Photo by Andrew S. Taylor


by Andrew S. Taylor

The Tower looms grey and vast. The city that circles it in terraced layers is a hive of machines, powered by steam and coal. We work and live in factories and fill the sky with billowing black clouds.

The Tower crowned with bloodless lights pierces the veil of the sky.

Every day we raise our tired eyes to it and hate.

Here among us the blessed beast stalks, flesh rippling in the machine heat. It appears without notice. It snarls and brays behind our sweating backs. Its silhouette passes behind opaque glass. Its gaze holds tiny angels of orange fire. Without sound it dissolves and hides from panoptic eyes.

We crave the beast, as pistons rattle and gaskets rage. We twist handles and wheels, baptize with oil, burn tallow, paint with rain.

All over the city and amongst the people the beast moves freely.

Wind blows across a brown puddle in the broken concrete. My reflection ripples like a flag. I stomp and see myself blown to smithereens across the tips of my boots.

Megaphones on a tall steel pole, a shrill orchid that deafens.

Work time.

In my thoughts I am made of hoses and bellows. I am a rift sewn shut. I am riddled with tunnels. In idleness I pulse. At work I subsist. Crowds move in and out of focus. Pretend to be sweeping. Slither like dogma. Underlie fog. Accelerate time.

There are principles and contracts here. Deeds. There are bronze coins. The city and its corners, its concerns.

There is black fire in the beast of the people. Their work is their cover.

Giant steel top hats fill the sky with dark ink as the brains of old factories burn.

In the city, she lives secretly, my lover, the keeper of books and tracts and pamphlets. Her libraries are bricked with stacks of rising red letters, in corridors without compass points. She is tall and liquid. From her body, in my waking dreams, vines flow through wire grids.

On her dark shore, I roll upon her belly, the open beach, and her tide slowly draws over me. Her waters lap at me, whispering kindred skins. She is filled with wise creatures. Vagrant lights. Her foam is a laughing swarm. Clasping shells and shimmer heat. Saliva cave and sea birds diving deep.

Along the horizon, the city moans, surrounding.

Palms murmur and press messages. Oiled fingers and fractured nails, slender hands and fat hands and thumbs worn to nubs. Lines of levers in wide arrays and people murmuring through machine parts. Voices collide in factory vents. Telephone wires with licorice codes pass lines of water through static waves. The factory people swallow messages and hide within, waiting, shouting in silence at loud levers.

At our backs and overhead, the pounding footfall. The beast walks.

We hold hands, She and I, watching our work unfold.

High in the Tower, the Magistrate stirs. He is the righteous hammer. He sups with God and brings back tablets. He sings of ledgers, embossed with fire, crown of stars. He with stone shoulders stands on pounding ziggurat. With ashen leer, absorbing prayers from below, the sacred knobs, legislating shame, the apparatus of piety.

He stands alone within the lens of the sky.

The Magistrate observes the factories below. Per annum he watches tiny sticks and slashes giving birth to little dots.

In the murmurs below something shatters. Impossible beats. Wrong things. Ocean sounds. Static. Numbers. Riot. The scourge of music.

He sees them now, over the terraces, closing in, a vast wave of marbles, from all directions. The people are approaching.

It shatters the stone within him to dust and then shatters the dust.

Behemoth blinks.

I and She ride with beast and brethren, messengers and machine-breakers.

The people press and pass. They penetrate and rise in line and climb the spiral staircase.

Magistrate revokes. He summons hordes of incorporated Nephilim with thundercloud faces. Coils of smoke with screaming coal. Impacts blister the seething mob, but the people foam and pour with ocean force and surge inside, within and up.

Magistrate activates abattoir halls of swift redaction. He cuts the mob but vine-blood slithers, branching and breaching the inner gate with garlands. New faces flower. Padlocks yield to tongues of light. Cavern passages shiver and groan. Hinges creak and yield.

Magistrate convenes the Incineration Committee. In the swarming caves the people burn, but like salamanders they dance and press forward, befriending flame.

Magistrate stands motionless. The ledger bleeds integrands beneath his fingers. Exponents dissipate, entombed by zeros.

Down below, advancing hooves. Shouts and surging.

Beneath his feet, cement trembles.

He writes his name in triplicate across his throat on paper skin.

When the beast arrives, the magistrate coughs. With bloody palm he touches the beast-face. His last thought – this creature knows no enemies, it only wanted to live.

He breaks.

She and I in the sky above our new night, stars through the open ceiling, a story writ in vast expanse, in steady waves, blessed breaches, widening gyres, the red and gold horizon, thunder of newborn thoughts running, the city terraces green and giving.

The factories grow cold, and we are warmed by the sun, She and I and We.

Andrew S. Taylor is a writer and attorney based in New York City.  His stories have been published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Abyss & Apex, Pindeldyboz, Menda City Review, The Cafe Irreal, Mad Hatter’s Review, Sein und Werden, Mud Luscious, The Dream People, Underground Voices, Monkeybicycle, Thieves Jargon, Word Riot, decomP, Toasted Cheese, Willows Wept Review, Defenestration, and in the anthologies Bloodbond, Needles & Bones, Roar Volume 6, and Ellery Queen’s The Crooked Road Volume 2.  His work has received two Pushcart nominations, and has been selected as a “Notable Story” by storySouth’s Million Writer’s Award.  He has also contributed articles and book reviews to American Book Review, The Brooklyn Rail, and Ghettoblaster Magazine.  He holds an M.A. from the writing program at The City College of New York and a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law.  His website is here.