Extract from ESTON:
Chapter VII: "THE TOWER"
Eston, walking the streets of the city, saw shapes beautiful and monstrous stalking between its glittering facades. Wearing human form, he saw what other eyes could see, men and women, glass and steel. Besides these he saw as well the images of influences malignant and benign, in symbols shaped by the brain and body that he inhabited.
Where once had been a convent a flock of white doves flew up, that swooped and circled over the heads of passersby, before returning to their roost in shadowy cloisters. The people did not know why a breeze cool and refreshing passed across their spirits, a breath of peace. Only Eston heard the soft clap of wings.
He passed a shabby apartment block of cheap housing. From one of the balconies festooned with washing hung a huge bush of roses, exuberantly flourishing. A broad cascade of glowing flowers tumbled ten stories to the street. Eston breathed their fragrance and walked on.
Ahead of him rose a great building, whose base housed a borough of shops and markets; the square in front of it was full of busy noonday crowds. The square was paved with slabs of rough pink granite, and the same paving covered the walks and yards of the surrounding streets, for half a mile around.
Above the base loomed a blocky citadel, a massive red tower. Its walls were dressed with polished marble the colour of dried blood. Eston saw stone and glass and copper, elements of the planet, shaped into forms that spoke of strength and power.
The main entrance was a huge arch many stories high, warded by massive doors. To this gateway, as to the other lesser entrances, arcaded avenues led across the pink courtyards and pavements. The crowds flowed along the avenues towards the interior of the building, from which came light and music.
Eston did not enter the building. He stood for a while watching the prosperous, well-dressed people in the square. A cloud passed across the blazing sun. With the shift of light, the shift of air, Eston saw another city before him, half-ruinous, its windows shattered, its walls broken or fire-blackened. Cardboard shelters leaned against the ruins. People thronged along a potholed road; thin, dressed in worn clothes. Eston saw gaunt hard faces, hollow eyes and bitter mouths. Many were maimed, limping through loss of hand or foot or leg. The traffic of people carrying bundles, and burdens on poles across their shoulders, and pushing laden carts on clanging iron wheels, went up the road to a red tower that loomed above the broken land.
Eston shook his head. The gleaming city was before him again. He went forward and spoke to a woman who came, perfumed and jewelled, mincing in high shoes over the pink pavements.
"Help me, Phyllis. I need some information."
She looked at him, a quiet man dressed in the casual style of the city, and wondered why he addressed her. Eston touched her hand, and laid on her a command of honesty. "Where are you going, Phyllis?" he asked.
"I'm going to the big shops and stores inside the tower."
"What do you mean to buy?"
"Doesn't matter what. I feel happy just buying things."
"What do you really buy in the shops?" Eston asked her.
With Eston's hand on hers, she answered from her heart. "I buy comfort and reassurance for my frightened soul."
"Are you in such need?" Eston said, looking at her with a troubled gaze. With a shift of perception, he saw a haggard woman, famine thin. Her red-rimmed eyes protruded in her starved face, her teeth seemed large in her shrunken gums.
"I am thirsty," she said hoarsely, breath wheezing in her lungs. She glanced around. They stood in the shadow of a red fortress, beside a fetid, black-flowing river. She pulled away from Eston and stooped down, holding a battered tin cup.
"That water's foul!" Eston said. Paying no heed, she scooped up the dark fluid. "Don't drink it!" Eston said, and tried to grab the cup from her hand.
She threw back her head and howled: a long cry of despair and pain. Eston let go of her. She drank the water from her cup, avidly, in her haste letting it spill and run down her neck and chest.
Eston turned his eyes away in distress. In front of him stood the well-dressed complacent woman, and she turned and tripped towards the bright interior of the red tower.
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