115 Shrieking eyes in the ghost town
So up the stairs we are steered to the very top storey of the structure, a platform about twenty metres wide by forty long, all open to the sky. Rust-stained concrete columns rise to above head-height at the corners of this platform, at intervals along its sides and in a central line down its length. Up from the columns poke long metal bunches of reinforcing rods, like the tangled legs of spiders silhouetted on the sky. We all three spread out in different directions, as if taking ritual places on a high-rise stage. Angel hovers down at the far end, closer to the ocean, while I find myself at the northern inland corner and Alaia at the southern, both of us nearer the stairway than he is, but neither of us able to use it. I glimpse the town spread out beneath me in its grid of streets and roofs, and a slow-flashing light on a metal tower far on the western horizon.
Throughout our journey here, we've been spared having to keep looking at Angel. Now there is no more postponing it. With trepidation and curiosity, I turn back to face him. And there he is, waiting for me, standing with his arms folded, pixily infernal in his dark-red and black. A slight and delicate figure to begin with, he's all the more so at forty metres' distance and set against the ocean's flat vastness rolling out and away into the east, its ripples sharp and tiny in the moonlight. Yes, his eyes are burning atop his silhouette, very dangerously—and yet it seems that despite his ring-master's bravado downstairs, he hasn't yet decided quite what to do with us. We've all started creeping round our stage, here; I'm not sure when we started this. In and out among the line of columns we weave, as if threading through the blades of a knife forest, summoning the memory of how Alaia and I did the same among the drainpipes standing on her roof, while we celebrated Sound & Vision's birth. This time our attentions are focused on Angel, instead of on each other. We have time to share only occasional glances, during which we don't know which one of us Angel is watching, nor whether considerations of survival may now force us into mistrust of each other or even some kind of betrayal.
While we all creep around like this, Angel's eyes zero in upon me properly at last without warning, his gaze shoots through the air as if around the giant curve of a particle-accelerator, locks itself into my gaze and distorts this scene forcibly into a private memory of my own—so that he and I are suddenly prowling a heathery moorland plateau from somewhere a long time ago in my life, half-evading and half-pursuing each other across it now. (So this is what it used to feel like to other people, when I dragged them into some primal memory of their own.) A dim blustery sky hovers low above us, up here on the moor, but around us are grand valleys and light pouring down onto far horizons. As we stare sullenly at each other, his voice comes flat across the heather, but it does so a fraction of a second in advance of when his lips pronounce the words I'm hearing: I think you'd like a Ghost Town, wouldn't you, Jaymi—yes! with his eyes accusatory, blazing and psychic in the moonlight. I shudder, while at my feet a twitch of yellow street-light glances in among the heather. Thinking on these disconcerting words of his, I register that their softened sibilants were echoing almost imperceptibly, after they were first pronounced but before his lips appeared to form them—a faint ghosting pre-echo that reveals a dimension I have missed until now, which immediately makes even this grand exterior space feel like the inside of an echoing stone chamber. The ghosted, lisped s in his phrase Ghost Town, in particular, constituted a sinister and malicious feast all by itself, for seconds after the end of the original s in Ghost, hissing and flaring on and on after the word, like an insect burning alive in a flame. I feel a dead smile play inside my lips, but I wrestle it back in, so it never quite emerges. That's your dead smile, I can see it! he slants his words out across the moorland space, which now feels as enclosed as the space across a table with a mouse-trap upon it. Good that I just named it, don't you think? he grins, to help it come again to you more easily and stick inside your jaws less?—and this final double ss is like a pair of agonised, mutilated mosquitoes, separated from each other and trapped, one in each of my ear canals.
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THE IMAGINATION THIEF (mini-chapters 99-120)Fantasy
"The Imagination Thief" by Rohan Quine is about a web of secrets, triggered by the stealing and copying of people's imaginations and memories. It's about the magic that can be conjured up by images of people, in imagination or on film; the split bet...