Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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There is a terrible flaw in the marvelous immortality elixir of Amelia Friedman. Drink of it and you can live forever — but five hundred years later, Heaven will send a terrible finger to destroy you. And even if you survive the finger, Heaven will send a wind and fire to destroy you five hundred years after that!

“That’s no good,” says Amelia Friedman.

She tosses the diagrams into the corner. She bundles the ingredients back into the secret compartment in her desk. She stares aimlessly at the publicity portrait of Drake Steverns, man of legend, that she keeps on the wall above her.

Then she straightens.

“Right, then!” she says.

She packs a bag.

She goes out to her car. She enchants it to drive on water. She leaves a note pinned to the refrigerator for her children, because she is a responsible parent. Then she tears out to sea to find a better path.

An even more marvelous alchemical elixir!

Immortality, without a flaw!

She explains this to a seal that is lolling about uselessly near a truck stop. There aren’t many truck stops out in the middle of the sea so possibly this is actually a tiny island.

“I can’t let a finger squish me,” explains Amelia Friedman. “I have children to think of!”

The seal barks at her.

She inflicts it with the curse of language. It grumbles at her. It can talk now, but it doesn’t have anything to say!

“That’s ridiculous, seal,” sighs Amelia.

She fuels up using an alchemical extraction of the nearby island. She stomps on the gas and races out over the sea. For a moment she thinks she sees cop car lights behind her but after a while realizes it’s just the distant red glow of a seal, discovering fire.

“That’s never going to cause trouble for anybody,” she explains.

In the northern wastes in her parka she revels with the polar bears. They attempt to eat her. This does not succeed!

“I’m not that easy,” she says.

She holds them off with her marvelous wrist-mounted anti-bear device.

“It’s not even my device!” she laughs. “It was made by my son Tom!”

She delves into dark and buried cities. She goes where an Amelia Friedman ought not go.

Eventually she settles in against the back of a large, tamed polar bear. She argues with it about immortality.

“I think five hundred years,” says the polar bear, “is quite enough.”

“That’s nonsense,” says Amelia.

It stretches its claws. It rakes the ice. It yawns. “If I could live for five hundred years,” says the polar bear, “I could grow large enough and strong enough to eat the continental shelf.”

“That isn’t necessary,” says Amelia.


“I too have known the dream of eating all the layers of the earth’s crust and mantle,” says Amelia, “but it turns out to be less glamorous than you would expect. The rocks are differentiated but they are not actually good at being their various flavors, and it’s all really annoyingly hard upon the teeth.”

“Oh,” says the polar bear. It glares out at the arctic. “You have shattered my dreams, Amelia.”

“That’s my bad judgment,” the alchemist agrees.

“If you’re not going to eat everything,” says the bear, “what do you plan to live for so many years for?”

“I don’t really need to,” Amelia says. She shivers. She pulls her parka in closer.

“Then —”

“I just wanted to make something perfect,” the alchemist explains.

But she doesn’t.

That’s not what happens.

Instead she goes to America. She adds reverted cinnabar and a living mandrake root to an unattended Slurpee machine. She creates a swirly Heaven-defying sludge.

“I am the Eternal Earthly Glory!” cries the sludge. “The Blue-Green Slurpee Sage! I shall topple Heaven and the legally appointed authorities of the United States of America! And all shall love me and despair!”

“Oh, dear,” says Amelia Friedman.

That isn’t perfection.

That isn’t perfection at all!



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