He waved his intello-meter in the air, hoping to catch some sign of life with an intellect that matched that of the Skippings. The reading remained constant at 180 IQ per subject; somewhat disappointing, Red reflected. His pliable, handmade boots (what a relief not to have to wear the dreaded iron boots) took him up a slight incline on top of which stood a large, square silver plant. It emitted a loud humming noise and fairly bristled with switches, dials and knobs. A single, large lens poked angrily out of what Red presumed was the front. He was still trying to make sense of it all when the translation bug interjected:
“Transformer,” it said.
Red bravely fiddled with some dials, flipped switches and when that didn’t produce any results he viciously kicked it with one of his right legs. On Rope this usually produced the desired effect when the feeding machines became stuck and you had already deposited your hard won ten ropees. The machine plant produced an ear splitting HUMMMMM and transformed Second Bag into a large polka dotted blowfish which promptly burst and scattered Red’s finicky devices to the four winds. He wiped pieces of sticky blowfish from his face, blinked furiously while walking around the plant and made mental notes on the small blackboard embedded in his cerebellum.
Red was mildly inconvenienced by the loss of Second Bag but he wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination bowled over with surprise. He gathered his belongings, stuffing them into any pockets he could find on his outdoor ensemble; he even succeeded in making a few new ones. He trudged onward, aware of the blips, bleeps and clicks which came from his instruments as they relayed valuable information to the home planet.
Red became aware of the flashing first. The sailing suns were playing a game of hide and seek between the strolling clouds which were by this time grumbling louder than ever and had become a decidedly scary shade of deep purple. Translator bug kept its peace as Red stared at the sky. As their game took them closer to a wooden copse, he saw the flashing once more. Intrigued, he allowed his four feet to carry him onward. Within ten minutes he had entered a large, wooded area. The mauve ground was covered with various types of lichen and moss in kaleidoscopic colours. Flashes of bright, reflecting light could be seen everywhere. Silence blanketed the area, which Red ascribed to the complete lack of animal or bird life. Silver objects hung from every branch and reflected the dazzling sunlight that broke the canopy. A faint tinkling grew louder by the second. Translator bug’s voice broke the spell as it whispered frantically in Red’s ear.
“They say they are mirror trees. Only those who are of strong character may enter. They warn that you may not like what you see.”