Lichens

Lichens
by Pinche

Translated from Italian by reginazabo
Illustration by Kevin Petty

First Installment

While she walked the tip of her shoes confronted the debris of crushed bricks and dull metal objects. The air was biting cold; she adjusted the collar of her coat to her neck. Just ten minutes before a relentless rain had been dropping, but now the sky seemed at peace and the air cleaned up by the weeping-like outburst. She sniffed the air—all around the ruins smelled like forests. The broken bricks, the splintered concrete blocks, those small asphalt islets that still emerged from beneath the grass.
She got to the Mouthed Gate. It bore that name because what remained of its two iron doors was a pair of large slivers at the top, forming the cheekbones of an open-mouthed face.
It was a marvellous gate, one of her favorite, one of the many that still guarded imaginary palaces and invisible factories. Like the rest of them, the Mouthed Gate was totally useless. It was a mere memory of what it had once protected. And like the rest of them, you would have never dreamt of not using it, of mocking it by going around it.

Sitting on the banister of an orphan window there was Typtri.
“Hallo, Zam.”
“Hi… today there was this slow rain falling instead of the usual neige… have you heard?”
“Mm. Nice. I like rain. Afterwards smells are sharper.”
As Zam got closer, her gaze wandered behind a long line of ants that ran along the banister, each one with its tiny load of debris.
“This place will soon be eaten, just like everything else. I’ll be sorry when the Mouthed Gate won’t exist anymore.”
“Zam, perhaps I have found a place where we could look for your fuse. Down at the bay I heard of an old factory in City22—it produced electronic and hydraulic components. They say that many walls are still standing—in some parts there’s even a roof. I wouldn’t wonder if we found something that is still usable there.”
“It must have been looted…”
“Yeah, sure, but nobody would’ve wanted your fuse… it hasn’t been used since the end of the 20th Century.”
“Don’t know, Typtri. City22 is far away. Sometimes I think that I should give up looking for that damned fuse. I’m just making you all waste a lot of time.”
“Zam, do you seriously think I’ve got something better to do?” Typtri would have smiled, if it had been able to, and Zam appreciated this effort anyway.
“Besides, who knows? At the factory in City22 I might find some oil, or some gears…”
“Yeah, alright. But we must leave tonight—who knows when we’ll have another chance of flying without the neige falling.”
Typtri collapsed down from the banister—with those short legs, it shouldn’t have acted so athletic, and with so much corroded iron around, Zam always feared it would crash into pieces at any moment. It was a funny device,
Typtri was—its looks always contradicted its words.
“Let’s meet at the bay in a couple of hours, then. I just need some time to get a couple of things. I will fetch some oil and water I found yesterday: it should be enough to get us to City22.”
“Okay, Typtri. See you in two hours at the bay.”
Two hours was a time span vaguely included between now and never. Measuring time had become too difficult for anybody to still believe it could be worthwhile. Keeping a clock going, even if it had been possible, would have meant using precious gears. Watches and alarm clocks had been cannibalized decades ago. Down at the bay they had a couple of sundials and they counted days, but it was more
out of habit than for any particular reason. If you wanted to arrange a meeting with someone, you would approximate by remembering old conventions: a quarter of an hour is less than an hour, which is less than two days…
Those who arrived first just waited: not that they had anything better to do anyway.
With years it was easier—seasons could still be distinguished pretty well, despite the neige that fell continuously to remind everyone of the days of the bombs.

Zam spent her imaginary couple of hours going home to fetch her backpack. She filled it with her pilot cap, the white umbrella, a high neck sweater, knickknacks, and various spare parts. She had not travelled much lately, and resolved to celebrate the event by wearing the green striped dress she had found so many years ago in that almost-in-tact theatre. It made her feel like a porcelain doll.
She tied her hair with a big red satin ribbon. With her blue hair and the green dress, she was already wearing more colors than she was used to. She settled the question with her black rubber boots, took her backpack, got down from the tree, and walked towards the bay.

The bay was in turmoil, as usual. Emu and Park were tinkering around some golden pistons mounted into a plastic tube that was as big as a fridge, the Runts were sitting on the ground watching, and every now and then they laughed and threw a small stone at Emu.
“Hi, Emu. What are you doing?”
“Hey, Zam. This is the new machine I was telling you about the other day. Well, this is a piece of its engine… I’m not sure, but I guess the distance between the pistons is correct… what do you think?”
“Well, yes. Have you tried it yet?”
“Oh, no: we’ve just finished fitting the pistons inside…”
“I can’t give you a hand, Emu, I’m sorry… I’m meeting Typtri, we’re going to City22.”
“Because of the factory? It was me who told Typtri…”
Her big horns framed her face as a proud smile brightened up her face.
“Some days ago a guy passed by. He came from City22 and told us about this well preserved plant. He said that he found some perfectly-kept rubber reels. He uses them to insulate the implants he’s got on his back…”
“Don’t know, we’ll see, Emu. I don’t count on it very much anymore. It’s a very old kind of fuse, when the first neige started falling it  hadn’t been used for decades…”
“We’ll see. Ah, listen, Zam, while you’re around there, see if you can find a few bolts, size 15. We don’t have many of them left and we need them for the Runts’ blowguns.”
“Okay. I’ll see if I can find some.”
The bay embraced the lives of all the area’s Remnants. When you got there, the whole view could make you dizzy. High above, dozens of trees hosted a network of homes, walkways, and slides. Down below, narrow paths of grass worn by steps meandered among rusty heaps of iron, contrivances, and parts of every shape. The bay rose over a huge mechanical laboratory.

Climbing the stairs that led to the Golden Bar, Zam met a Runt coming down. It was Hud, with his load of plastic bottles.
“Fifteen today. Zam, when you get down will you bring me the rest? I must have left four or five upstairs that didn’t fit in my backpack…”
“How far have you gotten with the house? Have you finished the walls yet?”
“We’re nearly finished… we need eighty bottles or so and then we can start with the roof. Berc’s gone to tale a heavy load at the old slump. After that we should be done.”
“It will be wonderful, Hud. I’m leaving, but I’ll come see how things are going as soon as I’m back.”

Take a plastic bottle, fill it with sand, and you’ve got a brick.
Jam four bricks into each other, and you have started a wall.

The Golden Bar was almost empty. Typtri beeped to greet her while Zam got a glass of juice.
“How long will it take to City22, Typtri?”
“Not sure. If the flydrome catches speed and the neige doesn’t fall, we should be there in a few hours.”
Zam thought about her last journey, looking for that river in the West… It had taken her three days to get there, only to find that the river had dried up.
“Better than I thought.”

At the garage they found Lip half inside one of the large flydrome tanks. When he emerged, his arms were covered
with sludge to the elbow, his face was red, and his shirt was still too white.
His face brightened up.
“Zam! The flydrome?”
“Yes, Lip, we need your help to push it to the runway.”
The flydrome Zam always used was made of brass. Emu had built it after ransacking a huge ocean liner that had got
stranded on a beach up north. At the bay, the brass from the finishings of the ship had been enough last them years.
Zam liked it especially because the seats came from the same theatre where she had found her dress. The were lined in brown velvet, a bit worn out, but comfortable nonetheless.
They filled the water tank, greased the engine, and loaded the flydrome with their supplies.
When they were ready, while the engine started with a puff of steam, Zam turned to watch Lip, with his handsome black and white face, his grey apron, and his purple eyes.
What could her red satin ribbon possibly look like through his psychedelic vision?
Typtri climbed next to her, Zam put her cap and goggles on, and they took off.

***

“Zam, I think City22 is down there.”
The flight had been refreshing. Zam had never gone so far north, nor had she ever flown without the neige. After some hours it had started again though, carrying along that creaking silence. Presently, as they got closer, a beautiful city made all its best to be noticed.
A river, almost drained, ran almost from one side to the other, cutting it in half. In the north, wide sweeps of shrivelled high-rise blocks looked like sleeping elephants.
In the center, instead, grass had grown all over, and several trees were blossoming inside big, roofless gothic churches.
“Typtri, I’ve already seen this city… I mean it…”
“Well, of course you have, Zam. This is Paris.”
They landed in a wide field, on the east side.
The cold stiffened her fingers, and Zam regretted leaving her gloves behind. They made their way towards the area that had looked more intact from above.
Typtri had a funny way of proceeding, sniffing the air and stumbling in tires and rusted iron scraps.

***

He looked around. There were no more lichens. What remained was a strip of maple leaf he had nibbled the day before yesterday and left there to dry. He made do with it, just to have something to munch on his way home.
In the last week the days had started to defrost. It was still cold, to be sure, but not as cold as before, not the freezing cold that bit into his bones.
While he went up the river, he stopped just a second to check that the sky wasn’t threatening a storm. And while his gaze turned back to the ground, he noticed a glint of something hidden among the dry branches.
It was a bolt. He had seen more of them when he’d ventured to the big empty factory on the other side of the hill.
As to how it had got here, it was hard to figure out. Perhaps a tired magpie had let it fall along its journey.
A nice bolt. A big, brass-colored one.
He moved it with his hoof so as to keep it hidden.

***
Zam watched as Typtri moved a concrete-framed glass block with its large tongs.
“If we had a larger aircraft, this large block would be very useful back at the bay.”
“Typtri, a lot of things would be useful at the bay, but I’m getting a bit tired of moving things around the world.”
She looked at her shoes. She was sleepy. That feeling had started to encrust on her skin since the AP 7080 fuse had broken.
They kept walking for a long time, kicking styrofoam boxes and making chocolate wrappers rustle on the ground.
A dump—she was deeply depressed of living in a huge meaningless dump. It was like living inside a smoked glass globe.
But something had started moving as it had never done before, not only because there were no alternatives. Zam had long acknowledged the irreducible hyperactivism of those who are building something, and that feeling was so beautiful it made her tremble.
But sleepiness caught her eyes at every moment. That damned fuse. Imperfect heritage of an imperfect parent industry.

***

In front of his house door, he suddenly felt like sitting down. What was it like to sit down? He didn’t remember anymore. It had been exciting and marvellous to be turned into a deer, but now and then a tear formed deep in the right corner of his left eye, a tear that contained lost memories. Trivial memories of trivial things. Imperfect heritage of an imperfect parent industry.

***
Zam stopped abruptly.
In front of them, at the end of the road, there was a wooden house, like the ones in fairy tales: a little house in the middle of a small forest. And in front of the house door there was a big deer squatting in a strange position, with one leg over the other. A sitting deer.
In his gaze there was the careful concentration that comes with an unsustainable effort, mixed with a distracted, bottomless sadness.

 

[Second Installment]

The deer stared at them with a perfectly bovine attitude— with watery eyes and a mouth curved in a predictable, peaceful smile.
When he got up, the effort warped the corners of his mouth and his long legs made many ungraceful movements as he attempted to find a normal position.
Zam kept gazing at that clumsy deer, recognizing something familiar, a well-known inadequacy.
Clangs of metal snapped their fingers inside Zam’s mind: Typtri was already far away, lost again as it rummaged among the ruins that lined the forest. Zam reached it, trying to dodge the awkward feeling that the deer was following them. But in fact he was, slow and relentless as a cow chewing cloves.

“That must be the factory.”
Typtri had stopped before a rust-eaten gate. Behind the gate there was one of those big crossing bars with red and white stripes. It was raised to let people through, and probably it had stood there for a long time. Ivy ran along the bar and the asphalt desperately looking for a lump of earth.
It also ran along a hibiscus, a great purple hibiscus that kept a blooming guard over the gate. Behind the bar and the gate, there was the factory.
Three large, faded yellow sheds, their herringbone-shaped roofs turned westwards.
While they got into a hall, Zam tripped on a rusty beer can and the welcoming silence of the place caressed her cheeks.

For a long while she and Typtri picked up the bolts and nuts that were scattered all over like seeds of a strange metallic
plantation. Then, as they walked through the narrow corridor linking the first shed to the second, they knew from noises and voices that the factory was not abandoned at all.

The second hall was much better lit than the first—the roof had partly collapsed and the neige gathered on the floor and
the debris whitened the walls all around with its reverberation.
Underneath the part of the roof which had not crumbled, there were two women and a man, sitting around a large machine that rattled and creaked in an extraordinarily invasive way.
They were weaving long white cloths that were gradually piling up on the floor in loose rolls.
A fourth man went to meet them with a slight bow.
“Good morning, you are from the Ministry, I figure. Are you here for the inspection…?”
Zam waited for some vaguely logical words to come to her mind.
“No, look, actually we come from the Bay, north from City11, we were looking for spare parts. We’ve been told about this factory where we could find them… and anyway, what Ministry are you talking about?”
“Oh, no, I’m sorry, unfortunately we do not produce mechanical or electronic components, if that is what you are looking for… in fact we do not produce hydraulic components either…”
“Well, no, of course you don’t produce them…”
Zam had started plunging into discomfort since that strange man, dressed up as a Far West post office clerk, had spoken his first words.
“Indeed, no. Our activity uniquely consists in flag manufacturing.”
“Flag manufacturing?”
The conversation had definitely taken a surreal turn.
“Exactly. Come with me, I will show you the production chain. Unfortunately our firm is small, we had to do without most of our staff and productivity was considerably reduced…”
“Your firm?”
“Indeed. Oh, I must apologize… I have not introduced myself… I am Theodore Ri, project manager of Sic Corporate.”
“What are the flags for?” Typtri said to stop Zam from continuously repeating the last few words the man spoke.
“Ah, well, right… we only operate under the supervision of our majority shareholder…”
“Yeah, but what are they for? They’re huge… they must be ten meters long…”
“It is a standard size, if you have been sent by the Ministry, feel free to check personally that we abide to the rules of the circular letter number 748494… and to the regulation for workplace security as well…”
Zam gazed at her own feet. The man had suddenly turned red, his hands gesticulated anxiously, and she was afraid that by continuing to stare at him as though he was an alien she might end up making him burst into tears.
“No, look, we are not from the Ministry… and what Ministry anyway? There are no ministries anymore… there is no state, no government… how can there be any ministry?”
“Well, yes, in our country there is a tense atmosphere, you are right. Truth is that the government has abandoned us… do you know how long we have been waiting for the tax cuts they have promised?”
“Tax cuts? No, really… There hasn’t been any taxation since the days of the bombs… and anyway, have you looked around? The factory itself… it’s been abandoned for decades, look there: the roof has collapsed, the neige is getting inside…”
“What do you mean by neige?”

Overwhelmed, Zam stepped back.
She imploringly turned towards the other three people, who in the meantime had never taken their eyes off the white cloth.
“You, you at least know what neige is, don’t you? Do you remember the days of the bombs? Do you realize that this firm story is absolute nonsense…?”
One of the two women raised her head and turned towards Zam, slowly, her eyes like two lemons, an ominous smile crossing her face.

As they walked out of the factory, Typtri watched Zam, who ruffled her own hair until it cried with annoyance and anxiousness. He had seen the same absurd behaviour of those people in several other Remnants, most of all in the older ones. Never in the Runts, who found it much more natural to nurture a nearly Zen survival ability dripping with everyday hyperactivity.

“What matters is that we haven’t found your fuse.”
“I don’t know if that is what matters most, Typtri. Anyway, let’s walk around a bit more: we might find some more factories, a dump or a car wrecker…”

The deer was waiting for them near the gate, intently picking lichens from the trunk of a hibiscus tree. When he saw them appearing, he immediately stopped, as though they had caught him trying his mother’s clothes on. Then he hobbled in his disconnected movements and looked at them with an embarrassed look and a wide smile.
Stuck to the gate bars there was a white sheet of paper covered with an uncertain and childish calligraphy written in pen. When Zam got closer to read it, the deer’s smile widened to an unlikely size and his chest started hiccupping with what Zam could have sworn was a laughing fit.

Workers!
The day has come when we will raise our heads
against the arrogance of capital and the injustices
of this bourgeois society. A fair and decent salary,
better working conditions and the promise of
an adequate future to our children—this is what
they want to deny us, and this is what we will
reconquer with a hard, stubborn fight. It will be
no cakewalk, for none of us, let us acknowledge
this, comrades, but through unity and resolve,
the voices of every victim of exploitation will turn
into a choir that will break through the wall of
capitalistic oppression.
No crackdown can stop us if we stay united!
United Anticapitalist Workers’ Movement

As soon as she finished reading, Zam heard a weird rustling coming from the ivy bush. As she approached it, she realized that someone was calling her.
“Young lady, beware of reading our flyer in such a brazen way. If the guard sees you, he could call the flics and accuse you of having posted it…”

“Excuse me? I’m afraid I don’t understand, who are you?”
“Sssst! Not so loud, young lady! Can you see those CC-TVs up there? They are directly connected to the control room, where dozens of flics are watching and recording all images! We are all under control! Control the controller, miss!”
Zam was getting dizzy. She turned towards the deer, who kept hiccupping in that clumsy way of his.
“Well, actually I’m not sure I get what you mean. Anyway, right, I’ll try to be aware of this controller…”
A second voice emerged from the bush.
“Young lady, apparently you haven’t opened your eyes yet in front of the barbarism that has taken hold of our country. Haven’t you read about the last financial law, solely aiming at hitting the workers’ wallets? Have you not heard the Minister’s arrogant talk? Inside there our comrades risk losing their jobs! Dozens of them have already been made redundant!”
“Oh! You’re talking about the guys inside there who are weaving those strange flags? But it’s only three of them… and then you all keep talking about this minister… I’m sorry, but there are no ministers… there is not even a government… what’s this financial law you’re talking about? Has it something to do with finance? ’Cause, really, there is no finance either, there hasn’t been for years… you could do a lot of things, you could build the society you like, I don’t know how you manage to survive in this imaginary world…
“Young lady, it is you who live in an imaginary world! A world portrayed by the media, the capitalists’ lies…! Young lady, what’s your job? What professional category do you belong to?”
Zam walked away, upset as an Alice in a slightly gloomier Wonderland.

That deer kept laughing, but he must have felt that she was getting very annoyed, since he tried hiding his face to avoid being seen.
Typtri realized that Zam had had enough.

 

[Third Installment]

Mrs. Apricot eased her cup of tea on the dish carefully, so as not to produce any loud noise.
“After all, Mrs. Cerise, we live in incredibly unstable years.”
“Unstable and dangerous, if I may express my opinion.”
Mrs. Cerise threw a fleeting glance of cupidity to the last pastry left on the oval tray.
“Apparently General Saprofit is planning an extraordinarily powerful counter-attack.”
“Do you think they will use new kinds of machines? A new model of mechanical man perhaps?”
Mrs. Apricot massaged the lace strip that wrapped her neck.

“I do not think so, my dear: mechanical men are so obsolete. My husband always says that those devices are only good for civilian purposes. As with your Zamedite.”
“Well, we must admit that these mechanical men have been a gift of God to us. In these times of ill-omened scarcity, many a honest family would have been forced to make do without any reliable domestic service.”
“My husband says that in the war fields many technological progresses are taking place. They say that since the cosmetic industry sold their recipe to the Army, our chances to win this war have become certainty.”
“Even without any mechanical men?”
“And much better so, my dear!”
A giggle slipped from Mrs. Cerise’s lips.
“Do not forget that mechanical men are men nonetheless, even if they have some additional optionals.”

Zam entered the room silently with a new tray of pastries.
“Zamedite, my dear, could you also bring us some of those aniseed sugar candies our Mrs. Cerise is so fond of?”
“Oh, my goodness, you spoil me…!”
“Unfortunately, Madam, I’m afraid we’re out of sugar candies and Mister Fleen behind the corner has no more of them in his store.”
“God give me patience! All Fleen can do is complain. Go to the harbor, my dear, do me this favor. I am sure Mrs.
Bienvenue’s grocery store will not disappoint us.”

Zam performed an imperceptible curtsey and vanished.
“Your Zamedite is really a dear lass.”
“I agree. These mechanical men are so tidy and pleasant. I really cannot understand why they are so badly mistreated in some popular circles.”

“The mechanic’s helper at the garage just outside your door: he is dreadful! That strange purple-eyed mutant gives me the creeps every time I walk past there.”
“But, you know, those are Nature’s mistakes. And to these mistakes we have tried to give a second chance. This has nothing to do with mechanical men, the product of masterly techniques. Mechanical men join man’s intelligence with the perfection of machines.”
This is what my husband always says, Mrs. Apricot. But I cannot resist these gorgeous pastries. Let me taste one more.

***

As she stepped down the stairs, Zam heard Mrs. Apricot and her friend’s whimpering chat fade away. She opened the heavy wooden door and went out, looking in the face of the sun while a soft breeze combed her wrists.
Lip was leaning against the crumbling garage wall, his lids almost hiding his weird eyes.
“Good morning, Zam. Are you doing errands for the old lady?”
“Hallo, Lip. Yes, I am. It’s for their damned aniseed sugar candies. Normal people can’t even find bread anymore, and they get distressed because aniseed sugar candy import has stopped. Now she wants me to go to Mrs Bienvenue’s for the usual pantomime: ‘Oh, Madam, are you really going to get some? We will certainly wait, Madam, don’t worry. Sure, it is just a matter of days, Madam… Oh, yes, Madam, this war will soon come to its end…’”

“And will this war soon come to its end?”
Lip’s eyes were glassier than usual, almost like liquid fog. His face was painfully absent, and it was made even more impalpable by the shadows that made it up.
They set off together, entering a street plastered with too-small stones.
“What would I know? No, I don’t think so,” Zam said.
“What’s sure is that none of these idiots will survive. I’m often sorry. For everybody, even for Mrs. Apricot. But to me it’s like a sort of really painful evolution leap. They had a lot of chances, all of them, and they keep getting it wrong… I’m not sure about what we should do either, but it’s that they always do exactly what they certainly shouldn’t. Like extinction-bound lemmings, if you see what I mean.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t know what this world would look like if human beings became extinct. Quieter perhaps, and it would surely turn a lush green tinged with a lighter blue. It would also have the ferrous taste of blood, though, wouldn’t it? The leap you’re talking about will be a cynical meat chopper.

“I always forget how illogical feelings are. It’s because of my mechanical side.”
“That’s your logical side, Zam. All that’s mechanical in you is metal, but you aren’t made of metal.”
Lip still remembered the day when they brought Zam in for him to fix her. That memory was a white spot in his vision when he closed his eyes. He had never fixed up a human being or extracted metal cogs from anybody’s shoulder blades. Zam had her eyes wide open and her hands clasped around her throat, her half-closed lips had held her breath for an exaggeratedly wrong lapse of time. Lip had replaced the broken parts, had softly detached her hands from her throat and had closed her lips. Then he had wrapped a blanket around her and had waited as she slowly woke up.

“Some days ago someone brought a robot to the garage. It was broken. Well, it should have been thrown away, actually. Those who designed it forgot a lot of things and the result is this precarious, bewildered thing—absolutely unserviceable.”

At the garage where Lip worked, people often brought the remnants of broken prototypes that could be reused or simply dismembered for parts. It was a scarcely remunerative business: the firm threw prototypes away only when they had ascertained that they were totally useless. At the garage, spare parts were so abundant that generally machines and robots were simply heaped up in a lifeless pile in one corner.
“This time I managed to put my hands on it though. I persuaded my workmates I could turn it into a robot to keep the garage tidy, as a cleaner I mean. Anyway we haven’t seen the boss for weeks, and with this crisis we aren’t really flooded by commissions.”
“…Oh, Lip! You have to introduce us!”
An unavoidable smile exploded on Lip’s face.
“We’re going there, Zam, you don’t really think Mrs. Bienvenue can’t wait to sell you her last aniseed sugar candies, do you?”

The stairs that led up to Lip’s attic were castled defensively—a wooden spiral creaking at every step. But when you’d got over this necessary twilight, you’d open the door and almost collapsed before the light gust falling upon you from the huge skylights in the only large room of the flat. There wasn’t a corner, a shelf, a workbench or a carpet that wasn’t
flooded with light. “It’s because of my eyes,” Lip used to say.
In the middle of the room there was a table and on the table, its feet firmly planted, there was the robot. It had just one eye, the other one being on the table, under repair.
Its body was coarse, with too small, rather ridiculous feet, but despite it all its look was mighty and fierce. The big
manufacturer’s logo stood out on its chest, and its hands were complicated tongs with a network of metallic veins that bound the hands to the arms.
“Zam, this is Typtri.”
Zam carefully wiped her hands on her apron, then softly caressed the robot’s shiny shoulders. Typtri looked at her with its one eye—it was a watery eye, full with an inevitable sadness that Zam did not know.
“It’s not arrogant as the other ones: it looks nicer.”
“It’s the awareness of decline, I guess. Typtri never got to the end of the finishing programme; when they brought it to us, they said its eyes were its weak spot, too fragile and too expensive. Its irises are tangles of gears. Without them it would stumble everywhere and end up getting vulnerable and useless. New models are eyeless. They have sensors that perceive hindrances. They are much more basic, but are also substantially cheaper.
Zam’s eyelids grew moist.
“I wonder what will remain of us weird beings when this war is over and all humans we know are dead.”
Lip looked tired, but his eyes were now darker.
“We will be there, Zam. We have enough spare parts to try and outlive any surge of discouragement we may feel. We have our modified and mended bodies, your metallic nerves, my chemical eyes. Punks like us will have a world of ours to rebuild, the fullness of infinite days, the view of a time that has been turned upside down and sown with new seeds.”

Lip’s face was white, but Zam felt as if the shadows that crossed it were faster and lighter. In the many years she’d
seen this room, it had never looked so bright. The dust covering Lip’s tools had never seemed as delicate, nor sludge as sweet.

Zam reopened her eyes to see a detail of Lip’s hand elegantly stretching in front of her eyes.
“Come, Zam, let’s go to Mrs. Bienvenue’s now. Mrs. Apricot cannot survive too long without her servants.”


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