by Stuart Airey

The Emirati will own it, but I will build it. The first tower over one kilometre high, dwarfing even the Burj Khalifa. We are already at a height that satisfies emperors, the gulf shining from Doha to Suza.

I let the speed creep up on the desert road home, knowing Naia is waiting.

It is a blur on my right and I think it looks up at me before we hit. For a moment we are one sickening thing. Then the road is empty again. I don’t stop.

I shine my cell phone on the front of the car at home. The grill is torn and I pull fur from a crack in the bumper. It is fine and golden. There is nothing more. There is an exquisite newness in the taste of Naia that night. I am awake long after listening to the rhythm of her sleep. My arthritic hip is painless.

I look, but there is no road kill in the morning. It is a restless day of paperwork. At last, I am standing on the open steel frame, looking down at the glass wonder that is Dubai. I feel perfectly balanced.

I open my tongue to the moisture of altitude. I feel like I’m growing a tail.

I stop and look up at the stars on the way home. I hear ancient whispering patterns filling the night sky. It is a language much older than Arabic. I realise I’ve driven home without car lights. I am aware of small scuttling animals sharing the desert. I look in the bathroom mirror. My pupils are oval and pointed.

Naia screams as we make love. My spine is so flexible. She rises softly before dawn. I lie curled and still as she leaves. We have no voice for each other, though I think she has a word for what I am becoming. I have a terrible headache in the morning light.

The day is just tolerable in sunglasses. I spend it all in my office. I have a Kandura and Ghutrah brought up, it is time to hide my tail. I feel each porcupine quill budding and sharpening, probing the subtle air currents. I feel the poison sacs fill with a golden warmth. I have a burning need to hunt.

At last, I stand on the pure steel of the new shafts, and the night is velvet. I place my clawed fingers on the skeleton of the building. I can sense the building as a living thing, following its veins and arteries deep into the earth. Beneath the building is the rustling of ancient things, scarabs that undulate like music. They have waited an age for my call.

I run down the sides of the structure, the air fluid and buoyant, and my tail is joyous. Down and down I glide as the city sounds a thousand murmurs. As I reach the ground, I am for a moment impossibly and gloriously still. I feel the earth as a heaving swell on which the living mingle with the dead.

I read the rise and fall of empires as an unfurling scroll.

Dubai is a pious plum by day, a peeled and opened flesh by night. It suits me to be faceless. I seek the oldest and wealthiest nightlife first and take them in the shadows. They are wrinkled skins with the barest dry fruit. The young are an exquisite explosion.

The city is prostrate with prayer by day. Everyone is veiled in shared secrecy. The women gather by afternoon in shuttered apartments, lighting incense and speaking incantations over each other. The men fire their guns in the noon heat and find old alliances. There is an official lie that no-one believes. Families check in hourly by Facebook.

I am becoming multiple. They are my scarabs now, reptilian and calm. We are a hibernation.

The city is a throbbing ache at the back of my throat. The desert sand stretches its phosphorescent skin under the building, curling and uncurling. I hold open the slit of an eye. Tonight, we will be a flood.

They come an hour before sunset. I am sleepily aware of the lift ascending. Naia and her sister. Veiled in formal Burqa, but they are as fluttering birds to me. I know all languages but not this one they are chanting. Their open hands are suppliant with a timeless grace. I know they wear amulets against their throats, passed down through the ages. I see a spidery web of lines shimmering in the air between us.

There is this moment when we are one. We are the shape of an egg, encrusted with forgotten stones. We are above the desert singing songs to each other. We are a rippling thing of feathers and scales. We are shellfish we are moths. We are bearded we are smooth. Our fingers are entwined.

We understand everything. That is when Naia plunges the dagger in.

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