Saturday, June 2, 2007

Fort Gehenna, A.T.

Fort Gehenna, Arivaipa Territory, is a month from Podunk, a week from Nowhere and two days from Wherethehell. From a distance the fort looks like a conglomeration of mud huts melting under a sky hot enough to smelt iron. Not at all does it look like the outpost of civilization on a wild untamed frontier that it is. An outpost Gehenna may be, but lacking in most of the trappings that make civilization civilized. What Gehenna has is: three bored officers, their various bored dependents, sixty-five bored soldiers, a herd of scabby horses and fractious mules, a hell of a lot of dogs, and one canny cat. What it lacks is a long list but to start: no ice, no grass, no trees, no hope. The heat doesn't help matters either. It's high summer in Gehenna and it's hot. Hot enough to melt metal, hot enough to burn leather, hot enough to curdle a soldier's brains right in her skull. The heat sucks all moisture, all vigour, all life right out of a body. At Gehenna, daylight is not so very far from death.

In theory, Fort Gehenna guards the border between Arivaipa Territory, a client of the Republic of Califa, and the ominous Huitzil Empire, with which Califa is currently at war. But in practice, there is no true border, only a haze of hot sand and prickly cactus that no one can cross and expect to live. The glory of war is being gained elsewhere, and the sweating soldiers at Gehenna are mostly bored, hot, and nostalgic for home.

To the west of Gehenna the Stoneman Road ruts its way across the Sandy River (more of a trickle than an actual flow) to Calo Res, Toronado and Civilization Beyond. To the east the Abrazas Mountain looms, its snowy heights a distant tantalizing vision of clarity and coolness. To the north, unnamed mountains bristle with cactii. To the south, raw desert, sandy and barren, beyond which lies the Huitzil Empire. And everywhere above: the blue burning sky.

1 comment:

Erika Hamerquist said...

Beautiful. What a way to whet the appetite! Are there no more bones you can throw us? Might we have a little more, Madama?

I read Under the Skin over the weekend. What a blast! Do you happen to know what it was marketed as when it came out (horror, sf, lit)?