Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 8 –

– 8 –

It is coming. The snake is coming —

But they are ready.

The House of Dreams opens an artificial bay into Brentwood. They let in the sea.

The snake can feel her standing on a great kelp-strewn sea-wet wall.

She is standing there, proud and regal in her battlesuit.

It moves towards Cheryl. She stands there posed for a long moment. Then she clutches at the air like her hands are claws and then she rips her hands apart.

This activates the marvelous air-touch interface on her equally marvelous generic assembling and disassembling machine.

The serpent’s atoms are scattered. They are flung this way and that. They are dissolved into a mist that is spread across the world, and not the smallest portion remaining folded against itself.

It breathes and it is there again.

She stomps her foot. Ten million spikes of monofilament rear up from the waters, and three scattered spires of glass. They pierce the serpent. They raise it up like a conquered army, spiked through, torn up, impaled and held high.

It breathes and it is scattered across the world again.

It breathes and it is hanging in tatters from the spikes.

The spikes begin to bend under its weight. They begin to fold down. They are infected by the snake-wroth, the folding-wroth, the hatred-wroth that burns in it. Venom runs through the sea, pollutes it, begins to crawl as tentacles up onto the land.

“We’re getting it,” says Tom. “We’re getting it. But I want to push the button.”

“Shut up,” says Cheryl.

“You have to let me push the button,” he says. “You’re too attached to it!”

“Fine,” Cheryl says.

She sulks.

The snake breathes. It is scattered across the world.

It breathes. It reappears on the spikes.

She has timed it correctly. The snake reappears just as Bethany and the nithrid tumble by. Lightning flares through all the spikes; Bethany lands on one glass platform, slips, rises, tumbles to another, jumps, bats aside a bit of paper as she goes, and then the two are off again.

The serpent floats down, flash-fried to ashes, towards the sea.

Tom pushes the Anything-Ending Button —

And all is light.

“There,” he says smugly. “That’s science.”

She watches the waters.

“What are you — no,” he says. He denies it. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

She watches the waters.

She waits.

She can see it. She can feel it. There is something happening to the ocean. There is something happening to the air. It is subtle. It is weak. It is hurt past the point of any sensible thing’s endurance. The chaos in the air patterns and the movements of the water are corroding what little remains of it further.

But the snake-wroth is not gone.

“Please,” he says. “Come on. It’s dead. You’re wrong. It’s gone, girl.”

“No,” Cheryl says. She shakes her head.

He turns. He stares out.

“We killed it,” he says. “We have to have killed it. I used the button.”

“It’s not a thing,” she says. “It’s not an anything. It’s an ideal. And it hates me.”

The waters are still, then they are stirring. A few waves rise and fall; then they go still.

He touches her shoulder.

“It is the destiny of the House of Dreams to be hated,” he says softly. “Feared. Maligned. Scorned and spurned for our generosity. But it is all right.”

“It’s not all right.”

“It’s all right,” he says. “It doesn’t mean there’s any problem with you.”

He gives her his amazing tear-drying hand kerchief, but she just fills it with the snot that she had in her nose.



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