Zanzibar – Part 14
Zanzibar – Part 14
by Lori Carlson
Hemi sat on the floor of one of the game alcoves with Bukara, a ten year old from somewhere in Africa. Bukara didn’t remember where. Technically, he was twenty-seven, but since no one aged here, he still looked like a child. Hemi was careful not to treat him as one though. As they played a game of checkers, Hemi asked questions.
“What’s it been like living in this cave for seventeen years?”
Bukara broke his concentration and looked up at Hemi curiously. “Has it been that long?”
“By my calculations, yes.”
“Doesn’t feel that long. Are you sure?”
“Ms. Simone showed me the ledger she’s kept since arriving here. She lists everyone who arrives and records the year of arrival. You arrived here seventeen years ago.”
“Oh.” Bukara paused for a moment and then waved his hand across his face. “I am sure they are still relying on that old timepiece of Nellie’s. It’s broken down many times. I doubt it has been that long in real time. What year is it now?”
Bukara leaned back, resting on the palms of his hands. “Wow,” he finally said. “I guess it has been that long. Since every day is the same here in near-darkness, I hadn’t realized. No matter though.”
“No matter? Don’t you want to go home?”
“I am home. Besides, no one would know me back in Africa now anyway.”
Hemi stood up and shook his head. “I will never accept this place as home. There has to be a way to leave this place.”
Bukara chuckled. “Don’t you think we’ve all tried to find a way out of here? The First Ones have been searching for over a century.”
Hemi paced around the small alcove. He missed his friends and with each passing day, he felt more and more alone.
“Sit down and finish the game, Hemi.”
Just as Hemi was about to sit down, an alarm went off.
“Someone is in the Smoke,” Bukara said as he stood up. “C’mon!”
Bukara charged out of the alcove with Hemi following behind him. They weaved in and out of the cavern’s tunnels until they finally arrived in the main gathering room. The First Ones stood in the center of the room surrounded by all of the other inhabitants.
“Someone has entered the Smoke,” Ms. Simone said. “We don’t know if it is a first time or a banishment from the Village. Nellie and Ethan will go out and investigate.”
Hemi stepped forward. “What if it is one of my friends? Can’t I go along?”
Ms. Simone placed an arm around Hemi’s shoulders. “Dear child, it is best you stay here. Only Ethan and Nellie go out into the Smoke. We wouldn’t want to lose you out there.”
“But if it is one of my friends, won’t they be less scared if they saw me?”
“Possibly, but if it is someone new to this place, we have to get to them before they end up in the Village. Expediency is a must.”
Hemi shrugged off her arm from his shoulders. “Why do you want to bring someone new here. The Village is so much nicer!”
Ms. Simone looked at Nellie and Ethan and each nodded their heads. Ms. Simone feigned a smile. “The Village is not nicer, Hemi. You know that. It is filled with rules and swift punishment for breaking those rules. We have no such rules here and no measure of punishment. People disappear from there for even minute infractions. We much prefer to get to them before they even make it to the Village.”
“Please, Ms. Simone? I know my gang. They are unruly like me. If anyone is in the Smoke, I can guarantee it is one of them. Please let me go?”
Nellie walked over to a table, picked up a rope and went toward Hemi. “I will tether him to me,” she said as she wrapped the rope around his mid-section.
“Very well,” Ms. Simone said. “But you stay close to Nellie and Ethan. We’ve never lost anyone in the Smoke and we don’t intend to now.”
Hemi smiled and shook his head. He followed Nellie and Ethan out of the main room as they weaved their way through the cavern and out into the Smoke.
This is now a round-robin between Keith Channing and I.
or Jump ahead to Part 15