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Zanzibar – Part 36

November 16, 2016

Zanzibar – Part 36

by Keith Channing

Rodney handed Chad a piece of clean cloth. “Dry your eyes, mate,” he said, whereupon the two lads burst into a quick chorus of the Streets’ song and started laughing.

“That’s more like it, Chad.”

“Yeah, but it ain’t gonna get me and Trace back together, is it?”

“You’re right. And it isn’t going to get Billy back, either.”

“Billy gone, too?”

“Yeah. He was taken to the Settlement, very early on. We didn’t notice for a while; you know what a loner he can be; but there was this stone that had a picture on it that told a kind of story, and all our names were on it, except yours and Bill’s. That’s when we started looking for him. Mine’s off it now, since the Arikatoteshika—”

“The what?”

“The Arikatoteshika. He’s the kind-of-god that runs this place. The people here call him the Curator.”

“The one that sent me to the Smoke?”

“That’s him. Anyway, the old woman, Ruth, who was his wing-man, or woman here died, but he’d already dragged me into his cave and made me his man on the spot. He did something to me; changed me; and my name came off the stone as soon as that happened.”

“What about Trace?”

“I expect her name’s off now, too.”

“So who does that leave?”

“Just Cobra, Cougar, Mustang and Rambler.”

“That’s all that’s left of the Motorhead Gang?”

“Pretty much.”

“What are we going to do?”

“There’s not a lot we can do, Chad. Everything’s going weird here. The two moons came a day early, and the night only seemed to last for about three hours instead of the usual nine or ten. It’s as if time is speeding up. Did you see the speed the stars were moving?”

“Can’t say I noticed.”

“Well, look at the sun now. It’s as if the planet’s spinning faster. I’d best get back to my house; I’m sure people will be looking for me. Coming?”

“Nah. I wanna see the others – Cobra, Cougar, Mustang and Rambler. Where’ll they be?”

“No idea. Cougar, Mustang and Rambler are probably off somewhere with their girlfriends; Cobra, I couldn’t say.”

“Might as well come with you, then.”

They started walking toward Rodney’s house.

“I’m glad you’re with me,” Rodney said, “There’s something I need to tell you, just to keep you up to date. A little while ago, three people came to us from the Settlement. They were naked, but covered in white paint when they arrived. The thing is, one of them was Bill – Wildcat. They came to tell us to stop crossing to their realm and robbing them – which we never do, anyway!”

“Ah, that’d be us,” Chad responded. “What else did they say?”

“They didn’t actually say anything. They communicate by something that sounds like whales’ song. When I touched one of them, I could understand them. They said what they came to say, raised one hand over their head as if pouring water on themselves, then suddenly they were invisible and went off at incredible speed before we could grab one of them. Oh, and Billy’s not called Wildcat there.”

“What’s he called then? Billy, I suppose.”

“No. They call him Bleugh.”

“Ha ha ha! Suits him!” Chad said, laughing.

They reached Rodney’s house, and found a large number of Villagers milling around inside, looking for their ‘leader’. Jacob was among them, trying to keep them calm.

“There’s panic in the Village,” Jacob said, “and I don’t know what to tell them. They saw that yesterday was shorter than normal, and that today looks like it’s going to be even shorter. They want to know what’s happening.”

“I wouldn’t mind knowing that, too,” Rodney replied.

Jacob looked at Chad. “Hemi?”

“Yeah. I remember you, you’re Jacob, aren’t you?”

“I am. I thought you had been banished to the Smoke.”

“I was, but weird things are going on. Last night, when the two moons came, I was told to guard the gateway that our elders use to cross over to here and back. I heard a whooshing noise from be hind me, and before I knew what was happening, I was sucked into the gateway and landed up here.”

“Couldn’t you have gone back the same way?”

“If the gateway hadn’t immediately closed behind me and disappeared, yeah. As it is, I’m stuck here until—”

Chad didn’t manage to finish that sentence. He and Rodney collapsed to the floor, their eyes rolled back into their heads and they started shaking vigorously, as though fitting. They mumbled, in unison, something totally unintelligible.

***

Rodney found himself in familiar surroundings. What made it less familiar was that he was not alone there, as he normally was when he was summoned. To one side of him, Chad rose, looked around at his surroundings and promptly threw up.

Rodney whispered to him, “Had that effect on me first time I came here.”

Beside Chad, Tracey appeared and followed her boyfriend’s lead. On Rodney’s other side, Billy stood, looking as normal as if he had never been anywhere else.

“You feeling okay?” Rodney asked.

“Fine,” he replied, “I’m not fazed by this lot. I’ve seen things, my friend. Bad things, horrible things; things that, once you’ve seen them, inure you to any other sights, no matter how shocking or unpleasant.”

“Hold on,” Rodney said. “Listen. Quietly. Am I imagining things, or can I sense Ruth’s presence?”

“You can,” boomed the voice of the Arikatoteshika. “I have gathered you all here today, Rodney and Ruth representing the Village, Chadwick and Tracey for the Smoke and William from the Settlement because we have a problem. A big problem. Something is going badly, badly wrong. Something I cannot fix alone.”


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, Part 35

or Jump ahead to Part 37

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