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The Lion and the Snake

The sea. He could see it from his airship. An airship called a vessel, but shaped like a balloon. Its surface covered with fur, its fur streaked with restless signs. Black on gold, circles and twirls. He could speak that language, he could not read those signs.

There was no aircraft. The sea, made of steam. He could breath, or had no need to breath. The bottom of the sea; covered with ruins, flowers, snake-shaped fish. Flowers made of flesh, petals like tiny boneless fingers, drawing circles over and again.

The lion was after him. A lion called a leopard. The flowers extended their fingers to gouge his eyes.

At the bottom of the sea was a desert. Fish crawled on the shattered ruins (he looked for a pattern, but he found none. Instantly he knew there was no order in those stones; instantly he knew the secret pattern in the series of pi, and, at once, the unfathomable chaos beyond it).

He'd learnt the key, he'd forgotten it. Snakes crawled, they didn't speak his language, he couldn't read their own. The lion could. He could not escape the lion, but still, he was on the run.

The snakes crawled. Bigger than his arm, their scales motley. They had two heads, one head at each end. They were on the run, they were running backwards wherever they moved.

Inside the flowers were eyes. Each eye containing the sight of everything anyone had seen. He looked inside them, he looked for the tiger (a leopard called lion), he couldn't find any. He looked for his way to salvation, there was none as well.

He searched his enemy. Obsessed with the quest, he forgot he was on the run. He search and he searched, the flowers showing everything anyone had known. He saw ancient wars ignored by all books, he saw tribes flaying the men who invented fire. He saw the halls of Knossos, the carved name of the Beast. He saw his own birth. He knew, for a split second, who the two-headed serpent was. He saw tigers and lions and leopards, he saw leopards whose spots were lions, but no tiger called lion, no lion called leopard.

He saw his first lover, his first birthday, the death of his parents. He still looked for the panther. He saw the halls of his house, his name on the door. He saw a pool of clear water. In it his own face, his own face golden, covered with restless black stripes.