Zanzibar – Part 20
Zanzibar – Part 20
by Lori Carlson
The First Ones met in the alcove behind their meeting room. The three had always shared the small living space which barely housed their beds and a small table where they ate their meals. They hadn’t always been so aloof from the others, but as their sickness became more noticeable, they spent more time away from the rest.
Nellie eased her head off of a pillow and turned over on her side. Ethan laid on his bed across from her and Miss Simone sat at the table with a star chart scrolled out in front of her.
“We have to tell them,” Nellie whispered.
Miss Simone looked up from her chart. “And what do you propose we say? Sorry, but we are dying and soon so will all of you.”
“Nothing as blunt as that, Simone,” Ethan argued without diverting his eyes from the stone wall above his head. “They have a right to know.”
“I won’t be able to make another trip into the Smoke and Ethan can’t go alone. We have…,” Nellie tried to continue speaking, but began coughing instead.
“We have to train someone else, or a couple of people,” Ethan finished for her.
Nellie nodded her head in between coughs.
Simone sighed deeply. She trained her dark eyes on Nellie for a long moment and then turned her head to Ethan. “I suppose you want to train others for Temple duties and to make the trek to the Village as well.”
Swaying unsteadily, Nellie swung her legs over the edge of the bed and sat up. “Look at me, Simone,” she said, lifting her white robe above her knees. Thick black lines ran up and down her calves and thighs. She tossed the robe down over her ankles and then lifted her sleeves, revealing the same thick lines up her arms. “It’s getting worse. I am getting worse. I get exhausted just walking across the Common room. Ar this rate, I won’t live until the next new moon for Temple duties. Hell, I may not even make it to the Village.”
“Mine has worsened too,” Ethan said as he sat up and pulled open his robe, revealing thick black lines streaked across his chest. “We can’t keep doing this alone,” he concluded as he pulled the robe tightly around his body.
“But we are the First Ones. If we let others in, we cease to be the guides for these people,” Simone argued.
Ethan stood up and walked over to Simone. He placed one hand on her back and caressed her cheek with the other. Simone lowered her head until her cheek was cradled in his hand. She closed her eyes and sighed. Ethan knelt down beside her, wrapping his arm around her shoulder.
“If we die without passing along our knowledge, everyone here and anyone who ends up here, will die. You know that. We’ve just been putting off the inevitable,” Ethan whispered into her ear.
Nellie eased her way over to the other two and placed a hand on Simone’s arm. “We can still be their guides. They won’t lose respect for us just because we will no longer make the journeys.”
After a long moment of silence, Simone nodded her head in approval. “We will have to set up a whole new hierarchy. We can no longer allow those who sacrifice their lives for Temple duties to go into the Smoke or to the Village since those activities only accelerate the tainting of the blood. They will have to know the risks involved.”
“Agreed,” Ethan and Nellie said in unison.
“And it will have to be voluntary,” Simone concluded.
Nellie rose from the floor and grabbed a tablet and pen from under her bed. “We may as well write this all down,” she said as she rejoined Ethan and Simone at the table.
Ethan released his hold on Simone and sat down at the table across from her. “This is the right thing to do,” he said with a smile.
“It is never right to ask even a few to die to save the rest,” Simone sighed. “But the alternative…” Her voice trailed off as she shuddered from the thought of everyone dying. “Let’s get started.”
This is now a round-robin between Keith Channing and I.
or Jump ahead to Part 21