Of Gods and Madness: The Faithful

Chapter Sixty-Nine

Dion paused, listening to the howling wind. Liam continued, not looking back. Alone with the sea, the two of them pressed along the broken dock’s well-worn path. The waters had subsided, if only for the moment, and he’d told the red headed god everything he knew. They hadn’t gotten around to introductions, but he’d recognize Liam anywhere.

The wailing hit a crescendo, disappeared as abruptly as it began.

“Another one of us is dead,” Liam said, voice brittle.

Dion closed his eyes. When he opened them, he nodded. “The girl.”

“Kanya.”

“So it’s another shift.”

“We’ll all be dead soon enough.”

“Not necessarily. If you keep your head down, follow a few simple rules, you could weather this. Be the surviving god.”

Liam regarded him, bereft of amusement. “What part of how I’ve been living makes you think I want to stick around?”

”Not much. Other than you seeking me out. You’re a relic only suited to his former life. You never wanted to be a god, to live forever. I bet you wish you could go back. That’s why you’re always reading.”

“You make a compelling case for survival. We’ve just met and you already know me.” Liam’s voice was flat, but Dion suspected that comment was meant to be sarcastic.

Dion waved a hand, the bottle of liquor swishing in it. He took a hearty swig, let it fall to his side. It bounced at his thigh as he walked. “You’re not a tough read.”

“Good to know I’m just another sad story.”

“It happens to the best of us,” Dion replied noncommittally. He paused at a hole in the cliff wall. He pressed a hand to it, craning his neck toward Liam. The stone quaked under his touch. “Something’s not right.”

“What is it?”

“Maybe Pryor’s making a move—”

A pulse ripped through the area. The cave opening expelled a torrent of dust. The dock seized, dropping rotten planks with the violent tremors.

 Planting his feet against the blast, Dion tried to protect himself from the debris. The wood below him buckled, rolling in waves as he slowly forced his arm up. The particles sliced his skin. Bits of flesh ripped from his exposed skin. Cables lashed out, splitting his clothing, the muscle beneath. He tried to scream, but it died on his lips.

Then a hand grabbed him, pulled with enough will to make him budge. He followed its lead. He tumbled into clean air. He bounced off the wood, splinters rising up to greet his raw limbs.

When he tried to breathe, he choked. Gasping for air, he forced himself to hack until a viscous mixture of saliva and refuse escaped, hitting the docks in thick globs. He stared at the water, watching the debris from the tunnel strike with such force that it became a skim that drifted out into the night, spreading across the murky river.

He didn’t move for what seemed a long time, then his vision cleared and he found Liam battered, hair tousled, staring at him like he’d died.

He touched an aching spot that stretched along his face. His hand came back matted with blood and dirt. “And I thought Sandpaper Sally couldn’t be topped.”

Liam looked like he wanted to question him, but Dion raised a hand. “I’ll explain it to you later.” He forced himself to his feet. His whole body shook as he straightened. The rumbling hadn’t quite subsided when the first of the shockwaves struck. The explosion of debris cut off abruptly though Dion heard creaking metal, tearing stone, and shattering glass high above.

Screams filled the air.

“Things are getting heated,” Liam said. “Are you sure we should be going up there?”

“What good is an observer if he avoids confrontation?”

“I think I’d rather hide.”

“You came to me. We’ll do things my way.” Inspecting his bottle of alcohol, Dion spotted the film atop it and pitched it into the river. “No use drinking dirty liquor.”

“What do you think that was?”

“I’m not sure, but, with two gods down, things are about to get interesting.”

“Was it Marise?”

“I’d bet it was, but I have no idea. She could be anywhere in the city.” Dion approached the cave’s mouth warily this time. The darkness yawned, promising all sorts of horrors in the next few hours. Dion stepped aside. “After you.”

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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.