Erian cursed, “You’re a disgusting pig of a woman, Kylie. You’ve got no standards.”
Kylie unwrapped herself from Elwin and turned to face Erian, “You’re such a cranky loser Erian. Why don’t you have a wife, eh? You’ve got a cranky face only a nursemaid could love.”
Erian responded in kind and the two started escalating their argument further when Elwin signalled for them to be quiet. The last stray dog had wondered out of sight. Now was their opportunity to go down to the water. They trio clambered down to the water. Kylie looked around at the dirt, mud, and junk strewn around the canal: her face beaming with excitement at seeing such a novel environment. Erian watched her coldly from atop a pile of gravel.
“Well now what? Where’s this thing that allows you to remove thorns safely?”
Erian pointed to a pool of flowing canal water that was deep enough to submerge a human body, “that’s it there.”
“A pool of water?”
“The water cleanses the wound so the loss of a thorn won’t kill you and you won’t get the plague either,” said Erian flatly.
Elwin looked at him from the corner of his eye, but didn’t protest.
“So do I just put my hand in and then you pull it out?” she asked presenting her right arm in the air which was thorned at the wrist.
Erian shook his head, “If we took out that thorn other people would notice, we’re going to take up the thorn that no one can see.”
Kylie’s gaze narrowed, “You mean the thorn ten centimetres below my belly button?”
“Yes,” said Erian coldly.
“You’re a creep, Erian,” Kylie folded her arms in front her chest, “This is a set up. I am not doing this.”
Erian turned to Elwin, “Go on Elwin, tell her this is for real.”
Elwin stammered, “He’s right, we need to remove the thorn that’s always covered, that way no one will know that it’s been removed.”
“I get that, but I don’t want him to see me exposed,” she hissed.
“Aww man!” cried Erian, “I don’t believe this, you show that to every man, every god damn man, except me. Why are you so cruel to me?”
“Go away, Erian. Go stand behind that pillar over there and keep watch for stray dogs. I won’t take my pants off near you and that’s it.”
“But you will for Elwin? You’re so cheap!” spat Erian.
The two of them argued about it back and forth until Erian stormed off without warning. He walked over to the pillar Kylie had indicated and disappeared from sight. Elwin heaved a sigh of relief that the conflict was over. Kylie pulled down her pants and exposed her entire lower half to the elements. Elwin looked away.
“Why are you looking away?” she asked bewildered.
“I don’t know,” Elwin said reservedly.
She shrugged her shoulders and stepped into the water pool. She had kept her top on but pulled it up and to her mid-rift so as not to get it wet. She looked at Elwin.
“Now I need to pull out the thorn,” said Elwin.
“You will need to look at me to do that.”
Sheepishly, Elwin turned to look at her. He could see her naked legs under the surface of the water. The unmistakable black veins of the thorn were still easily distinguishable underneath the water between her knees. She looked at him intensely.
“Why is it, Elwin, that men are either afraid of a woman’s body or greedily lustful for it?”
“I don’t know,” he whispered.
“I guess those are the only two emotions a man could feel about anything aren’t they?” Kylie mused.
Elwin was silent, the thorn in his heart had started to itch.
“What was that?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he lied.
“No, I saw you twitch when I said those were the only two emotions a man could feel about anything,”
Elwin twitched again, Kylie’s eyes widened.
“What else, what?”
“What else can a man feel?”
The thorn in Elwin’s heart stabbed into this flesh causing him to choke with pain when he tried to answer.
“Please tell me,” asked Kylie pleadingly, “What else could a man feel when seeing a woman like this?”
It took all his strength but Elwin managed to breathe the word, “awe…”
Kylie blinked and repeated the word, “awe.”
“But that’s silly Elwin. There’s nothing wonderful or awe-inspiring about me. I’m just a woman and a foul mouthed Delforian woman at that. What man would ever feel that looking at me?”
She laughed, but it was a nervous and shameful laugh as though she had just knowingly uttered something sacrilegious. The tone of her voice just then made Elwin shiver; it was as if he had heard the profound words of a sage. Elwin looked into Kylie’s eyes expecting at that moment to see more intelligence and wisdom than usual, but he was disappointed for they now looked as vacant and shallow as they normally did. The fleeting moment of divinity passed and Elwin was conscious that he was crouching over an ordinary woman lying half naked in a puddle of water.
He pulled out the pair of pliers he had secreted in one of the many pouches of his jacket and leaned in underneath the water. He felt carefully for the hard woody shaft of the thorn and clamped onto it hard with the pliers. He tugged at it gently. Kylie swore at him and goaded him to yank it out hard in one go. He complied and the thorn was ripped out of her flesh. They both stared at the long dark piece of wood as several inky black drops of poisonous fluid dripped from it.
Kylie went pale and slipped backwards as though she was about to faint entirely. Elwin rushed around and held her by the shoulders preventing her from sliding into the water and washing away. She thrashed her legs about for a few moments as a small thread of black poison weaved out of her body and through the water downstream. The convulsions stopped and her entire body went limp and lifeless.
Elwin held onto her. He rocked her head but it just hung there lifeless. The heat had leeched from her body and her flesh felt cold to the touch. He started to drag her body out, but stopped when he realised the thread of poison was still working its way out. He hung onto to her limp body watching the black poisonous thread unwinding its way out of her body like a parasitic worm escaping its spent host.