Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 6 –

– 6 –

The room is gone. There is only the world, and space.

The air is clear and still as glass.

Max holds out his hand and there is the world in it. It is a crystalline stillness, a thing of aspic with colors glittering in its depths. The harder she looks at it, the deeper she sees into it: what seem at first to be glitches, floaters in her eye, or phosphenes become first colors, then patterns, then whole landscapes as her eye sinks in.

With each beat of a heart —

Her heart? His heart? The evil prophet of space does not know —

Ripples of light move through.

They grow brighter and brighter until they become searing flames that chase one another across the surface of the world.

“This is how it is,” says Max. “For an expert; for a beginner; for anyone who knows the dance.”

She isn’t sure if he’s standing on a Konami Thunder Dance dance pad. She isn’t sure what music he’s playing. All she can hear is a beating heart. Hers or his she does not know.

“If you know the trick,” he says, “If you can hear the fire that moves beneath the surfaces of things, then you can throw two Symbols at once. Not just LEAF. Not just BANANA. Not just BLOOD; but also Dynamite.”

She frowns at him.

“It is an old explosive,” he explains. “They used it before the scissors fell.”

“I know what dynamite is —”

“Then come on,” he says.

There’s no turning back now!

She follows him as he shows it to her.

At the right moment, at just the right moment —

He drops onto hands and knee. He dances with his left hand what his left foot should have done; and instead, that foot throws Dynamite.

It is cheating, she realizes.

He is showing her how to cheat. He is showing her how to cheat at living in the world.

“This is the Konami Thunder Dance,” he says, “given to us by God.”

“You can’t do this,” she says.

They don’t let you do things like this at the evil academy of space.

Nor not even on the planet of the wicked god.

He is dancing THE RAZOR now. He is dancing KINGS. He is dancing KNOT MADE OUT OF JELLY; and as he dances, also he throws Dynamite.

“This can’t possibly be the true thing,” she says.

Each Symbol of the Thunder Dance is one thing, exactly, for all its many parts; one thing, and one thing only, save, perhaps, for the cheat code Dynamite.

It has to be a blasphemy. It can’t have ever been meant to be.

When she finally learns to dance it, it is the best thing she has ever known.



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