“We smelt the palace before we saw it. The reek of ozone pooling around the roots of the forest where we sheltered. The reek of welding and skin. Sliding on our masks, and letting the ventilators sit snug in our throats. Shouldering our packs we walked across the plain that was meant to be the killing ground, but all the bodies died long ago. We ignored them and concentrated on the walls blocking out the sun. The defences coloured electric, pitted by surgical scars where citizens climbed in and out.”
“Balanced on the wall, Stevie braces himself as his feet threaten to slide from under him once more. He wants to leave. Wants to get away. Below him the dogs shudder in the dark corners of the yard. All Stevie wants to do is escape. From inside the house his mother calls to him. Her voice is uneven. Stevie looks one last time to the street beyond the wall, and drops to the yard. Walks back into the house, shoulders dropped, blank face staring at the ground.”
Jamie was not expecting visitors. Not at 5pm on a Sunday evening. He rose from his chair, stood in the hallway and listened. Outside, the visitors tapped on the door with their nails. He knew they would be at the back door too. The windows. The gaps in the walls.
Trying not to shake, he unfastened the latch, opening the door just a touch.
Though they had many limbs, and razor sharp teeth, the visitors had no faces
Jamie stared at them, then pointed this out. The nearest one leaned forward until their porous skin was against Jamie’s cheek.
“We have no need of faces,” it said. “We are purist.”
“Simon had a pastime and that pastime was making promises. He promised the rains would come to farmers watching their crops shrivel in the fields. He promised hands in marriage even if the hands did not belong to him. He promised to save the eagles nested on the cliffs near town from extinction. One morning the people reminded of his promise and lashed him to the rock with ropes and a basic lesson lesson in climbing, and hand over hand Simon made his way up the cliff. At the top sitting in their vast nest, the eagles listened to his chatter, fluffed their wings and scraped his head from his neck. They feasted well that night, and would last a few more weeks. For once Simon kept his promise.”