Strange times, strange times indeed.

The compass started spinning today. Its been a very long time since that has happened, and when it finally settled on a spot (SE), I obviously felt compelled to travel in that direction. After about two hours of walking I found myself in a forest, the trees were green with life and the sound of birds was everywhere. I kept walking and found a deer trail that lead directly through the heart of the woods. I stayed on the path for what had to have been a few miles until i was so completely surrounded with the sights of wildlife and greenery that it created an aura of timelessness. It was beautiful, it was nature at its finest, untouched (seemingly?) by man, the sun shown through the holes in the forest canopy and created a light show on the grass. I was in awe. How could a place like this exist so near my town? If you're ever in Millersport, Ohio, you have to visit it.

I kept walking for only a couple more minutes when i heard another sound intermixed with the birds chirping and the wind whistling through the leaves. It was laughter. I followed the noise until i reached a GREAT TREE. The tree was massive, a giant redwood somehow misplaced amongst the lesser oaks and pine trees. Carved into this great tree was a circular crest with a perfectly symmetrical turtle offset in the center of it. Underneath the crest, was a door. I walked towards it and it opened wide, a man was standing there. He was massive, built like a bear, his skin was a deep brown, the dark color of the tree itself. His beard was somewhat scraggly, barely more than stubble, and was peppered black and white. He grinned the grin of the Cheshire, and his teeth were sharp. He put out a massive hand.

"Ello' there boy, you know me? I'm Cornelius King Crusher. We met befo' but you probably don't remember."

I put my hand out and his completely encapsulated mine. His grip was firm but he didn't crush me (though he easily could have).

"I'm sorry I don't.." I told him, but his grin seemed familiar, and even if I hadn't met him before I felt like hes the kind of person you know instantly just by looking at him.

"Well tha'ts alright, twas a long time ago. Anyways, come on in"

He stepped back and swept his arm in a motion inviting me into the womb of the GREAT TREE. There was a long stairway that lead downward into a hall, all seemingly carved from a single massive piece of wood. King Crusher walked to the end of a long wooden table (again, the table, chairs and the hall were seamless, seemingly all part of one piece of wood) and sat on a modest but intricately carved 'throne'. At different spots along the table sat people. An old woman next to a younger one. A young boy gnawing on his finger who didn't seem to notice i was there. An old man to the right of the throne who was sitting with an eager look on his face. As soon as Cornelius King Crusher settled into his seat, the old man said, "I got one I got one.."

"Alright, go ahead, but we need to get Eric out of here pretty quick."

The old man's face brightened. "Alright alright, so listen, okay? So there was this massive tree, humongous really, and inside the tree lived a squirrel and inside the squirrel lived a parasite. one day the parasite said "hey what's up?" and the squirrel replied, "nothing much, hey wait a second, you can't talk, you're a parasite." and the parasite responded "you can't talk either you're a squirrel!" and the squirrel said "I'm a talking squirrel." and the parasite responded "well I'm a talking parasite, this is awesome, we're a team of talking creatures!" so they set out to find their destiny. They were walking along and all of a sudden, a mighty buck strode towards them. "Hey what's up?" asked the squirrel to the buck. "Nothing much.." it replied. Then the parasite and the squirrel got all excited and said "hey hey! You're not supposed to be able to talk, deer can't talk. Are you a talking buck? The buck shook its head and said "brrrrrr or whatever noise a deer makes."

The old man cackled with laughter and Cornelius King Crusher backhanded him. The old man flew backwards and sprawled on the wooden floor, his face alight with joy and the room shook with laughter.

"You get worse and worse, old man." Cornelius grinned.

"Old man, eh?" The old fellow replied, "You're a hundred times older than me!"

Cornelius shook his head and looked at me and said "Eric, take a seat. I have some tings ta tell you." I sat down. The feeling in the room became very somber. "A long time ago we sat toget'her in a room like dis, 'cept it was made of solid glass, perfectly sculpted in a single pour. You don' remember?"

I shook my head.

"Hmm, I didn't really believe you'd ferget everythin' but its odd to see that its true." He cocked his head to the side, running his hands over the stubbed that crowned his head. "Well, at that time we were under siege. My stronghold at the center of the SEA OF ULTIMATE DEFEAT had been taking the brunt of a fierce assault. Peering through the foggy glass that made up the walls of the palace, there were black ships as far as the eye could see, all barin' the black flag. You had come to me then because I was the strongest."

He flexed a massive bicep. I looked at him with disbelief. Surely this man was off his rocker.

"I gave you asylum, I knew what the forces of da black infinity wanted from ya. I knew that they would come for you in my home. But I also knew something else. That we would not be defeated." He grinned.

"What does this mean?" I asked.

"You trusted me then, all that time ago. And as sure as I am standing here, I validated that trust." He sighed. "I wish you could remember, this story only lives on in my mind now. I got in my red sloop and sailed to the blockade. I boarded every one of dose ships and smashed their cannons and killed their captains. When the enemy was defeated, I tied the armada together and swam it back to my glass palace. I gave you dat fleet so that you could break through the even larger blockade to the south, so you could get to the outerlands."

I didn't have any idea what he was talking about or what any of it meant. Cornelius King Crusher looked at me like he was begging me to remember some of it.

"Well anyways, you trusted me den, and I ask you to trust me now." he said.

"What do you mean?" I asked him.

"After you defeated the Black Infinity, they had scattered, only to regroup and reform a new more powerful army. For much time now, I have watched as they have seeped into this world, slowly. They move in silence. They work in subtle and insidious ways. This time around my overt tactics and strength will hold little value to you. If I could meet them head on and defeat them for you, I would. But this time, as I strike, I would strike at mist, dissipating before any blow landed. I am useless." He sighed sadly. "All I can do is offer you a restin' place for your fallen sidekick. Under my protection, his remains will go undescecrated."

I looked at him and fished around in my pockets until I found the little wooden Poncho. "All that was left is this. "

He nodded. Then he stood up and beckoned for me to follow him. We walked to the back of the massive hall, through a tiny chamber and finally arrived at a massive vault made of wood. Cornelius King Crusher reached into the deep pockets of his long coat until he found a wooden key. He put the key into a small hole in the vault door, and turned it. There was a clicking sound then pulled the vault open and swept his arm, inviting me in.

here I stood, inside the wooden vault. It was an odd place. Inside the vault were shelves and shelves of intricately carved wooden figures. Just like Poncho.

"I keep them here, all of the ancients. In the hands of the Other Ones their power can be drawn or the memory of their existence can be destroyed forever. Poncho will be safe here. No force can lay siege to my palace and live to tell about it. Its like I have always said, if they send 1 army, my laughter will scare them away. And if they send 10 armies." He held up his massive hands, his fingers outstretched. "I have 10 armies of my own." He paused and grinned a wide grin. "And if they send 11? Well I can handle that too." He chuckled and his sharp teeth gleamed, reflecting a light source that wasn't even there.

Then he walked me out of the GREAT TREE, shook my hand again, and bid me farewell. The sounds of the forest filled the air again. I would have written the entire experience off as a dream except that the old man must have told Cornelius King Crusher some more jokes because the sound of warm hearty laughter accompanied me the rest of the way on my walk out of the forest. About a half an hour later, I arrived home again. Now here I am on my computer writing to you about this.

What is the black infinity? Are they one and the same with the Mexican Desperados with Aqualungs? What is the meaning of the wooden figure? Who is Cornelius King Crusher? Is what he said true? If it is, why can't i remember?

That is all.