Zanzibar – Part 21
Zanzibar – Part 21
“Wildcat!” Javelin called out loudly. No reply came. No hint of recognition of the name or of Javelin.
“What does this mean?” Javelin asked, looking towards Ruth and Jacob.
“I don’t know what Ruth thinks,” Jacob said, “but I reckon we’re in uncharted waters here. Do you have a line to the Curator?”
“Not really. Haven’t heard a thing since I was taken to him that time.”
“Can you try?” Ruth asked.
“I guess so, but I don’t know how.”
Abruptly, Ruth gazed skyward. Her lips were moving, but no sound came out. Javelin jumped forward, grabbed Ruth by the shoulders and gently shook her.
“Ruth,” he said, “Ruth. Are you alright, Ruth?”
Jacob held Javelin back and said, “This is exactly what you did when you went to see the Curator. Perhaps she’s going there.”
Ruth’s eyes rolled back into her head until just the whites showed between her open lids. Then she collapsed in a heap on the floor. The female from the group of three crossed the gap between them and the Villagers in an impossibly short time, touched Ruth lightly on the head for the briefest of moments and scooted back to her companions as quickly as she had arrived. Ruth coughed a little, and her eyes opened.
“I know what we must do,” she said, “and there is no time to waste.”
Javelin crouched over her and whispered, “Bit of a cliché, Ruth. Have you seen the Arikatoteshika?”
“I have,” she replied. “Now you must go over to the group, and touch gently on the forehead of the one you know as Wildcat.”
“I don’t just know him as Wildcat; he is Wildcat.”
“Not now, he isn’t. Now he has a name suited to his time and place. You must touch his forehead with your right index finger, as quickly and as lightly as you can manage, then withdraw and come back here. And, whatever you do, don’t say anything while your finger is touching him.”
“That sounds pretty specific, Ruth,” Jacob suggested.
“Jacob, my friend. You have not met the Curator. You don’t know his name. If you did, you would appreciate why this must be done in exactly the way he has instructed.”
“If I do this, Ruth, do you know what the outcome will be? Will anyone be changed? Will anyone be hurt? Will it help us? Will it help Wildcat? Can I say anything before I touch him? And afterwards?”
“Yes, yes, no, yes, yes, yes and yes, in that order. Now, for the sake of everything we hold dear, go and do it. There is a power that will be unleashed when one of us makes physical contact with one of the Settlers. That power can be destructive and damaging to both parties unless contact is made exactly as the Arikatoteshika commands. Then it will be benign and empowering.”
“I need to talk about this with the others, first. Meeting with Wildcat like this isn’t something I want to do without the support of the guys.”
“No time, young Javelin. They will not stay here for long. Remember; the lightest of touches. It is through such contact that the Arikatoteshika can weave his influence. Now go!”
Javelin leapt to his feet, leaving Jacob to help Ruth back to hers. Having been through a meeting with the big man, he knew how weak he felt afterwards; and he was young and fit. Not to put too fine a point, Ruth didn’t display either of those attributes.
His progress over the 150-odd metres between the two groups was considerably slower than the Settlement female had managed, though in fairness, he wasn’t in too much of a hurry to cover the distance. His hands were in his pockets and he was moving with that combination of walking, slouching and skipping with the odd ‘pas chassé’ that is a trademark of the Motorhead Gang.
Approaching the trio, he said, “I know you probably can’t understand me, but we need you back, Wildcat. The gang ain’t the gang without you.”
The whale-song response must have meant something to the Settlers, but to Villagers, it was just sound. It had a certain rhythmic quality to it, enough to suggest that it could have been a form of language, but nothing intelligible to Javelin or any of the others. Javelin reached out silently, and as one would quickly and carefully touch something one suspected of being dangerously hot, let his right index finger make fleeting contact with his friend’s brow. He then withdrew a few metres and addressed the three. “I don’t know if you can understand me, but I and my friends need our pal Wildcat back.”
The one he believed to be Wildcat responded in whale-song. Miraculously, Javelin could understand it.
“The one you call Wildcat is no more. This unit now bears the name given to him by the Great Black Head. Praise to the Great Black Head.”
Two whale-song voices echoed, “Praise to the Great Black Head.”
“This unit,” Wildcat continued, “bears the name that is a homophone of the initial uttering of the first unit to see it.”
“What is your name now? If I cannot call you Wildcat, what should I call you?”
“My name, given to me by the Great Black Head, [chorus of Praise to the Great Black Head] is Bleugh.”
This is now a round-robin between Keith Channing and I.
If you missed a chapter, click to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20
or Jump ahead to Part 22