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Zanzibar – Part 40

November 30, 2016

Zanzibar – Part 40

by Keith Channing

“What happened?” Jacob asked the still-shaking Rodney, “and where’s your friend?”

“We were called again, Jacob,” Rodney said, “I need to address the Village. Can you fix it up for this evening, please?”

“Who knows what evening means any more? Time is no longer constant.”

“Okay, put the word out now; we’ll meet at first light.”

“Will do. You didn’t tell me what happened to your friend.”

“I was with him in the Arikatoteshika’s chamber, along with Tracey – that’s Comet – and Billy from the Settlement. Ruth’s sentient essence was with us, too. After he’d told us what he needed to, we asked the Arikatoteshika to send us back so we could talk to our people. I can only assume Chad went back to the Smoke with Tracey. I hope that’s what happened. If not, I don’t know where he is.”

“I expect you’re right, Rodney. I’ll go and tell the leaders that there’s to be a Village meeting at first light.”

Jacob ran off, leaving Rodney, still shaking a little, to his thoughts.

“So,” he thought to himself, “Norman’s not the all-powerful god-like entity we took him for. He’s just a glorified janitor; a gopher for the Architect. I wonder if there’s a way we can use that knowledge to our advantage.”

As he pondered that thought, something inside him told him to keep his thoughts in check. Whether this was a message from Norman, or whether it was his own caution surfacing, he couldn’t tell. Either way, he remembered one of his father’s pet sayings – discretion is the better part of valour – and turned his thoughts away from the demigod and towards his words.

Darkness fell over the Village and lasted for precisely five hours. The Village was located close to the planet’s equator, hence day and night should be of equal length: ten hours, as measured by the wind-up wrist watch that Rodney still wore, but which was next to useless for keeping time on a planet where the day lasted only twenty hours, rather than the twenty-four hours it did on earth. Now, of course, as the length of the day was reducing with each cycle that passed, it was of even less value.

With the arrival of daylight, the population of the Village, together with those who lived in the outlying areas, gathered in the Village square. Such was their number that fully one third of them were forced to congregate in the lanes and alleyways leading to the square, and strain their ears to pick up what Rodney was saying. Some of those on the fringes of the range of audibility relayed what they heard; or what they thought they heard; to those more distant from the speaker. One could but imagine with dread the extent to which the message would become corrupted during its relays.

“Thank you all for coming,” Rodney said, as loudly as he was able. “Yesterday, in my position as His emissary in the Village, I was called to the presence of the Curator. There were people also from the Smoke, and one of those from the Settlement whom we all saw was there, too. Ruth was with us in spirit.” He turned to Jacob, who was standing beside him, and whispered, “That’s as much as they need to know about that.”

Jacob called out, “Can everyone hear okay?” Affirmative replies came from all parts.

Rodney continued by giving a précis of what Norman had told them in relation to their planetary system, and set out what they were to do.

Someone from the front of the crowd asked, “So the Curator isn’t all-powerful, then? He has a boss, too?”

“As far as we are concerned, in our everyday lives, He is omnipotent. He sees all and hears all, and he is our supreme being.”

“But he has a boss?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes.”

“I don’t know about everybody here, but it makes me feel a lot better, knowing the Curator is answerable to someone.”

A murmur of agreement passed through the crowd. Rodney sensed an emotion from Norman, but couldn’t put his finger on what it was. Although not a positive one, it was certainly not strongly negative. It was not, however, an emotion that resonated with any he had ever experienced.

“I want you all to consider what I have told you this day,” Rodney said, “and return here at the next sunrise for a collective prayer session, which will be led by Jacob. I, myself, shall join you as a supplicant, not as a leader. Does anyone have any questions before we break up?”

“I do,” an elderly woman of south Asian origin said, “What happens if these prayers don’t work? What if this Architect is so angry with the Curator that even our petition will be refused?”

“I hope that won’t be the case. If it is, I’m afraid that, from what the Curator told us, all three realms will be doomed.”

“Can’t the Curator send us all back to where we were taken from before that happens?”

“That is a very good question. What is your name?”

“Agrima.”

“Well, Agrima, I shall attempt to contact the Curator today, and put your excellent suggestion to him. Thank you.”

The meeting broke up. The Villagers gathered into small groups and spent the rest of the daylight hours talking about what they had learned.

Rodney didn’t like to admit it, but his relationship with Norman was a bit one-way. Norman could summon him with ease, but he had yet to successfully initiate a conversation himself. He wracked his brain, trying to recall the exact circumstances each time he was called, but there was no commonality; no situation that he could replicate with the belief that it would result in a discourse. He lay on his bed and closed his eyes.

“What was the result of your address to the Village?” the Arikatoteshika asked.

“Didn’t you see? Didn’t you hear?”

“I did, but I want to hear it in your words. I want your interpretation of it.”

“I passed on your message, and we shall gather at next daybreak to intercede with the Architect on your behalf.”

“No, no, no, no, no! You are not to pray to Him, you are to pray to Me, so that He will hear it and understand your love for Me.”

“What love? No, never mind that. Listen. One of the Villagers asked—”

“I know what Agrima asked. Who do you think put the thought into her head?”

“You?”

“No, but I wish I had. It was a good thought.”

“And?”

“Not ‘and’; ‘but’.”

“But what?”

“But there are things you don’t understand about how this all works. Things you can’t understand because of the limitations of your ape-descendant brains.”

“Try me.”

“No.”

Rodney awoke more confused than ever.


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, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39

or Jump ahead to Part 41

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