Of Gods and Madness: The Faithful

Chapter Forty-Four

Theon ducked under the bridge as the first drops of precipitation struck the pavement. Within minutes, streams slammed the ground under the bridge. He hated the rain, despised water. Too much presence of mind in the liquid.

He pushed back his white hair, which appeared a darker shade of grey in the dull reflection of the lights. He peered through the rain into the faltering monochromatic image of Sandhyanen. The rain pulsed, slowed, rushed down with more ferocity than before. A fine mist coated the skyscrapers, the brilliant lights burning through the haze. The fog swelled around the city’s supports. He watched the city, thinking, It’ll all come down soon.

Leaning against the underpass’s wall, he stared across the gap, ticking down the minutes until he could escape. Beyond recognition, multiple designs covered the opposing wall. One too many would-be artists had placed their stamp on the surface, each image bleeding into the next, though one burned through the rest. The symbol drew his eye, its crimson lines warped, spun into another creation altogether. A memory stirred, but he had trouble connecting it.

Lightning streaked across the sky and thunder shook the foundations of the city. Theon turned to the left, then the right, stepping toward the middle of the underpass. Rain covered both sides, thick as walls, transparent as distorted glass.

As he made a tentative step, light erupted on both sides of the bridge. Theon retreated from the blinding light, not caring where he went as long as it was away. Rain surged over him as he stumbled through the waterfall. He arched his back, retreating back to the safety under the bridge, but by then it was too late. “No,” Theon whispered.

A youthful woman appeared, thin blue hair cascading around her face. Her hair moved with the consistency of waves with each step and slight twist of the head. Even the arch of one perfect eyebrow affected it. Water did not rest on her as much as flow over her.

Behind her, the sheen of water solidified into a wall. The individual droplets slowed and merged. Inside, the liquid coursed in and around itself, mirroring her movements.

“Oki.” He spat as their eyes flashed in recognition.

“Theon.” Her voice came out thick, husky. Makeshift bands wrapped her body, fashioned into a flowing gown. She looked out of place in this world. “You have been up to mischief again.”

“Who? Me?”

“Yes, you. You act as if I have no sight. Like I do not feel every ripple of this world.”

“Only in the water.”

“And of gods.”

Theon swept his stringy hair back, kept his eyes trained on the woman. He took a step away from the stream.

“The fresh one you brought about is awaking,” Oki said.

A slight pause. “What makes you think I had anything to do with it?”

“Oh, come now.” Her head tilted in an expression of incredulity. Her hair swirled, coiled, snapped into place. “You were there when he first felt the pull. You were there when it was planted in his soul. Have you forgotten my eyes?”

He grinned wide, devious and knowing. “But I’m not with him now. Why would I abandon my creation?”

“You have never had that sense of responsibility we have taken.”

He shrugged. “All our homes have fallen into a mockery of what we stood for. Even with your care in this world.”

Oki looked at him with pity. “I have seen the boy. And that is all he is. A boy. I do not see the reasons for your choice, but I will not alter it. This is your problem, something I expect you to take care of.”

Theon started to speak, but Oki held up a hand. The wall behind her shifted. Thunder rumbled, weak as the rain continued to fall.

“I do not care whether you will admit to it. This is your problem. You will take care of him. I am sure it will make you happy to hear some outside force is interrupting my sight. I fear that another one might be coming.”

“Where is he?”

“With the fallen one.”

Theon’s gaze snapped to the symbol. He stepped to the side, so that Oki didn’t notice.

She turned from him. She paused, dropped her head, and said, “Theon, it was good to see you. I would like it to be more frequent. It’s been far too long since we’ve spent time alone.” She pressed into the solidified water. It pulled at her skin, sticking to her as she disappeared. As she slipped through, it split apart and fell in a rush.

Theon looked past to see the sun’s rays spilling across the clouds as the last of the rain came to a stop over his part of the city. He spent a few minutes studying Pryor’s symbol, wondering how long it would be before the son-of-a-bitch made a move. And if he should keep this little bit of information close to his chest.

She’d already identified that Raine was with Pryor, but Theon didn’t think that she’d realized that Pryor was placing his symbol throughout the city. Theon couldn’t be sure what the banished god was planning. He just needed to make sure he was ready for the outcast’s first move.

Leaving the archaic symbol behind him, he shook his head, making his way out into the humid night air. He grimaced and tried to brush the moisture from his skin.

He hated water.

Theon heard someone shout his name. Annoyance streaked through him, then he turned and smiled.

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Justin D. Herd

Justin D. Herd is a purveyor of the weird and strange. He occasionally squawks at friends and family, but does so only under the cover of night. Okay, that's not true. He squawks in full daylight. Drinking games have been built around his peculiarities, but the truth of it is this: he is a loving husband, with two wonderful dem--children. One growls at things he likes, including pretty women. The other has started to learn hand-eye coordination. Neither had made it to the tender age of three. From there, things will only get more interesting. He spends most of his writing time either at a coffee shop or sitting at one of his many desks around his house. Any other place makes it nearly impossible for him to write. He uses horror movies and rock music to help get the juices flowing. His favorite authors are Jeremy Robert Johnson, Alan Campbell, Terry Pratchett, Justin Cronin, and Patrick Rothfuss. He consumes most of his books through audiobooks, but still loves his personal library and getting lost in the printed word.