|A manhole cover from Takarazuka in Japan, such as I imagine for the alien ship. |
This one collected by Moonlanders on Wordpress
Jeb follows the blip through the crowd, where will it lead her?
Those in the outer ring of the crowd have their heads hanging and their eyes uninterested while they pass me. Coming upon the blip, though, they separate left and right like a combed parting. Nobody seems to want to have the blip touching them.
Which could be further evidence. I stop at the edge of the crowd, trying to make it look like I’m hesitating. “Can’t we go around the crowd?”
Kosi does not react.
Perhaps there aren’t any sensors nearby. I wonder how a previously human entity can live in the workings of an alien starship?
A murmur starts in the crowd. “Jeb. Jeb. Our half shaman. You going to save us again, Jeb?”
I see my people pepper-and-salted through the crowd. Limber. Crow. Jackal. Each one alive-eyed for the par-second it takes to answer my glance.
“How many?” I shape the words with my lips.
Limber blinks acknowledgement and shuffles to the border of the blip’s path, where he signs down by his waist, alerting me to the possibility of spy-eyes at head height. Ten fingers outstretched, forearms crossed, ten again, forearms again, two. Two hundred.
Two hundred in the crowd, or two hundred to save? Many more than the eighty-seven that came in our shuttle. I have still only a glimmer of an idea of what is happening.
I follow the blip’s spiralling path through the crowd. We’re moving slightly faster than the people around us which, when I saw them from above, were gyrating around a central point.
Testing for the existence of spy-eyes, I flick glances here and there.
“You needn’t search so secretively for your lover,” the entity says.
The time of me cosily thinking of her as Kosi is done.
“He isn’t here as I think I told you,” she says.
If she can see everything at eye-height, she probably can hear quite well too. “Where are we going,” I say again.
“We’re fetching the life-suit, then off we go to the Totem Reality. I had the wolves stock the place with all sorts of interesting prey. Of the small fast animals, I have a meerkat and a mongoose. Of the larger lumbering prey, I have an elephant and a couple of bison ……”
I stop listening when she says mongoose. A mongoose isn’t a runner. It will stand and fight. And my Mongoose will most certainly stand and fight when he finds me in the entity’s clutches.
“The life-suit had its owner inside it when I knew it,” I say. Hoping for what reaction, I don’t know.
“The wolves say that,” she says. “They have retreated. The thing inside the suit is very fierce. But I can be quite fierce as well, and I want that suit.”
The blip and I arrive at a circular manhole cover set into the floor. The blip either switches off or dives through the little hole in the centre of the cover.
“Go on,” the entity says. “Hook up the cover with your fingers in that slot.”
The mass of people surrounding me is almost at a standstill. They encourage me with a comforting murmur. With about half of my people still missing, and probably that many of theirs as well, we all need to know about this underworld.
I lift the lid. Lay it aside. Look down through the hole.