Then the black thread of poison morphed into a trail of crimson blood. Kylie’s body jolted back into life and all her limbs flayed about spasmodically in the water. She gasped hungrily for breath and with the rapid violent movements she brought the warmth back to her body. Elwin helped her out of the water and she shivered uncontrollably. Without knowing why he wrapped his arm about her and cradled her close to his chest as she sobbed.
Elwin was holding onto Kylie protectively for several minutes when they heard the sound of approaching boot steps. Erian was running towards them from the pillar he had been hiding behind. Kylie seemed jolted into wakefulness. She hastily put her clothes on. Erian stopped a short distance off and watched her putting her clothes back on hurriedly, while Elwin was looking away from her.
“What is it Erian?” asked Elwin.
“Groods! At least two dozen of them, they’re marching through the canal.”
The trio quickly moved up the edge of the canal and concealed themselves in the brush. Elwin pointed out the wet marks Kylie had left behind while climbing up the slope. Erian dismissed his concern stating that the Groods were too stupid to notice details like that. Kylie was unusually silent she hadn’t yet spoken a word since waking up.
They peered over the edge and it was not long before twenty or more Groods lumbered into view. They were carrying whips, machetes, glass bottles, and couple of them had guns. Instead of their usual black uniforms, these Groods were mostly naked from the waist up. They still had the distinctive helmets with the wires going into their heads, but this group appeared relaxed and were mumbling what must have been jokes as they often erupted into laughter. They watched them saunter by through the canal, completely oblivious to the water marks on the side of the canal as Erian predicted. When they were gone Kylie spoke her first words since being un-thorned.
“They don’t have any thorns.”
“They don’t need them,” said Erian.
“We don’t need them either,” she said thoughtfully, “I wonder why the Kelites don’t bother to thorn them too?”
Erian was taken aback by Kylie’s question, he made a few sounds as though he was going to answer but he had no answer to give. Elwin offered what he had been told all through his life, “because only the Delforians are susceptible to the plague.”
Kylie shook her head as though lost in thought. She told them that it was time to get back and she took the lead. Elwin observed her carefully. She was not behaving at all like the same woman that had come with them to the canal. As she was crossing the railway line on the way back, she looked poised and alert. When they had first crossed the railway line: that Kylie had been talkative, bubbly, and even seductive. This Kylie was quiet, thoughtful, and her body movements were not sexually suggestive at all. Although he noticed that her hand with the thorn in it was trembling constantly.
When they were all safely inside the dark stairwell she thanked them both for taking her outside. Then she turned to Elwin and thanked him for removing the thorn and for watching over her after her thorn had been removed. She embraced him and kissed his cheek. Elwin shivered, the way she had held and kissed him was nothing like she had none previously. It was warm and caring, when before it had felt intrusive and unwelcome to him. She said good bye them both politely and then ran up the stairs by herself.
“Damn it, I was so hoping we might nail her today, or at least I would. Do you think she’ll die without that thorn?” grumbled Erian.
Elwin hesitated before answering, “I was thinking that maybe she did die.”
Erian chuckled and waved a dismissive hand at Elwin.
“You should have seen what happened when I pulled out the thorn, she went into convulsions and fainted. Her body went cold. I think she died.”
“Then who was that we came back with?”
“I don’t know. She’s a completely different person: A new personality. She has been reborn.”
Erian stared at Elwin, the edges of his mouth curled up into a half smirk.
“That’s some pretty crazy stuff you’re just saying. Dying and coming back to life again.”
“I know, but what if we do die when the thorns are removed? Not our bodies, but our old selves?”
“Then we had better watch her. If she doesn’t get the plague in the next few days then we know it is at least safe to remove one of the thorns. Then we can have a go at removing one of our thorns and see what happens to us.”
The two friends nodded their agreement and left the dark stairwell. When they had all gone a figure that had been crouching underneath the staircase out of view slipped quietly into the open and peered up at them ascending the staircase. The figure was dressed in robes completely obscuring them. They moved towards the door and tried to open it. It was firmly locked. The figure glanced back up the staircase and started making its way after the Erian and Elwin.
When Elwin returned to his apartment he was so preoccupied thinking about the transformation that had taken place in Kylie that he walked through the door without first checking if his wife was home. Stepping into the general purpose room he was immediately aware of the mistake he had made. Holda was there sitting on a chair her arms and legs crossed her face contorted by an anger that had long gone stale waiting for Elwin to return. He glanced at her and made for his study room.
“Elwin!” she snapped.
He found himself paralysed, a surge of pain flashed through his leg from the thorn in his knee. He was trapped in the furious gaze of his wife.