Where Pipe Street met Undone Alley a carmine eruption of bamboo cracked aside the cobbles, screening the alley’s aperture, whispering in the wind off the lagoon. The streetlamps had been annexed deep into the rampant growth were they hung like imprisoned moons throwing what light might escape, cut into slats of shadow by the vigorous culms.
The walls of Undone Alley were far taller than Nizzin and from one wall to the other an arch would leap to cut the view of the night sky into segments where the savaged stars could be seen shimmering. Tiny marbles of light hung from the center of each arch, not illumining the way so much as offering a lure to it.
The great cries of the party that had attracted Nizzin had died down, but he could still hear the hubbub of it hum. The alley bordered who knew what other estates, yards, fields, or houses. As Nizzin moved slowly down that alley of shadow he passed several curious doors, each one different, each one tangling with his imagination; trees might be seen reaching up over the walls from whatever grounds laid beyond the strange doors, great palms, or expansive empress trees, or the island’s red bamboo. Nizzin had stopped, was at the point of pressing his eyes against a certain keyhole set in the center one of those curious doors – strips of hammered metal green with an advanced patina – and he just pulled the vision of what lay beyond into focus when the cries of the party he had heard earlier erupted again. Laughter like breaking glass, applause like low waves rolling into shore.
Nizzin swung his eyes towards the sound. Where the alley had been dark there was a rich spill of light painting the cobbles and the wall the color and texture of an orange peel. Nizzin thought for a moment he could even smell the sharp scent of citrus assail him. Perhaps the wind pulled it out of one of the secret grounds that surrounded him, bore it down the narrow alley. His nostrils dilated. His eyes glazed and he hesitated. Nizzin craved secret things.
In that brief peep through the keyhole he thought he had seen pale flesh painted by the starlight, the silent mechanisms of an a machine that shone with oil, flowers nodding . . .
He tapped the keyhole lightly with his fingertip. The warm flood of light down the alley pulled at him. Silhouettes of partiers broke across the cobbles there and swung up the walls of the alley. Cheers again. Tipsy shades of departing guests staggered out and down the alley away from Nizzin. The light began to scissor closed, tugging Nizzin towards it. He quickly marked the patinated door with his knife – perhaps later he might return – and made for the closing door.