Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 5 –

– 5 –

He throws open Andrea’s door. He cries, “Andrea! Look! I have new boots! I’m stomping in them!”

Andrea . . . is being eaten.

“They’re like the boot that will stomp this School,” Peter says. “Only, smaller.”

His voice is becoming uncertain.

He is becoming a little confused now. He is staring into the room. He is having trouble processing it, what with all the red. Edmund’s white hat is like a tooth amidst the gums, if the gums were the bloody remains of Andrea’s human flesh and all our teeth were little hats.

The smell hits him.

“Bloody,” says Peter. “Bloody. Bloody heck.”

He isn’t thinking about stomping. There was this whole cognitive shelf in his brain that was reserved just for thinking about stomping, only, it’s like there’s been an earthquake in his mind, and all the jewels of thoughts are falling off his shelves and shattering against the floor.

“Oh,” says the Edmund-beast. It turns around. It smiles. Its teeth are white. “Peter. Come in.”

Peter shakes his head.

Why did he sleep through all the lectures on cannibal-fighting? Why? Why? Why? He had been so certain that he’d never actually need that in real life —

The Edmund-beast edges forward a little.

“It’s all right, Peter,” the Edmund-beast says. “You know me. I’m just Edmund, remember? I found — I found —”

The Edmund-beast hesitates. It tilts its head to one side.

“Is it all right,” it asks Peter, “to lie, if the end result is freedom?”

“No,” Peter says.

“Are you sure? That seems a self-serving answer.”

“Well,” says Peter, “yes, but — why am I talking to you?”

“I’m your friend,” Edmund says. “I’m your friend and I don’t want to eat you. That is why we are talking. Language is what lets us communicate with one another.”

Edmund swallows. He blinks at Peter innocently. His eyes are luminous and white. His head is tilted to one side. It is a very canine expression. It is basically the same way your dog would look at you when attempting to reassure you that it doesn’t actually want to kill you and eat you.

Except that he’s slavering. Just a little.

That doesn’t help him sell it. That and —

“You’ve still got bits of Andrea on your mouth!”

And that.

If your dog looks at you and it slavering a little and still has bits of Andrea on its mouth, then even the most otherwise innocent expression can perturb. That is why your dog is always so very careful to wipe the blood and slaver away before you see!

I mean, they would be. If they did that kind of thing. They don’t! They’re a good dog!

As for Peter, his eyes have shrunk to points. He is flailing for his ninja competence but he cannot find it. His stomach is too busy turning. His heart is too busy racing. The Edmund-beast is wiping at its mouth unsavorily and all Peter can think is: Oh, God. Oh, God.

“Oh, God,” the Edmund-beast echoes. “That’s so embarrassing. But seriously. I don’t want to kill and eat you.”

His stomach roils and grumbles.

“Little white lie,” admits Edmund. His teeth are white. “But honestly, I’m totally in control of the flesh-hunger. You . . . don’t need me to kill you, do you? To let you out of that body or anything? I can imagine that you’re trapped in there. It must be so lonely, Peter, all alone in that great big body of yours. No wolf. No Edmund. No Vaenwode and no Jordis. I could help you. If you like.”

Peter fumbles in his pockets.

“I mean, look at you,” says Edmund Gulley. “You’re trapped in your mortality. You’ll just grow old and die, and the whole time you’ll be caught in this world of suffering. Surely I can help you with that. Surely you’d like me to —”

He hits the side of his head. He gets gore on it.

“No, no, no, Edmund. Bad wolf-boy. No. There is no killing and eating people simply so they do not grow old and die. Sorry. I’m so hungry. It is making it hard to engage in moral reasoning.”

He gives Peter a strained grin.

Peter continues fumbling in his pockets. He is looking for inspiration. Inspiration and/or a weapon. He has neither. He finds gum!

Gum is extremely similar to a gun when spoken or in print, but it’s harder to shoot people with it! So much harder! In order to shoot someone with a gum —

You can’t shoot somebody with a gum! Peter discovers this right in the middle of the relevant exposition.

It is not possible.

A piece of Lethal gum slips from the pack he is attempting to shoot Edmund with and falls, pathetically, to the floor.

“I have a razor!” Peter declares.

It is a sudden, bloody victory, this razor in his pocket. His fingers run red with his power and his joy. He brandishes it.

It is small. It is made from blue plastic. Its twin blades could cut Edmund open, leave him bloody and dead and Peter to be the one who walks away, if someone removed them from their housing. Small imprinted letters on its handle read, Lethal.

Edmund smells Peter’s blood.

His stomach rumbles. He groans. He moves towards Peter as if his body could stretch.

He whispers cruelly, unfairly, “Oh, you’re using scissors now?”

Peter gapes at him. Just because the razor has two blades —

Peter works his jaw. Peter is horrified. Then Peter convulsively throws the razor at Edmund. There’s a flash of metal and light. The razor’s patented surface scrub technology slivers a hair off of Edmund’s arm!

Edmund loses control. He snarls. He leaps. He bowls Peter over.

They melee-roll.

Peter scrambles up and away. He flails through the door into Andrea’s room. He tries to slam it. Its handle and latching apparatus is broken! It just hits the frame and bounces back.

Peter continues scrambling! He is over by Andrea’s remains now.

He scans her for a weapon. He slams her eyelid closed with a palm and scribbles a cross in the air in front of her forehead. Behind him, Edmund is stalking in after him. Edmund is shaking his head, repeatedly, as if trying to throw off being sleepy.

“I’d like it noted,” Edmund says softly, “that you initiated hostilities.”

Edmund closes the door. Adding insult to injury it closes seamlessly behind him with a click.

“I have boots!” Peter remembers.

He flails a boot at Edmund. Edmund recoils. Edmund’s mind becomes a confusion and he staggers against a wall.

This is infinitely better than Peter had expected this to work.

“Aha!” says Peter. “Got your weakness! You can’t handle boots, can you? Because you’re a cannibal!”

That must be what was covered in the anti-cannibalism lectures!

Peter’s eyes glint with Peter-wroth. He hops vindictively towards Edmund on alternate feet. “Boot!” he says. “Boot! Boot!”

Edmund snarls. He cowers. He can’t even figure out why. He has nightmare visions of —

He clutches at his empty chest. His mind seethes with whiteness.

“BOOT!” says Peter.

He tries to show Edmund both boots at once. He slips on Andrea’s vitals. He staggers. He falls sideways. He unexpectedly autodefenestrates.

He attempts a ninja disappearance. He is distracted as three bolts of lightning attempt to grab him out of the air.

. . . you can’t grab people with a lightning!



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