Daniel walked out of the diner and looked through the window at Hoster and felt disgusted at what he thought the man was going to do. Granted, he never was told what happened when he was asked to go away, but he knew nothing good ever came from it. This was why they switched cars so frequently, he figured, often buying used ones off the side of the road with the side money Pern had told them to use for emergencies. This would be deducted from their pay, but Hoster said he'd take the brunt of it. Daniel knew he was probably lying, but he only needed enough to forge his pass and get out into the Stretch. From there, it wouldn't matter where he went, or who was looking for him. He'd be gone like a ghost, his dad would say.

The Stretch. He thought about the expanse almost daily, and without fail there would come fear and excitement when the idea of pure silence and dark black vacuum came to his mind. If there was one thing Daniel Yhog had never known in his entire life, it was silence. When he was young, he lived in Cochat near the Blue Land with his sisters Lis and Yhara. Lis was the oldest, and Yhara was younger than he, but they all looked similar and for a while Daniel's hair was grown out and all could pass for each other in certain lights. Daniel was told not to ask about their parents by Lis, but Yhara would tell him stories now and then.

When he was 13, Lis was killed in a grocery store in Osa by an elderly man who caught them stealing candy. They had been living in a half-house project shared by the homeless and Luddites after the Emigration. Lis had brought them to Osa four months prior, and promised no more hitching or cold beds, but instead they found begging and stained pallets waiting in the temp housing.

Mrs. Hessh had gotten them the room. A stout little relic of a woman, her eyes had fallen on the three when they showed up in the dirty town, huddled in the back of a dozer truck and sniffling into the cold. She took the children in, found Lis work, and made --- Yhara and Daniel ran from the store, chased by the man, who ran after them and howled obscenities about crank rats and blood babies. Yhara cried and begged as she looked over her shoulder at the wild man. Daniel pulled her, and never looked at the man. It was my candy, Lis. 

Daniel looked out at the road of dirty pavement and trudged across the warming ice patches that had crusted with grime. His boots crunched and squelched as mud met ice and rubber, but he rarely slipped as he continued to walk. His breath was cold and ancient as he imagined the dust emanating from the skull in a crypt. He thought strange things often, and 

The End

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