January 25, 2007

The Crane (2 of 19)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

After racing up the first few flights of steps he found himself out of breath. Climbing the metal stairwell within the crane was a lot harder than it appeared. The crane’s operator wouldn’t have treated it as a contest of speed, he knew that, but his impatience had got the better of him.

Mr. Alpha cast his eyes over what little progress he had made then looked up. Countless flights of steps crowded out the view of the cabin at the zenith, hanging over him within the crane’s dark blue stem like layers of overlapping metal cobwebs. Beyond the disciplined, straight edges of the mast, the yellow jib lunged out across the night, like the thrust of a great blade frozen in time. It was where he wanted to be right now.

He stopped and rested against an outer rail and his hands became numb against the cold iron. A fog was coalescing in the distance, smudging distant street lights into radiant orbs; Mr. Alpha hoped it would come to engulf them. The fog provoked a pleasant memory of flicking through photos of London smog in a library book when he was a youngster, prior to his enrolment into the Cloth. The people of London had had to dress up a la Elephant Man to survive it but he didn’t care about that. There was a smoky beauty to it, something romantic in its essence. It blurred the sharp edges of everyday, rendering reality opaque and dream-like. The tension in his shoulders diminished and his mind discharged some of its burden. Mr. Alpha realised, fifty metres rule or no fifty metres rule, he needed to get away from Mr. Omega now and again so he could have a bit of peace.

He wasn’t high enough to get a grand view of the city neighbourhood yet, but he could see the hotel where they were staying. His senior senile partner had not yet discovered his abandonment and the bedroom was still dark. He peered downwards and saw the chaos of a juvenile construction site.

Its destiny was not yet apparent. Diggers had been busy generating fresh craters across the site in a random fashion and bulldozers assisted by pushing the excavated debris into dirty mounds of indiscernible fragments of things. There were probably priceless Roman finds that Tony Robinson would squawk over on Time Team, but no one cared as the drive to build and reform overpowered. Progress always started with destruction but something new would be built from all this crap. Mr. Alpha spotted only a sliver of the future; a lattice of iron rods driven into the ground near the crane’s base, like a bed of crooked, headless flowers yearning for a night-time sun.

He shivered, wishing that he had put on that nauseating yellow tie to insulate his neck from the night chill. He didn’t want to catch another cold; it’d taken a few weeks to throw that one he’d had when they’d met Mr. Mogdred by Windermere.

Windermere. Complex memories reasserted themselves and attacked his mind like a sticky, poisonous smog, burning through his paper-thin composure, blurring the edges of thought. Nothing made sense when he was under their spell. He would go over the facts again and again and not come to a single conclusion.

The foetus in his left arm started to kick again.

He punched the rail with the edge of his left fist and it replied with a dull, hollow ring. The arm continued to shake. He clouted the rail a couple more times but it still didn’t help.

Things had been simple back in the school. Erect everything from the First Principle, the Cloth’s prime tenet: “God is not yet become.” From this, there was only one explanation for what had happened – bad luck. Why had he been paired with Mr. Omega? Bad fucking luck. Why had they ended up responding to the call from Mr. Mogdred? Bad fucking luck. How had Morgana escaped? Bad fucking luck… no. Nothing to do with knots or rope. The knots were a cover story for the inexplicable.

He resumed his ascent, ignoring the jerking in his arm, and thought about when it all started to turn to shit.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 0032

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