City of Statues

Night descends upon the city and brings a thick smock of fog with it. I pull my duffel coat a little tighter and hope desperately that I don’t miss the last train again. These streets are not pleasant places to be once all the stars have shown. I heard we had a police force once, back when the City was just the City. I pass Gosforth Park and try not to look up at the cold, granite eyes of George Elroy 1784 – 1861. I wish I could say I am just being poetic when I tell you that he smirks down at me, his stony grip on his stony papers tightening ever so slightly. I walk a little faster.

Down amongst the arches and pale tiles of St Lewis Street, the familiar crackle of the Repulser Boxes cause me to relax and slow my pace a little – only buskers and muggers to worry about down here. The sugary tang of spilt fortified wine clings to the still air. I pause to leave half a packet of gum, a small token of thanks, at the mural of St Lewis. The old prophet’s cracked gaze is both benevolent and mercifully unmoving. Funny how much safer painted stone feels than carved. The echoing patter of another late commuter passing by draws me back to the present.

By the time I reach the platform, the conductor already has whistle in mouth and with a scowl, holds off long enough for me to hop on board. The doors crunch shut and the carriages roll off into the tunnel, the station lights flickering out barely a moment later. The City is closed for the night. I choose one of the less stained seats and settle down to gaze out my window at the nothingness beyond. Occasionally the spark lights of lost carriages pass us like lost angels in the gloom.

Back at the commune there is a welcome bustle of activity as the generators begin to fire up and the night watch prepare to begin their shift. They are cold, rigid men who, despite the great service they endure, unsettle me almost as much as those they guard us against.

My chamber is bitterly cold but before I even bother with priming the heater I fumble under my pillow, my fingers feeling the edges of a new letter awaiting me. As I had hoped it is from Rochelle. She hopes I am well and then goes on to list all the wonderful things that are happening where she is – festivals, parades, glorious weather. I know of course to trust none of these words – the City of Mirrors makes my own home seem almost heavenly. Here, cowering in the shadow of the Statues, we have the daylight hours at least.

Title image courtesy kyz

Published in: on October 8, 2010 at 8:44 PM  Comments (18)  
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18 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I like the mood of this one. You wove something strange seamlessly with the familiar. I didn’t find any plot per se (other than moving through a city), but it was like the introduction to something larger.

    • I actually wrote this on a train, at night, slightly tipsy after having walked along Princes St in Edinburgh (which has it fair share of creepy statues) hence the cocktail of real and unreal. You’re quite right though – after all my recent grumbling – this was undeniably a story without a plot. Could make an interesting prelude to something larger though…

  2. Creepy but very atmospheric. I like your turn of phrase — the snippets of description catch me by surprise and I have to re-read them to enjoy them again. 🙂

    • Glad you enjoyed it – you may notice this is quite different from other stuff. Usually I concentrate on plot and not so much the telling, this time I was trying something a bit different – shorter and more polished.

  3. So much implied but left unsaid. Loved it.

    • Thanks – yes I deliberately wanted to allude to the nature of the Statues rather than a shine light on them and reveal something less disturbing that what you would have already painted with your own imagination.

  4. Wonderfully atmospheric.

  5. I can sense fear and apprehension in the character, and the image of a stark, harsh reality of a life.

    I get the feeling that it could be a section of a much longer story.

    • It’s certainly not a happy lot for our narrator – but there must be something that keeps him going everyday. And yes – although this was originally just meant to be a standalone piece, the more I think about the more I want to find out more about this world.

  6. Very atmospheric. The ending leaves me wondering; I’d really like to know more about the City of Mirrors.

    • Glad you enjoyed it Kari – with the ending I wanted to hint, very ambiguously, at somewhere that could be even worse than the City of Statues. It also begs the questions “what happened to these cities?” and “so what other cities are there then?”.

  7. I love this piece, and agree with Ganymeder and Icy. It has a terrific atmosphere and so much implied but unsaid.

    You do a great job gripping from the opening lines, and I especially liked the stony eyes of George Elroy 1784 – 1861 with his smirk and the slight tightening of his “stony grip on his stony papers”.

    • Thanks Cathryn – it’s nice to hear that people have really enjoyed this one, especially as it is so different from my previous efforts.

  8. I enjoyed this a lot. It’s very different than what’s usually read, and that’s nice.

    • It’s also very different from what I usually write (well kind of). Glad to hear you liked it though!

  9. It’s been said already, but very atmospheric.

    • Cheers – I think the consensus is definitely “atmospheric”!

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