The Grey City XIX

Wednesday August 27, 2008 @ 11:16 AM (UTC)

The Grey City I
The Grey City II
The Grey City III
The Grey City IV
The Grey City V
The Grey City VI
The Grey City VII
The Grey City VIII
The Grey City IX
The Grey City X
The Grey City XI
The Grey City XII
The Grey City XIII
The Grey City XIV
The Grey City XV
The Grey City XVI
The Grey City XVII
The Grey City XVIII

Carys awoke on the pavement of the Orchard Street sidewalk. At least, it seemed she did. The sidewalk was there, under her hand, when she raised her head to look, but she did not feel it. Nor could she hear the scraping and rustling she would have expected as she collected herself and stood.

“Eirian!” she called, and she could hear that well enough, though the world did seem quiet, muffled, in the City dawn. She looked down to dust off her skirt, and decided she needn’t bother. Her dress and apron were clean and new, and the dirt under her fingers had disappeared. Her feet did not quite touch the ground – perhaps why they made no sound – and there was a bright, fuzzy quality to the air around her arms and legs, but after all, she had died. She had to expect some effect.

She could not see the Runners or her sister on the street. The rising light made it obvious that hours had passed. The first thing was to find Eirian, and as she thought about her she felt an almost physical tug down Orchard Street. Unquestioning, she started in that direction, moving all the more quickly for her feet not touching the ground, all the more quickly for the pull to which she surrendered.

Around her the City was transformed, and not by the pallid morning light as she had first imagined. The buildings seemed less substantial, less important. As she turned into an alley, then out onto another street, she paused to stare at one of the houses. Its third story flickered, as if seen with one eye and not the other. The effect was disturbing at first, but it had its amusing side as well, particularly when Carys spotted a stout woman in a mob cap walking along a hallway that was here, gone, here, gone.

Indeed, now that she was beyond the disused storefronts of Orchard, Carys could see people all around. They were no more solid than the buildings, but much more colorful, and Carys could see them even through the walls, like washes of watercolor. It cheered her to thus glimpse a normal life, a child being lifted to a window and the bustle of colors she assumed must be an early breakfast being set out or eaten before a workday.

Resuming her glide, she saw a strange shape in the offing, undulating across the thoroughfare. It bristled and shimmered like a centipede, but as she approached she saw that it was some sort of fence. Scattered on the street ahead of the barrier was a pattern of blotches, dark on the washed-out cobbles like soot but splattered and pooled like paint. The stains intensified as she approached the stockade, but she had to look up as she negotiated the boundary, mesmerized by the shifting shapes and almost afraid that the teeth would arrange themselves to close against or capture her.

Beyond the fence, shattered brick facades flashed whole, but seldom, as if it were a past too far removed to remember. The pull of Eirian’s path laced upwards through the hulks and changing debris. Carys followed along for a time on the ground but found the way blocked by an old wall, mortared stone with layers of pilfered tile, unflickering with the certainty of years.

It would take a long time to backtrack and take the aerial route, and she could tell she was getting close, that Eirian was only a half-mile ahead, not moving. She held her solid hand up to the unchanging but half-seen wall. It stopped, as if by habit, half an inch away from the stone, but she took a deep breath and pushed. It was like thick pudding at first, then easier and easier as her conviction grew. She stepped through the wall as if through a waterfall and headed towards her sister.

The Grey City XX


Always thought “19” was translated as “XIX”

Only if you’re doing it correctly.

I couldn’t tell you why I did nine correctly without thinking about it, and nineteen incorrectly with just as little thought. Perhaps it illustrates that a little thought goes a long way.

How on earth did I miss you posting this new chapter?

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