Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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Issue 32
The Temple's Posthole
by M.K. Hutchins
Through the Veil
by Michael T. Banker
Notes on a Page
by Barbara A. Barnett
The War of Peace - Part 2
by Trina Marie Phillips
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews

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The Temple's Posthole
    by M.K. Hutchins

The Temple's Posthole
Artwork by Julie Dillon

Ayin ducked into the temple, one hand wrapped around her ribs, the other one clutching her son's hand. The poor filled this place -- some had broken bones, some writhed with yellow snake fever. The priestesses patiently wended through them, administering bandages, salves, and teas.

"It smells funny in here," said her son, Tzi.

A thick, wet cough tensed in Ayin's lungs. She swallowed it. "Temples are a place of reverence. Speak softer."

He rolled his eyes heavenward and sighed loudly. Only seven years old, and so dramatic.

One of the priestesses approached -- a pretty woman with a round face. "Welcome to our temple. May the gods see fit to bring you healing."

The cough clawed up Ayin's throat. She dropped Tzi's hand and covered her mouth. She hacked, throat burning. Tzi rubbed her back.

And then the cough faded. Ayin straightened, pulling her hand away. Orange mucous stained it. Before she could find a handkerchief, the young priestess was cleaning her hand with a rag smelling strongly of corn beer. "I need you to sit over here."

Ayin nodded and followed her to a mat of woven palm fronds. Tzi managed to be reverent; he bit his lip and stared at his mother.

The priestess -- she said her name was Cham -- pressed her ear to Ayin's back and listened. "Have you been to any Xook ruins lately?"

"I'm a looter." She'd been at the ruins of a Xook flintknapping workshop last week, but someone had already used up the magic in the postholes. Two days' trek through the thick of the jungle, and she hadn't even been paid. That seemed to happen a lot, lately.

Cham looked in her throat, felt her pulse, and sighed. "May the gods watch over you, because I can't. I've seen a cough like yours before. In their later buildings, the magic-hating Xook poisoned the bottoms of their postholes."

"I have wet lung, don't I?" Ayin's chest twisted, this time in sinking dread. She'd hoped this was some regular cough.

Cham nodded. "It's not contagious, at least."

Ayin squeezed Tzi's shoulder. Small comfort. Her merchant-minded husband wouldn't return from the trading roads for another half-year at least. If she died in a month, who would care for Tzi? They had no other kin.

"Thank you," Ayin said. She took Tzi's hand and left the smells of cotton, herbs, and sickness behind.

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