the pain before anything else.
It began somewhere in his midsection, and
from there radiated in waves across his body, reaching below his knees and up
to his mouth and nose. It was almost tolerable at first, but grew with shocking
rapidity, until it was like a fire burning within him.
He tried to call out for help, but his torn
throat could only let out a gasp. He tried to move his limbs, to get up, but
all he managed was to roll himself over partly to one side – a move which would
have made him scream with agony if he had been capable of it. Wearily, he let
himself flop over on his back again.
For a long time, he lay unmoving, waiting
for the pain to recede. Eventually it ebbed a little, enough so that he could
draw shallow breaths without flinching, and could start to think again. And
when he did, he faced a new terror.
He could remember nothing. He couldn’t
remember who he was, his name, or anything else. He could not even remember how
he came to be lying here on his back, his body a mass of suffering. There must
have been a time before this – he could imagine that much – but of it he could
recall nothing at all.
He moaned with the hopeless fear that
washed over him. He felt the moan as much as heard it, beginning inside him and
oozing over the back of his tongue. The terror washed over him, greater now than
the pain or the helplessness, so extreme that it made him raise his head and
cry out with the intensity of it. And this brought on the pain again, so
severely that he blacked out.
“Man,” a voice was saying, very close by
his ear. He couldn’t tell if it were a man or a woman, young or old. He felt
someone shake his shoulder, first gently, and then harder. “Man. I heard you
crying out. Are you alive?”
He must have made some noise, because the
voice came closer. He could hear the words from very close to his ear now. “Yes,
you’re alive. You’re very badly hurt though. Can you talk?”
He felt his battered lips open a little of
their own accord. “Yes,” he whispered. “I think I can.”
“Good.” The voice receded slightly, as
though the speaker was sitting back on his or her heels. “Now, before we go any
further, I’ll ask you a question. Think about it very carefully before you
“What?” What was left of his strength was
ebbing. He found it hard even to articulate the single word.
“You’re very badly hurt. In fact, you’re
dying.” The voice paused. “But you have a choice.”
Despite the pain, he felt an urge to laugh.
“Yes. You’re dying, but you’re not so far
gone that you can’t be saved.” The voice paused. “Think about it very
carefully, and tell me; do you want to live?”
His lips moved, but no sound emerged. He
couldn’t be sure, even to himself, that he’d said anything at all.
“Here’s the choice I’m offering you,” the
voice said. “I know you’re suffering terribly. If you’d rather not go on, I’ll
understand fully. I’ll put an end to your pain quickly and mercifully. If you
want to live, though...” The voice paused for a long moment. “If you want to live, I can only promise
this: you will never see the end of suffering again.
“Blood, sweat, and tears, that is all I can
offer you,” the voice continued after another pause. “Your life will no longer
be yours – it will belong to a wider goal, an endless quest which can never be
fulfilled. You will endure torments which will make you wish over and over
you’d chosen to have me extinguish you in this moment. But this, too, I can
promise.” The voice came close again, as though the unseen speaker was bending
over his face. “Your life will never be empty again.” He felt a light touch on
his cheek, like a cool finger. “Well, Man – what is it to be?”
His lips had opened to speak before his
mind knew what to say. “Live,” he whispered, fiercely. “I want to live.” And then
he stopped, appalled at what he’d just said.
“I knew it,” the voice said with a deep
satisfaction. “You’re a survivor, Man. That’s why you’re still alive...here.”
“Here?” he repeated. The pain in his body
had flared up again with the effort of talking, but he made the effort. “Where...here?”
“Wait. Lie back for a bit. I’ve got to heal
you as much as I can.” The voice receded. He felt something touching his
midsection, the centre of the pain. “This may,” the voice said with cool irony,
“hurt a little.”
It hurt more than a little. It hurt so much
that it made the former pain seem nothing at all, a minor ache in comparison.
It hurt so much that he tried to push himself up, to get up and stumble away if
he could. But his arms would not obey him at all.
And then it was over. At first he did not
realise that it was over. But the pulling and prodding at his belly had
stopped, and suddenly the pain was much less. He could still feel it, but at
one remove, as though separated from it by a thick sheet of armour.
Armour, the thought came to him. There was
something about armour...
“You should be feeling a little better,”
the voice said. “I’m sorry I had to hurt you, but there really wasn’t a way
otherwise. Open your eyes now.”
He hadn’t realised that he’d had his eyes
closed. When he tried to open them, he found he couldn’t. The lashes were stuck
“Let me get the dried blood off them for
you,” the voice said. He felt fingers on his eyelids, rubbing. “Try now.”
Warily, he opened his eyes. He was looking
up into darkness, but it was not the night sky. Nor was it a room. Far, far
above was a curved vault of rock, which reflected a faint greenish glow.
Slowly, still flinching in anticipation of pain, he turned his head.
Something squatted by his side. He could not see it clearly. In the darkness,
he only had an impression of long talon-tipped fingers, blazing amber eyes and
a head full of tumbling red hair.
“Don’t be alarmed, Man,” she – it was quite
definitely a she – said. “If I were
going to harm you, I wouldn’t have saved you.” She held out a muscular arm for
him to hold. “Can you get up now?”
Holding her by the arm, he pulled himself up.
Now he could see more of her, of the heavy horns on her head, her naked golden
skin and the tail whipping behind her.
“What are you?” he whispered.
She cocked her head to one side, studying
him. “I’m a demon,” she said. “What else but a demon would you expect to find
“Here? Where’s here? Where am I?” He looked
around. He was sitting on a rough plain of rock. Far away, on all horizons, a
pale greenish-blue glow flickered. “What is this place?”
“It’s...not the battlefield you were on.
You can probably figure that out for yourself.”
“The battlefield? What battlefield?” But a
faint memory came to him, of a head in a helmet covering the entire face,
swinging a spiked ball on a chain. He heard yells, curses, screaming. Swords
and maces rose and fell.
“You don’t remember, do you? It’s probably
better that you don’t. It doesn’t matter anyway, who won or who lost, or who
died. You’re alive. It’s all that
matters.” Her arm, round his shoulders, lifted him easily to his feet. “Can you
“And I am...?” Cautiously, he took a couple
of steps. His shoulders were weighed down, he discovered, by chain mail. When
he touched his face his fingers felt the metal of his nosepiece, and the skin
of his cheek felt the leather and iron of his gauntlet. “Who am I?”
“Does it matter, really, who you were?” she
asked. “That life is over, Man. You can never go back again.” She stepped close
to him, her arm round his back, careful lest he fall. “It’s a whole new
beginning that lies ahead for you.”
“You said you were a demon,” he told her.
“You said only a demon would be here. But you don’t look like a demon to me.”
She laughed. “I could look quite different
if I wanted, Man. If I’d wanted, I could look like...” For an instant, she
vanished, and something rock-skinned and spiky stood by his side, looking at
him through faceted eyes. “...this,” she finished, reappearing. “I’m a demon,
The spiky monster had appeared and vanished
so quickly that he’d not had time to react. He hadn’t even been able to get a
good enough look at it to be afraid. “And what is this place? Hell?”
She snorted. “Hell? That isn’t a place, Man.
There’s no such thing as hell or heaven. In any case, if there was a hell, you
wouldn’t get there alive. In fact, nobody has, before, which is why I said you
were a survivor.”
“How did I get here, then? I don’t remember
“I found you.” The demon hesitated. “I was
hoping someone like you would come. I’ve been waiting a long time.”
He thought about that a while. “So where
“This is just...a different place.
Different from the one you know. And,” she added casually, “the first thing you
have to do is find your way out of here. This isn’t a place for a man.”
“How do I get out of here?” Now that he had
got his footing, the strangeness of the place had begun seeping into him,
filling him with increasing uneasiness. “Which way do I go?”
“It’s not which way, Man,” the demon said.
“It’s how.” She walked a few paces
away and swung back towards him. “You do remember that you agreed to something
in return for my saving you?”
He nodded. “An endless quest, filled with
blood and suffering.” Somehow, now that the pain was fading, it seemed sharply
more real, like something with claws hiding in the darkness, half-seen. “I
“It starts now,” she said. “Getting out of
here won’t be easy, though, Man. I can guide you, but I can’t help you. You’ll
have to do it yourself.”
He nodded. “I don’t want to linger here a
moment longer than necessary. But how do I get out of here?”
She touched him on the arm, surprisingly
delicately for her talon-tipped fingers. “Follow me.”
For a long time he followed her across the
rocky plain. The green glow on the horizon still flickered, coming no closer. Here
and there, too far away to be seen clearly, bizarre humps and angular
extrusions rose from the rock, shapes so strange that he was glad they didn’t
pass anywhere near one of them.
At length, though, it became clear that
they were heading for one of the shapes. It was still far away, but clearly
huge, its spiky towers and turrets silhouetted against the glow.
And it was cold. The closer they got to it, the colder it got, as if it were
radiating coldness out into the air. The rock underfoot grew slippery with
“What is it?” He had not spoken for a long
time, and his voice sounded strange, as though the words froze as they left his
mouth and fell out of the air. “What is that place?”
She glanced at him over her shoulder. “If
it had a name,” she said softly, “it’s long forgotten. Just as nobody knows
where it came from. But if you want to find a way out, it’s through there.”
He shivered, and it was not from the cold. They
were now close enough for him to see that the structure more resembled the
skeleton of some gigantic creature than a building, though it was clearly not
natural. Through spaces in the walls, the green glow shone through like
There were stone steps leading up to an
entrance that looked like a mouth studded with jagged teeth. The demon turned
to face him at the foot of the steps.
“Before we go in, Man,” she said, “listen
carefully. Once we’re inside there, I can’t help you directly in any way. I
can’t fight at your side, I can’t heal your wounds, I can’t even pull you back
out here if you’re badly hurt. All I can do is offer advice, which may or may
not be helpful – but you can be assured that I’ll be giving it with complete
sincerity. Are you ready?”
“Fight at my side?” he repeated. “You mean
I will have to fight? But I don’t even have weapons.”
“There are different kinds of fighting
you’ll have to do,” the demon replied. “Some fights are the sort where you may
need weapons. The others are – maybe, different, where the weapons are in your
mind. But remember this: nothing
inside there will be as it seems. Remember that always. It’s vital.”
He thought about that, and nodded. “I’ll be
as ready as I’ll ever be,” he said. “I can’t stand here much longer anyway. I’d
She grinned. “That’s one advantage of being
a demon. Heat and cold don’t bother us. Come along.”
He followed her up the steps, his breath
turning to ice crystals in the air before him.
In the deep shadows of the corridor, he
couldn’t at first see where she was. Then she reached out and pulled at his
arm. “There’s a passage here, and steps going down. Be careful, it’s pretty
That, he discovered, was an understatement.
The stairs were steep and narrow, and so dark that if it hadn’t been for the
amber glow of her skin he would have been descending in the pitch blackness.
The stairs descended in a tight spiral, and he had a sudden mental image of a
fort somewhere, with a staircase like this and slit windows in the wall. He had
known the fort well, and there were things there that he...
His foot slipped on a stair, and he might
have fallen had he not had his hands on the wall on either side. Angrily, he
pushed the half-formed memory away. This was no time to be wool-gathering.
A moment later, something stepped out on the stairs below.
It was gigantic. It was at least twice as
tall as a normal man, and broad to match, and when it moved he heard the chink
of chain mail. He glimpsed it a moment in the glow of the demon’s skin before
she was thrust aside – armour black as night, dark as the gulf between the
stars, surmounted by a helmet from whose vision slit two red eyes glowered
It spoke words. What the words meant, the
man had no idea, but the intent was clear enough. It advanced, its metal shod
feet clanking on the stairs, and raised a hand. In the hand was a sword big
enough to cleave the man to the chest, helmet and all.
For a long, perilously long moment, the man
stood frozen. His mind was filled with the image of another iron-clad head,
another upraised arm, and he remembered, suddenly and awfully, freezing in fear
– long enough for a spiked ball on a chain to begin a crushing descent. He
remembered, and he was frozen again. Not even the breath moved in his lungs.
“Man!” the demon screamed. “Man, watch
The man ducked. He began ducking even
before the sword rose to its full height, and before it had come halfway down
he was throwing himself as far to the side as he could, against the wall.
The armoured figure was fast, much faster
than its bulk suggested. The heavy shoulders pivoted, and the sword changed
course in mid-fall, and it still would have caught the man against the wall and
cut him in two.
But the man was no longer there. He’d
hardly touched the wall before he threw himself the other way, and at the
instant the sword bit into the stone, he was already scrambling back up the
stairs to a higher level. A second swipe of the sword across the stairs missed
– he was already too high up.
With a roar, the armoured giant began
climbing the staircase in pursuit.
It did not climb far.
The man jumped. He jumped with all his
might, bracing his hands against the wall on either side to propel himself. He
hurtled through the air like a missile, his boots smashing into the gigantic
helmet, all his weight behind it.
Like a great tree cut away at the roots,
the giant fell.
It fell in a crash of armour so deafening
that the man cried out. His momentum had carried him over the toppling head of
the thing, so that he hit the stairs too far away to have it descend on top of
him. He fell, already rolling, and twisted in his fall to brake himself against
the wall. He’d hardly stopped before he was up already, turning, to meet what
the giant would do.
But the giant would not do anything. There
was no giant on the stairs, just a jumble of immensely heavy armour, piled and
scattered. The helmet he’d kicked rolled down the stairs to his feet, and
stopped. It was empty.
“Where -?” he asked, foolishly.
“It’s gone,” the demon said. He could feel
her, close by in the darkness; and then he saw her, a reddish-amber glow,
slowly strengthening. “It was never something that had a physical body. Just
the armour.” She picked up the giant’s sword and held it to him. “Take this.”
“This?” He looked at the weapon dubiously.
It was far bigger than anything he’d ever handled before.
“You need a weapon, and you won it in fair
combat. Besides, Man, this isn’t the kind of sword you’re used to. You’ll see.”
Gingerly, he took it from her. For an
instant, it was so heavy that it almost made him stagger. But then it seemed to
grow on his arm, and became almost weightless as he held it high.
“Amazing,” he said.
“It will bring you victories,” the demon
said drily. “You will need those victories.” She hesitated. “Man?”
“I have never seen anyone do what you just
did. I couldn’t believe that anyone could beat one of...them...like that.”
He laughed, bitterly. “If I’d been thinking, I’d have been rooted to the
spot with terror. I’m just a natural coward.”
“You think so?” the demon asked. “Really?”
“I did freeze, a moment. If you hadn’t
shouted I’d have been lying in pieces here, not that thing.”
“You’ll find there are all kinds of
courage, Man,” the demon said. “You’ll discover a lot of things, if you give
yourself a chance.”
They continued down the stairs.
stood side by side, looking out on a vast and grassy plain.
It was not a normal plain. The grass was
dust-grey and strange, hard and spiky, and it crunched under the man’s boots,
instead of bending to straighten up again. And the sky was so strange that the
man had taken one look at it and had no desire to look up again. It was grey,
and flecked with black dots, as though it were the obverse image of the night
sky and the stars.
They had emerged on to the plain shortly
after leaving the remnants of the armour on the steps. It had happened quite suddenly, the stairs
ending at a door which hung loose on its hinges, grey light leaking past it. When
the man had pushed on it, it had fragmented, falling to pieces as though
rateful of the opportunity for rest.
“Where do we go?” the man asked. His voice
fell like a whisper into the grey immensity.
“There,” the demon said, pointing. He saw a
low hut in the distance, which he’d been certain hadn’t existed only a moment
earlier. “That’s where we’re going.”
He studied the hut as they walked towards
it. It was made of wood, and built on stilts so that it was held off the
ground. It also leaned to one side, as though weary and as eager to fall down
as the door they’d passed through. “How did that come here?”
The demon looked over her shoulder at him
and smiled. “The way everything else did – the way you did. In other words, I
don’t know. I never said I know everything.”
“What do I have to do in there?” he asked. “Fight
another of those...things?”
demon shook her head, her hair flickering like fire, the only spot of colour in
the grey. “No, Man. You just have to go in...and go out of the door on the far
side. That’s all.”
He frowned. “That’s all? There must be
something else you haven’t told me.”
She shook her head. “I’ve told you all I
know, Man. All I know. Maybe you’ll find something to do inside...but if you
do, remember what I told you.”
“Yes, that you can’t help. I know.” From
close up, the house seemed even more decrepit, a swaybacked set of wooden steps
leading up to the unpainted door. “Couldn’t we just, you know, walk around it
to the other side?”
“Man,” the demon sighed. “I thought you
understood. The object is not to get to the other side of this house. The
object is to get to the other side.”
“What? Oh. I understand.” He looked at her
and at the hut. “Well, no point wasting time, I suppose.”
The door opened easily to his hand. It surprised
him how easily it opened. Inside, there was just a bare room, with another door
on the far side.
He was halfway across the room when he
heard a voice behind him. It was a woman’s voice. “Oh God,” it said. “It’s you.”
Slowly, he turned. She sat on the wooden
floor, to the left of the door by which he’d entered, her back to the far
corner. Her bare hands and feet looked startlingly white against the grey of
the rough cloak she wore.
“Who -?” he asked.
She raised her head, the skin fine as
porcelain and drawn tight across her features. She might have been a great
beauty, if only her face hadn’t been marked with suffering. “Don’t you know me?”
He glanced quickly at the demon, who waited
passively on the other side of the room, watching. A faint echo of a memory
stirred, too far away to grasp. He lunged after it, chasing. “Lady –“
“Please,” the woman said, “don’t tell me
you don’t know me. I couldn’t bear that.”
“But...” Suddenly the memory was his, for a
moment, and he snatched at it. “You.”
“Yes. And you swore to love me for always.
But where did you leave me and go?”
“I’m sorry,” he said, bending to take her
hands in his and helping her to her feet. “I would have come back, but things
happened. You don’t need to know what they were, just that I’m lucky to be
alive. Very lucky.”
“I searched for you through all the world,
and at last I found you – here.”
“I’m looking for a way to get out,” he told
her. “I’m looking for a way to come back, and then I can find you–“
“There’s no need for all that,” she said impatiently.
“Come with me now, home to me and our son.”
“Home?” The word hadn’t fully left his
mouth when she gestured with her hand, and he saw, behind her, the wall had
dissolved away. And there lay the old familiar hall, the chair in which he’d loved
to spend his evenings, the heavy brocade curtains over the window which would
look out on to the river, and –
The boy was halfway down the long hall,
standing beside the table on which he kept his books, and was staring across at
him, eyes opened wide with surprise. “Father!”
He felt her hands on his, pulling gently. “Come
home, my love. Come to us, away from this cold. Come home.”
He’d raised his foot for the first step
across the threshold when a cold voice sounded in his head. “Nothing will be as
it seems,” it said. “Nothing.”
He held back, paused. “No.”
The woman frowned. “What do you mean, no?”
“I mean I’m not going in there. I’m not
sure this is real.”
“But of course this is real.” She
pulled his hand and held it to her breast. A tear trembled in her eye. “I’m
real. Your home is real. Our son is real.”
“If that’s so,” he asked, carefully and
brutally, “what’s my name?”
“And yours, and the boy’s. You keep saying ‘our
son’. You haven’t taken my name once, either, or told me your own. Is it
because I don’t know them?”
The woman’s mouth opened and closed.
“You aren’t real, are you?” he continued. “You
– and the rest of this – it’s all from what I have in my memory. But I’ve
forgotten my own name, let alone yours, and the boy’s – so you don’t know them either. Isn’t that so?”
There was a long moment of silence, and
then she changed. At one instant she stood before him, his hand still at her
breast, her tear-filled eyes gazing into his own; then, she crumbled suddenly,
the delicate features changing to dust before his eyes, disappearing in a puff
of air. Another moment, and he was standing in an empty room.
He stood there for a long time before he
walked to the other door and opened it.
His hand, in the heavy gauntlet, shook
hardly at all.
“Do you want to talk about it, Man?”
“What happened back in the room. I could
see you, but nobody else.”
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “Not
really. Let’s just look towards what’s to come, not what’s done with.” He gestured
at the broad stone steps at their feet, which led down to a great hall. The
plain had vanished. “Now what?”
The demon shook her head. “I don’t know,”
she said. “I’ve never been here, but I suppose we have to make our way out of
this place, whatever it is.” She walked down a few of the steps and looked back
at him over her shoulder. “Are you coming?”
With one last glance over his shoulder at
the empty wooden room, he went.
The hall was enormous, with immense pillars
scattered at random intervals. The further corners were draped in shadow, but
there was a dull light, like diluted sunshine, falling from high above. The
ceiling soared so high that it was hard to see, but it was perceptibly warmer.
The deathly chill was fading.
For a long time they walked through the
hall, past the pillars. Sometimes, in the far distance, things seemed to move,
but too far away to see or hear. Once in a while, shadows flickered overhead.
The pillars began to change. At first they
had all been smooth stone, but now carvings appeared on them. At first these
were little more than faint lines and scratches, but as they went further the carvings
deepened, took form, and turned into things so strange and bizarre the man could
not put a name to them. The pillars were more frequent, too, so that looking
away from one only meant looking at another, so after a while he kept his eyes
fixed on the demon’s back, ahead of him.
“Man?” she said, so suddenly that he
started. “Something’s following us.”
“What?” He looked over his shoulder but al
he could see were pillars.
“I don’t know what it is, but I’m becoming
more and more certain. It’s been getting closer for a while.” She raised a hand.
He listened. At first the silence was
complete and total, silence so pure that it seemed that there could be nothing
else anywhere in the universe. Then, so faintly that he could not be certain
that he’d heard it, came a noise like scratching and clicking. When he turned
his head to listen better, it seemed to come from another direction.
“There’s more than one of them,” he said.
She nodded. “They’re stalking us. They aren’t
very bold yet, not nearly bold enough to attack. But they’re getting bolder the
further we go.”
“Like wolves,” he said. “Coming closer,
from the rear and from the flanks. When they attack, it’s going to be from
“Are you afraid, Man?”
He grinned without humour. “I doubt if fear
will do me any good now.” He looked at the sword. It was a mighty
weapon, but in the confined space between the pillars he didn’t know what good
it might be. “Demon?”
“There’s something standing up there
between those two pillars watching us.”
“Yes.” The beast stood calmly staring back
at them. The huge horned head was mounted on the muscular torso of a man, but
from the waist down it had merged into the body of a bull. It raised and
brought down one of its hoof-tipped legs.
“Do you think it’s one of those who’re
following us?” the man asked.
“No. And they’re getting closer. Watch out!”
The things came rushing from between the
pillars on either side. They ran low to the ground, armoured snouts almost
touching the floor, thick stiff tails held out behind. The nearest one
sidestepped the man’s first thrust, slipped under the sword, and came on. It
hooked its huge curved fangs upward, fangs which might disembowel a man, or lay
his thigh open to the bone.
The man jumped, turning already as he was
jumping, and came down just clear of the hunter, but it was already turning,
and the second was preparing to spring, its body braced against its bent legs. He
could possibly run it through in mid-leap, but by then the first one would be
on him, and then it would be all over. And there were more – he could see them,
running. They were still quite far away, but they were fast and would be here
in no time at all.
Something hurtled past him then, something
which knocked him aside at a touch of its shoulder. A huge horned head bent and
straightened, and the second hunter was caught in mid-leap and sent flying. The
first turned, growling, to meet this new threat, but already too late. The
beast rose on its back legs, shrieking, and brought down both front hooves.
There was a sound of splintering bone.
The other hunters were coming.
“Man,” the demon screamed. She leaned at
him from the beast’s back, reaching. “Man. Get up here. Now!”
The third hunter was already hooking its
fangs at his calf when he swung himself on the beast. It kicked out, its hooves
smashing on the rock, screaming, and then turned and rushed off through the
hall at a heavy, lumbering gallop, the hunters hard on its heels. But they
feared the heavy horns and flying hooves, and kept to a safe distance. One by
one, they fell back and away.
The beast’s gallop fell off to a clumsy
trot. The man felt suddenly immensely weary. He leaned his head on the back of
the heavy muscular shoulders.
“Sleep, Man,” the demon said, over his
“Look, Man.” The demon was shaking his shoulder. “Wake up.”
He blinked awake. The beast was walking up
a long, rocky passage. At the far end was an opening, and through it he saw
something which made him rub his eyes in astonishment.
It was daylight. Quite genuine, natural
daylight. He saw grey cloud, and a patch of blue sky.
“We’re out?” he asked, unbelievingly.
“Yes, Man.” She touched his face, her
glowing skin warm as though from an inner fire. “We are.”
“Demon?” he asked. “Can I ask you
“Of course you can. What?”
“Why do you say we? Why did you come along with me?”
The demon chuckled. “Man, just because I’m
a demon doesn’t mean I don’t have dreams. I told you I was waiting for someone
like you for a long time. Well, there are things to do, and I can’t do them
“The quest you talked about?”
“Yes. There’s an endless amount of work to
do, Man. It never ends, and it never will.”
They emerged from the opening, onto a
hillside. It had rained, and the grass was wet. The sky was still heavy with
cloud, but the sun was out, over the crest of the hill, behind their backs.
“Do you see that, Man?” the demon asked,
In the middle distance, where the hill met
the forested plain, a rainbow hung in the air, beckoning, beckoning.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2014