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Dead Men Living
1The El Niño--Christ's Child--gets its name from always beginning in December, usually in a seven-year cycle, and reverses the equatorial winds to blow west to east across the Pacific. But there was nothing benevolent about the worldwide climatic upheaval Christ's Child caused that year.The heavy storms that followed the wind-driven warm water washing up against the coasts of North and South America caused deserts to flood and rain-denied rain forests to wither.Drought parched Southeast Asia and smoke from fires that engulfed Indonesia blocked out the sun and plunged the country into near-darkness for weeks. There was so little water in the lakes and rivers feeding the Panama Canal that ship size had to be restricted. Raging torrents destroyed roads and railways in Kenya and Tanzania and Uganda, and rainstorms caused more than $1 billion of damage in California. For weeks temperatures of more than one hundred degrees seared Texas. Scores of people died from heatstroke. Forest fires engulfed Florida. Canada was paralyzed by ice storms.Siberia was also hugely affected. Tundra permanently frozen so hard that houses were built without foundations melted, in places reducing entire villages to collapsing matchwood. The thaw was particularly pronounced around Yakutsk.It was returning home to the tiny township of Kiriyestyakh from a supply-buying trip to Yakutsk that a reindeer herder found the bodies. Had he not been on horseback--denied the more customary use of the sled the animal normally pulled--he might not have seen the upthrust, hand-clenched arm: as it was, his first impression was of a tree branch.He was too young to have known the Great Patriotic War, although his grandfather had been killed on the eastern front and his father had lost an arm in the battle of Stalingrad. But the until now perfectly preserving ice tomb had collapsed sufficiently for him torecognize that both corpses were dressed in military uniform. Neither uniform looked like those he'd seen in any photographs of his grandfather or father. His initial impulse was to loot the bodies of whatever valuables there might be, but Siberia is the most superstitious of any Russian region and to grave-rob risked the Evil Eye. Instead he remounted his horse and hurried on to Kiriyestyakh, to report his find.DEAD MEN LIVING. Copyright © 2000 by Brian Freemantle. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y 10010.