The sun beats down as the breeze flows through narrow gaps in the walls, and the mud beneath our feet and above our heads thrums with the heat coursing through every bead of sweat on our bodies. The spiral staircase turns through the centre, like a spine connecting the skull to the rest of the body.
We wound our way around to the top, and stood, waiting for someone to come, hoping for something to happen.
"It's time to leave. It's time we went looking."
He didn't respond, but she understood he understood.
They walked out of the ocean, with not a drop of water rushing back to the safety of its peers. They reached the shoreline, and looked back over their shoulders at the city they'd just left behind.
"Where will we look for her?" For once, he did not think it odd to ask a complete stranger so leading a question.
"Good question. Let's start right here, where we stand. And we'll wind our way inwards."
He couldn't remember how, but he had keys. Those keys had a car. The car found soon enough, the keys returned to their rightful place, they set off.
"It's beyond me to take charge, so why don't you just direct me?"
"It's your city, your girl. Why should I know where to look for her, and why would I care whether you find her or not?"
"You might be in denial, but it is we who are looking for her."
"Guess you leave me with no choice."
So he drove for half an hour, until he came to a roundabout he couldn't get off.
Light slid in from between the slits. It seemed to draw itself to my table. And not much else. Inexplicable as it may have been, I couldn't care. The light was soft, unobtrusive, quietly reverent. Just as well. I continued on with my nonsense on corporate structure, and banking procedures, and legal identities and real identities. When did this have to be done by? Hmm. Couldn't remember. Oh well. A good enough time would be good enough, I thought.
The door opened a sliver. Judging by the light creeping in, it was early in the morning. He strode in quietly, shoulders squared, and sat on an empty chair. (Had that chair been there all that time? I would've noticed it...) Straightening out the creases in his navy suit, he traced a line down one of the grey pinstripes. Fingertips touching fingertips, he sat staring at his shoes.
"They're coming soon."
I nodded, not knowing what else to do or say. Banking peculiarities still swam in my head.
"You haven't got much time left."
I nodded again, and mumbled something about taking care of it, soon as I was done with 'this', whenever that would be. He calmly grabbed the skin of his temples, and began to pull. His skin came loose between his thumb and forefinger, and the mask slid off to reveal obsidian eyes set in an expression with no betrayal.
"Listen, I told you I'd take care of it. There are more important things for me to tend to."
"What do you want me to do for now?"
"You're more than capable of doing whatever it is that needs doing, or, in any case, what you'd like to do. So please, don't patronize me with your pleas for advice, please."
His black pupils kept focus on me, his ears more likely screening the scratching of pen on paper than not. He unfastened the clasp, and begin to put his helmet on.
"They'll be here, and we'll have to do something."
"What do you suggest we do, eh?"
He sat there, still in his navy suit with the grey pinstripes, and the brown shoes, now with the face of a frog.
"Timeflies. I'll eat them all."
He rose quietly and left the room, leaving me to the flight of time and the silent doting of the light of dawn.