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by David E. Hughes





In a week, more or less, I will be detritus in a sea of men flooding the misty floor of Devnar Valley. Lost in the multitudes, I will not have a name, only a cause. But now . . .

In a week, more or less, my feet, shod with the scuffed leather boots I had worn to the Miltown Harvest Dance, will feel the ground tremble. The worried breath of the men around me will come quicker, audible in the painful air of anticipation. I'll close my eyes, pray to Kass, and grip my sword tighter in my trembling hand. The hilt will still feel far less comfortable that the smooth sandalwood handles of my plough, shuddering through the dark soil that had been worked so lovingly by my father, and his father before. But now . . .

In a week, more or less, the chaos will swirl around me, screams of pain and horror will echo in my ears, and the dank smell of bloodied earth will fill each breath. My hands and feet will ache with exhaustion. I will thirst, but be too nauseated to drink. Only the thought that King Remoth's stone soldiers must not pass through the mouth of the valley to Harthos keeps me upright. I, like those around me, will know I must do the impossible—use a feather to halt a rolling boulder. But now . . .

In a week, more or less, I will move too slowly, and the cold steel of a spear head, or a sword shaft, or a dagger, will pierce my makeshift leather armor. I will cry out in pain, and my blood will irrigate the trampled, muddy ground. I will be cold.

But now my daughter, you squeeze your tiny arms around my neck and hold me like you wish never to let go. I feel your warmth infuse me and wonder how long can I hold on to it. A week, more or less?

© David E. Hughes, 2006
All Rights Reserved



BIO: While meditating in a forested mountain glade, David achieved enlightenment. Unfortunately, a tree fell on his head immediately afterwards. No one heard the tree fall, but the impact somehow replaced his state of enlightenment with a passion for speculative fiction. His short fiction has been published in Quantum Muse and Static Movement. He is also an editor at Electric Spec an on-line fantasy and science fiction magazine. His non-fiction has been published in several books and magazines.