Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 3 –

– 3 –

Edmund wakes in his hospital bed. He clutches at the sheets and blankets. He pulls them over him.

He remembers.

He’d tried to kill his father, he thinks. Had been killing him. He had been eating him. He’d gotten so very close to it and it wasn’t his conscience that had stopped him cold.

Fenris had howled, and the wind had blown, and the walls around Edmund’s heart had broken down —

The world had poured into him. In, and in, and in; it was an overpowering chaos, formless, incomprehensible, too strong, too real, and too wild for him to shape it into sense.

It must have been hours ago. Days.

He remembers lights, and sounds. They were not parseable. He remembers trying to hide from the awful, mind-breaking sound of his own screams.

His arms and legs are pasty, thin, and weak. They are covered in goosebumps. This puzzles him.

It had been summer, hadn’t it?

Hadn’t it been warm?

He sits up.

He wobbles.

He has a distant, swimming memory of his father’s face.

He frowns.

There is a stone box on a table beside him; that, and flowers, and a card. He picks up the box. It looks like his old wooden heart-box, but he can’t feel his heart inside it. He rattles it; his vision whitens, and he can almost then feel the dizzying stutter of a pulse.

He nods. It is his heart.

He can hardly feel anything at all. He is numb and dispassionate all through him, he with his heart in a box of stone. Even the hunger for human flesh inside him is distant, now, and weak.

He reads the card. He puts it aside. He sighs.

“Some son you are,” he mutters to himself.

It is really embarrassing. He remembers assuring his father that he was not a wayward child. But who has had the last laugh now?

. . . possibly it was still Edmund.

His father’s shoulder had been extremely good eating. He flutters his eyes closed for a moment, overcome by joyful memory, and then he pushes the gift and treasure of that memory down into his heart’s stone box.

He unplugs his IV and walks over to the door. There are a selection of white hats and coats hanging there. He takes his favorite hat, puts it on, adjusts it. He stares at the coats for a while.

“I wonder if it’s cold,” he says.

He stares at his skin.

“I am fairly sure that I am really, really cold,” he says.

He puts on a coat. He puts his heart in his pocket.

“I wonder if you can set people free,” Edmund says, “without killing and eating them.”

He is a god of freedom. He is also a cannibal. These things happen.

He scratches at his hair.

He wanders out.



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