Of Gods and Madness: The Faithful

Chapter Thirty-Three

No angry shouts called after Raine. Light footfalls whispered after him as he ran. He hazarded a look back. Carrick’s guards remained on his heels, relentless in their pursuit. They would stop at no lengths to capture him. One of them paused, aimed, released a shot.

Raine cut left, sliding between two buildings. He pressed between the walls, scuttling as quickly as he could through the passage. Brick scraped his flesh, catching on the bandages. His wound screamed in protest.

Sheathed in darkness, he heard the rustle of fabric behind him as they pressed into the narrow gap. He cleared the buildings and threw himself into a dead run. The wind howled down the open alley.

A bullet snapped short of his leg. He rounded another corner. A single beam of unwavering light shone. At the end of the alcove, a single blue door stood closed.

Scooped up by the breeze, pieces of paper cut past him and the air lost its quality again. Only this time, it was different. There was no burst of energy or speed. It was as if someone else had initiated this change and he was just an unwitting spectator. He closed his eyes, trying to summon any power. However, he was just left weak, broken down as his reserves rapidly dwindled. He forced himself through the dead air.

He burst through the door with his good shoulder first. The crack sounded like a gunshot in the night. Paint chips exploded into the lobby. Shouts came from behind, distant and otherworldly. The air snapped back to normal.

Pushing the door shut, he scanned the area for anything to block it. The lower landing looked abandoned, crisscrossed with cobwebs and dust. A dirty light burned on the second landing, but its reach didn’t extend past the top three steps. He couldn’t see anything other than a large staircase. He resigned to climbing.

He’d hit the second landing by the time the door shot open. Three gunshots struck the wall as Raine darted away.

Loose phrases spun together, whispers following after him. Figures rose out of elongated shadows, but he ran past them. As he reached the top of the stairs, a cold mass struck him. Falling to the ground, he sprawled against the filthy tile. He twisted, catching sight of the guards, and tried to stand.

Too late.

Wispy silhouettes covered him, their words filling the air. He tried to struggle against them but found himself unable to move. Static filtered in somewhere behind it, overwhelming and powerful. Be still, they whispered in a chorus of popping air. Ice traveled up his spine while their decaying breath washed over him, rendering his thoughts muddled.

The air shifted and a cacophony of shouts rose. The guards filed up the steps, moving to the single door. Cheap cologne drifted past Raine and he felt a tickle in his throat, urging him to cough it back into submission.

They tried the lock, found it fastened. Two of them moved in unison and kicked. It leapt open and the cloudy night sky filled Raine’s view. A soft hiss came from the smothering shadows, but the guards filtered out and the door shut behind them.

The cold retreated as the darkness left his body. Raine pushed himself up, stood. The shadows melted into one another and the creature from before rose to full height, towering above Raine.

Its eye slits rolled in its head and stopped on Raine. The ragged gapping maw twisted into an eerie smile and it spoke without moving, Hello Raine.

A shiver leapt up Raine’s spine. He looked into its expanding white eyes, immense and endless. “What do you want?”

We are interested.

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

We are interested. Small bumps on its skin rose, shifted, agitated, and then fell stagnant again.

“Who sent you?”

We came of our own volition. The others do not know we are here.

“The others?”

Its serpentine eyes flickered but it did not respond.

Raine’s head swam, but he focused his thoughts. “You saved me.”

Yes. We are interested.

“Yeah, you said that.”

We do not have much time.

“Neither do I.”

We will be back. A light fixture along the back wall sprung to life in a brilliant burst of light. The brightness intensified, carving lines through the specter’s face. In a flash, the shadows sizzled out of existence. Alone once more, the room went quiet.

Giving one more cautious look at the door, Raine headed down the stairs.

He needed to kill Jaiden before there was any more interference.

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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.