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sufficiently far away when a spark hit the gas tank and the sky lit up
in flames, the percussive shock of air hitting them a fraction of a
second later, knocking them all to the ground. From their vantage
point they watched people running screaming in all directions. They
were all pelted with tiny golden balls raining down from the clear
night sky.
The building quickly caught fire. He stood up to get a better view.
Despite the shock of recent events, Partment couldn’t help but laugh
loudly and with incautious abandon. This building, badly damaged
and on its way to burning to the ground, was a Biddenbrooks
franchise. The freshly-roasted aroma thickened the air. Partment
was smelling the coffee and waking up. Like the bush burning before
Moses, he looked into the face of the fire and it was furnishing him
with instructions.
“Of course! That’s it!” he cried, “Bye-bye Babylon.”
The bloodied revolutionary collected his wits and his
compatriots. They sprinted as far away as possible, spreading out in
all directions. All seemed back on track. He had not known Niles had
been in the car.
3. Tit for Tat
Colin and Sprout stumbled back into Undergrounds with their arms
around each other. They had just returned from Saint John of God
hospital. Sprout’s embrace had been a wholly selfish gesture,
possibly the first she had made since entering this new world. She
held onto Colin to steady herself, for without him she could not walk.
They turned on the lights and peered silently around at the place.
The walls were still lushly and expertly painted, the accoutrements of
sanctification arranged everywhere neatly. It still resembled a home
or a temple, but all Sprout and Colin could see was the terrible
emptiness it contained, a dank and dreadful chasm.
“What happened here?” she said, tearfully, “What happened to
this place?”
“Everything’s changed,” Colin said.
Sprout let go of his hand. “I’m going home,” she said.
Colin implored, “I’ll come with you.”
She shook her head. “No,” she said.
“You don’t have to sleep with me,” he said, “Just don’t leave me
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