The wall of teeth glistened. Libby Gonzalez scowled at it, wishing it were doing any number of other things instead: twitching and grabbing at random passersby, for example, like the lampposts near the Marble Arch Tube stop. Or gibbering in five languages, like the eyes in the mist that hovered over Vauxhall Bridge.
But no, these were just . . . teeth: motionless, faintly wet, and disappointingly absent of any kinetic element. They sprouted from an otherwise unremarkable alley wall, surrounded by badly smoothed cement. Every single tooth was completely uniform in size and color (thanks to Libby’s dentist mother, she knew they were probably baby molars) and they fit together tightly, with the biting surfaces facing out, like pieces of a mosaic.
The wall wasn’t particularly frightening or evocative, which meant it definitely didn’t work as a visual metaphor for the current state of London. And she needed that visual metaphor like she needed breath.
Grover Frampton hovered near the wall of teeth, just out of frame. He was certainly kinetic, down to the shivering tips of his shaggy white mop, but he looked like a retired postman. He wasn’t a visual metaphor for anything, either, unless it was why men of a certain age should reconsider wearing the garments that had fit them twenty-five years ago: straining across the belly, baggy in the chest.
“It’s going to work, right?” he asked. He gazed at the camera with frank adoration. “It’s recording this time?”
“I guess we’ll know soon,” Libby said. She fanned herself with her copy of Frampton’s Map of Weird London, which he had graciously thrown in for free after charging them £250 for the private, personal tour. Much use that had been.
“I’m sure it’ll work,” Grover said. He rubbed his hands together. “You know, I’m the world’s leading expert on Weird London. I even saw everything that happened that day with my own two—”
Libby turned away from Grover. “How’s the shot?” she asked.
Her cameraman Jian shrugged. “You know how it is. You’ve seen the shot before. We all have. It’s the same shot everyone else gets, just like all the tourists get the same selfie with Westminster Abbey from that Kodak spot.”
He said this in a placid way. An herbal way, not to put too fine a point on it. Jian was always calm in the storm of production, and Libby had always relied upon that before. But his calm even here, in Weird London, even now, after all that had happened . . . She had suddenly realized that calm was overrated. Sometimes you needed someone by your side freaking out along with you, just to anchor your sense of what was normal.
Here were some things that were absolutely not normal: Almost being half-strangled by a goddamn streetlight. Walking down the block and finding yourself coated with a thin shell of fine-grit sand by the other end, even inside your mouth and, ah, other uncomfortable places. Normal was also not your seasoned production crew erasing all their footage of the lampposts attacking. Or static overwriting all the footage of that mist full of eyeballs at the bridge. Or sand getting inside a £1,200 camera and destroying the lenses.
Libby walked over to the viewfinder of the new camera and scowled at that, too. Through the lens, the wall of teeth looked like any other ivory mosaic. It could’ve been edited into a documentary on fifteenth-century art and nobody would have even noticed the difference. At worst, once you knew what it was, it came off like a badly conceived Halloween decoration.
That wasn’t going to do at all. “How the hell are we going to get any money for this documentary if all of our footage is . . . this? The same lousy shot as every other two-bit filmmaker’s come up with?”
“You’re not.” Jian shrugged. Libby wanted to shake him until his adrenaline gland woke up from its coma.
Grover cleared his throat. “You know, even if you can’t film the the special areas, that’s not the only part of Weird London that got touched.”
Libby steeled herself for whatever terrible idea was about to emerge from his mouth. “Sure. What else did you have in mind?”
“The people of Weird London are just as delightfully strange now,” he said. He lowered his voice to a whisper. “Even I was touched! Did you know that my hair grows twice as fast now, and I can’t go but three weeks between haircuts? I’m practically a bloody werewolf!” He worked his way up to a droning crescendo: “Few of us came away so lucky as me! For I myself was there the very day London changed, and I can tell you all about it. The dragon and the crow! I saw a red-headed man, twelve feet tall, striking down monsters with a magic sword like King...