I shivered as the ground shook.


The towers of this Chicago were all bronze.


It reminded me fairly well of Up New York. At least at a surface level.


But Up new York had been created somewhat out of whole cloth, for a people created out of whole cloth,


and it had not been clear, at all, what the citizens of Up New York did with their lives.


The people I saw crowding the streets here in Bronze Chicago had bricks and hammers in their hands.


The people of Bronze Chicago had skin of stone, chiseled faces, big shoulders.  


They bore huge loads and did not hurry. They muttered amongst themselves, and made no loud boasts or oaths.


There were a few automobiles here and there. Long bodies of bronze, with great steel wheels that made a damn racket on the bad roads.


The windows of these automobiles were not glass, but ornate iron latticework, twisting and branching forms.


Most of the windows at street level were iron bars or narrow slits.


"This place is making me jump," said Masie Sani. "Come on, Chicago, let's see the next dream."

The thumping stopped. The automobiles stopped. The people stopped, and stared at us.

"Maybe that was a bad thing to ask for?" I said.

"Nah. It's a dream. If we get beat up here the most we're going to do is wake up and cry."

"This isn't like any dream I've ever had. But, hey, you're the teacher, you know what you're doing..."

The air seemed to be getting yellower. A fog was forming around us, drifting in between the buildings. A bright yellow fog. The people made of stone were not moving, but they were fading slowly as the smog got thicker. Meanwhile, The two people made of skin and bone were starting to notice a certain spicy quality to the air. A certain burning quality. A certain eye-watering quality. This was not quality air. It was hard to say that it was air at all. Masie and I started coughing.

My teacher waved her hands and muttered a few incantations, but the air did not clear, nor did our lungs stop hurting.

Through the thick yellow smog, someone handed us a couple of gas masks. We donned them in haste. It was a bit of a trick to cough out all the bad air while wearing them, but eventually my breathing regulated and I was able to stand upright.

I turned, and gazed into the face of a thick black gas mask.

Their lenses were clear as crystal, and through them I could see eyes that looked puzzled. Their shoulders sloped more than those of the people of Bronze Chicago. Their body was almost as big...if you counted the amount of heavy cloth they were wearing. Big black boots, heavy rubber hood and big rubber gloves. Arms that were moving with big motions in some manner of sign language, but not one I knew. I shrugged, and the figure shrugged back. How do you communicate with someone from outside when you never expected outsiders?

We stood in the center of a ring of people, made indistinct shadows in the yellow fog. They were also speaking in their language of signs, big movements and gestures like they were on a stage. I guess when you're stuck in a perpertual fog, you can't use a subtle sign language to get your point across. Big rubber gloves would get in the way of that too.

In the few moments and places where the fog cleared, I could see buildings of concrete and tin.

And that was about all I could get out of this place, because Masie finally made the "cut" gesture like a movie director, and the masked people began to vanish into the fog, and then the fog started to recede.

Once the fog was gone, Masie pulled off her mask. "Gasp," she said, "I hate wearing those things. Alright, what's up next?"

"First thing to do is look down," I said.

Blood ran in the gutters.

I don't mean like in a war movie where there are bodies scattered on the pavement, bleeding slowly and quietly. I mean blood ran in the gutters like it was so much rainwater.

The sidewalks were made of scapula and jaw bones. The towers had skeletal supports of giant femurs. The windows were shaped like sacpula, so that the shutters made of shoulder bones could cover them properly. The material in between the bones of the towers appeared to be leather, or possibly rawhide, or cowhide with the fur still on. All of it painted red and brown where blood poured out of holes in the side of the buildings, and down into the gutters. The whole place rang with the cries of cattle, the squeal of pigs, the bleating of sheep, and screams form other creatures I did not know. The whole place stunk of blood and offal and sweat.

Masie put her gas mask back on, but I elected not to. This wasn't real, after all, and whatever I endured here, I would survive.

Maybe. The people striding through this salty, staining landscape were tall and broad-shouldered like the ones in Bronze Chicago, but they weren't so much solid as they were...beefy.

"They're made of meat", I said.

The creatures striding around us had no skin. Their muscles showed in stark detail. Their heads had no skin. Nor eyes. Their heads were the skulls of cattle. I don't mean they were wearing cattle skulls on their heads, I mean their heads were cattle heads with all the soft bits removed.

And their heads were suddenly lower, as in, they were bowing forward like a sprinter and charging right at us.

"Time to go," said Masie, and she clapped her hands.


I awoke in my bed of straw, in a familiar hayloft. There was blood on my feet.

"At least my shoes didn't get stained," I said. "I guess that's a plus."

"Did you have fun?" said Masie. She was sitting on a bale nearby.

"How long have you been there?"

"A few minutes. Why'd you want to sleep in the hayloft instead of the apartment? The apartment has a kitchen and a shower."

"This is more fun." I rose to my feet. "Why'd you  have to go and spoil my fun all those times? We weren't in any danger, right?"

"With these dreams? Hard to tell. Anyway, I was getting bored, and I didn't want the city to have a chance to give you any more magic items."

I glanced to the left. There was a gas mask sitting atop a ballpeen hammer and a big shoulder bone.

"Not that I succeeded in that area. I'll have to take those items and see if there's any enchantments on them. But hey, at least we managed to get through what the city wanted to show you without too much trouble."

"I wonder if that means I'm out of the woods." I sat down on the bale next to Masie.

"Who knows?" said my teacher. "We got through a few, but if the city dreams in so many colors...hard to say where its imagination will run out."

"I don't think it's just a matter of imagination."

"What then?"

"it's more like..." I drummed my fingers on the straw. "I mean, the whole thing feels really familiar." I tapped my feet a bit. "Almost like I've experienced just this sort of thing before." I stroked my chin. "Almost like I know of a city that does this sort of thing."

"You sound like you already know the answer. Spill."

"Did I ever tell you about Up New York? And Forward New York? And Back New York? And Left and Right New York?"

I related to her the story of Back New York, and touched upon the others, how Jo had shown me each place for a short time. As well as the gory details of Up New York and the machine-heart-woman at the center of my beloved city.

My teacher frowned. "So it isn't just Chicago that does this. Why does it do it at all, though?"

"The dream of the city," I said. "The city's dreams manifest in their own magical realms. The city dreams about the things that all the people in it care about. They're the ones feeding the dream. For New York City, that was all contered around progress -- contrasting excessive progress with no progress, extreme population density versus castles in the sky...I don't know how to compare Left and Right new York. But with Chicago...What have I seen? Not so much contrasting types of progress as dreaming of the various aspects of a Working Class city. There's the green belt... and then there's pollution, construction, slaughterhouses, and misery. And vast stores of knowledge, and heaps of jewels and gold. That's all Chicago. What I can't figure is, why does the city think it needs to wake up? What part of it is restless, turning in its sleep as if dawn approaches?"

"You said you reached the heart of New York, yeah?"

"Not by choice."

"The city is calling you to its heart now. This time it IS someone's choice. This time, the city wants you to traverse its dream with more than the eyes of a tourist."

"Oh God. It's a quest. I have to bring each magical item to the temple and place it on the altar."

"Hey, you said you do Shaman magic." Masie picked up the gas mask. "This thing might have spells on it, but it isn't about placing it on an altar. It's a token. A totem. A symbol. It's a clue to understanding the lives of the people it came from. What we're dealing with here sounds like social magic, not metaphysical stuff. We're talking POLITICS."

"That's even worse."

"Yeah, and it's a domain you chose. And it's going to be hard. I can save you from a fireball, that's easy. Dealing with the end that's something you have to learn for yourself."

"I kind of got a handle on it in New York City, but I had a lot of magical help. My grandmother -- "

"Ms. King? She gives me the willies sometimes."

"Not you too!"

Masie sighed. "Anyone my age, in any magical community, felt the impact of your grandmother. She's the reason the Wizard Police exist here in Chicago. She's the reason the Wizard Academy exists at all. After what she did, they really had to get a handle on regulation. She got off lucky -- there were no wizarding laws before she came around, so they couldn't do anything Ex Post Facto to punish her. Ask her about it, I don't like to think of the gory details. ANYWAY...I'll give you some time this morning after the sheep are out to collect yourself, and then we'll work on ontoscopic practice and basic spells. I'll meet you out in the field at 10."


Basic spellwork had proved more difficult than I expected. Masie's Wizard Glasses had been more difficult to use than Jo's, by a long shot. Between the two, and with the high sun in the sky beating down upon my head, I was pretty tired.

Jo wasn't going to come by until classes were done, and I didn't want to bother lifting weights or jogging around the barn. There was naught left to do but study the one item I had deliberately failed to mention to my teacher -- the little book in my pocket what had the name "Sam Hill" written on it.

What could it contain that the library was so adamant to deny?

I flipped open to the first page.

Know this, dweller of the city. The city sits upon the land, and the land feeds it. The people feed it. The city does not give thanks, but sits heavy upon the people that feed it. The city does not work for the people that feed it. Know that the high and mighty sit comfortably in their towers and fail to reckon who grows their food, who mines their ore, who fells the lumber, who digs the mud, who digs the oil.

They'll know when it's cut off.

What was this, a political tract from last year? I flipped to the copyright section.


Suddenly I had an inkling of why the city grew restless.

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