“Every god will hunt you. They will not stop. There will be nowhere safe on the face of this planet. From now until the day you die, you will have to run.”
The words struck Casey as she woke from a violent nightmare.
Gasping for breath, she had to lock a hand over her mouth and push her fingers in as if her mouth was something foreign to her and she was trying to rip it from her face. She couldn’t connect with her own breath. It was like it was being pumped into her lungs from afar. The same far off place that had haunted her dreams since the incident yesterday.
She squeezed her eyes closed. Rolling over, she clutched up a pillow and pressed it into her face until she saw stars.
“It was nothing, Casey. You just tripped down the stairs and bumped your head or something. That’s all.” Even as she tried to convince herself of that, her voice wavered so badly, it sounded as if there was an earthquake going on in her throat.
“It was nothing, nothing at all.” She forced herself out of bed. Timidly, as if the carpet was made out of spikes, she placed her feet down. When nothing untoward happened, she rose. Her balance was unsteady. She might be trying to pretend nothing had happened last night, but her muscles were burning as if she’d run a marathon 20 times over.
“Just ignore it. Ignore—” she got halfway into planting a hand on her face and promising herself for the umpteenth time that this was nothing when she saw a pile of clothes on the floor. They were hers – the same simple black waitressing top, formfitting skirt, and sturdy high heels she’d worn yesterday. Heck, even the nylons with the ladders along her left ankle were hers. But you know what else was hers? The bloodstains.
Shuddering, staring at them and willing them to go away, Casey fell flat on her ass next to her bed. She tried to clutch the covers and pull herself back up, but all that did was drag most of her bedclothes back down onto her.
She couldn’t breathe fast enough, and she started to hyperventilate, all at the sight of those bloodstains.
“No way. There’s no damn way what happened last night was real. It’s not possible.” She started to stutter like a broken recording as the memories of last night sunk into her mind no matter how hard she tried to push them away. The fight, the fury. The bodies.
Casey shook her head so hard, she saw stars. You know what that changed? Nothing.
She finally found her feet. Staggering up, rather than heading over to her clothes and assessing the bloodstains, she ran for the door.
She grabbed it in a shaking hand, threw herself into the hall, and reached the kitchen. It was just in time. She hurled into the sink.
Washing it down, she turned, pressed the back of her hand against her mouth, and stared back in the direction of her room. Judging from her wary, fear-filled eyes, it was as if she expected the clothes would jump up, crawl out here, and cut her head off.
Cut her head off….
She trailed her fingers down her brow. If the incident last night had been real, then why wasn’t she injured? Why didn’t she have a laceration across her stomach? Where was the gash in her brow? To confirm that none of those injuries were there, she set her prying fingers dancing over her body in a frantic rush. Nothing. She was fine. So the blood… belonged to someone else?
As horrifying as that was to even consider, it was way better than the alternative. Grabbing a glass of water and downing it in one go, Casey gathered the gumption to go back into her room. There, exactly where she’d left them, were her clothes. Getting down on one knee, her body aching as she made the movement as slow as her muscles would allow, Casey laid her bloodstained clothes down in front of her. As soon as she saw the gashes that had torn the fabric in two as easily as someone slicing a scalpel down a ripe peach, she gave up. It was real. Last night, Casey Riley had met a god. In the coming days, she would become one.