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Badlands VI, VII & VIII
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

Page 2

Very well then. Whatever it was, he would face it, and face it alone. He took a deep breath, checked the sword of nameless metal on his back, and stepped forward once more.

He hadnít gone far when he heard the singing. At first he didnít realise it was actually singing. It was so soft that had everything not been so silent he wouldnít have heard it at all.

It was a thin, high, wordless song, at the very upper limit of hearing, rising and falling in such complex patterns that he couldnít believe that it came from a human voice. And yet the sweetness in it was so great that it might have brought tears to his eyes if he had still been capable of tears. And almost without his conscious volition, his feet moved, taking him closer to the singing.

It came from one of the smaller houses in a side street, a building so much the same bleached colour as the desert that it seemed as though the sands had been gathered up and somehow made into walls and a roof. He paused, then, unsure if he should enter, something in the back of his mind urging him to turn away and leave as quickly as he could, to continue on to the end of the town Ė if there was an end to the town.

But he might wander among these streets forever, and there was nowhere to go if something happened. He took a deep breath, settled his helmet more securely on his chain mail coif, and walked up to the door.

It opened slowly to his touch, reluctantly, as though it had not moved in a long, long time and hadnít thought it would ever have to move again. The room inside was dark and thick with shadow, and he paused to let his eyes adjust. The singing came from somewhere in the shadow, and had not paused for a moment, not even at the opening of the door.

Blinking away the darkness, and stooping to avoid the sagging lintel of the door, he entered.

She was sitting on the other side of the room, bent over something on a frame, her fingers flickering to and fro, while she sang, sang, the wordless tune. He could see little of her for the shapeless gown she wore, grey as the dust. Only her long, pale arms and fingers, and the side of her face, moved back and forth as she worked the frame.

"Lady?" he asked. "Lady?"

Slowly, she turned. She must have once been a great beauty, but her face was drawn and thin, with her eyes huge and staring in the gloom. She stopped her singing and stared at him.

"Are you all right, Lady?" he repeated, feeling inadequate.

Her lips moved, trembling. Her voice was a whisper. "Are you real?"

"Well, yes," he said. "As real as anything is. What are you doing here, Lady?" In order not to have to stare at her, he peered around the gloom. The thing she had been working on was a loom of some kind, and she was spinning a mass of the grey material. It looked as though she was making thread out of the dust.

She didnít answer his question. Getting to her feet, she came across the room to him, obviously agitated. "Why have you come here? Leave while you still can. Oh..." she peered into his face, her huge black eyes seeking. "You canít leave, can you? Itís already too late."

He looked at her. "Already too late? Could you explain?"

"Explain...I wish I knew everything, so I could explain.† All I can tell you is that anyone who enters this town canít leave again."

"And where is everyone else?"

"Theyíre there." She waved a hand. "Everywhere. All over the town. Only they donít want to come out, and who can blame them?"

"They donít?" He turned to look out of the door. The street lay quiet in the sun. "Why donít they want to come out?"

"Would you, if all you could do was wander around and never be able to get out again, just hurt yourself with the memories and the yearning?" She touched her mouth with her long pale fingers. "Iím sorry, youíve just arrived. I shouldnít have spoken so shortly. But youíll find out for yourself."

[ Continue to page 3 ]

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Information
Genre:General Horror
Type:Long story
Rating:8.25 / 10
Rated By:10 users
Comments: 1 user
Total Hits:12268

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