Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

Categories Navigation Menu

Chapter 22: Evil Prophecy

Posted by on Jul 24, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 22 | 0 comments

– 1 –

Posted by on Jul 24, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 22 | 0 comments

You can’t make scissors any more. Not since that day. You can barely spread two fingers of your hand.

You can’t fold paper into shapes.

Boots are gone. Hammers are gone. The empire of the Fan Hoeng, gone.

There isn’t even the Fan Hoeng star.

I like to think that’s just perspective. I like to think that Jeremiah Clean doesn’t have the power to scrub away whole worlds from space — that he’s just the god of our little world, you know? And everything else is still real.

But I really can’t promise that. It makes sense to me, but I can’t.

Those things are gone.

– 2 –

Posted by on Jul 24, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 22 | 0 comments

Gotterdammerung, I am told, is a lower energy state. It is easier than a sensible world.

And nothing at all — I suppose —

Nothing at all would be simpler yet.

– 3 –

Posted by on Jul 24, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 22 | 0 comments

Some people think the evil prophet of space is Christ reborn. Others want to measure her with scientific instruments. But everyone who approaches her dies!

“Space does not like you,” the prophet says to the audience that gathers before her.

There are rivers of blood on the Earth in those final days. There are locusts that fall from the Heavens. The sky is full of fire, and the omens are omen-wroth.

Jeremiah Clean mops up the blood. He sprays all the locusts.

He leaves the fire and the omens alone.

“You look outwards towards space,” says Lucy Souvante. “You make puppy-dog faces. You project onto space with your purposes and your expectations. Space is confused and nauseated by this! Space is not your frontier. It is not your world’s Heaven. Space is a cold, empty void! You need to stop hoping and dreaming towards it.”

She licks her lips.

“So I am going to kill all of you,” she says, “in the hopes this will make you stop.”

“Hallelujah!” cries somebody in the crowd.

Then she brandishes her evil prophecy and most of the people in the crowd suffer from explosive decompression. Those who do not she hangs from spikes and leaves there to die.

Conventional weaponry cannot stop her. She is a Fan Hoeng assassin and an evil prophet. She studied at the legendary Lethal Magnet School before it was stomped down and glassed over. She may corrode your systems, change the patterns of you, rewrite the book and software of you and in the image of her wicked text. She may slaughter you with her umbrella. She may brandish an evil prophecy at you, or play rock-paper-scissors against you, and to your death. She walks through armies and she leaves them in ruins, gasping and coughing out their life and blood, and she does not even care that this is bad.

“I do this because it is prophesied,” says the evil prophet of space.

She looks at her prophecy. She confirms that’s what she was supposed to have said.

“I do this because I must.”

She is on a street corner in Branxton, Northumberland. She is eating her lunch, a tuna sandwich, on top of an overturned tank. Everyone else has fled Branxton save for an abandoned and unhappy dog so there’s no real audience for her explanation but explaining herself has recently become sort of habitual for the evil prophet of space.

“Behold!” she says, and unfurls the scroll of her evil prophecy.

The scroll is covered in the gleaming golden letters of space. Hesitantly, angered by the evil prophecy, the abandoned dog barks.

It is bad, incidentally, to nuke pic —

You know what? I’m not bothering. I give up. I have tried but I think no matter how many times I explain this people will still nuke picturesque British communities because, well, I guess, probably because they are there.

Nuclear weapons fall upon Branxton. They crunch down around her like pine cones falling to the Earth.

They burst into an extraordinary nuclear rage.

Local crops mutate.

The dog dies.

All around the evil prophet of space fire blooms. But she holds up the scroll of her evil prophecy and says, “Paper beats nukes!”

And it is so.

– 4 –

Posted by on Jul 24, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 22 | 0 comments

Why does she survive? Why her, of all the unclean things?

Because it is prophesied.

Because her survival is written of, and that is a tidy thing. Because to be born in service to a destiny, and to live in service to a prophecy, is cleanly; and to unmake people with a prophecy is cleanly; so she shall be one of the last things left.

That’s what it tells her, in her prophecy.

That they shall meet at last in two halves of an empty world. She, with the evil prophecy; he with his . . . janitorial cart of good . . . and they shall do battle then; and he shall scrub away the letters of her evil prophecy one by one, and all the stars go out.

What could be cleaner than that?

And she accepts it.

She will allow it. The Fan Hoeng are gone. Everyone she cared about is gone. Her hat doesn’t even really work without Fenris and Edmund.

So it’s fine to her to dream of that final meeting with the janitor of Earth;

But still, when she has a chance, she scours the prophecy, looking for hints and omens, portents, indications that she will, before that final end, get to play rock-paper-scissors against someone worthy of her, have at least one game worthy of her; against a robot, maybe, or a really sharp goat.

– 5 –

Posted by on Jul 24, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 22 | 0 comments

Emily pastes a few extra buttons on her Konami Thunder Dance pad. She adds a button for navigation in Antarctica. She adds a button labeled Nobody Wants to Hear Your Opinion You Stupid Evil Prophet Anyway. And another three in memory of Lirabelle, Veronica, and Fred.

Then she goes online.

She hunts through pages and pages of irrelevant results because she doesn’t really know how to use Google.

Eventually she finds it — tucked away in a little-known guide on IGN. It’s years and years old. It’s in Japanese. It’s for the wrong version. But she translates it anyway. She prints it out. She types it in.

She has found it.

It’s the Unlimited Cheat Code for the Konami Thunder Dance.

She plays around with it. She learns the options.

Then she goes to face the evil prophet down.

– 6 –

Posted by on Jul 24, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 22 | 0 comments

Sid is already there.

– 7 –

Posted by on Jul 24, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 22 | 0 comments

“Oh, man,” says Emily.

“I know,” says Lucy.

“He looks like — like he’s just going to, you know.”


She sees him; and for a moment she almost loves him. It’s the sense of potential around him. It’s the fact that he, like she, had come there. Most of all, it’s the way he smiles. But she doesn’t fall for him. Not then.

He’s dead.

“He doesn’t look dead,” she says softly. “He looks like, wham. One of these days. He’s gonna show you what for.”

“Yeah.”  Lucy looks at Sid uncomfortably. She looks back at Emily. “But he won’t, right?”

“He’s dead,” Emily says.

“I know,” says the evil prophet. “But like, he’s not going to be a zombie or ghost or whatever, right?”

“That’s deeply insensitive,” Emily says, rubbing at her nose.

“I just worry,” Lucy says. “If there are ghosts then I am possibly in trouble. Or zombies — though I guess that I could probably handle zombies with my evil prophecy.”

“Or with hobbit-Spock-spider,” Emily says.

She’s just being mean.


“You could play hobbit-Spock-spider with them,” says Emily, helpfully. “And with your amazing space skills that would probably beat all the zombies up!”

One, two, three counts Lucy, in a sudden fury, and throws paper, but Emily has thrown Spock.

“Paper dispro—”

Lucy cannot make herself say it. She cannot make herself say paper disproves Spock, even if that is a standard, accepted move in expanded rock-paper-scissors. Even if it will let her incinerate and disprove Emily.

Instead she sulkily turns away.

“I do not like you,” says Lucy. “But I will fight you. That is my graciousness.”

Her eyes are green, with only the faintest hints of wolf-white.

“Good,” says Emily. “Because I want to dance you for it. For the whole shebang. For humanity. For everything.”

“OK,” says Lucy.

“I win,” says Emily, “and you go away. And you apologize to my murdered friends.”

“OK,” Lucy says.

“Even if I beat you?”

Lucy giggles.


“That would be so amazing,” Lucy says. “You beating me. That would be so terrifying and so great. Because it says right here.”

She unfurls the scroll.

She points at it. She points at it because it is prophesied.

Emily is crushed.

“Rocks fall,” says Lucy, “you see. Everybody dies. The end.”

– 8 –

Posted by on Jul 24, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 22 | 0 comments

Mr. Matsuda, the inventor of the Konami Thunder Dance, is dead.

He dreams as he dreamed in life.

In his dreams he is standing in a field of red and lightning; red petals, red flowers, red silks, and the argent fire of the clouds.

He is standing in a single still spot of the storm.

A man is there. The man is wearing a hat. Mr. Matsuda cannot see the color of the hat.

“This world should run on love,” says the man, “and not on hate.”

The man shows Mr. Matsuda the world in the palm of his hand. It is spinning. There is red fluttering around Mr. Matsuda. He tastes of the air and it is like drinking cranberry juice: it is cold and crisp and pure in him and its flavor makes him strong.

The man in the hat reaches his other hand for Mr. Matsuda.

“The world,” he repeats, “should run on love, and not on hate; and people should know how beautiful they are.”

– 9 –

Posted by on Jul 24, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 22 | 0 comments

So Emily sets up her PlayStation. She plugs it in. She takes her position. Then she waits while Lucy goes off to rob a department store to get one of her own.

They stand facing one another.

Sid’s corpse isn’t rotting. Not while they’re facing one another. The next enemy isn’t approaching. That’s how it is with the Thunder Dance. There isn’t a yesterday. There isn’t a tomorrow. There’s only a now.

Then they move their toes across the keyboard of the feet.

And Emily has always been the best at this; one of the best that there has ever been — but there is a gulf now between them.

You should not have your yellow, yellow hat, Navvy Jim had told her, nor be in your yellow House.

She has fought hard to overcome it, but she is still a girl sorted into the Keepers’ House. She is still a girl whose eyes struggle to catch and seal, to keep the magic bound.

And Lucy has become something more than human; more than Fan Hoeng.

She dances HER EVIL PROPHECY in the name of the wicked god of space. It humbles Emily; it strikes her low; it kneels her, it takes her body and it kneels her, and her head comes down.

It isn’t even a contest. The evil prophet is just plain better than Emily now.

Emily was ready for this. She’d half-expected it. She hates it, and she hates herself, but this is for all the money; this is for the world.

She cheats.

She activates the Unlimited Cheat Code and enables the Great Networked Thunder Dance.

Lucy congeals herself. She frowns at Emily.

“You shouldn’t —”

Emily presses the Nobody Wants to Hear Your Opinion You Stupid Evil Prophet Anyway button with her toe.

Then she auto-activates the Symbol GATHERING to begin the Networked Dance.

– 10 –

Posted by on Jul 24, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 22 | 0 comments

I imagine that there was some Konami executive or programmer who’d dreamed of it, though I do not know their name — someone who’d dreamed the grandest dream ever dreamt by a middle-aged gaming console programmer, that people across the world should hook their dance pads together via a wireless Internet connection and the Ultimate Konami Cheat Code and dance the Great Networked Thunder Dance to sweep away the evil prophet of space.

It has been there, implicit in the code, waiting;

And the dancers have been waiting too.

They did not even know it, most of them, but they have been waiting.

Now they are not waiting.

There’s no turning back now!

Riding the Symbol of the Gathering, they fly southwards to Mount Hook.

They stand there, then, a baker’s dozen of un-chilled bodies in the snow.

There are Emily and Margerie. There is old, hobbling Kalov. There are Doug and Meredith, Ben, Christine, and Kasumi — um, not that Ben, obviously, not the one who was eaten, that would be just gross, it’s a different one — and Dancer X, and Hot Coffee; Footwork, and Phobos; and, of course, Lucy Souvante, the evil prophet of space.

“Hunh,” says Lucy.

She starts to throw paper. She starts to brandish an evil prophecy.

She forgets to count one-two-three.

The wind of the dance falls upon her and it is howling as it comes.

It rends her.

It rips her apart as she has ripped apart others. She hangs in the air in pieces. Her hands and her feet and her mouth scrabble at the air to try to draw her back together again.

Emily dances THE SCISSORS.

Margerie throws GLORY.

And so many others! So many Symbols! Even Doug, that sweat-drenched beginner, is desperately dancing MISSHAPEN METAL LUMP in opposition to the evil prophet of space.

Thunder peals.

The Dancers rip the evil prophet down to the seething particles of her and her smile.

The PlayStation 6s through which the Dancers dance grow hot. They suckle at the arctic evening air. A single particle of the evil prophet finds its way in through the vents and touches on the networked code.

“Do you know what I am going to do?” Lucy whispers, to Hot Coffee.

“No,” says Hot Coffee.

“I am going to redefine LIVE_BURIAL to TRUE.”

And before any of the dancers can say anything — before they can even utter a word —

Lucy does just that, and the mountain falls.

They are still guarded by the dance. Among other things — when she used the Cheat Code — Emily turned off the safeties. If the safeties are off — perhaps this is ironic — there is no way a Thunder Dancer in an active Konami Thunder Dance can die.

So none of them die in that moment —

But even so.

Most of them never wake up again.

Margerie opens her eyes long enough for a moment of satisfaction. A good dancer ought to be buried alive.

Kalov grumbles with finality.

Phobos wakes fully but to no avail; his chest is pinned and he screams silently until he dies.

Time passes.

Emily startles open her eyes.

She is buried under the mountain. She can scarcely breathe. She can’t move: there are rocks pinning her. Everywhere she is held down. The pain of it is horrible.

She is only alive because the PS6s are sturdy. They are not breakable by anything so small as a mountain falling upon them. Sure, the power is gone, now that she failed to finish the dance that she was dancing — but the machines themselves are sturdy. They have propped up the tumbled rock in certain limited ways.

“Oh,” she says.

It is soft and meek and the word is lost in the channels of the fallen mountain and she coughs and only the red light of a PlayStation on standby breaks the darkness.

She has a moment’s hope that Jeremiah Clean will come and rescue her; or Fred —

Wait. No.

Fred, like Eldri, like . . . so many of her friends . . . he’s dead. And Jeremiah Clean isn’t a tame janitor.

A few gleams of red light under Mount Hook’s rubble isn’t messy enough to draw him this far south.

“I feel,” she says, to unseen angels, “that I should apologize to the world, for now the evil prophet of space will probably kill everybody —”

She stops speaking with a gasp of pain. The rock has shifted. It grinds awfully into her back.

And laughing and crying she thinks, “Rock beats scissors.”

A concept pushes itself into her mind. She starts to think something. It is billowing in her mind like wind-tossed clouds and unfolding itself like a flower. She tries to articulate it but it is as if the mouth of her mind is full of cotton; she cannot find the words for things, she cannot find the names, she cannot find that beautiful fire that once had filled her mind. In the pain and the cold and the isolation of it all she has lost the thread of the jaguar-light that once possessed her.

The edge of something else catches on her consciousness instead.

It’s ridiculous. It’s really quite stupid. But she can’t help it.

She counts to three under her breath. She is caught up in a memory. She counts to three and she closes her fist.

The rock shifts again.

It lifts from her, just a bit. Then it is grinding, grinding, pushing back away from her, and in the little cavern that forms she sees the cross-legged form of Navvy Jim.

One hand is holding up an improvised roof.

The other, paper.

Emily giggles. Then she laughs. Then pain shoots through her ribcage and she chokes and she says, “Oh.”

“You cannot think to defeat me at rock-paper-scissors simply by draining my battery, taking me apart, packing me in boxes, and hiding under a mountain,” says Navvy Jim. “That is the kind of hijink only beneficial against amateurs.”

“Oh,” she says, and brokenly she smiles at him. She isn’t alone.

So much pain and so much silence; but she isn’t alone.

“But . . . it is dangerous to play rock-paper-scissors here,” he says. “The mountain throws rock. So rock and paper, perhaps, are safe, but if you had played scissors, you would have been crushed under tons of rock.”

“Mountains don’t care about rock-paper-scissors,” says Emily. “They’re not like robots.”

Navvy Jim hesitates.

“What is a mountain?” he says. “What is not a mountain? There is only the world.”

“You saved my life,” Emily says.

“I am a good robot,” smugs Navvy Jim.

There is silence for a while.

Tendrils of evil mist slowly slip into the chamber. The evil prophet congeals.

She looks between them.

“My God,” she says, referring neither to the Judeo-Christian God or the evil god of space but rather expressing both a blasphemy and a sense of wonder:

She is staring at Navvy Jim.

“I knew it,” she says. “I knew it. I knew there was someone on this planet who was good enough to give me a proper game.”

“What?” says Emily.

But Navvy Jim is nodding. “You would be a worthy rock-paper-scissors opponent,” Navvy Jim concedes.

“I didn’t expect to find you,” says Lucy, “while finishing off these dancers. You vanished before I got to this stupid planet. You left me.”

There is relief in her voice. There is a strange joy in it. She is as Emily, when first Emily saw the jaguar Bahlum; when first Emily understood what beauty was, that it was there, just waiting, in the world, for her to witness it: O See It Move!

The evil prophet of space is actually wiping away a tear.

Navvy Jim is hesitant. “Did you wish to play,” he says, “then?”

“Navvy Jim!” Emily says.

But their faces. Emily can’t bear it. Their faces.

“Fine,” she says.

She looks away. She sulks.

“You must understand,” says Navvy Jim, “that if I do not play, she wins by default —”

He trails off.

She’d say something here. She really would. She’d reassure him, or she’d critique him — but it’s not like she’s really gotten better, magically, just because she took her hat off; at best, she’s gotten pretty good by now at pretending to be a normal girl.

So she’s quiet there. She doesn’t say anything. Navvy Jim nods to her gravely.

Then the evil prophet of space, and Navvy Jim, square off.

“I should warn you,” says Lucy, “that I always throw paper. That’s how I’m going to kill you and the human. With paper.”

Navvy Jim’s eyes dim, then brighten.

“Why would you do that?” he asks.

Summarizes Lucy Souvante: “It is what I do.”

“Well,” says Navvy Jim, “the three symbols are mathematically equivalent, in any case.”

The evil prophet laughs. It’s startled from her. It’s pure and clean. And she says, “Yes. Yes, of course they are.”

And in a flash of insight Emily remembers the mountain that surrounds them, the great bulk of rock around them, and a shout bursts from her, racking the inside of her with pain: “Don’t throw scissors, Navvy Jim!”

The evil prophet is counting to three.

Navvy Jim glances at Emily.

“Of course I won’t,” he says. “The mountain always throws rock.”

And the evil prophet brandishes her evil prophecy. And Navvy Jim’s palm is flat. The aegis of evil prophecy burns around him, it scars his metal, but his palm is flat, so it does not kill.

“A tie,” says the evil prophet. “Rethrow.”

Softly, he counts to three.

She brandishes her evil prophecy, and Navvy Jim his palm.

“A tie,” says the evil prophet. “Rethrow.”

Navvy Jim says, “For all the money?”

“Of course,” says the evil prophet.

“If I win,” says Navvy Jim, “you’ll leave this world?”

“Navvy Jim,” says Emily, and her face is as pale as the snow.

“Perhaps,” the evil prophet says.

And Navvy Jim’s eyes glow blue.

And softly the evil prophet counts to three.

“Oh, no,” says Emily. “Oh, no.”

Her hand is twitching on the ground. She is drawing with her finger. She goes up up down down left right left right B and A, but she is still working on that last A of the Konami Cheat Code when the third count is counted —

And the evil prophet brandishes her evil prophecy; and Navvy Jim, with a great screeching of metal, splits into scissors the fingers of his hand; and simultaneously with BEING CRUSHED BY ROCKS, Emily finishes the code and she throws Dynamite with her foot.

She isn’t the kind of player who would do this. She really isn’t. Not since the hatting.

But she does.

And the last things that Emily sees as the world goes white are Navvy Jim lunging for her to catch her as she falls and the hideously betrayed expression of the evil prophet as she shouts:

“You can’t throw Dynamite. This is rock-paper-scissors!”

They don’t let you do things like that, it seems, at the evil academy of space.

Posted by on Jul 24, 2016 in Vidar's Boot: Chapter 22 | 0 comments