Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

Categories Navigation Menu

– 7 –

– 7 –

Edmund Gulley, Jr., is a lean young man with dark brown hair and a quiet voice. He spends most of his time in silent communion with his wolf.

“It is hard not to eat people,” confides Edmund, to the wolf.

The wolf licks Edmund’s shoulder softly.

It agrees.

Edmund goes to a nearby school. He attends intermittently. He spends a lot of time at the hospital, dealing with complications from his heartlessness or at home, just doing nothing much at all.

Eventually he receives a transfer to a different school.

Edmund leans his head to one side. He stares keenly at his father.

“Really,” he says. “The ‘Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth.’”

“Yes.”

“I have been accused of being evil,” says Edmund. “Or smelly. But rarely wayward. Even vicar Helmsley calls me a mannerly child, you know.”

“I know.”

“And she thinks I’m going to grow up and murder and eat her, too!”

“That’s why loose lips sink ships, son. But I doubt she really does.”

“Children should be seen and not heard,” says Edmund. “I’ve tried to live by that principle.”

“Have you?”

“Well,” admits Edmund, “I’m talking now; but a son may reproach his father, you know, if his father is mistaken. Elsewise, now that you’ve decided that I’m wayward, what option would I have left?”

Mr. Gulley’s lips twitch. He almost smiles.

“Son,” he says, “you had a bit of a fright, with that nanny shooting you; and it’s rough to grow up always wanting to eat your friends. But it’s been a few years now, and if you just stay here sulking, you’ll grow up and you’ll have a kid and the wolf’ll eat you, and nothing in the world will ever change.”

Edmund’s thoughts flicker.

“This is that wolf-killing school of yours,” he realizes.

“Yes,” Mr. Gulley concedes.

“You’re sending me to a — no. No, father. I won’t do it. I won’t conspire against Fenris.”

“Won’t you?” says Mr. Gulley.

Edmund clicks his teeth together. He hesitates. Then he nods. “I thought you’d understood this,” he says. “I thought you knew. I don’t want him to get free and ravage around eating everything, but —”

“But?”

“But he’s Fenris,” says Edmund. “He’s my second heart.”

“I see,” says Mr. Gulley. He stares off into the distance for a while. Then he smiles whitely at Edmund. His teeth are like a set of fangs. “Then I shan’t expect you to. Perhaps you can just learn  ballet, or prophesy, then. Or maths.”

“Father,” pleads Edmund.

“Or wolf-killing,” says Mr. Gulley. “But not to kill Fenris. Just, you know, to get you a solid wolf-killing A-level, or in case you’re ever fighting the wolf-demons of the nightmare realm, or whatnot. Best program in the world, son, for wolf-killing, but that doesn’t mean you have to do anything, you know, that you don’t want.”

His smile fades.

“I’m not going to make you,” he says softly. “I wouldn’t. That’s on me, son. You know that. I’d love it if you killed him, but it’s not on you. Not while my heart’s still beating and my lungs are still drawing breath. I just want you — I just want you to know how. In case I don’t make it. In case he eats me, and you’re all that’s left.”

“I’m sorry,” says Edmund. He is looking at nothing in particular. “I spoke out of my own selfish desires.”

“— Son . . .” says Mr. Gulley.

“Best I be about it,” says Edmund. “Then.”

He goes to his room. He packs. He puts on a backpack. He descends the stairs.

“It doesn’t have to be today,” says Mr. Gulley.

“Have you reserved me a spot?” says Edmund.

Mr. Gulley nods.

“And told the school and hospital that I’ll be leaving?”

Mr. Gulley nods again.

“Do we still employ a driver?”

“He can be here in ten,” agrees Mr. Gulley. “I’m pretty sure he hasn’t been eaten.”

Edmund sticks out his hand for his father to shake it. He grins. He can’t even feel his own heart breaking.

“Then I’ll best go be Lethal,” he says, almost as awkwardly as his grammar, and he turns away.

“There’ll be a nithrid,” says Mr. Gulley.

“Pardon?”

“If you need anything,” says Mr. Gulley. “If you need — I mean, I’ve sent people. And a nithrid.”

“How extraordinary,” says Edmund, and he goes out.

<<

>>

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *