Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 5 –

– 5 –

Cheryl is standing on the shore.

Cod and sand eels swim by.

Out in the sea the serpent writhes. It is thrashing in the water, folded, paper, waxed and sealed, and wound throughout itself.

It is eating.

One creature has avoided it. One creature has slipped the serpent’s sight. It has hidden itself in the stirring silt of the ocean floor. It is not a sentient creature, not really. It has no brain to be sentient with, not really. It is an anglerfish. Yet, touched by the folding-wroth of the serpent, it has acquired a certain animus of destiny. It has become a potential ancestor of a sentient fish, of the Angler of Men, and some element of anti-temporal causality afflicts it with a touch of awareness in the now.

Because it could become something that knows the world of the future, it knows the world of the now. Because it could stand in the line of a timeless creature, it is infected with some elements of that timelessness now.

It feels things that it has never felt before. It becomes aware that it is hidden from the serpent. It becomes aware that it is not joining into the folding-wroth but is rather possessed by a certain angling-wroth, or possibly by that destiny-wroth that afflicts all things that believe, rightly or wrongly, that they shall one day be a part of something great.

It becomes aware that it has purpose.

It becomes aware of a path that opens before it, all full of food and life and destiny, until its genes pass on and escape it and it becomes of no further interest to its future spawn.

Then that future shutters.

The mind of the Angler of Men is defeated; it goes blank; its potentiality, as it has done before, and will do again before time’s ending, fades away.

There is a gun in Cheryl’s hands.

The gun is a hollow metal frame. It is a home construction. It shows clear marks of having been made in a student’s lab. However, as she releases the safety, this crudeness becomes inconsequential. A spark of brilliance, brighter than the sun, has formed within the metal. Lights that no one can possibly see run along the length of the gun, faster and faster, unless you happen to be a tree-falling-in-the-forest-sound-denialist, in which case, of course, there are no such lights at all.

The gun whines, high-pitched and strident.

Cheryl sights the serpent through the waters.

Cheryl pulls the trigger.

She parts the waters. She sears the deeps. The cod immolate. The eels immolate. The anglerfish and its destiny depart.

But the gun does not kill the serpent. It is hurt but it does not die; then it weaves itself through itself, reverses itself this way and that, and with each pass, with each awful breath, it is refolding, and the awful wound is healing, until even the scar of it is gone.

She fires again and again, she tries to outrace it — the serpent’s healing — but this does her no good.

It eddies away from her. It is gone.



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