The roar of the smaller woman caught Blue by surprise. Not because she’d never heard it before, or because it was intimidating - the witch was maybe a twentieth her size - but because it was, somehow, behind her. This prompted Blue to peek over her rolling Non shoulder, because, even though the witch was clearly standing on a pillar of dirt in front of her, it wouldn’t do to get caught off guard.
There was, of course, nothing behind Blue. So when she turned back and got caught full in the face by an enormous clump of dirt, she could blame only herself for being so stupid.
The rumble of Blue’s body hitting the ground shook the entire zombie encampment, knocking over tents and upending undead for almost a kilometre. Despite the impact Blue was relatively unhurt, save for the sting of pain in her cheek, and she bounced back onto her feet with abrupt agility. She threw a quick punch at the witch, but it wasn’t quick enough to catch the woman before she vanished with a pop.
“YOU’RE TOO SLOW!” Doc howled from below, his anger a roiling pain in Blue’s gut. Her stomach had been a point of particular displeasure ever since surgery had bound the two together. “TOO FUCKING SLOW! MASH HER!”
“I’m trying!” Blue insisted, shifting her weight to look for the witch. “Fuck… ow, my head… where’d she…?”
“You stole my brother,” an angry voice hissed from behind Blue. “Give him back.”
Blue whipped around. The witch was not behind her. Something hit Blue in the back of the head, and she stumbled - but, anticipating the blow, she allowed her skin to loosen, then tighten abruptly. The projectile flew back the way it came, propelled doubly fast by elastic force.
“Nice try,” the witch said, this time from above Blue. “But not nice enough. Give him back.”
“YOU CAN’T WIN!” Doc gibbered, teeth clicking in an impotent threat. “WE’LL FIND YOU AND, AH, WE’LL CRUSH YOU, AND… I WILL FEAST, OH YES, I WILL FEAST ON YOUR FUCKING BRAINS - “
“It seems to me that she’s the one doing all the work,” the witch commented, now from Blue’s feet. “You aren’t in the position to make threats. Give him back.”
Blue did not look down, which, this time, proved to be the mistake. An eruption of dirt heaved up around her legs, catching her in place and sinking her almost five feet into the ground. She fought and kicked against the suction, but before she could free herself a squadron of small birds - Birds, fuck me, why is this fight so random? - launched itself at her head, its collective eyes blazing orange as it dive-bombed her cranium. Blue waved impotently at them, her arms too slow to catch a single feathery body.
"Shit," Blue muttered. She kicked against the dirt, making only a little headway in freeing herself. "Will you shut up down there? I'm trying to... ngh... work."
"WE ARE LOST!" Doc howled. "LOST! LOST! THE WORLD WILL LOSE THE GREATEST MIND IT HAS EVER KNOWN!"
The witch popped into view atop the wreckage of one of the stalls. Her cape flapped almost casually in the breeze, and though she continued to look contemptuously at Doc's tiny head, her gaze was much more sympathetic when it regarded Blue.
"You need a new line of work," she said, grimacing. "I still hate your guts, but you need a new line of work."
Don't I know it, sister, Blue thought, but she kept it to herself. Doc didn't have much power, but he could make her stomach feel very painful indeed.
“WHERE IS MY FREAK?” Doc wailed, wriggling painfully. “FREAK! FREAK, YOU USELESS SACK! ASSIST US! ASSIST YOUR FUCKING MASTER!”
Freak did not come to the rescue. Instead, the disoriented zombies seemed to be making a comeback, the droll, market-going crowd replaced by a much sterner, tightly-knitted group of soldiers. Each was dressed in finery, of course, but the ragged armour placed under and around their doublets and jackets hinted at a warrior caste. They encircled Blue, each clutching a spear, their jaws salivating. Blue wondered if Non could be converted into zombies, and she shivered.
I don’t wanna be a zombie, she thought, knocking away a clump of dirt that rose too close to her left eye. I don’t even wanna be a soldier, for fuck’s sake. I wanna go home. Even if that home is a stupid star-filled abyss. Codespace was much better than this shit. At least in goddamned codespace I didn’t have to put up with stupid fucking -
Twisting free of the dirt, kicking away two zombies who’d poked her legs with their spears, Blue turned to face her newest aggressor. He was not a she, and so he was probably not the witch. Probably. Genders didn’t seem to matter much to witches.
Blue raised a hand. “Hey, Dragomir. What’s up? You look well.”