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RUNNER

228






the RUNNER


by


Peter J. Ponzo




PROLOGUE

The way of the galaxy can now be seen, it runs to here from where we've been.

And all the stars shall wink their last when here is now and now is past.

Carmichael, A.D. 2207


Runr stood at the peak of the mountain, bare feet firmly planted in the hard crusted snow, green eyes gazing at the dark sky now punctuated by points of light. The wind shrieked up the slope, his blue robe billowed and his hair rose in a wild tangle - but he felt none of the cold of the mountain. One by one he watched the stars wink then vanish until the void of space was a black sheet without light. Then came the glow, first faint then growing in luminosity like a cosmic maw that slowly opened in the night sky to reveal a bright red throat filled with stars.

It was devouring galaxies.

The ground shivered beneath his feet as the mouth descended. He alone might save Afria. He raised his hands and began to sing, the rising and falling song of the crystals. Flashes of phonarite blue reached up from the mountain, spears of light rising to meet the opening jaws of space. He heard the echo of his song as though the galaxy had joined him in chorus. At the base of the mountain his people stood, the Afrians, silent but for a murmur. Then the jaws engulfed him and he was falling, up, into the hole filled with stars. The jaws closed and all was dark and he knew that he had failed.

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