Like the very place upon which he stood—a crossroad, an invitation to the whispering things that tempted travelers with knowledge of their fate. A rustling in the grass. A splash in the water. The sun struck and Rahim ran. Ran and ran over the bridge, each foot fall heavier and louder than what came before. Those things, they said, didn’t like bridges; Rahim, his heart slowing, breath evening, stopped at its middle and looked south to Condus, the illusion vanishing before his eyes.
Grey in robes of exile, its streets swarmed with black fever. Between he and the vast city of brick the earth spread out and though spring and all its fragrance faded while the flowers waited for rescue, at least the land held promise. More than willing to let the seasons wear him thin, Rahim could forgive all his hunger, slake all his thirst; he could forgive the cruel sun. But he could not forgive Condus. Under it the land couldn’t move, so heavy did it sit on her chest she could muster only shallow breaths lest the weight of the city break her ribs, perhaps puncture a lung or crush her heart. The city propped her up, leaned her against a grimy wall thick in black shadows. She without the strength to lift her hand could not speak enough to even ask for a little charity. Under the city she had no voice, no name. Where all she could do was wait until it was all over.
He saw the city for what it was, saw the countless minarets for what they were: ringed fingers, taloned fingers, fingers from the monstrous deep, composed in their erections, poised and waiting, waiting to curl around the one million people the monsters held in the palms of their hands, waiting, ever so patient, to crush them.