Monday 27 June 2016

The Prince of Exiles, 24

"Your hair's growing back." I am mildly surprised; it's grown back an inch since I saw her a couple hours ago, thick, glossy.

Makara gives a little half-shrug. "Wanted it to."

Svaathe's tied her hair back, got herself into trousers and boots the second she was out of sight of her hosts. She steps on a cuttlefish; it makes a vaguely obscene squeaking sound, the expulsion of air, a sucking sort of sound when she lifts her foot. It sounds almost pained.

Makara's amused. "Mind out, Sva."

"Ha. I move like a cat." She puts her heel on a burst fish and theatrically, silently, slips, goes flying, rights herself with ease. Makara laughs.

I find the casual ease they have together a comfort. I am not part of it. I don't care. I am audience to their endearments, they are at ease with my presence, even if I do not share in that.

The heartbeat is closer now, and we can hear beneath the rhythmic bass thump that underscores the city the hammering of metal, the scream of gears. Something huge in sight now.

The factory, on the harbourside, is a vast skewed ziggurat, windowless, a flat wall against the waters above a giant maw through which the tide rushes in and out, giving its life to the life of the factory, its fish mashed up in the workings of the things (slaves sent down daily into the still moving underwater workings to pick out mangled marine fauna and kelp, their limbs all too often mangled themselves in the process). A huge square riveted chimney pulsing out black greasy smoke in time with the heartbeat of the machine. The sound of shots; only the testing of fire (and slaveflesh the target). The hands that work levers, hammer metal, are crushed beneath pistons, in gears. The cracking of electrified goads. Pained cries.

One side of the ziggurat supports a flat extended platform. We can see a Sky-Chariot rising now, a closed-over marine hull, its eight cylindrical engines blasting fire and heat and roaring, roaring as it rises with its cargo, weapons for an army far away.

The edifice, all black stepped stone, looms above us now more as we go, and here before us the gate through which slaves are herded and through which they never leave.

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