The Sugar of the Earth – part 16


Silimpert Non, called simply Slimp by all his friends – every one of which lay dead – tossed his lean head, focused his eyes on his foe, and pronounced that name with a grotesque inflection of his handsome face: he curled his top lip on the left as he gave breath to the N, but slowly moved the word like a tough cut of undercooked meat to the bottom right of his mouth where the lip there unwrapped from around the gum as the teeth managed the Z’s, then back to the left side as his top lip curled there again finishing the palindromic circuit with a sneer: ‘Nizzin!’


Nizzin reached for his machete but had left it back at his room. ‘Dammit’, he said plainly. He dashed to the side as the dire-zebra and its rider bore down on him.


Zgija’s pulse was mad, her vision swung, she could feel her muscles spasm (light!). The memory of the event at the party, Mrs Hinj pronouncing that word, rose through her mind like the distracting tingle of her sinuses clearing. She almost sneezed. Somewhere in front of her a ridiculous melee played out. How had a zebra come to the island? She was vaguely aware that the man with the long hair had helped her out of the party, but could not fathom where his attacker had originated.


Nizzin was in a panic. When he had last seen Slimp they were on the top of a mesa on the mainland: the shrine had seeped light from its wreckage, the broken stones lambent with dust; Slimp’s corpse was drawn in the pale illumination; great lizards croaked out in the desert; in his hands he held the hollow shape of a strange arm . . . The dire-zebra locked eyes with Nizzin, shaking him from the memories and baring down on him all the import of its previous gazes as if to say, ‘something else might have been made of all this.’


Nizzin dodged again the punishing hooves of the dire-zebra until he was able to make space enough to hop half way up a wall (he could be very graceful) and launch himself from that vantage at Slimp – tackling him, dismounting him from the dire-zebra, and taking him to the ground. In his moment of success, Nizzin wrapped his arm around Simp’s shoulder, locked the hold, and twisted harshly feeling for the break. The crack came quickly and with the satisfaction of some infection spent of its pus; Nizzin’s eyes fluttered. Slimp barked out a yelp and everything became suddenly oozy; Nizzin lost his grip, became confused.


From where Zgija was she saw the shape of Slimp melt backwards out of the grapple as his mind-shape engaged and drew itself long across the cobbles of that little town before coalescing the body proper, throwing it up like a child on a trampoline, some thirty or forty yards down Pipe Street. Strangeness, it seemed, abounded.


Slimp scrambled, gained his footing and fled, his broken arm flopping wildly, his shape racing away, his zebra abandoned. The animal turned and clopped slowly up to Nizzin. It’s breath made plumes of disapproval. Nizzin, thrilled to have action almost regardless of context, lost no time in swinging up into the saddle and charged after Slimp.


As the hooves clattered away leaving Zgija in silence her muscles spasmed again; photophores beneath her skin pulsed briefly but there was no one there to notice. She shivered light.


In the middle of Pipe Street Nizzin had dropped his book.






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