Home > Marked in Flesh (The Others #4)(11)

Marked in Flesh (The Others #4)(11)
Author: Anne Bishop

Monty looked out the window and didn’t reply.


Windsday, Juin 6

Just before daybreak, they drove south on the dirt road that led to Prairie Gold, silent men filling the cabs and beds of three pickup trucks. They knew this road well, and driving it today filled them with fear and elation. Finally they, and dozens of men like them from towns throughout the Midwest and Northwest, would strike the first blow that would free humans from the furred and fanged tyrants that were keeping them away from everything that this land had to offer.

When they reached the crossroads, they reduced speed, moving slowly toward the herds that had settled down on both sides of the road. On one side were thirty head of cattle from a human-controlled ranch. On the other side were three hundred bison that grazed on land that belonged to the terra indigene. The bison had been drawn to a salt lick the ranch hands had put out a couple of days ago. The cattle had been cut from the main herd and brought to this part of the ranch’s fenced range—the necessary sacrifice in this dangerous, secret warfare.

The men had put out the salt openly, a neighborly gesture, they’d told the terra indigene Wolves who had trotted up to see what they were doing on land that wasn’t leased to humans.

Now those same men climbed out of the trucks and checked their rifles. Once things got started there wouldn’t be time or room for mistakes.

“Company A with me,” the leader said quietly. “Companies B and C . . .” He pointed to indicate that their job was on the other side of the road. “Remember, it doesn’t matter if it’s a clean kill or a killing wound. Just put ’em down, as many as you can. My whistle is the signal.”

Company A moved away from the road and quietly approached the cattle, while the other men crept within firing range of the bison.

All the men raised their weapons and waited.

Bait the Wolves by killing animals they needed for food. That was stage one of the land reclamation project. After all, fewer bison meant more land for cattle.

Bait the Wolves. Stir things up. And most important, don’t get caught.

The leader whistled. The men opened fire and kept firing until they emptied their rifles. Then they ran back to the trucks and drove away, speeding up the dirt road to get back to the bunkhouse or their homes before anyone thought to look for them or wonder where they had been.

They had struck the first blow. Now secrecy was truly a matter of life and death.

Thaisia could be the breadbasket for the world. There are thousands and thousands of acres of land going to waste, providing nothing instead of growing the food the human race needs. One way or another the terra indigene must be persuaded to release some of the land they hold with such selfish disregard for the desperate needs of other species in the world. If the Others don’t want to be bothered with such concerns, let the human race do the work of providing food for those who need it. Let us utilize some of this empty land instead of forcing us to watch our children starve.

—Nicholas Scratch during a speech at an HFL rally in Toland

There is no wasted, empty land in Thaisia. Every place on this continent is full of residents who need what the land already provides. Even the deserts have residents who live on what is available in those places. Even the coldest, remotest areas are not empty of life. When Mr. Scratch talks about the needs of other species, he is really talking about one species, the human species. He and his followers care for nothing else, which is why the terra indigene must care about all the rest.

—Elliot Wolfgard, when asked to respond to Nicholas Scratch’s speech


Windsday, Juin 6

White walls, white furniture, white clothes.

“Please, I need colors. I see the colors.”

“You don’t need colors, cs821. You just need a cut. You’ll feel better after you’re cut.”


“Stubborn little bitch, obsessed with colors. We recommend finger cuts as much as possible. Might as well use up that skin in case we have to remove the fingers to keep her from making drawings that dilute the prophecies.”

The feel of the razor slicing through skin. And then . . . Color. That shade of red that looked like nothing else, at least to her eyes. Floating on the euphoria that came with a cut after she began speaking, she looked at the white walls, at the dark straps that held her to the chair.

“You don’t need colors, cs821. You just need a cut.”

White walls, white ceiling, white furniture, white clothes. As she stared at the wall, part of it darkened, becoming a shape. Four legs. A tail. Massive head with horns. Another dark patch on the wall began forming another animal. And another, until there was a herd of shapes on the wall.

Then she noticed dots forming on the wall just above the herd—that shade of red unlike any other. The dots grew and began to flow down the wall, covering the herd with bloody tears.

• • •

Panting, her heart pounding, Hope scrambled out of bed and staggered to the screened window in her room, sucking in cool, early morning air as she pressed her hands against the wood windowsill.

She wasn’t in the compound anymore. The walls of her room weren’t white. The cabin used by the Wolfgard in the terra indigene settlement at Sweetwater had walls made of wood, had floors made of wood. Everything was simple and wood except for the toilet and sink in the little bathroom attached to this bedroom. But some of the drawings she had made since coming to live with Jackson and Grace and the rest of the pack were pinned to the walls. A few were even framed.

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