Zanzibar – Part 41
Zanzibar – Part 41
by Lori Carlson
Night had turned to day again within hours. The celebration the night before had soured as they realized one of their own had vanished. Panic set in. Was this the beginning of the end for the entire Settlement? Had the Great Black Head learned of their deception? Taking in the Caveners had been a desecration to their Deity, but what choice did they have? Where could they have sent those four who were suddenly thrust upon them? In a solemn resolve, they’d huddled in their stone houses during those few hours between night and morning. If it came down to it and the Great Black Head was so offended, they were all prepared to vanish and meet their end.
When the sun came up far too early, the Settlers came out of their houses and into the light. Although time had sped up, no one else had vanished during the night. Montage took this as a sign that the Great Black Head was not so offended. Perhaps he only needed one sacrifice. They set out about their daily chores – cleaning, cooking, building and teaching. The morning passed like any other day. By midday though, it all changed.
“He’s back!” the young Settler from the night before declared. He ran into the middle of the settlement flailing his arms and screaming at the top of his lungs.
“Calm down, Faleugh,” Montage commanded.
The boy sat down on a rock to catch his breath. He breathed in deeply and exhaled. After a few moments, he looked up at Montage and the others who’d gathered around and nodded his head.
“Now, explain to us what’s happened,” Montage said as she placed a hand upon the boy’s shoulder.
“Bleugh has returned. I was at the building site working and poof! He just appeared right where he’d been when he disappeared.”
“Where is he now?” Ethan asked.
“I am here,” a voice said in the distance. Bleugh came up from behind a boulder, climbed on top of it and squatted.
The Settlers cupped their mouths. Ohhs and ahhs could be heard among the crowd. No one had ever vanished and returned. Nellie approached Bleugh. She wasn’t as superstitious as everyone else.
“Where have you been, child?”
“I was summoned by Nor…” Suddenly, he remembered that he wasn’t suppose to use the Arikatoteshika’s real name and corrected himself. “I was summoned by the Great Black Head.”
Montage was angered, a feeling she’d never felt before. If the Great Black Head wanted to communicate with the Settlers, why hadn’t he chosen her? She’d been his faithful servant all the days of her life here in this place. Why would he choose a newcomer?
“Why you? she asked with a huff.
Bleugh shrugged his shoulders.
“That’s not an answer, young one.”
“But I don’t know why he chose me. All I know is he claims that since the Motorhead gang came through the vortex, an imbalance has occurred. Maybe that’s why he summoned members of the gang. Me, Chad, Tracey and Rodney. Oh and someone called Ruth, although she wasn’t really there there, if you know what I mean.”
Everyone looked at him puzzled and shook their heads.
“Never mind. I doubt I could explain it anyway.”
“Did he say what kind of imbalance?” Nellie asked.
“Something about one of the moons could collide with the star…” Bleugh paused.
“Well, go on.” Montage grew impatient. Another feeling she’d never experienced.
Bleugh lowered his eyes. “I can’t.”
Nellie reached up and touched Bleugh’s knee. “Why not, child?”
“Cause, I didn’t understand a thing he said. It was all gobbly-gook.”
“Then just tell us what you do understand.”
Laughing, Bleugh slapped his thigh and jumped down from the boulder. “He wants us to pray to him.”
Montage furrowed her brow. “But we already worship him. We follow all of his laws.”
“That’s not good enough. He needs to show the Architect that he is beloved all over. Then the Architect will correct this imbalance.”
Alarm spread throughout the Settlement. A whale song filled the air and people huddled close to one another. Crying children gathered around Lena who looked over at Nellie and Ethan with a shrug. Brave guards ran from their posts and clung to their mothers. Tang stood alone, confused. The four former Caverners didn’t understand what was happening.
Finally, Ethan spoke up. “Why is everyone so afraid?”
Montage quivered and her hands shook. “If the Great Black Head is not omnipotent, then our lives have been a lie. We don’t even know who this Architect is or what he will expect from us.”
Bleugh was unaffected and growing quite bored by the whole ordeal. “He expects you to pray to Nor… the Great Black Head.” Bloody hell, he’d almost said Norman’s name twice. Then he wondered what would happen if he actually did say his name. Would Norman banish him? Would that really be the worst that could happen? Would Norman go so far as to murder him? Bleugh decided he wouldn’t take a chance. He snapped out of his inner dialogue to see everyone staring at him.
“How do we pray to him? What do we say?” Montage asked.
Bleugh was stymied. That was the one thing Norman hadn’t explained and Bleugh had never been religious. In fact, he and the rest of the Motorhead gang had rebuked religion. They’d sworn never to let anyone control them and especially not some Sky God.
“Ummm, he didn’t say, but some of you must have been religious before arriving here.”
Most of the Settlers shook their heads. In unison, they sung an ancient whale song from their ancestors. Even if they could remember their time before life in the Settlement, they were now deeply rooted in this place.
Tang stepped forward. “I was a priest before I came to the Smoke. I will lead you all in prayer.”
Lena’s eyes widened. Her heart sank as she realized she’d never stood a chance with Tang, that this was what he meant when he’d told her years prior that they could only be friends. Why hadn’t he told her the truth? She couldn’t bear it. Silently, she slipped away from the gathering.
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, Part 40
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