Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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Flashback: “Nithrid Methodology”

Flashback: “Nithrid Methodology”

One morning, Professor Zimmerman is running the nithrid through its physical when a bull with wings and the head of a man interferes.

It lands amidst billowing dust in the clearing.

It is a flayed bull. It is terribly bleeding. But its voice is polite. It says, “Please back away.”

And maybe Professor Zimmerman is afraid, or maybe heroic, I don’t know, but he doesn’t. He stands there, as the creature draws closer. He even stands straighter; until the nithrid, it interferes.

“It’s OK,” the nithrid says. “He’s working for Gulley.”

It is easy to read the bull’s expressions, because it has a human face. The bull has no idea what the nithrid is talking about. The bull is not sure why it should be reassured by the name Gulley, but grasps that she believes that it should.

All of this is only visible, of course, because the bull has a human face. It is quite likely that it would have been utterly unreadable if it had just been a bull. That’s why regular bulls win most every poker tournament that they can get into, and if they lose, it’s because they have terrible hands.

“It’s not OK,” the bull says, because the nithrid is attached to hundreds of wires, and has one eyelid clamped back, and it doesn’t look comfortable at all, but the nithrid is reassuring:

“It’s fine.”

And after it departs, the nithrid says, “We were together. On the farm.”

“Is it some sort of natural phenomenon?”

“It is a bull,” says the nithrid, unnecessarily, “with the face of a man and the wings of a . . . winged thing. And it is holy. It is sacred. It is a gift to the world.”

Professor Zimmerman begins unwiring the nithrid. “You’re stable,” he notes.

“Thank you.”

“Why would Hans keep something holy?” Then, with sudden, horrid realization: “Why would he SKIN it?”

“It would have made the world better,” says the nithrid.

Professor Zimmerman raises an eyebrow.

“.  . . But it didn’t belong.”

It’s long gone by then. It’s just a dream in the distance. It’s like most flying bulls that a person encounters. It’s there for a time, and it bleeds. Then it’s gone.



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