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by Rudi Dornemann

It paid better than shouting on corners with newspapers. There was less chance of losing a finger or catching a killing cough than if you worked the bobbins. And it wasn't as risky as pickpocketing -- no matter what the neighborhood, no matter how late, the censer marked you as in the employ of towermen, who were said to know everything, to control everything as far as the fog went, and the fog went everywhere in the city.

That was the part Gabriel Loy liked best, being able to walk wherever and have everyone step aside at his approach. They all looked at him without wanting to look like they were looking -- he liked that too. The only thing he didn’t like was the way he dreamed disordered jumbled dreams crowded with faces, numbers, and hints of terrible knowledge.

He'd made an art of swinging the fog-seeder, looping it out long or spinning it in tight, in far more elaborate figures than what you needed just to the keep the whirligig works in the brass sphere wound up.

Not that it mattered to the towermen. They didn't care who waved their smoking orbs as long as someone did it. Half a crown when you took it smoldering from the cart; another crown when you returned it, cold, at dawn.

But when, in alley where he strutted even thought there was no one to watch him, his foot went through a gap between boards and he fell just as the censer was on the downswing and it went down into the dark and splashed two heartbeats later, he knew they'd care about that.

He had to get it back. Even though it meant scraping his hands and straining his shoulders to wrench all the boards off the top of the well. It meant finding handholds in the loose bricks, and mastering his panic when the bricks gave way to packed clay ten feet down and there was no way down and there didn't seem to be any way back up either. But as he breathed, he learned: the fog had poured deep into the well, so that he was as high above the knowledge-mist as the towermen on their spire-tops and chimney-trestles.

What the fog-mind told them, it told him: he knew where the censer was, how to get it back up, how to keep learning. Plans unfolded like dreams in his head: a balloon! He would fly and breath the top of more fog and he'd be wise, and everyone would look at him without wanting to look like they were looking, even the towermen.


peculiar. now be like Paul Harvey.

Posted by: David | March 25, 2009 12:11 PM

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