Zanzibar – Part 18
Zanzibar – Part 18
by Lori Carlson
On the trek back to the caves, Hemi couldn’t get Comet’s words out of his mind. “I knew you’d find me. I love you.” What did she mean? Sure, she was a girl, but she’d never wanted to be treated like one. She’d always insisted on being just one of the guys. A complete tomboy. Hell, she’d even talked about wanting to be a real boy a few times. Hemi was confused.
Ethan carried Comet’s limp body through the Smoke and around the winding lava flow. Every so often, Nellie would send a flare up. If he hadn’t been tethered to Nellie, Hemi would have fallen behind. As it were, he had to keep moving as fast as the other two did. A few times, when they stopped to rest, he noticed that Ethan and Nellie appeared exhausted. They kept a good front, but Hemi could tell something was wrong. Their breathing was erratic and their faces were flush.
“Not much further,” Nellie said as she shot another flare into the air.
Hemi nodded, but his curiosity got to him again. “How can you tell?”
Nellie walked over to one of the large boulders and pointed to a symbol. “That sign tells us that we are less than a kilometer away.”
Hemi finally understood. He thought the flares were to signal their return, but they were to light the way so they could see the symbols. There was still much so much he needed to learn about this place, but he hoped he wouldn’t have to be here much longer.
“Come,” Ethan stated as he stood up and lifted Comet into his arms. “We should get moving before the lightning strikes begin again.”
Hemi had noticed a pattern in the lightning strikes. Apparently Ethan and Nellie knew about it too. Five fierce strikes were followed by three smaller ones, and then it would stop for a bit. He wished he had a watch so he could time the between times.
They journeyed on, winding around the lava flow. After a while, Hemi began to outpace Nellie. He stopped and waited for her each time he felt the rope grow taunt. Ethan lagged even further behind since he was carrying Comet.
Nellie shot up another flare and then leaned against a boulder. “Just a few more meters,” she whispered as she untied the rope. “Go ahead, Hemi. Tell them we are almost there.”
A flash of concern crossed Hemi’s face. “Are you sure? I can wait until you two are ready to move on again.”
“I am sure. Run along. We will be there shortly,” Nellie said.
Hemi did as Nellie asked. He hurried along the last of the lava flow. The smoke was less dense as he neared the cave, but still thick enough to hide the entrance. He had to feel his way around the large boulder. When he finally felt the empty space, he rushed inside, winding down the barely lit passageways. After a few moments, he finally made it to the large common room.
“Miss Simone!” he yelled as he frantically searched for her. The others in the room stared at him, alarm present on all of their faces.
Miss Simone ducked her head as she stepped out of an alcove and into the common room. “Hemi?”
“Ethan and Nellie,” he panted. “Something is wrong!”
Miss Simone crossed the room and put a hand on Hemi’s back. “Calm down, child. Tell me what’s going on.”
Hemi bent over, placing his palms on his knees. He took deep breaths and then finally stood upright again. He feigned a smile at Miss Simone before speaking and nodded that he was okay.
“I think something is wrong with Ethan and Nellie. They are exhausted and still a few meters away.”
Miss Simone sighed. “Bukara and Victor,” she said, pointing to the two boys. “See if you can find Ethan and Nellie. Do not wander past the entrance to the lava flow though.”
The two boys nodded at her and rushed out of the common room. Hemi walked over to the large pool of water and dipped a cup in. He took a few drinks and headed back to Miss Simone who was now seated at a large table in the center of the room.
“It was Comet,” he said as he sat down across from her.
“My friend Comet. That’s who was in the Smoke.”
“Is she okay?”
“She is alive, but very weak from inhaling the smoke and ash. Ethan is carrying her.”
Miss Simone nodded. “We will fix her up.” She hesitated for a moment as she surveyed Hemi’s face. “Something else is bothering you, child. What is it?”
Hemi bowed his head and stared into his cup. “Just something Comet said. It’s nothing. I am sure she was just glad to see me.”
Placing a hand on Hemi’s, Miss Simone smiled. “I don’t want to pry, but if you need someone to talk to, you can always talk to me.”
Hemi was about to tell her that he couldn’t talk to her about Comet when a commotion broke out. Bukara and Victor ran into the common room.
“We’re back!” the two said in union, laughing and patting one another on the back.
Seconds later, Ethan walked in, still carrying Comet. Nellie followed close behind. Miss Simone rushed to Ethan and lifted Comet from his arms. She carried the limp girl to a table and began barking orders.
“Bukara, get the medical bag. Victor, get some water for this poor child. Ethan and Nellie, go get some rest. I will speak with you both later.”
Hemi stood in the middle of the room watching as everyone did what Miss Simone asked. He looked over at Comet lying on the table. For the first time since he’d known her, she looked frail and very much like a girl.
This is now a round-robin between Keith Channing and I.
or Jump ahead to Part 19