by Deborah Walker
That demi winter night, Thrash stood on the passage stone, a hundred meters from the village walls. During the long hours his eyes had grown accustomed to the dark, and when he glanced at the sky the stars were brighter than he'd ever imagined: dazzling, mocking.
The wind's knife cut at his bare chest, flensing flesh to bone. Thrash longed for the warmth of his wool-lined leather coat. But that was a boy's thought. Men did not wear such things.
Hours he'd stood on the passage stone, a lonely figure moonlit against the gleaming tundra. He guessed it was near the chiming hour. Thrash glanced at the village. Every hut had extinguished their home lights. But the soul fires burned on the village walls, as they always did, the light against the Eaters.
The Eaters would come soon.
And he would not run. Even though no heart light offered him protection. He would stay and bargain with the Eaters. He would return to the village as a man. Then he would venture out with the warriors to the Melting Ruins, to fight in the broken places, the creatures that men seldom spoke of.
Thrash would not run when the Eaters came. He was not like his father.