Greenwich, London, The Upper Tier of the Inner Cosmos SE10, February 12 2015 CE, The Cutty Sark Pub
I decided that the pub would be the most settling surroundings for Esquin who is suffering a degree of culture shock. He is, to varying degrees, angry, confused, morose and surprisingly cooperative. He is eating sausage and mash now and has a pint of beer. The combination of a comfortable seat and not wholly unfamiliar food is helping him relax. My initial difficulty was finding a seat inside where the television screen would not be too visible. I briefly considered moving back outside but the view over the river to Docklands was clearly making his emotional state worse. The pub had its own issues of noise and intrusive modernity but alcohol in moderate doses seemed to be helping. He was, at least, sufficiently calm to let me catch up on my notes.
I was going to say “earlier today” but far more than a day has passed in elapsed time for myself. Time though is an assertion of power and no more so than in Greenwich were the former Empire asserted to the rest of the world a new meridian. The surface of a sphere has no centre and hence one was established by force of arms and imperial decree. If time does not match between tiers of the cosmos, it is because we each assert time in our own ways. So I shall say “earlier today” to accord with the demands of a dead empire in this realm.
Earlier (today) down amid the tunnels between tiers, Sir Pangolin began to wake. Bernard had already taken steps to secure him. We were all still in my hide-away in the tunnel but better rested and better prepared for the next stage of our journey.
When Sir Pangolin awoke he was not immediately full of questions. He had surmised that he was tied up and he has a warrior’s instinct for knowing when not to act. Keeping half an eye on Esquin, I explained as much as I could to Sir Pangolin. He cursed to himself that he should have realised that Esquin was the traitor but then quickly asked me about Amx. Was she all right? Was she still locked up? Did the captain realise that Esquin was the traitor? Of course I did not know the answer to any of these questions.
I had a plan of course. Once we reached London it would not be difficult to ditch Esquin and Bernard. It would be hard to disguise Sir Pangolin’s appearance but I had contacts in London who could help me. Getting back to the Unfolded Hades would be a challenge with Sir Pangolin in tow but I had half-formed ideas about using a wheel-barrow or perhaps a cart of some kind. A plan does not need to be fully detailed to start work on it, any more than I would start a map by drawing the finest detail first.
“So what now?” asked Sir Pangolin of Esquin.
“You and Bernard will stay here to ensure the odd-one’s cooperation,” by ‘odd-one’ Esquin meant me, “If we don’t return together then Bernard will slice you open and eat your innards.” To that Bernard gave a gruesome, toothy smile.
Well, I thought to myself, I could still ditch Esquin in London and double back here leaving Esquin lost up above. Rescuing Sir Pangolin from Bernard would be difficult but still better than the current situation.
Esquin then turned to me and said: “And don’t think you’re indispensable either. I can kill my body at anytime and take possession of somebody up there who knows their way around. For the time being you are just a convenience.”
I hadn’t considered that. I suspect it would not be easy for Esquin to kill his own host and swap bodies but I did not want to be responsible for letting a demon loose on a crowded metropolis. I was left with little choice but to abandon Sir Pangolin to the limited mercy of Bernard and continue one with Esquin.
The journey onward required some scrambling over rocks and a section up a rusty but solid ladder through a pipe-like section. There was a timelessness to the journey as our progress took us through to the next tier. The smells grew worse as we emerged into a brick lined tunnel. I knew very well where I was and guided Esquin through the brackish water until we emerged under an embankment on the Thames. It was still night but the city lights were harsh on our eyes after our journey underground. Esquin looked disorientated — the shift between tiers was taxing his mental strength, perhaps also taxing his command over the body he was inhabiting.
We stumbled through the quiet streets past the Naval College, heading south away from the river. We must have looked like two drunks shambling their way home after a heavy night in the city. We skirted past the Maritime Museum until we reached the park. The gates were shut for another half an hour but I knew of a way in (or rather a way through the fence). We made our way up the hill in the dark until we reached the cover of the trees.
Esquin half sat, half collapsed onto the ground. The transition of tiers had exhausted him and within moments he was asleep. While he slept, I texted a friend who I sincerely hoped would be able to help us. Esquin was shivering in his sleep, the cold night air sapping his strength even further. I don’t feel the cold the same way a human body does but I knew that I had made an error. I should have sought somewhere in the main streets of Greenwich that was open early — perhaps a bakery? True, if Esquin died that might help me but Esquin the demon and Esquin the person were not the same being and it would be Esquin the person’s body that would die. What would happen to the demon in that circumstance I didn’t know. Could it even survive in the expansive geometry of the uppermost tier? Everything I had read said that a demon would sublimate eventually if not confined within a body or within a tighter geometry than that of the upper tier but could the demon Esquin survive long enough to take possession of another host? I was not eager to chance that experiment.
Twenty minutes later my phone rang. It was my friend Priya. She worked in the Royal Observatory where I had met her back in one of my earlier trips to the Folded Earth. She lived a little further south of the park and was on her way. Esquin was still asleep and I had little choice but to leave him on the cold ground. I made my way to the car park near the gate out to Blackheath. The dark was beginning to fade, anticipating the dawn and I stumbled less as I made my way to the path.
Priya bundled out of her car as she saw me approach. I am deeply fortunate in the friends I have made in my travels, not just for their kind personalities but also in Priya’s case for her organisational capabilities. She had:
- Two bags of clothes of different sizes to pick from.
- Two rucksacks for putting the clothes in.
- A shopping bag full of warm food.
- Two cups of soup.
She was also full of concern. I explained as best as I could about my situation and she listened intently. “I’ll see what I can find out on the internet this morning,” she said her voice both worried and eager to dive into the research. She thought for a moment and then added. “I’ll meet you just after lunch 2 p.m. at the Cutty Sark pub. Your worrisome friend should be less of a threat in a crowded environment.” I wasn’t so sure of that and I was filled with worry about Priya being dragged into Esquin’s schemes but without help I could only see him causing more havoc.
I thanked her profusely and taking up the various bags as best I could, I stumbled back into the fading dark of the trees. A very awake Esquin confronted me as I drew near to where I had left him. He was struggling to control his body but he had sensed my absence and his demonic will had sent him off. I showed him what I had found. Food! Warm clothes! That calmed his paranoia a little and he was still sufficiently less than clear headed to notice that I had only taken a hooded top to help me blend in. The rest of the clothes that I had hurriedly stuffed into the rucksack were of a size that would serve Sir Pangolin.
Better clothed and with food inside him, Esquin returned if not to himself then to something closer to the urbane if demon-infested creature that he was. I ate along side him even though I had little need for the food. I enjoy the taste of Priya’s cooking and I believe Esquin was less worried that I was secretly poisoning him if I ate as well. I did not explain that as I do not truly metabolise food, that I would suffer no ill effects if the food had been poisoned.
The sun rose and we walked out of the trees, in all its singular and directional glory, until from our vantage point we could see the city laid out in front of us. The tall towers and the huge wide dome, the river and traffic, all coming to life as the city bustled into its day. Esquin said little but his eyes looked wide with a worry that frightened me. He can’t have been the first demon to have found his way here and perhaps many of the horrors of this world are the work of his kind but I doubt it. I suspect this world has horrors and wonders enough. I think those demons who do come here must either become entranced with the possibilities or react against the scale of things. The sheer openness of the sky, the sense of unlimited space above us and the seeming unlimited number of people around us makes a visit feel both small and big. I always feel that I am on the point of vanishing here, that my mind will simply be absorbed by all that there is and dissolve like the water of a brook spilling across a beach into the sea. How much more must the divided soul of Esquin feel when faced with all of this.
The Maritime Museum did not open until 10 am but with warmer clothes and food inside him, Esquin was coping with the cold better. If he turned to look south into the park, the overwhelming weight of modernity would press less on him and he could stare at the curated trees and vivid grass and unseasonally active squirrels and think of the Royal Palace of Isobard and the Regent’s formal gardens. While his agitation had reduced but he seemed to be falling into a depression. I don’t know what I imagined the right mood should be for my demonic kidnapper but I had set myself the task of keeping him as evenly tempered as possible. I wanted him to be open to reason and persuasion and as little like Bernard as possible. I believe Esquin must have been possessed for many years and in such cases the distinction between possessed and possessor fades but I had no idea how that balance might shift amid the soul-trauma of our journey through the tiers and then compounded by the stimulation of London.
After hours of managing Esquin’s changing mood, the Maritime Museum opened. A quasi-classical building full of old stuff and bits of ships. It was a weekday in winter but there were still more tourists than I would have hoped for. Even so, I had a warm, enclosed and less threatening environment to escort my demon around. He spent fifteen minutes staring at the bloodied coat of Admiral Nelson falling into almost a trance like expression before grabbing my arm and marching us both along to another exhibit. Eventually, with the museum exhausted, I had no choice but to take him back outside.
We went back to the river and stopped to gawk at the tall ship marooned in a paved precinct and then along the foreshore to the pub. And here we are, amid the tourists and the business lunches.
I see Priya making her way past the bar! I’ll shall take up today’s events later.
One thought on “Chapter 22: Greenwich”