H Trope: Alien Geometries – “Even the very body of a particularly squamous thing may exhibit this, though more often it shows up in architecture as physically-impossible buildings—occasionally sentient themselves.”
Xiaoyan Tahtawi shook her head and said, “Egypt hardly qualifies as the originators of architecture! They’ve only been building things for five thousand years! China is the true parent of the science!”
Murad Sūn harrumphed and said, “I am sorry to disappoint you, but the ‘Chinese Dynasties’ didn’t even begin until fifteen hundred years before the Common Era began.”
“I’m not talking about official dynasties! I am, however talking about Civilization.” Murad rolled his eyes, he could hear her tone of voice capitalizing the word and ascribing it solely to her forebears. While he was prepared to admit that Chinese architecture was impressive in its own ancient and pretty way, they had nothing like the Pyramids at Giza.
Of course, technically the Egyptians didn’t actually have them at this time, either. He said, “That’s beside the point!”
“This stupid class we’re taking is talking about the civilizing influence of architecture – how can the fact that the ancient Chinese built the Great Wall to protect their civilization...” Xiaoyan said.
Murad laughed, “Your ancestors built your Great Wall to keep the barbarians from stealing their food and women!”
“I wouldn’t call constructing tombs for dead old guys the pinnacle of an evolved intelligence.”
They stared silently down from the highest point of Jingshan at the Forbidden City. Their tour group was out running around the city today, leaving them behind – most of the group figured they were going to…Murad snorted. He wasn’t “that” kind of guy. Xiaoyan wasn’t his kind of girl, either. The thing he loved most about her was her razor-sharp mind and uncharacteristically Western way of speaking her mind. “Let’s walk over,” he said abruptly.
“To the Forbidden City. Let’s go.”
“That’s reserved for the last day of the tour.”
He grabbed her hand and pulled her along, “Then they shouldn’t have put us up in this apartment and they shouldn’t have left us alone.”
She said, “They put us up here because it was cheap and they left us alone so that they could have something new to gossip about.” He thought for a moment that she was going to resist, but she said instead, “You’re right. Let’s for over there.”
They bounded down the steps to the first floor when Xiaoyan said, “Wait! What if they left someone behind to watch us?”
Murad paused and scowled. “You’re right. Come on.” He grabbed her hand. One of the other guys in the group had discovered a sub-basement when they were poking around the house. They weren’t technically supposed to go down there, but most of them had anyway. They’d come up with talking about stacks of covered furniture and an entire wall of books. “Who reads books anymore?” He said.
“Down into the library? There’s a door there?”
“I think so. Come on.” They rattled down the stairs and into the library. It was dark. Cool. It obviously smelled of books. Xiaoyan flipped on the lights and the room seemed to suddenly lean into them. She cussed in Chinese. Murad cussed in Arabic and they took a step backward to the stairs and were suddenly staring across the room, looking at the open basement door they’d just come down. The door closed.
“What...” Murad exclaimed.
“What did you do?”
“Nothing! You were with me! We walked down the stairs and into the library and now…”
“I know, idiot! I was here, too! Let’s get back upstairs before…”
There was a knock at the basement door across the room from them…
Names: ♀China, Egypt; ♂ Egypt, China