Beast of the Heartland and Other Stories by Lucius Shepard

Beast of the Heartland and Other Stories by Lucius Shepard

Author:Lucius Shepard [Shepard, Lucius]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Science Fiction, Short Stories (Single Author)
ISBN: 9781568581262
Amazon: 1568581262
Publisher: Thunder's Mouth Press
Published: 1999-03-30T07:00:00+00:00

When at last we reached the surface and took shelter among the rocks, we discovered that only about a hundred and thirty of us had survived the Garden. Brad and Callie were fine, as were most of those who had stayed with the flying machines; there had been scant fighting in the crater. But of the nearly four hundred who had gone deep into the Garden, fewer than seventy had returned, along with a handful of men and women who’d been saved from the collars, and five Captains. Wall wanted to ride out immediately, to return to wherever it was they’d set out from; but Coley, Maddy, and others told him, Fine, go ahead, but we’re going to wait a while and see if anyone else comes out. More than three hundred dead had shaken people’s faith in Wall -- that was a sight more than what you would call “light casualties,” and resentment against him appeared to be running high, even though we’d managed to steal the flying machine. I had thought the argument between him and Maddy was personal, but it was now obvious that politics was involved.

After heated discussion, it was decided that Wall would take a group on ahead, and the rest of us would follow within the hour. But then they got to arguing about how many were to go with Wall and how many were to stay, and whether or not all the prisoners, who were sitting against boulders at the edge of the hardpan, should go with Wall’s party. It was hard to credit that people who had so recently fought together could now be all snarled up in these petty matters, and after a few minutes of hanging about the fringes of the argument, I gave up on them and went off and sat with Brad and Callie higher up among the boulders.

From the way everything looked, with that golden light still streaming up from the crater, and the moonstruck hardpan running flat and fissured to the mountains on the horizon, and cold stars glinting through thin scudding clouds, it appeared that nothing much could have happened down below the world; I would have expected some sign of what had transpired, colored smokes curling up, strange flickering radiances, a steam of dead souls rising from the deep, and there should have been scents of rot and corruption on the wind, not merely the cool, dry smell of desolation; but all was as peaceful and empty as before, and for some reason this lack of evidence that anything had occurred afflicted me and I began to remember the things I had witnessed and the things I had done. As each of them passed before my mind’s eye, a new weight settled in my chest, making a pressure that hurt my heart and caused the flow of my thoughts to stick and swell in my head as if something had dammed them up. Brad asked me about Kiri, about Clay, and all I could do was shake my head and say I’d tell him later.


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