We rock. We pitch in a deep current.
Behind me the man tugs uneasily at his rudder and the barge corrects. Light lurches as the lantern swings. The man is afraid of me. I lean out from the prow of the small vessel across the darkly moving water.
Over the engines oily rumble and the caresses of the river small sounds, house sounds, are building. Timbers whisper and the wind strokes thatch, walls settle and floors shift to fill space; the tens of houses have become hundreds, thousands; they spread backwards from the banks and shed light from all across the plain.
They surround me. They are growing. They are taller and fatter and noisier, their roofs are slate, their walls are strong brick.
The river twists and turns to face the city. It looms suddenly, massive, stamped on the landscape. Its light wells up around the surrounds, the rock hills, like bruise-blood. Its dirty towers glow. I am debased. I am compelled to worship this extraordinary presence that has silted into existence at the conjunction of two rivers."
"(I wonder how this looks from above, no chance for the city to hide then, if you came at it on the wind you would see it from miles and miles away like a dirty smear, like a slab of carrion thronging with maggots, I should not think like this but I cannot stop now, I could ride the updrafts that the chimneys vent, sail high over the proud towers and shit on the earthbound, ride the chaos, alight where I choose, I must not think like this, I must not do this now, I must stop, not now, not this, not yet.)"
"Sometimes I clamber to the top of the huge, huge towers that teeter like porcupine spines from the city’s hide. Up in the thinner air, the winds lose the melancholy curiosity they have at street level. They abandon their second-floor petulance. Stirred by towers that poke above the host of city light—intense white carbide lamps, smoke-burnished red of lit grease, tallow twinkling, frenetic sputtering gas flare, all anarchic guards against the dark—the winds rejoice and play.
I can dig my claws into the rim of a building’s crown and spread my arms and feel the buffets and gouts of boisterous air and I can close my eyes and remember, for a moment, what it is to fly."