The Sugar of the Earth – part 7


Undone Alley was a narrow passage bounded on both sides by tall walls that rose up past the height of any person to leap across at intervals as arches that segmented the winding path. The shadows lay heavy there, had laid heavy there for so long as to build up a residual dust the tainted the air. There were only very tiny lanterns, hung from the arches, nothing more than little marbles of light to mark the way.


Zgija moved along the alley, trailing one hand against the wall, the texture of the stone against her fingertips, keeping a distance from the inebriated couple the swayed along in front of her. She wore a hooded gown of dark orange, sleeveless and cut high over her legs to allow free movement and to show the peeking curls of her great tattoo that squirmed over her thighs and led up beneath the crisp folds of the dress. She was bare foot, the jewelry around her ankles clacked.


From somewhere further ahead down the alley came music.


‘There were two of them, of course.’


The woman held her glass like a scepter, resting it against her collarbones as she spoke or swaying it ahead of her to make a point, the rich liquid inside curling on itself, catching the candle light tucking it away, snuffing if out. She took a long swallow while her guests waited for her to continue her story.


The party was an orange hum of people. No one had challenged Zgija’s entrance, she’d even been offered a glass of wine from tray of hammered bronze where other such glasses gleamed in the candle glow; the same wine the hostess made such a show of swallowing. Watching the woman’s throat manage the mouthful Zgija had the distinct impression of a sidewinding serpent moving over rough terrain.


The hostess coughed lightly. ‘They were twins,’ she stretched the ‘s’ out elastically until her teeth folded the sound into an insectile ‘z’. She coughed again.


‘I remember,’ said a helpful gentleman in glasses, taking advantage of the pause. ‘There were all kinds of stories about them.’ He made his own attempt at swirling his wine glass but spilled some in his exuberance. ‘They lived up in the hills in a kind of laboratory or castle.’ He paused and sipped his wine, ignoring the spill, before turning his eyes towards the hostess, each lens catching the orange light and erasing his eyes. ‘Is that right?’ he wondered.


The hostess was clearly annoyed at having her story interrupted. She removed her empty hand from where she had been absently petting her own decolletage and waved it in the interloper’s direction with the lightest twist of the wrist to show he was no longer needed.


‘It was a listening station, I believe. They could hear the stars,’ she dramatized the words so that no one gathered might miss the implications.





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