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Innumerable thanks to Bronwyn, who gave me three words to start with.

"You said it wouldn't last," he grunted, pulling the ropes tight. "You said, you said we could close it any time things got out of control. I remember." The wind howled around them, reaching with the odd draft for every loose end they'd not managed to tie off or cover.

Frank spit, and the wind carried it sideways onto the bundle he was tying off. "I know what I said, just do your damn job." It was verbose, for such a moment, especially for him. There was a salt tang to the air, but it was dry - painfully so, actually. It stung their eyes, where they were exposed - which was most of the time - and rubbed all the open skin raw, even in the shade; it ripped their clothes when they were at the right or wrong angles, it flung their hair across their faces, or had, until they both got smart and shaved it off.

"They won't come," his partner started up again, as they both finished their work for the moment and took shelter behind the network of wires, watching, and waiting. "This time, they won't come."

Frank said nothing. He didn't spit back here. It probably would've hit an exposed wire and thrown sparks in his face. Maybe caught fire. Things were like that, on the edge, out here. They watched the void, the open swirling mass on the edge of the world, before the plains beyond. They'd come. They came every time.

A voice crackled on the radio. "Hey, you two idiots there, or what?"

"We're here," Jeff answered, touching the pad on the end of the speaker. "What's going on?"

"Shit," Lana answered. "I bet Terry you'd both be gone this time. She thinks we've got another week, I think it'll be another three days at best."

"You called to close a bet." Jeff's voice was matter-of-fact, bitter, and he didn't look at Frank as he let go of the radio.

"We called to make sure they're coming, dumbass."

The wind screamed outside, and Frank held up a hand. It was scary, how good he'd gotten at this. And sure enough, within a few moments, the dull thudding roar that told their approach was audible, just under the wind. They'd be visible soon, and the two poachers leapt out of their shelter, scrambling onto the top of the camp tent-up.

Every full moon, the beasts between the world ran this brief stretch, this empty desert between their world and the next, where you could see, the rain spinning here and there, the plains of wind and grass and grazing beasts - but could never touch, for to go farther than they had into the gap was certain death. There were those who'd say going as far as they had was certain death, actually. Lana was one of them. They thought Terry was, too. But it was hard to tell.

Frank set up the triggers and catches, and Jeff made sure every gun was pointed. They waited, watching for the shapes in the sand, the silhouettes in the blankness that spun endlessly between the world. And, as every moon, they came, legs hitting the ground like drum beats, manes tossing, magnificent nostrils flaring, bodies heaving like athletic machines - and, as every moon thus far, the harpoons slid out with a quiet thwack, inaudible in this place, and as every moon, they leapt from their perches and reeled their kills, before they were trampled by the herd, and their lives forfeit for the loss of their prize, this last life that kept the soul of their dying world from dragging them all, the last survivors, into the void.

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thulcandran

May 2013

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