Another Tuesday morning, another InMon story comes jangling (is that a word?) out into the world. I’m at work at the moment, nothing like a drudge job to keep the old brain ticking over, if only it wasn’t 52* in the kitchen. And yes that is 52 degrees CELCIUS! Enjoy…
His heartbeat skips and stutters, a frantic metronome, trying to keep pace with the ragtime band of chemicals rampaging through his body. He wheezes, a violinist accompanying his pulse. An alleyway offers a temporary sanctuary, a chance to catch his breath. He crouches behind a dumpster, its contents overflowing onto the cobblestones beneath his feet. A chance to collect himself, a moment to wish himself away from this nightmare. “If wishes were dragons then beggars would rule the skies,” his father would say. “Or die, with winged death plummeting from the skies,” was his silent reply, even now answering a father long left beneath the ground.
You could touch, but not look. That was the only rule, a rule he had sworn to obey since childhood. If you can’t see it, it can’t see you. He looks into the narrow ribbon of sky, suspended between the bare concrete walls of the temples towering above him. He steps back into the street, and the music of his body follows him as he tries to contain the fear lurking inside. You could never look into a dragon’s eye. That was the rule of law, but the rumour of the byways and highways was that to look into the dragon’s eye was to become its master – you had to try to win to fail in this life, try to win or to end up suffering beneath the inevitable post-modern serfdom of a suit and tie. It was a heavy chance to take, but either path led to a lifetime imprisoned.
He hesitates, on the edge of the alleyway, suspicious on that invisible boundary, torn between seclusion of his hide-away and the anonyminity offered by the swirling crowds. “Don’t act strange, try not to look like a fugitive…” he wasn’t sure what a fugitive looked like, but he knew he could not act peculiarly or the mob would notice. They despised difference, hated their overlords almost as much as they hated the foreign, hated anyone unknown to them. The mood of the crowd shifted as he strode amongst them, disguised as he was as one the Ethereals, a member of that unblemished caste, of the ruling elite. He could feel their sneers on his back, could hear their tongues rolling around the pidgin language they had created, the word on the street they refused to believe the Ethereals would ever decifer. Their murmmuring voices washed over him like the surf rinsing a pebble beach, and the music of his body followed him into the agora.
Panicking he pushed through the crowds, desperate not to look skywards. He could smell the reptilian crush of the dragons above him, their musk overpowering as the crowd hemmed him in, pushing him down onto the ground. He collapsed beneath the weight of their indignation, rolling beneath their savage beating. He opens his eyes and the beasts fill his vision, flooding his senses with their enormity, as they pivot in the air, diving toward him. He stretches his hands out before him in a final act of defiance. They fall together, fall onto him, into madness and dispair. He cast the dice. The Ethereal cast their judgement.