I blame the Poet for everything
Alice in Jails - Prison Episode
Alice in Jails - Streets Episode
Color Pages & Epilogue II
Chapter 1 (1/3)
Chapter 1 (2/3)
Chapter 1 (3/3)
Connecting Chapter & Remaining Chapter
Peter Pan in Chains
The Band of Heretics
They were a strange band.
"There... an ashen cry. So did the rain give its answer.
"Hear ye that pallid cry of anguish. 'Tis... 'Tis the color of the soul, summoning the wind," the man said, gazing out across the vast expanse of water. His eyes were hidden by the brim of his homburg hat.
"They say that the gusts blowing in from the great lake of Michigan ceaselessly nourish Chicago, giving the city life. Who are they, you ask? Who, indeed."
The wind coming in from the lake snatched the strange words from his mouth and bore them away.
Indeed, as the man said, the city of Chicago was a bustling place of wealth and fortune.
It stood between the great cities of New York and Los Angeles, bridging the metropolises of east and west and waxing prosperous on the steady flow of business, people, and culture from both coasts. Railroads and canals leading to the city were laid down one after another, and scant decades after construction began in earnest, Chicago became a famous traffic hub.
The fertile land around the city was utilized to the fullest as well; both the farming and livestock industries boomed, and Chicago became known as an important supplier of foodstuffs. The future seemed bright as the population soared ever higher.
But then, in the year 1871, a sudden fire consumed Chicago.
Nobody really knew how it began, but one thing was for certain: the fire took life from a spark so small as to be insignificant, and it grew into a roaring blaze that burned the city to the ground.
In later days it came to be called the Great Chicago Fire, and it contributed greatly to the advance of fire safety awareness throughout the country. The flames raged for days, and in that short time it took the lives of over 250 citizens, and reduced the homes of ten thousand people to ash.
But some say that the Windy City's true rise to glory started there.
"Well, we'll just have to rebuild," the people of Chicago said. "And this time, we'll make our homes out of something that doesn't burn."
In place of smoldering wood and charred wheat rose buildings of stone and steel.
Faster than the grass they grew, shooting up toward the sky and growing into colossal constructions.
The first was the Home Insurance Building.
The world's first skyscraper fell in 1931, but more buildings were built to take its place, rising up as though to scrape the very sky as they repopulated Chicago's cityscape.
The people of Chicago took the lesson that the fire had taught them to heart, and countless fire departments dotted the city as well. Under their protection, the tall buildings of the Windy City continued to multiply, and it became a great metropolis once more.
In downtown Chicago there now stood many skyscrapers--among them the Tribune Tower, home to the nationally famous Chicago Tribune newspaper. In fact, the streets of Chicago boasted just as many skyscrapers as those of New York... or perhaps even more.
It was truly a metropolis, a symbol of America's advances through history.
And there he stood, between those glorious streets and the great lake, a bastion of nature.
The man in the homburg stood near the breezy lake shore, his arms spread wide and his head slowly rocking from side to side. When he spoke it was with the clear intonation of a musical actor, but at the same time there was a exaggerated grandiosity about him that no musical or theatrical performance could hope to emulate.
"Watch the wind move.
"Watch as it moves the arid fronds of water weed.
"Watch as it moves grains of sand, heavy with moisture.
"Watch as it moves the bold rays of light.
"Watch as it moves the air, carrying with such a chill as to tear flesh from bone.
"Hidden in this all we can discover the divine dichotomy of hope and despair.
"And yet that difference in temperature shall give birth to untold strength."
The man stopped abruptly, humming lightly under his breath as he stroked his chin.
"Hmm. No, 'difference in temperature' is such a cheap term. There must be a better expression, but..."
The brim of his hat hid the man's eyes from view, but from the absence of wrinkles around his chin it seemed he wasn't that old.
"Ho, friend! Mayhap you hold the answer within your heart. Pray tell, my steadfast companion, what do you think?"
But there was no response to his question; only silence filled the air around him.
"...A question has been asked, yet only silence answers... How can such a thing be? Lo, and the silence becomes darkness behind me, creeping beneath me to worry hungrily at the earth below my feet. Clap! Clap! O, O great king, prithee hear this unworthy plea! Hear how the silence rises up inside me, raucously devouring my body in an orgy of sound and fury as though to extinguish its own exiwoof."
A great impact shook his head as the silence behind him delivered a spinning kick to his temple, frowning down at him.
"Cheap? They're just words, Poet. What's cheap is you, Poet. Everything about you," said the woman who'd kicked him, her voice low and husky. She made no effort to hide the disdain on her face, glaring down at the man as he squatted and massaged his injured temple with both hands.
She was a young woman who looked to be somewhere in her twenties, the sort who for some reason looked more attractive with a frown on her face than a smile. Most would agree that she was certainly pretty, but the extraordinary flatness her eyes seemed to create a formless wall between herself and those around her.
And as for her speech, she certainly wasn't cursing, but there was a bluntness in her words, a complete and utter lack of femininity. Instead there was the same flat quality that was in her gaze. The man who she'd called the Poet had once said of her, "If a murderer's well-loved, well-polished musket were to be given a voice, surely it would speak with hers."
In contrast to her voice and her gaze, she was dressed quite nicely. In fact, one could be forgiven for mistaking her for the daughter of some well-to-do family, or even the nobility, if the United States had had such a thing.
This elegant and beautiful woman glared down at the Poet and spoke words that were infinitely cold and empty.
"Did you already forget Master Huey told us to lay low until we began, Poet?"
The Poet glanced up at the blonde and shook his head.
"Of course not. I thought that my senses would take leave of me, driven away as you rapped out a tap dance upon my temple, defying both gravity and the dignity of man. But it appears that the fields of my mind are delectable indeed. For lo, Master Huey's words come flocking back to my brain forthwith, hungry sparrows of memory returning to feast."
The woman's glare, if anything, intensified at the man's nonsensical words.
"Then here's a question," she said. "What do you think I was thinking just now, hearing that insanity you call poetry?"
"Oh! Oh! O God in Heaven! O Lord above! Two devils appeared before my eyes, grinding their fangs upon the earth as they said unto me, 'You shall dance a dance that is like a rain of bloody tears.' In other words, before the terrible fury of your short-lived yet intense wrath, any answer I give shall be as nothing. Oh, the sadness, the humanity of it all."
"Whatever you said about wrath was close. But sorry, you're wrong. I was thinking, 'Die.' Or to put it in a language you'd understand, it'd be something like, 'May the flames of Hell consume you forevermore.'"
"Egad! Such directness does naught but sully the soul of the words! And besides, putting your actions before words is nothing short of preposterous!"
"And an atheist calling on God in his Heaven isn't?"
The man got to his feet, uncowed.
"That's completely the opposite. Recall what the headless doll made of flight feathers said... We do not believe in God, and that is exactly why God has come down to our bodies and tamed us, and so we are free to say his name!"
"Sorry, what? I missed a hundred and thirty percent of whatever it was you meant to say just now."
"Hmm... A philosophical question, is it? Something that is more than a hundred percent. An absolute and yet uncertain paradox. Pray tell, from what world does the remaining thirty percent hail?"
"Ten percent's because I can't understand what's going on in your head. Ten percent's because I don't know why you even exist. And the other ten percent I added in for the hell of it because that'd make thirteen times ten, and thirteen's an unlucky number," the woman replied calmly, turning nary a hair as she delivered her insult.
The Poet merely nodded quietly. "Mm. I see."
He smiled gently, as though savoring the moment.
The next moment, he flung his arms apart in a grand swooping motion, arching his back so far it would not have seemed amiss had his spine snapped in half.
"God... God... God!" he thundered, lips bared in a snarl. "Bestow the gift of sin upon them! Sin, so that I may become the executor of your wrath! Sin, that I may bludgeon them to death with a blackjack and quench my thirst with the remnants they leave behind!"
"You're insane," the woman spat, and those two words described him more accurately than any other.
Then, from behind them, came a new pair of voices.
"Hey, what's the big deal? Why're you shouting like that, Poet?"
"I-I saw that, Sickle. People're gonna notice you too if you kick the Poet like that. Yup."
One voice came from high above their heads, the other far below. The woman who'd been called Sickle turned to greet the two newcomers.
"Rail. Frank. You're late."
"Can't help it. I mean, I can hide my face with a scarf and hat, but... well, you know Frank."
Sickle fixed them both with a glare. One of them shrugged and smiled, while the other seemed to shrink in on himself, almost whimpering with fear.
Considering his hesitation, it was strange to see that he latter of the two--the one called Frank--was several times larger than his companion. He towered above everyone else there at well over seven feet tall, but something about the proportions of his body wasn't quite right. His head seemed too big for his body, as though someone had taken a baby and blown it up to the size of a man. The size of his waist was impressive as well, though whether his girth came from muscle or fat wasn't clear. Overall, he gave the impression of a doll made from a great beer keg, with stubby arms and legs attached almost as an afterthought.
On the other hand, Rail merely looked like a scruffy boy, a street rat like any other one might see in the wrong part of town. He looked almost like a marionette, but for some reason there was a coldness about him that made itself clear in his gaze.
Though he was quite different from Frank in size, there were other parts of him that drew the eye just as surely as Frank's height.
Stitches crisscrossed his skin every which way, making it look like someone had drawn a map on him, or perhaps a winding set of railroad tracks. Judging from the way the lines disappeared into his clothes, it was a likely bet that the stitches covered his entire body.
The scars around his mouth pulled at his lips, making it look like he was always smiling faintly. It was almost as though he was laughing at himself, at the stark difference created by angry black stitches and white skin.
Rail looked like a doll that a child had stabbed over and over again with a knife in a fit of jealousy.
The small boy offered a smile up to the huge one.
"Man, getting here was hard, wasn't it? I mean, if anyone noticed you then that'd be it for us. You couldn't even fit past a normal train's doors so we had to hitch rides on cargo trains, and when we couldn't find any of those... Well, we walked. Didn't we, Frank? How many miles did we walk?"
"Aww, I'm not blaming you, Frank! It's all that bastard Huey's fault! What the hell was he thinking, calling us to a huge city like this? And then he tells us not to be noticed?! I bet he told us that just to make us squirm!"
The smile stayed fixed on Rail's face as he heaped scorn on the one the others called "Master."
Frank glanced awkwardly at the boy, unsure of what to say, but the Poet merely smiled and spread his arms wide as though to welcome him.
"Ah, to think you would send a sinner so quickly, my Lord!" he cried, praising a God he did not believe. "Behold, see how this boy, this member of the Lamia, a part of the Larvae, has presented the apple of Lilith to our lord and master, our absolute law, our doom and our salvation and our order and our friendship, Master Huey! How foul of mouth, how foolish, how sublime!"
His hand surreptitiously crept toward the inside pocket of his jacket as he spoke. "We must all pay the price for his sins, and so that is why, Sickle, you must die for the boy's sake and sacrifice your soul on the altar of guk."
Sickle drew back her foot and snorted, turning around and ignoring the Poet as the man clutched at his hat and his throat.
"The Poet volunteered to take the burden of your sins for you, Rail. Isn't he nice." She paused, then sighed, looking suddenly tired. "Look. Not that I agree with the idiot, but you really could stand to show Master Huey some respect."
"And what if I don't? Are you gonna tell on me? Then that really might be it for me, huh? Ahahahaha!"
"Master Huey's not that petty, and you know it. Besides, he probably knows what you think of him already."
"Yeah... Yeah, you're right. Damn, you're right. And that makes me mad too! Hahaha!"
Rail threw back his head and laughed merrily, but a dark light flashed in his eyes. There was true animosity festering inside him, but he made no real effort to hide it.
"So who else is with us?" he asked, flitting to another topic. "Everyone? That'd be like a Lamia family reunion!"
"Just Liza and Chi. Adelle's still guarding Tim. Christopher's missing."
"What? They still haven't found Chris?" Rail asked, his eyes widening.
"It's been a year since even the Twins have seen him," Sickle said quietly. "It might be best to prepare for the worst."
A shadow passed over Rail's face. The smile stayed where it was, though, so perhaps it really was the stitches keeping it fixed in place.
A somber silence fell over the motley band, only to be broken by one who clearly had no eye for subtlety.
"A fortuitous omen shines amid the encroaching twilight. The dark of night stops all time in its tracks, and we live our daily lives struggling to overcome that time. Surprising, indeed. However! Aaah, however! I have not tired of time. I have merely tired of the irrationality that buffets me without end. How many times will I have to cross the river of time before I can meet the one for whom I search? How much longer will I have to block the river 'fore I can make a canal?"
"I thought I told you to shut up, Poet. I've told you before, and I'll tell you again, that meaningless string of words you call poetry is an insult to real poets everywhere," Sickle spat irritably at the newly-recovered Poet.
On the other hand, Rail, who had completely missed the meaning of The Poet's words, simply smiled and laughed. "I wonder what he was trying to say."
"He says he's tired of waiting."
"Wow, Poet. How'd you turn something so short into something so long right on the spot? I guess you're sort of a genius. Although on the other hand you're sort of a weirdo." Rail chuckled, and the Poet quietly shook his head.
Calmly, he walked over to the boy and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"What? What's wrong, Poet?"
"Rail… Listen to what I say, and listen close. Speech has power. Whether in the form of letters or sign language, spoken or written, it is a fine thing to be able to express oneself, and indeed, pass on oneself to someone else."
Rail looked up curiously, wondering what had made the Poet suddenly decide to speak like a normal human being, but the deep brim of his hat hit the older man's eyes from view.
"Speech can express every thing in this world. A picture paints a thousand words. But ten thousand words can capture what a person sees more vividly than any picture, and a hundred thousand leave the picture looking like a paltry thing… A million words paint over the very fabric of the world."
Rail blinked the blink of the blissfully ignorant.
"Words are power. Believe in words to their fullest, and like me, you shall find yourself wishing to hold those words close like a lover. But alas, I do not yet possess the skill to control the laws of this universe through words alone. And so I must rely on your power to exert influence in the physical world and blow Sickle awarrk."
"Don't listen to him. He's like a cavity for your brain."
Sickle grabbed the Poet by his collar and twisted, forcing the man's spine into an interesting position. But Rail only pouted slightly.
"Aww, I wanted to hear what he was going to say. It's not every day that he actually gets serious, you know."
"Maybe, but I don't want you to blow me up."
Sickle smirked wryly and looked around as though expecting someone.
"Anyway. I thought Liza would have contacted us by now…"
– – –
A group of men stood a ways off from the strange band, observing their every move.
They crouched behind the trees in the nearby wood, far from the banks, and stared doubtfully at the Poet and his companions.
"Yeah, that's them. Look, they all match up to the descriptions we've got."
"Heh, yeah. Who'd ever mistake that big lunkhead for anyone else, eh?" one of them said, peering through his binoculars at the giant child. He watched as Frank yawned ponderously and then turned his attention to the rest of the people gathered there.
"Shit, yeah. There's the stitches on the kid's face, too. Bingo. Can't tell for sure whether the other two match the description, but..."
"...If they aren't, well, guess it just ain't their lucky day."
"Yup. Not our fault their luck stinks."
The men chuckled humorlessly.
To a man they wore trench coats and fedoras. Not so out of place as to draw attention, perhaps, but the dangerous air about them would have made it obvious to any observer that they weren't normal at all. They were criminals. Gangsters.
The man with the binoculars, in particular, would have stood out even in a crowd. A long scar marred the skin of his cheek, slashing down his face.
"So, what'll it be, boys? Think we should take care of it ourselves?" one of the men asked, the laughter draining from his face like water. Left in its place was something grim and cold; the man looked like he could slit a man's throat as easily as someone else might filet a fish.
"...Nah," said the man with the binoculars, his gaze still fixed on the faraway Lamia. "No need to jump the gun. They might look like a buncha clowns, but the boss says they're the craziest mercenaries this Laforet guy's got."
He smirked faintly, but nevertheless kept his senses on edge as he gave his orders. "Call the others. We'll take care of them and-"
The voice had come from nowhere.
He couldn't quite pin down where it had come from, but he knew for certain that it hadn't belonged to one of his men. It was the voice of a woman, sultry and seductive. The man nearly tossed away his binoculars as he whipped around to face the unknown threat.
But the woman wasn't there.
Neither were his men.
The man felt his heart skip a beat as he tensed. The tautness of his body came not from easy readiness, as it had moments before, but from fear for his own life. Desperately he reined in the terror threatening to overwhelm his senses as sweat trickled down his back, looking around to try and get a handle on what was happening.
Then, finally, he saw it.
There were two bodies lying face down on the ground. They were his friends, the men he'd been talking to just moments before.
"H-hey, hey guys..."
Slowly, he moved his gaze downward. The words had barely left his mouth when he realized that both men had already lost consciousness.
There were strange round rings buried in the backs of their heads.
They sparkled silver in the sunlight, like the halos of angels; no blood seeped up around the metal despite how deep they had sunken into flesh and bone.
The man swallowed hard, seeing the situation but refusing to accept it.
"Who are you people," a man's voice said from behind him, the flat tones making it sound more like a statement than a question.
Slowly this time, the man turned around, and saw...
The first thing he saw was a fan of blades.
Then he looked beyond that, and saw a man standing there, his hair pulled back in a long braid. His style of dress, along with the tone of his skin and hair, made it obvious that he was of Asian descent, but outside of that it was hard to tell anything for certain.
The Asian man sighed, almost pityingly, and raised his blades.
"This isn't your lucky day."
"Sorry to have kept you waiting, dear."
The woman's voice seemed to come from nowhere, but neither Sickle nor the Poet seemed to pay the mystery much heed.
"You should be sorry, Liza. Do you know how long we had to stand here listening to this idiot's 'poetry' because you decided to drag your feet?"
"Oooh, harken to the voice that comes from the dark! See the honeyed poison apple it brings, yet behold! The time has come and gone, and the sea of despair now flows over. Flows over, I say! The apple is overripe, fermenting so that even poison rots away, so that even our brains rot away. Oh, despair. May the harvest moon of fury never wane."
"...You could have just said, 'You're late,' honey," Liza's voice said, sounding nonplussed. She was still nowhere to be seen.
Instead, an Asian man walked up to them, frowning as the Poet's voice reached his years.
"You're still talking like that. You're even worse than you were back when you went and polluted Christopher."
"Christopher! Ah, yes, young Christopher was the only one among you whose soul responded to the call of my words! If only he had gotten over that detestable habit of turning poetry into song. But yes, yes. I see. So in the end, my poems did take root in his heart after all."
"...How about this. I'll keep quiet, and you follow my lead."
"Don't even bother trying to talk to him, Chi. Every word from his mouth just makes everyone here dumber."
The Asian man, Hong Chi-Mei, snorted and turned to Sickle.
"Hmph... Whatever. Take a look at this first," he said, taking a slip of paper from his pocket.
"S-something about us?"
Rail and Frank crowded around the paper, peering down at it from varied heights. Written on the paper were brief descriptions of their physical characteristics, and even what looked like a simple sketch of Frank.
"...Hey. Seriously, what is this?"
"The men who were watching you from the woods over there had it."
The bright red blood speckling the paper, together with the fact that Chi had not brought anyone along with him, said all that needed to be said about the fates of those men.
"You did find out who they were working for before you took care of them, right?"
"I was going to, but the last one threw himself onto my knives before I could question him. I didn't expect that kind of decisiveness."
"And they didn't have anything else on them that might point to who they are. If I'd known this would happen I would've waited until they called their friends," Liza's voice lamented, following up on Chi's explanation.
The others exchanged glances, the knowledge that they'd been watched setting them on edge, but the only one who looked truly worried was Frank.
"Whuh, what do we do? Was someone spying on us?"
"Yup. Fun, ain't it?" Rail said, grinning. "Relax and enjoy it, Frank. Besides, Huey probably told us to lay low for a bit, right?"
"Right," Liza said, chuckling quietly. "To tell you the truth, he hasn't even decided whether to execute the plan here or in New York yet. He was waiting to see which one the feds would go for, and though they've taken the bait in New York, Nebula and Senator Beriam haven't been so cooperative."
"Huh? Wait, you mean if things go wrong we're just heading home without doing anything?"
"That's exactly what I mean. At first I thought that we'd be ones doing the work since the feds don't know our faces, unlike Tim and his friends, but..."
"But that was before Chi found that piece of paper."
For once Liza sounded serious, and the flat tone of her voice set them all on edge.
"If it was just Rail and Frank there, we could just chalk it down to something they went and did while they weren't on the job, but... It's got descriptions of Sickle, the Poet, and Chi too. It's even got the names of people on Tim's Larvae on it. And the other teams, too, like Rhythm and Time."
"...What's going on? Beriam knows my face, but when did he find out about everyone else?"
"If I knew, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Worst comes to worst, we'll have to act as the bait while the New York team does the job."
Nobody could see Liza's face, but from the sound of her voice alone they could tell that things were serious.
Sickle narrowed her eyes, and even the Poet shut up for a moment.
Only Rail seemed completely unconcerned, still smiling cheerfully as he drew a small paper tube from his pocket, about the size of his thumb.
"So what? Who cares who these people are? We can just use ourselves as bait to draw them out."
So said, he crinkled the paper around the tube and seemed to pull something from it, then turned and threw it into the lake. It flew in a graceful arc into the water, seemingly in defiance of the stiff wind blowing in.
"And then we can just blow them away, end of story."
For an instant, a bright flash lit up the dark waters.
Then came the roar.
Lake Michigan erupted in a great explosion of light and sound for just a single moment; the next there was nothing left but churning waves, smoke, and the faint smell of gunpowder that lingered in the air.
The paper that Chi had taken, which might have proven to be a valuable clue, had been reduced to nothing but ashes.
But nobody seemed inclined to scold Rail for his rashness. A few of them looked slightly nonplussed, but it wasn't like they were the police, who might have searched the paper for fingerprints.
Chi shook his head with exasperation.
"That was a bigger explosion than before. Impressive."
Surprisingly, though, Rail took the praise with nothing but a wry smirk.
"Hahaha. Sorry, but that actually isn't my stuff."
"I found it being used in quarries and Hollywood special effects sets, and bought all of it I could find. They told me they got the stuff off a girl who looked just a little older than me, but... eh. Who cares who made it? What matters is now it's mine."
Chi fell silent, and Rail's smirk took on a significantly self-deprecating air.
"It's not like my name's going down in history."
There was a moment of awkward silence, then Rail turned and began to walk toward the city as though nothing had happened.
"Anyway. Whenever Huey makes up his damn mind, have one of the Twins let me know. Until then I'm having some fun."
"Wait for me, Rail! It's dangerous to go alone," Frank said, thudding off after him.
"Oh, by the way," Liza's voice said, just before Rail walked out of earshot. "There's three corpses in the woods over there. Would you be a dear and take care of them on your way out?"
"...Hah! Asking a kid to take care of dead bodies! And you adults wonder why I grew up like this!"
"It builds character, honey. You will clean it up, right?"
"...Yeah, whatever. I hate you too, Liza."
Rail threw up a hand to show he'd gotten the message and walked off, Frank in tow.
Chi watched them go. "Rail is even more like Christopher than before."
"Mhmm. He hates Master Huey, but he looks up to Chris."
"Tsk. Speaking of Chris. Wonder what he's doing now," Chi said. From the tone of his voice it was clear that he didn't believe for a moment that Christopher was dead, despite the fact that he had no idea where his partner was.
Liza, on the other hand, didn't seem to care at all.
"Listen up, everyone!" she said. "Now that we're all here, lie low and try not to be noticed by whoever spread around those posters. The Twins will contact you with the specifics once Master Huey decides them."
Chi and Sickle nodded curtly, while the Poet once again spread his arms wide.
"Of course! Let us wait, starting from this night, from this moment. Let us wait, for Master Huey's command. I implore you, let us wait. And from the unknowable instant when we hear his voice forward, let the streets be dyed with our colors. Aaah, aaah. Oh ye who are chained, ye holy, ye pitiful, ye ignorant. Bound within a prison of which you know not, may you color the world!"
"He pisses me off enough to make me want to kill someone."
"Anything dyed with your colors would probably go insane, Poet."
"Shut up forever, Poet."
So said, all of the Lamia remaining turned and left to go their separate ways, putting the Poet's ramblings out of mind.
The Poet, left alone in the silence, paused for a moment to make sure that they were all gone, even Liza.
"A world dyed in the colors of Master Huey and our strange band, hmm. Will that world prove to be a Neverland for the people, or will it be Hades? No, perhaps nobody will even notice the world changing around them. In that case, the inmates of this prison will be as..."
The Poet pressed his hat down lower as he imagined the events that might come to pass.
It was as if he wished to express his condolences to the days that were to come.
"...the mad inhabitants of Wonderland, no doubt."
While the Poet lost himself in reflection, Frank and Rail found themselves tackling another problem.
Rail looked around again, puzzled.
"What was Liza talking about? There aren't any bodies around here."
His words disappeared into the trees, unheard and unanswered.
A stiff wind blew in from the lake, but there was not even the scent of blood to hint at the bodies that should have been there.
Instead the tepid air slithered about them like living tendrils, sticky and cloying.
Prologue V End