Monday 6 June 2016

The Prince of Exiles, 13

The slick marble High Road is silent, but the city is not dead. The smell of smoke in the distance, the hiss of the rain, the feeling of eyes watching from behind pillars, through murky windows, from behind doorway curtains heavy and sodden with unexpected rain.

The sound of an engine in the distance, pulsing like the heartbeat of an iron god. A house cat, pale grey with dark green tabby markings, picking at something in a gutter looks up, sees us, bolts at the single sudden scream of a scavenger bird, invisible, close.

The city's public face is plain brutal pillars, black marble steps, pediments bearing abstract designs, arrows, blocks, pyramidal, monolithic devices that speak of power, weight, forward movement: this is Caiphul, the Power of the North, and its progress will not be stopped by such as you.

Given what I know, the city's confidence in its invincibility seems a sad thing now, the futile insistence of the defeated.

We stop in a square ringed by unmanned market stalls, produce covered with canvas, here and there inexpertly, the signs of haste revealing the corner of a garment, a lone apple or melon.

We stand in the rain. Svaathe lets out a sigh, suddenly, slumps a little. "Oh, come on."

Makara unslings her gun then, stands forward, cries out in a voice of screaming threat, not so unlike the scavenger birds. "Caiphul. Caiphul! You know who we are and you know why we are here, Caiphul, and you know by now what we have done. Send your envoy, Caiphul."

She has nothing to prove. No posturing. Only the demand. She looks across to me. "We share the responsibility for this. We are part of it. Agreed?"

I nod, once.

[Collected Writings Index]