This is a continuation to Lori Carlson's Zanzibar, published on her blog 'Promptly Written' on 30 April.
Lori and I are developing this story as a round-robin, and this episode will also be published on Lori's blog.
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
Time was somewhat random when Rodney was in Norman’s presence. Sometimes, according to Jacob, he returned at almost the same instant he left; other visits were perceived as longer. This latest visit must have been of a new order. When Rodney returned to consciousness in his home in the Village, it was in total darkness. He began to prepare himself for the following morning’s prayer meeting. There came a rap on his door.
“Come,” he called out.
Cobra sauntered in. “We been worried about you, Jav. Where you been all day?”
Still mildly confused, Rodney replied, “The Curator called me again, Sandy. You remember Agrima’s question?”
“Yeah. Thought it was a good one. Did the Curator answer it?”
“Yes and no.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“He just said that there are things we can’t understand about how this all works, because of the limitations of what he called our ape-descendant brains.”
“Careful what you say, Sandy. He hears everything.”
“What’s with all this Sandy stuff, anyway? My gang name is Cobra.”
“And your real name is Alexander Perrone. Do you really think the gang is relevant here? We formed it as our thing, a place where we could rebel against our parents. We’re not even together here; Chad and Tracey are in the Smoke and Billy is in the Settlement. How are we even a gang? Anyway, where are the others?”
“What: Cougar, Mustang and Rambler?”
“Yeah. Frank, Scott and Jimmy.”
“Where do you think? Off somewhere with their girlfriends. I don’t know what they find to do with them all day; this place is so Dullsville.”
Rodney smiled a wry, knowing smile. “I imagine they’ll think of something to do,” he said.
“Yeah, well they’re ignoring their real friends. That’s all I’m saying.”
“I’m glad you’re here, Sandy. Can you round up the others for me? They can bring Sakura, Habeeba and Eloise if they like. I’d like to talk to them about tomorrow’s prayer meeting, and try to make some plans for us, now we’re all that’s left of the gang.”
Sandy ran off in search of his friends, returning a few minutes later with three boys and three girls in his wake. The seven sat, cross-legged, in a semi-circle in front of Rodney. They all looked at him expectantly.
“Listen guys,” Rodney said, “this is all as strange to me as it is to you. I have no idea what’s going on, but I do know that if we join the rest of the Village in prayer to him, the Curator may be able to do something to help.”
“Why do we have to pray to him?” Scott asked, “If he’s God, don’t he already know everything?”
The other boys muttered agreement; Sakura and Habeeba nodded lethargically, Eloise simply shrugged.
“Were you listening at the meeting this morning?” Rodney asked them, “Didn’t you hear me say that He can’t fix this? That only the Architect can do that, and that He won’t move unless He knows that everyone in all three places is praying to the Curator.”
“What is the point in praying to this Curator if He can’t fix it, then? Why not pray to the Architect Himself? Huh?” Habeeba asked.
“You weren’t listening, were you?” Rodney replied brusquely. “I don’t have any answers. I am simply passing on to you what the Curator told me to pass on to you.”
Jimmy Martin, alias Rambler, had always been the rebel of the group. “We’re wasting our time here, guys,” he said, rising to is feet, “c’mon, let’s get out of here and have some fun. Whose turn is it to—”
“Don’t say anything,” Frank Cross (Cougar) admonished him. “The less high-and-mighty Javelin knows about what we do, the better it’ll be for us.”
Three boys and their girlfriends stood and left the house.
“Looks like it’s just the two of us then,” Sandy said.
“Make that three,” Jacob said, entering the room.
“Jacob, my friend,” Rodney said, standing to give Jacob a serious man-hug in greeting, “do you have a plan for the meeting?”
“I do. I thought I’d use a tried and tested formula where I say some words and the assembled population signifies assent.”
“So does that mean all we have to do is say ‘Amen’, then?” Sandy asked.
“That is the word used in most of the Abrahamic religions and their derivatives,” Rodney explained, “but the Curator prefers the post-Picardian form.”
“Post-Picardian?” Sandy sounded confused. “Never heard of it.”
“Let me explain, then. Jacob will make a request, ending with ‘and the people say’, to which the people respond, ‘Make it so.’”
“And that’s all?”
“What’s the point of that? If all we’re doing is saying three words every so often…”
“What would you want to do, Sandy?” Jacob asked.
“Well, shouldn’t we all pray? If everyone prays their own prayer, there’d be much more going on.”
“And what would you pray for?”
“I don’t know. Wouldn’t you tell us what to pray for?”
“That’s what I’ll be doing. I will lay out what we’re asking for, and you’ll all agree.”
“Still seems pretty feeble.”
“You’ve had assembly prayers at school, Sandy, and I know your Mum made you go to Sunday school at the church, so you must have done this sort of thing before.”
“Yeah, but there, we all said Amen, not—”
“This is what the Curator wants, so this is what we have to do. We don’t have to understand His reasons. We just have to do what is most likely to work. And what is most likely to work is doing what the Curator wants.”
“Quickly,” Jacob said, “the sun is rising. We must go to the assembly ground.”