An experiment this week:
By Neil Beynon
The city of light glows black in the afternoon sun. Coiled snakes run through its passageways and thoroughfares, snip snapping at any strays, grinding over the unseen, the passed out, the forgotten.
Confused, bleeding and lost in the maze, Will wanders. He is clutching paper on which monkey glyphs are scrawled; he cannot read them. Once he had the power but it has been taken from him. So many things stripped from him. He is not even naked, he is like a skeleton picked raw by birds and bleached white by the burning star above. He does not know why.
Will ambles through the hidden paths, secret stairs and high towers until he comes before the sorcerer. Will does not know for what reason he has made this journey to a man even madder than he, if that’s what the sorcerer is.
Will does think he’s gone mad. That he has been driven so by the venomous worms that traverse the city, eroding the rock with their bellies. The sorcerer is speaking to him in strange howls, squeaks and mutterings. Will no longer understands this strange tongue.
The sorcerer hands him new paper. Will thanks him for it or hopes he does. The sounds coming out of his own mouth are alien to him, strange shapes that crack his parched lips leaving a coppery aftertaste.
Outside. Inside the labyrinth. The lizards are winning. They are numerous now. Coiled knots of scales that have already taken skin from some of Will’s limbs. Already left their puckered marks from their not so tender kisses.
Something compels Will on. An image in his mind. Orbs, two of them ringed in blue. And on he goes. One foot in front of another.
Light bugs flick their wings at him from the corner of the concrete hills. A thousand Will’s watch him from the crystal panels on every side. The snakes grow restless as if sensing his penetrating intrusion.
Inwards. To the centre point. So he may escape Will must find the heart of the maze. The bloody pump that feeds the city; that suckles the snakes.
It is a lonely quest. This mission he has set himself. He is forced to slay more than one reptile and a demented dwarf robs him of his sorcerer’s paper.
When Will finds the gnarled nomad the paper is gone. A small horse carved of wood the only possession of that feeble under-dweller. Will takes it anyway. He doesn’t really understand for what purpose but it feels important at the time he takes it, like the most important thing in the world.
But that’s not right. The mission is the most important thing. The all.
Centre point is devoid of life. A stone monolith sheathing not a bloody pump, as Will envisioned it from afar, but a huge clockwork engine. The noise is deafening. Its cogs grind for they have long since run out of oil, now they use blood. It sticks awfully; only the ponderous weight of the mechanism set in motion keeps it going.
Will realises the area is not entirely empty. Not entirely devoid of vital energy. A small monkey like creature sits whimpering in the corner, its hands covering its ears.
Will steps closer. The creature senses him and looks up with familiar blue eyes, orbs the colour of sky backed with pearly white.
The creature stops crying.
The thing extends its small hand.
Will looks at the hand. Confused, what does it mean? Why is it doing that? What should I do? Questions fly around him biting his scalp and the backs of his hands.
Will reaches out his own hand, the horse sits in the crook of it and the monkey thing takes it before Will can stop it. The world shifts, fractures, melts, falls into the clockwork heart and comes out the other side.
“Ready to go home dad?” asks his boy.
“Sure am,” answers Will.