Chapter 4.5

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"I'll show you what he gave me," Slops said. "But you can't tell anyone. I'm not even meant to be telling you." He got down on his hands and knees and tunnelled under his bed, emerging triumphantly with what looked like a brownish stick.

"What's that?" Carmen said.

Slops didn't answer. Instead, he blew into the end of the stick. There was a low, haunting note that sent shivers up Carmen's spine. It was like the call of a lost bird in a wood.

"Let me see it."

Slops handed it over. Carmen felt a chill as she touched it. It was smooth and coffee-coloured, and obviously very old.

"I think it's made of bone," Slops said.

Carmen suddenly didn't want to hold it any more. She handed it back to him. "I don't like it," she said. "Why'd he give it to you?"

Slops shrugged. "Knows I like music I guess."

"Did you tell him that?"

Carmen saw it dawn on his face that he had told Old Abe nothing of the sort.

"I don't like it," she said again.

"You're just jealous."

"Whatever."

There was an awkward silence. As if to hide evidence of their argument Slops stowed the flute back beneath his bed. When he returned he avoided her eyes.

"Anyway," Carmen said, "I know what it's made of, and it's not bone. Grandmere has some. It's called avory."

"What's avory?"

"It doesn't matter," Carmen said, not prepared to admit that she didn't know.

"It's cool though, huh?" Slops said.

"I guess," Carmen said. All she knew was that the flute was dangerous. Music tended to lead to clandestine gatherings of people, and the State feared such things above all, so musical instruments were banned. To even be discovered singing in the street was to attract suspicion.

"We could go there now," Slops whispered.

"You serious? It'll be getting dark soon."

"You could just meet him. Grim too."

Carmen had never been to the Old City before. Hardly anyone had. There were stories of ghosts and spectres and the gytrash, and lights winking in the night, and unearthly noises. She thought she had seen Old Abe once, moving like a shadow through the streets. It was said that he worshipped the Dark Traveller. Others claimed he crept through the city at night stealing children. All of this seemed perfectly credible to Carmen. But how on earth had Slops gone there by himself?

"Oh alright," she said.

If she had known what would come of it she may have chosen to swallow her pride.    

If you had known what would come of it you may have chosen not to eat so many beans

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If you had known what would come of it you may have chosen not to eat so many beans.

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