The Grey City IV

Friday May 14, 2004 @ 02:57 PM (UTC)

The Grey City I
The Grey City II
The Grey City III

Carys opened her eyes, hoisted the suitcase with one aching arm, and grasped Eirian’s hand, slighly moist from fingernail-biting, in her other hand.

“Come now,” she said sturdily, and marched forward to the bridge’s lip. She paused after the first step, hearing the metal ring under her boot and the quavering sound hum along the structure, out into the mist, as if to alert the monsters of their coming. But having made the attempt, she could hardly turn back, and so she forged on, parting the miasma with her dark bonnet and towing suitcase and sister like ship’s boats during an ocean battle. They were halfway across the bridge, then two thirds. Carys’s heartbeat now seemed quieter, and no longer kept time with the rapid ringing of their booted feet on the grating. She reminded herself, as the water gurgled hungrily, not to look down.

Eirian screamed, and Carys looked down. A seamed, yellow face, like a wax-headed doll left to crumple and run in the sun, peered up at them through milky eyes. The mouth spread in a rotting grin, and white hair stood out from it like a blowsy corona. Carys screamed herself, and took off down the bridge, Eirian and the suitcase flailing on either side, and the din of her own footsteps pursuing her with all the substance of fear. Once, Eirian cried out that she was caught, but with a great heave of her thin arm, Carys pulled her onward. The fog seemed to go on forever, and who knew what or whom might wait to catch them as they careened along — but run they did, and the fog did thin ahead, and they emerged from the ringing, rushing blankness of the bridge at last.

They caught their breath in the circle of light of a street lamp set in the center of a little square, amid drooping flowers. Carys eyed the bridge, but the swirling fog did not part, and no one and no thing emerged. Eirian was sobbing breathlessly, terrified and tired, and rubbing her wrenched shoulder. Her bonnet had been blown off her head and buffeted her as it hung by its dull ribbon ’round her throat, and her dark hair was falling into her eyes and standing out around her head.

“I’m sorry, pet,” Carys murmured, wiping the smaller girl’s tears with her handkerchief, “but we’re quite safe now.”

Eirian sobbed a little ascending scale, let out a sigh at the top, and opened her wet eyes to scowl at her sister. “You hurt my shoulder!”

“I’m so sorry, darling, I was frightened for you.”

“And my foot!”

Carys looked down, and saw Eirian’s right foot in a puddle of water, in a twice-darned stocking. “Deary, please step out of that horrid puddle. I’m sorry if we lost your boot…”

“Shan’t! My foot hurts, and the water is cool and nice.” She tossed her messy head, “What will we do about my boot?”

Carys bit her lip. They might have some long way to travel, and she could not in all conscience allow her little sister to walk stocking-footed in the puddles of the City. Besides the dreadfully unrespectable appearance it gave. They could not afford new boots — they could scarcely afford anything, she thought, jingling the little purse she carried under her outer skirts. She faced the white portal of the bridge. The little square, with its shut-up shops and small houses, the desultory prettiness of the flowers at the center, was comforting, but it only made the eery exposure and the unhealthy smell of the passing more dreadful by contrast.

“I will go back for your shoe,” she said at last. “Stand here by the lamp, and hold this hitching-post. I expect you not to have moved when I get back. Scream if… if anyone comes,” she shivered, and, leaving the suitcase underneath her bedraggled charge, she walked back to the bridge.

She took deep breaths as she approached it, for all the horrid stench. She would not run, this time, until she had to. The thunder of her own fleeing footsteps had not yet left her ears. She made her way, a lone dark shape, into the fog, and moved in it as quietly as she could, softly pinging her way along the span. The boot appeared only a few feet away, and she stole up to it, crouching to pull at it. She could not help but look through the grating, to the complex network of beams below that, with the icy flow of flotsam below, seemed to resolve into dark, moving figures. She wrenched at the boot. A thin, dirty hand reached through the grating and caught at hers.

Too terrified to scream, and sure her cry would bring the disobedient Eirian here to share her fate, she stared into the darkness, where a dirty child’s face appeared in blacks and greys before shimmering to the surface and smiling shyly at her.

“I fink we scared you, miss. You mussn’t be a City girl, then.”

Her fear subsiding slowly, Carys shook her head. “Alls the city people know the Ironbridge is flophouse to the strays — the Runners don’t mind us down here none, see, as long as we don’ mind the people and carts goin’ overheads.” Carys nodded dumbly. “When you’ve moved on as far as they can move you on,” he grinned, “here’s where you sleeps, in the iron tree…”

Carys cleared her throat and whispered, suddenly conscious there must be people sleeping all around, “Don’t you fall?”

“Sometimes,” the childish gargoyle admitted, “’specially the oldies, or them as sleeps too deep. But mostwise we clings well, unless someone throws us a coin as we want too much to heed ourselves…” he clucked his tongue, “many’s been moved on right into the river, an’ they do move on fast from there!” he cackled. “Sorry for the scare, miss…but you’d best find a place to sleep, or you’ll be moved on when the Runners come…” He gave the heel of the boot a wriggle and shove that set it loose, and clambered tinnily back into the darkness. Carys turned and made her way back to Eirian, her feet ringing hollowly on the Ironbridge.

The Grey City V


I really like this serial. It has a lot of atmosphere. I find it reminicient of Neverwhere in that way.

I admit I had anxiety of influence about Neverwhere about the bridge…thank you though!

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