• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 07


'The walls have ears.'

I have heard this often enough, and it is how I have come to see the rough-hewn stonework and the intricate lattices that surround us — covered in hundreds of tiny ears, curls of curious flesh, lobes that hang in wait.

The walls have ears. And so we have to drift beyond the gates, through the meadows, on to the higher ground, where hares scurry through the scrub, where kestrels swoop down in pursuit of voles.

'They are unmistakable,' she tells me. 'You will know as soon as you see them. The flowers droop like bells, the berries are a brilliant green, the leaves are large and flat.'

I wish I shared her confidence but I nod.

'You can return early in the morning when it's safer. Be careful of the sap as you cut. A handful of berries and a bit of root will be enough. For now, I'll just show you what they look like.'

'Will she suffer?' I ask.

'Yes,' she says, with evident satisfaction. 'She'll probably become confused and distracted, maybe begin to sweat with fever. She'll want to hide from the sun and cower in a darkened room. There will be terrifying visions. Limb by limb, she will be struck down.'

She looks at me, as though expecting a response. But I have nothing to say. I have, after all, my own secrets to keep.

'She'll probably wail until she loses the use of her tongue too.'



An oryx appears at the crest of the hill, its antlers black against the sky.

'A few minutes more, and then that will be that.'

We move further along the path until she grabs my arm and points. The flowers are a cloudy purple, the berries shine with a dangerous gloss. Neither of us can look away.

When we finally turn around, the oryx is still in the same place. Or perhaps it has moved a little closer.