There was a rip. It was Celestina who heard it first; I saw her fur rise, her mandibles spread. At first I couldn’t see where it was, but then it became apparent; it covered what would otherwise have been a couple of yards of desert sand, an opening, shallow yet full – full of machinery, strange clankings and whirrings, wheels and cogs overlaid on each other, endlessly moving yet locked into a kind of stasis which, presumably, ensures the integrity of that appearance, that ‘show of things’ as Hardy puts it as he received the deathly wisdom of the yew tree which we rely on as we go about the hallucinatory business of what we cheerily call ‘daily life’. There can be no excuses; it was obvious that there was a way, a narrow companionway that led its way between hissing engines – Celestina pointed it out to me with one of her extraneous limbs – but I could not g inside. I thought I would be ground to a powder. Then I thought ofd things that might be worse.

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