Hamilton looked at him wide-eyed and then a sneer on his lips.
Damn my soul? You've just damned yours. Your bones I'm going to break and your neck I'll have snapped on a rope. And I'll take your wife and cut the child out of her and fill her with my own seed and I'll take that other snotty scrag you call a child and bag it from a bridge and you can all go to hell.
Coyle's head clouded and his world interior closed to darkness and his hand bouldered. He fell to the man in front of him, his fist catching the other's jaw with the weight of his body behind it. The horse bucked on two legs and the man went staggering back till he fell upon the rocks of a wall. There was a pop softly as his head broke on the stone and the bone caved in, blood gorging out of him and his eyes rolling back as if trying to alight his vision on this breach flooding daylight into his world turned to darkness. There came a wheezing rattle from his throat and blood threaded out of his nose in little streams and it made confluent with a spume of spittle about his mouth. Coyle's legs went limp at the sight and he staggered drunkenly. The dog whining and he looked at the head holed before him like rotten fruit, the head lolling sideways onto the shoulder and he went to the man on his knees scratching the dirt with his hands outstretched and caught the other man's brain matter, viscous spilling from breached bone, and he tried to push it back in with his hands whimpering softly to himself oh Jesus.
Soft rain from quicksilver sky and the land silent as stone. The water fell bathing gently all in its domain, the trees and the fields and the stone sill and the still seeping blood, rivulets running crimson towards the maw of the welcoming earth.
The land crooked and Coyle stood to his feet and steadied and he noticed the whinnying of the horse and saw that it had begun to leave. He looked around him to the fields and the path and went slowly towards it, the animal wild-eyed and he whispered to it, soothing then stroking its flesh, his hands sticky and staining with bloodied streaks the snow white of its fuzz until it stood calm and then he led it back down the path.
That's a girl. Good girl.
No place to secure the horse so he wrapped the reins about a stone and then he bent towards the fallen man. His eyes narrowed and then his gaze turned to the ground for fear of alighting upon the corpse's eyes, sightless bulbs glassy upon the sky, and he grabbed the booted ankles and pulled the body, its hatless head lolling from side to side, until the body lay cruciform upon the track. He stood catching his breath and looked out across the land, through haze the faded gray of quartzite hills and the bogland beneath spread golden-brown, centuries harbored and hushed within its grasp.
He squatted down and locked his arms under the pits of the corpse and heaved up the dead weight to his chest, the head slumping across to rest on his shoulder, and he kicked at its dragging heels. Ghoulish dancers they could have been, stiff-limbed to the melody of a whispering wind, and backwards he lost his balance. The horse skittered nervously and he tumbled to the floor still locked in embrace and the holed head leaning into him and he turned away and his stomach voided. Jesus. He got up and wiped his mouth with his sleeve and began again, squatting down and heaving till the dead man stood yanked to attention and then he bent again and put the body over his shoulder and carried it to the horse. He laid the corpse over the seat of the saddle and looked at the shining boots of the dead man then bent to the brush and tore at a clump of dock leaves and rubbed his hands on them. He turned and what he saw was the black dog watching.
Hamilton's hound stood at a distance alertly leaning forward, its tail standing and its eyes fixed narrow and unblinking. Coyle stamped his foot at it but the dog's gaze was fixed. He looked about his feet and leaned to the wall where he picked up a jag of stone. He threw it weakly, the stone caroming into the brush, and the dog held its ground. He picked up another shaped like a large fanged tooth that bounced dangerous before the animal and it fled.
Excerpted from Red Sky in Morning by Paul Lynch. Copyright © 2013 by Paul Lynch. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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