The Grey City V

Friday June 04, 2004 @ 11:40 AM (UTC)

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

Carys stepped from the ringing hollow of the Ironbridge to the grimy cobblestones of the square, her heart slowly throbbing down to its normal pace. Eirian perched on the trunk, holding obediently to the hitching post, and looking like nothing so much as a small but ardently loyal dog that has languished in chains while its master embarked on a parlous journey. As Carys stepped from the fog, clearly unhurt and trailing a small boot, her little sister’s form lost its spring-taut poise and its severe little frown.

Eirian shuffled off the suitcase as her sister approached, and hugged
her ferociously, hiding a sniffle of fear or relief in the rustling
embrace. Carys smiled over her bonneted head, and looked cautiously
around the square. The lights were mostly out here, only soft flickering
nightlights wavering through upper windows, as far away as the stars.
Only the street lamp in the center yielded much illumination, but Carys
could see another lamp, glowing with promise from the corner where a
street branched off the square and slowly climbed a gentle hill,
disappearing into a sea of shrouded, angular shadows that might be low roofs. Carys
softly disentangled Eirian and fished in her own pocket for the letter
with its flowing, enigmatic script. Freezing Eirian with a bright smile,
she said, “Stay right here and put on your boot, I’m only going ’round the square there.”
Eirian nodded, and Carys hurried to the mouth of the little rising

In the light of the gaslamp, with her back to Eirian, she
drew out the envelope and puzzled over the direction again. It was faded,
of course, the pencil light from much handling and folding — but the
direction was still clear enough, if only she understood it. She could
guess the large squiggle followed by a cross, at the end of the line. The
cross could only be a ‘t’, despite its strange flowing skirts, and that made
the squiggle some mysterious form of ‘S’, and the whole a short word for
“Street”. That much she had guessed before. But what came before? Could that
be an ‘H’? It had two uprights with a bridge between, like an ‘H’. But it
was overhung with furbelows, loops like pears dangling from the tops, and the
bridge itself was a flourishing oval. She peered around for a street sign,
a metal plaque painted wth the easy, blocky letters she knew, like those she had seen on the other side of the river.

It was there! Soot-blackened, and almost lost in the withered ivy on a
brick wall, but a sign for all that, and written in letters she could
read. ‘Hucklebush Street’, she spelled out at length. It began with an
‘H’. Perhaps a little too long to be the word on the envelope…but if
‘Street’ could be reduced to two letters, what abbreviation might not
befall ‘Hucklebush’? She was resolved, and returned to Eirian to shoulder
the suitcase and start with every air of certainty down this next step of
their road.

The night had well and truly fallen while they crept through
the twilit fog, and even that thick substance could not entirely block out
the darkness, or hide every single star. As they trudged along to
Hucklebush Street, a star or two would peek out like the glow of the
rush-candle through its pierced tin flute at home, the light Mother
had left for them every evening. Silently, the two girls watched the
feeble stars, and remembered the patterns of light dancing softly on the
ceiling, and felt with renewed yearning the wish for home.

The Grey City VI


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