Now that I have gone beyond the Lost Backyard through Ivy Pass, I am beyond all reach of help. There are no food dishes here, no water bowls, no pig ears, no Nylabones. If I am to find the Lost Kong and return to civilization alive, all I can rely on are my own wits, here in the Kingdom of the Myoporum.
The Kingdom of the Myoporum is a desolate place. It is said that ancient gardeners planted the Myoporum Pacificum and its rival, the Ivy, in an attempt to keep their hillside vineyards and villas from being overrun with weeds. In this, they succeeded too well, and their civilization died choked and buried beneath mounds of creeping vegetation. In the distance, I see a large hillock that may be the remains of a temple, or a palace, or perhaps even a Costco.
I move away from Ivy Pass, into the trackless wasteland of spongy myoporum, where it quickly becomes obvious that many, many others have come this way, only to succumb to thirst, hunger, or lethargy and slowly become just another small pile beneath the creeping vines.
Everywhere I look, it is the same: Bodies upon bodies of fallen explorers, a veritable roster of my colleagues who took sabbaticals, went off on their own private odysseys, and never returned.
The futility of it all threatens to become overwhelming, especially when I find my good friend Blue Dog lying motionless on a barren patch of ground. He must have struggled mightily to clear this spot of myoporum; perhaps his maps told him that if he dug here, he would find what he sought. But in the end, he did not have the strength to even begin his excavation before he died.
I move on, my own exploration becoming increasingly frantic and disoriented. My supplies are running low. Nearing delirium, I stumble all the way to the last great barrier, the impassable Chain Link, where I suffer a stunning vision of supernatural horror:
Yes, it’s the Cheerful Devil, the Beast himself that has long been rumored to haunt the wild reaches of the Kingdom of the Myoporum. He offers me a sack of biscuits if I will abandon my quest for the Lost Kong and return whence I came; he tempts me with visions of soft beds and blankets and squeaky toys. Before I can succumb to his blandishments, I turn and flee headlong, heedless of the obstacles, until I feel something soft squish beneath my paws.
Apricots! Dozens of them!
Even more lie behind Chain Link, inaccessible to me; but still, there is more than enough food here to restore my strength. I feast on the sweet, ripe, juicy fruit, then rest; then, refreshed, I am ready to move on again. But what is this I see behind me?
My informant, the one whose advice set me on the road that led me here, has been following me all along! She seems to have encountered the Cheerful Devil as well; what is that fiend offering her? Is he attempting to divert her with promises of kibble and canned food, or is he sending after me in an attempt to thwart my quest and keep the Lost Kong lost forever? I must hurry on, before she overtakes me. With renewed urgency I race across the steep slopes of the Kingdom of the Myoporum, my pursuer close behind. I seek a place to hide beneath the large almond tree, where a glint of red catches my eye. What is this? Can it be?
It is! The Lost Kong, lying in a bed of ivy, hidden from outside view by the drooping, almond-laden branches! I snatch up my prize before my treacherous informant spies it, and swiftly move out. But I am not sure of the way back to Ivy Pass, and in my wandering, I come to another almond tree. Here fortune smiles upon me once again.
Another Lost Kong, even more ancient than the first, almost completely covered by the sinister ivy! I tear it free of the encroaching vines and stuff it into my pack. With Trixie hot on my tail, I race blindly across the hillside, until I quite literally trip over an artifact left behind by the ancients.
Yes, it is the famous Compass Jack! It is said that if one tosses the Jack into the air and thinks of what one seeks, one of its arms will point in the correct direction to find the object of desire. With nothing to lose, I give the jack a flip, wish for Ivy Pass, and move in the direction of the yellow arm. I set off again at top speed; and the Jack proves true, as I soon find Ivy Pass and move through it, back into the Lost Backyard. Home is in sight! But then —
Between me and safety, my former friend and informant, now my nemesis. Thinking fast, I throw some apricots into the tall grass, and squeak like a ground squirrel. She cannot resist; she runs to investigate, and while she is thus occupied, I escape with my prizes.
My expedition has succeeded beyond my wildest dreams; I have recovered not one Lost Kong, but two! Now, all that remains is to run them through the autoclave to sterilize them and make them suitable for chewing; and then I will be able to spend weeks or months plumbing their secrets.
It’s all in a day’s work for Dennis the Vizsla, Adventurous Archeologist.