Eden Succeeding

Eden Succeeding

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Eden Succeeding is a first-hand chronicle of a doomed human colony on another planet, by Christopher L. DelGuercio.

They came to Second Eden with expectations, with hopes and dreams. They knew it would be hard work, especially at first. But they never considered what dangers a planet so full of life might harbor.

Pushed to the edge by watching those around them fall prey to the insidious planet, the colonists in turn push their willingness to believe beyond sensible bounds. Lacking suitable weapons to fight the creeping illness within and the lurking dangers without, desperation leads them to a dangerous theory.

As the Cardinal seeks to enforce her solution, the Meatman must decide how far he is willing to go to save them all.

But Eden has its own plan for the colonists… and the Meatman.

Phase 5 Elements:

Alien Planet 35 (Ap 35); Colony (303); Transmutation 195 (Tm195)

Classification: Horror/Science Fiction
Appropriate for Mature Teen and Adult readers: violence; death of creatures and teens; mutation; suggested insanity; mental manipulation 

ISBN: 978-1-942342-83-0 Kindle e-book 

Other formats forthcoming, and Eden Succeeding is included in 3 Tales of Horror with two other horror novellas, available in a variety of formats.

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First published by Twenty or Less Press in 2014; Phase 5's editions are expanded and revised from that original publication

Try a Free Sample of Eden Succeeding  below 

Praise for Eden Succeeding:

Eden Succeeding was first released by Twenty or Less Press in 2014, and was nominated for CNY Book of the Year Award in 2014.  The following praise was received:

“Chris DelGuercio has crafted a fascinating dystopia in Eden Succeeding, wonderfully describing a world that feels like an H.R. Giger painting. I am eager to read more from this upcoming author.

-David Peters, editor, Fried Fiction

 “The classic sci-fi trope -- Earthlings colonizing an alien planet -- finds new life in Christopher DelGuercio's debut novella which offers a fresh, provocative, and chilling take on what it means to be human. From the ties that bind husband and wife to the concept of survival at all costs, DelGuercio superimposes society's most difficult ethical dilemmas onto a world in which change is the only constant -- and places its moral compass in the stained and reluctant hands of The Meatman, a hero whose voice rings heartbreaking and true. While justice on this brave new world may be up for grabs, if there's any justice here on Earth this edition will be the first of many subsequent visits to DelGuercio's dangerous and seductive Eden.”

-Linda Lowen, award-winning author, columnist, and contributor to MSN.com and About.com

 “A positively excellent (story) . . . kinky and evocative . . . without a single padded scene or wasted sentence . . . It’s fast, fun action, but it ain’t just filler. Every scene builds on the previous and informs the upcoming . . . The main characters are believable and nuanced and (DelGuercio) manages to create emotional investment within the framework of a sci-fi thriller. No small feat. I’m impressed . . . DelGuercio is one bright spot on a plate on nori. He’s like salmon roe.”

-TQR Stories

 “Christopher DelGuercio’s novelette, Eden Succeeding, is a chilling and creative work of speculative fiction. Full of luscious detail, disturbing and disturbed characters, and a haunting sense of dread that lingers long after the book is set safely on the shelf, Eden succeeds, not only in completely engaging its readers but also by leaving them yearning for more.”

-Megan Davidson, author of
The Thundering, Once a Rogue and The Song Within

 About the Author

Christopher L. DelGuercio is a Resident of upstate New York, where he enjoys spending time with his son, reading, attending film festivals, disc golfing, listening to music, and laughing with friends and family. 

He is a graduate of The State University of New York at Oswego and current faculty member at The Downtown Writers Center of Syracuse as a fiction instructor.

Other publications include Blood, Blade & Thruster; Chaos Theory: Tales Askew; Fried Fiction;Parade of Phantoms; Quantum Muse; Space Westerns; Kaleidotrope; OG’s Speculative Fiction; Forbidden Speculation; and Tabloid Purposes IV.

He can be contacted at www.cdelguercio.com

About the Cover Artist

Bill Wright makes his home in Berlin, MD and has been creating science fiction hardware and astronomical art for many years. With a science background and a Bachelors degree in microbiology, some of Bill's work deals with the representation and discovery of alien life forms. His spacecraft and stations seem realistic and plausible in design, finding beauty in the functional. His work has been published by The Planetery Society and used in promotional campaigns for The National Space Society. 

You can find more of his work at http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/bill-wright.html


For more info contact: willard.wright@mchsi.com

Free Sample of Eden Succeeding

Preview

After all the probes, all the scanning, all the yottobytes of data on Eden’s surface, this spot was chosen for the colony. The plans were made. The ships launched. But we never anticipated what was twisting around in the deep dark just below us.

On Earth they fought over land, over water. They fought over money. They fought to see who had the biggest gun, who had the biggest god. We were chosen to be Alpha colony because we were all on the same side. Cardinal Malic was our leader. She was just what we needed to survive in a place like Second Eden.

Bean snapped me out of my reverie. “Did you hear those Digger boys over on Sanctuary Hill found a whole house buried in the ground?”

“How far underground?” I asked.

“Just a few feet. They think maybe it was a mudslide. They found pictures in there too, old drawings of the hillside. I saw them.  The bush doesn’t look the same in those pictures. It’s taller now, and fuller. In the pictures it looks like it was just starting to grow. Those drawings didn’t come from us. They came from whoever was here before us.” 

“Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Maybe we weren’t the first to try to settle here after all. I got a feeling this place is just full of secrets.”

“Well I want to know what happened to those people, where they went.” His voice got low. “If that’s where I’m going.”

Prologue

I am the Meatman, and I bring them the meat.

I’ve served three masters in my life. As I speak to you now, I am The Chronicler of Events because I’m the only one left who can perform the task, but when we originally landed on Second Eden, I was to be an Instructor of Knowledges—my formal training. An instructor for a generation that we soon came to realize would never bloom here. A dead end job if ever there was one.

It was then that I discovered my true calling. My people wanted meat, and I provided it. I was good at it. I did it willingly. I made no apologies then, nor do I now.

I am The Meatman. I bring them the meat.

BEFORE THE FALL

 1

  Mud covered my legs and a suction pop of air exploded with each step I pulled out of the muck. It was always like this on Eden after a rain. And there was always a rain. I trudged through it all, my squat body hunched close to the ground, weighted down by an arsenal of edged metals. It was an efficient way for a man like me to travel without the benefit of wide siltshoes to keep my feet aboveground: a slow-rolling waddle, shuffling, the way a drootmunk moves. Besides, when Bean’s deformed feet punched through the wiring of his own shoes, I gave the boy mine. He needed them, being too spindly and sick to drootwalk.

  “Keep up,” I called out to the boy, forgetting Eden’s influence had not only slowed his feet but the sound of my voice was becoming lost to him as well. His ears had withered and dropped off, and their canals had narrowed. The growth of shingles over the holes forced Bean to rely on the reading of my lips, but he was not always successful with the wire-tangle of beard I had hanging over my mouth and creeping across my face. I waved him forward and watched him double-time it to catch me.  

  Trotting alongside me now, he labored for breath.

  We were still within the safety of the outer bushwoods, a hedgerow of deep, wild greenery sitting atop a mesh of subterranean roots, so I slowed my gait and the two of us began to walk. I took out my journal and surveyed the clear sky of Eden’s phytoplankton-rich atmosphere, olive green at the horizon and darkening as my gaze went up. Its pale sun blazed down on us. Bean turned his head to face me, his neck ratcheting loudly, each diseased click of his vertebrae sickening me to my core. I tried like hell to disguise my groan, but failed. I hastily finished my entry and returned the journal to my coat pocket.

  “I don’t think I should work for you anymore,” he said, his dull, gray eyes raised to meet my healthy blues. He was slapping at the leaves and the plump turquoise fruit hanging from the branches of the jimp trees to our right. “It’s useless. I’m only slowing you down anyway.”

  I remember when he first came to me two years ago, his eyes had held such warmth. They’d been a deep brown, so soft they looked like a pelt. I would never forget those eyes. Never. The boy was right, of course. I didn’t want him to know that, but my silence said as much.

  “For godsakes, why do you even still take me with you?” he continued, a defiance I’d never heard from him before ringing in his voice, almost as if his approaching end served to strengthen him. It made me proud in a strange way.

  “I know why my father asked you to take me on,” he said. “But it’s clearly not working; I’m not like you. Eden’s already too much inside me.”

  It was good to see someone share in my anger. “What makes you so sure we’re not alike?” I asked.

  “Just look at me!” His voice strained and cracked. He massaged his neck, the verdant skin alive with bulging, pulsing rivulets of vein. “You want me to say it? You want to hear me say I’m a goner?” I shook my head. “I’m not like you at all.”

I grabbed hold of his arms. “People believe their eyes,” I told him. “But their eyes only tell them what they already believe.”

I could see that he was shocked that I grabbed him. “What do you mean?” he said.

  “You can’t even see it, with all the time you spend with me.” I gave a half-hearted laugh. “I’m dying like all the rest.” I let go of him and yanked at my sleeve to reveal a hairy, muscled forearm. Dark dirt encrusted my hands, framing each fingernail. I turned my palm up and while my hand was a permanent black, the inside of my arm was clean and covered with scars that wound up and down the length of me like pink worms.

  Bean’s eyes got wide. “Are those from the lissur?”

  I nodded. “Those first years as Meatman I found out I’d wear my mistakes for the rest of my life. But that’s not what I want you to see.” I thrust my arm into the boy’s face. “Look closer.”

  Bean examined the skin carefully. “You’re jaundiced,” he said with surprise.

  I nodded again and rolled down my sleeve. “After that, I’ll green, and then brown and harden.” I squared up my face with his.   “Do you see my eyes?”

  The boy squinted and narrowed his eyes to chalk-colored slits.

  “You see the snow in them?”

  “All I see is blue,” Bean said.

  “Believe me, there’s white in there too. It won’t be long before they’re as silver as yours. No one’s getting spared, my friend. It just feels that way to you because you’re farther along. We’re all riding on the same train, just in different cars. Just one track though.”

  He seemed to take the news of our shared fates with genuine cheer, even fighting back a grin. I allowed him that. It was damn hard being a kid in this place, and no one—kid or not—wants to feel like they’re alone in this, or any, world. We walked on beneath the harsh stare of Eden’s sun, feeling a little better that we’d gotten a scream or two out of our systems.

  “You know I was scared when father told me I was apprenticing with you,” Bean said.

  A smile rose up on my face. “Am I so scary to you first gens?”

  “My friends all say you’re some kind of a witch, charming the dirt dragons and cooking up secret potions, just you and Nessa all alone in the bush.”

  “Warlock,” I said. “A woman is a witch but a man’s called a warlock.” I had to chuckle. “So is that really what they say about me?”

  “Oh yeah, and that’s not all. I didn’t know if I was more frightened of the lissur or you.” His voice still held some innocence. The child inside that decayed husk glimmered through for just a moment and his words held this dumb, bittersweet smile clinging to me.

  “How old are you now, Bean?”

  “Thirteen,” he said, puffing out his chest slightly. “What about you? I bet you’re really old, huh?”

  “Hey, I’m only thirty-eight,” I told him.

  “Yeah, that’s really old.”

  I shrugged. When most first gens didn’t see their tenth birthday, thirteen must have felt positively elderly, and I must’ve looked like Methuselah. In the deep distance, clouds coalesced. “We’d better pick it up. We’ve got redfields to cross and there’s another storm coming.” I sank my feet into the mud again.

  The boy nodded and quickened his pace. “You talk like my dad sometimes. Were you ever someone’s dad, back on Earth?”

  “Nope,” I said. “Me and Nessa, we didn’t want to raise any children back there.”

  “So you were waiting until you got to Eden?”

  I paused a moment before I took another step. “That was our big plan, all right. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men.”

  “The best-laid what?”

  “No, I guess you wouldn’t, would you?” I said. “Probably better that way.”

  Bean shook at my arm playfully. “Okay, as usual I’m totally lost right now. So tell me what happened,” he said, “with you and Nessa. And stop looking so gloomy, I’m the one who’s sick, remember?”

  “Maybe you should concentrate on keeping pace instead of talking so much,” I said.

  “I’m sorry. I’m always prying, that’s what father says.” Bean clammed up and kept moving.

  But after a while his sullenness got to eating at my gut. I was feeling guilty. After two years with me I guess the boy did deserve something more than I was giving him. But how could I make him understand that we couldn’t bring children into this world either? I finally blurted out the words.

  “Did you like growing up here?”

  He smiled, pleased our conversation hadn’t ended, paused in thought for a moment, then spoke. “I remember my mom would read me stories and sing to me in bed. I used to love that. Me and my dad would play catch with garva nuts. And, oh, thanks to you my baby brother thinks I’m a medieval knight or something.” He stretched his arms out. “Yeah, I even had a girlfriend once.” He had the far-off look of an older man reminiscing over a spent lifetime. “It’s been better than not growing up at all,” he said.

  Christ on a crutch, what could I say to that? Damn this kid! I’ve never heard anyone be so thankful for so little. I guess after almost forty years breathing—half of them spent with the woman I love—I don’t get to feel sorry for myself.

  “If I’m being honest, this place scared us,” I told him. “We couldn’t fathom bringing a child up in this place, same as the last one. Maybe we’re cowards.”

  Bean shook his head vigorously. “You’re the bravest person I know.”

  I placed my hand on top of the boy’s head. “If we knew then that having a kid like you was even possible, I think we might have changed our minds.”

  He reached up and wrapped his arm around my shoulder as we walked and my feet seemed to lighten. I imagine this must be what it feels like to have a son of your own. I have to remember to put this is my journal.

  But the next moment my thoughts wandered to Nessa and the inevitability of the time we had left together. I wanted to tell Bean how my chest tightened every time I took out that creased and faded picture of her at the lake, looking the way she used to. I wanted to explain to him that I couldn’t accept my life here, or anywhere else, without her. I wanted to say that I was jealous of Eden, how its grip held increasing sway over her. But he’s just a kid, with plenty of his own lamentations. No sense in piling mine on him too. There would be no children for Nessa and I.

  “It’s too late now,” was all I told him. “That’s all there is to it.”

 2

  After galumphing through the strangling brush, we brought our feet down onto a blue-green forest bed, and soon after, emerged at the clearing where my thatched-roof house stood. We passed the white blossoms of the almond tree Nessa and I planted when we first put down stakes and walked to the door I fashioned myself from twistwood all those years before. I laid the day’s catch into a barrow and told Bean, “Wheel this around back to the chop house.” Then lifting the lever, I pressed my weight against the heavy wooden door.

  Nessa’s croaking voice called to me from the bedroom. “Is that you, Jon?” She vomited the words out as if they were glass shards. The sound grated against my ears.

  From the barrel beside the door, I ladled a jug full of water and brought it to the bedroom. Yellowed photographs, half-covered with a sheet and speckled with mold, cluttered the dresser where her jewelry box stood. I placed the jug beside the bed and untied the harnesses that held her wrists to the bedposts, carefully avoiding the wide pink channels where the bindings had gouged through the toughened skin of her arms. With any lingering shred of strength I possessed, I hoisted her upright on the bed.

  Her skin was brown and striated. She snatched the jug from my hands and poured the water down her gullet, letting it spill down her sides. With great zeal, she rubbed the overflow over her leathery flesh.

  “How was today?” I asked gently.

  “I dreamed,” she said between gulps of water.

  “Is that good?”

  “I dreamed that I was this enormous thing.” She spread her arms as far as they would stretch and the water sloshed in the jug. “An enormous, living thing, or at least I think I was.”

  Each new vision Eden presented to her terrified me more than the last. “And you’re big?” I asked.

  “It’s not just that I’m big—it’s how I’m big. I’m all middle.” She screwed her face up. “I’m this greasy, pulsing thing—like an egg sack. It sounds scary, right?”

  I nodded.

  “Do you know what the scariest part about it was? I don’t think it was a dream at all.”

  “Please, Nessa, don’t. It was just a dream.” A rock formed in my throat. “Don’t say that. You know it kills me when you—”

  “I heard the voices, too,” she said, not listening to me anymore.

  “The voices are lies, Nessa. We’ve been over this.” I touched her hair, softly, for fear of it coming loose in my hand. Most of it had discolored and fallen out already, but there were still patches with roots strong enough to allow a calloused, roughhewn palm like mine to slide over them. “I’m sorry I wasn’t home sooner,” I told her. “I could’ve helped you make sense of this.”

  She looked at me, but I avoided her pupil-less eyes. Instead, I caressed her cheek with my palm and felt the rigidity that had taken over her entire body. She was hard, like a corpse, and instinctively I drew my hand away. Nessa’s face sagged as if she were about to cry, but we both knew no tears would come from these new eyes. She trembled as I held her close and my eyes wept, doing the work for both of us.

  “But the voices,” she said. “They don’t feel like lies.”

  I pulled away then rubbed at my temples. “They… are… lies! Don’t listen to them,” I said. “Bean’s in the back. There’s meat that needs tending. I’ll be a while.”

  “You’ll be here, just out back?” she said. “Then you don’t have to use the straps on me this time. I promise I won’t leave.”

  “Okay then,” I said as I made for the door. I opened it and stopped there with my back to her. How could I be mad? None of this was her fault. I turned around. “I need you,” I said.

  She smiled and poured the last of the water into a cup. “Thank you, Jon. You’re so sweet to me.” I left her in our bedroom and exited the front door. From the outside, I bolted it shut.

  I walked over the fallen almond blossoms around back to the small shed I’d built when I first took up hunting—nothing more than a single-room hut with vertical slats set apart for air to flow through, like a gap-toothed smile. At the doorway, I took out my journal and scribbled a few passages in it.

  Bean was already elbow-deep in the basin tub, chopping the meat into manageable pieces. He threw each slab into the tub with a wet thwap. I pulled a carafe of berrystain from a crowded shelf of variegated bottles and poured the crimson liquid over the meat. Opaque, clay jars of plant and seed oil extracts, a mortar and pestle, and spice vials were all nearby on the shelves. I stretched out my hands and my fingers made an audible crack.

  The creator’s time was at hand.

  The preparation of the meat was sacrament. I dyed it in a mixture primarily made of the juice from a common local berry, which transformed the meat’s previous mud-color into a deadflesh scarlet. Once the meat was removed from the tub, the juice sweated out, leaving a deceptively grisly shadow on the cutting board. The berry itself was the blandest sort and offered no clue that the juices within the meat were anything but the sweet lifeblood of an animal everyone knew didn’t exist on Second Eden.

  This sight alone brought most of the Alpha settlement out of their caves and hovels on the day of the market, but providing mere sustenance was never enough for me. I was an artisan, a true virtuoso, a painter who worked in the medium of the senses. A magician, but of the best kind because my legerdemain made mouths water and brought forth memories of home. So as countless hours and days here strung together into countless months and years, I collected a mixture of tastes, scents, and textures that would mimic a small piece of what we’d left behind on Earth. And the lissur provided the perfect canvas. This quaggy, utterly tasteless meat would be at the heart of each of my little masterpieces.

  There were minute differences from beef, to be certain. The lingering pungency from the soil that encapsulated these beasts their entire lives—centuries, millennia even, how were we to know. Then there was the meat’s consistency—softer, more like that of a scallop than of cattle. Even the dying solution itself, with the slightest hint of citrus, could serve to reveal my ruse. But it never did. Because the most powerful seasoning of all was one I didn’t have to add: The homesick mind. Any imperfect flavor or aroma, any sensation missing or untrue was masked by the customers making them, ultimately, the final chef.

  No one knew—I don’t think they even cared to know—how I did what I did. They knew only that I faced the monsters for them.

I was The Meatman, and I’d bring them their meat.

  In the final stages of preparation, after bringing the day’s catch and applying a spice rub I concocted from jerk root and pepris, I wrapped the lot in sunsplash leaves to preserve them for the long trip to market. Our sojourn was tomorrow and my task was now complete. Red up to my elbows in berrystain and stinking of wormy flesh, I came back into the house.

  “Is the meat ready?” Nessa asked. She sounded better. The water had soothed the coarseness in her voice and her short-lived freedom to move about the house had nourished her spirit.

  I took her by the hand but felt nothing of the woman I loved remaining in its stiff, cool grip. “Me and the boy are leaving for market.”

  “So soon? I wish you could stay a while longer. You spend more time with that meat than you do with me.”

  “The meat is our life, Nessa. You know that.”

  Her head drooped as far as the disease would let it. “You want me back on the bed, don’t you?”

  “You’re sick,” I said. “I can’t have you just wandering off to the bush. We both know what happens when Eden gets inside you.”

  She squeezed her hand out of mine. “I won’t listen to the voices, I swear. I’ll stay right here in the house. I won’t—”

  “No!” My voice was more of a howl than I’d intended. “I’m sorry. But no.”

  She slunk quietly into bed and lifted her arms into the straps. I fastened her right hand in and tightened it. I couldn’t bear to lose her. I needed her that much, even though I couldn’t trust her not to be seduced by Eden’s voices.

  Was that still love?

  I can’t tell anymore, but it didn’t stop me from tightening the strap around her left hand as well.

 3

   A clearing existed on our sliver of Eden, where the planet’s crust itself seemed to have grown out of the ground to shape a great hall of sorts. The crag, flattened smooth from constant weathering, poked up from beneath the soil, creating stone tables. The entire field was floored in this same stone. Under the wan light of dawn, vendors marched into the clearing from all directions, flashing between the shadows, and then popping out suddenly from behind gigantic hanging leaves, like funhouse spooks.

  We hauled our wares by sack and wagon, meandering through the countryside over the safe passes. There were quicker routes, but few dared to hasten their journey across lands they called redfields or sinks. Those lands belonged to the lissur. We wandered in drunk with fatigue, like soldiers from a Wilfred Owen poem, wearing clothes heavy with rain and painted black with soil that clung like tar to our pant legs.

  We did this because it was our chance to be a community again. It was our one chance for something we hadn’t been in so long. It was our chance to be normal.

  A canopy of arboreal growth shielded us enough to conduct business even on the wettest days. Market was a time when all the richness of our new home was on display to be sampled and bartered for. Thousands of edible species of flora and many marvelously succulent combinations previously untouched by human tongues—the absinthian croakweed and the sweetgreens, the moist red crellets and the striped jala fruit that positively dripped with flavor—all set up in bushels. The strange and grotesque fauna lined the stalls. Horned and winged creatures hung from pikes while others buzzed and squawked from cages. Fat, hairy drootmunks and flying poppits lay encased in thick tree wine.

  The hard-shelled and soft-bodied children of Eden, things without limbs, without faces. Their songs, once so strange, were now all too familiar. But no tastes were in higher demand than those of Earth. And only I, The Meatman, could create the illusion of mammalian flesh. The surface of this planet held none. That it would come up out of the ground was the real surprise.

  After all the probes, all the scanning, all the yottobytes of data on Eden’s surface, this spot was chosen for the colony. The plans were made. The ships launched. But we never anticipated what was twisting around in the deep dark just below us.

  The lissur—dirt dragons—were a surprise, indeed. Hideous, awful, bloodthirsty creatures. We soon discovered dozens of different breeds, but, no matter which breed, their nature was the same. Mindless, soulless, bottomless wells of stinking death.   They fired themselves up from the bowels of this hell to feed on the living. To feed on us. And now, without them, I was nothing in this new world.

  Bean and I laid the meat out on the stones for barter.

  “You never answered me before. Are you going to send me back to Father Hy?” he asked. “I’m not getting any better.”

  “You’re always welcome to stay on, you know that. I told your father not to put his faith in the meat.”

  My perceived good health, over many years, gave rise to the popular belief that the less native something tasted, the less it would allow the disease to ravage our bodies. This was rubbish, of course. My body was hairy and I constantly wore a shadow of dirt, so my skin hadn’t appeared to discolor like the others. In mine, the palest of blue eyes, the flecking that always manifested at the onset of the disease did not always show. I was outwardly a healthy, entirely human man. But make no mistake, Eden’s sickness was inside me. I could feel it setting in.

  My people didn’t want to see that, though. They wanted to believe in The Meatman, the one who eats the beasts, the one who had escaped Eden’s curse. It was a lie. A lie I never invented or promoted, but one I benefited from nonetheless. I didn’t keep them free from the disease. I kept them free from hopelessness. It was the best I could do.

  “There’s nothing miraculous about this stuff, Bean. You know that now better than anyone. It’s just flesh and ingredients. Never put your faith in it.”

  “Father always says his faith is with you…not that low serpent.” The boy’s voice deepened, mimicking Father Hy’s baritone.  “Work with The Meatman, my son, and your soul will remain always divine.” He laughed and slapped another piece of meat down onto the table.

  The boy’s biological had become a spiritual figure in our community, but Father Hy, as he came to be known, hadn’t always been a holy man. He came to Eden, like so many others in Alpha colony, to dig in the dirt. Like me, he only found his calling after a need arose. Eden had a way of doing that, turning us settlers into the people we were intended to be all along. As for myself and religion…well, I never had a strong need to be talked to in riddles.

  “Your soul will remain always divine?” I said. “What exactly did he mean by that?”

  “As long as my body and mind stay human, my soul survives. That’s what he thinks.” Bean dropped another slab of meat but this one slid across the rock and found its way onto the ground. “I’m sorry.”

  “It’s all right,” I said.

  “I can’t even do the simple things anymore.”

  “It’s fine, Bean.” The boy was tired. Anyone could see that. “Why don’t you catch a quick nap.”

  “Really? You don’t mind? But market’s set to open soon.”

  “I don’t mind, go get you some rest,” I said. “Besides, I can’t have you dropping product all day. You’ll be right as rain in an hour.”

  I let him sleep on my empty pack behind our table while I finished displaying the meat.

END OF SAMPLE

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