The Hyperion Cantos 4-Book Bundle

The Hyperion Cantos 4-Book Bundle by Dan Simmons Read Free Book Online

Book: The Hyperion Cantos 4-Book Bundle by Dan Simmons Read Free Book Online
Authors: Dan Simmons
something about her eyes, even at a distance, instantly convinced me that she was blind. For a moment I could not speak and stood there mute, squinting in the dusty light bathing the altar, trying to explain this spectral image to myself while at the same time attempting to frame an explanation of my own presence and actions.
    When I did find my voice and called to her—the words echoing in the great hall—I realized that she had moved. I could hear her feet scraping on the stone floor. There was a rasping sound and then a brief flare of light illuminated her profile far to the right of the altar. I shielded my eyes from the shafts of sunlight and began picking my way over the detritus where the altar railing had once stood. I called to her again, offered reassurances, and told her not to be afraid, even though it was I who had chills coursing up my back. I moved quickly but when I reached the sheltered corner of the nave she was gone. A small door led to the crumbling chapter house and the riverbank. There was no sight of her. I returned to the dark interior and would have gladly attributed her appearance to my imagination, a waking dream after so many months of enforced cryogenic dreamlessness, but for a single, tangible proof of her presence. There in the cool darkness burned a lone red votive candle, its tiny flame flickering to unseen drafts and currents.
    I am tired of this city. I am tired of its pagan pretensions and false histories. Hyperion is a poet’s world devoid of poetry. Keats itself is a mixture of tawdry, false classicism and mindless, boomtown energy. There are three Zen Gnostic assemblies and four High Muslim mosques in the town, but the real houses of worship are the countless saloons and brothels, the huge marketplaces handling the fiberplastic shipments from the south, and the Shrike Cult temples where lost souls hide their suicidal hopelessness behind a shield of shallow mysticism. The whole planet reeks of mysticism without revelation.
    To hell with it.
    Tomorrow I head south. There are skimmers and other aircraft on this absurd world but, for the Common Folk, travel between these accursed island continents seems restricted to boat—which takes forever, I am told—or one of the huge passenger dirigibles which departs from Keats only once a week.
    I leave early tomorrow by dirigible.
    Day 10
    The firstdown team for this planet must have had a fixation on animals. Horse, Bear, Eagle. For three days we were creeping down the east coast of Equus over an irregular coastline called the Mane. We’ve spent the last day making the crossing of a short span of the Middle Sea to a large island called Cat Key. Today we are offloading passengers and freight at Felix, the “major city” of the island. From what I can see from the observation promenade and the mooring tower, there can’t be more than five thousand people living in that random collection of hovels and barracks.
    Next the ship will make its eight-hundred-kilometer crawl down a series of smaller islands called the Nine Tails and then take a bold leap across seven hundred kilometers of open sea and the equator. The next land we see then is the northwest coast of Aquila, the so-called Beak.
    To call this conveyance a “passenger dirigible” is an exercise in creative semantics. It is a huge lifting device with cargo holds largeenough to carry the town of Felix out to sea and still have room for thousands of bales of fiberplastic. Meanwhile, the less important cargo—we passengers—make do where we can. I have set up a cot near the aft loading portal and made a rather comfortable niche for myself with my personal luggage and three large trunks of expedition gear. Near me is a family of eight—indigenie plantation workers returning from a biannual shopping expedition of their own to Keats—and although I do not mind the sound or scent of their caged pigs or the squeal of their food hamsters, the incessant, confused

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