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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Mr. Bellamy's cheek twitched. He said in a tired voice, "What do you see, Felipé?"

"I see in front of me a man of great courage."

The light between them wavered. After a moment he motioned with his head for Felipé to come out.

"I have been here four days. We were to talk two days ago. Maybe I don't want to see the commander now."

Mr. Bellamy turned the light up. Shadows of cot and table and chair sliced big chunks out of it. On the table a packet of field rations sat uneaten.

"Field rations?"

"Half rations. Someone removes the meat and vegetables."

Mr. Bellamy's eyes turned to hard shiny coals, "that son of a bitch," he said. Then, "C'mon. We'll take the long way ‘round." He winked.

"I have something important to tell you." Mr. Bellamy he would tell. The commander could go straight to hell. He came out. They took the long way around as Mr. Bellamy had promised, right by his shelter in Gamma. He peered in the window. Julia curled on the bed as if she were sleeping. Mr. Bellamy got rid of her guard and waited outside.

When he came through the door, she burst into tears and threw her arms around his neck. He held her until her shoulders stopped shaking, caressing her shining red hair and whispering all the lovely things he could think of into ears as pink as rose buds.

She put her fingers over his lips, "Felipé," she choked, "We have to be separated."

"It will pass," he shushed her.

"No, listen. The commander is going to separate us tomorrow. I have to go live in the women's barracks."

He stopped. "What?"

"Tomorrow. They're moving me tomorrow."

An awful purple crept into his face. He said, "We are man and wife."

"The commander says we've broken too many rules, we have to live apart until we conform." She turned her face up to his, her green eyes swollen with too many recent tears, "I have a terrible feeling Felipé, a terrible feeling that this nightmare is never going to end."

He said, "This separation, it is because we explored outside the perimeters, made love under the stars, watched the funny creatures crawling, swam in the pools and climbed in the mountains?"

She nodded, "Without permission."

Well, they had known when they did it that they didn't have permission. Last year they hadn't needed permission. This year, they needed permission.

"Felipé, I'm going to have a baby."

He grasped her shoulders and looked into her eyes, "Yes?"

She nodded.

He clasped her tightly to him and closed his eyes, willing them to be one. And then something in him hardened. He remembered why he had gone away twice by himself, stolen away secretly, never telling even his beloved where he went. All at once, he knew what to do. Before, it was a dream. He took her tenderly by the chin and held her face up, "I will come back for you. Gather food and water, and wait for me. We are going away."

She bit her lip, and then trusting him, smiled. She said, "Okay."

When he came back outside Mr. Bellamy waited a little way off, rocking on his heels with his hands behind his back, gazing at the stars. He looked over when Felipé came out. He said, "He's probably timing us."

But Felipé stood his ground. "I have something to tell you."

Mr. Bellamy's shoulders drooped more, "I know about the separation. I argued with him about it."

"Not about that."

"Other couples are being punished. Markita and Jonsey have to separate. She let her B.C. implant run out. Jonsey went crazy this morning when they aborted her."

Felipé's stomach tightened with fear, "this is madness."

"Commander says no babies. No extra mouths to feed. TERRA will be here soon."

Felipé shook his head, "Mr. Bellamy, I think we both know in our hearts that TERRA is not coming."

Copyright Bettyann Craddock 2000. All rights reserved.

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