6 And in that same period, Alicia likewise made her way to the place of Iowa, pursuing Martínez, Tenth of Twelve, whom she had vowed to slay. For Martínez was the most evil of these demons, a killer of many women, and a scourge upon the earth.
7 But Alicia was taken captive at the Homeland, and endured many tribulations at the hands of the Redeyes and their helpmates, who were called Cols. And the worst of the Cols was Sod. But Alicia was strong and did not yield.
8 And when one night Sod came to her cell, so that he might have his dark way with her again, Alicia said: “Loosen my chains, so that you may take your pleasure more easily.” And she wrapped the chains around his neck, killing him in this manner. And she made her escape, slaying many others.
9 And in the wilderness beyond the walls of the Homeland, Amy appeared to her; and Alicia saw that she was now a woman in body as well as mind. And Amy comforted her; for they were sisters in blood.
10 But Alicia had a secret; and this was the blood-hunger. For the seed of the Twelve was growing strong within her, making her a viral. And this was a great heaviness in her heart, for she loved her fellows deeply, and did not wish to be apart from them.
11 And in that same time, Sara was discovered by the Redeyes; and she was made a captive, and suffered many violations. For Guilder the Director desired that all who had risen up against him should know his wrath in fullest measure.
12 But the hour of reckoning was at hand; for Amy and Alicia had joined with the Insurgents, to take arms against the Redeyes. And among them a plan was hatched to liberate the people of the Homeland and destroy the Twelve and rescue Sara also.
1 And it came to pass that Peter and his fellows arrived in the place of Iowa, so that all were in attendance, making a mighty force. And the greatest of these was Amy.
2 For she had surrendered to the Redeyes, saying: “I am the leader of the Insurgents; do with me as you will.” For it was her design that Guilder in his fury should unleash the Twelve to kill her.
3 And all did come to pass as Amy had foreseen; and the hour of her execution was established. And this would occur in the Stadium, a great amphitheater from the Time Before, so that the people of the Homeland might see.
4 And Alicia and the others concealed themselves in that place, so that when the Twelve were revealed, they could use their weapons upon them and upon the Redeyes also.
5 And Amy was brought before the crowd, and bound in chains; and upon an armature of metal she was made to hang. And Guilder took great delight in her suffering, exhorting the multitudes to do likewise.
6 But Amy would not give him satisfaction. And Guilder commanded the Twelve to devour her, so that all in attendance might know his power, bowing down before him.
7 But Amy saw that she was not alone; for among the Twelve was Wolgast, who had taken Carter’s place, so that he might protect her. And Amy said to the Twelve:
8 “My brothers, hello. It is I, Amy, your sister.” And no more words were spoken by her.
9 For she began to shake, and her body became as a bright light shattering the darkness; and with a furious roar Amy became as one of them, taking the form of a viral, mighty to behold. And this was the Letting Go. And one to see was Peter, and another Alicia, and a third Lucius, and all the others also.
10 And the chains were broken, and a great battle joined; and a great victory was won. And many lives were lost. And one of these was Wolgast, who sacrificed himself to save Amy; for his love for her was like unto a father’s for his child.
11 And in this manner the Twelve perished from off the face of the earth, freeing all its people.
12 But of Amy’s fate, her friends knew nothing; for she was nowhere to be found.
* * *
August 98 A.V.
Eight months after the liberation of the Homeland
The ground yielded easily under her blade, unlocking a black smell of earth. The air was hot and moist; birds were singing in the trees. On her hands and knees, she stabbed the dirt, chopping it loose. One handful at a time, she scooped it away. Some of the weakness had abated but not all. Her body felt loose, disorganized, drained. There was pain, and the memory of pain. Three days had passed, or was it four? Perspiration beaded on her face; she licked her lips to taste the salt. She dug and dug. The sweat ran in rivulets, falling into the earth. That’s where everything goes, Alicia thought, in the end. Everything goes into the earth.
The pile beside her swelled. How deep was enough? Three feet down, the soil began to change. It became colder, with the odor of clay. It seemed like a sign. She rocked back on her boots and took a long drink from her canteen. Her hands were raw; the flesh at the base of her thumb had peeled back in a sheet. She placed the web of her hand to her mouth and used her teeth to sever the flap of skin and spat it into the dirt.
Soldier was waiting for her at the edge of the clearing, his jaws loudly working on a stand of waist-high grass. The grace of his haunches, his rich mane and blue roan coat, the magnificence of his hooves and teeth and the great black marbles of his eyes: an aura of splendor surrounded him. He possessed, when he chose, an absolute calm, then, in the next moment, could perform remarkable deeds. His wise face lifted at the sound of her approach. I see. We’re ready. He turned in a slow arc, his neck bent low, and followed her into the trees to the place where she had pitched her tarp. On the ground beside Alicia’s bloody bedroll lay the small bundle, swaddled in a stained blanket. Her daughter had lived less than an hour, yet in that hour Alicia had become a mother.
Soldier watched as she emerged. The baby’s face was covered; Alicia drew back the cloth. Soldier bent his face to the child’s, his nostrils flaring, breathing in her scent. Tiny nose and eyes and rosebud mouth, startling in their humanness; her head was covered in a cap of soft red hair. But there was no life, no breath. Alicia had wondered if she would be capable of loving her—this child conceived in terror and pain, fathered by a monster. A man who had beaten her, raped her, cursed her. How foolish she’d been.