This was not quite it.
a bit darker.
A bit taller.
A bit dirtier than she had come to dream
in the short time she had her own dreams at all.
She crept along through the thunking valleys
ducking in and out of crates
like a barnmouse,
the thrum of moths.
following her steps.
An old steam whistle
she recognized from cartoons
blew a furious note
she knew she had never heard
and the streets filled with shadows.
cast about recklessly on stone and concrete.
Sliding around corners,
flickering across one another.
They swam over her
passing numbly across her skin,
business in hand.
She noticed that he wasn't a shadow at all.
He was a man—
or as much of a man as a monster ever was--
but mostly a man,
wrapped head to toe
in the ugliest sweater she ever saw.
She asked him about the spectacle sticking out of their peculiar hamlet.
The immaculate ladder she could stepstool into the stars.
"Why that's the Biggums Building.
The tallest tower in the world.
Home to eight million people
(give or take two million on holidays).
It's what we're here for."
"It's what I'm here for too," she said.
His empty eyes narrowed into pity.
"Tourist," he hissed, slithering off.