?
He slowly sat up, slung his arms around his legs, looking very pitiful to the ground. We watched him for a while, but he didn't say anything, he just blinked from time to time and breathed heavily.
Willie's face brightened up. "Me know! Willie calls big friend Bil. He bring Kjumen back to ground!"
"Good idea!" I answered. Kjumen hadn't have to use the vehicle again. "Bil brings you back to the Nursery, Kju. I think it's best if you sleep over this day a bit, okay? We can have more practise later. If you want."
Kjumen abruptly stood up, a determined look on his face.
"No!" he said to no-one special, "No, I think I'll take the vehicle again!"
He turned to me, and his face formed to a smile. "I did it, Klenn! I drove all the way up here! All by mythelf! You were right, nothing bad happened! And I looked down and it wathn't tho bad! I think my fear hath gone!"
He suddenly hugged me, then Willie, giggling happily. Afterwards he let himself fall on the bed, dangling with his feet.
I looked questioning at Willie. He looked back, with a smile on his face and giving a shrug.
"Okay then", I said hesitatingly. "Then come with me, Kju, we better go."
He jumped up from his sitting place and walked over to the window. He hopped into the car. I followed him, still not quite sure about the situation. Willie came to the window too, watching us with interest.
Kjumen, still grinning, grabbed the controls. He stopped in motion and turned to 'thoughtful mode'. He looked over the edge of the vehicle, down to the far beneath ground. He remained in this posture for a few seconds, just blinking once. Then his smile came back and he turned to me, wordless. Then Kjumen concentrated on the lever in front of him again, pulling it so that the vehicle started to drive down.
Willie waved and called after us: "You come back soon, will you? Willie like friends in his room!"
"I surely will!" answered Kjumen.