Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 11 –

– 11 –

She has a blind spot. It is not much of one, but it is there. It is a blind spot. And the lightning comes at her through it, or she lets the lightning come at her through it, and it shears her sideways through Tokyo Tower. She goes writhing through most of the girders but is forced to sunder others with her swords — or, in one case, with her back, and a scream of agony — before cratering down into a Tokyo road.

As the Tower creaks and topples behind them, the nithrid slams down at her like the hammer of the gods.

It isn’t quite enough.

The earth won’t take her; or, rather, there’s a sewer line under her. She comes back up. She is flung up, in fact, on a miraculously purified spray of sewer water from a manhole three blocks further; there are rose petals mixed into the spraying white. And fire follows after, the sewers incandescent with the nithrid; it bursts up from every opening: it scatters birds, ignites a lurid poster, and consumes an ex-Konami executive; it devours him utterly and hope, at least for one Mr. Koga, passes forever from the world.

It’s kind of sad, she thinks. She might have had the skill to save him, if only Edmund hadn’t eaten her hope-wove hat.

Then the wind throws her slewing and stuttering from the sky above Japan and such thoughts depart.

Her second mistake is over Australia.

It has been almost four days now. She has been fighting the nithrid for four days, and she has never felt better in her life; she is entirely used to it, now; she is feeling good with it, she has started to like it, her heart and life smoothed over with purpose, the battle become more of a dance — but ba-bump stumbles her heart, suddenly, over Australia, a flare of white and fear and the remembered eyes of the cannibal Edmund, and suddenly she is alone, suddenly she is afraid, suddenly the sandwich she’d seized up in passing from a beer garden in Bavaria and eaten seems far too little and far too long ago.

She is just a girl, then, suddenly, a secondary school girl, tumbling down into a patch of ground that probably has a zillion nasty poisonous predators and/or rabbits in it while a raging world-ending storm attacks her, and she hasn’t seen the sun in days.

The nithrid’s attacks are sometimes imprecisely distinguishable and frankly I haven’t always been perfect in counting, so I don’t know for sure on the numbers; but somewhere around bolt four thousand nine hundred and seven —

The nithrid fries her.

It sears her. It is only the strands of nithrid woven into her clothing, itself turning aside itself, that save her; even so, she is burning, her hair is singed and smoking, and she is unable to remember which direction is up and which is down.

This should be very easy as she is falling towards Australia. The brown direction should be the ground and the green direction should be the sky, or possibly the other way around; but in any case, she realizes as her eyes film and then clear again, there isn’t any other way to go but red.

Ba-bump goes her heart. She veers into the ninja space, the space outside of space, and gains a solid three seconds of breather in a place where she cannot breathe —

It’s less efficient than most breathers, in that sense —

And she has time to think: what in God’s name am I doing?

She isn’t even sure whether she refers to “fighting the nithrid” or “almost losing.”

She retreats then, just a little. She is scared, just a little, now. She stands for a moment on the head of a drop bear and feels suddenly, terribly guilty as the nithrid turns it into a roast.

She skitters back towards England, and the school.

It is very simple, she thinks. She will get help from . . . Saul? Peter? Tom? Principal Goethe? Possibly Tom will put his hat onto the lightning.

And suddenly, out over the sea somewhere, she can’t help laughing.

Maybe it’s the visual of the lightning in a hat. Maybe it’s the sudden memory that Principal Goethe cannot possibly help her, because he’s just this vaguely imposing-looking Principal (and dead, and also half-eaten). Maybe it’s just everything all at once.

She curls in on herself atop the water. She can’t keep flying. She can’t even keep standing.

She’s on her knees, with her hands on the surface of the sea, and she’s laughing, and she knows that this is the moment. This is the moment when she’s dead.

It’s always been inevitable, ever since her happy ending was devoured.



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