Under the Green Sun of Slormor
by Bertil Falk
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 appeared
in issue 273.
Chapter 2: The Dead Spot of Slormor
part 1 of 3
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.
Red sand whispered in the desert beyond the city walls, and red-brown water ran slow and sullen in the canal. — Leigh Brackett
We walk in the snowstorm, my son and I. We are not very close. Not the way he is close to his grandmother. And nevertheless our conversation is profound, perhaps the most profound conversation we have ever had and ever will have.
It is snowing. The flakes cover the straggling branches of the parking lot with a haze of soft mist. The air is fluffy with falling snow. Feet are getting wet as the cold flakes end up on the warm sidewalk and melt away. At the same time, the cold and the wind are biting.
After a while, bigger and bigger spots of snow are formed. I talk. I carry the conversation forward, towards the unavoidable. The snow grows thicker and heavier on the sidewalk while bigger and bigger whirls pile up along the walls of the buildings. I shiver. Soon the unavoidable is there. I know, for this is only a flashback. The unavoidable...
Slowly the nightmare went away. I woke up, breaking the dream and retaining only the lingering impression that lilacs and roses were not permitted to blossom. At the same time, I extended my hand towards the alarm clock in order to switch it off, for that is what I used to do when I woke up, whether it managed to ring or not. I groped in empty nothingness. I lost my balance when my outstretched hand did not find the alarm clock but touched the cold floor. I was wide awake!
Slowly but steadily, I realized that I was not at all close to home but had slipped through a crack in reality and landed in a forbidding, out-of-the-way spot I might never get out of. It felt unreal, as if I were still inside the hermetic soundlessness of the nightmare, but I knew that I was not dreaming any more.
And with a shiver, I experienced a yearning to return to the nightmare. I had a pain in my side. I was lying on something hard. A stone? I searched with my hand. The mobile phone! Damn! I should have thrown my Sony Ericsson away at the very beginning, when I got into this mess. I folded back the edges and corners of the feather bed and shivered as the moist cold of the room surrounded me.
I dressed, and again the Slormorian clothes had the same pleasant effect as the bed I had been wrapped up in. I observed the curtain that covered the doorway. For the first time I noticed that it was a wonderful tapestry filled with queer symbols and shapes.
It was a living picture, not like a movie or TV, but a static picture alive with colors and shapes that wandered like waves of impossible patterns in a multidimensional display. I had never seen its like! This was the first time I had seen anything on Slormor that could be described as beautiful.
I pushed aside the exquisite curtain and almost stumbled over Parvrin, who was asleep like a doorstep in the doorway. She jumped up with a stifled scream. Her horror grew as she saw me, but she calmed down as her memory of yesterday materialized.
We looked at each other over a cup of bubbling beverage shimmering with a clear orange color. She offered me thick, biscuit-like pieces of bread, which were wholly black and tasteless.
Parvrin was dressed in the same kind of clothes as I, but in addition she wore her cloak with a cowl. At night she had hung it on a peg in the wall. Now she was wearing a chain around her neck.
We sat on the floor with our legs crossed. I told her that I was on my way to a place beyond the canals in the land where the Invaders live.
“You can only get there if you succeed in passing through the dead spot of Slormor,” she said.
The dead spot of Slormor? Hadn’t the old hag talked about the dead spot?
“How can I do that?”
She pursed her thin lips and looked at me with her dark eyes. “That I don't know. Nobody has ever done it.”
This was not good news.
“Besides, nobody knows exactly where the dead spot is.”
That was even worse news.
“However, it is known roughly where it ought to be.”
That was more promising.
“If it exists at all,” she added.
Pondering, I got to my feet and walked over to the round circular door of the house and looked out onto street. A dirty, yellowish drizzle was coming down steadily from a mucous sky. I looked at my watch. It showed 3 pm: a totally meaningless piece of information in this world, where it was now morning.
I had noticed how curiously Parvrin looked at the watch, and I knew that I could use it as bait. I went back into the room and asked her if she would find the way to the approximate place of the dead spot.
She nodded, but when I asked her to guide me, she shook her head. Then I took off my wristwatch and like a hypnotist I let it dangle in front of her eyes at the same time as I murmured: “This can be yours. This can be yours.”
It really worked. Parvrin was bewitched and tried to follow the oscillation that emanated from between my index finger and my thumb. Whether it actually was a matter of hypnotism or whether her desire for the watch was simply stronger than her fear of dead spots, I do not know. Whatever, she suddenly tried to grab the watch.
With a quick movement, I drew it towards me and said, “It will be yours if you take me to the dead spot of Slormor.”
I went to the bathroom and found that my clothes had not yet dried. I let them hang and returned to Parvrin. She prepared two box lunches with black bread and two clay bottles filled with liquid. She made bundles for the bread and we strapped them like sacks on our backs.
She gave me a belt that I buckled around my waist, and when we left the house, the containers with liquid dangled from our belts. She took a big, brightly colored hanky-like piece of cloth, folded it up and put it down inside her own belt. I managed to glimpse a piece of embroidery on it.
The urine-colored smog hung like a lid over the canals. The green beams of the rising sun made the haze obscure. The wretched alleys were warped and twisted. Obviously, rainy weather had passed by during the night. The stiff clay had been transformed into mud. The wheel tracks were filled with sickening, speckled gray fluid.
Parvrin had given me her gur's hooded cloak. Even dressed like that, I would not entirely blend in with neighborhood: I was too tall — one, two, yes, three heads taller than the inhabitants. But dressed like this, I would seem familiar, and my head would be hidden inside the cowl.
We walked along the dock of a small, empty canal. On the mucky bottom were broken lighters and rowboats in different stages of disintegration.
Wooden structures were studded with slimy rashes, the leprosy of navigation. To my dismay, I discovered that people lived on board these wrecks of the past. There was smoke like yellow phlegm coming out of tubular chimneys. Metals did not seem to exist. Instead of nails of iron, wooden plugs were used.
I glimpsed only a few beings. This was the very slum of the deteriorating city. The canal ended in a closed sluice gate. Through a narrow opening between the two parts of the sluice gate, a thin stream of bluish water trickled down into the canal. On the other side, at right angles to the canal, was a bigger channel filled with water.
To me it looked more like purulence.
Here were bigger boats in better condition. They, too, had been around for a long time, but they still looked as if they functioned. On the quay of the canal, barrels were taken on board the boats. The air was permeated with that nasty stink I had felt already when I came to this godforsaken place in the universe, and it was not easy to breathe.
The people who worked with the barrels were all dressed like us. One could not see their faces behind the hoods. Parvrin did not pay any attention to them. She continued walking along the edge of the canal, away from the loading dock.
The more we walked, the fewer boats there were. At last there was only the canal, which became more and more narrow and ended in still another canal, a much bigger one, at least two hundred meters across. This huge canal stretched as far as I could see in both directions, but there was no sign of sea traffic.
The water had the same miserable, almost drowsy radiation like all other things in this oily world. Why was that so? Was this the natural end of human ambition? Were the beings I saw humans?
I looked at Parvrin, who had brought me to the edge of the canal quay.
Below us, stone stairs led to a wooden jetty, where a small boat was moored. It was a flat-bottomed rowing thing. It did not inspire confidence: it seemed to be cracked and leaky. On its bottom were sculls, and a stake was floating in musty water.
Certainly Parvrin must be a human. Up to now she had escaped the sickness that made people apathetic in this moronic milieu.
* * *
Copyright © 2007 by Bertil Falk