Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 2 –

– 2 –

Edmund attempts to meditate.

Hunger seethes in him like a stormy sea.

He touches it. He tastes it. He wraps himself around it and he hunts in svart-space, in the ethereal realm of concepts, for the weak point in the cord that holds the wolf.

He is making progress.

Thoughts are constellating themselves in his mind. Patterns are forming. Intentions, structures —

He twitches.

It occurs to him that possibly there is a group of students in yellow hats standing around him in a creepy circle, staring at him. He dismisses the notion. He has heard nothing, after all. His eyes are closed. There is no reason to think something like that might be there.

He tries to go back to meditation.

He is distracted further by knowing that he could check. He could just open his eyes, and look, and then close his eyes again, and then he would know that they’re not there, and he could stop worrying about it. Or they might actually be there, and then he’d know that too.

He opens his eyes. They are, of course, not there.

The very notion is ridiculous!

His doors are locked!

He closes his eyes again. He tries to get back to his meditation. It takes him forever to find the same detached state of mind he’d been in before. He realizes that he’d been lying to himself when he’d pretended that it would be so simple; that all he’d have to do is open his eyes, and close them again, and everything would be fine.

He realizes that that thought wasn’t reason or knowledge, just a part of his mind that had wanted to check so very badly that it had lied to the rest of his thoughts.

Still, he is almost —

He twitches.

He denies it. They were not there the last time so they must not be here this time. He has not seen them. He has not heard them. They are not there.

He smells something. It is probably just someone in the halls.

He has almost seen the structure of Fenris’ chains —

Has almost seen them twining there together in the nothingness: the footfalls of his cat, Inedible; the slowly drying spittle of some bird; the arms of a four-armed ape, most likely Eugenie’s; the torment of the willing, that he suspects is Sid’s; “the bearing witness to the wrongness,” on which he has not yet found a way to focus, quite; and how they all wind together around the gaping red-rimmed absence where once he dreamed of seeing the perseverance of hope —

“God damn it,” he says, losing the thread.

He opens his eyes.

They are standing there. They are standing around him in a creepy circle, in utter silence: Fred, Emily, Veronica, all the students of the Keepers’ House. They are staring at him with their owlish, yellow eyes.

“Glargh!” he yelps. He tries to recoil but his legs are in the lotus position so he just falls over.

Then he straightens up.

“Do you mind?” he asks.

“Run away!” Emily says. Only, it’s in her inside voice. Her quiet voice. The others hear her, but Edmund does not.

Run away!

The Keepers’ House disperses.

His mind is a blank. He can’t even remember what he was doing.

He is on his feet. He is stalking Emily. That — must be what he is doing. That must have been what he was doing. He can feel the overextension of his limbs; he can feel a feral wildness in him; he is confused, in a haze of white.

He can taste a bit of her thoughts, wild on the wind: fear.

But she is quiet as he catches up to her.

She is silent. She doesn’t speak.

She just stares at him with her golden Keepers’ eyes.

He rubs at the back of his head.

She is standing by a plant. There are stones in the bed of the plant. Below that there is a waste receptacle. The floor is polished. Her eyes are great and golden; they are like twin suns. They burn him. They confuse him in his mind.

Her hand is doing something behind her. He squints. He tries to focus on it.

She is pounding, over and over again, on the button for the lift.

Her eyes flick off of him for a moment. He moves forward like the wind, but even Edmund isn’t faster than Emily can flick her eyes.

He thinks that she was looking at the window.

The windows used to be ordinary glass. They used to be pretty breakable. After that incident where Peter fell out of a window, got hit by lightning three times, and became a saint, the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth invested in more durable windows. They’re double-layered plexiglass now.

She’s not jumping through that window to safety!

He pulls himself back, slowly, to his feet.

If it were her nature to cry out, she could do so. There is doubtless someone on the floor who could be at least a momentary trouble to the Edmund-beast. But she does not cry out. She does not speak.

He puts his hand hard against the wall between the lifts and she stops pounding on the button.

She is very quiet, and her voice is staticked — like she’s forcing it up through a strainer.

“What is it, Edmund?” she asks him.


“My wolf,” he tries to explain. The cord had fit the wolf fourteen hundred years ago, but it was tight, and the wolf had grown. “My wolf has wounds.”

“I don’t,” she says. “I mean —”

She loses the rest of the words. She doesn’t speak them. If he could hear her inside voice then he would hear her stammering: “I am not wounding your wolf or is that a sexual innuendo because God Edmund that would be totally inappropriate please stay away from me you are scaring me.”

“My wolf has wounds,” it says again, and it tilts its head, and its gapes its jaw, and it looks at her. “And I am so very hungry. And you stand around me. You distract me. You keep . . . getting . . . in my way.”

The elevator opens.

There’s a janitor inside.

“I’m inedible,” Emily is protesting.

This confuses Edmund because Inedible is the name of his family’s cat. It wouldn’t normally be enough to confuse him but oh, in the face of those eyes!

To stand before a Keeper in the full flourish of her power is like trying to listen past a jet engine; trying to see something backlit by seven suns; trying to think when you haven’t slept or eaten in ages — he keeps getting so very confused.

The janitor pushes his cart forward.

The janitor. Edmund tries to think. The janitor. The cleaning man. He is springing backwards. He is snarling. Emily is slipping into the elevator. The cleaning man is rolling his cart out. Edmund pushes himself back to the wall. The beast in him is snarling. He is in a full panic, his skin stretched tight.

The cleaning man broke Tom.

But the doors are closed now. Emily’s eyes are gone now. And the Edmund-beast slowly recognizes the usual janitor for the dorm.

He is angry. He is hungry. The janitor’s edible.

He tries so very hard to stop.

His heart’s in a box, so he probably does.




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