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Kelly Link is a writer who lives in Boston and likes to travel. Her fiction has been published in Asimov's and Realms of Fantasy, and her story "The Specialist's Hat" can be found on Event Horizon. A collection of her short stories will be published by Edgewood Press sometime this year.


Dark Planet is designed and edited by Lucy A. Snyder. If you spot any errors, or if you have any comments, please contact her at lusnyde@cyberus.ca.

All materials copyright 1996-1999 by their respective creators. No stories, articles, poems or images from this webzine may be posted or published without the written consent of their creator(s).

Survivor's Ball (or, The Donner Party)

by Kelly Link

 

Travel

     They had been travelling together for three days in Jasper's rented car when they came to the dark mouth of the tunnel into Milford Sound.
     They drove down the Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain through groves of wineberries, supplejacks, and swordlike cabbage trees. As they approached Homer Tunnel, the landscape altered, as though they passed through summer directly into the cold heart of winter. The road circled up between cracked grey boulders, neatly halved by sleet and thaw. The only colors were grey lichen, white snow, and the dye-vat blue of the sky. The little red car went up the road like a toy pulled on a string.
     "The last guy I was travelling with went to Milford," Serena said. "He told me it was like standing at the edge of the world."
     Jasper said nothing. His tooth hurt.
     They had been late leaving the youth hostel in Te Anau because Serena slept past noon, and then she thought she might like a shower. There was no hot water left, but she spent a long time in the bathroom anyway, writing in her journal. Jasper hoped she wasn't writing about him. He went to the corner dairy to buy aspirin for his tooth, and when he came back she was sitting on the bed, bouncing irritably. Before they left Te Anau, she made him stop at a pub for lunch and a couple pints of bitter.
     Jasper couldn't eat, but he paid for Serena's meal. She flirted with the barman, sticking strands of her hair into her wide red mouth, and licking them into dark, glossy tips. She told the barman that she as running away from home, that she was going to travel all the way around the world and just keep on going, that she liked New Zealand beer. She didn't say anything at all about Jasper who was standing at the bar right there beside her, but under the counter her hand curled in a comfortable way in his pocket.
     Last night, he had been sitting in bed, watching her sleep. Dust floated in the cold moon-lighted air, and he sneezed. A piece of his tooth, a back molar, fell into his hand. He was a little lightheaded now, with pain and lack of food. In the morning, when Serena woke up, she had put it in an airmail envelope, sealed the envelope, and written "Jasper's tooth" on it. He had the envelope in his pocket now, and every once in a while his tongue went up to touch the unfamiliar, changed and achy place in his mouth. The sun was settling down ahead of them, and he drove faster.
     "Why would your parents name you after a semi-precious stone?" she asked. "Why not Ruby, or Pearl?"
     Jasper looked at her. She looked back, smirking, black hair tucked into her mouth.
     "Those are women's names," he said. "I'm named after an uncle."
     She pulled her journal out of her knapsack, and wrote, "Jasper had an uncle whose name was Jasper!" in big, looping script.
     He looked straight back at the road. "So are you going to write about me in your journal?"
     "That depends on how interesting you are," she said, and closed one eye slowly. It was not an altogether friendly wink.
     She put the pen down on the dashboard. It was rather a nice pen. His grandmother had given it to him as a graduation present, and he had lent it to Serena in the bar in Queenstown where they had met. She hadn't given it back yet, although he had bought her a ballpoint at a chemist's the next day. He'd also bought her a bright red lipstick, which he thought was funny, a bar of chocolate, and a tiny plastic dinosaur, because she said she didn't like flowers. He wasn't really sure what you were supposed to buy for a girl you met in the bar, but she had liked the dinosaur.
     They hadn't seen a single car since they'd left the main road and headed for the pass into Milford Sound. After enduring ominous weather reports all the way from Queenstown to Te Anau, he wasn't surprised. Alone, he would have headed up the east coast to Dunedin, rather than making the long drive into the West and Fiordland, but Serena had a great desire to see Milford Sound, and he was quickly learning that Serena was seldom thwarted in her great desires.
     "Jasper had an uncle named Jasper," she sang for him, "Ee-EYE-Ee-EYE-Oh!" The radio went on and off in a blur of static.
     "Unseasonable weather ... party of trekkers on the Milford Track ... missing for nearly ... between Dumpling and Doughboy Huts ... rescue teams ...."
     Then nothing but static. He turned off the radio.
     "They might as well give up," Serena said. "They're all dead by now, buried under an avalanche somewhere. They find the bodies in a couple of weeks when the snow melts."
     The drifts of snow on either side of the road reached to the height of a tall man. Every 500 meters they passed black and yellow signs reading: "Danger! Avalanche Area: Do Not Stop Vehicle!" Every sign said exactly the same thing, but Serena read them out loud anyway, in different voices--Elmer Fudd, Humphrey Bogart, Yosemite Sam, in the barman's voice.
     All day the sky had been the color of a blue china plate, flat and suspended upon the narrow teeth of the white mountains. The road wound precariously between the mountain, and the car threaded the road. All day the sun had gone blazing coldly before them, and now it seemed they would arrive together upon the upward spike, the sun sliding down as the car climbed the side of the snowy bowl. Just where the road seemed about to lift over the broken rim, there was a black pinprick marking the tunnel into Milford Sound. As Jasper drove, the pinprick became a door, and the door became a mouth that ate up first the road and then the car.
     Serena was reading out of Jasper's guidebook. "Started in 1935," she said. "Did you know it took twenty years to complete? It's almost a mile long. Four men died in rock falls during the blasting. Turn on the headlights -- here we go."
     They went from the pink-grey of the snowdrifts into sudden dark. The headlights were sullen and small reflecting off the black swell of the tunnel walls. The walls were not smooth; they bulged and pressed against the tarmac road like the sides of a living animal. The road went up at a forty-five degree angle, the car laboring against the road.
     In the headlights, the walls ran with condensation. Jasper could hear the sussurating stream even over the noise of the car. The tunnel shrank and dulled the sound of the struggling engine, and Jasper touched his tongue to his tooth. Malignant and droning, it stung like a swollen ivory bee. The car was moving slowly, about twenty-five km per hour. He could feel the walls pulling back at them, and he downshifted again.
     "We're being swallowed," he said. The terrible weight of the mountain above him, the white snow, all pressed down inexorably upon him in the dark. He sank like a slow stone in a cold well; the force bore down on him from all sides, the aching drag centered in his wisdom tooth. The car seemed to move more and more slowly; the weight grew unbearable.
     "Not swallowed," Serena said. "It's more like sex, really." She looked at him sidelong, and her gaze was a new pound of pressure. He couldn't bear the dark eyes in the white, white face. "Are you all right?"
     He shook his head. "Claustrophobic," he managed to say. He could hardly keep his foot on the gas pedal. In his mind the car spun through the dark, coming through to the other end of the tunnel, and there he imagined a black wall, a frozen door of ice.
     And then he had to stop the car. "You drive," he said, and fumbled the door open and went reeling like a drunkard to the passenger's door. Serena crawled over to the driver's side, and he sat down in her warm seat. It took all his strength to shut the door again, against the contrary tug of the tunnel.
     "Hurry," he said.
     She drove competently, talking at him the whole time. "You never told me you were claustrophobic. Lucky for you I came along. We should be out soon."
     They came out into night. There was nothing to distinguish one darkness from the other but dirty snow in the headlights. Yet Jasper felt the great clinging weight fall away from him instantly. His tongue went up to touch his broody tooth.
     "Stop the car," he said. He was sick kneeling beside the road. When he stood up, his knees were wet with melted snow. He was still for a moment, and when he was sure that he would not throw up again, he knocked on the driver's window. "I think I'm all right again," he said.
     "You drive," she said. "I'll take a nap. It's about another forty-five minutes to the hotel, and you can't miss it. There's only the one road, the one hotel."
     Iced pinecones shattered like glass under the wheels of the car. The road was steeper, circling down this time. Serena said, "When I called to make the reservation, the man said they were booked solid. A convention or something. But then we talked for a bit and he said he could probably find a room for us, with cancellations. They won't turn us away, we'll tell them you've been sick."
     Jasper said, "The hotel is full?" He stopped the car and leaned his head against the steering wheel. Serena said, "This is the third time you've stopped the car. I have to go to pee."
     "Is the hotel full or isn't it?" Jasper said.
     "Have some chewing gum," Serena said. "Your breath smells like vomit. Don't worry so much."
     He couldn't chew the gum, but he sucked on it. He started the car again.
     "Does your tooth hurt much?" she said.
     They went another five hundred yards when something ran across the road. It looked like a man, scrambling across the road on all fours. Jasper slammed on the brakes and swerved. Serena's arm flailed out, and walloped him, catching his jaw precisely below the broken tooth. He howled.
     Serena fell forward, knocking her skull loudly against the dashboard. The car came to a stop, and after a moment, during which neither of them was capable of speech, he said, "Are you okay? Did we hit it?"
     But there was nothing in the headlights.
     "What was it?" she said. "A possum? My head hurts. And my hand."
     "It wasn't a possum," he said. "Too big. Maybe a deer."
     "There are no deer in New Zealand," she said. "The only native mammal is the bat."
     Then she snorted. He was amazed to see that tears were streaming down her face. She was laughing so hard she couldn't speak. "What's a possum?" he said. "Are you laughing at me?"
     She sobbed for air, and punched his shoulder. "Not at you, you silly mammal. A possum is a marsupial. It carries its young in a pouch."
     This seemed extremely funny to him as well, and it was too bad that it hurt to laugh. "Your mouth is bleeding," she said, and snorted again. "Here." She took a dirty Kleenex out of her bag, and licked it. Then she applied it to his lower lip. "Let me drive."
     "Maybe it was a dog," he said. There was nothing on the road now.

Arrival

     Milford Sound curls twenty-two kilometers inland, like a dropped boot. Its heel points north, kicking exuberantly at the great belly of the South Island. Water from the Tasman Sea fills the boot, cool and greeny-sleek. Abel Tasman, the first Pakeha to set foot on shore, sailed away in a hurry again, after several of his crew were cooked and eaten. He left behind him Breaksea, Doubtful and George Sounds, and Milford Sound, which is now accessible by sea, by air, by foot across the Milford Trek, or along the Milford Road by car, through Homer Tunnel.
     In winter, the road is sometimes closed by avalanches. In summer, there are sometimes unseasonable storms. In New Zealand, winter is in summer, and summer is in December, which sometimes surprises the tourists from the Northern Hemisphere, although of course they have read about it.
     The THC Milford Hotel is a white, two-story colonial building. It has a veranda for warm weather use in December. From the front bedrooms, guests have two views of the Mitre. It rises up from the Sound 1,695 meters, black and stony, doubled in the looking-glass water below. At the back of the hotel, lesser mountains march down to a flat, broad meadow. The Milford Road ends at the hotel's front door; the Milford Track begins at the back door.
     There is a small guest parking lot behind the hotel. To Jasper's dismay, it was nearly full when they pulled in. As they got out of the car they could hear a band playing jazz. Two windows stood open on the veranda, and they could see into an enormous room. There was a great host of people, some dancing, some sitting and eating at small tables. Someone was singing, "I'd like to get you, on a, slow boat, to China," in a low, slightly off key alto. They could hear the sound of wine glasses chiming against each other, knives skittering across plates--all this through the two French doors that stood open to the veranda, to Jasper and Serena as they stood there, and to the Milford Track.
     Jasper's tooth, his whole body burned in the fresh cold air. He looked doubtfully at Serena, at her uncombed, spit-curled tails of hair, parted haphazardly, over the new, livid bruise. Her jeans had holes in them. He was wearing his college fraternity sweatshirt, with a cartoon of two dogs fucking on it. His tennis shoes were covered in grey, caked mud, and his knees were still wet. "Serena," he said, "They're having a party."
     Inside, the women wore elegant dresses. Their hair was piled up. The men wore dinner jackets. They were probably wearing ties.
     Serena turned and made a face at him. She kept on walking. "Serena," he said. "Wait for a second."
     The farther she moved away from him -- the closer to the veranda she got -- the more the weight of the tunnel seemed to come back upon him. His tooth was twanging wildly now, like a dowser's rod. He ran after her.
     A tall man met them in the open window. The man was all in black, with a fierce, bristling black beard. "Here you are," the man said. His clothes were old-fashioned. He smiled merrily at them. His lips in the black beard were very red.
     "You were expecting us?" Jasper said.
     "Of course," the man said, still smiling. "The young lady was most insistent we make room for you both when she called."
     Serena said triumphantly, "You do have a room available."
     "We were able to arrange something," the man said. "But you must come in, out of this chill. My name is Mr. Connor."
     "I'm Serena Silkert, and this is Jasper Todd," Serena said. Mr. Connor held out his hand. It was neither warm nor cold, his grasp neither firm nor limp, but Jasper jerked his own hand away as if he had touched a live coal or an eel. Mr. Connor smiled at him, and took Serena's hand, leading her into the hotel.
     They came into a room full of people. At that instant, the music broke off. The dancers turned and stared at Jasper and Serena. A woman laughed as pages of sheet music lifted off the musician's stands and came drifting across the dance floor and towards the dinner tables, scuttering across the floor.
     The room was longer than it was wide, with two great fireplaces lit across from the windows. From the fireplaces came a jubilant, gnawing noise; gradually other small noises sprang up among the tables, as the diners collected the scattered sheets of music. There were chandeliers, and candles on the tables, and the wind passing down the room caused the lights to flicker and dim. Between the greasy yellow light of the candles and the chandeliers, faces seemed to float like white masks.
     A man stumbled against Jasper. He smiled. His teeth were filed down to sharp points and Jasper flinched away. All the people that he saw had ruddy glowing cheeks, and bright, bright eyes -- the firelight elongated and warped their shadows, draping them like tails across the floor.
     "What kind of convention is this?" Jasper said as Serena said, "You're American, aren't you, Mr. Connor?"
     "Yes," he said. He looked at each of them in turn, his eyes lingering on Jasper's jaw, on Serena's forehead. "First thing, why don't you go freshen up? We've put you upstairs, in Room 43. The key is in the door." He said, almost apologetically, "I'm afraid the hotel is a bit of a maze. Just keep turning left when you go up the stairs."
     Jasper followed Serena, through a confusion of empty corridors and staircases. She walked purposefully, and Jasper stumbled after her, afraid that if they were separated, he would never find his way up, or back again to the dining room. Little drifts of plaster fallen from the ceiling lay like snow upon the faded red carpet. Serena muttered under her breath, navigating. They went left, left, and left again.
     They came to a hallway where none of the doors had numbers. They passed a door where inside someone paced back and forth, breathing loudly. Their own footsteps sounded mute and furtive, and the person behind the door sucked in air, with a hiss. Jasper pictured the occupant, ear against the door, listening carefully, then eye against the spy hole, looking out.
     The last door on the corridor had a tarnished key in the lock. The door was small and narrow, and Jasper stooped to enter. The ceiling of the room sloped toward the floor, and beneath the white bolsters and comforter, the double bed sank in the middle like a collapsed wedding cake. It smelled of damp and of mothballs. Jasper threw his pack down. "Did you see that man's teeth?" he asked.
     "Mr. Connor? Teeth?" she said. "How is your tooth?"
     "There was a man down the hall," he said. "He was breathing."
     Serena pushed at his shoulders. "Lie down for a minute," she said. "You haven't eaten all day, have you?"
     "This is a strange place," he said, sitting on the bed. He lay down, and his feet hung over the mattress.
     "It's a foreign country," she said, and pulled her sweater over her head. Underneath, she was naked. There was a pale pink line of scar that ran down under her collarbone, and a faint mark on her breast where Jasper had bitten her.
     "I did that?" he said.
     "Mmm," Serena said. "You did. Maybe your broke your tooth on me."
     "No," he said, "the scar."
     "That? That was a fire. My father's house burned down."
     "Oh, sorry." He reached out a finger to trace the pink line, but she was standing too far away. He was too far away, lying on the bed.
     "Don't be," she said. "First I took all the money out of the hiding place under the sink." She pulled something velvet and stretchy out of the pack, held it up against her body. "Are you going to change into something clean?"
     "These are my cleanest clothes," he said, and lay on the bed looking at her. He tried opening his mouth as far as he could. Serena pulled at his feet and he sat up and took a handful of painkillers. He swallowed them one by one. "Go on down," she said. "Don't wait for me. I'm going to make myself elegant, and I'm going to go pee."
     He followed the faint music of the band to the dining room, his ears pricked for the sound of the occupant of the room down the hall. He heard nothing, only the music, very faint. The hall lights flickered. All the way down the hall he could see the man from the road, running along, crouched and naked. Behind him a door opened, and hurriedly closed again.
     In the dining room, there was a table newly laid for two in front of one of the fireplaces, and he sat down with his back to it. He saw Mr. Connor near the front of the room, dancing with a stout woman in red.
     The fireplace behind him threw up bloody shadows on the wall and the faces of the diners around him. The heat beat at his skull, pushing at the icy wall of air that bisected him neatly. The snap of the fire lulled, even as the cold at his face stung his eyes and plucked at his bad jaw. He thought of going up to the tiny room again, to wait until it was time to go to sleep. There would be the same discomfort: the damp, cool sheets, and between them the sticky warmth of Serena's body. He thought of the white, eyeless walls and shuddered. It was preferable to sit here between the fireplace and the open windows.
     Framed in the window closest to him was a mountain: it was blunt and crooked, like a ground-down incisor. Halfway down its slope he could see a chain of lights. He saw that others around him were intently watching the mountain, the moving lights.
     A waiter emerged from a service door beside the fireplace and began arranging another table. He set seven places and silently disappeared again. Jasper looked back toward the mountain. He almost giggled. A party of seven, then, arriving late. Expected for dinner, just as he and Serena had been expected.
     Serena came into the ballroom. She was wearing the stretchy black dress and a pair of gaudy purple tights. She had pinned up her hair, and applied makeup to the bruise on her forehead. Her face was white and delicate as ivory, under a dusting of powder. She was wearing the silly red lipstick.
     He stood up and went to her chair. "You look very beautiful," he said.
     She let him seat her and said, "You look like shit. Does your tooth hurt? Will you be able to eat anything?"
     "I don't know," he said. "But I'd like some wine."
     Mr. Connor left the dance floor. He borrowed a chair from the table set for seven, and sat down next to them. "Is your room adequate?" he said.
     "Our room is fine," Serena said. She stretched her hands out across the tablecloth. "What a nice hot fire!"
     "Where did all these people come from?" Jasper asked. "We didn't pass a single car on the way here, but the parking lot is full."
     "This is the first course," Mr. Connor said. Waiters put down bowls of thin pink broth and poured red wine into Serena and Jasper's glasses.
     "Some of us have come from very far away," Mr. Connor said. "We meet every year. We meet to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit in situations of great adversity. We are all travelers, survivors of adventures, calamitous expeditions, of tragedies. We are widows and orphans, the survivors of marriages and shipwrecks. This is the 143 rd Survivor's Ball."
     "I've never heard of you," Jasper said.
     "Many people haven't," Mr. Connor admitted. He took a sip of wine. "We're expecting one more party. They're a little late."
     "Is that why you keep the windows open?" Serena asked.
     "We're hoping that they'll hear the band playing," Mr. Connor said. "Music raises the spirits considerably, I find. We hope that they'll find their way back down the trail without further incident.
     "You're talking about the lost hikers, right?" Serena said.
     "There were twenty-three hikers," Jasper said. "They've only set seven places."
     Mr. Connor shrugged. "Do try your soup, Mr. Todd."
     Jasper took a small sip of the soup. It was warm and salty, and as he swallowed, it burned. "I prefer the wine," he said.
     "I'm starving," Serena said. She showed them her empty bowl. "Jasper's tooth broke, but he's afraid to go see a dentist."
     "It's fine," Jasper said. "I'll wait until we get back to Auckland." He had a very concrete picture of the dentist in Auckland, who would be a kind man with a well-kept moustache. A gentle man, with small knowledgeable hands, who believed in using gas.
     The second course was a fatty cut of brown meat. There was a little dish of green jelly, and carrots cooked with brown sugar. Steam rose up to Jasper's nose, thick and sweet. He diced up a carrot and ate it with his spoon. "I'm not really that hungry," he said.
     "After dinner," Mr. Connor said, "we sit and tell stories in front of the fire. I do hope you'll like the stories."
     "I've been keeping a journal," Serena said. "I should run up and get it."
     Jasper's wineglass was full again. He didn't remember drinking the last glass, but he had no objections. It numbed his tooth. He still had a sense of wrongness, an instinct that the proper thing to do would be to leave, or perhaps just go up to bed. But that would mean the tunnel again, or the small coffin-like room with its sad, sagging bed. He took another sip of wine to fortify himself. The band was playing. It might have been playing "Autumn Leaves." It might have been playing a hymn.
     "Have the two of you been traveling together long?" Mr. Connor asked.
     "Oh no," Serena said. "We met three days ago in a bar in Queenstown. We're traveling around the world in opposite directions. I've just got Hawaii left, and then that's it. This is just Jasper's second stop."
     "Maybe I'll come back home with you," Jasper said.
     "Don't be silly," she said, but her under the table, her foot moved up his calf, pushed in between his legs. "I'm trying to keep as far away from home as possible, for as long as possible. Not that I have a home any longer. It burned down."
     "How sad," Mr. Connor said.
     "Not really," Serena said. "I'm the one who burned it down, but I don't like to talk about that."
     Jasper looked across the table at the girl he had met in a bar. She didn't look like a girl who would burn down her house. He wasn't really sure what girls who burned down houses looked like. Her lips were Fire House Red--that had been the name of the lipstick color. He supposed that was ironic.
     "See?" Serena said. "Do you still want to go home with me?" Under the table, her hand ran up and down his leg, like a spider. "Jasper isn't the sort who travels purposefully," she said to Mr. Connor. "Or who picks up women in bars purposefully, for that matter. He won his trip by filling out a form in a travel agency."
     "You are a fortunate young man," Mr. Connor said.
     There was just a small smear of mint jelly on Serena's plate. "When he told me in the bar how he'd won, I thought it was just a great pick-up line," she said. "The tie-breaking question was 'Why do you want to go around the world?' And he wrote, 'Because you can't go through it.' Isn't that ridiculous?"
     "It's true," Jasper said. He was careful to enunciate. "Sad but true."
     Serena smiled at him. "I shouldn't complain, though. It's great traveling with Jasper. He's got plenty of money, and he pays for everything. Thanks, Jasper," she said.
     "Don't mention it," said Jasper. He wanted to say something, to explain that travel was important to him, that someday, he knew, if he traveled long enough he would eventually come to a wonderful place--a magical place. His toothache was almost gone, just a small itch very far away. He looked past Serena, to the French window. The torches were now at the base of the trail. They swung back and forth, lighting up the great trunk of a kauri tree, a growth of tall ferns on the lawn before the hotel.
     "Look," said Mr. Connor, "here they come. Just in time for dessert."
     The whole room rose from their chairs, applauding. Five men and two women came into the room. They stopped just past the threshold, as if uncertain of their welcome. They looked longingly at the fireplaces, at the empty plates piled up on dirty tables, but they did not move. Instead the crowd swept towards them, moving in a great hubbub and commotion.
     "Excuse me," Serena said. She got up and went with the others. Jasper watched her recede: the black hair fallen down around her shoulders again, a tail tucked into her painted mouth, the long legs in the purple tights. Waiters were going back and forth between the tables, extinguishing candles. Jasper watched as they pinched the small flames between their fingers. Soon the only light would be the red light of the fireplaces; the bulbs of the chandeliers were faint as starlight, guttering to blackness.
     At the opposite end of the room, near the windows, he could no longer see Serena or the hikers. The crowd was shapeless and indistinct in the dim light. It moved slowly across the dance floor, pouring through the window like the massy shadow of the black mountain. Sitting by the dance floor was a single cellist. He had put his instrument down, and was cramming balls of sheet music into his mouth. He chewed them slowly, his hands pulling the white pages out of the air around him as if they were birds. The wind blew out the chandeliers, but Jasper could still see the musician, his mouth and eyes wet and horrible. "Where are the other hikers?"
     Mr. Connor was biting savagely at his thumb, frowning down at the table. "Sometimes people do unthinkable things, in order to come home safely," he said. "Impossible things, wonderful things. And afterwards, do you think they go home? No. You find it's much, much better to keep on traveling. Hard to stop, really."
     The French doors had shut -- the trekkers were cut off from the trail and the mountain, should they wish to go back. The fire behind Jasper was flickering low, casting out more shadow than warmth, and yet the room seemed to grow hotter and hotter.
     His tooth no longer hurt; the wine and the warmth were pleasant. "I can tell you're a good man, Mr. Connor. Otherwise my tooth would warn me. It's becoming almost a sixth sense. But my tooth says that I don't have your name right. It's not quite right."
     The crowd was moving back across the dance floor, towards them, and the table with seven places, but he couldn't see Serena. She had been completely swallowed up. The cellist had finished his music, and like a sword swallower, he lifted the bow of his instrument, lowered it into his impossibly wide mouth.
     "Perhaps you misheard it," said the bearded man. He smiled his merry smile at Jasper. "I have seen snow and I have been hungry, and I have seen nothing in my travels that is so bad as not living. I propose a toast, Mr. Todd."
     They both raised their glasses.
     "To travel," one said.
     "To life," said the other.

Some are leaving this fall for Texas, and more are going in the spring to California and Oregon. For my part I have no desire to go anywhere. I am far enough west now and do believe some people might go west until they have been around the world and never find a place to stop.
     -- Elvira Power Hynes, March 1852


THE END