Of Gods and Madness: The Faithful

Chapter Seventy-One

Marise’s benefactor withdrew his hand from her face. Carrick cackled, his body distorting as Raine bled out next to him.

She watched Carrick swipe Raine’s blood down what remained of Carrick’s jaw. A long tongue forked out, lapping at his fingers. Sadness settled over her, something foreign and rock hard, pressing on her chest. Watching this creature, this thing, salivate over Raine’s corpse, Marise felt a wave of revulsion at the sheer perverse pleasure the beast was taking from it. She tried to hold her emotions at bay but all at once was overwhelmed by them. She turned away, into the white jacket, then retreated a step.

The man held her strong. “You’ve had your time. You need to return to the good work.” His voice came out deep, set in his convictions.

“You took control of me,” she whispered.

“Did it hurt?”

“No.”

“If I hadn’t, I would’ve lost you. I don’t want that.” His eyes widened with the confession, though there was something entirely inhuman about his performance. He ran the back of his index finger along her cheek, searing her hair as he brushed it from her face.

The old ache returned in a moment, her hand infected with an unbearable itch.

She withdrew from the touch. Her hand went to the wound in her palm. Her hands scratched the wound, then tripped into it and kept going. She turned, watching Carrick force himself up to his knees. He inspected the body, the distorted laughter coming out broken, harsh. Ripping at the jacket with his good hand, he extracted seven gold coins. He regarded them, let them trickle through his fingers. Each one fell onto Raine’s mauled body, then rolled across the planks. Some came to rest in the heavy darkness, while others slipped through cracks, finding their way into the Okitsugu River.

Then he stalked off, a hitch in his step as he tried to adapt to his new body. His neck had been subsumed by the extra flesh, knotting together into a walking muscle factory. Even in the darkness, she could make out the deep lines in his arm where it opened. She half expected to see him leaning into his arms, using them to walk but he continued with his limp, holding his weapon of an arm close to his body.

“Enough. There’s things to be done. I gave you a chance with the other side, but that is over now.”

Allowing herself one last look at Raine, she shuddered. A fierce hatred licked at her as she memorized Carrick’s deformities. “All right.”

Metal screamed from the tunnel Raine and Marise had taken to get here as if the city had learned of the events of the last few minutes. The ground trembled beneath her feet, planks shattering, dropping into the sea. She stumbled, caught herself. She heard the splash as several containers pitched into the water, sticking into the air.

She straightened, turning her attention to the center of Sandhyanen as a plume of dust erupted into the sky. “What’s causing that?”

“I don’t know.” The man turned to the carnage, but that feeling of unease continued to permeate her. His features were too perfect, too sculpted. So much so that there was no subtlety to his face. Even now as she watched him, she had the feeling that something had changed about him, like his hair had shifted darker or it was longer than it had been before. She broke away from watching him, then followed his gaze to the smoke.

The deep brown plume thinned, revealing a tower where there had been none. It gleamed in the city’s lights, brown and white in the burning fires. Wires draped the tower, swinging in the air, then she saw one rear back and lash out at one of the nearby structures.

“There’s your next target.”

Marise regarded him once more, then turned back. Even from this distance, she saw cables, wires swaying in the wind but nothing more. Had she imagined it reaching it out? That familiar fear draped her as she took her first steps. She glanced back to Raine’s body, but found only a gap in the docks.

At least he’d escaped the city.

 

Water.

As Raine opened his eyes, he felt it creeping in.

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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.