‘Nononononono,’ said Rodger as the branch jerked aside. When he looked up again everything looked blurred as if he had water in his eyes. ‘Not now, why now?’
The carabiner was still close, but every time the praying mantis dived he was pulled away from it. He looked down at the Spiral.
‘Stop it!’ he shouted, ‘hold still!’
The Spiral did not hear or did not understand. The branch dodged when the praying mantis came near and then jerked back as if trying to hit it.
Rodger looked up at Frederick who seemed to be pulling out his own hair. There was no time. He stared at the approaching praying mantis. It was worth the risk.
He took the stun gun from his trousers. Aimed. Waited until the praying mantis was within range. He pulled the trigger, just as the branch jerked away.
The thin wire shot from the gun and connected with the praying mantis. The praying mantis fell out of the air like a rock and pain exploded in Rodger’s hand. It raced up his arm and left a complete numbness behind.
As his muscles stiffened, Rodger saw his grip on the branch was slipping. Gravity made him lean backwards gently so he could see the hole in the sky. And Frederick reaching for him. Shouting. Rodger could not hear the words, but he could see his lips moving. Then Rodger was falling. Wind whistling in his ears.
A branch shot out for him and wrapped around his chest. The pain would have made Rodger cry out if he could move; the branch had probably bent one of his ribs. He saw Frederick running in and out of view, probably searching for anything in the machine that might help. Rodger cursed and swore on the inside, but his body was as responsive as a statue.
The hole in the sky flickered. The rope with the carabiner fell to the ground. And then there was nothing above him but the clear blue sky.