Part One

The last thing Marty remembered was a high-pitched sort of hiss, like - like -

All things serve the Beam

The first thing he heard was a woman singing. Her voice was faint and crackly and

Oh Shenandoah. I love your daughter,

Away, you rolling river

it took a few seconds for Marty to realize it was a radio. An old, scratchy one. His head was buzzing, and there was a strange smell - crushed yulberries, he'd later learn - in the air that made his closed eyes water.

rolling river

Oh, Shenandoah, I love your

Wherever he was, it sure wasn't the 8:30 flight making its final approach to -

"Midway?"

Marty coughed at the hoarse sound of his own voice, then winced at how painful it was to speak, and to cough. He tried to open his eyes, but when he did, all he saw was blackness.

Panicking, Marty reached for his eyes and ignored the aches that ran up and down his arms as he did. Then he gasped and winced. His eyes! What the fuck had happened to his eyes? They felt like -

cloth. A blindfold. A damp blindfold?

There was a click as the radio went silent. Then, warm hands rested on his shoulders for a moment.

"Lie still," a woman's voice - or a voice belonging to someone between girl and woman - said softly. "Thou'rt still sick-dizzy."

Marty sensed the wisdom in this. More to the point, even the pathetically faint exertion so far had tired him out. His arms fell back down onto what had to be a bed and the hands let go. Marty didn't like that. Blindfolded, numb in most of his body, he needed that contact or else it felt like he was falling again, falling into -

"Be at ease," the young woman murmured. Marty heard, or felt, her moving around behind his head. "All's well."

"Where am I? Is this the hospital? Did the plane make it to Midway?"

Silence for a moment. "I ken neither hospitals nor plains that travel. But if 'tis Midway thou seek, it lies far off - two hundred wheels, or so 'tis on the old maps."

Marty groaned. He could barely understand her and her Amish - had to be Amish, right? - accent. "Then where are we?" he asked after a few seconds to catch his strength.

There was a creaking noise, wood scraping on wood, and a different voice answered, a man's voice, hard and raspy, a little like Clint Eastwood minus a decade or three. "Hagen's Hill, friend, on the outskirts of what was, upon a time, Howley Barony."

"Hagen's Hill? Howling Barony? What the hell is going on?" Marty demanded. "What the fuck happened to the plane?" He reached for the blindfold again, but was stopped cold by a grip on his wrist. A half-second's struggle told Marty that even when he was up and at full health, he'd never be able to match the man's strength.

"Be at ease," the man said, and Marty noted to himself that he much prefered it when the woman had said it. "How did you find yourself in the cold?"

"Cold? I didn't, I don't, the last thing I remember was the plane, and that buzzing when we started to land..."

"He speaks strongly strange, Pa," the young woman said in an undertone. Marty had to strain to hear it, but he could. "Ken you what he means?"

"I think I might."

"Well, tell me, then!" Marty hissed.

"What does the word thinny mean to you?"