He marched back to the mermaids. The Flute Bearer was still playing. The Spiral slithered about gurgling and gesturing, sometimes looking into the sky.
‘Please,’ said Rodger, ‘can’t you make it go any faster?’
The Flute Bearer kept playing and the Spiral kept gurgling. Rodger sighed and marched off in front again.
During the day, the mermaids took turns playing their flutes. Rodger walked back and forth numerous times, but no matter how fast he walked in front of the mermaids and the tree, the tree did not move any faster.
When night came and the mermaids insisted on stopping, Rodger checked his watch. The Machine would do the next jump in about 37 hours. If it had just been him, it would be plenty of time, but now he was not so sure.
The next day was torture. As the sun raced across the sky, the tree crept forwards at a snail’s pace. He tried to push the Spiral forwards, but it just gurgled and pointed to the tree, and he did not dare touch the Flute Bearer for fear it might leave. It would probably only take even longer if there was only one mermaid to play. To top it off, all through the day his thigh burned and itched in equal measure.
When the sky grew dark and they stopped playing, Rodger went up close to the Spiral.
‘Look, I’m really grateful for your help,’ he said, trying to figure out how he would mime ‘grateful’, ‘but it’s very important that I get there in time.’ He pointed to his watch. No, they did not have those. He moved his hand across the sky from horizon to horizon. ‘So, please,’ he folded his hands, ‘please can we move on?’ He took he Spiral’s hand and turned to go, but the Spiral pulled its hand back.
‘Please,’ said Rodger.
The Spiral gurgled and pointed to the water.
‘Oh, come on.’ Rodger Grabbed its hand, yanked it forwards. The Spiral fell forwards and pain shot up Rodger’s arm as a stone connected with his elbow.
‘Ouch!’ Rodger let go of the Spiral and cradled his arm. The Flute Bearer slithered past him without looking at him, touched the Spiral on the shoulder and moved towards the water. The Spiral looked from Rodger to the Flute Bearer and turned to follow.
‘No, wait,’ said Rodger. The Spiral looked over its shoulder, but continued into the water.
The mermaids disappeared beneath the waves. After an hour, they had still not returned with any seaweed.
Read part one here: http://abolg.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/moving-forwards-part-1/