Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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One day Martin will hear about it on the radio.

He will say, “Jane! Good news! The last of the Fan Hoeng has been stopped!”

He won’t understand the tears that fall into the cookies that she’s baking.

He won’t know why that could possibly upset her.

He’ll just look a little goofy, and he’ll tousle her shoulder, and he’ll walk away.

That is not today, though, anyway.

That is later.

Today the evil prophet of space isn’t dead. Today she won’t be dead.

It isn’t possible. It’s just not acceptable. She can’t be dead. She just — she just lost at rock-paper-scissors once. That’s all.

That’s not death. That’s just —

A thing.

You are allowed to live, you know, even if you lose at rock-paper-scissors once. It is not against the rules.

She eats her way out of the mountain in the form of an acidic cloud. She is staggering and gasping. She is blind. She is broken.

Death is near her. She can feel it. Death is bleating.

But she will not let it in.

There is a pressure on her mind.

She is blind — of course she is blind. She lost at rock-paper-scissors! That is what probably happens —

But even blind, for a moment she sees it. It is not bounded by things like perceptions. It is not merely a sense-impression but an actual —

“That is not Death,” she realizes, “but an actual goat.”

It bumps her with its head. It leaves her cut. She is a fog of evil potential, a mist of awful destiny, a film of the wickedness and the power of the wicked god of space —

She is bleeding, violet blood from every piece of her.

She staggers. She almost falls.

She has only lost once. That is OK. You can recover. It is all right to lose once, even if it is at rock-paper-scissors. It doesn’t mean that your ideology or your hopes or your dreams are fundamentally flawed.

“Look,” she says to the goat. She giggles. She throws paper. One, two, three!

The goat is sharp.

“No, look,” she whispers. She holds out her prophecy. “Paper!”

She throws paper. One, two, three!

The goat is sharp.

It eddies forward.

“No,” she whimpers.

That goat’s too sharp. Paper can’t beat it. She brandishes her evil prophecy, but to no avail!

“One, two, three,” she whispers —

She doesn’t throw paper.

She opts on cheating.

She lunges. She bites down upon it. She gulps it down. One bite.

Thus ends Hans’ goat. It is swallowed up by her evil.

One bite!

That’s all it takes!

She eddies on across the Antarctic wastes. She has only lost once, maybe two to four times —



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