Zanzibar – Part 19
Zanzibar – Part 19
When Javelin entered Ruth’s home, he found her deep in conversation with Jacob. Ruth raised a finger towards Jacob and turned to face Javelin.
“I think I know what you want to talk to me about,” she said, “Jacob spoke to me of your encounter with a minor time paradox.”
“Yeah, that too,” Javelin replied, “but there’s something bigger.”
“Bigger than a time paradox?” Jacob asked.
“I think so. That space after Rambler’s name on the weird stone. It’s Wildcat. He came with us, but we haven’t seen him since we arrived.”
“Do you feel he is in the Smoke?” Ruth asked.
“No, I don’t. The image I have, when I try to picture where he is, shows a primitive place with nothing much apart from a few mud huts and brush land.”
“Could it be this Settlement you told me about?”
“I think so. But even that’s not the worst thing.”
“There’s more?” Jacob asked.
Javelin’s head and shoulders dropped. “Yeah,” he said, “none of us can remember what Wildcat looks like.”
“That is more worrying,” Ruth said and started whispering something to Jacob. Jacob left the house.
“Where’s Jacob gone, Ruth?”
“I’ve asked him to scan the Village archives for recent disappearances. Am I right in thinking you can still picture your friends whom you know to be in the Smoke?”
“Hemi and Comet? Well, yeah. I can see them almost as if they were in front of me now.”
“As I thought. I’ve tasked Jacob to find any anomalies in people’s recollection of those who had disappeared from the Village.”
“What are you expecting him to find?”
“I don’t know, Javelin. I wish I did. I know of some people who have left us without having broken any of the Creator’s rules – as far as we know, anyway. If they have ended up in the other place—”
“Exactly. If they are there, the question will be whether they were sent or taken.”
“You think they’ve been kidnapped by people from the Settlement?”
“When we know nothing, Javelin, that’s exactly what we can rule out.”
“Not with you.”
“We have to consider as possible, anything that we do not know to be impossible.”
“And if, as seems to be the case, nothing is impossible, then everything must be considered possible.”
Javelin and Ruth stood for some time in silence, each of them no doubt considering their position and the vast number of possible solutions to these latest issues.
“Javelin?” Ruth said at last, “What do you see when you visualise the Settlement.”
“Just what I said,” he replied, “mud huts, roughly grass-thatched, scattered among low bushes.”
“That may be because there’s no-one there, but my guess is that there’s some kind of filtering going on.”
“If I knew that, Javelin, I’d be the Curator!”
“I think I’ve found something,” Jacob said, entering Ruth’s house.
“Shouldn’t you knock before coming in, Jacob?” Ruth asked, “Young Javelin and I could have been engaged in something we wouldn’t want you to see.”
“No you wouldn’t,” Jacob said.
“No, we wouldn’t,” Ruth agreed, with a chuckle, “What have you found?”
“During the past three moons, of the six disappearances, only four are known to have broken any of the rules.”
“What of the other two? Who were they?”
“That’s the thing. No-one can describe them. If we hadn’t been able to establish their names from the records, we wouldn’t even be certain of their gender. It’s one young Egyptian woman, Fatima, and an older Australian man, Donald.”
“I’ll bet they’re in the Settlement,” Javelin said.
“I tend to agree,” Jacob said, “but were they sent by the Curator, and if so then why? Or were they taken. I mean, Ruth, we’ve been assuming that the missing things have been taken to the Smoke, but what if we’re wrong? What if they’re being taken by people from the settlement?”
“Yeah,” Javelin added, “and based on what I’ve seen, or not, they’d be effectively invisible to us.”
“Woah!” Jacob said, “This is big. Are we really saying that there are people who can come and go as they please, under the protection of invisibility?”
“No, we’re not saying that,” Ruth replied, “we’re saying that there may possibly be people who can come and go as they please, under the protection of invisibility. It’s all theoretical for the moment.”
“Like the Big Bang Theory?” Javelin asked.
“And string theory,” Ruth replied.
“Super,” Jacob said with a grin.
“Enough!” Ruth admonished. “This isn’t helping. Happily, unlike theoretical physicists, we can put out theories to the test.”
“How?” Javelin asked.
“When the full moons arrive, we’ll put out things that are often taken, and make sure we have people watching them all night. If we see someone making off with the items, it’ll be the Smoke; if the items simply disappear, we’ll know it’s the Settlement.”
“What can we do to help?” Javelin asked.
“Your group can join in the watch. We’ll have a meeting soon to organise it.”
Suddenly, the normal background sounds of the village; the usual run of birdsong, crickets, cicada and human chatter, stopped, only to be replaced by an air of panic. Confusion had taken over, people were screaming and running to and fro, seemingly without purpose. Ruth, Jacob and Javelin left the house and went into the square.
“What’s all the fuss?” Javelin said.
“Over there,” Jacob replied, pointing in the direction directly opposite that in which the majority of the villagers were running.
Looking across, Javelin saw three people, two male and one female. They were completely naked, their bodies coated in an off-white substance as though they’d been dipped in whitewash. Their eyes were open, but where there should have been eyeballs, there was total blackness, as though the sockets were empty. The two males were carrying large objects that resembled primitive clubs, the woman held her arms as though supporting a young baby, though nothing was visible. Although the three gave the appearance of speaking, no words came from their mouths, just a continuous stream of what sounded like whale song.
“That’s them,” Javelin announced, “That’s Wildcat and the others.”
“Do you know that?” Ruth asked.
“Yes,” he replied.
Jacob struggled to get words out. “H-how do you know that?” he asked at last.
“I just do, Jacob,” Javelin replied, “I just do.”
This is now a round-robin between Keith Channing and I.
or Jump ahead to Part 20