Under the Green Sun of Slormor
by Bertil Falk
Table of Contents
Chapter 1, part 2
appears in this issue.
Chapter 1: The Heavy City
part 1 of 2
While driving home from his grandson’s baptism, the hero walks into a space-time trap and is spirited to the world of Slormor. It is a tired world, populated with beings who eke out an existence. To them neither life nor death seems desirable.
As the hero tries to find a way back to his own world, a little girl, Parvrin, becomes his companion and guide. She shows him that under the green sun of Slormor, things are not always as they seem. A series of strange adventures leads him back to his grandson’s baptism, where a kind of final explanation — if explanation it is — leaves him astounded.
“It is a strange tale,” I replied. “Too long to attempt to tell you now, and one which I so much doubt the credibility of myself that I fear to hope that others will believe it.” — Edgar Rice Burroughs
The moment I stepped out of the forest and entered the vast field where I was totally unprotected in case I was attacked, I felt a touch that implied that there were Invaders nearby who were scanning my mind. It probably meant that I was approaching the region where the old canals converge. The apathetic sun diffused its snot-green light across the field, which in a spooky way vegetated in the phosphorescent glare.
Beyond the field was the longish valley and the heavy city, a yearning relic that had survived the past. Other ancient cities had been in ruins for thousands of years, raped and plundered. The heavy city had been spared because it had been abandoned and never posed a threat to the contending hordes that peopled the world in the past. The city was dilapidated, because the indolent inhabitants did not maintain it.
The verb “maintain” was not even extant in their degenerated language. That is, if it had existed at all even in the past. The buildings crumbled away, and the worn-down street system had long ago been transformed into muddy alleys. Those were the facts I had exerted myself to appropriate. But they had been accessible to me from the beginning.
I had got used to the windlessness, which contributed to the barren sense of death and decay, but I could never put up with the emerald-colored dusk. It carried a touch of corruption, decomposition, discomfort. This world was so tired that living creatures narrowly managed to get along in a life that did not seem worth living. The beings did not expect any improvement. It was a life totally smoothed out. Neither life nor death seemed desirable.
Basking in the green sunlight and the almost pale, Roquefort-colored moons’ sterile gleam, I had walked day and night through the dark forest, a place providing a disconsolate silence of solid gloominess. Not even the few wild animals made a great fuss.
Muffled sounds, reduced light, subdued feelings. Everything was diffused in this world, where only the course of time and the motion of celestial bodies intimated that after all it was not a question of standing still.
My destination was the heavy city. I felt dirty. And the sultry air was not easy to breathe.
My wandering had begun in the ruins of a once proud fortress. There an old woman had been. She looked like a withered Egyptian vulture.
She had told me with a low-voiced, croaking sound that only the one who is capable of lifting the enchanted stone and putting it back on its plinth in the land of the Invaders beyond the heavy city could find his way out of this man-eating Venus flytrap.
She looked at me with her half-blind, hazy red eyes, which turned inwards and scratched at a mind which itself had long since shifted into a lower gear.
In a strenuous eruption of efficiency and activity, she exclaimed: “You look like you’re able. Your body, your size, your will.”
Then she became as though extinct. It was impossible to revive her. It was even possible that the witch-looking creature had died on the spot.
I had nothing else to do than try to find my way to the heavy city. I did not know whether people knew where it was. They just looked at me indifferently when I tried to ask them for directions, using the little I had picked up of their double Dutch.
However, the big map engraved on the partly pulled-down wall of what once had been the analogue of a library made it possible for me to figure out the direction. The black woods were between the place and the heavy city.
* * *
It was my curiosity that caused me to walk straight into a trap of pillow-laced SpaceTime, where inconceivable equations were transformed into forbidding reality. Like a meat-eating flower, the impressive sight had treacherously enticed me into entering the trap, only to transport me to this godforsaken part of existence, which either exists in the past or in the future or in the now — and by mentioning the now I mean the present time — I may or may not have left behind me.
All of it began the day I returned home from the baptism of my first-born grandchild. I had run into my former wife and her new husband and the father of my daughter-in-law, the jovial vicar, who always had biblical or Lutheran words of wisdom on his lips. My son, who had done time for the murder of his paternal grandmother’s lover, had learned his lesson. He would most probably never again commit a murder.
When the clergyman poured water over the child’s head, my eyes met a dark gaze. The sight gave me a thrill when I looked into two black eyes in the face of a mature woman. Her neck declined straight into her arms and she smiled at me. I cast down my eyes and felt ashamed. I looked about. They were all preoccupied by the baptismal rite. Nobody had noticed anything.
I got into my Skoda Felicia. For many years, it had served to my satisfaction, and I drove homewards. I was listening to the golden voice of the fisher-woman Zena Bacar from Mozambique. She was singing about her love for Africa, but she asked herself why the conflicts never ceased on this continent filled with promises, fruits and trees and enough water for all.
I had a letter to mail, and I slowed down by the mailbox in Alstad square. I lowered the window and put the envelope into the yellow box of the Royal Post Office. At that moment I caught sight of a big sculpture. I had never seen it before, but there it was, behind the hot dog stand where they sold hamburgers and French fries.
I stepped out of the car and walked to the sculpture. Its polished surface shone with what seemed to be blushing marble. It was about three yards high and stood on a pedestal that wriggled confusedly around its core.
What was the sculpture supposed to be? A gestalt of some kind, short in stature, somewhat like a human being! Short in stature? But the statue was big. True, but that could not disguise the squatness of the being. Its form was thickset, a shape of dwarf-like stature. The face was rough-hewnly beautiful; not a classic sight of beauty, but a trolsk or a weird kind of beauty.
It was impossible for me to determine if the sculpture represented a man or a woman. The statue radiated willpower. Furtively, its neck passed on into arms that ran into a pair of slender-limbed hands.
Curious, I walked around this unexpected novelty here in the rural parts of the province of Skåne. The back was something completely different. The being I was looking at changed into a depression that was leaning backwards and inwards as if the statue were a siren of the woods with a hollow back.
It was then that I made the big mistake of climbing up and into the hollow. One has read about people who have fallen into temporal pockets and have stumbled through abyssal dimensions, been thrown into unexpected states of existence, gone astray inside spatial bends, teleported within Time and Space. I just skidded and found myself immediately standing in the ruins of fortifications.
The statue was a siren of the woods with a hollow back!
* * *
Now began a time of bewilderment. I am almost two metres tall, and I attracted a certain listless attention from the blunt beings, who in every respect except strength reminded me of the short statue on the square in Alstad. Attention may be too strong a word for it, but the blasé people raised one or two eyebrows and showed an insignificant sign of interest.
Thus, they were not totally apathetic, but they relapsed fairly quickly into a phlegmatic attitude, so characteristic of the somnambulant slowness of this world.
The inhabitants fed on fruits growing abundantly where the ruins ended and a wild but deadly calm wilderness began. They did not keep domestic animals. Meat-eating seemed to be a forgotten culinary behavior. Forgotten, for an archaic picture of an ancient feast in the ruins of the library indicated that people in times past gorged themselves by digging their teeth into juicy animal bones of different kinds. The forests were now filled with wild but harmless animals.
It took some time before I realized that this was not a dream. Slowly, the depressing truth sank in. I settled myself in a relatively reasonable, cave-like crack inside the dilapidated library and learned to speak a little of the people’s language.
At night, I visually inspected the blurred night sky, trying to establish where I was, but the constellations in the firmament did not look like the constellations as I remembered them. There was no Orion with its belt, no Big Dipper, nor the Milky Way. On the other hand, with the naked eye I could distinguish fuzzy galaxies, twisted spiral nebulae, unusually big stars and other phenomena, everything filtered through a mushy veil.
My sleep was troubled. I dreamed of my son, of my mother, of murder. In the daytime, there was this lead-green sun and by night the small moons vaguely reflecting the emerald color of the sun. I had no idea where I was in Time or Space. Was this Earth billions of years ago? Was this Earth before it had been created? Was I one thousand light years from home? Or did only a thin film separate me from my own reality?
How disconsolate I was! How would I get home? Was I doomed to stay in this misery for the rest of my life? What if I were dead? Was this hell? Or heaven? God forbid!
One of the first things I did when I slipped out of my own world to dwell in this existence was to check what I had in my pockets. A set of keys with the car ignition key and an inferior copy of the Swiss army pocket repair shop, complete with screwdriver, knife, drill, nail-scissors etc. A mobile phone with Internet connection. A billfold with a lot of cards! And a wristwatch!
Furthermore, the small headlamp I used when I stopped somewhere in the middle of the night to take a look at the map. Useful if the batteries were sufficient. In addition to that, a ballpoint pen.
I was met with indifference, but I stuck to the inhabitants, sucked up as much knowledge as possible and realized pretty soon that the only thing they really occupied themselves with was eating and breeding. However, even those two occupations bore the stamp of a certain degree of apathy.
Even so, they had not been totally blunted. The patterns of behavior infused by Nature when it came to livelihood and persistence of the race still provided a propelling force, but it had eased off in a way that made them enormously vulnerable if some powerful threat suddenly manifested itself.
Perhaps there was a lack of challenge in this superannuated world. They were adapted to a life free of threats, which had come into existence since the meaningless wars that raged in the past had extracted the essence of them and turned them into nearly passive vegetables.
These conditions inevitably brought to my mind Zen Bacar’s song “Ohawha,” about the suffering of Africa. But even Africa had some hope, after all. Here everything seemed hopeless. I tried to use my mobile phone. It did not function. I tried the Internet. Dead! I could play games, but that was of no use.
After a while, something happened that signified a change in the state of things. It was as if some kind of mind were groping for my thoughts and touched my disposition. The sensation was not entirely unpleasant, but neither was it particularly encouraging.
At the same time I found that anxiety arose among the beings I lived with. They seemed to brighten up, and I got the impression that they, too, experienced the same sensation I did, and I tried to shake off the feeling.
Gradually, the sense of being scanned disappeared and I turned to the old hag, that witch-like gestalt, who conveyed advice in her whispering voice. I had noticed her early on and acquainted myself with her, since she was the one in this society of ruins who was a wee bit above her neighbors when it came to mental agility. That’s not saying much, but at least she had something. I believe she possessed some form of atavistic wisdom.
When I asked her about the sensation and what happened in this small community, her watery eyes, which dug blindly red into her mostly indifferent memory, looked straight through me.
“It’s the Invaders,” she croaked in an unobtrusive way. “They search our minds. They scan us. They want to be sure we remain harmless.”
Copyright © 2007 by Bertil Falk