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A Glimpse of December

“That was fruitless.”  Arnold said as Beryl went to retrieve him. He had been turned the other way, so he had not been able to see Tepic at all. Beryl explained how he had looked and what he had tried to do.  Arnold stared at him flatly, “You really think giving him a ‘hat’ would have made any difference?”

“Giving it to him wasn’t enough, he had to take it of his own choice,” Beryl said confidently as he put Tepics hat back on his head. “Here, that means something.”

“Well, he didn’t take it.  You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it.” Arnold paused for a moment and then added, “Drowning on the other hand-”  

Beryl cut Arnold off, covering his mouth in annoyance. The silenced head seethed as more blood oozed out of the wound above his eye. Beryl had put all his hopes into finding Tepic and discovering what was going on, but with Tepic in this condition, he couldn’t even help himself. The asylum was going to try to recapture him, the Dobermans were hunting him, and he did not know who he could trust or what he was supposed to do now.

He waited for a few moments, and then released Arnold’s jaw.  “Do you have any ideas?”

“Is turning yourself in and dying horribly an option?” Arnold asked sarcastically. “If it’s not then I’m all out of ideas.”

“No, it’s not,”  Beryl said firmly.  “It is never an option.  What we need is someone else who can help.  Someone we can trust.”

“The militia and Bookworm?” Arnold asked.  “She was there when I got shot, I remember that.”

“The militia is not an option.” They would give him back to the asylum.“And as for Bookworm, we are no longer friends and she has no jurisdiction there… only the Profess-”  Beryl paused as a pot banged on the side-walk near the gate.  He turned and saw a figure watching him that he had not expected to see.  Margo December.

She ran towards the Port as soon as he saw her, and he called after her as he started to run, and then had to turn back and get Arnold.  By the time he reached the gate she was no longer visible.

”Who was that?”  Arnold asked, tucked below Beryl’s arm.

“Didn’t you recognize her?  That was Margo December!”Arnold looked at him flatly, the name unknown to him.

“Don’t you know who she is?  What she represents?”Arnold’s gaze never wavered; it remained impassive.

“Don’t you remember anything about the Dark Aether?  How you held a cloud angel in your paws?!”

“No, I don’t.  As far as I can tell you’re making all that up.” Beryl and Arnold stared at one another quietly for a few minutes until Beryl nodded. 

“We have to go after her.” If anyone could show him the way, it was Margo December.

Arnold started to voice his doubt in a disparaging tone, but Beryl clamped his mouth shut and studied the street towards Port. The road was clearer than Palisades, resembling the order of the factory rather than the chaos that had been in the northern part of the city, but he could still see debris from the previous town hall covered by the vine-wires.  But he didn’t see any of his enemies to block his path.

When he turned towards City Hall, he noticed a small pack of Dobermans blocking the exit to the alley nearby. They were not paying attention as they drank and laughed amongst themselves. If he hunched his shoulders and moved as Tepic had, then he could get away without being noticed.  The only other thing on the street at this time was one of those lifeless wax figures from next door.

Beryl opened the gate slowly and tried to look defeated as he shuffled on his feet, back bent and his head pointed towards the ground while he made his way towards Port.

A cold, mechanical voice halted Beryl’s escape, “Only Tepic has the morning shift.  Why have you left Work?”

Beryl turned to see the wax figure was moving towards him, the eyes dead and the face impassive while its fake wax skin stretched awkwardly as its jaw moved. Beryl had never liked the wax figures in the way that some humans found clowns disturbing.  He turned around to ignore the wax clockwork that began to follow him.  “You need to Work.  Work brings Fulfilment.  Fulfilment brings Happiness.  Happiness brings Health.  Shirking is Death.”  

Suddenly the clockwork jerked and started to spittle.“SHIRKING IS DEATH!” it cried, and Beryl saw that it had stepped on one of the exposed wire filaments growing out of the sidewalk.  “SHIRKING IS DEATH!” 

The clockwork’s wax skin started to melt, its dead eyes falling off and the wax soon covering its real opticals as it collapsed.  Beryl turned away to continue shuffling away, hoping that he hadn’t been noticed, but he heard the Dobermans barking and their steam cycles letting out loud whistles that sounded like howls.

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