In the third and final book of the Inner Islands Trilogy, Anforth the raccoon finds himself flung beyond the sky by an ancient human machine, while his friends Flutesam the otter, Crow the crow, and Ru-Shi the raccoon try to survive within the ruins of an abandoned human base.
They face danger and adventure, alone and together, as they discover what the humans did to make creatures intelligent, and why. And they learn where the humans went, and where they are going next.
Where the Humans Went is available in e-book and paperback world-wide via Amazon:
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| Where the Humans Went|
Inner Islands 3
Here’s how part of it goes:
The room was a circular dome, with windows that wrapped most of the way around set into deep sills in the rock. There were even a few windows in the ceiling, up near the top of the dome. Most of them were blocked by trees and bushes, but a blaze of sunlight came straight through one and lit the open end of the shaft Anforth had come up. The shaft surfaced in a hole in the floor near the back wall. When the tide was high the water would come almost up to its top, but at the moment it was much lower. He would have to be careful not to fall in.
Anforth looked out through the lower windows but the view was full of green leaves and tree trunks, so he couldn’t see very much beyond them. Then he heard a faint tap-tapping sound, and looked up.
Crow had landed on one of the upper windows.
“Hello, Crow!” Anforth said. It was a surprisingly big relief to see his friend, and know that Flutesam had sent her to find him, as they had discussed.
“Hi Anforth!” said Crow. Her voice was soft and tinny through the window glass, which seemed unusually thick and heavy. Earlier in the summer Anforth and his friends had helped open up trade with the mainlanders of the drowned city, and the creatures of the Inner Islands had already imported a great deal of glass, which the humans had made in vast quantities. Normal human glass was quite thin and fragile, but this seemed thick and tough. He wasn’t sure he would be able to break it even if he wanted to.
“What’s your plan?” Crow asked.
“There’s a tunnel off to the north, and I want to see if there’s an entrance I can use to get out of here without going back under water!” Anforth said, shouting to make sure Crow heard him. “I’ll explore on the inside, and you can explore on the outside! Then we can meet back here and compare notes!”
“OK!” said Crow. She glanced at the angle of the sun. “How about in a beru?”
The creatures didn’t have clocks. The precise time of day rarely mattered to them, so telling time by the sun, the moon, and the stars was more than good enough. For some reason the usual unit of time, which was one twelfth of a day from noon to noon, was called a “beru”, while half a beru was called an “hour”.
“That sounds good!” shouted Anforth. His throat was getting sore from all the shouting. He was usually a quiet creature. He briefly wished Ru-Shi was with him. She was much better at shouting than he was.
Crow flew off, and Anforth turned toward the back of the room, away from the windows. There was a doorway there, huge and human-sized. Beyond it lay gloom, but not total darkness. Every now and then along the corridor beyond there was a circle in the ceiling that glowed with a pale light. The corridor, like the room he was in, was empty. It seemed to go on without end, sloping gently downward.
He stepped over the threshold, and sneezed at the dust he stirred up. At least there would be no chance of getting lost. All he had to do was follow his own footprints back through the dust on the floor.
There were no doors off the corridor, and it eventually ended in a second room that was much like the first in shape, but far larger and more dimly lit, and with a good deal more in it. A ring of glowing circles was set high in the ceiling, around a large open shaft that seemed to go straight up into the rock.
Around the edges of the room were metal consoles. A few human-sized chairs, each with a single straight leg in the centre that spread out into several feet with wheels on them, were scattered near the consoles. One was turned on its side, as if the occupant had got up in a hurry and knocked it over, and had never come back to pick it up.
Anforth had never felt so close to the mysterious beings who had come before. The creatures of the Inner Islands believed humans had made them intelligent, and then had vanished from the world, but no one knew why. No one knew what had really happened. Anforth had always wondered, and just assumed he would never know. But that was before he and Flutesam and Crow had found //Lucky//. Now, he thought they might. It wasn’t just that their human-built boat let them sail safely where no creature from the Inner Islands had ever been, but it suggested some humans had left things behind for the creatures to discover. At least one of them–the one Anforth and his friends called the Map Maker–had left clues behind. So maybe it was possible to find out what the humans had done, and where they had gone.
As soon as he knew it might be possible to find out about the humans, Anforth had felt a growing desire to do just that. His quiet life was a memory now, although he hoped he would one day return to it. But not before he found out.
He picked up the fallen chair and set it gently upright, then turned his attention to what was in the centre of the room.
It was shaped like an egg, and lay on its side in a kind of cradle made of metal struts. It was large enough that he could easily climb inside it through the open hatch at the fat end, the door of which was hinged inward. The upper part of the egg was transparent, and inside there was… well, to Anforth’s eyes it looked like a cross between a bed and a chair. It had armrests, but was long enough that a human would have been able to lie down comfortably. And it lay back like a bed, but not all the way. A human on top of it would still be half sitting up. It was–like so many human things–very strange.
Anforth climbed in through the hatch and inspected the inside of the egg. The surface of the seat/bed was smooth under his paws. There was a light-disk, smaller than the ones in the cavern ceiling, and another console with switches and things. He knew from their experience with the wreck of the sky-sausage to stay away from those.
He was turning to leave again when the lights flashed brightly inside the egg and the hatch slammed shut on its own. A voice–a human voice!–spoke loudly in his ears. He could understand the words but the sounds were strange. All the creatures spoke in different ways, making what sounds they could. Their stories said they spoke the language the local humans had once spoken, which had been taught to their ancestors before the humans went away. But no living creature had ever heard the words as humans made them. Anforth was frozen in fear, but he was still amazed to note that of all the creatures, Crow was by far the closest to true human speech.
“Base self-destruct sequence activated. Emergency capsule occupied. Escape protocol engaged. Launch in ten… nine… eight…”
Anforth scrambled to the hatch and tried to open it, but nothing he tried worked. The count down quickly reached zero, and Anforth was pressed down as if by a giant invisible hand. The egg whooshed up the shaft in the roof of the dome and passed through a giant multi-leafed hatch that had burst open at the top.
The egg hesitated then, flinging Anforth up against the dome. He just had time to catch a glimpse of Crow, flapping madly out of the way of the egg, before the egg flew off again, slamming him back down onto the seat/bed. He thought Crow had seen him, but within moments he was far too high for any bird to reach. Although it had changed course slightly when it paused, the egg was travelling very nearly straight up.
He was headed into the sky!