the Earth would have been lost long ago.
No non-sensitive has ever seen the face of
the menace that continues to threaten us.
Only paladins like Alan Pryor have seen
it, and they have never told us what it is
like. Yet it exists. No one who has ever
seen a blasted area, or lost a loved one
when that terrible wind blows, could
doubt that these guardians of our world
stand at the edge of horror every moment
of their lives. The way Alan Pryor died
should be proof enough. To those whose
love of anarchy blinds them to such
realities, to those who cry out for investigation of the paladins and the Island, we
offer the example of Alan Pryor, and
swear he shall not have died in vain.
T-65 in Bin 288.
"This is a shock focus room," the
The children followed him with
their eyes as he moved around the room,
touching the eggshell white walls. It was
a box. Empty of anything save four
walls, ceiling and floor; eggshell whi^e.
No break, no stain, no aperture, no
carpeting. The class had been brought in
through one of the walls that had slid
aside. And when they were inside, and
seated on the floor, the wall had eased
back, sealing them in. The paladin was
very old. His skull was shaved clean and
they could see where a metal plate had
been laid to cover the right side. He had
only one hand. He had served many
years as a paladin and now—after all the
battles—had been given a sinecure as
teacher of the young.
There were eight of them, boys and
girls, none older than ten, and they sat
in a semicircle watching him, and listening. "This is where you'll spend most of
your time. It's a training room." He
seemed very tired. "In this room we will
try to make you sensitive. Do you know
what that means?"
None of them knew what it meant.
The old paladin closed his eyes for
a moment and the skin of his upper lip
pulled down as he concentrated.
The walls began to shimmer and
heat came from somewhere. Then there
was the feel of a breeze, a stirring of
warmth, an uncomfortable rush of air
from another place. The wind rose. It
climbed in intensity, hot, stifling, a
sirocco. The children tried to sit in then-
places, but the wind roared toward them,
onto them, through them, past them, and
they were slammed into the walls of the
empty room. It was a wind from nowhere.
And then, behind the wind came
the sounds. Sounds of things that were
not metal or plastic or glass but neither
were they human. Sounds of rising notes,
of chitinous surfaces sandpapering against
one another, of water being heated to
steam, of tympani echoing from a
mountain top. The sounds seemed to
pour from a single spot in the room.
From a place high up in the middle of the
air, where now the children could see a
strange orange spiderweb of light spreading like a starburst of filament-fine lines,
crazing in the trembling air as a projectile crazes glass.
"This is how it begins. When you
hear these sounds and you see that orange
light, you know it's beginning. You will
call it a spiracle; that is what we call it.
And it means a hole is being made. Do
you know what comes through that
The children could not answer.
The wind had passed, but they lay in
terror, tossed in a pile in a corner, and the
sounds ratcheted and grated and scraped
at their nerves, and they were frightened.
"This is what comes through the
hole," the old paladin said, closing his
eyes again, concentrating again.
The orange spiderweb grew larger,
split down the air, became a ten-foot rip
in nothingness, and beyond it, as though
seen through trembling water . . . darkness.
Things moved in the darkness.
The children scrambled together,
arms and legs struggling to get farther
away, closer to the white wall, out of
sight and out of line of that fissure in the
air, that color of orangeness that seemed
to continue beyond the spectrum their
eyes could perceive, those sounds that
clattered in their bones and made their
teeth hurt. And the things began to come
through from the darkness.
The first one was squat and thick
and the color of potatoes. It had no face
but it had a ring of slit-eyes that ran
round its forehead; the top of its mealy
form—what might have been a head, had
it not been so unlike a head—ended with
a million trembling cilia, each suet-
white and wormlike. It did not have legs,
but it was divided up the middle and its
substance compressed the two stubs like
dough as it shambled forward.
The second was glass-smooth but
dark. Light seemed to touch it and
vanish, to be gathered in and nullified. It
was faceted and part of it appeared and
disappeared like reflections in mirrors
when the surfaces were turned. It was
large and thin and tall, then it was tiny
and endwise and razored; then it was
gone, then it was back.
And behind them came a thing that
moved like a chicken, arching itself
forward then hauling itself up behind and
under. It was covered with matted fur
like a rat that had soaked itself in oil.
The tips of the hairs gave off a faint green
And behind it came a thing that
looked like cheesecloth, but it was made
of flesh. It was oozing with dark blood,
and there were mouths everywhere on it,
and rings of teeth and the blood could be
seen pumping and circulating through the
tubes that joined the empty holes in its
rotting cheesecloth form.
And behind it came four snapping
things that tore chunks from one another
as they gibbered toward the hole in the
air. And then came a slab of wood with
human hands growing all over its surface,
and it scuttled along on the hands. There
were others, seen only dimly in the
darkness, and seen at all only because
they gave off their own moist, green light.
The children screamed and some of
them cried, and all of them tried to get
away, to become small and hide in the
corner, and the paladin was speaking to
them and even through the terrible noises
they could hear his voice saying, "when
you see the spiracle begin to form, you
will know it is starting, that these things
and others will be trying to get through.
You will stop them. Do you know how
you will stop them?"
The children could not answer,
would not; screamed. Only Alan managed to husk out a frightened, "Howwww
. . . ?" The paladin opened his eyes
suddenly, looked at Alan and said in that
odd voice that needed no movement of
mouth to be formed, "Do this:"
Together—the old paladin helped
the child—they turned their eyes inward.
Rushed along a sparking silver thread,
Alan felt the old paladin urging bursts of
yellow light from the central fire deep
inside him, out along feeders branching
off the central silver thread. Each time
the yellow light raced out it found a
reservoir of pulsing energy; and it came
hurtling back to the source purified and
enlarged with power. Along and down
the silver thread they raced together, the
old one keeping the child in touch with
the coruscating yellow power source,
building it, shaping it, narrowing it into a
lance of yellow light that was incredibly
dense and potent. When it seemed Alan
could contain no more of the yellow
power, when he felt nausea bubbling up
from below, far below the silver thread,
the paladin revolved him. He (no, it
wasn't like that) turned him, and across
the scent of almonds Alan saw a gray
mist. Together they flattened the yellow
power and then the paladin smoothed it.
The power went extruding across the
sound of tin on concrete and the scent of
almonds, went slicing straightaway like
the horizon seen through an eye-slit It
struck against the gray mist and there was
a whirling sound, as of demon winds
jammed into a sea-bottle. It went on for
a long time and Alan felt ill, felt the
yellow power thickening, felt it growing
coarse and impure. The old one was with
him. He helped Alan keep the yellow
power isinglass-thin and irradicable. Alan
trembled like a machine shaking itself to
pieces. He could not feel his body; he
existed only within his own mind; trapped on that endless plain with the horizon-line of yellow power and the gray
mist and the thrashing killing winds.
Then the yellow power cut the gray mist,
suddenly, and it hurtled through into the
IGUANACON PROGRAM BOOK