Piffle knew that the city was dangerous. She knew because her father told her never to venture out alone. And she knew because of the things that she saw when she did.
She never went further than the roof of their house. Piffle climbed the boxes in the attic to reach the skylight blackened by soot from the nearby factories. She took her blanket with her for warmth, pointing herself towards the docks one day, the industrial district another, south to the aristocratic neighbourhoods on the next.
From all corners of the city she felt the unseen horrors lurk. And they fascinated her, called her to leave her rooftop. But she never did. Until the night she saw the beast in the shadows of the factory chimneys. At first she thought the immense black hump was perhaps a pile of coal hoisted up on the winches, to be transported away by airship. …
The canals smelled worse at high tide. Poppycock instinctively pulled his collar up and hunched his shoulders to hide his nose behind the leather of his coat. He saw Jack screw up his nose and pull an exaggerated face of disgust. The boy laughed.
“People choose to live here?”
“Not many,” Poppycock replied.
They were close to the centre of the city, where waterways that once flowed with the clash and clang of industry now crawled sluggish and silent. …