Kendra ducked. The machete came down on her shoulder – skidded against bone, then sunk deep into flesh. She felt a moment of pure, hot white pain, and then fell to the side, the machete jerking free. She expected – for a few seconds – to feel the dislocation of shifting to another universe or changing the past or whatever it was that she did. But instead, she felt pain and the hot, sticky blood pouring from the deep cut. She felt her bone grate against itself, and she looked up at Adder, grinning manically as he lifted his machete for another blow.
She kicked at him, desperately. Her shoulder screamed, she screamed – a kind of agonized yelp that didn’t even sound like her. But her foot still connected to Adder’s gut. He took it like a battleship taking a pea fired by a bored student – he didn’t even rock. He grabbed her ankle before it fell, and twisted it. Against the shoulder, the ankle breaking like a twig shouldn’t have felt that bad.
Instead, it felt even worse. Kendra closed her eyes, arched her back, and made a noise that wasn’t even a noise. She couldn’t scream, because she was trying to scream too hard. Adder let go of her leg and when she opened her eyes, she saw that he was kneeling down beside her, his grin and his glowing maniacal eyes lost in the sunlight that shone behind his head. Kendra gasped, her throat raw, her eyes burning with tears.
“It’s okay, you’ll be free soon-“
Her good hand scrabbled, and more by chance than anything else, found a large, sharp rock. She clenched it, tensed.
Adder set the machete against her head, like someone setting a hammer, testing the angle before he would bring it back-
He brought his arm back…
-and smash down like a-
Kendra rolled. Her bone grated, her ankle sent popping-white flashes through her eyes. She made a wet, gasping noise, but that didn’t cover the loud CRACK of the stone hitting Adder in the temple. The sharp point drove home a small amount, leaving a little dimple in his head. He peeled to the side. Kendra got her knees under her and – feeling faint from the hot flow of blood that ran along her arm and dripped from her fingers – brought her rock up.
Adder slashed with his machete. The blade opened her rock-carrying arm open, blood soaking her sleeve. But her hand still came down, smashing the rock into his nose. He made a shocked noise and Kendra sobbed, her eyes closed tight.
“Mother…” She gasped, not sure if she was going to swear or if she was just wishing Mom was there to help. She lifted the rock with her arm, her fingers refusing to open – maybe he’d missed the tendons, and she could still grip. Maybe it was just adrenaline, holding her body together by spit and bailing wire.
Adder’s nose had been broken and his eyes looked dazed and slightly confused. She brought her rock down against his forehead. She could hear the crunch and felt sick. She almost wanted to stop…
But then she brought the rock down again. The rock’s weight was almost impossible to lift, but bringing it down was…easy…
Then there was a wet noise, a bit like when she had dropped a bowl full of jello. Remove the crashing noise of ceramic, and replace it with the crunch of bone snapping between some evil giant’s teeth and…
She saw what she had done…
Bits of purple and-
Kendra closed her eyes, then somehow managed to stand. Her head swam and she staggered backwards, her back caught by the chainlink fence. Her mangled arm dripped down her fingers and she panted, her breath coming in quick gasps.
For a moment, when Kendra opened her eyes, the world seemed dim. No, it didn’t seem dim. It was growing dim. The space around her started to fade, creating a tunnel that stretched before her. But as she looked, the tunnel grew longer, then split again and again. Down one of them, a glowing hand reached towards her.
Come on… A voice that wasn’t a voice spoke and she trembled as she felt the great stillness of the universe.
Take my hand.
Kendra untangled her arms from the fence. No. She didn’t move. Someone else was holding her.
Kendra tried to reach, but someone was holding her down.
Kendra felt something slide into her neck, and heard the voices.
“She’s going into shock.”
“She’s a lucky one. All right, what about-“
Kendra heard the door slam. But at the same time – echoing through the tunnels of the universe, she heard a single word.
Kendra’s eyes opened. She was lying in a clean white room, and her arm and shoulder both felt as if they had been completely wrapped in warm, gauzy stuff that made her feel one half marshmallow. Her head felt as if someone had shoved more of that marshmellow stuff between her ears, but it had been quite cleverly targeted. Rather than just insulating her brain, it just insulated the bits that had to think about stuff.
“That…” Her voice startled her – it felt scratch, and it sounded like it came from someone who smoked too much. She tried again. “That’s a stupid thing to think…”
She looked around the room again. She saw the things that went ping and blip and boob and had lines that ran along them. She saw a hanging curtain that blocked off the part of the room that held another bed – that other bed was empty right now, so she had no company, and so the curtain hadn’t been drawn either. She saw the window that looked out on…was that the San Pedro expressway? She knew that expressway, she had marched down it every year for…
Band! Marshal! Machetes!
Kendra looked back at the door – there was no one beside it. Then she saw something sticking into her vision, thrust almost into her eye it felt. She slowly tilted her head down and saw that there was her thermos, sitting right there on the nightstand.
Kendra grinned, weakly.
When she laid back in bed, though, she wasn’t able to just go back to sleep. First, the pains and aches of her immobilized body parts started to reassert themselves. Second, it was the fact that the door opened and a nurse came in, checking her over.
“You had a bit of a close call, there…” The nurse murmured.
“A bit…” Kendra said. “Where are my parents?”
“They’re waiting in the lobby. We weren’t sure your condition would stabilize this fast, but you…were pretty lucky.” The nurse smiled at her, his face more wan and thin than she’d have expected.
“Great…” Kendra nodded, her eyes closing.
When the nurse stepped out, she found that the aches had faded – maybe he’d upped the painkillers? But she still couldn’t get to sleep, because as the nurse slipped out, the door opened and in came…
“Bijay!” Kendra’s eyes widened. He came in wearing a nurse’s outfit. “Do you work here?”
“I do now,” he said, smirking as he walked over to her. “I’m sorry about that…are…do you want to talk about it?”
Kendra paused, thinking for a while. She remembered the feel of the stone. She remembered the hand, reaching to her from…where? Heaven? Hell? Nothing, but her own brain hallucinating? She remembered the Holy Ground, and the view from the other side.
“Nah.” She shook her head.
Bijay nodded, then smiled at her. His hand found hers, squeezed, and he stood.
“So, not going to work your mojo?” She asked. “Make it so the fight never happened?”
Bijay sighed. “Too much depends on the fights happening…Crichton made sure of that…”
Kendra sighed. “All right then…”
Bijay squeezed her hand, then turned to go, his fingers sliding from her grip. She shifted, moving ever so slightly, to grab and hold onto his hand.
“I was so scared…” She whispered, so softly that she barely heard it herself. “I was scared a-and…”
And it all came out.
Bijay listened, and didn’t say a thing.
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