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, part 42, part 43, part 44, part 45, part 46, part 47
“Food is ready in Rodney’s house,” Jacob called out.
“What is it?” Rodney asked.
Habeeba came skipping up to the group. “The mix of vegetables and fruit was difficult to make into a tasty meal, but I added some of my naanee’s special spice mixes, and I think it’s quite nice now.”
“What’s it called?” Scott asked.
“Sabjee kadhee with Ulli sarlas and a chaat.”
“What’s that mean; I mean in English?”
“Vegetable curry with onion salad and a spiced fruit and vegetable salad, and some chai to wash it all down. Come and get it while it’s hot. Except the chaat; that is meant to be cold.”
“Don’t know if I like Indian food,” Sandy complained, “I have a delicate palate and I’m afraid of anything spicy.”
“There’s other food in the house for those who don’t do curry,” Rodney said, “you’re sure to find something you like. Come on. Lets go eat.”
There wasn’t a dining table in Rodney’s house. Or chairs. Just a sofa and a bed. While Habeeba was preparing the meal in the tiny kitchenette, Eloise and Sakura made makeshift plates and dishes from banana leaves and fashioned cups from coconut shells. Once the boys were all seated; squeezed onto the sofa and bed; the girls served the food. Sandy initially excused himself, intending to raid Rodney’s sparse larder for whatever he could find, but eventually he decided to try what Habeeba had made. Not, however, without some residual reservation.
“What’s in this?” Sandy asked, indicating the curry.
Habeeba started listing the main ingredients. “Semolina, vegetables, chillies, ginger, peanuts and a few other things. And before you ask, the ulli is mostly onion, chillies and vinegar, and the chaat has cucumber, carrot, tomatoes, raisins, sweet peppers, apple and peanuts with a medium spicy seasoning. Try them all. You’ll like them, I promise.”
The food must have gone down well. Conversation stopped. The only sounds coming from the room were munching, crunching, slurping and burping. Sandy was first to finish – despite his protestations, he enjoyed the meal immensely, even to the extent of licking his leaves, so as not to waste any of the flavours offered.
“Is there any more?” he asked.
“Some curry is still in the pan,” Habeeba answered, “not much, just what’s stuck to the sides.”
Sandy got up from his place and almost ran into the kitchenette, shouting back, “That’ll do me,” as he went.
“Be quick,” Rodney said, “we need to get down to the serious business of the evening. We’ve probably only got an hour or so before it’s light again and the meeting will take place.”
“Maybe less than that, Rod,” Chad said, walking in through the door, hand in hand with Tracey who was wearing a grin from ear to ear.
“Hi, guys. What’re you so pleased about, Tracey?”
“I can’t really tell you,” she said, blushing. And she wasn’t the only one whose cheeks had taken on a rosy hue.
Chad looked up and said, “We’ve been, erm, busy.” He looked at the three guys: Scott, Jimmy and Frank. “You know what I mean, don’t you?”
By the time he’d said that, eight faces were blushing.
Sandy came back from the kitchen, his lower face smeared with curry where he had been licking the saucepan. “Ooh, Chad. You’re a sight for sore eyes. Looking rather buff too, if I may say.” He looked beyond Chad and noticed Tracey. Not only was she there, she was holding Chad’s hand. “What’s with you pair?” he almost screamed, “Are you an item?”
Tracey blushed again.
“Ooh, you are,” he said, excitedly, “you’re an item!”
Before Tracey could respond, Billy appeared. He’d been there for a while but, of course, no-one could see him until he poured water on himself.
“Billy!” Rodney exclaimed, rushing forward and hugging him – a proper, man-hug of course; “This is the first time we’ve all been together since arriving here.”
“But we’ve all changed,” Billy said morosely. “We’re none of us the same people as arrived here.”
“No, you aren’t,” Ruth’s disembodied voice added, “but you haven’t just changed, you’ve grown. All of you. Tracey, after years trying to live as a boy, your feelings for Chad have led you to embrace your femininity. Know that you have choices. It’s your life, your body, and you must live in peace with yourself. Whatever you choose, I believe Chad will support you. And I believe that because he has grown immensely. He, and Rodney, are displaying qualities of perseverance, persistence, balance and strength of character that will allow them to flourish as leaders. Alexander: you have acknowledged and are living at peace with your sexuality. That’s a difficult thing for a gang member to do, and you are to be admired for your courage. The rest of you; Scott, Jimmy and Frank: you are going to be such great husbands and fathers; whether you remain with your current girlfriends or not. You’ve all shown qualities that augur well for your futures. And Rodney; I love what you’ve done with the place.”
“What, this house?”
“Yes, this house.”
“I haven’t done anything. It’s exactly as you left it.”
“I know. That’s what I love about it.”
Darkness had fallen, leaving only a short time before the big meeting with the Architect.
“Chad; you’re leading this meeting,” Rodney said, “you’re going to have to decide whether the girls should stay.”
“There’s no need,” Sakura interjected, “we spoke about it while we were preparing the food—”
“There was food?” Billy asked, “and I missed it?”
“There was, and you did,” Sandy said, “and it was delicious. Sorry. None left.”
“Can I continue?” Sakura asked.
“As I was saying, we spoke about it and decided that we should leave it to you guys. You don’t want to waste time bringing us up to speed on something that’s obvious to us is highly complicated. We’ll be off now. C’mon girls.”
Sakura, Habeeba and Eloise left the room and headed back to their own houses. As they left, another figure appeared at the door.
“Ingvildr,” Rodney said, “welcome.”
“At the end of this night, be it ever so brief,
as soon as the light does enter its fief,
with Nigel you’ll meet, His plans to explore,
Be sure they’re complete because Norm will abhor.
The weasel must go to a place far away
But this you should know, it won’t be child’s play.
His power is small, but some he does own
Know this above all, he’ll fight for his throne.”
The gang members looked at each other in confusion as the seer, Ingvildr, disappeared into the distance, shouting back, “It has begun.”
“What did that dreadful poetry mean?” Jimmy asked, voicing the concern they all felt.
“Simply what she said.”
“W-w-who said that?” Frank asked, looking around himself.
“That,” Tracey said, “was the voice of the Architect.”
At that, all but Chad and Tracey prostrated themselves on the ground, quaking with fear.
“Get up!” the Architect boomed. “We have work to do, and time is short.”
“And getting shorter,” Chad added.
“Quite,” Nigel said (he would have boomed it, but ‘quite’ is not an easy word to boom. Don’t take my word for that, try it yourself. See what I mean?)