Zanzibar – Part 34
Zanzibar – Part 34
“How can that be?” Rodney asked Jacob, “I thought this stuff was regular.”
“It always has been. Alex has been studying the phenomenon for a long time, and I have never known him not agree with Ingvildr’s forecast. Only this morning, he told me it would happen tomorrow.”
“So, what’s happened?”
“I don’t know. Should I find Alex?”
“Yes, but get the sentries out first. Look at the sky; is it normal for the moons to move that quickly?”
“No, it’s not. I’ll get the perimeter watchers out straight away.”
The moons were certainly moving more quickly than Rodney expected them to. Whether that was normal or not, he couldn’t say, but his gut told him that something was going seriously wrong.
There was nothing he could do about that, but he started thinking. Has Norman asked the Architect to correct the anomaly he was talking about earlier? Is he trying to reset something himself, without involving the Architect? Is there some connection with Ruth’s new role? Norman had told Rodney that he now had the people he wanted in key positions in all three realms: Bill in the Settlement, Chad and Tracey in the Smoke, and Rodney himself in the Village. Does the Arikatoteshika think that gives him the power base he needs to run the show his way? And is he finding out, a little too late, that it doesn’t?
Rodney heard a lot of commotion from all around, and as he peered through the increasing darkness, he could make out Villagers setting themselves up at their sentry stations. Looking up, it seemed to Rodney as though the smaller moon pulsed brighter for an instant. Immediately after that, there was a flash of light and a body rolled along the ground towards him. Before he saw who it was, it reminded him of the day Hemi was literally physically thrown out of a pub when he’d tried to go in under-age. Whoever it was, stood in front of him, covered in soot from head to toe, and looked him straight in the eye. Rodney couldn’t make out who it was, but he had an idea that it was someone from the Smoke, arrived to steal provisions.
Disregarding his own instruction to the sentries not to engage with the intruders, merely to note their arrival and record their actions, Rodney said, “Identify yourself. Who are you, where have you come from, and why are you here?”
“My name is Rodney Dean. I am the Curator’s chosen representative in this realm.”
“Oooh. I am the Curator’s chosen representative in this realm,” the intruder said, mockingly. “You are Javelin of the Motorhead Gang, and I am Hemi. I am the leader of this gang, and you will do exactly as I tell you.”
“Bugger. It didn’t work.”
“I hoped I’d be sent back to the Smoke if I started giving orders, like I was before.”
“Come with me, Chad. Let’s get you cleaned up and into some fresh clothes. Mine should fit you okay.” Rodney led Chad into his house and ran a hot bath for his friend. “I’ll be outside when you’ve finished,” he said, and went back to the place where his friend had arrived.
Jacob returned, accompanied by Alex.
“Strange things are happening,” Rodney said.
“I know,” Jacob replied, “The small moon pulsed, and a few people said they saw a bright light near your position right afterwards.”
“Yeah, I clocked that.”
“Then the large moon pulsed. Did you see a bright light after it?”
“I didn’t see the pulse, I had to go into the house for a moment. What do you make of it, Alex?” Rodney asked.
“It is a significant departure from the mathematical projections,” he said, “and I think we should be concerned. No, not concerned, worried. We should make plans; plans for a very different future.”
“He’s right,” Chadwick said, approaching the group, “the wisest people in the Smoke are worried, and I was grabbed by some sort of vortex and dumped here, which is not how it’s supposed to happen.”
Alexander of Samos looked pensive. He crouched to the ground, picked up a stick and drew a circle. Through the middle of the circle, he drew a straight line. “There is an ancient prophecy, one that hasn’t been referenced for an unconscionably long time. It is said that in the last days, the moons’ orbits will accelerate, the lesser sun will become visible, and the distinction between night and day will fade.”
“According to the First Ones, the Smoke, including the cavern system that supports its people, is actually on the lesser sun.”
“Who are the First Ones?” Rodney asked.
“They are the most senior residents of the Smoke. They alone have access to the Temple, and the secrets it holds.”
“Who is worshipped in this Temple?”
“I don’t know, Jav. I don’t have access to it.”
“Could it be the Arikatoteshika?”
“I told you, I don’t know, and I certainly have no idea who or what this Harry Toshak is.”
“Who is this person, Rodney?” Jacob asked.
“Don’t you recognise him? This is Chadwick, known as Hemi in the gang. He was the first of us to disappear, after he broke one of the Curator’s rules.”
“I can see that now. Gosh, he’s aged a lot since he left us.”
“The Smoke will do that to a person,” Chad said, a note of sadness, or maybe resignation, in his voice.
“What else does the prophecy say, Alex?” Rodney asked.
“Nothing beyond what I said just now.”
“What can you tell us about the Smoke, Chad, and how and why you come across here to steal our produce?”
“The why is simple. Nothing grows in the Smoke. Our only source of food is, and has always been, the Village and the Settlement. As to the how: there is a place where, at the time of the twin full moons, a doorway to the Village opens for one hour, giving us enough time for two or three people to get through, collect some food and get back safely. After that, a doorway to the Settlement opens for a little longer. That’s all I know; today was the first time I’d been into the crossing place.”
“And you were chosen to cross today?”
“No. I was supposed to be guarding the entrance, in case anyone tried to cross from the Village to the Smoke.”
“So why are you here?”
“I told you, Jav, I was grabbed by some sort of vortex. The last thing I knew before landing here was being drawn into the vortex, and Astair, one of the elders, trying to hold me back.”
“And how do you get back?”
“I don’t know if I can. It’s been more than an hour since I arrived, and there’s no sign of a doorway. I think I’m stuck here.”
“Jacob,” Rodney said, “can you round up Cobra, Cougar, Mustang and Rambler, please? They can bring their girlfriends as well. I think I need to have a group meeting.”
“What about Cobra’s boyfriend?” Jacob asked.
“Cobra has a boyfriend?” Chad asked.
“Sure. You do know he’s gay, don’t you?”
“Yeah. There’s more to him than meets the eye. Speaking of relationships, how’s Tracey?”
“Tracey? Oh, Comet. Yeah, she’s good. At least, she was when I last saw her, an hour ago. God, I hope I get to see her again.”
Rodney saw a tear running down Chad’s cheek. “Are you crying?” he asked.
“No, mate. Motorheads don’t cry. Must be watering ‘cos of some stuff left over from the Smoke.”
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, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33
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