Zanzibar – Part 27
Zanzibar – Part 27
by Lori Carlson
“Whoa, wait. What’s this about a settlement?” Hemi inquired.
“Not a settlement, the Settlement,” Nellie corrected him.
Comet plopped down in a chair and glanced around at the First Ones. A wave of shock coursed through her body as she wrinkled her nose at them. Finally, she spoke. “Just how many places are there in this… this… whatever this place is?”
Ms. Simone patted the distraught young woman on the hand, smiling warmly at her before answering the question. “So far, we know of four – the Village, the Smoke which includes our cavern dwelling, the Settlement and the Temple. There could be more, but we have no evidence that more exist.”
“I thought the Temple was part of our dwelling,” Comet replied.
“Oh no, child. It is unlike anything you’ve ever seen or even dreamt about. You will understand in a few weeks,” Ms. Simone said as she gazed off into the distance. She remained that way for a long moment until Nellie shook her.
“Simone. Simone, come back to us.”
Ms. Simone inhaled deeply and closed her eyes. “I am sorry, Nellie… Comet. Please forgive me,” she whispered.
Comet shuddered. She didn’t know if she’d made the right choice now, but the voice repeated in her head – You are the chosen one. She glanced over at Hemi who was leaning against the stone wall, head bowed as if in deep thought.
“Listen, Comet and Hemi, I know things seem uncertain right now, but we’ve been doing all of this for a long time. We can sneak into the Settlement, gather some provision and return here in a short period of time. We’ve never run into a single person in the Settlement. It’s like… well, the best way to describe it is a ghost town,” Ethan said.
“Ethan, Lena and Tang will go this time. It will be good practice for Lena and Tang and no fear of discovery,” Ms. Simone decided. “Nellie needs more rest and there is always the chance that someone may enter the Smoke while the others are away.”
Hemi raised his head. With a flushed face and redened eyes, he glared at the First Ones. “But what about my gang? We were supposed to leave them a message.”
“It will have to wait,” Ms. Simone said dryly.
“No! You promised me,” Hemi said angrily as he stomped his feet. Then he turned away from them and smashed his right fist into the stone wall, not once, but twice. His knuckles swelled immediately and blood dripped down his arm. He turned back around, his eyes blazing red.
“Young man! We will have none of this,” Ms. Simone stated in a tone that Nellie and Ethan hadn’t heard for a long time. She grabbed Hemi by the shoulders and shook him, glaring at him with eyes that had turned completely black. “If one of us were captured, there is no telling what would happen. Permanent banishment? Death? Or something far worse? We cannot take that risk. Do you understand?” By now, Ms. Simone’s breathing came in short, shallow breaths, like an animal that had just attacked its prey.
Hemi stared at her for a moment with fear in his eyes. He slowly nodded his head. When Ms. Simone finally released him, he backed away from her and sank to the floor. Tears welled up in his eyes and he cupped his ears with his hands. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” he repeated over and over again as his body trembled and tears flowed down his face.
Comet slid off of the chair and crawled over to him. She wrapped an arm around him and cooed in his ear. With her free hand, she smoothed his hair from his face and gently planted a kiss upon his cheek.
“You’ve no idea what you’ve done,” Comet seethed at Ms. Simone. “He was abused as a child. His dad shook him, screamed at him, and then kicked him in the stomach. All. The. Time. And it didn’t take much to rile that drunken bastard either.”
Ethan took Ms. Simone’s hand and led her to the other side of the small enclosure. He pulled out a chair and gently helped her to sit down. Patting her on the hand, he smiled down at her and nodded his head at her a few times. She inhaled slowly and exhaled just as slow. After a few moments, her breathing returned to normal, as did her eyes – soft, chocolate pools once again. Nellie handed her a glass of water and she immediately downed the cool liquid. She looked up at Nellie and Ethan and nodded her head.
“Hemi,” Ms. Simone began, “I am terribly sorry. I… I don’t know what came over me. Honestly, child, I’ve never been this cross with anyone before,” she concluded as she sat the glass down on the table and lowered her head.
“We are all under a great deal of stress,” Nellie said. “Perhaps we should all get a good night’s sleep and discuss all of this again tomorrow.”
Ethan smiled at Hemi and Comet. “Yes, that would be best. Come, let me help you two back to your rooms.”
Comet stood up first, a defiant look on her face. “No thanks. We will help ourselves, just as we’ve always done.” She bent down and stretched out her hand toward Hemi. He placed his wounded hand gently inside hers and slowly rose from the floor. Without looking at the First Ones, the pair wrapped their arms about one another and left the meeting room.
Ethan paced the floor and Nellie sat beside Ms. Simone, holding her hand. They were all silent for a long moment.
Ethan finally broke the silence. “You nearly allowed the beast to come out, Simone. If any of these people knew what you are…” His voice trailed off as he sat down across from her and placed his head on the table.
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, Part 26
or Jump ahead to Part 28