I.20 The woman of action

I did not see her at first. In a flash, the wall of the adjacent house simply came crumbling down on the worm’s figure. I had to protect my eyes and the girl with my arms. When I could lower them again and look around, my partner was standing over my body, her face hidden in the dark.

“What the hell are you doing here? Who asked you to play bait?”

I must have mumbled that I was fine, and she moved back swiftly to the centre of the garden.

“Its carapace protected the damn thing. It’s coming back.”

My thoughts started racing again, and I looked round searching for Mercedes. Her daughter was still silent, but I could hear her laboured breathing beside me. I had at least managed to keep her alive. Ignoring the pain in my joints, I laid her down in the corner of the garden and hobbled towards the debris. Salvacion’s arm extended to the side, pointing at the flower-beds.

“There’s a woman. I aimed away from her, but I’m not sure what state she’s in. See if she’s alive.”

What strength I had to run through the ruined plot of ground I do not know, but it seemed as if my next heartbeat was over Mercedes’s body, when I saw her chest rising. She was alive, though badly hurt. The blood dripped from her forearm onto the flowers, tainting their petals and stems before disappearing in the damp earth. I didn’t have my cloak on, and vainly looked round for some fabric to bandage her wound. But Salvacion was already shouting at my back.

“It’s here! Just stay down!”

It felt like a gust of wind. The fangs gleamed in the moonlight, streaking the dark alley behind the fallen wall, then bolted over the rubble in a cloud of dust. Salvacion did not budge. For a second, her hand undulated in the air, and a stone the size of a man detached itself from the ruins of the house she had just destroyed. It flew into the monster’s body, breaking its balance. The gaping mouth crashed to the ground a few steps in front of her, biting the sand before springing upwards again. As it hid the light of the moon once more, she shouted with audible glee:

“Playing tough? I’ve got something you’ll like!”

Joining her hands together, she knelt and touched the ground. I felt the earth below my feet crumble to dust, and the flowers around Mercedes’s body withered in a second. A gurgling sound surrounded us in the dark. Then the worm turned its head downward, aiming for Salvacion. She thrust her hands up to meet it. Flashing in the moonlight, a fountain of water spurted out of them, as powerful and high as the one which had risen above the city moments before.

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