Picture of some Rory Story Cubes

The City

Here’s something I wrote based on a ‘throw’ of 5 of Rory’s Story Cubes

The Bridge

The sky has turned dark over the course of the afternoon, and threatens me with a soaking. I’m looking forward to finishing my daytime vigil. I can feel the thick oppressive heat of the gathering storm while the smell of tar on the road catches in my throat. 

A good friend of mine will take over at day’s end. He will, take care of the bridge until the quiet hours, then close the gate till morning. Though truly, the hours are never very quiet on this, the only crossing point into our City, it just seems so during the night, when the darkness appears to soften the stones and the road loses some of its resonance. The darkness also affects the refugees, quietening them down as they take shelter below the walls, their bodies naturally leaning towards thoughts of rest. I summon my dog, a grey collie, and take my green staff, which I regularly renew from the willows growing close by the water’s edge. I use it to chivvy wanderers across the bridge, whenever they tire from their efforts.

The Face

A draught of cool water from my flask will slake my thirst. As I take it, I’m looking for my young friend who should by now be picking his way through the tide of humanity. But I can’t pick out his face, even against the retreating backs of the human cloud drifting ever onwards towards the puzzle of buildings in the distance. His eyes are black, in a dark brown, deeply-lined face, a reward for spending much of his time outside in all weathers. In his former life he slept under newspapers and cardboard, in alleys and holes in the wall, under any sort of detritus for insulation. Now at last, when he has been elevated to this important position of gatekeeper, he has the comfort of a warm room, windows and shutters against the elements. I envy him his deeply appreciative regard for what I have always accepted as the basic necessities of life, as much of a ‘given’ to me, as air and water. And of course, <em>there</em> is the nub of that apposite word. I have long since come to realise that these things are purely that – ‘given’ to us, as gifts, and we should not take them without thanks. My eyes have truly been opened since my arrival in the City.

The Building

Below, the emerald fields are dissected by the artery that feeds in from the Bridge into the City. Within the crenelated walls the buildings are flat rectangles of all sizes interspersed with towering circles lining streets and holding alleys, sprawling over and into and out of one another. There’s a small roof garden built about a tree, that may have grown from a seed dropped by a bird. A few courtyards sit outside the large houses of the rich, cosseting a handful of carriages and horses drawn up ready and awaiting attention. The roads teem with tiny hordes moving like carrion consuming a body. The promised storm arrives and I move the great armies of cloud in, like the great orchestrator I am, to unleash their lightning forks and vast reservoirs of rain, down on the scene. While I don’t wish harm on the people and animals below, I allow the elements to wreak their havoc on my canvas. I have no governance over any ills they may create. Equally I can take no responsibility for the warm golden glow of the gentle setting sun painting the slow river, and the fields of long grass which move in waves of pink, then salmon blending into ruby, lust and desire and into eminence, palatinate and down into dark purple, as the final solar crescent slips away under the horizon. One by one, as an ivory moon rises, guttering flames lighten the shadows of the City, from street lamps and chimney pots, in pools of yellow ochre.

The Web

I see the Keeper and his associate every day. Their activities sometimes catch my eye, from this place on the wall, but I confess they are truly of little interest to me. I have other concerns. I’m normally busy amongst my charges, keeping an eye on their struggle. They always find survival difficult and I regard this as a testament to the excellence of my work. They call out to me and I encourage them to tell me about their torment, and inject them again. I have no interest in the quality of their lives. In fact, the shorter the length of their struggle, the more I think of them. At this time of the year as the weather becomes warmer their numbers swell and I’m kept busy incessantly checking progress amongst the sick and moving the progress of the stronger, onto oblivion. Why do some insist on suffering for so long? I retreat a little and bask in the oppressive warmth, the hairs on my legs rising to allow my dark skin to absorb the heat. I admire my handiwork and the slowly ripening larder, that hourly provides me with succulent tidbits and morsels, some barely able to scream such is their agony. For they must die, so I can live. Such is the way of the world.

The Key

I am icy in the morning. I feel the warming wood enclosing my body, but wish I could repel it’s sour decaying stink. These trees have been torn down and the smallest, sharpest teeth have incised them and men have formed them, against their natural will, into barriers. The wind will shake them and over the years the rain will turn them rotten until they collapse, while I will still be strong and firm, being a barrel of steel. At my head, are twin crescents of turned circles, one filled with a prancing lion, while a griffon bares its teeth and flashes its wings from the other. Fine lines and tracery are cut into me, and my crowning glories are the cuts which hold the cypher to the City. At the appointed hour a man, in a tunic of red and gold, being long of leg and strong of arm has placed his oily sinewy fingers and thumb around my bow, turned my shoulders, and I feel my cuts, like diamonds, unlock these gates. My Keeper unbarrels me from the lock, then lets me fly along the thick clanking chain I sit astride, swooping like an eagle. I can hear the swelling thrum of the tide of humanity waking ready to broach the walls and be absorbed by the soft, rewarding bosom of this ever expanding City. 






2 responses to “The City”

  1. Estelle Blackman Avatar
    Estelle Blackman

    A very captivating read, colourful and descriptive. Each Rory Cube subtly linking with the next – reaching the last cube to cleverly complete the full story …


  2. Lauren HB Avatar
    Lauren HB

    Very powerful piece Adrian. There is an undercurrent of dark inevitability and melancholy. The surge of humanity could be from any period of human history or place and yet there’s a familiarity to this pattern you describe. The voice, at first seems dispassionate, like a journalist, but is actually quite chilling. There is a Mervyn Peake resonance at work here.


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