[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
.Whatever was happening to him, he was damned if he was going to give the Walker the pleasure of knowing how much it hurt.And then the lights came on.The first thing he saw was the upturned bowl of his tin helmet lying on the stones in front of his thick hobnailed army boots.Then he saw the protective legging cinched on to his right calf with three buckled straps like the residue of an ancient piece of armor.On a real soldier the legging would have been leather; but in this case, since he was, of course, a statue, it was made from bronze, like the rest of him.His left calf was unarmored, tightly wound with bandagelike puttees instead.Above that he saw his hands, strong blunt fingers splayed on the knees of his army britches, as he took a breath.He scooped up the helmet, smoothed the front of his uniform tunic, and adjusted the cape around his shoulders.It wasn’t a real cape.It was a canvas groundsheet from a one-man tent, to keep the weather off, tied in place with a piece of string through two grommet holes.He put on the helmet and stood up straight, every inch the battle-worn World War I veteran that he’d been sculpted to be.And then his mouth, despite his best intentions, fell open again as his jaw dropped in shock.They were in a large and ancient underground water tank.His feet stood on a small shelf of pea gravel that sloped against one wall.This tiny beach took a bite out of a rough square of black water, about ten yards on each side.The irregular blocks of stone lining the walls of the tank were greasily mottled with age and tumored with sickly blooms of damp fungus, which hung around them at what looked like a high-water mark.Drips from the stone roof of the chamber plopped concentric circles into the dark surface below.But it wasn’t the claustrophobic dimensions of this doorless chamber, with its dark water floor and half-moon gravel beach that made the Gunner gasp in surprise.It was the lights.Each wall had an outline of light blazing from it, a shape about the height of a man and perhaps a third as wide.The shapes were made from irregularly placed pieces of broken glass, and all had the same distinctive outline of a squat turret, the kind of thing a child might draw when trying to represent a castle.The light blasting forth from each of the four tower shapes intersected at the center of the water tank, where a silvered disk about the size of a plate spun lazily on the end of a piece of chain, reflecting the light randomly around the room.“What is this?”The question croaked from the Gunner’s throat before he could stop it.He heard a sniff of contempt and focused on the gaunt figure, up to its knees in the water at the edge of the gravel bar.The Walker wore a long green tweed overcoat with a hooded sweatshirt underneath.He swept the hood back and ran his fingers through long rat-tailed hair brindled with gray.He had a skullcap on the back of his head, and a jutting goatee framing a mouth twisted into a permanent half-open sneer.His hands held two small circular mirrors, which he clipped together and stowed in his coat pocket.He bent and lifted a long dagger from the edge of the beach.He unpeeled a thin sour smile as he gestured around the water tank with the gleaming blade.“This is a dream of four castles,” he replied, indicating the turret shapes on the walls around them.“It is a vision that came to me in a dream, long ago, when I was a free man.It is a vision that I have made real.It is nothing that you could begin to understand.”He shifted the blade in his hand and sliced angled reflections of light around the room, revealing more edges of the subterranean tank.“It was a void, and darkness was all it contained until I came across it.Now it is a place of power.My power.”The Gunner felt squeezed by the great pressure of earth above him.He felt as lost as if he had been spirited into the bowels of the earth and pinned beneath a mountain.But he was damned if he was going to let the Walker enjoy his discomfort.“Where are we? Where is this?”The Walker spun slowly in a full circle, sending the reflected beams of light around the dank edges of the chamber.“We are under London.A city you will only ever see again in your memories.”The Gunner would have swung a fist at the Walker, but the wrongness inside him seemed to have sapped his normal strength and had left him needing all his energy just to stay on his feet.And besides, he had to know what was going on.He was nowhere he’d ever been, feeling like nothing he’d ever felt, and he could always try to flatten the Walker later, when he came within easier reach.Although, he had a suspicion that escaping or even surviving whatever was happening to him was going to require more than swinging fists.“Talk plainer.”“This is where you stay.Forever, perhaps.Enjoy the light.When I leave, it goes too.”The Walker looked at the Gunner with something like pleasure.“You feel it, don’t you; inside, the emptiness, the rising horror, the loss of strength, the sense that you’re not master of yourself?”The Gunner made himself stand straighter.“Don’t you worry about me, chum.I’m right as a trivet.”“Oh, I’m afraid you’re not.You broke an oath sworn to me by the maker.You have to do what I say.”“Not happening,” the Gunner snorted tersely.“Oh, but it is.You’re a proud man.I won’t offend you by treating you like a lackey.After all, all I require of you is that you die.And all I have to do to effect that happy outcome is to forbid you to dig your way up out of here.And I do.I order you not to try to dig up toward the light and the clean air.Simple, isn’t it? One instruction and you’re doomed.Midnight will come, your plinth will be empty, whatever animates you will die, and you will be just so much scrap for the smelter.”The Walker’s eyes burned bright with banked-up malice [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]