Zanzibar – Part 30
(Note: My co-writer, Keith, has written Part 30, I am assuming while still on vacation. I hope you will find this part as exciting as I do!)
Zanzibar – Part 30
“Jacob! What the Hell are you doing?” Rodney asked accusingly. He had entered Ruth’s, now his, hut and found Jacob kneeling beside Ruth’s body, having surrounded it with small candles and painted on her forehead an insignia that Rodney had never seen before, but that he knew spoke to Jacob’s ancestral roots. Jacob was pouring oil onto the mark, while looking skyward with one hand raised, and chanting something in a language that was not common in the Village.
“I must try everything I can to bring her back,” Jacob replied tearfully, “the Village can’t survive without her. I can’t survive without her.”
Rodney felt well up within him, a sense of power and authority that frightened and threatened to overwhelm him.
“Jacob, known as Madoowbe,” he snapped, “Have you listened to nothing I have said? Did you comprehend none of the information I imparted? Cease and desist NOW, and prepare your sister Ruth according to the customs of the Village.”
“H-how do you know my tribal nickname?” Jacob asked.
“I know stuff,” Rodney replied, “now go and do as I have commanded you.”
Jacob rose to his feet, bowed briefly toward Rodney and backed out of the hut, wringing his hands as he did so. Once he had cleared to entrance door, he turned and ran off into the Village.
Trembling at his new-found capability, Rodney extinguished all the candles and cleaned the marks and oil from Ruth’s forehead, using a cloth he found near her body. Having finished that task, he covered the body with a bed-sheet, looked up, and muttered, “I know.”
A sound at the door caused Rodney to arouse from his near-trance state. Standing in the entrance was an old woman of Nordic appearance. Although Rodney had never seen this woman before, he knew who she was, and why she was at the door.
“When, Ingvildr?” he asked.
“Two noons,” she replied, then turned and left.
Rodney followed her out of the door, but the old woman was not to be seen. He strode toward the Village centre, where he found Jacob addressing the gathered population. He was relating faithfully what he had been told to tell them; the villagers were listening in stunned silence. When Jacob reached a suitable point in his address, Rodney approached him, cupped his hand around Jacob’s ear, and whispered, “Whatever needs to be done, has to be done tomorrow.”
“Why?” Jacob mouthed in reply.
“The twin moons will be full in two days.”
Jacob raised his eyebrows.
“Ingvildr has announced it.”
Jacob continued his address as though nothing had interrupted it. “And finally, my brothers and sisters,” he said, “the ceremony will take place tomorrow. In keeping with the custom, the pyre will be created tomorrow morning and our sister’s body placed on it. When the sun reaches its zenith, Ruth’s appointed replacement will apply the flame.” This gave Rodney pause; he had not expected his first official task to be setting the fire that would consume his predecessor’s body. “People of the Village,” Jacob continued, “the Curator, in his wisdom, has chosen as Ruth’s replacement, our fried Rodney – one of the group of young people recently arrived here.”
A middle-aged man in the back of the group shouted out, “Why is it always blacks? Why can’t a white man have the job?” The number of people who were nodding in agreement reduced significantly and abruptly when the heckler disappeared.
“I think the Curator has answered that question, don’t you?” Jacob asked. The entire population muttered in agreement. The crowd began to break up as Rodney and Jacob left the podium and started back to what was now Rodney’s hut.
“You have seen Ingvildr?” Jacob asked.
“I have. She came to my door.”
“And you knew who she was?”
“Don’t ask me how, Jacob, but yes, I knew. The same as I knew your old nickname – very appropriate, by the way.” They both chuckled.
“She spoke to you?”
“She answered my question. I asked ‘When?’, she answered, ‘two noons’ and promptly vanished.”
“Wow. You are the Chosen One.”
“I wish it weren’t so, but yes; I believe I am. But now, we need to decide what to do in two nights’ time.”
“I addressed the people earlier, before… before Ruth…” Jacob paused and took a few deep breaths. Rodney placed an arm around his shoulders. “…before Ruth left us.”
“Take your time, Jacob.”
“No, I’m fine. Anyway; I think we can muster about two hundred folk to watch the perimeter for the four hours the moons are full together.”
“Yes. The smaller moon cycles more quickly than the larger and starts to wane after about three and a half hours. Four hours will more than cover it.”
“Is two hundred enough to cover the perimeter?”
“Alex says they’d need to be spaced about 40 metres apart.”
“Alexander of Samos. He studied under Pythagoras – before he was dragged here, of course.”
“He studied under Pythagoras?”
“Yeah. Brilliant mathematician, Alex is. He’s expanded on a lot of his master’s ideas. You two should get together.”
“What, me with my C- in the mock GCSE maths? I can barely do adding up, taking away, timesing and sharing!”
“That was before you became the Chosen One. You know stuff now, remember?” Rodney smiled.
Back in the hut, they were pleased to see that Ruth’s body had been removed and a note left in its place, bearing the signature of the Purifier. Rodney dismissed Jacob and started rearranging his new home to suit his taste and needs. After an hour of this, he was satisfied with what he had achieved, and lay on his bed to rest. He immediately found himself again in the presence of the Arikatoteshika.
Even in the presence of the Curator, Rodney stood to his full height. “Why have you summoned me, Arikatoteshika?”
“It is time for you to know why I have chosen you to lead my people, and what that role entails.”
“And what of my desire, and that of my friends, to return to the place we came from?” he asked.
The Arikatoteshika laughed; a deep, resonant, booming laugh; a laugh that had Rodney picturing a helpless girl chained to a railway line as a locomotive approached at full steam.
“Those matters, we can discuss later,” he boomed. “For now, you need to know about the things that are to come. Important things, dreadful things. Things that will curdle your soul as acid curdles milk. Events that will visit themselves upon you soon. Very soon. Sooner than you can begin to imagine.”
That laugh again.
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, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29
or Jump ahead to Part 31