Zanzibar – Part 35
Zanzibar – Part 35
by Lori Carlson
Ethan opened his eyes and shook his head. He looked around at his surroundings. He laid in the dust atop a mesa. Flat land stretched as far as his eyes could see with just a few stone buildings scattered every few metres. He glanced to his left and saw Nellie, Tang and Lena. They didn’t stir. He tried to stand up, but felt nauseous and sat back down. They were definitely in the Settlement, but he usually remembered coming through the passageway. He turned his head to the right and then twisted around. Where was the passageway? He squinted his eyes to see its shimmer, but it wasn’t there. He scooted over to Nellie and shook her.
“Nellie? Wake up.”
When she didn’t stir, he crawled over to Tang and Lena who laid side by side. He shook each of them and they slowly opened their eyes.
“Where are we?” Tang asked as he sat upright.
Lena blinked a few times and then held a hand up to shield her eyes from the sun. “Is it normally this bright?”
Ethan shook his head. “It shouldn’t be bright at all, but with time speeding up, it could be daylight already.”
Tang looked over at Nellie. “Is she okay?”
“I don’t know. She won’t come to.”
Tang tried to stand up, but fell back down. He too was nauseous. “Is this normal?” he asked.
Ethan sighed. “No, nothing about this trip is normal.”
Tang crawled over to Nellie and checked her pulse. “She’s still alive.”
“Stay with her until the nausea passes. Then I need you to carry her to one of those buildings. If we stay in the sun too long, we will dehydrate.”
Ehtan finally got to his feet and helped Lena up. She leaned on him as they crossed the dusty terrain. When they reached the nearest building and went inside, Lena slid down to the stone floor. The air was thin and she could barely breathe.
“Slow breaths,” Ethan instructed her as he went to a long stone slab. The concave center allowed water to settle there from an aqueduct system. He reached into his knapsack, pulled out a tin cup and scooped some water into it. He carried it over to Lena and handed it to her.
Ethan wandered around the other rooms and came back into the main room just as Tang entered, carrying Nellie in his arms. She still hadn’t regained consciousness, which worried Ethan. He directed Tang to place her beside Lena. He went back to the stone slab, removed a cloth from his bag and dipped it into the water. As he rung it out some of the water splashed against what Ethan thought was the wall, but suddenly a naked kid appeared. He was covered in white paint, but it was his eyes that frightened Ethan. Solid black pupils, not even a hint of white. He stumbled backwards.
“Who… who are you?” Ethan stammered.
The kid didn’t speak. Instead, he cupped his hands, dipped them into the water and splashed it around the room. More beings became visible – men, women, and children. Ethan looked around at all of them and tried to count them, but lost count at around thirty. He rushed over to his mates before his passage to them was cut off.
“We mean you no harm,” he said as he shielded the others.
Suddenly the beings broke out in a chorus of what sounded like a whale’s song. Lena’s face became peaceful. As her heart filled with an abundance of bliss, she slowly rose from the floor. She slid away from Ethan and glided toward an older woman.
Ethan’s eyes widened and he cried out. “Lena, come back!”
She ignored him and continued moving toward the woman. When Lena reached her, the old woman stretched out a long bony finger and placed it upon Lena’s forehead. Her eyes turned black and she began singing the whale song.
Since no one appeared to threaten Tang or Nellie, Ethan sat down beside the two and listened. He hadn’t a clue what was going on, but when he closed his eyes, he drifted back to his time on Earth where he lived by the sea and often heard the whales singing late in the evenings. Peace washed over him.. He opened his eyes and glanced over at Tang. His eyes were closed and wide smile creased his face. Ethan looked down at Nellie, but she was still motionless.
After what felt like an eternity, Lena joined her group again. Her eyes had turned back to their normal bright blue. She crouched down in front of Ethan.
“They are a glorious people. Their ancestors came from the sea so they communicate through song to honor them,” Lena whispered. “But they are upset with us for stealing their food.”
“Did you explain our circumstances?”
“Yes. They understand now. They want to know how long we plan to stay.”
Ethan let out a long sigh. “I don’t know. The passageway disappeared. I think we may be trapped here.”
Lena stood up and went back to the old woman. They sang back and forth to one another.
Tang finally opened his eyes and blinked a few times. “What happened?” he asked Ethan.
“You, my dear young friend, got blissed out by whales.”
Tang crinkled up his forehead. “Whales? I don’t see any whales.”
“Well, maybe not actual whales, but that’s how those people over there communicate.”
Tang let out a humph and fell silent again.
Within a few minutes, Lena returned again. “They say that the Great Black Head may not approve of our presence, but they will do what they can for us.”
“Who’s the Great Black Head?”
“The Deity they worship. Montage, the old woman, wants to tend to Nellie. She says Nellie has the blood of the Great Black Head running through her veins and if she isn’t bled, she will die.”
Ethan pondered what the old woman meant. Did she know about the tarry goo that plagued all three of the First Ones? “Does she know I am also afflicted?” he asked in a hushed voice.
Lena nodded her head. “She says you haven’t reached critical yet, but Nellie has.”
Ethan glanced over at Nellie again. She’d been ill for so long, longer than he and Miss Simone. He turned his head and nodded at the old woman.
“Tell her to do whatever she can to save our dear friend.”
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, Part 34
or Jump ahead to Part 36