We moved on, farther into the great manâ€™s house. Now there were glass cages set into the inner wall and no doors at all, but the cages held only mold and things that had died a long time ago. Some of them lay close to the glass as if trying to burrow through it. Others had died with their forearms banging against it. We did not examine them closely.
Then we began to encounter the living. The inner wall pulled into itself and left room for more than just glass cages. A muttering rose from the displays that had been left there, behind a torn, bloodied, sometimes shredded cross-hatching wire. What lay behind was squirming flesh mottled with fur, an eye or two glancing out from the mess with an odd acknowledgment of fate. A spasming claw. A quivering snout. There was no great seriousness, nor order, to this exhibit. These creatures, neglected and left without food or water, had half-devoured each other, and by their nervous natures had consigned themselves to an ever contracting existence. They would not leave the ledge on which theyâ€™d lived their lives to that point. Now they were deranged, and lay on the border between life and death without knowing the difference.
I knew Wick had been operating under too much stress for too long. Mord had begun to bud proxies that were the size of black bears. They had limited functionality, but ferocious intent. Some of them had started collections of heads and displayed them on long spikes at the junctions of major streets. Others had begun a particularly vicious process of flaying their victims into “bare rugs,” with the skin rippling out from the cured and tanned head. It had made it more and more difficult for Wick to sell his beetles, and more dangerous for all of us. No one knew the ultimate goal of Mord or his proxies.
But I still didn’t give him Borne, and I knew he respected me enough not to take him by force.
I couldn’t give up Borne. I liked Borneâ€”the more personality he showed, the more attached to him I felt. Another thing I discovered about Borne made it even easier to keep him: he would eat anything. That aperture, that mouth, the stomach that must be somewhere below, wasn’t picky. Any crumb, any pebble, any scrap of wood, any worm, that fell into that circular maw would never be seen again. This meant Borne never strained my resourcesâ€”he would eat what I would otherwise have discarded as trash.
But many puzzles remained, perhaps the most basic and yet troubling the fact that although so much went into Borne, nothing came out of Borne.
“No waste, no piss. Or if it does, he’s hiding it.”
I only broached the subject because Wick was more relaxed, more playful, as he always was when he felt safe. I sat by the converted swimming pool that was Wick’s secret weapon, hidden by a thicket of tall bushes only Wick could circumnavigateâ€””a true maze,” he called it proudly, as he’d grown it from scratchâ€”while Wick leaned on one knee fishing something out of the pool’s foetid depths and looked back at me with those magnetic eyes. I’d long ago gotten used to the smell.
Sometimes you want to write without words, you want it to be as easy as music, as Nathan B. said once a long time ago.