“Arthur, I need to go.”
Arthur takes a deep breath and heaves it back out again with a long cough. He spits a chunk of phlegm and flesh out the open doorway, and says “Why, boy?”
“Because I have to. I don’t know why, but I have to.”
“Boy, this is not time for the Feast. Wait until then, when it’s safe.”
“No, Arthur. I have to go now. Don’t you listen to your own stories? Don’t you say that you believe they’re true? If you do, then you know I have to go.”
Arthur growled, exasperated. ”I know they’re true. I remember all these things, yes. But boy, it’s too dangerous. There’s too many things that could go wrong. You could lose a leg out there. You could get lost. And then what? Once you get there? What do you do then, boy? What then?”
Arthur’s voice grew louder as he worked up into a rant. Little bubbles formed at the left corner of his mouth.
“And just what would you do once you’re there?” That milky right eye stared at me hard enough for two eyes.
“Um, I want to find the Library. And find The Book.”
Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t have told him that.
“Yeah. You keep saying there’s one book there that explains everything. How we got here. Why we’re like this. If I can find it, I really think I can fix this. Stop the rotting. Stop the pain. Help people.”
“Boy, boy, boy.” Arthur shook his head. ”Boy, you are missing the point of every story I’ve told you, and every story I haven’t. The point is that it is what it is. We are what we are. Nothing will change that. We’re here because of what we didn’t do back then. We all were like the people in the City. How many times have I told that one? Six? Sixty? I don’t know, but I know you’ve heard it.”
Arthur stopped and took a long breath. I’d never seen him riled up like this before. He’d told this story once or twice, but never like this. I had never heard that conviction. Regret.
“Boy, if we had believed, we’d be there now.” He sighed again. He seemed to be doing that a lot today.
“But we didn’t. I get that, Arthur. I do. We screwed up. All of us. But we can change.”
He coughed. ”No, boy. we’re done. This is it. This is what it says, and this is what is. We’re stuck with this.”
“We can’t be stuck. We can’t be hopeless. This is why I have to go! I have to find The Book. I have to find a way to stop the rot. Look at you. You have one eye. Your ear is going, too. You know your tongue is next, Arthur. Then how will you tell your stories? Do you want them locked away inside you, knowing them but not being able to tell them to anyone? Do you want that, Arthur?” Now, I was shouting.
His forehead dropped. His eye looked up to the ceiling and then closed. He sighed.
“When do we leave?”