They hung in the grey void, water dripping from their clothes and falling into the abyss below them. Fleex remembered. Maybe he had to use the word bridge the Collector had told him about. But were they in Word yet and would that bridge help? One thing was sure, he would never know if he did not try. He strained his memory and began:
‘Lead us to Light of knowledge,
so With letters build step one!’
A step appeared before him. It was made of letters, interwoven so closely that it was impossible to read what was written. The step was hanging in the air, very close to them, emitting a weak light.
To reach the hidden treasure though A second step be done.
Up the ladder I shall climb Until I reach the sun.
To find the wisdom of all time
From which the truth be spun.
The second step consisted of texts in languages unknown to Fleex. The Greenies had explained to him that Herba Linguista helped only with understanding and speaking, but not with reading of foreign texts. That was obviously a not-very-advanced herb. Further up the ladder, there were steps with densely-written formulae and numbers, maps and charts. All was well for the moment, he just needed to climb them. The steps were stable and broad enough for him. Fleex climbed them without stopping to take a breath until he reached the top, where he saw something that seemed to resemble a book. In fact, it was not possible to tell whether it was a book or not. It was enormous in size, its cover was dark and cracked, and its pages, as big as bed sheets, were sticking out untidily. When they went very close to it, they could hear panting and mumbling in a foreign tongue. A dull crackle seemed to come from inside, and small clouds of white dust spread along its edges. Fleex gulped, wondering what to do.
There was a loud ‘BOOM!’ and a scruffy-looking creature with large, lens-like eyes suddenly rolled out from the book. It came to a halt with a loud screech, just before it could bump into Fleex and push him back down the ladder. It peered up through thick lenses and said:
‘Hmmm, a group of foreigners appear?
But I did not invite them here.’
‘We do not wish to take up your valuable time,’ said Flip to the grumpy-looking, little man who was studying them from the ground.
The little man replied angrily:
‘The last ones came and said the same, I trusted them for sure.
Then off they went with all my things
So now I trust no more.’
He rose slowly. ‘What do you want?’