Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 5 –

– 5 –

Linus has eaten a chimera. He is stupidly proud of this. He keeps wanting to go and tell Tom. He has eaten a chimera that was damned; or maybe that was made out of ants — he isn’t certain. Are chimeras demons? His stomach can’t tell.

It is intermittently amazing. There are moments when he almost respects him:

The cleaning man who fights beside him.

He didn’t know you even could get a damnation stain out.

There are moments when he remembers how much he hates him. (The cleaning man.) When he tries to let the goat have him, but he can’t. Not while —

It’s just, there’s too many. It’s too much. There’s too many people who need him. He can’t throw up, not with his white hat on, but there’s too many people. He can’t let the janitor die.

Somewhere in there the goat slips away. It cuts down an alley and it’s gone.

Somewhere in there the damned flee or surrender; the demons bend their knee to him, to Linus the antichrist; and all that is left is the ants.

So. Many. Ants.

So many damnable, bloody, unholy ants. They do not stop. They do not stop.

He actually — after a while he actually can’t eat any more of them. He has to burn them with balefire, which they’re mostly immune to. It takes them forever to pop.

He doesn’t know what turns the tide, or when it happens. He’s in a haze by then. He’s wandered off.

Most middle managers will do this, by the way, even if they’re pretty enthusiastic about it when they first pitch in at the janitor’s side. Linus gets tired. He wanders off in the middle. All the holes in his face are now bleeding. He is mumbling and he doesn’t know why.

His white dog appears. It pants. It disappears.

He is covered in blood.

He is hiccupping, and round as a ball, and so very tired, and so very hungry, he is starved.

He has been unconscious. He startles awake and his stomach rumbles. He is already digesting back to size. He looks around wildly.

It is over.

Is it over? He looks around.

It is over.

He is — somehow or other — alive.

He stands up. He staggers back towards his office. He passes a man caught under the rubble of a fallen building. He thinks about ripping the man’s upper body off and eating it, but then he remembers the Doom Team code. Something about not having to be bad, he thinks. He can’t remember exactly.

There was supposed to be an evil kingdom, he thinks.

He looks around. There isn’t an evil kingdom. There’s just most of a ruined city, and — he looks behind him —

A few blocks, already, that are shining, crisp, and clean.

He eats the rubble. He wipes off his mouth. It looks like he’s accidentally eaten the crushed leg of the man he’s rescued. He gives a bit of an apologetic grin.

He’s made it back to the building. His white dog comes. His white dog goes.

He reaches his office. It’s slewed and slanted but still open. He looks out at the city. He is dazed.

Cleanliness is spreading through the ruins like a swarm.

He passes out again. He wakes up. He is so hungry. He eats the paperweight on his desk. He eats his paintings. He eats his paperwork. This is embarrassing because he doesn’t remember now what it had said.

He asks his assistant for a cup of coffee but she cannot bring it because she ran away a long time ago. He is irritated at first but then decides that he would have run away too.

Everything is slanted.

After a while, there’s a knock at his door.

“Ng?” he says.

He staggers over to it. He opens it up. It’s Jeremiah Clean.

“What?” he says. “I’m —”

He tries to remember what he was doing. He thinks he was sitting on his swivel chair and swiveling. “Working,” Linus Evans says.

“You are a threat to workplace hygiene, Mr. Evans,” says Jeremiah.

Linus’ voice cracks: “What?”

There is a mop.



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