Liam Sharp is a British comic book artist, writer and publisher working mostly in the US marketplace.
I bowed, and, with the grace of goodness, I took my leave. I did not look back, such was the pain I did not wish him to see the tears. So little he knew, and so it should be.
When I came to that place I had little to recommend me. I’d been the sort to seek anonymity, while always craving admiration. As such, not being of a forthright disposition at that time, I looked on, smiled, said little, and stayed out of trouble in all the manners I could conceive of. But I watched, and I learned what I needed to. I bided my time. And eventually, when it was exactly right, I arrived at Verbatim City dressed in the manner of one accustomed to higher circles than the fact of my heritage would ordinarily afford me, wearing a button-hole Bloom of Recommendation in white from the Pons of Aisles - who had much appreciated my work. Good grace, an open face and ready smile were my armoury, and I was determined to use them.
The people of that new city looked upon me, as I knew they would, with fear. I had practiced well. I cowed to submission with a faint ironic smile two Salemen in floral suits at the centre of the public arena that was the Market Circle. They whimpered at my feet, which I let them kiss. It was a good entrance, and Mediators came rushing from the grand Council House amidst a hastily donned throng-of-certificates - it’s irregular frame adorned with printed matter threaded onto a cotton web. They plucked symbolic paperwork from it, stuffing my pockets with it and waving their arms in rings of welcoming. I accepted with grace, naturally, and allowed them to lead me to a Quarterman who sent his Dormers rattling through the streets apace, wooden soles announcing in advance the need for a room.
I settled on a spherical apartment balanced on three long curved legs in the Artisan sector. It was, of late, a fashionable area of the city, and the Dormers applauded my choice, continuously clapping in unison - as was the form - as they backed out of the room and descended one by one down the steep ladder inside the Bilge Street leg. The open plan spheroid was ringed with a corkscrew balcony and smelled of honey and wine.
I need not have worried.
The Jubileumboek was at once a part of the city and somewhere else entirely, and indeed it was many places and yet one. It flitted constantly as though a godly thumb flicked though the pages of a book, their myriad surfaces briefly glimpsed, similar certainly, but not the same. Above it the sky flashed through a strobing array of weather fronts and times - clear star-flooded nights; dazzling summer noons; wet-stone rain-heavy gloom. And somewhere in those shifting streets and times she waited for me, I knew. Was it not as the child’s rhyme said?
Well then, such truths were mine also to seek.
I sought employment at the House of Shadows, where my grace proved effective enough to very quickly elevate me to the position of a Magisclerk, and my hours were soon fully taken up with law and organization. At the Workends I took to strolling along the darkly shimmering boundaries of Jubileumboek careful not to gaze too directly, for fear of attracting unwanted attention from the denizens of the city, but I was peripherally enraptured by it. With a stern face I hid my excitement. I came to know where it opened most safely, where roads remained roads and buildings were never built. And I bided my time. I was, after all, good at that.
One overcast night in Julain, after the Hawksmen had rounded the streets with their squawks and threats, and a heavy rain had driven such Midwork revellers as there were indoors, I wrapped myself in a black feathercloak and donned a Masque of Sorrows I had acquired in part-payment for an act of mercy as Magisclerk. The rain obscured further the limited vision of the circular glass eye-plates, but by now I knew my route well. At the rippling edge of Jubileumboek I strode, heart fit to burst, and when I perceived the shadows deep enough, the rain fat enough and the streets empty, I sidestepped over the boundary, into the openness I knew lay there even in its shifting - and I was in!
The shock was immense. Immediately I realised it had been folly, for all about me moved people as tied to their moments as the shifting buildings, and I stood amongst them as a wraith. What should happen were I to blunder into a space about to be occupied, however fleetingly, by one of them? Should we merge into a ghastly assemblage, barely human and trapped neither in their realm nor my own? Should we drift through that place gathering more and more of its people into ourselves until at last we became merged with a built structure, eternally immobile in that constant motion?
With an overwhelming sense of panic I ran for the perceived sanctity of Verbatim city’s less temporal, undamaged heart, to where I had left it. I had not been long, I thought. It was a foolishness I could escape. But when I stepped back into the solidity of linear time I met the former aspect of myself about to step in!
We regarded each other with horror. The conundrum of time, the paradox it presented me, swam, immediately apparent, in my head. I had not yet stepped into that place, and so how could I exist? Should I exist? Did I yet remain inside Jubileumboek also? For a moment my hand clenched around the hilt of my blade, as I’m sure did that of my former self, but I knew what I must do:
I bowed, and, with the grace of goodness, I took my leave.
(C) Liam Sharp 2010
© Paul Kane 2003-2017. All rights reserved. Materials (including images) may not be reproduced without express permission from the author.