Belly Of The Earth


2. Deeper


I wanted her name. At the moment  I was following a stranger,and while that didn't scare me, it just felt rude.

" Will you tell me your name?" I spoke hesitantly.

"Of course. I am Monlay.Welcome to Belly Of The Earth. You are?"

" Jessamine."

I am not opposed to trading a name for a name. I just never like to go first. Relieved, I focused my attention on the inside of the shop and let out a strangled gasp. Quite possibly one of the strangest sounds I can make. It was a small space, but at the same time mighty. Dream catchers hung from every inch of the ceiling, and shelves climbed high over the entire room. Tapestry's were rolled up and sitting in their thousands on the shelves, piled next to wooden statues and metal storage chests. Lanterns took up a whole wall, row after row with each of them displaying a different candle or incense  Rickety tables filled to the brim with crystals marked out a narrow path between them, and in one corner a bundle of water features gurgled away in rhythm with the wind chimes hanging at the door. Monlay did not seem willing to stop for long; she let me briefly take it in before leading me swiftly to a back room, the door disguised by a hanging curtain of glass beads. I didn't bother to ask - I don't like wasting words unless they are inside my head. If she had something that needed saying I had to trust that she'd volunteer it. For now I was content to follow. Steps met us and we moved down them, the curving walls hugging my elbows and pushing me on from behind. Light poured onto the steps from more lanterns lining the ceiling above.We must have descended a long way, because I had checked my wristwatch when we began and nearly a quarter of an hour had passed since then. Heat beyond that supplied by the summer morning was wafting up to greet us now, and I figured we must be getting close to whatever it was Monlay wished me to see.

Soon I was proved right; we had reached the bottom. My heart had lurched up and lodged itself into my mouth because I hadn't seen the final step coming; I missed it and jolted to the floor. Now Monlay turned to face me. Up close she looked younger, her dark black hair fanning out around a slim and slightly elfish face. She beamed.

"You are a deliverer for Mr Dertyu, yes?"

She no doubt enjoyed the shock as it flitted over my face. How could she possibly know what I had been doing prior to when I met her? I asked her.

"My dear, I was expecting you!"

That just made it worse and I told her so. She laughed, a great billowing sound like an angel.

"He told me that he would be sending some of his finest past my shop. I knew you were one of them with that answer. He and I are close, you see. He gladly helps me when I ask him. I've been looking for the next set of young ones for weeks now!"

"Set of young ones?"

"You are worried! Fear not. The fact that you came willingly proves there is nothing to fear.You should see that. Just as you will soon see what is happening here. Come now."

I saw no point in turning back.


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