Zanzibar – Part 8
Zanzibar – Part 8
by Lori Carlson
Hemi walked over to Lena and Tang and sat down on one the barrels they used as seats. He looked around at the other alcoves.
“How’d you get those things?” He asked and pointed at the cages and baskets.
“We acquired them,” Tang said flatly.
That answer didn’t satisfy Hemi one bit. “But how?”
“Never you mind, Hemi. Come, there are some people you need to meet.” Lena stood up and extended her hand. Hemi brushed it off.
“I don’t think I will get lost in here.”
Tang and Lena walked toward one of the empty alcoves with Hemi following behind them. Inside the alcove, Tang tapped on the stone wall and it slid open. He stepped aside to let Lena and Hemi enter and then followed in behind them. The wall closed. The interior was lit much the same as in the main cavern – lit poles held in place by leather straps to the walls. Three others sat a small table – a man and two women.
“Hemi,” Tang began as he pointed at the three. “These are the First Ones – Ethan, Nellie and Ms. Simone – the first to survive the Smoke and to find this cave.” The three bowed their heads at Hemi. Tang pointed to a chair and continued, “They have much to teach you if you are willing to listen.”
Tang and Lena exited the room. Hemi stared around at the dwelling and finally sat down in the chair. He eyed each of the three suspiciously. Ethan appeared to be in his mid-twenties, about his own height with blond hair and blue eyes. Nellie was shorter with brown hair, glasses and a bit on the plump side. Ms. Simone looked completely out of place. She was slim, with long black hair, caramel-colored skin and big brown eyes. He tossed his head up and then gave a nod at the three. “So what’s the deal?”
“Oh he’s an impertinent one alright. Reminds me of you a long time ago, Ethan.”
Ethan laughed. “Indeed he does, Nellie. So, you call yourself Hemi, but that isn’t your real name, is it?”
Hemi crossed his hands over his chest and eased back in the chair. “What’s it matter to the lot of you?”
“We don’t keep secrets here, young man. Our lives depend on us all being honest with one another,” Ms. Simone replied.
“How do I know I can trust you? Maybe you’re in cahoots with that Curator. How else do you explain all those supplies out there? Had to get ’em somewhere.”
Ethan leaned forward and stared straight into Hemi’s eyes. “Indeed we did, young man, and we will get to that later. Tell us your name.”
“Chadwick,” Hemi whispered.
“Chadwick? Good lord, no wonder you go by Hemi,” Ethan laughed.
“That was my grandpa’s name. Don’t you go makin’ fun of it!”
Ms. Simone placed a hand on Hemi’s arm. “Calm down, young man. We aren’t making fun of it. We just understand why you changed your name. You needed to be your own man, not live in the shadow of your grandpa.”
Ethan continued to stare at Hemi. “As soon as I saw you out there, I knew who you were. I knew your grandpa when he was a young lad. He hated his name too. We all called him Chaddy.”
“Knew him how?”
“We were soldiers together in World War two.”
“Impossible! That would make you… well, dead.”
“Yes, by all rights, I should be. But I ended up here instead.”
Hemi slouched down in the chair. “Could someone please explain to me where here is?”
“We’ll get to that in a moment. First you need to know what your grandpa did. He pushed me out of the way when we were ambushed by the Germans in Berlin during the last days of the war. I fell into a sinkhole and woke up here. In the Smoke.”
“Mum told me that grandpa was captured by the Germans. They tortured him to death. She said he was a hero for not giving up information to the Germans.”
“I feared as much. His death, I mean. Hemi, your grandpa was a great man, but you need to know that you are great as well. Do you believe that?”
Hemi shook his head. “I let me mum down. The whole family down. There’s no greatness in that.”
Ms. Simone squeezed Hemi’s arm. “We are all here for a purpose. If you didn’t possess some greatness, you would never have arrived here.”
“I don’t understand. Where is here?”
Nellie smiled at Hemi and then looked at the other two. She widened her eyes and nodded her head. The other two nodded back.
“We don’t know exactly where here is. As far as we can tell, it is an alternate universe. There are two realms – the Smoke and the Village. There could be more, but we only know of these two. But we strongly believe that we were brought here for a purpose and you must believe that too.”
Hemi listened to Nellie, but grew even more frustrated. He hoped for answers, not speculations.
“So you lot have no idea where we are either? Great! And that’s bullocks about a purpose. You just need to believe in something. What if this is all just a bloody random nightmare and we will never wake up? Did you even think of that? Anyway, this is a waste of my time sitting here listening to the three of you. I need to find my friends and get out of here.”
“Your friends are still in the Village?” Ethan asked.
“I guess. Unless they got stupid like me and got themselves exiled.”
“If they were roaming in the Smoke, we’d know,” Ethan informed him.
Hemi narrowed his eyes. “How would you know?”
“We have sensors.”
Hemi shoved himself away from the table. “You sure do acquire a lot of stuff to be stuck here in this bloody Smoke. There’s a way outta here, innit?”
Ms. Simone shook her head. “No, Hemi. There isn’t a way out of here. We only have what we brought with us and,” she stopped, looked at the other two and then continued, “what we snatch from the Village.”
This is now a round-robin between Keith Channing and I.
or Jump ahead to Chapter 9