Zanzibar – Part 44
Zanzibar – Part 44
The plan worked. Every living soul from the Village and its surrounds gathered in the assembly ground for the prayer session. Rodney and Sandy joined the throng, while Jacob approached the central plinth, placed there in ages past to allow the various minstrels, jesters and other performers to entertain the Villagers. The plinth was an octagonal wooden structure, three metres on each edge, raised two metres above the ground and accessed by a flight of six wooden steps running parallel to one face, with a safety rail on the land side. Three metres above the plinth, supported by an impossibly finely latticed central pillar, was what looked like an inverted roof structure but which, by virtue of its design, was able to carry the voices of whoever occupied the stage, to an extent that no other device was needed for the speaker’s voice to be heard clearly in all parts of the ground.
Jacob climbed the steps and took up a position close to the centre. Looking upwards, to give better effect to the acoustic capabilities of the structure, he started his prayer.
“Great Curator,” he began, “You know as well as we, the danger in which these realms find themselves. We ask you to take note of our pleas that you do whatever is needed to release us from these dangers. That is my prayer.” He looked about him at the gathered crowd. “And the people say…”
A sound as of ten thousand voices, although it was nowhere like that number, called out, “Make it so.”
“And now, Villagers and Outliers, having made our request, I tell you to go back to your homes. Go about your business as normal, with no fear. We have prayed as the Curator ordered and we must have faith that He will do as we have asked, and as He had promised to Rodney.”
Jacob looked towards Rodney, but he was laid, supine and fitting, on the ground. Beside his flailing form, Sandy was jumping up and down, waving his hands in the air, and repeating, over and over, “Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!”
Facing the Arikatoteshika, Rodney snapped, “What now, oh hairy yellow one?”
Without his usual bluster, Norman’s voice was barely audible. “It’s not going to work,” he said.
“I said, it’s not going to work.”
“What is not going to work? And why?”
“Oh, Jacob’s prayer was spot on, and the response was just what was needed.”
“So? Why won’t it work?”
“I haven’t been totally honest with you, Rodney…”
At that moment, Billy and Tracey appeared, and Rodney felt the presence of Ruth’s essence. He looked around.
“Where’s Chad?” he asked.
“I can’t reach him,” Norman confessed.
“I thought you were supposed to be all-powerful,” Tracey said, “What have you done with my Chad?”
“I have done nothing with him, child—”
“Don’t call me child. Don’t you dare patronise me!” Tracey shouted.
“I’m sorry, Tracey. I didn’t mean to… you know. But I haven’t. He’s with the Architect.”
“With the Architect? Where?”
“Yes, Tracey; with the Architect, in his lair; the place you know as the Temple.”
“What; our temple? The one in the caverns?”
“Quite. And I can’t even see in there, so I’ve no idea what’s going on. I think, though, that Chad’s being told the truth.”
“The truth?” Rodney asked, “The truth about what?”
“About everything. About me; about him; about this place; everything.”
“So what you’ve told us so far hasn’t been the truth?”
“Parts of it, but not all.” Almost in tears, Norman related the full circumstances of the establishment of the Village and the Smoke. He confessed to his real role and position in the system and the limits of his fiefdom.
“So, how much power do you actually have?” Billy asked.
“What you have seen is what I have. I can banish people to the Smoke. I can choose people, as I have chosen you, and summon them at will.”
“What about the vortices that bring people here? Is that you?”
“Sadly, no. And I don’t have the ability to return you to Earth, either. Only the Architect can do that. But even He isn’t unlimited in what He can do. If He were, He wouldn’t have let me get away with some of the things I have done… Okay. Decision made. As of now, we’ll use real names. No aliases, no labels to hide behind. In this place, I am Norman.”
“We know that,” Billy said.
“But do you know the Architect’s real name?”
“Does he have one?”
“Everybody does. His name is Nigel.”
“I’ve never met a Nigel whose not a prat,” Tracey said.
“Voilà, as they say in France. There you go, as they say in Ireland. I rest my case, as they say in courtroom dramas.”
“What do you know about courtroom dramas?”
“Hello-o. Perry Mason? Ally McBeal? Boston Legal?”
“Denny Crane!” Billy added emphatically.
“Can we get back to the point, please?” Rodney asked. “What are we going to do? If praying to you, as you asked, is useless…”
“Useless. What can we do?”
Norman looked pensive, or at least as pensive as a creature the size of a miniature dachshund, with a body shape that suggests a morph between a cat and a spider monkey; all covered in a coat of long, sleek, bright yellow fur is capable of looking.
“We can do nothing. Tracey, when you get back, open the Temple door – I know you’re the only one who can – and see if you can find out what went on. If not, see if Chad will tell you. When I have that information, I can devise a plan.”
“What sort of plan?” Rodney asked.
“A cunning one,” Norman replied, “and that’s all you need to know for now.”
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, Part 41, Part 42, Part 43
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