It must have taken me a good half-minute to rise, coughing and spitting out the sand from my mouth. There were cries and crashes above, as the monster thrashed against its last assailants. Then the dust settled, and it rose again to its full height. For a moment, its head seemed to scan the surroundings. The streams around the plaza were dry, and the sand was already submerging the low stone channels. A vivid image shot through my hazy mind. The garden. Its next target would be the fragrant, water-filled plants of Mercedes’s garden. I was certain that she had gone back to protect it. I could picture her standing with a kitchen knife below these deadly jaws. I knew she would die on the spot rather than leave. I had to get her out of there. Turning round the corner of the plaza, I tried to remember the path that led to the small door where she had led me earlier. Darkness had made these little back-streets indistinguishable, but I rushed in anyway. Seconds later, as I ran in what I hoped was the right direction, the rumble resumed: the beast was moving. Turning into a narrow dead-end, I gasped with relief as I recognised the layout. Then a crash resounded in a neighbouring alley. I was right. The threat was heading this way.
The door stood ajar. Moonlight shone from the roofs, and the tips of the purple flowers glistened under the white beams. Mercedes was kneeling on the threshold of her house, her hands clenched around the right arm of her daughter, who stood in the doorway and pushed her back screaming:
I noticed her other arm as I ran to them: she was holding an axe for cutting firewood close to her body. Her mother was not the one trying to protect the garden: she was. It took me a second or so to get a hold of the situation. Then the wall behind us collapsed. The fangs gleamed once again in the corner of my eye: the worm had found us.
What happened then I can only reconstruct with hindsight. My instinct overrode all reasoning. I saw the massive head lunge at the two women, dashed in, clumsily tried to push them aside and shield them from the hit. I think Mercedes was faster than me, and I found myself clutching only the girl, in the corner of the garden, my eyes frantically searching for a hint as to what had happened, then hypnotised again by the colossal shape of the monster above us. But as all of my life swirled before my eyes, swallowed like the town’s water by this gaping, inhuman mouth, one word rose to my lips. Salvacion.