The thing picked up its pace and coursed ahead. Peter was compelled to take swifter strides to stay with the librarian, whose lack of caution in this place was unnerving.
Berlin! He could remember his first experience in the city. It was not entirely different from London – especially in light of his experiences in the cities of Asia. But the novelty of the city upon his first visit to it – its architecture, the streets, the sorts of things that one would see in German windows and hanging from German balconies – had been sufficient to pull Peter's attention in so many directions that, on his first afternoon out, he had failed to take note of any significant landmarks and gotten lost. It had been only a little problem to find his way once again, such was the helpfulness of its citizens in those days before a weakening mark had begun to drag on the soul of the common Berliner. Yet, it had been frightening for a moment – exhilaratingly so. For a moment it was suddenly Peter against the city, a huge living thing in whose innards he was then lodged.
Strange thoughts were becoming less strange with every minute. The objects on display, the objects hidden in corners – what bizarre information could they hold? There was no use pondering the question, for the librarian was moving much too quickly to allow Peter to stop and inspect anything – and so, his mind numbed itself with other images – of Berlin, of London, of San Francisco. Essentially beneficent giants, all.
A new beast, this. A new stretch of innards. Would such a repository be its heart? Its brain? Its colon? Peter understood that even still, the arcade was creeping into his memories of happier places. London, city of the moon, excreting into the Thames. San Francisco, a great missionary entombed in a foreign land. Berlin, letting the hours dwindle in lewd clubs while the teeth grind away from the gears of the city.
He got the sensation that the place was a maze, but if this was true, then its dimensions were, like the curvature of the earth, too large to be noticeable. The librarian seemed to be leading straight ahead at any rate.
Two hours, perhaps. In the center of the path was a dome. It was as wide as a king sized bed, about as tall at its zenith as Peter's waist, and made from . . . resin? Amber? . . . some shining, glassy substance. The librarian moved past it before Peter, accompanied by a reflective doubled on the dome's surface. Peter's guide brushed against the dome, or perhaps only its cloak did. There was a wet sound, like pulling a fruit apart, or twisting a moist stick, and an aperture opened in the amber dome.
Surprised, Peter halted and shifted back a step.
A finger – no, a thin, black limb – protruded from the aperture, which was now large enough for Peter to crawl into. It was not quite segmented, but long and whip-like, like an insect's antennae. It snatched at the air, no more than a foot or two, but fruitlessly.
For its part, the librarian seemed to have no sense of what was occurring in his wake. This was confirmed when the antennae – such alacrity, like a frog's tongue – shot forth a distance of yards and hooked itself to the mimic's cloak.
Yet, the librarian kept moving –
The antennae afforded Peter's guide only a second of slack, and in another the cloak would drop to the floor and be drawn into the shining dome –