As many as thirty or as few as ten years later, lying exhausted and still, eyes open in the dark long after the three suns of Rakhat had set, no longer bleeding, past the vomiting, enough beyond the shock to think again, it would occur to Emilio Sandoz to wonder if perhaps that day int he Sudan was really only part of the setup for a punchline a life-time in the making.
It was an odd thought, under the circumstances. He understood that, even at the time. But thinking it, he realized with appalling clarity that on his journey of discovery as a Jesuit, he had not merely been the first human being to set foot on Rhakhat, had not simply explored parts of its largest continent and learned two of its languages and loved some of its people. He had also discovered the outermost limit of faith and, in doing so had located the exact boundary of despair. It was at that moment that he learned, truly, to fear God.