Nightmare Excerpt: 4/2

This excerpt is from near the end of the book, when Mask leaves Haven and enters the antithesis of the Goddess-Queen’s Paradise. She is exploring, and discovers what becomes of the dead.

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Here too, were broad parks, the sacred places of the cultures. In some, white oxen grazed on thick grass. In another, a beautifully naked woman sat silent on a pedestal while a man knelt before her. Birds flew overhead and cats wove their way through the streets, hunting.

Mask turned down another alley and stepped onto a bone bridge. The ground dropped away sharply below her, plunging into pits, caves and caverns. The stench of the pits rose, gagged her. Till now, she had seen only a few people here and there. Now, they moved around her in eddying streams, and she followed them down the pale, swaying bridge.

Down, down, down. From one vaulted bridge to another. And always above and beneath her, the bone-bridges creaked and slipped against each other, hungry tongues lolling from lipless mouths that dripped saliva. The place was built of human remains, of death.

Skeletal hands dangled in the air, macabre ornamentations waving in the ceaseless wind. Here the houses were brick and bone, bone windowsills and skin-covered doors. The shops, built into the cliffs, sold horse-brushes made of human teeth and combs made of finger-bones. Men rode horses with human femurs and canine teeth, cobbled together by some sorcery. Merchants called auction for pretty whores and gelded men, women prowled in search of a love-potion, warlords hunted the blushing noblewomen. A carnival of sin, a frenzy of humanity.

Mask was in love.

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