The world freezes. The hurtling arrow slows until Adam can see that familiar face, and beyond it a thousand others just like it. Giant, winged creatures, with human faces; some of them almost recognisable to Adam; reminiscent of some vague knowing from way back.
He feels thrust back in his mind into tableaux and scenarios from a life half remembered. In one flashback there is a party with Julia, and a man hovers in the background with the face of the vulture creature, a sly hurt flickering across his face as he holds a drink. In another there is a crowd of boys spitting at him, covering his school blazer with their saliva, as he sinks down in shame.
There are others, but there is one that stops the others in their tracks.
In this, a giant figure, his mother, looms above him, snarling. Her mouth is moving, he can barely understand what she is saying, but the words form: Don’t you ever; she says, don’t you ever take me away from him, again! And then the snarl turns to a smile and she reaches out and picks him up, and all Adam senses at that moment is the warm sweetness of her skin.
The horde of winged creatures speeds up again for the briefest of moments and then there is turmoil, as they are flung aside amidst the roar of fire and fearful screaming. Most plummet to the ground, their bones and entrails smoking. The others wheel in the air and beat their hasty retreat on giant wings; the vulture man at their head amongst them. He looks at Adam and calls out something in a voice colder than ice, a screech of frustration and promised revenge, and then he, and the remains of the host, is gone.
The world turns quiet, and the boy turns to the girl and smiles. But she is not smiling, she is looking over his shoulder at the figure striding towards them. She sees the tall, beautiful figure of the Queen approach, - her hands still glowing with the power she has just expended - and stop before them.
Adam turns, but the Queen looks at the girl. Don’t you ever; she says, don’t you ever take me away from him. And then she looks at Adam with a half smile, and sees in his eyes that he remembers. This battle has been won, and she is back in control, she thinks, and she has saved her son.
Perhaps this world is not so bad after all?
The girl notices something: that whilst the Queen could devastate the host of monsters, she can only whisper threats to Adam and her. She has no real power here. The pendulum swings again.