And then, as is the way of dreams, they were no longer in the police interrogation room, but walking along a busy street. Gone too were Simon’s shackles, but he scarcely noticed. Moriba—in the guise of Dr. Chronos no more, although the sunglasses remained despite the night, concealing her glowing, pupil-less blue eyes—linked her arm with his and lengthened her stride.
To Simon, the ground seemed to glide backwards beneath his feet. He only needed to move his legs, and miles seemed to slip by within a few steps. In a matter of seconds, they were upon an immense suspension bridge, a wide, black river crawling beneath them. The crystal city stretched out on both sides of them, in blazing light, and cars raced past them, headlights glaring and taillights smoldering. Here they came to a halt.
Aside from the light produced by the traffic, the bridge was illuminated by a series of tall streetlamps. To Simon, they seemed to be wearing hats. Disconnecting himself from the Lady Raven, he wandered towards one of these, craning his neck to gaze into the miniature sun at the top of the pole. It burned into his retinas, leaving him with a small, pink, rectangular afterimage when he blinked and looked away. Upon reaching the pole, he hugged it, pressing his ear against the cold metal, listening to the hum of electricity inside it. Simon loved electricity. He loved helicopters and crystal cities.
For he knew now that there was more than one of these entities, these glass metropolises. Snake had always brought him to a different one, the one like Brysail, the one called London. He had been there, perhaps, a thousand times in his dreams, had come to expect it every time he closed his eyes to sleep. And so he knew that Snake had not arranged this particular excursion. It must have been Moriba.
“Why did you bring me here?” he asked, caressing the lamppost as if it were a potential love partner.
“To warn you,” she replied.
She smiled, fangs slipping out to glint in the yellow light of the hat-wearing, steel-poled streetlight. “You think you have outsmarted it, do you, young one? You think you have gotten the better of the infernal Worm? Well, you have—for the moment, at least. But it won’t be long before it realizes what you have done, Simon, and it would be best if we are rid of it before then, wouldn’t it?”
Something shiny caught his eye, lying on the ground beside his foot. It was a wristwatch, broken, stopped, apparently tossed out of the window of a passing car. He picked it up and pocketed it. “You brought me here just to tell me that? What I already know?”
“Would you like to know more?”
“Of course. I always want to know more.”
“Very well then,” she replied, running her tongue across her blood-red lips in a manner that Simon found to be supremely unsettling. “I have something that might aid you then, a little riddle.”
Simon sighed roughly and let go of the lamppost. “Can’t you just give me a straight answer?”
She removed her sunglasses and folded them up. “Because, Simon, that is not the way the world works. Now, would you or would you not like to hear what I have to tell you?”
Moriba smiled again, baring no teeth this time. “That’s what I thought. This is how it goes:
Six shall go, three men, three not,
All in masks of falsehood wrought,
Bearing a piece for every queen
Into the land of light unseen.
Make the three of dreams align,
Worm shall fall at three, six, nine."