Listening to JJ blather on about the challenge we were. "Those who step inside literally become someone else,,," Blah, blah, blah. Wasting time we were. So in I went.
In through the purple light I walked. In a big chamber I found myself. Through the darkness, several different passageways appeared. Then, very strange I started to feel. Very dizzy...
I clutched my head as I struggled to regain my bearings. I felt as if I were stuck on some speeding merry-go-around gone wildly out of control. I couldn't be sure, but I had the impression I was lying on the floor.
When my head finally stopped spinning, I opened my good eye and took a look around me. It took a while for my eye to adjust to the light, what little light there was. Sunlight faintly illuminated part of the room, while torches flickered against the wall across from me, revealing a number of darkened doorways. I realized I was in the opening chamber of the Pillar of Doom.
How did I get here so fast? The last thing I remembered, I was with the rest of the group just outside the front entrance. Then the midget monkey rushed on in and... Oh, God.
Anyway, I knew I couldn't keep lying there, so I forced myself to stand up, then lost my lunch all over the floor. I staggered over to the far wall, grabbed one of the torches, chose one of the passageways, and ducked inside. There was no time to think about it, and I didn't feel like standing there trying to decide which doorway looked the most inviting.
As soon as I got inside, I backed up against a wall and slowly slid down until I was sitting once again on that cold, hard floor. The thick soupy fog in my head needed to clear if I was going to go anywhere. Gradually, I started to feel a dull pain – something was poking me in the side. I reached around and pulled out an object that apparently had been hanging on my belt. It was a lightsaber! As hard as I could, I threw the friggin’ thing against the wall, listening to it bounce around the hallway.
Oh my Gods, I thought, how could I do something so stupid? It was stupid - they must have named this place "Pillar of Doom" for a reason. The natives on this planet aren't known to exaggerate. And here I had thrown away the only weapon I had, since apparently the blaster JJ had given me didn’t make it through the transformation. And that's not like me. I don't take foolish risks, and I don't turn down weapons, especially when I might be in danger.
But I just couldn't stand the idea of receiving any more help from the Jedi. Even if it was just by accepting one of their weapons. I’ve had more than enough of their “assistance”, and I don’t need it – not to protect Amidala, and certainly not to protect myself. When are the Senator and the other head honchos on Naboo going to understand that? Don't get me wrong, I've don't have anything against the Jedi themselves. I've seen what they can do. I'd much rather have them on my side than have to face one down. Yet, lately, whenever there’s a major threat on the Senator’s life, the Naboo officials run straight to those Jedi, like I'm some rookie who can't even do his own job. I can do my friggin' job. I've managed to keep Amidala alive all this time, even though she's often so reckless it makes me think she has some kind of death wish. How many more years do I have to spend doing that before I get the respect I deserve?
What’s most annoying is how the Senator will never back me up whenever I have a disagreement with the Jedi. Sure, she trusts me every day to keep her alive, but along comes a Jedi Knight, or even a Padawan, and my opinion means squat to her. I've even had to play second-fiddle to that Skywalker punk. Enough is enough!
What was most hurtful was to see her do it to my uncle, Captain Panaka, during that whole mess with the Trade Federation. My uncle had kept Amidala alive, as well as the king before her, and the queen before him. But as soon as Jinn came into the picture, Panaka was treated like some part-time rent-a-cop. We never discussed it, but I’m sure that’s part of the reason he chose to retire. Sometimes I wonder why I stick around myself. But I keep reminding myself that by protecting the Senator I serve Naboo. I guess that’s all the reason I need.
But today, at this moment, I was completely my own man. No suicidal senator to protect, no ridiculous bureaucrats to tell me how to do my job, just me against… whatever was waiting for me in this gods-forsaken Pillar. I promised myself that when I got through this challenge, no one would say I had done it with anybody's help – not from the Jedi, not from anyone. Even if it meant I would have to do it unarmed.
My head had cleared, so I slowly stood up and looked down the hallway, peering into the darkness for some clue about what was in store for me. But it wasn’t working. I couldn’t see more than a few meters ahead.
I cautiously stepped into the darkness and quickly reached a narrow staircase. About every five steps, a hole would appear in either wall where the staircase would branch off in another direction. This place almost resembled a beehive with all of its different catacombs. I knew I had to keep going up, so decided to go straight ahead as far as I could without taking one of the branching staircases. That didn’t last very long as I very quickly came up against a blind wall. So I went back down until I reached the nearest hole, and took another staircase. It turned out that I would have to do that a lot. Go up 15 steps, hit a wall, go back down 5 steps, take another staircase, go up 10 steps another wall, go down 5 steps… you get the picture.
It had gone on like this for what seemed like forever when I finally reached a kind of landing. I was getting pretty winded, so I paused to catch my breath. That was a mistake. Before I knew what hit me, a ponka hound knocked me on my back. I found myself lying on the ground with this beast on my chest, lunging for my throat. Instinctively, I put my arm up, only to feel his teeth rip through the flesh of it. I screamed in pain. Struggling to keep my senses, I propped my foot against the hound’s gut and pushed as hard as I could. That only knocked the animal away for a second before it lunged for me again. But this time I was ready. As soon as he lunged, I jabbed my thumbs as deep into his eye sockets as they would go. I gasped as the huge creature fell on me, thinking that I hadn’t hurt it. Then, I realized it wasn’t moving.
I rolled it off of me, and sat up to look at my arm. There were wounds and big nasty-looking bite marks. They didn’t appear to be too deep, but they hurt badly. I tore off part of my sleeve to use as a bandage, hoping the bleeding would stop sooner rather than later.
The producers told us that if we get injured, we're supposed to stay where we were until help arrived. But I didn't want help. I didn't need help. I was going to finish this on my own. So I started off again, up, down, up, down. I’m in really good shape, but this was brutal. My legs were getting sorer with each step.
I came to another landing. I stopped next to one of the torches hanging on the wall to look at my arm. It had stopped bleeding, but it still hurt. I knew I had to keep going, so I ignored the pain and started back up the steps when suddenly I tripped on something – something big. What would be lying on the floor in here? I thought.
My question was soon answered as something quickly wrapped itself around by legs and then my torso until I found myself face to face with a durbinian constrictor serpent. My arms were still free, so I grabbed it right below the head. It responded by squeezing me – hard. All the wind rushed out of me until I could hardly breathe. I did the only thing I could, I dug my fingers into its “neck” and pressed into it with all my strength. It hissed loudly, then squeezed even harder. It felt like I was being crushed by a giant vise. Blood rushed to my head and stayed there, making it feel like it would burst. I felt and heard one of my own ribs crack. All the time, I kept squeezing the serpent’s neck, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep it up much longer. Somehow, it was starting to wrap itself around my arms now. With no oxygen reaching my brain, I started to get light-headed, like I was about to pass out. Suddenly, I heard another crack, but it didn’t come from me. The serpent’s neck finally crushed in my hands and its head fell limp.
It took a long time to untangle myself. As I did, I could feel the blood slowly return to various parts of my body, bringing with it sensation, then ultimately pain. And every time I would breathe, it felt like someone was sticking a knife in my side where my rib had cracked.
I got up and kept moving. It was really, really hard. Every step, every movement was a struggle. Then an argument started itself in my head.
I should Just let them come get me. There's cameras hidden all over. They can see me, how much trouble I'm in. They'll send help.
No! I don't need any help! I can do this!
How many more creatures are there here? I can't fight anymore. I won't survive another fight.
I bet all the Jedi make it out of here on their own.
That was enough for me.
One step at a time. Up. Come on, Typho. Keep going. Keep going. I would have to pause every few steps to spit out some blood, then tell myself again, keep going. It wasn't long until I found myself on a rather long staircase. Usually, I couldn’t go more than 20 steps without hitting a wall, but I realized I must have gone up about 80 since being attacked by the serpent.
Soon, I could see another landing up ahead. And there, standing at the top of the stairs waiting for me was a wampa ice creature, growling furiously.
“No!” I yelled, “I’ve been through enough! I’ve done enough!”
In a blind rage, drawing the last bit of strength I had, I ran up the last few stairs and jumped up on the beast, grabbing the fur around its head and throwing my legs around it. I didn’t have any strength to fight it, but that wasn't my plan. I leaned back, managing to through the wampa off balance. We both fell down, wrapped against each other, rolling down the long staircase I had just climbed with the little strength I had left. When I rolled on top of the beast, I could feel its claws digging in my back. When I was on the bottom, I could feel each stone step pound against my spine, as well as the crushing weight of the creature on top of me. At one point, I somehow managed to stay on top as we slid the rest of the way down the staircase. Finally we got to the bottom. And there, I fully expected to die. But when we had stopped sliding, I could see that the wampa was motionless. It must have struck its head on one of the steps.
Everything hurt now - my back, my arm, my side, my legs, my head, every joint, every muscle. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to stand up. It hurt to sit down. It hurt to touch anything. It hurt to keep my eyes open. Still, I wanted to go on. I needed to do this myself. So I lay there, trying to find the power to get up, or just move. But it just wasn't in me.
Then I looked up.
There, at the top of the staircase, where the wampa had stood, was something beautiful. It was faint, but it was there – a small beacon of sunlight falling softly from somewhere just above the landing. I smiled, then I started to cry, then I started to laugh. But I only laughed once. It hurt too much to do anymore.
I gathered strength I didn’t have and forced myself up on my knees. Slowly, I pushed through the pain and fatigue and crawled to the staircase. Then I crawled up the first step, then the second. I kept going until I got back up to the landing. Once there, I turned and looked to the direction of the light. There it was, a door leading to the outside. The sight made me weep like a baby. I staggered to my feet and limped out the door. I could see the hippie ghost out there, but it didn’t matter. I was alive and on my own two feet. And Jedi or not, I knew I was probably the only contestant to make it up here without a weapon. No could take that away from…
… Oooh, my head. Suddenly, on the roof of this place I was. Standing over me, Qui-Gon was.
“That was, like, way out there man. Like, I never saw anything like that before, you all changing and stuff. One minute you’re Typho, and like, the next you’re… Hey, you don’t look so hot, man. You look like you got yourself beat up pretty bad.”
“The way I feel that is. Seen my lightsaber have you?”