Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 4 –

– 4 –


Edmund’s form dissolves. He is howling. His form pales, rips itself away from reality, gelatinizes for a moment, crisp edge around a translucent core —

But Death is small and the wolf is large.

Death may not have Fenris’ Edmund Gulley.

Edmund’s form stabilizes and it resumes its strength. He bats the gun away, he drags Sid to the floor against the edge of Sid’s bed, he is howling; he gapes his maw, he opens it to devour the boy in a single bite, and confusion surges over him in a wave.

He stares at Sid. He cannot figure out how to fit the whole Sid in his mouth at once. Sid appears to be larger than his mouth. He cannot even figure out how to bite a little piece off.

Edmund works his mouth. He rubs puzzledly at his forehead. He tries to remember theorems of geometry.

Edmund can’t remember theorems of geometry!

This is a particular weakness of wolves.

His back crawls. For a moment he thinks it’s a spider and he almost drops Sid to flutter it frantically away, but then he realizes.

“You,” he says.


There’s the whispering of clothing behind him. Edmund puts Sid down carefully. He turns. He looks at them.

Them, in their yellow hats.

“What are you doing?” he says. “Why would you stop me? Why? Look at him!”

He’s almost crying.

“Look at him.”

Sid pulls himself up to his feet. He shoots a glance at them. At Fred. At Emily. At Paul. Emily can’t meet his eyes.

“Thanks,” says Sid. “That was a close one! I almost got eaten by that white-eyed boy.”

His voice is amazingly even.

“Come on,” says Edmund.

“You’re not supposed to be in my room,” says Sid.

Edmund hits him. The sound is horrible in the silence.

Then Sid shrugs. He goes over to the closet. He gets his outing coat. He slips past the boys and girls in their yellow hats. His feet crunching, he goes out.

“You can’t do this,” says Edmund. “Why would you save him?”

They don’t have answers.

“He is hurting,” Edmund says. “He is in such awful chains. He is hurting. Let me free him. You can’t pin me down like this. I’m Edmund Gulley. I’ll have you all expelled.

He can almost hear them talking. Almost. It’s like watching birds through a camera and knowing that they’re twittering amongst themselves.

“I can make this stop,” Edmund pleads.

“Hell with this,” says Emily.

The others’ attention turns from him with a snap. It’s like being pressed to the ground under a giant, heavy metal plate that someone has suddenly removed, or like having a bunch of people standing in a creepy semicircle staring at you suddenly turn away and stare at one of their own instead.

Which is, in fact, what they’ve just done.

“What?” Emily says. She makes faces at them. “What? Hell with this. Hell with everything! I can’t do this any more. Better he did eat him. What are we fighting for? What are we fighting for, life bought with this?”

She is still making faces at them. They are utterly quiet.

“Don’t look at me like that.”

Edmund moves.

She squeaks as he comes at her. She focuses on him. Her eyes flash with fear, regret, remorse, and gold. But she is just a moment too late.

The others are turning on him again. But they are just a moment too late as well.

He shatters her with his eyes.

He knocks her down. He leaps past her out the door. He turns. He glares.

They try to hold, but they do not hold. Before his glare, they scatter; they dissipate; they dissolve into the hallways of the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth like gusts of wind. They leave Emily there, on the floor, clawing feebly for her hat, and they do not stop Edmund as he chases after Sid.

Sid turns at the end of a hallway. He sees Edmund coming up from behind him.

He punches through a glass case on the wall beside him.

He takes out a fire axe.

Edmund is a blur.

Sid looks at the axe for a moment. He seems mildly confused. He swallows. He leans his tongue out towards the blade.

You shouldn’t do this, by the way. The first thing to do is to take the glass bits out of your hand. Then, without licking the fire axe, use it to defend yourself from the attacking Edmund-beast!

I mean, obviously, it’s possible that if you just lick the axe in circumstances like that you will get a pony; or everything will end in a beautiful, happy ending; or you will become a magical, inescapable Prince.

But this probably isn’t what would actually happen.

Sid doesn’t quite manage to lick the axe, either way. It is knocked from his hand and he is knocked back and his eyes follow it and there is an overpowering sense of loss in them; and then —


It surges. It fills his field of view.

Edmund’s hunger drowns out Sid’s vision. His heart catches in his throat. His mouth and his nose go dry. He is still moving, he thinks, he may even still be fighting, but he cannot see.

He cannot hear.

He cannot taste.

He wonders if he is dead now. He wonders if Edmund has killed him; if this is what it means to be eaten by the House of Hunger, that one falls forever in the great hungry white.

He wonders if the world still exists, without him.

He wonders what it would actually mean, to be alive.

And in that nothingness he reaches for himself and he cannot find himself. He is suddenly dual, the Sid that is and the Sid that is seen. He reaches for the self that accepted the burden of Torment; the self willing to be like that, live like that, that something beautiful, something amazing could be born.

That the world could live just more day, even.

It is gone.

Edmund has ripped it out of him. He’s devoured it.

Sid remembers his name. It’s Sid Sidwell. He is crying and covered in wounds. Wounds, and ripped clothes, and two unhappy spiders.

The burden of Torment is gone.

It has left him alone.

It is as if a clear full-body cast has been stripped from him, and now his body is free to bend, to curl, to reject the world, to become small.

And he still thinks, —

It occurs to him after a while that he still thinks what he was doing was for the best. He could still do it. He could still —

He looks at the axe. He licks his lips. He could still be the sacrifice the world requires —

Only, he can’t.

He’s not strong enough. He doesn’t even —

He admits this to himself. He is ashamed of it, but he doesn’t even want to be strong enough again. He doesn’t want to go back to that.

Oh, God.

What he wants is for the pain to stop.

He can feel the world beginning to crack.

His head is pounding. He can barely breathe. So he scrawls out a pentagram in his blood on the floor. He marks the edges of it with runes. With a will that has become so much as iron that the dizziness barely touches him, he summons up half a thing to clean him and to tend his wounds and brush away the spiders, and to carry him off to the infirmary where he can rest.

As for the other half, he doesn’t know.



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