Day 102. 113 pages, 48,345 words.
“Anyway,” Predericon did her best to restore the discussion to the relative liveliness it had enjoyed before they’d wound up promising to perform bluo-watch on one another, “I wouldn’t worry too much about me thinking my way out of this hole,” she spread her upper hands to gesture at Segment Thirteen in the abstract. “Didn’t you say there was nowhere else to go from here?”
“Nowhere good,” Gyden concurred. “But that was just my assessment. You might be able to find another way.”
“Segment Zero,” Predericon joked, straightened her arm and jabbed her fist at the purely hypothetical sky. “That was Stankley’s elegant solution.”
“Unfortunately we don’t have a Demon to punch a Flesh-Eater out through the hull for us,” Gyden remarked. “Or a Flesh-Eater to be punched out through the hull by a Demon.”
“From what you’re saying, there’s plenty of things on the promenade for Odium to have punched out through the hull for us,” Predericon said.
“Odium would have been right at home down here.”
“Who would have thought we’d find ourselves missing a Demon?” Predericon said, then sighed. “I’m sorry about Lelhmak,” she told her friend.
Gyden gave another shrug. “It was quick,” she said. “And he was almost gone anyway, from the malnutrition. And it was tidy. I think it’s a death he would have approved of. Except for-”
“-the melodrama,” they both concluded together, and laughed.
There didn’t seem to be much else to say, so they sat in silence for a time. Predericon, for her part, did her best to contextualise what she’d learned.
There was something Gyden wasn’t telling her, she thought – probably a lot of things. How had she managed to find this ‘gastroclave’ she’d mentioned, to gain the sustenance with which she’d kept herself alive? She’d found it, and gotten food from it, despite its apparent well-guarded nature. Not in itself an impossibility, given that Predericon knew nothing about the dangers of the promenade, but that first time? Gyden had been almost on her last legs when she’d dropped in here. Had she just dragged herself into the tunnel and found a door? Had it opened for her the way this bolt-hole had opened?
And that was another thing. Predericon had walked down the promenade for an hour without any doorways opening. Gyden had dived at the wall, and the bolt-hole had opened for her. It spoke of an unusual familiarity. Yes, that might have come from exploration. But Predericon sensed there was more to it. And not only that, but they’d just happened to run into each other right next to the only place this elevator would open, just as Gyden was fleeing this giant Flesh-Eater they were now waiting out.
Had ‘Stankley’s big brother’ sensed Predericon’s arrival? Chased Gyden back up the promenade so they would meet at the elevator door? Why would it do that? Was the Bookwyrm’s essence having an effect on the denizens of the darkness? And if it was, would it be putting them both at more risk?
For some reason – possibly because they’d just been talking about it – the image entered Predericon’s mind of the sculpture back on board the Speed’s Virtues (Curiosity), her attempt at capturing the unravelling and reforming worlds they’d seen before the crash. That central part, where physics merged and was undone, and could not be represented by any three-dimensional reality. Only now, the errors in the archive were overlaid onto the image, teasing of a second, deeper layer of inaccessibility that she would never manage to pick apart…
She blinked and looked up at the shadowy figure of Gyden between the two soft aquamarine lamps of her ears. “Hmm?”
“You vagued out there for a while. What’s going on?”
Predericon shook her head. “I might have been starting to think at things I shouldn’t,” she said. “Thank you for snapping me out of it.”
“Any time,” Gyden jerked her head at the wall. “I think we’re in the clear. Let’s go down and see if we can find you some proper food.”