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Chapter 7 - Exodus
The Smug wasn't bothered in the least about Ambrosius' plight, for it shone with
cheerful disregard through his shack window and made the dust motes dance and
sparkle like a thousand tiny stars. Ambrosius sat up and rubbed his red-ringed eyes.
He looked around the familiar interior of his room. Books and dust. Some kind person
had wound up his line and neatly and placed it on top of his Box of Things, which
they had left in the middle of the shack floor.
He wasn't hungry, but he ate a breakfast of Hookfruit biscuits. He wasn't thirsty
but he drank a quart of water. He splashed the rest of the water over his face in a sorry
excuse for a wash, which just left the sweat of a year and a week more evenly
distributed over his clammy skin. This sorry, fishless man crawled back into bed and
pulled the covers over him. There was dark silence, and he could almost pretend that
he didn't exist, were it not for those troublesome idiotic thoughts that insisted on their
histrionics on the stage of his mind.
Enter the players: Self- Loathing, a small, dark, well-educated character who has a
melancholy disposition and is thoroughly unlikable; Embarassment, a corpulent old
fool with gout who won't stop his infernal gabbing; Shame, a surprisingly persistent
and base rumour-monger; Uncertainty, perhaps the most evil villain to ever grace
Life's stage. There were more in this diabolic cast, more demons to mock and torment,
but to describe them would make this book a depressing affair. At the bottom of the
scrambling heap of emotions that clawed for prominence in Ambrosius' mind, there
was a poor, crushed, wingless butterfly of a creature called Hope. When Ambrosius
tried to help it out from under the pile he noticed that it had a sting to its tail, which it
viciously applied to his helping hand and cast what was possibly the worst pain
through his soul. He knew what he must do. Life held no promise for him, he had
become like the dead. He must go down to join his kind; he must walk the Mist
With this in his mind Ambrosius got out of bed, picked up his satchel and left his
The spectators were there, perched on the higher branches and lining the main
bough. They looked, for the most part, sad and sympathetic, but an errant peal of
malevolent laughter from a young and unruly Piscador stung Ambrosius' ears. There
was, although Ambrosius did not pick up on this at the time, something else written in
the expressions of the crowd as they stood there. Indeed, their faces themselves had
changed from what they were a year and week ago; where once they were plump and
jolly they were now gaunt around the cheeks and serious. Yes, seriousness was there,
along with concern, worry, and our evil actor Uncertainty. Something above and
beyond disappointment at Ambrosius' failure to land a Bass filled the populace.
Something that Ambrosius had once dismissed as superstition.
Ambrosius knew where he was going. He must collect food for his solitary exodus
into the land of mists and ghosts, for within him there still smouldered stubbornly the
will to live, if all else had fallen away. He made his way to Bough 36, which he knew
to be in fruit. He gathered the windfalls, not bothering to climb the tree and select the
choicest Fruit. He walked morosely over to a Fish vendor and bought some smoked
Fish, wondering vaguely why the price was so high. His satchel bulging, Ambrosius
couldn't see any reason to wait. He looked over the edge of the bough. How easy, he