Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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Issue 27
Stories
A Memory of Freedom
by D.B. Jackson
The Salt Man
by Melissa Mead
By a Thread
by Flávio Medeiros Jr.
IGMS Audio
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews

Our Vast and Inevitable Death
    by S. Boyd Taylor

Our Vast and Inevitable Death
Artwork by Dean Spencer

On the tenth day of the battle, in the before-dawn lull, I see our leader, Warlord Grig, walking the pickets alone, staring at the distant campfires of our enemies the way I have stared at them myself. Not with fear, not with desperation, but with a hard and empty soul. There are only two thousand of us here, wedged between the everwhite slopes of the Varrashan and the perfect cone of the Krazelshan. But out there, down in the pass and out on the plain, the camp fires stretch unto the horizon and past, so far that I cannot tell them from the stars.

I am nobody, a peasant from a village. Son of a pig farmer. But I hesitate only a moment before going to my Warlord and placing my fist on my heart.

He nods to me, and I relax as he looks out again at the campfires -- at our vast and inevitable death -- and says, "My arm is tired, Pikeman Hellar."

"Sir?" I am surprised he knows my name. I have only talked to him a few times, as few as any other pikeman or halberdier may have. Passing greetings, small opportune conversations. He must know all of our names.

He says: "My arm is tired. My shoulder, my elbow, my hand. I have cut down eight-hundred and twenty-six Boskee. I can barely move my fingers even to scratch a flea, they are locked in the shape of a pommel. You were a farmer -- pigs, wasn't it? -- no stranger to hard work. What would you suggest I do tomorrow?"

"Use your left arm. Sir."

He smiles at that, and looks away from Death's dark eye and into mine. "We won't get out of this alive, you know."

"I know."

We all know. Maybe we didn't on the march out here, but we know now. The best we can do is slow down the Boskee advance. Let the other legions get in place, let Castle Maur prepare. Though how they can prepare for this, I'm not sure. There must be more Boskee fighting men than all the people in the homelands.

I feel a movement in my gut. I have to say something into this silence, into this void opening around us to suck our spirits in. "Our deaths don't matter, sir. In the city of Wujia in Shaou, they killed most every man and boy child. A man who escaped wandered through our village and told us the blood was as high as your waist in the central square. Heads were piled into pyramids taller than the watch tower. And the women . . . What they did . . . Those demons."

"We will not stop them."

"I know that, sir. But we have to try."

"Three more days. If we can hold them three more days."

"We will."

He nods at me and I place my fist over my heart.

It will be tomorrow that I see him die, pierced through by so many arrows that I cannot see the shape of the man at the core. It will be tomorrow that the Boskee break us and chase us like the tide unto the gray gravestone walls of Castle Maur that cannot hold, cannot possibly last. It will be less than a year before the Boskee burn every Maurn they can find alive, overturn and shatter the towering stone bodies of our Gods, and hang chandeliers made from the femurs and skulls of babies from the roofs of our temples so they can listen to the tiny, perfect sound as the wind passes through.

But for now, we are inspired. We both look out at the countless twinkling campfires and silently promise to kill two-hundred Boskee today. No, two thousand.

We each remember where we came from -- I from a small mudhole, he from a great palace -- and think of our fathers and brothers and mothers and sisters, and we mumble prayers under our breath to call down the might of our soon-to-be-fallen Gods so our loved ones will not be killed, will not be captured. And while we pray, we beg not a single favor for our own lives.

"There," Warlord Grig says. "Those torches. They are marshalling."

"I am ready," I say. And I believe that I am, but I am not. I cannot be. I think this is just a war, just swords and steel and horses. I do not realize that my entire people, my entire culture and language can be erased from history. I do not yet know that Gods can die.

"Pikeman Hellar, have the herald sound formations."


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