from Vernon Anderson – Sudden Glory – 191-4
Cutbrush felt the man’s pulse and found it wanting. Active, sure, but weakened; far below operational, let alone optimum performance. So Cutbrush left him there, helping himself to a beaded pouch that was looped through the man’s belt, as he crawled over the failing body.
The sounds of war were dying as he caught the scent of a cook-fire, a stew bubbling somewhere nearby. He found a small clearing through a narrow gap in a thornbush and in it was a patched yellow tent and a woman with a baby sleeping in her arms.
“Would you help to feed my baby?” croaked the woman. She looked young enough for child-bearing but had the voice of a locked-up attic full of dust.
“You may take of my stew what you wish, also,” she added with a smile.
The baby seemed to look Cutbrush in the eye and offer a toothy grin, but when he blinked the baby was asleep again.
Cutbrush took a spoonful and found the stew a trickle of glorious joy, a burst of sensation that lit up the backs of his eyes.
“Don’t forget the baby.”
Cutbrush approached with shallow steps. “Why are you here, woman? There is war going on.”
“My baby is hungry,” was all she replied.
Cutbrush grimaced, fed a spoonful to the baby, who awoke with a start at the smell of the stew. The infant gulped it down and soon was swelling, gurgling, its throbbing limbs stretching. Soon it had grown to the size of an adult and thrashed onto the ground, kicking, swallowing its tongue.
Cutbrush rushed to its side and felt its pulse.
edit: artwork by Leslie Taylor