... Continued from Pt. III
Not far from the house of games that the crows had led the boy back to, he laid down alongside the road for a short rest. But as he was sleeping, he was bitten by a terrible snake. The bite was so bad, and the poison from the snake so powerful, that the boy had to abandon his journey to Metropolis altogether. Lying beside the road, sweating with a high fever, the boy watched many like him go past, in various conditions. He saw wealthy people, poor people, beautiful people, people much sicker than he but still somehow making their way through life. Everyone, it seemed, had to travel this road, regardless of their position or condition.
One day, as the boy sat beside the road nursing his snake bite and begging for alms, he was amazed to see his mother approaching. When she saw him, she must have felt great remorse and pity, because she stopped then and there, letting her horses continue on, and nursed the boy back to health. The healthier the boy got, though, the less he recognized the woman helping him as his mother, until one morning he woke up and found that she was a complete stranger. The boy wanted to flee from her in terror when he noticed the hundreds of thousands of tiny spiders crawling over her rotting flesh, but the monster would not let him leave. It was only after he had sung her to sleep that the boy was able to escape. As he did so, he stole the purse that the monster held in her claws as she slept, replacing it with a bag of stones.
Finally back on his journey after being waylaid along the side of the road to Metropolis for what turned out to be years, though he had thought it only days, the boy ran into the girl who had stolen his treasure at the house of games so long ago. He warned her, "I lost my treasure to you once before, I will not trust you again." In response, she said, "I had to leave without saying goodbye, but I assure you, I took no treasure." She was so beautiful that despite his reservations the boy agreed to share the purse he had just stolen from the she-monster with her, if the girl would help him find a carriage for the rest of his trip. The two headed together towards the nearest town hall, where the girl said they would be able to get help. On the way, they stopped to play toss with a pair of small children, another boy and girl. Following this, they raced across a towering gorge, through many different forests, and talked of constellations when blue night fell. When the boy finally felt that he could trust the girl, he gave half of his stolen riches to her, only to turn around and see that both she and all of his treasure were gone again. The boy asked a man at the city hall if he had seen the girl, but the man said he had seen too many to remember, and his description was of no help. Despondent, the boy stepped out from the steps of the town hall into the light of the sun and was frozen once more.
A group of three young workmen were put in charge of disposing of the boy's body. It seemed that the mayor considered him a nuisance and an eyesore. The three workmen took him to the towns incinerator, but could not burn his body, as they saw themselves reflected in his glassy stare, and did not want to be destroyed themselves. Instead, they secretly loaded his body into a crate and sent it off on a ship destined for Metropolis, where the curative waters might have been able to restore him. They attached a note explaining the boy's situation to the crate, after wrapping his body in thick clothing, his head and hands in a hat and a pair of gloves, and placing a small treasure in his pocket. The boy awoke in the middle of his sea journey, but was not scared to be locked in a crate; he felt safe in the creaky bowels of the ship, for he knew that soon he would be in Metropolis, the city of dreams and wonders, where he would be able to leave his horrible past behind him.
...to be continued...