Anton. A question, out of curiosity. Did the primer actually fail?”
Dumbly Anton shook his head.
“I have been advised by better men than either of us that I own your life. That I can kill you and feel no qualms of conscience.” Jean smiled. “I think you would not even resist me much. But I will not kill you.
“You wanted the antler; you have it. I need it no longer. But I will take my son.
“You, I will let live. Your life would be more punishment than death in any case. Your crippling of me only made me stronger and the prize that you took from me was a thing of no worth – have you enjoyed Chloe?”
Anton trembled at the taunt, but did not advance. “I will take my child now.”
Why Anton did it, Jean never knew. Perhaps he saw his life laid out before him, a half-man who let his own son be stolen. It was the first and last manly act of his life. He leaped forward, his blade raised. Jean slapped it away and thrust his own knife deep between his ribs.
Anton’s knees hit the dirt floor with a quiet shock and his eyes were wide. Death came rushing in on him and he turned toward the bed, his hand reaching out for Chloe. He died there, stretched toward that for which he had strived so hard, from which he had received so little. He was stretched thus when she woke to the light of morning and her screams alerted the colony to come see this latest wonder, the returned antler, the bloody floor, the empty crib.
Maybe this is where Jandrax should have ended. Certainly, if it were a simple adventure story on a science fiction world, this is all that needed to be said.
I didn’t feel that way. Even though I was a young writer, I had ambitions to tackle larger problems than “Who won?” and “Who lost?” The nomad and the oasis. Man and God – who was the created and who was the creator? Simple materialism vs. wrestling with whatever it is, that is larger than a man.
What really constitutes manhood? How do you balance personal independence against the need for human companionship, particularly when you can’t find a society that thinks and feels as you do?
In any case, I didn’t stop when things were settled, but went on one more step to stir them all up again. final word Monday