The thief was perched in a high window and the investigator stood below.
Both in dark apparel dressed blended completely with their dark surroundings. Or they would have if not for the single source of light that illuminated the entire chamber. That source of light was held in the thief’s hand.
“Before you kill us,” the philosopher said, standing before fangs dripping with searing venom and six pairs of blazing eyes, “let us ask you a question.”
The philosopher felt her heart beating within her chest. She winced at the feeling. It was not painful. Just sad. Her heart knew this was the moment of her death and it was still aching to keep her from it.
All six of the creature’s eyes were on her, but she was most directly in front of one pair in one giant dog-like head. She knew this one’s name. This one was Lucte. The name meant “grief.”
The foal peered out at the sea, the forbidding sea, and he wondered. He wondered at what his mother had just told him.
“It can’t be true,” he said, swishing his tail. He was still new to the world, but already he had a favorite thing to do, and it was swishing his tail.
“Why not?” his mother asked. She had warned him not to get too close to the waves. But she need not have. He wasn’t going anywhere near that roaring, reaching, grasping beast that she called “the sea.”
“Well, I’ve heard that sharks can never stop moving or they’ll die. And they don’t sleep as we do. I have a story that might explain why, but…”
Lia pretended to hesitate as she gauged the children’s reactions. The oldest looked curious but skeptical. The middle one started to grin at the mention of sharks. And the youngest cocked her head in such a way that the lamp light cast a twinkle in her eye.
“You know what?” Lia said. “I’m actually not sure I should tell you this one. I don’t want to give you nightmares.”
“Raccoons or orphans, whatever is back there, chase them away. Or chase this away. It’s your choice.”
I didn’t want to look at the glinting silver coin that he held up, but I couldn’t help it. This was not the coin I needed today, or ten days from now, or even ten years from now. I was prudent with my coin. No, this was the coin I would need when I was an old woman, assuming I wanted to be the type of old woman who spent her days sitting by a sunlit window, sipping on fruit nectar, listening to a happy dog bark as I read a book of my choosing for as long as I so pleased.
Pike tilted his head up slightly, so he could see more clearly through his helmet. He raised his arm and glanced at the detector in his gloved hand. With his other hand, he pointed straight ahead.
“That way,” he said.
Captain Tai drifted past him, holding her own arm up, so that the light beam panel on the forearm of her suit could illuminate their way.
The dark side of the moon was not just regular dark. It was pitch dark. If not for the trackers, and the back-up trackers, and the emergency back-up trackers, in their suits and their equipment, Pike would have at least hesitated wandering any farther into the unmapped region from which the anomalous signal seemed to be originating. More likely, he would have talked his captain out of venturing ahead altogether. Even more likely, she wouldn’t have needed to be convinced.
Something terrible had come into the world. Something evil. Invisible, intangible. Some corruption that could not be perceived. And therefore could not be fought. By the time it had a grip on someone, it was too late. The corruption seeped into every part of that person, defiling their heart, twisting their thoughts, draining the very life out of their body.
No land was spared. No person was spared, no matter how pure, how honorable, how fit of body, how courageous of heart. No place was hidden from this corruption.