Xenolith, Page 82A. Sparrow
Chapter 70: The Final Convergence
The first bolt cracked a chip off the boulder and careened into Seor’s leg. The second pried a gap straight between Seor’s ribs and wedged in deep. Fletching protruded from her pink blouse like a pinned flower. Seor gasped, feeling first an intense pressure, then pain unlike any she had ever known; worse even than her breech delivery, when baby Dima seemed to tear her way out in desperation to be born.
Some of the projectiles fired by the police were diverted and intercepted by the portal. Others, on the fringes, whipped around and boomeranged back to those who delivered them, smacking their shields and peppering the white fence. The police halted their advance and held their fire.
Seor’s legs could not support her. She collapsed. Ara reacted quickly, reaching in to cushion her fall. Vul strained towards them, but he was already in the grip of the portal, helpless as a kitten pawing against a torrent. His feet sought purchase in the gravely bank. The sapling he clung to, uprooted.
“Go, Vul. Go!” said Canu, pushing at his comrade, his back to Seor.
“Help Seor!” bellowed Vul. “She’s hit.”
A frigid wind swirled out of the convergence and frosted the leafy branches caught in its swirl. Part of the stream ran in and blew back as snow.
The portal claimed Vul suddenly, and he was gone, sucked down like a leaf that had been clogging a drain. Canu turned and smiled as he stepped towards the convergence, but his expression palled when he saw Seor on the ground with blood trickling from her mouth, and oozing between her fingers. But he, too, was swept into the portal before he could respond.
A voice filtered through the portal, distorted into something resembling the distant scraping of a tree cricket, and barely recognizable as Canu’s. He urged Seor and Ara to follow. His blurry form floated in and out of view like a carp in a silted pond.
Shots exploded from the police traversing the swamp behind them. Shreds of fern leaped, trees shuddered where Baas had stood with his crossbow. Seor did not see him fall.
Ara knelt beside her. “I’ll will stay with you,” she said softly. “I can speak to them. We’ll surrender, so they can heal you.”
Seor dove into her eyes, trying to discern Ara’s motivations. She struggled to think or even to see clearly. Shimmery patterns of triangles and lozenges clotted her vision. It was hopeless trying to divine in a few moments, through pain, what she had failed to comprehend after days of pondering.
“No,” said Seor, coughing. “You go.”
Ara shook her head, entwining her fingers in Seor’s bloody hand. Seor had no fight. She squeezed Ara’s hand with each stab of pain, as if their conjoined palms were a second heart. Seor’s other hand clutched her wound, containing the gushes of blood that seeped around the bolt and dripped from the fletching.
The portal faltered, threatening to collapse, but suddenly it bulged and exploded with shards of light and balls of rolling mist. Canu rolled out awkwardly onto the gravel, face blanched, eyes desperate. He regained his feet, saw Ara holding onto Seor, and grabbed Ara’s free arm by the wrist. He pulled them towards the portal. The sudden movement twisted the bolt in Seor’s chest. She screamed.
Her vision went dark. Fingers slick with blood slipped away from Ara’s grasp, and she slumped into the moss.
Dima was there, sleeping in her arms. Seor lay broken but healing, in her parents’ bed, the morning after Dima’s birth. The sun lit a lazy shower. Astringent winds carried away the thunder.