Hello dear readers. I’ve had a bit of a bad streak of late. And as a result, the Zanzibar story is on hold this week. I am hoping to have my part written by Sunday (10/30) and then Keith will resume his part again on Wednesday (11/2).
About that bad streak…
no internet for several days due to a payment glitch with my service provider – finally resolved.
nasty case of a stomach bug since last Friday – thought resolved on Tues, but wasn’t quite done – still feeling the ickies even today.
began the story on paper last Thurs and copied it onto a notepad on my laptop on Tues and began filling in the pieces. Didn’t save the bloody thing and left to go to the store, returned and comp was frozen. Lost all I had written, except the previous notes on paper. Since still sick, haven’t felt like re-writing the bloody thing. *sighs*
Anyhoo… I will get it written before Sunday. And crossing my fingers that the bad streak is over and this ickie sickness will be over soon-ish. So yes… that’s what’s been up here of late.
I do have a few scheduled posts that will be coming out over at A Whispered Wind in the next few days – promotions, not stuff I’ve written. Sorry – Still not fully there mentally to do a lot of writing these days.
Cheers, my friends!
(Note: My co-writer, Keith, has written Part 30, I am assuming while still on vacation. I hope you will find this part as exciting as I do!)
Zanzibar – Part 30
“Jacob! What the Hell are you doing?” Rodney asked accusingly. He had entered Ruth’s, now his, hut and found Jacob kneeling beside Ruth’s body, having surrounded it with small candles and painted on her forehead an insignia that Rodney had never seen before, but that he knew spoke to Jacob’s ancestral roots. Jacob was pouring oil onto the mark, while looking skyward with one hand raised, and chanting something in a language that was not common in the Village.
“I must try everything I can to bring her back,” Jacob replied tearfully, “the Village can’t survive without her. I can’t survive without her.”
Rodney felt well up within him, a sense of power and authority that frightened and threatened to overwhelm him.
“Jacob, known as Madoowbe,” he snapped, “Have you listened to nothing I have said? Did you comprehend none of the information I imparted? Cease and desist NOW, and prepare your sister Ruth according to the customs of the Village.”
“H-how do you know my tribal nickname?” Jacob asked.
“I know stuff,” Rodney replied, “now go and do as I have commanded you.”
Jacob rose to his feet, bowed briefly toward Rodney and backed out of the hut, wringing his hands as he did so. Once he had cleared to entrance door, he turned and ran off into the Village.
Trembling at his new-found capability, Rodney extinguished all the candles and cleaned the marks and oil from Ruth’s forehead, using a cloth he found near her body. Having finished that task, he covered the body with a bed-sheet, looked up, and muttered, “I know.”
A sound at the door caused Rodney to arouse from his near-trance state. Standing in the entrance was an old woman of Nordic appearance. Although Rodney had never seen this woman before, he knew who she was, and why she was at the door.
“When, Ingvildr?” he asked.
“Two noons,” she replied, then turned and left.
Rodney followed her out of the door, but the old woman was not to be seen. He strode toward the Village centre, where he found Jacob addressing the gathered population. He was relating faithfully what he had been told to tell them; the villagers were listening in stunned silence. When Jacob reached a suitable point in his address, Rodney approached him, cupped his hand around Jacob’s ear, and whispered, “Whatever needs to be done, has to be done tomorrow.”
“Why?” Jacob mouthed in reply.
“The twin moons will be full in two days.”
Jacob raised his eyebrows.
“Ingvildr has announced it.”
Jacob continued his address as though nothing had interrupted it. “And finally, my brothers and sisters,” he said, “the ceremony will take place tomorrow. In keeping with the custom, the pyre will be created tomorrow morning and our sister’s body placed on it. When the sun reaches its zenith, Ruth’s appointed replacement will apply the flame.” This gave Rodney pause; he had not expected his first official task to be setting the fire that would consume his predecessor’s body. “People of the Village,” Jacob continued, “the Curator, in his wisdom, has chosen as Ruth’s replacement, our fried Rodney – one of the group of young people recently arrived here.”
A middle-aged man in the back of the group shouted out, “Why is it always blacks? Why can’t a white man have the job?” The number of people who were nodding in agreement reduced significantly and abruptly when the heckler disappeared.
“I think the Curator has answered that question, don’t you?” Jacob asked. The entire population muttered in agreement. The crowd began to break up as Rodney and Jacob left the podium and started back to what was now Rodney’s hut.
“You have seen Ingvildr?” Jacob asked.
“I have. She came to my door.”
“And you knew who she was?”
“Don’t ask me how, Jacob, but yes, I knew. The same as I knew your old nickname – very appropriate, by the way.” They both chuckled.
“She spoke to you?”
“She answered my question. I asked ‘When?’, she answered, ‘two noons’ and promptly vanished.”
“Wow. You are the Chosen One.”
“I wish it weren’t so, but yes; I believe I am. But now, we need to decide what to do in two nights’ time.”
“I addressed the people earlier, before… before Ruth…” Jacob paused and took a few deep breaths. Rodney placed an arm around his shoulders. “…before Ruth left us.”
“Take your time, Jacob.”
“No, I’m fine. Anyway; I think we can muster about two hundred folk to watch the perimeter for the four hours the moons are full together.”
“Yes. The smaller moon cycles more quickly than the larger and starts to wane after about three and a half hours. Four hours will more than cover it.”
“Is two hundred enough to cover the perimeter?”
“Alex says they’d need to be spaced about 40 metres apart.”
“Alexander of Samos. He studied under Pythagoras – before he was dragged here, of course.”
“He studied under Pythagoras?”
“Yeah. Brilliant mathematician, Alex is. He’s expanded on a lot of his master’s ideas. You two should get together.”
“What, me with my C- in the mock GCSE maths? I can barely do adding up, taking away, timesing and sharing!”
“That was before you became the Chosen One. You know stuff now, remember?” Rodney smiled.
Back in the hut, they were pleased to see that Ruth’s body had been removed and a note left in its place, bearing the signature of the Purifier. Rodney dismissed Jacob and started rearranging his new home to suit his taste and needs. After an hour of this, he was satisfied with what he had achieved, and lay on his bed to rest. He immediately found himself again in the presence of the Arikatoteshika.
Even in the presence of the Curator, Rodney stood to his full height. “Why have you summoned me, Arikatoteshika?”
“It is time for you to know why I have chosen you to lead my people, and what that role entails.”
“And what of my desire, and that of my friends, to return to the place we came from?” he asked.
The Arikatoteshika laughed; a deep, resonant, booming laugh; a laugh that had Rodney picturing a helpless girl chained to a railway line as a locomotive approached at full steam.
“Those matters, we can discuss later,” he boomed. “For now, you need to know about the things that are to come. Important things, dreadful things. Things that will curdle your soul as acid curdles milk. Events that will visit themselves upon you soon. Very soon. Sooner than you can begin to imagine.”
That laugh again.
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
or Jump ahead to Part 31
Notice: Zanzibar will be on hold for a bit. Keith, my co-writer, and his family are currently on holiday. When he returns, the story will resume once again.
Zanzibar – Part 29
by Lori Carlson
Early the next morning, the First Ones called their trusted council into the Common room. Lena, Tang, Bukara, Victor, Hemi, and Comet sat at the right and four elders sat to the left at the large table in the center of the room. Ethan, Nellie and Ms. Simone took their seats at the honored positions in the center.
Ethan gaveled the meeting. “Friends, thank you for joining us this morning. As you know, the three of us,” he said, pointing to Nellie and Ms. Simone, “have made the decision to shift our duties among these six members.” He pointed to those on the right. “However, we also see the need to bring more of the elders into these changes.” He looked over to those on the left. “We need your help as much as we need these young people’s help.”
“There is secret that we have kept from all of you. A secret that has allowed the three of us to travel between our dwelling to two other dwellings. You’ve only know about one of those dwellings – the Village, but there is also another dwelling called the Settlement. We’ve kept this secret to ensure the safety of everyone here, but it is now time to share all of this with all of you,” Nellie declared.
Shocked sighs filled the room.
Ms Simone waved her hand to silence them. “Please, you must understand. We felt this was necessary. We only wanted to protect everyone here. We’ve only gone to the Settlement a few times. The place appears to be abandoned, yet it is filled with a lot of provisions. Because of these huge stashes, we feel that something strange is going on there. Something we do not fully understand. That’s why we rarely go there. However, this twin full moon, we have no choice but to go there again.”
“Why now?” Lena asked.
“Comet has informed us that the Villagers are planning a trap for us. If one of us was captured, we do not know the consequences the Curator would enact upon that individual. Banishment again? Death? We just don’t know and we cannot risk that,” Ethan explained.
“If you’ve already decided what to do, why do you need our help?” Hannah, one of the elders, asked.
“Maybe we should just show you,” Ethan decided as he stood up. “Follow me.”
Ethan lead everyone to the First Ones’ meeting room. Inside, he walked to the back of the small room and pressed against the wall. A large boulder rolled to one side. Ethan stepped aside and allowed Ms. Simone and Nellie to enter first, followed by the ten others. He walked in behind them and pressed against the wall again. The boulder closed. The long passageway was lit with oil lamps placed along impressions in the stone. They walked for well over a kilometer deep within the belly of the cavern until they finally came to a small chamber with a single round table. On the top of it were strange carvings.
“Gather around,” Ms. Simone said as she waved her arm around the table. Everyone did as she instructed. “It took us over a year to figure out what these carvings meant and how to us them.”
Tang leaned over the table and traced one of the carvings with his finger. “How do they work?” he asked.
Nellie pointed to the dimly lit ceiling of the room. “When the twin moons begin to rise in their fullness, beams of light fall upon this table. We have no idea how the light gets through the smoke, but it does. Here,” she said, pointing to one small impression, “is where the smaller of the twin moons’ light falls. When it does,” she turned and pointed to a spot on the wall behind her, “a passageway opens.”
“Yes, and that passageway only remains open for one hour because after that hour,” Ms. Simone stated as she directed everyone’s attention back to the table, “it closes and the light from the larger moon opens a passageway over there,” she said, pointing to a spot on the opposite side of the room. “That passageway will remain open for three hours before it closes.”
“Where do the passages lead?” Tang asked.
“The small moon passageway leads to the Village. The large moon passageway leads to the Settlement,” Ethan informed him.
“I still don’t understand why you need our help,” Hannah said.
“As you know, Ethan will be leading Tang and Lena into the Settlement passage. However, since the passageway to the Village will be open for an hour, we need protectors here in case anyone discovers the open passage on the other side and tries to come through. Ms. Simone and I are far too weak to be any defense now,” Nellie said. “But there is more. In order for them to enter any passage, they must be in a meditative state prior to entering and they will be in a trance as they do enter. So you see, they will be completely incapable of defending themselves.”
“How do you even know any of that will happen – that someone might try to come through?” Hemi, who had been itching to speak but had remained silent until now, asked.
Ms. Simone looked over to Astair, one of the other four elders and nodded her head.
Astair cleared his throat. “Many many twin moons ago, I wandered into this chamber through the small moon’s passageway. I watched my passage close and the other one open. The First Ones walked through it and I tried to follow behind them. I got zapped by some energy field and they found me unconscious on the floor when they returned. I had a lot of explaining to do when I came to.”
“Altair was just a curious young lad, but had it been one of the Village’s leaders, there is no telling what could have happened to all of us,” Ethan explained.
“That’s why we so seldom go into the Settlement. At least two of us have to go through and one must remain behind to watch over them, but we are all so weak. Do you understand our dilemma now?” Miss Simone asked as she looked over to Hannah.
“I do. Please forgive my ignorance,” Hannah said as she bowed her head in reverence.
Ms. Simone patted Hannah on the back. “No worries, my dear friend,” she said in a low voice. Then she turned to Hemi. “Dear lad, these are your first four trainees. I need them to be combat ready before the twin moons. Are you up to the task?”
“Very well. Let’s make our way back to the Common room. Oh, and one more thing,” she said in a more stoic voice, “No one else is to know of this place. We don’t want anyone wandering in here and disrupting the table. Without it, we will all die. Is that clear?”
Everyone nodded in unison as they followed Ethan out of the small chamber and down the long passageway.
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
or Jump ahead to Part 30
for Stream of Consciousness Saturday – Prompt: screen
I am transfixed. My eyes cannot stop scanning the screen. Day and night, I sift through websites, article after article, while pieces of my spirit die little by little with each passing hour. Why can’t I tear myself away? Why do I care so much about who said what, or what he or she did? I am screened in.
This season of hate has warped my soul. I don’t even know what planet I am living on anymore. Is this really the state of America today? I am sickened by what I see, read, and hear. There is no repose. Nightmarish dreams. Cold sweats. Rapid heartbeats. Is this a horror tale playing over and over? Will it ever end?
My Reiki Master has told me one time too many, “Lori, an empath cannot handle this much concentrated hate. Turn off the screen.” And I know I should listen to her. So why haven’t I? It hadn’t yet become real…
It began last Friday. I heard the news, watched as a power-obsessed bully described how he treated women. The blatant banter of sexual assault. The laughing and joking. The self-entitlement.
It all came flooding back.
The time my sister’s then-boyfriend trapped me in the hallway behind the stairs. I was just 13. His hands all over me – up my blouse, down my shorts. His hot breath on my neck. His sickening words in my ear, “Big sister does, does little sister too?” Even now, I am revolted.
And the time my then-boyfriend wouldn’t take no for an answer. I’d been at college all morning and worked my waitressing shift all evening. I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. He wanted sex. He shoved me on the bed, turned me over, pinned my hands with his and raped me anally. It was no longer about sex, but power. I was devastated then and the humiliation and pain sticks with me to this day.
But what lingers with me… I reported neither one to anyone. Who would believe a 13 year old? Who would believe that a boyfriend raped his girlfriend?
Sexual assault is about power. And the assaulters believe they are entitled to treat women anyway they choose. And women don’t come forward because they aren’t believed. And the few who do are ridiculed, humiliated, called liars, harassed and threatened.
Is it any wonder we remain silent? Like silent actresses on the silver screen.
Zanzibar – Part 28
“You’ve just been summoned, haven’t you,” Jacob said when he heard Javelin moan and saw him stir after his sudden collapse.
“Yes, Jacob, I have,” Javelin replied, “and there are some matters we need to discuss following my visit with the Arikatoteshika.”
Jacob allowed himself a gentle chuckle. “You sound different,” he said, “if I didn’t know otherwise, I’d say you’ve become a male Ruth.”
“Jacob. There is something I have to tell you.” Javelin went on to explain what the Arikatoteshika had told him about death in his realm and the destiny of the Sentient Essences of the departed. “I’m afraid there is nothing we can do for Ruth,” he added, “whatever arrangements are normally made here for funerals, whatever is the custom for storage or disposal of the bodies of the departed, we shall have to do for Ruth. But always remember, dear Jacob, that the body is not Ruth. Ruth has already taken up her next great challenge, in the Temple.”
Jacob started to sob again.
“Let the tears flow, my friend,” Javelin said, “but let the tears be for yourself and your compatriots, who have been separated from a great friend, a wise counsellor and a capable leader. Weep not for Ruth. She is, I’m sure, throwing herself into her new role even as we speak. Weep not for her body, for it is but an empty shell; the vehicle that she used to travel in this domain. She has no further use for it.”
Comforted by Javelin’s words, Jacob said, “You’re right, Javelin, of course. And I thank you for your words. What would you have me do now?”
“It’s not for me to tell you, Jacob. Don’t forget, I’ve only been here a short time and I don’t know all the customs yet.”
“And yet you have been anointed Wise One by the Curator Himself. Would you have me make the announcement to the Villagers?”
“Yes, Jacob. But don’t tell them everything I told you. I’m not sure I should have told you about the fate, or even the existence, of our Sentient Essences. Announce that Ruth is no longer with us, and that I have been given the onerous task of filling her shoes. And, between you and me, my friend, it isn’t a task I’m looking forward to! I must go to my friends. They deserve to be told first. Oh, and by the way; I don’t think it appropriate that I should still be addressed by my gang name. Javelin has been left behind. Much as Wildcat is now Bleugh, a name suited to his situation, I should be known by my real name.”
“Rodney,” then after a pause, “Why are you laughing, Jacob?”
“Sorry. You took me by surprise is all. I wouldn’t have expected you to be called Rodney.”
“Mmmm,” Rodney muttered as he took his leave of Jacob.
The community hall was empty when Rodney reached it; the Villagers had gone back to their normal lives once the Settlers had disappeared. Looking around, he saw Cougar, Mustang and Rambler seated with the three girls. Cobra wasn’t in the area.
“A word, guys?” he said.
“Go for it,” Mustang replied.
“Okay; no reason to keep this from the girls. Everyone will hear it soon, I just wanted to give you guys the heads-up. Where’s Cobra?”
“He said he was going to check on the stone,” Rambler said, “Why? What’s up?”
A shout came from across the Village. “Guys!” It was Cobra, running toward them at an impressive pace. As he approached, he saw Rodney. “Jav,” he said, “your name has disappeared from the stone, just like Wildcat’s and Hemi’s and Comet’s!”
“That figures,” Rodney replied, “and it fits in with what I want to tell you.” He went on to explain, in outline, his experience with the Arikatoteshika, and his elevation to Wise One. “Trouble is,” he added, “it feels wrong for me to use my Motorheads name. I’m going to start using my other name.”
“What, Dog-breath?” Cougar asked.
“No,” he chuckled, “not that one; my real name, Rodney.”
That caused a few raised eyebrows.
“I thought you hated that name,” Cobra said.
“I do, but I have a strong feeling that’s what I’m supposed to use.”
“Why’d the Curator choose you, though? Why not one of the rest of us? Is this Curator prejudiced?”
“What makes yo say that, Cobra?” Rodney asked.
“Well, he was never going to choose me, was he?”
“He might have.”
“But he didn’t. For all we know, he might be homophobic as well.”
“As well as what?”
“Jav… sorry, I mean Rodders. Who has the power here? Look at yourself, look at Ruth, and look at Jacob.”
“Ain’t it obvious?”
“Not to me, it isn’t.”
“You’re all black.”
“Listen, Cobra. Jacob is Somali, Ruth is… was Native Australian, and my heritage is central African by way of the Caribbean. You can’t lump a third of the human race together with one word. It’s demeaning and, to a being like the Arikatoteshika it’s meaningless.”
“Yeah. Believe what you like,” Cobra said, “I’m just calling it as I see it. You’re black, and that never mattered to us, but you ain’t Javelin no more, and you sure don’t sound like you used to, is all I’m sayin’”
Disappointed by his friends, Rodney walked back to see how Jacob was getting on with his arrangements; all the while thinking about what Cobra had said to him.
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
or Jump ahead to Part 29
Zanzibar – Part 27
by Lori Carlson
“Whoa, wait. What’s this about a settlement?” Hemi inquired.
“Not a settlement, the Settlement,” Nellie corrected him.
Comet plopped down in a chair and glanced around at the First Ones. A wave of shock coursed through her body as she wrinkled her nose at them. Finally, she spoke. “Just how many places are there in this… this… whatever this place is?”
Ms. Simone patted the distraught young woman on the hand, smiling warmly at her before answering the question. “So far, we know of four – the Village, the Smoke which includes our cavern dwelling, the Settlement and the Temple. There could be more, but we have no evidence that more exist.”
“I thought the Temple was part of our dwelling,” Comet replied.
“Oh no, child. It is unlike anything you’ve ever seen or even dreamt about. You will understand in a few weeks,” Ms. Simone said as she gazed off into the distance. She remained that way for a long moment until Nellie shook her.
“Simone. Simone, come back to us.”
Ms. Simone inhaled deeply and closed her eyes. “I am sorry, Nellie… Comet. Please forgive me,” she whispered.
Comet shuddered. She didn’t know if she’d made the right choice now, but the voice repeated in her head – You are the chosen one. She glanced over at Hemi who was leaning against the stone wall, head bowed as if in deep thought.
“Listen, Comet and Hemi, I know things seem uncertain right now, but we’ve been doing all of this for a long time. We can sneak into the Settlement, gather some provision and return here in a short period of time. We’ve never run into a single person in the Settlement. It’s like… well, the best way to describe it is a ghost town,” Ethan said.
“Ethan, Lena and Tang will go this time. It will be good practice for Lena and Tang and no fear of discovery,” Ms. Simone decided. “Nellie needs more rest and there is always the chance that someone may enter the Smoke while the others are away.”
Hemi raised his head. With a flushed face and redened eyes, he glared at the First Ones. “But what about my gang? We were supposed to leave them a message.”
“It will have to wait,” Ms. Simone said dryly.
“No! You promised me,” Hemi said angrily as he stomped his feet. Then he turned away from them and smashed his right fist into the stone wall, not once, but twice. His knuckles swelled immediately and blood dripped down his arm. He turned back around, his eyes blazing red.
“Young man! We will have none of this,” Ms. Simone stated in a tone that Nellie and Ethan hadn’t heard for a long time. She grabbed Hemi by the shoulders and shook him, glaring at him with eyes that had turned completely black. “If one of us were captured, there is no telling what would happen. Permanent banishment? Death? Or something far worse? We cannot take that risk. Do you understand?” By now, Ms. Simone’s breathing came in short, shallow breaths, like an animal that had just attacked its prey.
Hemi stared at her for a moment with fear in his eyes. He slowly nodded his head. When Ms. Simone finally released him, he backed away from her and sank to the floor. Tears welled up in his eyes and he cupped his ears with his hands. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” he repeated over and over again as his body trembled and tears flowed down his face.
Comet slid off of the chair and crawled over to him. She wrapped an arm around him and cooed in his ear. With her free hand, she smoothed his hair from his face and gently planted a kiss upon his cheek.
“You’ve no idea what you’ve done,” Comet seethed at Ms. Simone. “He was abused as a child. His dad shook him, screamed at him, and then kicked him in the stomach. All. The. Time. And it didn’t take much to rile that drunken bastard either.”
Ethan took Ms. Simone’s hand and led her to the other side of the small enclosure. He pulled out a chair and gently helped her to sit down. Patting her on the hand, he smiled down at her and nodded his head at her a few times. She inhaled slowly and exhaled just as slow. After a few moments, her breathing returned to normal, as did her eyes – soft, chocolate pools once again. Nellie handed her a glass of water and she immediately downed the cool liquid. She looked up at Nellie and Ethan and nodded her head.
“Hemi,” Ms. Simone began, “I am terribly sorry. I… I don’t know what came over me. Honestly, child, I’ve never been this cross with anyone before,” she concluded as she sat the glass down on the table and lowered her head.
“We are all under a great deal of stress,” Nellie said. “Perhaps we should all get a good night’s sleep and discuss all of this again tomorrow.”
Ethan smiled at Hemi and Comet. “Yes, that would be best. Come, let me help you two back to your rooms.”
Comet stood up first, a defiant look on her face. “No thanks. We will help ourselves, just as we’ve always done.” She bent down and stretched out her hand toward Hemi. He placed his wounded hand gently inside hers and slowly rose from the floor. Without looking at the First Ones, the pair wrapped their arms about one another and left the meeting room.
Ethan paced the floor and Nellie sat beside Ms. Simone, holding her hand. They were all silent for a long moment.
Ethan finally broke the silence. “You nearly allowed the beast to come out, Simone. If any of these people knew what you are…” His voice trailed off as he sat down across from her and placed his head on the table.
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
or Jump ahead to Part 28
Zanzibar – Part 26
It was only about a hundred metres to Ruth’s house, but at that moment it felt to Javelin more like a hundred times that. He was running as fast as he could, but it was though he were running through treacle, making little progress. When the pair finally reached the house, Ruth was lying inside, on the floor of the room with the couch in it. Javelin had taken some first-aid training and knew, or thought he knew, roughly what he needed to do. He knelt beside her and felt for a pulse.
“There might be something, but it’s so weak, I can’t be sure whether I’m feeling her blood pumping, or my own.” he said, “Get me a mirror, Jacob, then tell me what happened.”
Jacob slipped into the bathroom and came back with a small mirror, which he handed to the young Motorhead. Javelin held it close to Ruth’s mouth and nose for a minute or two, then examined it.
“You want me to tell you what happened now, Javelin?”
“After you left, Ruth and I continued talking about the visit from the Settlers, trying to figure out exactly why they came. We didn’t altogether believe their story about our people stealing from them, any more than we believed them, when they claimed not to have stolen from us. Ruth went quiet, her eyes rolled up and she fell backward onto the floor. I didn’t worry about that; it’s the same as you did when you were called and the same as she had done before. I started to worry when she didn’t immediately start moaning. That was what she had done previously, and what you did. At first, I thought she had banged her head badly, but her head landed on a cushion, so that wasn’t likely. What’s happened, Javelin? Why isn’t she coming round?”
“I don’t know, Jacob,” Javelin said, “and I don’t know how to find out.”
His own words sounded somehow distant to him, as though they were relayed through something far away. He became aware of another voice. It was a voice he had heard before. He opened his eyes and looked around himself at the vast chamber, and the multi-coloured moss flooring.
“Rodney,” the voice said to him, “you’ve come to see me again.”
“Did I have any choice?” he asked.
“Not really, although you do have free will, of course, and you can shut out my summons. Over the years, many have been called, but few have come into my presence.”
“So, why have you brought me here this time?”
“You needed to see me, young Rodney.”
“Yes, I did. I wanted to talk about my people.”
“They’re not all with you now, are they?”
“No. Hemi and Comet are in the Smoke…”
“Ah yes, Chadwick and young Tracey Northwood.”
“Yeah; and Wildcat is in the Settlement.”
“And with a new name.”
“Was that your idea?”
“His being in the Settlement, or the new name?”
“Wildcat is the name you use for William Bloor. When you all arrived in the Village, it was clear to me that William was, temperamentally, more suited to the Settlement than to the Village. I transposed him. The name given to him is an approximation of his family name, and so would seem comfortable and familiar to him while his mind and body were being, shall we say, modified to suit his new environment.”
“Okay, Arikatoteshika, we’ll talk about that later. I would like to get my posse together, in one place, so we can see about returning to our homes. In the meantime, what’s the deal with Ruth?”
“Ruth has been a good, reliable and trusted vessel for me for many, many years. I thought she deserved to rest.”
“I can see that, but did she deserve to die?”
“Rodney, Rodney, Rodney. I can see that you still have much to learn. No-one ever dies here; not in the sense you mean, anyway. No. When an individual becomes too tired in body to continue my purpose in the Village, they simply move on to another phase of existence. Those who have not served me well are translated to the Settlement, where their Essences—”
“Their Sentient Essences. You may think of it as their spirits, or their souls. It is that which makes them human. Those that end up in the Settlement form the perimeter field, holding the Settlement in its peculiar time-bubble. None may leave, even temporarily, without my approval. They seek this approval by asking the perimeter field to intercede for them.”
“And they call you…?”
“The people of the Settlement call me the Great Black Head.”
“Why the Great Black Head?”
“Oh, come on, Rodney. Remember your Earth history. Or maybe it hasn’t happened yet for you… You know my given name.”
“Don’t snigger. There was, or will be, depending on your period, a famous Norman, whose surname gave me the idea.”
“Yeah, whatever. But what does this have to do with Ruth?”
“Ruth has served me well. Ruth’s Essence is bound for the Temple in the Smoke. There she will join the many who have gone before her and who, between them, form the nucleus of my power in that domain. So you see, Ruth will continue to serve me. In fact, the gifts that she has used in my service in the Village will enhance my power in the Smoke, and will serve to reduce the suffering of my people there.”
“But who will take Ruth’s place in the Village?”
“You surprise me, young Rodney Dean. That should be obvious to you.”
“It isn’t obvious to me, so would you like to tell me?”
“You, Rodney. You will take Ruth’s place.”
This is now a round-robin between Keith Channing and I.
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