Beryl took up Arnold’s head, carefully avoiding the strange colored wires that littered the ground and made his way out of Tepic’s decayed camp towards the gates. Arnold didn’t complain, he had made it clear he wanted to get away from the smell of their rotting and mildewed surroundings.
Beryl noticed that the voles watching him also avoided any contact with the colored cables and thought it best to assume they were dangerous. Twice he almost stepped on a line, hidden in the grass like a serpent, and had to change his footing. At the edge of the camp, with escape in their grasp, Beryl began seeing that some of the wires did not go back into the ground. These ended in frayed and exposed filament that sparked in a way that reminded Beryl of a snake’s hiss, warning all who would tread near of the danger.
Beryl adjusted Tepic’s hat, the one he intended to give back once he found him, and carefully watched his step as he made his way through the treacherous, curved hazards.
Once he had passed beyond the reach of the wires he finally breathed a sigh of relief and looked down at Arnold. “What do you think?”
“I think the hat looks stupid,” Arnold said, though he couldn’t possibly see it at his angle. “Too small for your head.”
Beryl readjusted his friends cap for a moment as he continued his short journey towards the stair that would take him to the city, “I meant about Tepic and the urchins. Why was his home covered in wires?”
“Either he was trying to build the worlds dumbest vole trap or those wires were growing out of the ground.” Arnold’s sardonic tone turned to one of mock jubilation, “Congratulations! Your friends are morons since wires don’t grow out of anything!”
But they were growing out of the ground. Beryl could not see another source of the wires beyond where they broke out of the ground. When they didn’t return to the Earth they ended in the exposed filaments…
Beryl looked at the dark, smog covered sky of New Babbage as the light began to grow dimmer. The sun must have been setting and he needed to find a safe place to rest where Sanderson, Canergak, and others would not take him unawares as he recovered.
This path was familiar to Beryl, even in this strange exaggerated dream-like version of his city. Last time he had made his way towards the stair that lead into the city he had come to the Rail Fields. Train tracks that pointed towards the sky and as numerous as a sea of bamboo trees that had blocked his path and forced him to travel towards the train station.
When Beryl passed the gate, he did find a sea of train tracks, but the metal forest had been felled, pulled down by the wires growing out of the streets and growing over everything in view. There was a stretch of road that appeared mostly safe, and the station tracks that lead out of the city appeared largely intact, but the station itself was grotesquely disfigured. It was as if five different engineers had started building their own section of the facility and then combined them, making a mismatched, multicolored mess.
Beryl looked at the devastation confused, and tired. He couldn’t risk going farther into the city to find shelter at this point, but he had found safety in the wall once before. He turned around and made his way to a small alcove in the side of the wall and walked down it. The wires grew here as well, but they were small like weeds, exposing small bits of filament around the edges of the passages that Beryl traversed seeking sanctuary.
He lost track of how long he walked the corridor searching for a safe place to rest, though he did see and smell rodents that made these tunnels their homes. The wires were starting to dwindle in number and Beryl was considering a nap on the floor when he came upon a small room with a broken statue inside. Even missing the top half, and his lower face smashed in with a hammer, Beryl was sure that this had been a memorial for Sebastion, the Knight of Malkuth.
“Someone wanted to destroy this…” Arnold began, never minding that he was stating the obvious. “But why?”
“I don’t know. Maybe someone from the Van Creed did it out of spite, but I don’t think anyone ever did make a statue out of Sebastion…” Beryl trailed off as his eyes saw a message written out in large letters behind the figure and in fact written once upon its broken likeness. He got closer to read it carefully and raised Arnold so that he could see as well.
In the Name of Progress.
“Well, that narrows it down to everyone living in this city,” Arnold scoffed. “As long as they don’t come in the night to smash your head in I don’t think you need to worry.”
Beryl put Arnold next to the statue so that he would be able to watch both the entrance and where Beryl intended to sleep. “Will you wake me if someone comes, Arnold?”
“Alright,” Arnold said, as he twitched his nose and whiskers, “But I’m warning you now that if I can’t wake you up screaming…I’ll sing!”
“About how much you hate pie, I know.” Beryl curled up on the floor in front of the vandalized memorial and began to fall asleep. He wondered briefly if sleeping here would cause him to wake up in his own body in New Babbage, but then he remembered that he had already fallen asleep in the submarine. Whatever reason had brought him here this time, it was not letting him go.