Clara pushed herself against the outer edges of the tree trunk and stretched out her neck before opening her eyes. All around, there were signs of the carnage unleashed from Edith’s ascendance.
The ground that surrounded Edith’s last location was scorched black. All the vegetation within that radius had been turned to ash. When a breeze picked up, the ash became airborne, which created the illusion of a heavy grey fog. Through this fog, she noted that the statue of Alice had been deformed from the heat, looking more like a collection of ant hills than a homage to one of her favourite childhood stories.
“Curiouser and curiouser,” Clara said.
Her eyes lingered on the molten slag before moving further towards the centre. How she managed to miss this before, Clara had no idea, but she felt guilt to have overlooked it. In haste, she sprinted over to the quivering mass and kneeled beside Victoria.
What had once been a decaying corpse was now resurrected into the vessel of a mortally wounded woman. Gone were the signs of that parasitic creature. Still, the wounds were extensive. The temporal, frontal and zygomatic bones had all been shattered. Her jaw had been dislocated and her nose, eyes, and ears were little more than bloody craters.
Clara had served as a nurse in a combat theatre. She treated men riddled with shrapnel, others torn apart by artillery, and some were so badly burned that they begged for death. This woman had no ability to consolidate all of that pain, nor come to terms with her inevitable death.
Her fingers were bleeding profusely through what was left of her skin and muscle. Truthfully, if Victoria had been able to recover, what would that achieve? Condemned to a life of pain, but unable to find an outlet through which to express herself?
Fortunately, where God had failed to show compassion, man tipped the scales towards mercy. The wound in her back would ensure a swift death. Not even a skilled trauma surgeon had any hope of repairing her shredded spine. With such a wound, Clara could do nothing more than comfort.
She straddled Victoria’s head to steady her and caressed her hair. Clara then hummed a soft prayer, and while the words would never be heard, she hoped it would ease her transition. Victoria had been stripped of her right to choose eternal life for her soul; death was her only reward now.
A single gunshot rang out over the park, but Clara did not break her concentration. Victoria’s heart was beating strong for now. This was a young and healthy woman. Still a body could only take so much.
A helicopter swooped over the vicinity and pushed onwards to an open area big enough to accommodate its landing. Troops were sure to be headed her way, seasoned, and ready for war.
Clara did not care; she continued to comfort the dying woman. Even as boots with rattling drums of ammunition approached, she stood fast. Victoria’s heart began to beat harder, faster, all in an attempt to compensate for the blood loss. Her respiration grew more pained with every breath. Clara hoped that this poor woman was unconscious by now.
Before she knew it, the men had converged on the scene. They said nothing, yelled no orders, nor attempted to make contact. She guessed they had orders to neutralise any threats; after all, this was not her first dance with this breed of soldier. Besides, people feared the unknown, and Clara came with a very big question mark. Nonetheless, she was not about to abandon this woman.
Finally, Victoria’s heart stopped, exhausted and spent. Had this all been a dream, she might have lived a century or more. Now, she lay dead in a park with no ability to make peace. Victoria let out a gentle sigh, but the damage to her body coerced the sound to create something unearthly. Still, Clara knew that Victoria’s fight was over and hoped that her soul would move on.
Clara bowed her head in respect and said, “Amen—”
Before Clara could finish her prayer, there was a blow to the back of her skull. An impact powerful enough to render her unconscious; she was out cold before she hit the ground.
Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!