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Cortes looked out through the moonlit night, out across the steaming ground, out across the glistening earth, out upon the bodies that lay and lay and lay in the courtyard. The smell was everywhere, was thick, had been his desire, his fault. His horses sweated, his men sweated; he could hardly breathe; he pulled at his collar as the horses stamped.
The steam rose from the bodies, from the bodies of the animals, from the bodies of the dead and dying. It was so thick it could almost be scooped up in great handfuls as it passed, could almost be weighed in a palm. A group of men gathered in a corner poked at something and it groaned; the steam seemed to move away from them, seemed to twist away to get clear of the groan. He watched and felt the steam and the sweat and the smell, he felt all of it join together and curl up and leave the courtyard and rise into the sky, spinning higher and higher, past the treetops, past the mountain tops, past the roof of the world, until it reached the moon, and when he saw the moon surrounded he desired nothing more than to take it for himself.
Sam Howroyd is a writer and editor living in north London.