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Under the Green Sun of Slormor

by Bertil Falk

Table of Contents
Chapter 2
part 1
part 2
appear in this issue.
Chapter 2: The Dead Spot of Slormor

part 3 of 3

The scenery changed as we walked away from the canal. Behind us, we left the decayed storehouses of the docks and the broken wooden doors of the boathouses, hanging like false teeth in toothless doorways.

Now tillage stretched out before us. Drab fields were overgrown with black, spike-bearing kinds of corn. I realized that it was the flour from these ears that was used to make the black and tasteless bread we had eaten for breakfast.

We rambled along the narrow road between the fields. Far away, a mountain chain could be seen dimly. One of the mountains was higher than the others, and I saw that it was a volcano of some kind, surrounded by lower mountain peaks. They were covered with something that looked like mauve snow.

Parvrin stopped and pointed to the volcano. “On the other side, the Invaders dwell. And here somewhere is the dead spot of Slormor. Can I have the thing and go home, now that you know where to look?”

I unfastened the watch from my wrist and gave it to her. “No,” I said to her. “I want to go to the land of the Invaders. That is where the gateway to my own world is said to be.

“And what was it you said about my delivering you? From what?”

“From the evil of the Invaders,” she said in a simple way. “Can I go back now?”

“Can you cross the canal alone? How? The boat is sunk. You can't swim across. You'd be a mouthful to the Slushers.”

Maybe she fought within her mind. Maybe one part of her wanted to return in triumph, producing a prize she could proudly show her more timorous friends. And her status would be enhanced. Maybe another part of her feared the unknown and the Invaders, but at the same time she found it tempting to be the companion of the savior.

It would increase her status even more if I were the savior. But deep down I had the feeling that I was wrong. She wanted to come with me. That she knew that she would accompany me.

She sat down on a broken carriage, pillaged of its wooden wheels. After a while she said: “We pitch a camp here. Night is closing in and we must find a safe place.”

“Where will we find a safe place?”

“We're at the safest place we can find today,” Parvrin said. “We can sleep under the carriage, using it as a shelter. Help me to turn it upside down.”

I thought of protesting, but a light thrill inside my mind told me: “You're tired and should rest. Camp now!”

My rational ego? Or could it be the Invaders lulling me into a false sense of security?

We joined hands in overturning the carriage, which was already lying partly on its side. It formed a massive wooden cabin: its floor became a ceiling and its sides became walls. We crept into its shelter. There was space enough, but it was dark inside. Only a slim streak of scanty evening light trickled between narrow chinks here and there. I put on my headlamp and turned on its light.

Parvrin gave a cry and in that moment I knew that I possessed another perfect means of tempting her. By the bluish light of my headlamp, we took out our food bags and ate the tasteless black buns. I found that I actually had not been hungry during the day. Evidently, the ugly black fields of corn were extraordinarily nourishing. We drank tepid liquid from the clay bottles hanging from our belts.

Out of her bundle, Parvrin took out a black cloth of some kind, whereupon she crept out. I crept after her. She broke small sticks from the carriage and built a rack with them. Then she stretched the black cloth over the rack. The cloth took a funnel-shaped form. Under that funnel, she put her clay bottle. Then she built a similar rack, attached another funnel of cloth and motioned to me to hand her my bottle.

It struck me that this was the way the explorer Sven Hedin had collected dewdrops during the nights in the endless deserts of Asia. Next morning there would be condensation water in our bottles.

The sun fizzled out in a snot-green haze.

We crept inside our hovel and let the beds embrace us. The ground was hard and uneven. For a long time I was thinking of my recently baptized grandchild, of life. I was homesick, and I fell asleep with tears in my eyes.

I stand up out of the scent of roses in a hymn for some higher powers, the victory of mystery over reason. Birds clatter their wings against the sunset, the sweet sand of the beach. Small shells arranged in ridiculous lines by some playful holidayer.

Blood on a stone. Someone has cut his toe on a broken lemonade bottle. The sun cracks the chasm between heaven and earth with a dripping red glow transforming the landscape as if it were seen through sunglasses.

I am back in snow. We walk side by side, my son and I. Already, glassy ice had formed here and there. We pass by a private car that has slid straight into the display window of a shoe store. A shaken shop owner shouts and screams among shoes and splinters of glass. A confused driver stands staring.

Anxiously I moved in my sleep.

My son gives a start and glowers furtively at me. He looks deplorable. Hair is soaking wet from melting snowflakes. His tie is carelessly knotted around his neck. A regular breeze filled with whirling granules of snow whips our faces. And soon, soon the unavoidable... the painful...

I scratch my nose.

Heaven is bleeding snow. We can’t see our hands in front of us. Where are we going? I take a wrong step and am falling, falling, falling,

Falling at the same time that I tried to sit up in my bed. It was as if the ground had opened up under me. An earthquake? I was falling and falling. I was shouting. I heard Parvrin screaming. Falling and falling...

And then I thudded down against something soft but unyielding that was descending, and I began to roll downwards, I succeeded in rising into a sitting position and I slid down, downhill until... I stopped!

Dusky darkness. I groped and I found my headlamp. It was fixed to my head. Its blue light illuminated Parvrin, who was lying flat on her back, trying to get to her feet. I raised my head and looked upward. A vague light from one of the cheese-green moons trickled down from a hole about ten yards above me.

It took me a few seconds to understand what had happened. The ground had yielded under us. I looked around. The blue glow of the headlamp exposed boats. They reminded me of Roman galleys, Scandinavian Viking ships and Venetian gondolas. They were all thrown over, shadowless monsters against a background of nothing but black silence. A cemetery of dead ships! We were on the beach of a dried-up seabed.

In a daze, I got to my feet. Parvrin was already standing, and she extended her hand to me. Our bottles, which would have collected water, had also fallen down through the hole together with the cloth funnels.

Beyond the shadowless monsters, the former seabed sloped away for hundreds of meters. And above our heads the ceiling also sloped. Since there was a plain above us, it meant that the shell got thicker as the seabed disappeared in the dusk in the direction of the volcano and the mountains with the lilac peak.

And then I saw where we were. This must be the dead spot of Slormor.

It was untouched and invisible but in reality separated from the world only by a shell, which luckily was thin where we happened to locate our lodging for the night. Our upside-down carriage had been conveniently parked on a place where the shell was like a thin crust of ice over an ocean that no longer existed, water that had disappeared thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of years ago. The weight of our bodies combined with our breathing during uneasy dreams had been enough to cause the shell to give way.

Happened to locate our lodging for the night? Happened?

Had a touch from the outside skimmed my mind and caused me to accept Parvrin's proposal to pitch a camp where we did? Did the Invaders or some other unknown power govern our movements and actions? When I stared into the darkness beyond the shadowless hulls of the wrecks, I fancied I saw a shimmer of purple.

There was something over there.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2007 by Bertil Falk

Proceed to Challenge 274...

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