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Zanzibar – Part 26

October 5, 2016

Zanzibar – Part 26

by Keith Channing

It was only about a hundred metres to Ruth’s house, but at that moment it felt to Javelin more like a hundred times that. He was running as fast as he could, but it was though he were running through treacle, making little progress. When the pair finally reached the house, Ruth was lying inside, on the floor of the room with the couch in it. Javelin had taken some first-aid training and knew, or thought he knew, roughly what he needed to do. He knelt beside her and felt for a pulse.

“There might be something, but it’s so weak, I can’t be sure whether I’m feeling her blood pumping, or my own.” he said, “Get me a mirror, Jacob, then tell me what happened.”

Jacob slipped into the bathroom and came back with a small mirror, which he handed to the young Motorhead. Javelin held it close to Ruth’s mouth and nose for a minute or two, then examined it.


“You want me to tell you what happened now, Javelin?”


“After you left, Ruth and I continued talking about the visit from the Settlers, trying to figure out exactly why they came. We didn’t altogether believe their story about our people stealing from them, any more than we believed them, when they claimed not to have stolen from us. Ruth went quiet, her eyes rolled up and she fell backward onto the floor. I didn’t worry about that; it’s the same as you did when you were called and the same as she had done before. I started to worry when she didn’t immediately start moaning. That was what she had done previously, and what you did. At first, I thought she had banged her head badly, but her head landed on a cushion, so that wasn’t likely. What’s happened, Javelin? Why isn’t she coming round?”

“I don’t know, Jacob,” Javelin said, “and I don’t know how to find out.”

His own words sounded somehow distant to him, as though they were relayed through something far away. He became aware of another voice. It was a voice he had heard before. He opened his eyes and looked around himself at the vast chamber, and the multi-coloured moss flooring.

“Rodney,” the voice said to him, “you’ve come to see me again.”

“Did I have any choice?” he asked.

“Not really, although you do have free will, of course, and you can shut out my summons. Over the years, many have been called, but few have come into my presence.”

“So, why have you brought me here this time?”

“You needed to see me, young Rodney.”

“Yes, I did. I wanted to talk about my people.”

“They’re not all with you now, are they?”

“No. Hemi and Comet are in the Smoke…”

“Ah yes, Chadwick and young Tracey Northwood.”

“Yeah; and Wildcat is in the Settlement.”

“And with a new name.”

“Was that your idea?”

“His being in the Settlement, or the new name?”


“Wildcat is the name you use for William Bloor. When you all arrived in the Village, it was clear to me that William was, temperamentally, more suited to the Settlement than to the Village. I transposed him. The name given to him is an approximation of his family name, and so would seem comfortable and familiar to him while his mind and body were being, shall we say, modified to suit his new environment.”

“Okay, Arikatoteshika, we’ll talk about that later. I would like to get my posse together, in one place, so we can see about returning to our homes. In the meantime, what’s the deal with Ruth?”

“Ruth has been a good, reliable and trusted vessel for me for many, many years. I thought she deserved to rest.”

“I can see that, but did she deserve to die?”

“Rodney, Rodney, Rodney. I can see that you still have much to learn. No-one ever dies here; not in the sense you mean, anyway. No. When an individual becomes too tired in body to continue my purpose in the Village, they simply move on to another phase of existence. Those who have not served me well are translated to the Settlement, where their Essences—”

“Their what?”

“Their Sentient Essences. You may think of it as their spirits, or their souls. It is that which makes them human. Those that end up in the Settlement form the perimeter field, holding the Settlement in its peculiar time-bubble. None may leave, even temporarily, without my approval. They seek this approval by asking the perimeter field to intercede for them.”

“And they call you…?”

“The people of the Settlement call me the Great Black Head.”

“Why the Great Black Head?”

“Oh, come on, Rodney. Remember your Earth history. Or maybe it hasn’t happened yet for you… You know my given name.”

“Yes, Norman.”

“Don’t snigger. There was, or will be, depending on your period, a famous Norman, whose surname gave me the idea.”

“Yeah, whatever. But what does this have to do with Ruth?”

“Ruth has served me well. Ruth’s Essence is bound for the Temple in the Smoke. There she will join the many who have gone before her and who, between them, form the nucleus of my power in that domain. So you see, Ruth will continue to serve me. In fact, the gifts that she has used in my service in the Village will enhance my power in the Smoke, and will serve to reduce the suffering of my people there.”

“But who will take Ruth’s place in the Village?”

“You surprise me, young Rodney Dean. That should be obvious to you.”

“It isn’t obvious to me, so would you like to tell me?”

“You, Rodney. You will take Ruth’s place.”

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, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25

or Jump ahead to Part 27

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