Tornado Trailer Park (Pt. 7)
but overall, having a bag over his head was definitely in the top ten list of worst things to have happen to him. Straining his ears, Clem could hear the others shuffling about. Roderick was weeping a bit, Roy was humming what sounded like a Lionel Ritchie song, and Kayla seemed to be snoring a bit.
Clem could also hear the sound of something heavy landing on the ground on the other side of the wall they had been chained to. Occasionally something would hit the roof with an alarming thud and make the beams above them shudder and creak.
“We must be near the base of The Crumbling Tower,” Roderick said, his voice hitching. “We are truly dealing with madmen if they dare build something so close.”
“What's The Crumbling Tower?” Clem asked.
“It's a building in the exact center of The Eye,” Roy answered. “No one goes near it because huge blocks of stone keep falling off the top of it. But it never completely disintegrates or even gets any lower. It just perpetually falls apart. I think it's magic.”
“Hogwash,” Roderick said. “Magic is just science we haven't figured out yet.”
“Whatever,” the robot groaned. “Either way, no one has ever been inside and anyone who tries to climb it gets a hundred pound rock dropped on his head. The bright side is that most of the buildings around it are built pretty sturdy thanks to the rain of cut stones....”
“Quiet!” Kayla hissed, suddenly awake.
Clem and the others shut up and listened. A key could be heard scraping against a lock and the sound of two people talking drifted through the door. Clem recognized Killroy's voice immediately. He wasn’t likely to forget the sound of the man who had taken his freedom and was trying to sell him as a slave any time soon, but the other voice was new.
“....so then the damn fools start running in four different directions,” Killroy said as the door creaked open. “But they're all chained to each other. It was hilarious.”
“So you're telling me they aren't the smartest catch, eh?” the other voice was deep and gravelly. “Well, let's see what you’re selling.”
The hood was yanked off Clem's head. They were in a small room, the walls made of rough stones of varying size, the ceiling was wooden and cracked in several places. Small slivers of light sifted through the cracks. There was a stench, as well. It reminded Clem of the time he had done community service and had to scrap roadkill off the highway for a month. Something in this room was dead or close to it. And it seemed to be the lumbering ape who stood next to Killroy.
He was stooped over and held himself up with the aid of a thick, ornate cane. His fur was matted and filthy looking, in places worn down to expose skin that look red and fevered. He was missing an eye, the hole where it had been writhed with what could only be maggots. Clem retched a bit, but held back and took a few deep breaths.
“Sorry-looking bunch, but worth it,” Killroy said, sounding like a used car salesman. “That one over there claims to be an engineer. You said last time that you were looking for one them, didn't you Bargeth?”
“I was,” Bargeth said, a foul smell escaping his mouth and filling the room. Clem saw Killroy bring a small hankerchief, no doubt scented, up to his mouth and give the back of the ape a scornful glance. “And a robot. Good, they dig well and can go places that humans can't.”
“That's right. And only about a dozen left, last I heard.”
“Eleven now,” Bargeth exhaled. “One of mine was crushed last month. A cave-in. Most unfortunate, he was a good digger.”
Clem heard Roy gasp. The ape was looking each of them over like cattle. He stopped in front of Roderick.
“You look old,” Bargath stated. “Why should I take you and not kill you right here and now?”
“I...I...,” Roderick stammered and looked around in a panic. Killroy stepped forward, warily placing a hand on Bargath's shoulder.
“He claims to work for the University. I thought you might want some brains to go with all this brawn.”
“Brawn, huh?” Bargath chuckled. He pointed at Clem. “That one is fat. He has good arms but it will take a few weeks for him to burn off that weight and be efficient.”
“Now you're just haggling,” Killroy said, walking back towards the door. “Let's go in the other room and hammer out a price. Maybe we can add a bit to it with those weapons I brought?”
“I know nothing of those weapons,” Bargath said hastily. Even Clem could tell the ape was lying. “But maybe we can reach an agreement. I know some people who always need weapons.”
“You are a liar,” Kayla hissed at him. “You know who those weapons belong to. You know what they mean.”
Bargeth reached over and cupped Kayla's head under her chin, bringing her face close to his. Standing his full height, her feet were soon dangling off the ground by over a foot. Clem could see her straining to escape his grip, but she wasn't strong enough.
“I know lots of things, little monkey,” he growled. “but you need to know when to shut up. The concerns of the surface world are no longer yours. You just need to worry about repairing my machines and keeping me happy, understand?”
He dropped Kayla back to the ground and turned to the door. It slammed shut and Clem heard the key turn the lock.
Roderick began to weep again.