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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 140: Kondor 134
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Kondor did not sleep terribly well. Everyone else had fallen asleep, while he remained awake wondering how much farther it was to the city and at what point they should consider setting a watch to alert them to whatever desperate men might prowl the sands looking for victims to rob. Then, just as he was settling down, the wind started blowing.
It was not blowing on him. He felt nothing. As far as he could tell, the bubble that formed their shelter was unaffected by the wind--or by the sand which beat against it, the sound muffled by whatever it was that kept the interior comfortable. He watched from the midst of what he assumed must be what they called a sandstorm, as sand piled up on one side of the wall and then rapidly departed, only to appear on the other side. He worried that the bubble might collapse, burying them in the sand and exposing them to the ravages of the storm. He worried that it might hold, and become completely covered by a dune such that they would not be able to exit without forcing their way through the sand. He wondered whether he should awaken Shella, to make sure she was focused on maintaining the wall, but then was not certain that awakening her would not be the distraction that collapsed it.
Within the first few hours the sand collected at a level between four and five feet above the floor of the shelter. From the curve of the dome he guessed it must be about fifteen feet high, but still a substantial amount of debris was going to fall into their living space when it collapsed. At that point he was not able to get back to sleep, as the sense that the sand was being held at bay by an invisible wall that might at any moment vanish letting it collapse into their space burying them was overwhelming.
I guess, he thought, youíve found something that you fear. Itís foolish, really--itís probably not as painful as death by vacuum, and youíve been through that. But it was different. It was a slow death, a death where you struggled hopelessly against the weight atop you trying to dig your way to the air, where you drowned in dust. He did not want to die that way.
The only way he could see to avoid it was to be standing when it happened, and since he couldnít know when it would happen, he stood, for most of the day, looking over the top of the new dune as if buried in it.
At least he was comfortable.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #269: Versers Arrive. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: