Excerpt from The Culling Dark by Bettyann Craddock, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Culling Dark

by Bettyann Craddock

The Culling Dark
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    Sep 2000, 490 pages

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CHAPTER NINE

"Kruseos, thou ancient, mysterious planet, what secrets dost thou guard to thy golden breast?"

Year 2. Book Two.
Mjr.

Antonio Felipé Perez did not care to eat his lunch. Neither had he eaten his breakfast. Also, though it was yesterday and useless to waste today's thoughts on, he had not eaten his dinner. He was robbed of freedom. Therefore, while he was a prisoner his body would be prisoner to his own will, and if he wished to kill his body by starving, it was his right. For the hidden man is ever free, subject only to himself. God made it so. To emphasize this dear truth, he lifted and kissed the silver crucifix that hung about his neck.

His jailers changed shifts, and the new man who took the post looked in on him often, asking if he needed anything. Felipé knew him well. His name was Sovic, and he had lost a wife at Surface. Still he answered him nothing, and the man kept looking in on him as if he were the one needing something, not the other way around.

He knew Felipé had been away three days. He was hungry for those days.

Once in awhile he was told the time. This, too, had no effect on him. No matter what the time, it is always right now. And right now he, Antonio Felipé Perez, was a prisoner. His wife could not see him. She was confined for hiding his whereabouts for the three days. Until they released him, he could not see his beloved. So, he would starve in protest. His freedom lived within him. It was not subject to the whims of another.

In the dark afternoon, Mr. Bellamy came to him. He stood outside his jail with a flashlight pointing at a piece of paper for Sovic. Mr. Bellamy waited while the jailer, more a prisoner outside the bars than he was within them, unlocked and opened the doors.

Felipé stood inside his cell with his arms folded.

Mr. Bellamy shined the light between them so they could both see each other. He said, "Come out, Felipé."

"Do we go somewhere?"

Mr. Bellamy said, "The commander wants to question you now." Mr. Bellamy looked very tired. His round face was drawn in unhappy shadows, and the middle part of him, the part that once bounced when he laughed, sagged as if the guts of him were broken. Mr. Bellamy never laughed anymore. Hardly anyone laughed anymore.

Felipé folded his arms tighter.

Mr. Bellamy said to Sovic beside the door, "Could you step away for a moment, give us some privacy?"

Sovic hesitated. "Well, orders are…"

Mr. Bellamy pursed his lips. He said, "I'm giving you an order," he pointed at his collar.

Sovic stood there unmoved. He said, "What if…"

"What if what? I'll cover for you."

"But I've already got…" He raised his hands, "Whad'ya think I'm doing here? I was late for roll call. That's what I'm doing here."

"I'm sorry."

"So I can't get in any more trouble. I'm on probation as it is."

"I'm sorry. Please let me and Felipé talk in private."

Sovic grew belligerent, "Why aren't you doing something, you and the other officers? Seems to me you could. It gets worse and worse and nobody…"

"C'mon Sovic! Just do it. Jesus Christ."

Felipé said, "He fights with himself in the prison his mind has become."

Sovic snapped, "I don't like this either."

Felipé shrugged, "Then we agree."

Sovic worked his mouth wordlessly, then stormed away.

Mr. Bellamy sighed again, "What's happening to us all?"

"Not all, only the blind."

Mr. Bellamy looked at him, "Do you still see, Felipé?"

He had not uncrossed his arms, nor moved from his stance. He leaned back a little, gazing at Mr. Bellamy with his head turned to one side, "Not with eyes. Eyes deceive. I see with my heart."

Copyright Bettyann Craddock 2000. All rights reserved.

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