Zanzibar – Part 5
Zanzibar – Part 5
by Lori Carlson
Hemi felt a poke in his ribs. He thrashed about and screamed, “Stop it, Comet!” And then reality crept in. He opened his eyes and blinked a few times. The smoke circled around him. For a moment, he couldn’t see who was at the other end of whatever had poked at him. He sat up, banging his head against the sharp edge of a boulder.
“He’s alive!” someone shouted.
Hemi crawled out between the two boulders and stood up. He dusted off his jeans and then cupped his hand over his eyes. The smoke and ash made it difficult to see.
“Who’s there?” Hemi called out.
Two figures stepped closer to him. A male and female, barely older than himself. They were both clothed in long billowing sheets. For a second, Hemi thought they were ghosts and backed away from them.
“Don’t fear us,” the male said as he crept closer to Hemi and extended a hand.
“Who…who are you?”
“I am Tang and this is Lena.”
Hemi collapsed to the ground. Overcome with emotions, he began to weep. He never thought he would see another human again.
Lena bent down and took Hemi by the arm. “Rise, child,” she whispered.
Hemi jerked his arm away. “I’m not a child!”
Lena stood up and sighed. “Another arrogant one,” she said to Tang.
“He’ll wisen up. They always do,” Tang replied. He looked down at Hemi. “What’s your name and how long have you been in The Smoke?”
“I’m Hemi of the Motorhead Gang,” Hemi said with pride in his voice. He stood back up and glanced around. “Are there others like you?” he finally asked.
Tang ignored his question. “How long have you been here?”
“I dunno. Maybe a day.”
“Have you been to the village?” Lena asked.
Tears welled up in Hemi’s eyes. “Yes. My friends are still there!”
“Were you exiled?” Tang inquired.
“He’ll do,” Tang said to Lena.
Lena waved her hand toward Hemi and pointed off into The Smoke. “Come, Hemi. We’ll give you shelter and food. Take my hand or you will get lost.”
Hemi took Lena’s hand, who in turn took Tang’s hand. The three walked through the smoke and ash. Every once in a while, Tang fired a flare into the air. It felt like they’d walked for miles and Hemi’s feet began to drag from the heat and exhaustion.
“Just a little further,” Lena assured him.
“How can you tell? Everything looks the same,” Hemi whispered between labored breaths.
“Just keep your eyes on the lava flow,” Tang instructed him.
Hemi stared down at the red glow from the lava. He noticed how it changed as it flowed and snaked its way through the barren land. He became mesmerized by it and before he knew it, he saw a pattern. So this is how they know where they are going, Hemi thought to himself.
Tang stopped and fired a flare. In the distance, another flare sprang up. “We are home!” Tang shouted.
Hemi still couldn’t see anything through the smoke. He loosened his grip from Lena’s hand and turned around in a circle. Suddenly, he saw them. Hundreds of bodies moved out from the smoke. They shouted and laughed as they ran up to Tang and Lena. Hemi rubbed his eyes. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“There are so many of you!”
“Yes, Hemi. There are three hundred and twenty-four, well twenty-five now that we’ve found you,” Lena said. She grabbed Hemi’s hand again and began dragging him along side her. “Come, you must be thirsty.”
Lena led Hemi inside a cave. They snaked their way down deep into the earth and finally came to a huge inner sanctum. He followed Lena through to the center and there before him was a huge sinkhole filled with water. She took a small tin cup and handed it to him.
“Go ahead. Have your fill,” she told him. “When you are done, join me over there.” Lena pointed to a small alcove lit by a long flaming pole.
Hemi took the cup and dipped it into the water. As he raised it to his lips, he glanced around the cavern. There were tiny alcoves throughout, each lit in the same manner as the one Lena had pointed out to him. Inside some of them he saw piles of sacks and baskets. In others, were small animals in cages – chickens, rabbits and a few that he’d never seen before, but they appeared to be rodents of some kind. Hemi drank the water which tasted sweeter than any plain water he’d ever drank. He dipped the cup in several times and drank until he couldn’t hold anymore. His stomach rumbled. He put the cup down on a rock beside other cups and walked over to join Lena and Tang in the small alcove.
This is now a round-robin between Keith Channing and I.
or Jump ahead to Part 6