Under the Green Sun of Slormor
by Bertil Falk
Table of Contents
Part 1 and Part 3
appear in this issue.
Chapter 5: The Klörtser Ride
part 2 of 3
But then a strange movement set in, as though the sand had been set rocking, and I fell headlong into this sea of sand. Parvrin lost her grasp of my arm. A kind of tornado had broken out around us, a whirl and suction drew us down through the sand. We were falling through something that seemed like water rotating in a sink as it is sucked down a drain.
The cyclone-like maelstrom expanded and got bigger and bigger. I turned my eyes upwards and saw that we were inside a hundred-meter wide whirlpool. Along its walls, sand rotated faster and faster.
In this vortex were Belyrs. They were drawn downwards into the grave they had dug for us. Dressed in their stained clothes, they stood out against the yellow wall of the whirl. The ultramarine beings surrounded by their violet auras fell as precipitately and violently as I.
Those who set a trap for others fall into it themselves, was a thought that crossed my mind as quick as lightning, while I flapped and fumbled in order to get hold of something firm, fixed and stationary, something to stand on, cling to, or lean against. The Beryls uttered whimpering sounds.
Then the fall slowed. Not suddenly but with a ploff-sounding noise, a kind of soft landing. I sensed firm ground under my feet and stood with sand up to my armpits. At first I thought I was stuck in the sand; but, exerting all my strength, I extricated mystelf.
I found Parvrin lying on her stomach by my side. She was spitting and had obviously swallowed sand during our unexpected fall. Not far from her was the cadaver of Skurkran, and it was raining not cats and dogs but Belyrs.
At that moment I heard a violent crash, and in front of my eyes the wall of the volcano opened to the outside. An ice-cold current of air rushed in. It was of the same fusty kind I had breathed during most of my sojourn in this world. I climbed to the opening that had imploded and looked over the edge.
A few hundred meters down, a plain stretched out before me. On it stood a small village of stone huts at the foot of the volcano. Beings on their knees were rocking the upper part of their bodies to and fro towards the hole that had appeared in the mountain wall. Their light-blue shapes glowed phosphorescently in the emerald green sunshine.
“Aldravers,” said Parvrin, who had climbed to my side.
Cannibals! Out of the frying pan into the fire!
I had pulled myself up, and my whole body must have stood out against the hollow. I realized that I had given myself away to the cannibals. They had seen me, and now they raised their arms towards me and threw themselves headlong, their heads touching the ground. That was repeated again and again.
“They think you are the god of the volcano emerging out of the mountain,” said Parvrin.
The horizonless plain extended dizzyingly towards eternity. The stone huts were arranged in small, funny circles around something that perhaps was a square. I felt impotence and wonder at all this worshipping that spread up towards me where I stood in the demolished volcano wall and looked down at their superstitious gestures!
Blue-black, vulture-like animals flapped and fluttered their multi-doubled wings, and the gem-colored green sun caused them to shimmer like fat bluebottles. Children rolled in the mud with terror-stricken men, their faces painted with garish red scratches — a kind of tribal sign, I later learned. Like butterflies they lay as though pinned at the sight of me.
How far away from reality had I come because of my sidestep into a world where I did not belong! How far had I gone into this swamp of barely breathable air and meaningless actions!
I turned to Parvrin, who stood in all her youthful splendor, now no longer a small child but a young woman in her freshest bloom, dazzling and resolute.
“What shall I do?” escaped my lips.
She looked at me with a smile that perhaps was mocking, perhaps just indulgent. “This means that we can continue to our goal. The Aldravers should be able to supply us with klörtsers. On them we can make our way more rapidly than before.”
“Klörtsers? What are they?”
“Carriers,” she said. “You’ll see. Now, let’s go down!”
The Aldravers with their painted faces stepped aside, making way for us as we came down the mountain wall. Now I saw that they were phosphorescent and fundamentally similar in structure to the Belyrs and Parvrin. It was only their light-blue aura that distinguished them. They were dressed in something that looked like leather straps wound in layers around their bodies.
Parvrin turned to one of them, and soon two abominable monsters were carried forward. They looked like lilac-colored giant squids with sixteen feelers, many meters long. Their bodies measured three meters high by two meters wide and were equipped with a sucking mouth and protruding saucer eyes as though they had stepped out of an old pulp magazine space opera about bug-eyed monsters.
Before I could say Moby Dick, Parvrin had vaulted into the saddle of one of the monsters. The body or the head gave away under her, and she sank down between the two eyes. To my horror, I realized that these were the klörtsers and that Parvrin expected me to mount the other monster.
She saw my hesitation and jumped down from her monster. I understood that I just had to obey her. She helped me get up onto the body-head or head-body of the animal. I sank down into its soft flesh, which parted under my weight. Sunken into the doughy head or body or stomach or whatever it was of the squid-like monster, I could direct the movements of the animal by squeezing different warts.
On its sixteen slimy and slim slings, the monstrosity moved forward at an enormous speed. After a while most of the unwillingness I had sensed against the repulsive animal had disappeared. Not totally, but almost.
Almost opposite me, I saw Parvrin riding sunken into the skull of a similar monster. Fascinated, I observed how the sixteen extremities whisked the enormous “body” as it swam along across the desert sand. The long tentacles whipped around and created a movement so that the whole specimen seemed to fly over the dunes. Parvrin was so deeply sunken into the soft head of her carrier that she actually sat between the saucer-sized eyes, where otherwise the big sucking-mouth used to be.
The sucking-mouth had sunk down to the... do I dare say to the level of the chin, since what might or might not correspond to a head — according to the path evolution had taken on Slormor — immediately went into its sixteen extremities.
The seat was soft and pleasant, and I wondered if it was the brain I was surrounded with or whether it was the stomach or some other vital part of the body, of which the skin-clad exterior had separated to make room for a rider.
As far as I could judge, the vital organs had to be in what could be characterized as a combination of body and head, a rounded mass wherein the brain and stomach and other organs had to share space.
Afterwards, it became clear to me how wrong I had been. The brain of the animal was distributed in sixteen parts. Each part was placed out on the tip of the feelers. They were joined to each other by means of sixteen spinal-like columns that converged in a shunting yard for mental exchange and transmission, placed where the chin would have been, if the animal had had a chin.
These living beings had a distinctive metabolism that compressed nutrition immediately. In that way the food could, without taking up a lot of space, be saved in a line of round glands forming a ring approximately where the non-existent chin would have been and wherefrom it was converted pari passu according to the need for energy.
Even though I learned to appreciate my “courser,” who elegantly whiskered along the featureless terrain, I did not yet understand — fool that I am — that they were very intelligent beings.
We left the volcano and its two tribes behind us, and far away we discerned a mountain chain. For a long time the blowflies that looked like vultures circled around us, but when they realized that they would not get much out of us, they returned to the village, where there at least was refuse they could scavenge.
It had been said that the invaders would be found behind the volcano. I asked Parvrin about that.
“They’re farther away, somewhere on the other side of the mountain chain,” she said. “They’re anxious. They’ve ceased scanning our minds.”
“They’ve discovered that they can’t penetrate my mind any more. When their scanning thoughts reach me, they slip off the outside of my mind. And as far as you’re concerned...” She smiled. “they’ve realized that they can penetrate your mind, but they don’t understand what’s going on in it.”
Copyright © 2007 by Bertil Falk