EIGHT

THE VILLAGE

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Sammy had been walking ages. She’d seen nothing to indicate that there was intelligent life on this jungle planet, so she took a break at an outcrop of rocks that loosely resembled the Sydney Opera House. A pack of crimson mice ran out from a bush in pursuit of a large shiny beetle. They cornered it in front of a boulder and took it in turns to distract the insect while others attacked from behind.

Quite interesting, but Sammy left them to it and climbed the rocks. At the top she was still well below the tallest mushroom canopies but at least she had a higher vantage point. She turned in a slow circle, throwing her arms out every so often to keep her balance.

There was another pile of rocks visible through the mushrooms. Not ordinary rocks, but blocks, all the same size and shape. Civilisation at last! She climbed down and made her way towards them, pulling apart curtains of creepers as she went. She found the blocks and, with them, a house. It had been completely obscured by vegetation and she’d almost walked right past it. What else had she missed on her journey? Forget about it. No need to worry about that now.

Sammy walked round the side of the house and into a long clearing where she found other houses lined up on either side of a dirt track. All of the buildings looked the same, built from the same grey stone blocks. A village, but a deserted one. The roofs had caved in and there were no doors or windows in the frames. No one had lived here in a long time; unless there was someone camped out in one of the derelict houses. Sammy wasn’t about to call to find out. Drawing attention to herself wouldn’t be a good idea. Not that she was scared. It was because there might be more bears.

She walked further into the village. It was the first time she’d left the cover of the mushrooms, and it was much darker out of their light. There were a few mushrooms in town; a couple in the village square and one or two had squeezed their way up the sides of the houses, but alone they didn’t produce much light, certainly not as much as the large mushrooms in the forest. Yet despite the lack of mushrooms the village wasn’t all black; it was more purple than anything else.

Sammy hadn’t been able to see the sky until that moment as the mushroom canopies had blocked it out. Now she could see it and it was incredible; a churning sea of purple cloud. Not a ‘red sky at night’ kind of purple – the kind that shepherds say brings fair weather – but a deep royal purple and magenta mass of frothing foam. Fast-moving currents and vortexes spiralled into each other, both beautiful and menacing at the same time. It made her dizzy just looking at it. Her balance was telling her she was right side up, but her eyes were telling her she was suspended upside down over a raging ocean. She looked away, shaky for a moment.

Don’t think about it, just keep going. There were houses. Houses meant people. And people meant help. Keep sight of the goal, Ellis.

 

Page 21

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