Zanzibar – Part 48
“Food is ready in Rodney’s house,” Jacob called out.
“What is it?” Rodney asked.
Habeeba came skipping up to the group. “The mix of vegetables and fruit was difficult to make into a tasty meal, but I added some of my naanee’s special spice mixes, and I think it’s quite nice now.”
“What’s it called?” Scott asked.
“Sabjee kadhee with Ulli sarlas and a chaat.”
“What’s that mean; I mean in English?”
“Vegetable curry with onion salad and a spiced fruit and vegetable salad, and some chai to wash it all down. Come and get it while it’s hot. Except the chaat; that is meant to be cold.”
“Don’t know if I like Indian food,” Sandy complained, “I have a delicate palate and I’m afraid of anything spicy.”
“There’s other food in the house for those who don’t do curry,” Rodney said, “you’re sure to find something you like. Come on. Lets go eat.”
There wasn’t a dining table in Rodney’s house. Or chairs. Just a sofa and a bed. While Habeeba was preparing the meal in the tiny kitchenette, Eloise and Sakura made makeshift plates and dishes from banana leaves and fashioned cups from coconut shells. Once the boys were all seated; squeezed onto the sofa and bed; the girls served the food. Sandy initially excused himself, intending to raid Rodney’s sparse larder for whatever he could find, but eventually he decided to try what Habeeba had made. Not, however, without some residual reservation.
“What’s in this?” Sandy asked, indicating the curry.
Habeeba started listing the main ingredients. “Semolina, vegetables, chillies, ginger, peanuts and a few other things. And before you ask, the ulli is mostly onion, chillies and vinegar, and the chaat has cucumber, carrot, tomatoes, raisins, sweet peppers, apple and peanuts with a medium spicy seasoning. Try them all. You’ll like them, I promise.”
The food must have gone down well. Conversation stopped. The only sounds coming from the room were munching, crunching, slurping and burping. Sandy was first to finish – despite his protestations, he enjoyed the meal immensely, even to the extent of licking his leaves, so as not to waste any of the flavours offered.
“Is there any more?” he asked.
“Some curry is still in the pan,” Habeeba answered, “not much, just what’s stuck to the sides.”
Sandy got up from his place and almost ran into the kitchenette, shouting back, “That’ll do me,” as he went.
“Be quick,” Rodney said, “we need to get down to the serious business of the evening. We’ve probably only got an hour or so before it’s light again and the meeting will take place.”
“Maybe less than that, Rod,” Chad said, walking in through the door, hand in hand with Tracey who was wearing a grin from ear to ear.
“Hi, guys. What’re you so pleased about, Tracey?”
“I can’t really tell you,” she said, blushing. And she wasn’t the only one whose cheeks had taken on a rosy hue.
Chad looked up and said, “We’ve been, erm, busy.” He looked at the three guys: Scott, Jimmy and Frank. “You know what I mean, don’t you?”
By the time he’d said that, eight faces were blushing.
Sandy came back from the kitchen, his lower face smeared with curry where he had been licking the saucepan. “Ooh, Chad. You’re a sight for sore eyes. Looking rather buff too, if I may say.” He looked beyond Chad and noticed Tracey. Not only was she there, she was holding Chad’s hand. “What’s with you pair?” he almost screamed, “Are you an item?”
Tracey blushed again.
“Ooh, you are,” he said, excitedly, “you’re an item!”
Before Tracey could respond, Billy appeared. He’d been there for a while but, of course, no-one could see him until he poured water on himself.
“Billy!” Rodney exclaimed, rushing forward and hugging him – a proper, man-hug of course; “This is the first time we’ve all been together since arriving here.”
“But we’ve all changed,” Billy said morosely. “We’re none of us the same people as arrived here.”
“No, you aren’t,” Ruth’s disembodied voice added, “but you haven’t just changed, you’ve grown. All of you. Tracey, after years trying to live as a boy, your feelings for Chad have led you to embrace your femininity. Know that you have choices. It’s your life, your body, and you must live in peace with yourself. Whatever you choose, I believe Chad will support you. And I believe that because he has grown immensely. He, and Rodney, are displaying qualities of perseverance, persistence, balance and strength of character that will allow them to flourish as leaders. Alexander: you have acknowledged and are living at peace with your sexuality. That’s a difficult thing for a gang member to do, and you are to be admired for your courage. The rest of you; Scott, Jimmy and Frank: you are going to be such great husbands and fathers; whether you remain with your current girlfriends or not. You’ve all shown qualities that augur well for your futures. And Rodney; I love what you’ve done with the place.”
“What, this house?”
“Yes, this house.”
“I haven’t done anything. It’s exactly as you left it.”
“I know. That’s what I love about it.”
Darkness had fallen, leaving only a short time before the big meeting with the Architect.
“Chad; you’re leading this meeting,” Rodney said, “you’re going to have to decide whether the girls should stay.”
“There’s no need,” Sakura interjected, “we spoke about it while we were preparing the food—”
“There was food?” Billy asked, “and I missed it?”
“There was, and you did,” Sandy said, “and it was delicious. Sorry. None left.”
“Can I continue?” Sakura asked.
“As I was saying, we spoke about it and decided that we should leave it to you guys. You don’t want to waste time bringing us up to speed on something that’s obvious to us is highly complicated. We’ll be off now. C’mon girls.”
Sakura, Habeeba and Eloise left the room and headed back to their own houses. As they left, another figure appeared at the door.
“Ingvildr,” Rodney said, “welcome.”
“At the end of this night, be it ever so brief,
as soon as the light does enter its fief,
with Nigel you’ll meet, His plans to explore,
Be sure they’re complete because Norm will abhor.
The weasel must go to a place far away
But this you should know, it won’t be child’s play.
His power is small, but some he does own
Know this above all, he’ll fight for his throne.”
The gang members looked at each other in confusion as the seer, Ingvildr, disappeared into the distance, shouting back, “It has begun.”
“What did that dreadful poetry mean?” Jimmy asked, voicing the concern they all felt.
“Simply what she said.”
“W-w-who said that?” Frank asked, looking around himself.
“That,” Tracey said, “was the voice of the Architect.”
At that, all but Chad and Tracey prostrated themselves on the ground, quaking with fear.
“Get up!” the Architect boomed. “We have work to do, and time is short.”
“And getting shorter,” Chad added.
“Quite,” Nigel said (he would have boomed it, but ‘quite’ is not an easy word to boom. Don’t take my word for that, try it yourself. See what I mean?)
This is now a round-robin between Keith Channing and I.
If you missed a chapter, click to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6,Part 7, Part 8, Part 9,Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16,Part 17, Part 18,Part 19,Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39, Part 40, Part 41, Part 42, Part 43, Part 44, Part 45, Part 46, Part 47
or Jump ahead to Part 49
The Last Hope
“Was it you who did this to my planet?” the small, furry alien asked.
“Turn it back.”
“Then you will suffer the consequences.”
The alien took out a gun and zapped me. I shrunk to his size. Then he zapped my lander. It shrunk to the size of a toy. He picked it up and put it into the pocket of his jumper.
“Now you’re stuck here forever.”
My report was never sent. No one would ever know that the seeding on Cernos took root. No one ever came to colonize the last hope for humankind.
©2017 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.
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This week’s photo prompt is provided by Grant-Sud. Thank you Grant for our photo prompt!
I’d passed the sign and saw the warning.
Road out. Detour ahead.
I drove on, past the detour sign and into the murky water that was once my street. I felt sure my Jeep would get me through. I had to get home.
It was slow traveling, even though my house was just a few blocks away. Cars were pulled over to the sides of the road, making it a one-way pass. I saw neighbors sitting inside their vehicles, lights on, some with engines still running. I knew that wouldn’t end well for them. I powered down my window and yelled at one of them with just their lights on.
“Turn off your lights. Reserve your battery.”
He ignored me.
Oh well, you can only tell people something practical. It’s up to them to choose. I didn’t have time to make them listen.
I continued on down the road. I could feel the water sloshing up against the underside of the Jeep. The rain continued to fall and my windshield wipers made a zush, zush, zush sound. It was nearly hypnotic, but I had no time for that.
As I entered my own block, there was an old Ford sideways in the road. I didn’t recognize it, but I had a feeling who it’s owner was. I had to go up onto the sidewalk to get around it. Nothing would prevent me from making it home.
When I finally made it to my driveway, the wife and son’s cars were in the drive. I said a small prayer. I pulled in beside the red Subaru and cut the engine. I sat there for a moment, breathing and trying to calm my nerves. It had been over two hours since my wife called. If it hadn’t been for the storm, I would have made it home in less than twenty minutes. Today, it had taken over an hour.
I climbed out of the car and stepped into the water that filled the driveway and all of the lower lawn. Our house was on a bit of an incline, so I didn’t have to worry about it flooding. I had other things to worry about. The water soaked into my socks and shoes, and half way up my jeans. I dredged on, up the long pathway that led to the house. It was dark. No lights, but then that was to be expected with such a bad storm. The front door was ajar. I called out.
No answer. I slowly walked inside. I saw candlelight coming from the living room and headed in that direction. When I got to the doorway, I stopped. Madge and Tommy sat on chairs from the dinning room, facing one another. Their hands and legs were tied to the chair. Their mouths taped.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and then a hard shove. I stumbled into the living room, nearly crashing to the floor.
“Did you bring it?” a voice said behind me.
I fumbled in my jacket pocket and pulled out a wad of cash. I turned and held it out toward the man in the mask. He wrenched the money from my hands and then waved the gun at me.
“You promised to let them go,” I reminded him.
“Get over there on the couch and sit down while I count the money.”
I did as he demanded. I looked over at Madge. Tears streamed down her cheeks. I mouthed that it would be okay. She nodded her head.
“Give me your car keys.”
I tossed my keys at the man, thankful that my house key wasn’t on the same chain. He snatched the keys out of the air and walked over to me. He tied my hands loosely behind my back.
“That’ll hold you until I get away. I know you will call the cops and I know they will be looking for your Jeep, but if you and your family want to remain alive, give me an hour’s start. Otherwise, some of my buddies will be back to take care of you. Got it?”
I nodded my head.
I’d heard the report on the radio on my way home. An escapee. Stolen car. I knew who he was even though he’d covered his face. He wasn’t a murderer, yet. Just doing time for armed robbery.
He stood there, staring at us, gun in hand. I wondered what he was thinking. Would he change his mind and kill us? He waved the gun back and forth between my wife and son and toward me. I saw the fear in Madge’s eyes, but could only see the back of Tommy’s head. He scratched his head through the material of the mask over his head and then he was gone.
Moments later, I heard the Jeep leave the driveway. I immediately began loosening the rope. When I was free, I untied Madge and Tommy, hugging them both tightly.
“You should call anyway,” Madge said, her voice shaky.
I agreed and dialed 911. When the dispatcher answered, I told her what had happened, the color of my Jeep, and the license plate number.
“He won’t get far,” I told her. “I didn’t get a chance to fill up. It’s running empty.”
I prayed that it’d been only a warning that his buddies would show up, but he knew where I lived. His buddies might know too. I gathered my family, piled into my son’s red Subaru, put it into four wheel drive and fled the house.
I drove slowly past the Ford, noticing bullet holes this time. I cringed, but kept driving. I’d told the dispatcher that we’d come to the police headquarters, that it wasn’t safe to stay home. As I drove past the line of cars parked along the side of the street, I noticed my Jeep. He hadn’t gotten far. I no longer saw the neighbor in his car. The one I had spoken to before. There was shattered glass and the lights had dimmed. Had he tried to get the neighbor’s car? I stopped and got out. Looked inside. The neighbor laid slumped over in the seat, a single bullet to the head.
I looked around, sure that the escapee would still be around somewhere, but he wasn’t. I tried to remember how many cars had been lined up, and if any of them could make it through the flooded streets. A black SUV. It was nowhere in sight. Had anyone been inside? I couldn’t remember. I pulled my cellphone out of my jacket and called the dispatcher back.
“He’s in a black SUV now,” I said after explaining what I’d seen. No, I didn’t know the licence. No, I didn’t know if anyone had been taken hostage. Yes, I was still on my way there.
I got back into the car and drove on. As I turned onto the main road, I saw the warning sign again. If only he had heeded the warning and taken the detour…
©2017 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.
for Just Jot It January – Prompt: ‘Warning’ – Hosted by Linda G. Hill
Today’s prompt is brought to you by Dan Antion, of the blog “No Facilities“
a whip, flick of wrist
water spins, a subtlety
attracts scho0ls below
©2017 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.
When Time Stood Still
“It’s time,” she said, her voice faint and raspy.
I wouldn’t argue. She was right, of course. Always right. We’d spent so many years bickering when all it took was for me to just let her have her way. She always did in the end. Now, all I wanted was to have one more big fight with her. To see that spark in her eyes and that fire of her convictions. I squeezed her hand and stood up.
“I’ll be right back,” I whispered as I leaned down and kissed her forehead.
I walked down the cold, sterile corridor to the nurses’ station. The walls, the floor, even the ceiling looked so bright. I squinted as I leaned over the desk. The nurses buzzed around me. Had time slowed down or sped up? I felt like I was standing still in suspended animation while everything around me went on at full speed. Was this what loss felt like? One of the nurses finally noticed me.
“Are you okay, Mr. Jenkins?”
I slowly nodded my head. I wasn’t, but I came from a time where you don’t share that knowledge with strangers. “Annie’s ready,” I told her.
“I’ll be there in just a moment.”
I walked back down the hallway, still squinting from the brightness. I heard everything around me from the silver food trolley squeak, squeak, squeaking down the hall, to the beeping of machines, and the haggard breathing of the sick and dying. I didn’t feel privileged to be among the living.
I finally made it back to Annie’s room. She laid on the bed, her head propped up with pillows, and her auburn hair stuck to her face from too many hours of sweat and tears. She still had that angelic look that had attracted me to her so many decades before. I sat down beside her bed and held her hand again. I could see every bone and vein, like blue streams washing over driftwood. Her wedding band was so loose, one wrong move and it would fall away, roll off the bed and tumble to the floor. I couldn’t remove it though. She wouldn’t want that.
I tried to remind myself that we’d had a happy life together. College sweethearts who’d married shortly after graduation, a nice home in the suburbs, and two daughters who were now college graduates themselves. These were our retirement years. Years we should be traveling instead of sitting in a hospital, but here we were instead. Cancer had robbed us of our dreams.
I knew Annie wanted to hold on until Katie and Susanne arrived, but the pain was too much too endure. The nurse came in and injected morphine into her IV. It was just a matter of time now, minutes perhaps. I felt Annie’s hand relax, but her breathing was still shallow. I leaned over and kissed her parched lips. She smiled at me and closed her eyes. The wrinkles of pain left her face.
“Go on, love,” I whispered to her. “No need to stick around here now.”
She inhaled deeply, a gurgling breath. I inhaled also, holding my breath until she exhaled again. It never came. I exhaled as tears streamed down my cheeks.
“Farewell, my angel,” I choked.
I slipped her wedding ring off of her finger and crossed her hands over her chest. Time stood still again as the doctor and nurse raced around the room. I recalled our first date, how her hair blew in the breeze of that spring afternoon in the park, how her eyes had danced with pure joy and how in awe of her I was. That’s how I would remember her, not this lifeless, brittle woman on that hospital bed.
©2017 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.
for Just Jot It January – Prompt: ‘Time’ – Hosted by Linda G. Hill
Today’s prompt is brought to you by JoAnna, from her blog “Anything is Possible“
Zanzibar – Part 47
by Lori Carlson
“Don’t you think we should tell Miss Simone about all of this?” Comet asked the Architect.
They were still inside the Temple. Hemi had just explained everything to Rodney and Ruth’s essence had joined them once more.
“I have other plans for her. She is unwell, thanks to me, but she can be cured.” The Architect’s voice echoed in the chamber.
Hemi’s eyes grew wide. “She can? How?”
“There is a healer in the Settlement. Nellie has already been cured. Ethan and Miss Simone will undergo the same healing. I need everyone to be strong for what lies ahead.”
“What about me and the others who dwell disembodied in your Temple?” Ruth asked.
“I’m sorry, Ruth. I never wanted anyone to die here, but even I cannot bring back a life,” The Architect said with regret in his voice. “But your presence is needed during the meeting with the Motorhead gang.”
Ruth murmured an agreement, but there was sorrow in her voice.
“Tracey,” the Architect said, turning his attention to her, “will you please go find Miss Simone and bring her to me?”
Comet nodded her head and walked over to the doorway. She placed a hand on the markings and the door swung open. She glanced back at Hemi and smiled. It felt good to be with him again. She walked through the doorway and closed the door behind her. She wandered through the twisting corridors until she came to the large common room. It was empty except for a few children playing chess at one of the tables. She made her way to the First Ones’ chamber and knocked on the stone door. It slid opened, but Miss Simone wasn’t at the table like usual. Comet pushed on the door to the First Ones’ sleeping quarters. Miss Simone laid upon her cot.
Miss Simone groaned and tried to sit up. “Yes, child?” she whispered.
Comet rushed to her side and squatted down by her cot. She noticed that the First One’s hair was in disarray and her white gown was soaked. “Oh Miss… are you so ill? The Architect requests your presence.”
“I am… fine, child. Tell the Architect I will be along soon.” Miss Simone didn’t wish to divulge that she was more bereft over the separation between her and Ethan than ill.
Comet grasped the First One’s hand and squeezed it. With a wrinkled brow, she stood up and returned to the Temple. Hemi noticed the dismayed look on her face immediately.
“Is Miss Simone okay?”
Commet shook her head. “She looks horrid. I am worried, Hemi, but she said she will come along soon.”
Hemi pulled Comet into an embrace, holding her tightly until the door once again opened with a whoosh of warm air. Miss Simone entered, having braided her silvery hair once more and changed into a clean white gown. She went to the large green stone and stretched her arms out.
“I am here,” she said in a soft voice.
The room shimmied and there was a loud crack of thunder. Suddenly, a tall, yellow-skinned alien with large black eyes stood before them. Hemi and Comet gasped, but Miss Simone smiled.
“It’s good to see you again, Nigel.”
Nigel stretched out a hand and took one of Miss Simone’s hands in his. “A pleasure to see you again too, Simone.” He kissed her hand and released it.
“Wait? Are you The Nigel? As in the Architect Nigel?” Comet questioned.
“Yes, Tracey. I am one in the same. It’s been decades since I visited this place in the flesh.”
Comet flinched at the use of her real name again, but she let it go. “So you can come and go at will?”
“No, not like that. It takes…”
“He expends a lot of energy to show up here. He will be weakened for several days for just this short visit,” Miss Simone explained. She knew that even speaking weakened Nigel.
“Great, so now you won’t be able to come to the meeting in the morning,” Hemi scowled.
“I never intended to be there in the flesh. You will all hear my voice though, just as you are now,” Nigel said telepathically.
“Why show up at all?” Comet inquired.
Nigel looked over at Miss Simone. “I owed it to her. This may be the last time we meet.”
Hemi and Comet both glanced at Miss Simone. She stood there, with a graceful smile on her face, staring at Nigel.
“You two aren’t…,” Hemi could barely say the words, “lovers, are you?”
Nigel laughed. “Oh no, Chad, but we do have a great deal of respect for one another. Which brings me to the reason I summoned you, Simone.”
Miss Simone’s brows crossed. “I don’t understand?”
“I did that,” he said, pointing at the black lines running up her arms, “to you and now I must rectify it. Take my hand, Simone.”
Miss Simone took Nigel’s hand. A whirlwind spun, sucking both of them into it. Within seconds, Miss Simone, Nigel and the whirlwind were gone.
The whirlwind spat Miss Simone and Nigel out onto the mesa, just a few meters from the Settlement dwellings. Miss Simone blinked a few times to get the dust from her eyes. She stared around. She’d been here before, but at night. In the light, the place had an entirely different feel to it.
“Why did you bring me here?”
“To heal you. Come, there is someone you must meet.”
Nigel led her into the Settlement, through one of the large stone houses and out into a courtyard. Montage sat leaning against a large boulder, sleeping. Nigel patted her on the shoulder.
Montage sat upright with a start and cupped a hand over eyes as she stared up at him. “Nigel? Is that you?”
“Yes, old friend. It is me.”
Montage rose from her seat and embraced the alien. “I thought I’d never see you again.”
“It has been far too long. Allow me to introduce you to Miss Simone. She is a Cavener, like Nellie.”
Miss Simone smiled at the woman, but crinkled up her face at Nigel.
“I know you are confused, Simone, but just like I came to you, Nellie and Ethan long ago, I also came to Montage. I needed someone who could some day heal the three of you,” Nigel explained. “You were never meant to be Temple workers.”
Miss Simone nodded. “I understand.”
“Good. And now I will leave you with Montage and she can wield her magic.” He turned to Montage. “Please heal Ethan as well. I need everyone at full strength. I am sure Billy has informed you of our plan.”
“He has. Don’t worry. I will have Miss Simone and Ethan at peak health in no time.”
“Excellent! I must return to the Temple. I am weakening.” Nigel hugged Miss Simone and Montage. “Stay safe, my faithful friends.”
With that, a whirlwind twisted and sucked Nigel up and away.
This is now a round-robin between Keith Channing and I.
If you missed a chapter, click to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6,Part 7, Part 8, Part 9,Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16,Part 17, Part 18,Part 19,Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39, Part 40, Part 41, Part 42, Part 43, Part 44, Part 45, Part 46
or Jump ahead to Part 48
A Mistaken Crime
“There’s no way he makes it inside.”
“I’ll bet ya twenty he does.”
“It’s your money. Too many lights. Probably a hi-tech security system too.”
“You don’t know Pete. Best burglar around.”
Josh and Scottie stand behind a tree, peek out a few times. Josh spots the two flashes in the center window. Pete’s in.
“Told ya he’d make it in.”
“Yeah, but can he make it out?”
Josh shrugs his shoulders. They continue to watch and wait. Suddenly, a tap on their backs. Damn, cops.
Peepin’ Toms, eh?
Pete shimmies down a drain pipe. Bag slung over shoulder. Slithers away.
©2017 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.