Book 2, Chapter 5: Filth

Filth’s heart was pounding in his ears.  His breath was haggard and sent spirals of smoke into a night already dense with smog.  He had waited several hours in the tree until the sky was coated with several layers of midnight black.  The moon was merely a sliver of dull grey and there was not even the faintest pinprick of a star to be seen.  The surge of adrenaline was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, as Filth dodged his way through alleys and behind buildings.  He opted for a longer route to avoid meeting any Es.  Finally, he was crouching behind the half crumbled remains of a stone corridor that would eventually lead to the inner Tower.

Despite the hours in the tree, Filth still hadn’t settled on an actual plan.  A plan was a useful thing indeed and he was not absent one for lack of trying.  His brain had worked and reworked all scenarios and they all typically ended in him being caught, getting himself beat down to a sniveling red pulp of a man, and thrown into some kind of dungeon or pit where he would wallow away his remaining days in despair and starvation.  Perhaps he would share the time with a little rat, who would become his friend and messenger.  Filth would train it to send messages to Clem.  Of course Clem would be unconscious anyhow, but maybe she would wake up just enough to know the rat was a message from Filth.  Then again, a rat is just a rat and would probably eat him when he’s dead.  This is how Filth’s mind worked anyways, when he asked it to work out a plan.  So, unfortunately, Filth was crouching outside the Tower with no idea what he was doing.

Crouching seemed more suspicious and anyways, it wasn’t seeming to help.  He hadn’t actually seen anyone yet.  It was an eerily quiet night.  Although anyone scrupulous would be asleep by now and anyone who remained awake would prefer to operate within the silence of shadows.   Hesitantly, he stood, while a chill ran down his spine.  With the mantra, For Clem, resolving his will, Filth’s feet slowly moved forward, away from shelter and into the unknown.  It was thrilling.  He would have yelled out, howled at the bit of moon, if he wasn’t too frightened.  He had never felt so alive in his life.

Then he did yell, abruptly, right before a hand muffled the rest of it.  The man had been so immersed in darkness, Filth had not seen him, until he walked directly into his back.  Filth had yelled out like a complete imbecile.  The man had jumped slightly, but despite being startled, had quickly dominated Filth with one hand over filth’s mouth and a knife quickly pressed into Filth’s stomach.

Idiot, Filth chided himself, while panic swept through him.

“I’m going to move my hand, but you got to shut-up, kid.  Got it?”

Filth nodded his head.  The man slowly removed his hand, but not the knife.  This was every bit an E: the sags of fatty fleshy jowls, the meaty fingers and the perfectly tailored suit.  Filth was very conscious of his own NW qualities.

“A little late to be out here, eh kid?”

Filth just nodded his head.  It was like being a kid all over again, being caught with the baker’s bread.

“What business you got in there, kid? You know, a place like this isn’t a place you want to be.”

“Yes it is.” Filth surprised himself by squeaking out a sentence.  The man raised his eyebrows.

“Is it?”

“Ya.  I need to make money.”

“You up for that kind of money, kid?”

Filth had no idea what that meant, but nodded anyway.

The man clucked his tongue and shook his head.  “Ok, kid.” He said, “Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.”

The man put his arm around Filth and walked him forward, toward the Tower.

For Clem. You idiot! For Clem.

 

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