by Orson Scott Card
Free Lancers: Alien Stars IV, ed. Elizabeth Mitchell (Baen, September 1987)
The Folk of the Fringe (Phantasia Press/Tor, April 1989)
The road began to climb steeply right from the ferry, so the truck couldn't build up
any speed. Deaver just kept shifting down, wincing as he listened to the grinding of
the gears. Sounded like the transmission was chewing itself to gravel. He'd been
nursing it all the way across Nevada, and if the Wendover ferry hadn't carried him
these last miles over the Mormon Sea, he would have had a nice long hike. Lucky.
It was a good sign. Things were going to go Deaver's way for a while.
The mechanic frowned at him when he rattled in to the loading dock. "You been
ridin the clutch, boy?"
Deaver got down from the cab. "Clutch? What's a clutch?"
The mechanic didn't smile. "Couldn't you hear the transmission was shot?"
"I had mechanics all the way across Nevada askin to fix it for me, but I told em I
was savin it for you."
The mechanic looked at him like he was crazy. "There ain't no mechanics in
If you wasn't dumb as your thumb, thought Deaver, you'd know I was joking.
These old Mormons were so straight they couldn't sit down, some of them. But
Deaver didn't say anything. Just smiled.
"This truck's gonna stay here a few days," said the mechanic.
Fine with me, thought Deaver. I got plans. "How many days you figure?"
"Take three for now, I'll sign you off."
"My name's Deaver Teague."
"Tell the foreman, he'll write it up." The mechanic lifted the hood to begin the
routine checks while the dockboys loaded off the old washing machines and
refrigerators and other stuff Deaver had picked up on his trip. Deaver took his
mileage reading to the window and the foreman paid him off.
Seven dollars for five days of driving and loading, sleeping in the cab and eating
whatever the farmers could spare. It was better than a lot of people lived on, but
there wasn't any future in it. Salvage wouldn't go on forever. Someday he'd pick
up the last broken-down dishwasher left from the old days, and then he'd be out of
Well, Deaver Teague wasn't going to wait around for that. He knew where the gold
was, he'd been planning how to get it for weeks, and if Lehi had got the diving
equipment like he promised then tomorrow morning they'd do a little freelance
salvage work. If they were lucky they'd come home rich.
Deaver's legs were stiff but he loosened them up pretty quick and broke into an
easy, loping run down the corridors of the Salvage Center. He took a flight of stairs
two or three steps at a time, bounded down a hall, and when he reached a sign that
said SMALL COMPUTER SALVAGE, he pushed off the doorframe and
rebounded into the room. "Hey Lehi!" he said. "Hey it's quittin time!"
Lehi McKay paid no attention. He was sitting in front of a TV screen, jerking at a
black box he held on his lap.
"You do that and you'll go blind," said Deaver.
"Shut up, carpface." Lehi never took his eyes off the screen. He jabbed at a button
on the black box and twisted on the stick that jutted up from it. A colored blob on
the screen blew up and split into four smaller blobs.
"I got three days off while they do the transmission on the truck," said Deaver. "So
tomorrow's the temple expedition."
Lehi got the last blob off the screen. More blobs appeared.
"That's real fun," said Deaver, "like sweepin the street and then they bring along
another troop of horses."
"It's an Atari. From the sixties or seventies or something. Eighties. Old. Can't do
much with the pieces, it's only eight-bit stuff. All these years in somebody's attic
in Logan, and the sucker still runs."
"Old guys probably didn't even know they had it."
Deaver watched the game. Same thing over and over again. "How much a thing
like this use to cost?"
"A lot. Maybe fifteen, twenty bucks."
"Makes you want to barf. And here sits Lehi McKay, toodling his noodle like the
old guys use to. All it ever got them was a sore noodle, Lehi. And slag for brains."
"Drown it. I'm trying to concentrate."
The game finally ended. Lehi set the black box up on the workbench, turned off the
machine, and stood up.
"You got everything ready to go underwater tomorrow?" asked Deaver.
"That was a good game. Having fun must've took up a lot of their time in the old
days. Mom says the kids used to not even be able to get jobs till they was sixteen.
It was the law."
"Don't you wish," said Deaver.
"You don't know your tongue from dung, Lehi. You don't know your heart from a
"You want to get us both kicked out of here, talkin like that?"
"I don't have to follow school rules now, I graduated sixth grade, I'm nineteen
years old, I been on my own for five years." He pulled his seven dollars out of his
pocket, waved them once, stuffed them back in carelessly. "I do OK, and I talk like
I want to talk. Think I'm afraid of the bishop?"
"Bishop don't scare me. I don't even go to church except to make Mom happy. It's
a bunch of bunny turds."
Lehi laughed, but Deaver could see that he was a little scared to talk like that.
Sixteen years old, thought Deaver, he's big and he's smart but he's such a little kid.
He don't understand how it's like to be a man. "Rain's comin."
"Rain's always comin. What the hell do you think filled up the lake?" Lehi
smirked as he unplugged everything on the workbench.
"I meant Lorraine Wilson."
"I know what you meant. She's got her boat?"
"And she's got a mean set of fenders." Deaver cupped his hands. "Just need a little
"Why do you always talk dirty? Ever since you started driving salvage, Deaver,
you got a gutter mouth. Besides, she's built like a sack."
"She's near fifty, what do you expect?" It occurred to Deaver that Lehi seemed to
be stalling. Which probably meant he botched up again as usual. "Can you get the
"I already got it. You thought I'd screw up." Lehi smirked again.
"You? Screw up? You can be trusted with anything." Deaver started for the door.
He could hear Lehi behind him, still shutting a few things off. They got to use a lot
of electricity in here. Of course they had to, because they needed computers all the
time, and salvage was the only way to get them. But when Deaver saw all that
electricity getting used up at once, to him it looked like his own future. All the
machines he could ever want, new ones, and all the power they needed. Clothes
that nobody else ever wore, his own horse and wagon or even a car. Maybe he'd be
the guy who started making cars again. He didn't need stupid blob-smashing games
from the past. "That stuff's dead and gone, duck lips, dead and gone."
"What're you talking about?" asked Lehi.
"Dead and gone. All your computer things."
It was enough to set Lehi off, as it always did. Deaver grinned and felt wicked and
strong as Lehi babbled along behind him. About how we use the computers more
than they ever did in the old days, the computers kept everything going, on and on
and on, it was cute, Deaver liked him, the boy was so intense. Like everything was
the end of the world. Deaver knew better. The world was dead, it had already
ended, so none of it mattered, you could sink all this stuff in the lake.
They came out of the Center and walked along the retaining wall. Far below them
was the harbor, a little circle of water in the bottom of a bowl, with Bingham City
perched on the lip. They used to have an open-pit copper mine here, but when the
water rose they cut a channel to it and now they had a nice harbor on Oquirrh
Island in the middle of the Mormon Sea, where the factories could stink up the
whole sky and no neighbors ever complained about it.
A lot of other people joined them on the steep dirt road that led down to the harbor.
Nobody lived right in Bingham City itself, because it was just a working place, day
and night. Shifts in, shifts out. Lehi was a shift boy, lived with his family across
the Jordan Strait on Point-of-the-Mountain, which was as rotten a place to live as
anybody ever devised, rode the ferry in every day at five in the morning and rode it
back every afternoon at four. He was supposed to go to school after that for a
couple of hours but Deaver thought that was stupid, he told Lehi that all the time,
told him again now. School is too much time and too little of everything, a waste of
"I gotta go to school," said Lehi.
"Tell me two plus two, you haven't got two plus two yet?"
"You finished, didn't you?"
"Nobody needs anything after fourth grade." He shoved Lehi a little. Usually Lehi
shoved back, but this time no.
"Just try getting a real job without a sixth-grade diploma, OK? And I'm pretty
close now." They were at the ferry ship. Lehi got out his pass.
"You with me tomorrow or not?"
Lehi made a face. "I don't know, Deaver. You can get arrested for going around
there. It's a dumb thing to do. They say there's real weird things in the old
"We aren't going in the skyscrapers."
"Even worse in there, Deaver. I don't want to go in there."
"Yeah, the Angel Moroni's probably waiting to jump out and say booga-booga-booga."
"Don't talk about it, Deaver." Deaver was tickling him; Lehi laughed and tried to
shy away. "Cut it out, chigger-head. Come on. Besides, the Moroni statue was
moved to the Salt Lake Monument up on the mountain. And that has a guard all the
"The statue's just gold plate anyway. I'm tellin you those old Mormons hid tons of
stuff down in the Temple, just waitin for somebody who isn't scared of the ghost
of Bigamy Young to --"
"Shut up, snotsucker, OK? People can hear! Look around, we're not alone!"
It was true of course. Some of the other people were glaring at them. But then,
Deaver noticed that older people liked to glare at younger ones. It made the old
farts feel better about kicking off. It was like they were saying, OK, I'm dying, but
at least you're stupid. So Deaver looked right at a woman who was staring at him
and murmured, "OK, I'm stupid, but at least I won't die."
"Deaver, do you always have to say that where they can hear you?"
"In the first place, Deaver, they aren't dying. And in the second place, you're
definitely stupid. And in the third place, the ferry's here." Lehi punched Deaver
lightly in the stomach.
Deaver bent over in mock agony. "Ay, the laddie's ungrateful, he is, I give him me
last croost of bread and this be the thanks I gets."
"Nobody has an accent like that, Deaver!" shouted Lehi. The boat began to pull
"Tomorrow at five-thirty!" shouted Deaver.
"You'll never get up at four-thirty, don't give me that, you never get up . . ." But
the ferry and the noise of the factories and machines and trucks swallowed up the
rest of the insults. Deaver knew them all, anyway. Lehi might be only sixteen, but
he was OK. Someday Deaver'd get married but his wife would like Lehi, too. And
Lehi'd even get married, and his wife would like Deaver. She'd better, or she'd
have to swim home.
He took the trolley home to Fort Douglas and walked to the ancient barracks
building where Rain let him stay. It was supposed to be a storage room, but she
kept the mops and soap stuff in her place so that there'd be room for a cot. Not
much else, but it was on Oquirrh Island without being right there in the stink and
the smoke and the noise. He could sleep and that was enough, since most of the
time he was out on the truck.
Truth was, his room wasn't home anyway. Home was pretty much Rain's place, a
drafty room at the end of the barracks with a dumpy frowzy lady who served him
good food and plenty of it. That's where he went now, walked right in and
surprised her in the kitchen. She yelled at him for surprising her, yelled at him for
being filthy and tracking all over her floor, and let him get a slice of apple before
she yelled at him for snitching before supper.
He went around and changed light bulbs in five rooms before supper. The families
there were all crammed into two rooms each at the most, and most of them had to
share kitchens and eat in shifts. Some of the rooms were nasty places, family
warfare held off only as long as it took him to change the light, and sometimes
even that truce wasn't observed. Others were doing fine, the place was small but
they liked each other. Deaver was pretty sure his family must have been one of the
nice ones, because if there'd been any yelling he would have remembered.
Rain and Deaver ate and then turned off all the lights while she played the old
record player Deaver had wangled away from Lehi. They really weren't supposed
to have it, but they figured as long as they didn't burn any lights it wasn't wasting
electricity, and they'd turn it in as soon as anybody asked for it.
In the meantime, Rain had some of the old records from when she was a girl. The
songs had strong rhythms, and tonight, like she sometimes did, Rain got up and
moved to the music, strange little dances that Deaver didn't understand unless he
imagined her as a lithe young girl, pictured her body as it must have been then. It
wasn't hard to imagine, it was there in her eyes and her smile all the time, and her
movements gave away secrets that years of starchy eating and lack of exercise had
Then, as always, his thoughts went off to some of the girls he saw from his truck
window, driving by the fields where they bent over, hard at work, until they heard
the truck and then they stood and waved. Everybody waved at the salvage truck,
sometimes it was the only thing with a motor that ever came by, their only contact
with the old machines. All the tractors, all the electricity were reserved for the New
Soil Lands; the old places were dying. And they turned and waved at the last
memories. It made Deaver sad and he hated to be sad, all these people clinging to a
past that never existed.
"It never existed," he said aloud.
"Yes it did," Rain whispered. "Girls just wanna have fu-un," she murmured along
with the record. "I hated this song when I was a girl. Or maybe it was my mama
who hated it."
"You live here then?"
"Indiana," she said. "One of the states, way east."
"Were you a refugee, too?"
"No. We moved here when I was sixteen, seventeen, can't remember. Whenever
things got scary in the world, a lot of Mormons moved home. This was always
home, no matter what."
The record ended. She turned it off, turned on the lights.
"Got the boat all gassed up?" asked Deaver.
"You don't want to go there," she said.
"If there's gold down there, I want it."
"If there was gold there, Deaver, they would've taken it out before the water
covered it. It's not as if nobody got a warning, you know. The Mormon Sea wasn't
a flash flood."
"If it isn't down there, what's all the hush-hush about? How come the Lake Patrol
keeps people from going there?"
"I don't know, Deaver. Maybe because a lot of people feel like it's a holy place."
Deaver was used to this. Rain never went to church, but she still talked like a
Mormon. Most people did, though, when you scratched them the wrong place.
Deaver didn't like it when they got religious. "Angels need police protection, is
"It used to be real important to the Mormons in the old days, Deaver." She sat
down on the floor, leaning against the wall under the window.
"Well it's nothin now. They got their other temples, don't they? And they're
building the new one in Zarahemla, right?"
"I don't know, Deaver. The one here, it was always the real one. The center." She
bent sideways, leaned on her hand, looked down at the floor. "It still is."
Deaver saw she was getting really somber now, really sad. It happened to a lot of
people who remembered the old days. Like a disease that never got cured. But
Deaver knew the cure. For Rain, anyway. "Is it true they used to kill people in
It worked. She glared at him and the languor left her body. "Is that what you
truckers talk about all day?"
Deaver grinned. "There's stories. Cuttin people up if they told where the gold was
"You know Mormons all over the place, now, Deaver, do you really think we'd go
cuttin people up for tellin secrets?"
"I don't know. Depends on the secrets, don't it?" He was sitting on his hands, kind
of bouncing a little on the couch.
He could see that she was a little mad for real, but didn't want to be. So she'd
pretend to be mad for play. She sat up, reached for a pillow to throw at him.
"No! No!" he cried. "Don't cut me up! Don't feed me to the carp!"
The pillow hit him and he pretended elaborately to die.
"Just don't joke about things like that," she said.
"Things like what? You don't believe in the old stuff anymore. Nobody does."
"Jesus was supposed to come again, right? There was atom bombs dropped here
and there, and he was supposed to come."
"Prophet said we was too wicked. He wouldn't come cause we loved the things of
the world too much."
"Come on, if he was coming he would've come, right?"
"Might still," she said.
"Nobody believes that," said Deaver. "Mormons are just the government, that's all.
The bishop gets elected judge in every town, right? The president of the elders is
always mayor, it's just the government, just politics, nobody believes it now.
Zarahemla's the capital, not the holy city."
He couldn't see her because he was lying flat on his back on the couch. When she
didn't answer, he got up and looked for her. She was over by the sink, leaning on
the counter. He snuck up behind her to tickle her, but something in her posture
changed his mind. When he got close, he saw tears down her cheeks. It was crazy.
All these people from the old days got crazy a lot.
"I was just teasin," he said.
"It's just part of the old days. You know how I am about that. Maybe If I
remembered, it'd be different. Sometimes I wish I remembered." But it was a lie.
He never wished he remembered. He didn't like remembering. Most stuff he
couldn't remember even if he wanted to. The earliest thing he could bring to mind
was riding on the back of a horse, behind some man who sweated a lot, just riding
and riding and riding. And then it was all recent stuff, going to school, getting
passed around in people's homes, finally getting busy one year and finishing
school and getting a job. He didn't get misty-eyed thinking about any of it, any of
those places. Just passing through, that's all he was ever doing, never belonged
anywhere until maybe now. He belonged here. "I'm sorry," he said.
"It's fine," she said.
"You still gonna take me there?"
"I said I would, didn't I?"
She sounded just annoyed enough that he knew it was OK to tease her again. "You
don't think they'll have the Second Coming while we're there, do you? If you
think so, I'll wear my tie."
She smiled, then turned to face him and pushed him away. "Deaver, go to bed."
"I'm gettin up at four-thirty, Rain, and then you're one girl who's gonna have fun."
"I don't think the song was about early morning boat trips."
She was doing the dishes when he left for his little room.
Lehi was waiting at five-thirty, right on schedule. "I can't believe it," he said. "I
thought you'd be late."
"Good thing you were ready on time," said Deaver, "cause if you didn't come with
us you wouldn't get a cut."
"We aren't going to find any gold, Deaver Teague."
"Then why're you comin with me? Don't give me that stuff, Lehi, you know the
future's with Deaver Teague, and you don't want to be left behind. Where's the
"I didn't bring it home, Deaver. You don't think my mom'd ask questions then?"
"She's always askin questions," said Deaver.
"It's her job," said Rain.
"I don't want anybody askin about everything I do," said Deaver.
"Nobody has to ask," said Rain. "You always tell us whether we want to hear or
"If you don't want to hear, you don't have to," said Deaver.
"Don't get touchy," said Rain.
"You guys are both getting wet-headed on me, all of a sudden. Does the temple
make you crazy, is that how it works?"
"I don't mind my mom askin me stuff. It's OK."
The ferries ran from Point to Bingham day and night, so they had to go north a
ways before cutting west to Oquirrh Island. The smelter and the foundries put
orange-bellied smoke clouds into the night sky, and the coal barges were getting
offloaded just like in daytime. The coal-dust cloud that was so grimy and black in
the day looked like white fog under the floodlights.
"My dad died right there, about this time of day," said Lehi.
"He loaded coal?"
"Yeah. He used to be a car salesman. His job kind of disappeared on him."
"You weren't there, were you?"
"I heard the crash. I was asleep, but it woke me up. And then a lot of shouting and
running. We lived on the island back then, always heard stuff from the harbor. He
got buried under a ton of coal that fell from fifty feet up."
Deaver didn't know what to say about that.
"You never talk about your folks," said Lehi. "I always remember my dad, but you
never talk about your folks."
"He doesn't remember em," Rain said quietly. "They found him out on the plains
somewhere. The mobbers got his family, however many there was, he must've hid
or something, that's all they can figure."
"Well what was it?" asked Lehi. "Did you hide?"
Deaver didn't feel comfortable talking about it, since he didn't remember anything
except what people told him. He knew that other people remembered their
childhood, and he didn't like how they always acted so surprised that he didn't.
But Lehi was asking, and Deaver knew that you don't keep stuff back from friends.
"I guess I did. Or maybe I looked too dumb to kill or somethin." He laughed. "I
must've been a real dumb little kid, I didn't even remember my own name. They
figure I was five or six years old, most kids know their names, but not me. So the
two guys that found me, their names were Teague and Deaver."
"You gotta remember somethin."
"Lehi, I didn't even know how to walk. They tell me I didn't even say a word till I
was nine years old. We're talkin about a slow learner here."
"Wow." Lehi was silent for a while. "How come you didn't say anything?"
"Doesn't matter," said Rain. "He makes up for it now, Deaver the talker.
They coasted the island till they got past Magna. Lehi led them to a storage shed
that Underwater Salvage had put up at the north end of Oquirrh Island. It was
unlocked and full of diving equipment. Lehi's friends had filled some tanks with
air. They got two diving outfits and underwater flashlights. Rain wasn't going
underwater, so she didn't need anything.
They pulled away from the island, out into the regular shipping lane from
Wendover. In that direction, at least, people had sense enough not to travel at night,
so there wasn't much traffic. After a little while they were out into open water.
That was when Rain stopped the little outboard motor Deaver had scrounged for
her and Lehi had fixed. "Time to sweat and slave," said Rain.
Deaver sat on the middle bench, settled the oars into the locks, and began to row.
"Not too fast," Rain said. "You'll give yourself blisters."
A boat that might have been Lake Patrol went by once, but otherwise nobody came
near them as they crossed the open stretch. Then the skyscrapers rose up and
blocked off large sections of the starry night.
"They say there's people who was never rescued still livin in there," Lehi
Rain was disdainful. "You think there's anything left in there to keep anybody
alive? And the water's still too salty to drink for long."
"Who says they're alive?" whispered Deaver in his most mysterious voice. A
couple of years ago, he could have spooked Lehi and made his eyes go wide. Now
Lehi just looked disgusted.
"Come on Deaver, I'm not a kid."
It was Deaver who got spooked a little. The big holes where pieces of glass and
plastic had fallen off looked like mouths, waiting to suck him in and carry him
down under the water, into the city of the drowned. He sometimes dreamed about
thousands and thousands of people living under water. Still driving their cars
around, going about their business, shopping in stores, going to movies. In his
dreams they never did anything bad, just went about their business. But he always
woke up sweating and frightened. No reason. Just spooked him. "I think they
should blow up these things before they fall down and hurt somebody," said
"Maybe it's better to leave em standing," said Rain. "Maybe there's a lot of folks
like to remember how tall we once stood."
"What's to remember? They built tall buildings and then they let em take a bath,
what's to brag for?"
Deaver was trying to get her to not talk about the old days, but Lehi seemed to like
wallowing in it. "You ever here before the water came?"
Rain nodded. "Saw a parade go right down this street. I can't remember if it was
Third South or Fourth South. Third I guess. I saw twenty-five horses all riding
together. I remember that I thought that was really something. You didn't see many
horses in those days."
"I seen too many myself," said Lehi.
"It's the ones I don't see that I hate," said Deaver. "They ought to make em wear
They rounded a building and looked up a north-south passage between towers.
Rain was sitting in the stern and saw it first. "There it is. You can see it. Just the
tall spires now."
Deaver rowed them up the passage. There were six spires sticking up out of the
water, but the four short ones were under so far that only the pointed roofs were
dry. The two tall ones had windows in them, not covered at all. Deaver was
disappointed. Wide open like that meant that anybody might have come here. It
was all so much less dangerous than he had expected. Maybe Rain was right, and
there was nothing there.
They tied the boat to the north side and waited for daylight. "If I knew it'd be so
easy," said Deaver, "I could've slept another hour."
"Sleep now," said Rain.
"Maybe I will," said Deaver.
He slid off his bench and sprawled in the bottom of the boat.
He didn't sleep, though. The open window of the steeple was only a few yards
away, a deep black surrounded by the starlit gray of the temple granite. It was
down there, waiting for him; the future, a chance to get something better for
himself and his two friends. Maybe a plot of ground in the south where it was
warmer and the snow didn't pile up five feet deep every winter, where it wasn't
rain in the sky and lake everywhere else you looked. A place where he could live
for a very long time and look back and remember good times with his friends, that
was all waiting down under the water.
Of course they hadn't told him about the gold. It was on the road, a little place in
Parowan where truckers knew they could stop in because the iron mine kept such
crazy shifts that the diners never closed. They even had some coffee there, hot and
bitter, because there weren't so many Mormons there and the miners didn't let the
bishop push them around. In fact they even called him Judge there instead of
Bishop. The other drivers didn't talk to Deaver, of course, they were talking to
each other when the one fellow told the story about how the Mormons back in the
gold rush days hoarded up all the gold they could get and hid it in the upper rooms
of the temple where nobody but the prophet and the twelve apostles could ever go.
At first Deaver didn't believe him, except that Bill Horne nodded like he knew it
was true, and Cal Silber said you'd never catch him messin with the Mormon
Temple, that's a good way to get yourself dead. The way they were talking, scared
and quiet, told Deaver that they believed it, that it was true, and he knew something
else, too: if anyone was going to get gold, it was him.
Even if it was easy to get here, that didn't mean anything. He knew how Mormons
were about the temple. He'd asked around a little, but nobody'd talk about it. And
nobody ever went there, either, he asked a lot of people if they ever sailed on out
and looked at it, and they all got quiet and shook their heads no or changed the
subject. Why should the Lake Patrol guard it, then, if everybody was too scared to
go? Everybody but Deaver Teague and his two friends.
"Real pretty," said Rain.
Deaver woke up. The sun was just topping the mountains; it must've been light for
some time. He looked where Rain was looking. It was the Moroni tower on top of
the mountain above the old capitol, where they'd put the temple statue a few years
back. It was bright and shiny, the old guy and his trumpet. But when the Mormons
wanted that trumpet to blow, it had just stayed silent and their faith got drowned.
Now Deaver knew they only hung on to it for old times' sake. Well, Deaver lived
for new times.
Lehi showed him how to use the underwater gear, and they practiced going over
the side into the water a couple of times, once without the weight belts and once
with. Deaver and Lehi swam like fish, of course - swimming was the main
recreation that everybody could do for free. It was different with the mask and the
air hose, though.
"Hose tastes like a horse's hoof," Deaver said between dives.
Lehi made sure Deaver's weight belt was on tight. "You're the only guy on
Oquirrh Island who knows." Then he tumbled forward off the boat. Deaver went
down too straight and the air tank bumped the back of his head a little, but it didn't
hurt too much and he didn't drop his light, either.
He swam along the outside of the temple, shining his light on the stones. Lots of
underwater plants were rising up the sides of the temple, but it wasn't covered
much yet. There was a big metal plaque right in the front of the building, about a
third of the way down. THE HOUSE OF THE LORD it said. Deaver pointed it out
When they got up to the boat again, Deaver asked about it. "It looked kind of
goldish," he said.
"Used to be another sign there," said Rain. "It was a little different. That one might
have been gold. This one's plastic. They made it so the temple would still have a
sign, I guess."
"You sure about that?"
"I remember when they did it."
Finally Deaver felt confident enough to go down into the temple. They had to take
off their flippers to climb into the steeple window; Rain tossed them up after. In the
sunlight there was nothing spooking about the window. They sat there on the sill,
water lapping at their feet, and put their fins and tanks on.
Halfway through getting dressed, Lehi stopped. Just sat there.
"I can't do it," he said.
"Nothin to be scared of," said Deaver. "Come on, there's no ghosts or nothin down
"I can't," said Lehi.
"Good for you," called Rain from the boat.
Deaver turned to look at her. "What're you talkin about!"
"I don't think you should."
"Then why'd you bring me here?"
"Because you wanted to."
Made no sense.
"It's holy ground, Deaver," said Rain. "Lehi feels it, too. That's why he isn't going
Deaver looked at Lehi.
"It just don't feel right," said Lehi.
"It's just stones," said Deaver.
Lehi said nothing. Deaver put on his goggles, took a light, put the breather in his
mouth, and jumped.
Turned out the floor was only a foot and a half down. It took him completely by
surprise, so he fell over and sat on his butt in eighteen inches of water. Lehi was
just as surprised as he was, but then he started laughing, and Deaver laughed, too.
Deaver got to his feet and started flapping around, looking for the stairway. He
could hardly take a step, his flippers slowed him down so much.
"Walk backward," said Lehi.
"Then how am I supposed to see where I'm going?"
"Stick your face under the water and look, chigger-head."
Deaver stuck his face in the water. Without the reflection of daylight on the
surface, he could see fine. There was the stairway.
He got up, looked toward Lehi. Lehi shook his head. He still wasn't going.
"Suit yourself," said Deaver. He backed through the water to the top step. Then he
put in his breathing tube and went down.
It wasn't easy to get down the stairs. They're fine when you aren't floating,
thought Deaver, but they're a pain when you keep scraping your tanks on the
ceiling. Finally he figured out he could grab the railing and pull himself down. The
stairs wound around and around. When they ended, a whole bunch of garbage had
filled up the bottom of the stairwell, partly blocking the doorway. He swam above
the garbage, which looked like scrap metal and chips of wood, and came out into a
His light didn't shine very far through the murky water, so he swam the walls,
around and around, high and low. Down here the water was cold, and he swam
faster to keep warm. There were rows of arched windows on both sides, with rows
of circular windows above them, but they had been covered over with wood on the
outside; the only light was from Deaver's flashlight. Finally, though, after a couple
of times around the room and across the ceiling, he figured it was just one big
room. And except for the garbage all over the floor, it was empty.
Already he felt the deep pain of disappointment. He forced himself to ignore it.
After all, it wouldn't be right out here in a big room like this, would it? There had
to be a secret treasury.
There were a couple of doors. The small one in the middle of the wall at one end
was wide open. Once there must have been stairs leading up to it. Deaver swam
over there and shone his light in. Just another room, smaller this time. He found a
couple more rooms, but they had all been stripped, right down to the stone.
Nothing at all.
He tried examining some of the stones to look for secret doors, but he gave up
pretty soon - he couldn't see well enough from the flashlight to find a thin crack
even if it was there. Now the disappointment was real. As he swam along, he began
to wonder if maybe the truckers hadn't known he was listening. Maybe they made
it all up just so someday he'd do this. Some joke, where they wouldn't even see
him make a fool of himself.
But no, no, that couldn't be it. They believed it, all right. But he knew now what
they didn't know. Whatever the Mormons did here in the old days, there wasn't
any gold in the upper rooms now. So much for the future. But what the hell, he told
himself, I got here, I saw it, and I'll find something else. No reason not to be
cheerful about it.
He didn't fool himself, and there was nobody else down here to fool. It was bitter.
He'd spent a lot of years thinking about bars of gold or bags of it. He'd always
pictured it hidden behind a curtain. He'd pull on the curtain and it would billow out
in the water, and here would be the bags of gold, and he'd just take them out and
that would be it. But there weren't any curtains, weren't any hideyholes, there was
nothing at all, and if he had a future, he'd have to find it somewhere else.
He swam back to the door leading to the stairway. Now he could see the pile of
garbage better, and it occurred to him to wonder how it got there. Every other room
was completely empty. The garbage couldn't have been carried in by the water,
because the only windows that were open were in the steeple, and they were above
the water line. He swam close and picked up a piece. It was metal. They were all
metal, except a few stones, and it occurred to him that this might be it after all. If
you're hiding a treasure, you don't put it in bags or ingots, you leave it around
looking like garbage and people leave it alone.
He gathered up as many of the thin metal pieces as he could carry in one hand and
swam carefully up the stairwell. Lehi would have to come down now and help him
carry it up; they could make bags out of their shirts to carry lots of it at a time.
He splashed out into the air and then walked backward up the last few steps and
across the submerged floor. Lehi was still sitting on the sill, and now Rain was
there beside him, her bare feet dangling in the water. When he got there he turned
around and held out the metal in his hands. He couldn't see their faces well,
because the outside of the facemask was blurry with water and kept catching
"You scraped your knee," said Rain.
Deaver handed her his flashlight and now that his hand was free, he could pull his
mask off and look at them. They were very serious. He held out the metal pieces
toward them. "Look what I found down there."
Lehi took a couple of metal pieces from him. Rain never took her eyes from
"It's old cans, Deaver," Lehi said quietly.
"No it isn't," said Deaver. But he looked at his fistful of metal sheets and realized
it was true. They had been cut down the side and pressed flat, but they were sure
"There's writing on it," said Lehi. "It says, Dear Lord heal my girl Jenny please I
Deaver set down his handful on the sill. Then he took one, turned it over, found the
writing. "Forgive my adultery I will sin no more."
Lehi read another. "Bring my boy safe from the plains O Lord God."
Each message was scratched with a nail or a piece of glass, the letters crudely
"They used to say prayers all day in the temple, and people would bring in names
and they'd say the temple prayers for them," said Rain. "Nobody prays here now,
but they still bring the names. On metal so they'll last."
"We shouldn't read these," said Lehi. "We should put them back."
There were hundreds, maybe thousands of those metal prayers down there. People
must come here all the time, Deaver realized. The Mormons must have a regular
traffic coming here and leaving these things behind. But nobody told me.
"Did you know about this?"
"You brought them here, didn't you."
"Some of them. Over the years."
"You knew what was down there."
She didn't answer.
"She told you not to come," said Lehi.
"You knew about this too?"
"I knew people came, I didn't know what they did."
And suddenly the magnitude of it struck him. Lehi and Rain had both known. All
the Mormons knew, then. They all knew, and he had asked again and again, and no
one had told him. Not even his friends.
"Why'd you let me come out here?"
"Tried to stop you," said Rain.
"Why didn't you tell me this?"
She looked him in the eye. "Deaver, you would've thought I was givin you the
runaround. And you would have laughed at this, if I told you. I thought it was
better if you saw it. Then maybe you wouldn't go tellin people how dumb the
"You think I would?" He held up another metal prayer and read it aloud. "Come
quickly, Lord Jesus, before I die." He shook it at her. "You think I'd laugh at these
"You laugh at everything, Deaver."
Deaver looked at Lehi. This was something Lehi had never said. Before. Deaver
would never laugh at something that was really important. And this was really
important to them, to them both.
"This is yours," Deaver said. "All this stuff is yours."
"I never left a prayer here," said Lehi.
But when he said yours he didn't mean just them, just Lehi and Rain. He meant all
of them, all the people of the Mormon Sea, all the ones who had known about it
but never told him even though he asked again and again. All the people who
belonged here. "I came to find something here for me, and you knew all the time it
was only your stuff down there."
Lehi and Rain looked at each other, then back at Deaver.
"It isn't ours," said Rain.
"I never been here before," said Lehi.
"It's your stuff." He sat down in the water and began taking off the underwater
"Don't be mad," said Lehi. "I didn't know."
You knew more than you told me. All the time I thought we were friends, but it
wasn't true. You two had this place in common with all the other people, but not
with me. Everybody but me.
Lehi carefully took the metal sheets to the stairway and dropped them. They sank
at once, to drift down and take their place on the pile of supplications.
Lehi rowed them through the skyscrapers to the east of the old city, and then Rain
started the motor and they skimmed along the surface of the lake. The Lake Patrol
didn't see them, but Deaver knew now that it didn't matter much if they did. The
Lake Patrol was mostly Mormons. They undoubtedly knew about the traffic here,
and let it happen as long as it was discreet. Probably the only people they stopped
were the people who weren't in on it.
All the way back to Magna to return the underwater gear, Deaver sat in the front of
the boat, not talking to the others. Where Deaver sat, the bow of the boat seemed to
curve under him. The faster they went, the less the boat seemed to touch the water.
Just skimming over the surface, never really touching deep; making a few waves,
but the water always smoothed out again.
Those two people in the back of the boat, he felt kind of sorry for them. They still
lived in the drowned city, they belonged down there, and the fact they couldn't go
there broke their hearts. But not Deaver. His city wasn't even built yet. His city
He'd driven a salvage truck and lived in a closet long enough. Maybe he'd go
south into the New Soil Lands. Maybe qualify on a piece of land. Own something,
plant in the soil, maybe he'd come to belong there. As for this place, well, he never
had belonged here, just like all the foster homes and schools along the way, just
one more stop for a year or two or three, he knew that all along. Never did make
any friends here, but that's how he wanted it. Wouldn't be right to make friends,
cause he'd just move on and disappoint them. Didn't see no good in doing that to
Special thanks to Tor for giving permission for IGMS to reprint The Folk of the Fringe which is still in print.