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He made one final sign of the cross, then began to scrape dirt back into the hole. It was barely enough to cover the body. He wished then that he’d made more of an effort to dig the grave. Before the day was out the scavengers would surely be upon the body. But there was little to be done about it now. The wisps that his labored breathing created were as if the life-force escaping his body. A visible reminder that his time was dwindling.

Now on his feet, he kicked some final dirt into the hole. He took deep breaths, slowing his respiration and steeling himself.

Truth was, he was terrified. Every friend he had ever known was dead. He was an untold distance from anywhere that was even remotely home. And he was all alone in an unknown world. A place whose future only portends despair so complete that even God would intervene to prevent its fruition.

But he knew man's stubbornness too well to believe mankind would give up so easily. If he and the others had been the first to travel this far, they would not be the last. More would come, if not in search of Heaven on Earth, then in search of more worldly riches. That is why it was decided to leave the marker stone. To warn, or rather, ward off more like them. The thought renewed his devotion to the task.

He crouched next to the heavy greywacke slab and, with the last of his strength, hefted it up into the cradle of his arms. It was heavier than he expected. Or perhaps he was more fatigued than he thought. Either way the going would have to be slow.

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The End

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