The City of Magic - Chapter 17

Sloth

“W
alk!” she commanded, “and never look back!”

I thought this was crazy. But, I followed.

“Hey you, where are you running away?” the drunken voice continued to call.

“Faster, faster!” Sophia called.

The dust from the ground swirled up and filled the air as we paced on. We coughed as we walked. The drunken man had begun singing:

“Why do you run beating dust in the air?
Why do you hurry as if the world needs your care?
Hey, the world’s on its own, buddy;
You ain’t gonna make it any inch better!
Come, enjoy some rum, be a good bum;
Let’s gulp some spirit and get into the gutter!”

We had already moved around the corner as his voice began to die away, and were moving ever quickly on. This street looked even more disordered with dusty cloths, paper, and dead leaves strewn everywhere. The dust in the air was congesting my nose as I sneezed. “Stop a little!” I implored Sophia as I halted behind. She walked a few steps ahead; then, whirled back and coming up to me took Inno from me saying, “Give her to me! We can’t afford to stop here. This is the doorway of Death!”

“Do we need to be moving so fast?” I argued. “Where are we going anyway?”

“Don’t ask questions, now! Just follow!” was the only explanation she gave; then, she turned and began walking away again.

“Won’t a slower pace get us out the same?” I cried as I sneezed and coughed. She had already disappeared far ahead. “Haven’t you learnt that the slow and steady win the race?” I shouted.

“Yes, it does if there are unsteady hares in the race; at the moment, the quick and steady win the race!”

A strong hot gale now drew in from somewhere spinning whirls of dust in the dim street and blurring sight altogether. A gust of dust filled my nostrils and I sneezed profusely. I saw a door and pounded on it hard. The door instantly unlocked and I jumped in locking it behind. For a moment I stood there all silent with my eyes closed and my lungs trying to clear up and inhale some dustless air.

“Come over here!” someone called and I opened my eyes. The room was some kind of a messed up, murky pub; and, it smelt of strong liquor. Drunks were strewn here and there all over the place, some lying on benches, some lying on the floor. “What kind do you want?” I heard the voice again and turned to a man behind a desk. He seemed to be the bartender.

“Oh nothing, I’m sorry, I’m leaving,” I replied. He looked curious. A strong hand pushed me from behind towards the desk. A hand yanked off the purse that Piety had given me and handed it over to the bartender. He grinned. I felt powerless. The bartender drew a bottle of liquor and poured it into a glass placed before me. “Drink,” he said, “and forget your malady!” I rose up to leave.

“Give me back my money!” I demanded.

“Your money?” he asked sarcastically. Then he slapped the purse on the desk and looking threateningly in my eyes grunted, “Go away!”

I grabbed the purse and got up. At that moment, the heavy and tall man pushed me down. I got up again, but he pushed me back down. “Well done, Torpor!” the bartender cried, “Let’s see how he can get away!” I rose up again and was felled. I now felt listless and haziness settled on my eyelids. Yet, I knew that I must get out of here. “This is the doorway of Death!” I remembered Sophia had said. “Where were they now?” I thought to myself. I tried to rise again and saw the heavy hand descend. At that instant, my hands gripped the pendant and pierced his hands. He shrunk back with a cry of pain. I jumped up and darted out of the room with such a loud cry that would have rocked their stupors down.

Outside, the dusty winds were more severe, but I didn’t linger. I rushed. I ran. I slipped at one place; but, I flung myself up and ran. To my astonishment and horror, Sophia and Inno had disappeared. I cried out in desperation and searched like a mad man. But, I found them nowhere. I began to sweat profusely, and then I realized that the rags inside bit my flesh hard. I decided to run faster and so ran deriding the wind and despising the pain. I coughed and sneezed but I ran. Finally, I reached an intersection. On the other side was the Market. I crossed over and entered in. I sat on a bench, put my head in my hands, and wept bitterly. Then, I remembered the scroll, and instantly pulled it out. “To Superbia” were the only words written on it. At that moment, a bus pulled by. “To Superbia, To Superbia!” a man announced. I got into it.

A seat on the front was empty, so I went and sat on it. My eyes were red with tears. I deeply regretted my foolish whimsical action that had led me to this state of desperation. A grizzly old man came and sat by my side.

“Coming from Acedia?” he inquired.

“Yes, the dust is great there,” I mused.

“Yes, it is,” he nodded.

I turned away and looked out of the window. The bustling Market showed no signs of being unusual or abnormal. Everything seemed to be in place.

“Can’t understand how these trouble-makers get in,” the grizzly man continued, “but, it’s interesting to know that the Chief of them has been caught and will be executed soon. Are you also going to the Amphitheatre to see the trial?”

“What trial are you talking about?”

“Come on, you can’t be ignoramus! Don’t you know that the most wanted Stranger has been captured and, following the trial, will be handed over to Thanatos? He was actually captured in Invidia.”

I was shocked. “When did that happen? How was he captured?” I asked.

“They had been hunting for him for very long now. Invidia captured him when he seemed to have ventured into her Square. A little bash-thrash in her dungeon and the Arch-Enemy was unmasked, humiliated, and uncovered.”

I became speechless and a dark gloom settled on my face. He looked at me and laughed. “You really can make a face,” he said, “You won’t need a mask at Superbia, I guess.” He laughed again. I didn’t understand what he meant. The bus stopped at the beginning of an intersection. The man stood up. “I must get down here to finish some work,” he explained, “Guess we’ll meet at the theatre; but, I don’t think we’ll recognize each other (he chuckled); my mask is the best camouflage in the City ever.” He briskly got away.

I sat there stunned and confused. As passengers were getting into the bus, I put my face in my hands and wished that the world just blacked out. Someone came and sat on the seat beside. I didn’t care to look—now, I could bear company no more; but, I had no place to escape and be alone. Then, I felt a little hand on my shoulder. I turned to look and saw that it was Inno. She was smiling at me from the lap of Sophia. Tears filled my eyes.

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