Hi all and many thanks to ChateauxenEspagne for inviting me. I haven’t really thought through the mechanics but as a test I will put up a trial narrative. It’s not in any competition, is draft and has genre elements of the occult, fantasy and a teeny, weeny pinch of SF.
We didn’t have friends, that comes from the Westerners. They come with their albino faces, shot with pink and expounded the virtues of their West. Our leaders listened and let them in. We didn’t care, our lives were already set and nothing they could do would change us.
It is here I must add a note on my people. We lived in the hot zones. Take a trip to the Great Ocean; sometimes known as the Pacific – go the place they call Hawaii. the volcano there is dormant, but few knew, until the recent discovery, that in the sides were secret crevices leading to a land under the Great Ocean. It is well known that the Earth has great volumes of sub-surface water permeating its crust – the result of its bombardment by ice bearing asteroids billions of years ago. What is less well known – at least until recently – was that the cataclysm that sank ancient Lemuria, didn’t actually destroy everything. Some of us survived. Enough of our secrets – we have lived here for millennia, warmed by Earth energy, in out subterranean redoubts. Sun, Moon and Stars mean little to us but we live, breathe and love.
My friend was to be Karl – Karl Grossekind. He was tall, rangy and blond haired with crazy blue eyes. he was an envoy and I an interpreter. We walked the ways of Urshenbal. The stalls were built into the groaning rock and the walkways, barely the width to let two people pass, would sometimes shiver. They were built within faults in the rock – usually at the widest point. The faults stretched down a long way, so it was unwise to lose your footing. I led Karl to Zakash.
Zakash sold the finest molluscs. Toasted, minced, grated, dried, roasted; you name it, he sold it.
“Where have you brought me?” Karl questioned in his harsh, non-Lemuric words.
We hadn’t entered yet but the way in was framed by weathered limestone, imported at great cost and with greater secrecy from our factor in the Limestone Quarries – on the other side of the globe. That part of the Earth was pockmarked by the digging and delving – and considerable effort was expended upon making the surface geography look as if the limestone was weathered and worn entirely by water action.
From inside came the distinct aroma of freshly minced mollusc. Zakash kept live breeding pens for local consumption and there was reputed to be medicinal value in eating them live. Some considered this to be a justification for reviving older, carnal traditions. I made do with cooked… plus plenty of sea vegetables.
“You eat that?”
“Ninety per cent plus of the earth’s biomass lives in or under the surface. Given the paucity of your food – foul, fish and farm – it is as well we harvested the Earth.
“What’s this?” Karl demanded.
I looked at it closely. It was Tirydian mollusc, nothing remarkable. He held it between finger and thumb like poison. “Smell it. Tell me what you think.” The look on his face told me that that wasn’t going to happen. He was almost green. “Okay,” I conceded, “it doesn’t look like your thing. What do you fancy?”
He was much taller than me – than most Lemurians come to think of it – but he was a top-sider. His eyes roved around Zakash’s store, there was little he wouldn’t see.
“What about those?” he asked in harsh, upper-world tones.
I looked where he pointed. High up, well out of my reach, the pinks and browns of crawl-bait were strung together, engorged by preserving paste. They were only for shoe though admittedly, they made a gaudy spectacle. But only crawl-bait – for those that fished in the water drenched shale oceans. The upwells brought an abundance to those patient enough to fish the deeps – but they would no more consume crawl-bait than they would eat dirt. We might live below ground but we didn’t eat it!
“If we went fishing, Karl, then we might use it. It is not, however, suitable for consumption.”
“Fishing? Did you say fishing?”
“Yes?” That seemed to brighten him up. “Do you fish?” I added.
“Well no,” he replied, “but it may be a thing we could have in common.
I didn’t fish – it was a dirty, dangerous activity – but I was interpreter and he envoy. We had to play the game. I looked up at him speculatively.
“Would you like to go fishing?” I said eventually.
His lips, no longer mirthless, beamed his reply. I’d cracked him – I could have kissed him there and then – but there are forms. I didn’t wait for him to answer. “Leave it with me.”
* * *
I led him back, making sure to only use the widest, most stable walkways. Natural fissures are second nature to us Lemurians but top-siders expect everything to be terra firma with the emphasis on firma. It’s like they don’t know lithology – if the Earth was solid through and through, the first lunar tremor or mantle movement would shatter it – or it’d be dead. It’s neither and the fractures are why. They’re our space. Sure they’re dangerous but to live is to invite risk. Anyhow, I was now on roll with Karl and I didn’t want him spooked.
I dropped him off at the legation and went back to my Society, preparing myself mentally for the ribbing. They’d be asking: What was he like? and Did you do anything special? or more pointedly Did you get him alone? In the event, that fell off the agenda entirely; as I got back, a representative from Urshenbal Township Council was waiting. Bang went my bath.