Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Mick and Jane on the Moon — Four

In a large section of the underground near a wall stood a large wooden altar to Hecate, goddess of the Night. The altar was used during a lunar eclipse to appease Hecate. It was painted black and yellow. Tradition called for sacrifice. The inhabitants of the moon had not arrived yet. The wizard with long black hair wore a striped black and yellow cape for the occasion. He was speaking to the chief mathematician. A runner had come back one night and said that while he discussed barter with a farmer, the son came out and said he couldn't sleep. But he heard the word "moon", and said at school the teacher told the class the moon was slowly moving away from the Earth. This was important. If a lunar eclipse were missed, Hecate would surely take revenge. Nearby was a circle painted black with a yellow center. Ted stood in the circle, and trembled. Soon rumbling noise was heard.

The wagon slowly came into view and stopped a distance from the altar. Swiss got out and walked toward the altar, and greeted the two men. They soon got to their business.

The mathematician, holding a sheet, said, "I got as far as a series of five numbers. The first is 7, which Swiss had last time."

Swiss quickly said, "I went 'ver the calculation, and got 8. That's what ya had b'fore."

The wizard was dismayed: "Oh, no no. It will take forever to get to the end of pi at this rate. There are big holes in your calculations."
"All we have are paper and pencils," lamented the mathematician."

"You have fingers, and if you need more there are a lot of lazy people around who can add theirs."

"They'll get bored, and start dropping fingers. We could barter moonshine for abacuses."

"All right, but we need more numbers; and we have to find out how fast we are moving away from Earth. What else do you have? Why did Brie stay in the wagon?"

"He's keepin' two kids down," Swiss said, as he motioned Brie to bring the children. They got out, then suddenly the girl ran to Ted. She got into the circle, and crying, hugged Ted. "Come home! Come home!" she kept crying, as she pulled him away.

Brie came to the circle with Mick, and told him to get in.

The wizard warned the children, "This is a magic circle. You will die if you try to leave." This caused the children to panic. "You better stop your noise," said the wizard, raising his voice. The children calmed sufficiently.

"Three?" said the wizard. "This is irregular. A runner spotted two coming up this morning, and ran back. By luck, he nabbed the boy. Do we sacrifice the three? I must go back to my private shrine to consult the goddess. I need you in the outer sanctum. Don't let anyone interrupt." He and the mathematician disappeared through a hole in the wall.

"Well. Ain't no one comin' fer an 'our or so. I'm goin'a rest 'gainst th'alta," said Brie.

"Goin' to join you. It's been a long day with figures," said Swiss.

The two sat on the ground with their back against the altar, and shortly fell into a snore fest.

"Come on!" whispered the girl.

"We'll die if we try to get out!" retorted Ted quietly.

"Come on!"

"We can't leave the circle."

"Come on!" she repeated, trying to pull her brother out of the circle.

The three then walked quietly to the wagon. They got on, and Mick took the reins. Beside him was Ted, then the girl. Mick shook the reins; the horse didn't move. He shook them again, and said, "Gaddiup." The horse stood motionless. The girl handed Ted the whip; he struck the horse. It buckled, then remained motionless.

"Harder," said the girl; Mick said "Gaddiup", and Ted lashed the horse as hard as he could. The horse began to move.

After a little while the girl said, "It's the wrong way,"

"Oh," said Mick, not knowing if he should pull on one rein or the other. Then he pulled on one, and the horse began to turn toward the altar.

"Harder, harder," Ted nearly yelled.

The horse got closer and closer to the sleeping men, and Mick and Ted pulled on the rein. They swung around, missing the men by a few feet; and off they went, slowly.

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