The herds came. Like an endless river they flowed past the palisade. The colonists worked themselves into exhaustion with the slaughter, killing, killing, killing; butchering until their skins ran red with blood, until their hair was matted with clotted, black, insect ridden blood. Haunch after haunch of trihom, herby, humpox, and leer tumbled into the pit north of town to be covered with clean sand and still more haunches. Bones and entrails inundated the land.
On the third day of the hunt, the skimmer was destroyed by a moving mass of flesh. Tennyson Risley had been piloting it between the hunters and the pit. Broken castings and twisted sheet metal were scattered over a square kilometer and Tenn’s body was lost to the scavengers along with the load of meat he had been carrying.
On the eighth day of the hunt, young Jean Dumezil, the patriarch’s third son, was carried in dead, his throat ripped out by a longneck. He was wrapped in the skin of the animal which had killed him and buried beside Tom Dennison and Jason D’Angelo. Marcel Dumezil read the service dry-eyed.
Walking away from the grave, Lucien Dubois and Alexandre Chambard could not meet one another’s eyes. They remembered the day they had found young Jean standing over the body of Jason D’Angelo, a bloody club in his hand. They remembered all too well how Jean had felt no contrition for the murder, reminding them how D’Angelo had mocked their God.
They remembered dragging the body to a place where it would be struck by a falling tree. They remembered the look on Jan Andrax’s face when he found tiny bits of moss embedded in the wound.
And Lucien Dubois remembered Jason’s near-death protecting him from a charging leer.
When the herds had left, the land was tortured, gouged, and mangled. It was a morass of drying dung, blood, entrails, and bones.
The herbivores had swept the ground like locusts, leaving nothing behind. All plant life was gone and within a week the moisture was gone as well; the land stretched away as pure desert, save for the trees on the mountains behind the camp and the tough new growth that sprang up near the shrunken river.
A week after the herds’ disappearance, Helene Dumezil and Valikili were married. The ceremony took place in the courtyard, attended by the entire colony. Angi squeezed Jan’s arm in delight at its conclusion, a delight that died when she saw the look in his eyes. It was the look of a caged animal.
As with yesterday’s post, the narrator (c’est moi) spills the beans and another mystery is subverted rather than revealed.
My thinking on this was logically valid, but not necessarily valid from the viewpoint of drama. Who threw the grenade, was D’Angelo murdered and, if so, by whom, and who attacked Valikili (something you will never be told) were issues of minor importance in the face of the colony’s fight for survival. That was my thinking. In the closing pages of the novel, the notion of retribution returns, but by then human society is settled into its new pattern, and its survival is well established.
Whether undercutting the mysteries was the best decision is for readers and future writers to decide. more tomorrow