Mike the Beast: East of, or Glass Bridge (iii)

A young man with a grotesque metal leg limped into the city of spires, the City of the First People, where the structures gleamed like silver but grew like trees.  The metal denizens slid furtively about the living foundations, curious but frightened.  Then one, braver than her siblings, and lovely, came forward to meet the traveler.

“What is your name?” asked the young man, makeshift foot missing a step.  (He had been told that “the good go to heaven and the bad go to hell,” but he kept forgetting to lead with his good leg).

“Amber,” replied Amber.

“I want to send a message to my friend,” requested the young man, trying not to wobble.  “I’m worried about him.”

Dark Amber leaned in intimately, coiling about the young man like a glittering confessional.  She listened, and when the young man had finished, she soothed, “He knows.  But for you I will cross the uncross-able distance, and tell him.”

The young man felt her smooth strong flank beneath his outstretched hand, lending him balance, and he fell into the scent of incense.

Mike the Beast: East of, or Glass Bridge (ii)

“I do not like this hill,” commented Mike.  His inflexible body cut into the soft substance beneath him, leaving an unsightly groove to mark his passing.  The human, negligible of weight and possessed of grabby appendages, had no such trouble.

“Metal,” mused the young man, “is not always hard.  People just needed something to make money out of, that wouldn’t fizz or react if someone fell into water or got rained on.”

“That’s real useful,” drawled Mike.  It is a dry land anyway, he thought, struggling.  Privately, he was concerned they were following a heat haze, an illusory wetness just ahead.

“Hey, Mike,” said the human.

“Yeah?” said Mike, attempting to ignore an embarrassing screech as he heaved himself at last onto the iridescent surface of the bridge.

The young man followed lithely, a soundless parallel.  He tapped the crystalline coating speculatively with a once pristine shoe and stretched his senses for the scent and sound of water.  Ducks had lived upon the pond by his apartment; he had liked that.  But first, he weighed too much for this glass bridge.

“Hey, Mike,” said the young man.

“Yeah?” said Mike, delicately crunching as he turned to face his human.

“What do you think it was, that damaged you?” asked the human.

Mike the Beast, suddenly gnawed by a gluttonous past, affected nonchalance.  “Why, it must have been a beast, even greater than I, that caught me and ground me in its teeth,” he replied.

“But, you don’t look like you were chewed.  You look like you were cut,” insisted the young man.

Mike the Beast reared up to his full and frightening height and bluffed, “What sort of creature could cut a beast?”

“A man,” said the young man, meeting Mike’s gaze.  “It was me.  I cut you.”

Mike the Beast uncoiled from his position like a cobra and fell upon the young man, catching a leg between terrible teeth.  The human screamed as he was whipped through the air and wrenched pieces from Mike’s body.

Mike the Beast: East of, or Glass Bridge (i)

Mike the Beast and his human rested in the shadow of a titanic, titanium bridge.  Above them streamed a rainbow of metal beasts, swift and brilliant.

“Stop moving,” said the young man, who was sprawled atop Mike’s only smooth flank, breathing slow and deep.  “You’re uncomfortable.”

Stupid soft human, thought Mike, shifting his charcoal bulk carefully, tempted to toss the boy off.

“I could grind you up in my teeth, you know,” he rumbled threateningly.

“Sure,” said the young man, without opening his eyes.

“Ugh,” said Mike and caved in to the inevitable.  “Fine,” he grumped.  “I’ll go.”

“Yes!” cheered the young man, popping off of Mike excitedly.  “I’ve been reading about this place forever,” he exaggerated.

Mike the Beast watched his young man limber up for the long climb ahead, feeling rusty.  He knew he had once been beautiful and whole and cobalt blue but the memory seemed as far-off and faded as his purgatorial realm.  He had learned lessons that the beasts above would never know.  Besides, he reflected, bolstering his confidence, he was sure that none of his cousins had a man to walk by their side.

“No dilly-dallying,” he reminded the young man, who was bending his arm behind his head, and took the lead.