From the island, one could see the vast, brooding outline of the derelict city, its towers a shifting black against the mouldy sky in the day, their outlines blurred by the all pervading haze. At night, they burned. Once I had dared to swim as close as I could to the city shore and reached the great chain of crusted iron links which had been placed in the harbour long ages ago, before the fall. No craft could pass beyond this barrier, and it kept out other creatures of the deep sea, now risen to command the surfaces of the worldocean. I had seen then that what looked like one vast conflagration which seemed to blaze up the sky at night was an amalgamation of many small fires lit up in the hollows of the abandoned towers. There were people in the city, of a kind at least that needed heat in the night.
I had barely made it back to the island that night, and almost given up, even praying for some many teethed mouth to suck me into an acidic grave, a respite to end the suffering, of not just the day, but my life as it was, but he had pulled me out and on to the garbage strewn shore. I was barely conscious all night but somehow knew in a sort of dreamvision thatFa tman had puled me up the ragged slope to the edge of the plateau, where he had affixed me to something that held me from rolling back down, while he sat by a fire, drinking his clearbottled booze. He seemed to be more ragged and filthier than usual, and munched on some vile thing which roasted on the fire had made a stink that even rose above the usual stench of the island.
I saw him with halfopened eyes, when on the peak of drunkenness, he sat precariously on an edge, tugging wildly at his penis. This disgusting man had saved my life. How fallen was I become, what was this life, why was I cursed with consciousness?
At some point he vomited. Later, when he had me strung on his shoulder, while carrying me back to the castle, I saw an eyeball covered in acid and bile, stuck onto some extended thing on his tattered coat.
The vile thing passed me on into soft waiting hands. I woke, who knows how many days later, in a fragrant sunlit room. She was beside me in bed.
I saw her angelic face, framed by golden light that passed through her light hair making of them a halo. She caressed and kissed my face, her soft warm breast pushing against me, almost naked through the sheer fabric of her dress.
It was just a dream, I knew. But it was truer than life.
I knew even in the dream who she was in the waking world. A broken girl, tormented by the memory of unspeakable things, who had washed up on the shore so many days ago. She barely spoke a human tongue, but spoke enough to tell me that the animal man scared her more than any beast.
I had to sedate her to wash and dress her wounds, to extricate the worms and other things that grew in her flesh. It was almost a month before she could walk on her own. She was scared of me, but for some strange reason had taken to Fatman, perhaps because he was more animal than man, and had a kind of bearish gentleness.
Once, on a thundering day, I had heard her sing for him a lullaby. Beast that he was, nothing in this wretched world scared him more than lightning. Her song had soothed him, and soon he was snoring like a bearchild, when she noticed me looking at amazement, she allowed herself a smile.
I heard it again, as I knew she tended to me. I knew I would survive. And that there was a reason to remain alive.
I never waded into the blackwaters again. Every night we watched from the island shore, the blazing city come alive at night. There were people there. Of a kind. How had they survived the Fall? I did not know or care.