Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 8 –

– 8 –

It has all roused and awakened too many memories.

He had been something great; now he is simply Tom. He had been the hope and the doom of the future. Now — he’s the milliner’s orphan, dwelling in a muck of half-finished hats.

He dwells on the awfulness of it. He is surrounded by a gloom like a great dark cloud. He rejects his friends and his own value and he goes to sit alone on some high peak in the cemetery of the hats. Ragged felt flutters all around him. The wind tosses about his hair.

He rocks in frustration.

He cries until the sky opens up to make a mush of the hats around him and add its water to his tears.

“Why?” he says.

Why can’t I wake the dead?

Where went the science? Where went the confidence? Where went the Tom that could do anything, that could handle anything, that could make rocket ships and have adventures and dream great dreams in the mortal world?

He exaggerates his past glories and he deprecates the life he’s been living since.

He rejects the idea that there were seeds of sorrow and self-loathing in the young science adventurer, or that he’s learned anything worth learning from living an ordinary life as a milliner’s adopted son.

He grasps at the stuff of the hats. He massages in it with his hands, gropes the hat cemetery one supposes, as if by kneading dead hats he could grasp the stuff of an idea, as if somewhere in the detritus of the cemetery he could find the spark that he had lost.

It is bad to become a ophidian planet-inheritor, to warm the Earth, to remove the human infestation from it; but —

“Why?” he whispers.

It is bad to seek to wake the dead, to recover what has gone naturally; but —


It is bad to take it on yourself, a milliner’s boy, abandoned by the renegade alchemist that had raised you, to save or kill the world, but —

He knows it. He knows it can’t be gone from him. He knows it can’t be that gone from him. He knows that on some level he must still be Tom, the science adventurer. If he were — if he were only not so scattered, so unfocused, so mortal, so bogged down by all these human emotions and human burps and hiccups and digestion and these eyes that only blink a single time. If he were only a snake again, or cold clean metal, or a hat, or some kind of living god —

If he could refine himself to a single flame —



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