Pseudopod 298: The Long Road To The Sea

by James L. Sutter

“The Long Road To The Sea” first appeared in CATASTROPHIA, edited by Allen Ashley, published by PS Publishing in September 2010.

James L. Sutter‘s short fiction has appeared in such venues as Escape Pod (“Overclocking”) and Podcastle (“Ties of Silver”) – woo, triple crown! – Starship Sofa, Apex Magazine, and the #1 Amazon bestseller MACHINE OF DEATH. His first novel, DEATH’S HERETIC (it’s a dimension-hopping Middle Eastern fantasy story about an atheist forced to work as a problem-solver for the goddess of death) was ranked #3 on Barnes & Noble’s Best Fantasy Releases of 2011, and is currently a finalist for the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel. His anthology BEFORE THEY WERE GIANTS pairs the first published short stories of speculative fiction greats with new advice and instructional critiques by the authors themselves. He’s also a co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Fiction Editor for Paizo Publishing, and has published dozens of roleplaying game products. He lives in Seattle with 4 roommates and a fully functional death ray. Visit his website by clicking the link under his byline credit above! Quick! Now!

Your reader this week is the Bill Ruhsam, who you may know from Podcastle #42: De La Tierra.

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“After enough time had passed for everyone to get unloaded and settled, Mischa gave the order, and the real work began. Throwing open the back doors of the largest truck, he quickly prepped the surgery, then let Colville’s mayor know he was ready.

The first corpse was a young man, maybe twenty or twenty-one, who’d fallen beneath a thresher and bled out before the other field hands could even send for help. One arm was a mangled mess from the crushed collarbone down, but the convoy had been expected and the family had the sense to keep him cold in the cellar.

Mischa accepted the corpse with respect and ceremony, then firmly ushered the hard-faced locals back outside and shut the truck doors, limiting the people in his workshop to himself, his protégé Andrew, and Jimmy to help with the lifting.

Beneath the harsh battery-powered lights, they began. Able to tell at a glance that nothing in the tangle of bone and fiber was worth saving, Mischa and Andrew broke out scalpels and began the process of removing the tattered arm, tying off what veins they could and cauterizing the rest with a hot iron. Taking one handle each, they used a set of bolt cutters to shear through the protruding bone with a sound like a tree being limbed.”