For a moment, both of them were still. Ernesto stood, inching forward, while she remained arched on her chair, her features barely distinguishable in the dark. Then her voice rose, trembling with violence:
“You irresponsible scum!”
I shot forward but she was much faster than me. The chair fell behind her as she swept past the table and dashed upon him. His body recoiled. Her fist had hit right under his thorax. But she did not let him go. She caught both his shoulders and drew his contorted face toward hers.
“That was your plan? These people trusted you and that was all you had?!”
She was shaking him when I caught up to them.
I tried to separate them but she wouldn’t relent.
“You think that’s how it works? Just wait for someone else to make a miracle! Is that it?!”
Then as she shook again and Ernesto started gasping for breath, something else happened. At first I thought I heard my heart drumming in my ears, but it was a single beat, pulsating throughout my body. My eyes lost their focus: the call was coming from further away. Another wave was surging from the Spirit and spreading through the temple. I let go of Salvacion and turned round. She must have felt the sudden change in me, as I heard Ernesto’s body fall to the ground with a dull thump, and her voice followed me through the hall leading to the Shrine:
“Just find out how close the threat is.”
The Shrine door had been locked, but she broke it open with a violent gust of wind. Then out of the doorway rushed such a violent emotion that I can only describe it as an inhuman, guttural wail, the death cry of some primal life-form. I clenched my teeth and walked in. At the centre of the small, wooden web of arches and columns that formed the inner Shrine, wrapped in the sacred gauze that hung from the cupola above, the large, luminescent image of the Spirit rose. It had taken the shape of an iris, like one of those which Mercedes cultivated, but shrivelled and dry. A purple gleam pierced the white fabric of the gauze, within which its form writhed, shaking the entire edifice. I had rarely seen a Spirit so out of bounds. But I needed to concentrate. Closing my eyes and restraining my senses, I focused solely on images, seeking some concrete information. And I felt it. A drive upwards, like that of a geyser, pushing through the earth. A fountain of blood. Without time to catch my breath, I shouted out to Salvacion, who awaited behind the door.
“It’s coming from below. It’s coming now!”