Here’s the first chapter of War and Famine, The Second Revelation. Enjoy!
“You killed me, Kim,” Malcom bared his teeth, but since most of his lips had rotted away, she could see not only his teeth, but the yellowed bone of his face. “And then you left me to rot.”
Rivulets of decayed flesh clung to his skull as he hoisted himself to his feet and took a step toward her. Fragments of his broken bone poked through the bloody white t-shirt stuck to his chest, from where she’d caved in his ribcage with Mjolnir.
“You left me all alone in this wasteland.” He shook his head, his dark eyes full of betrayal. “And you said you loved me.” He snorted. “Was I a fool to believe you?”
He took another step toward her, and she tried to move, tried to make herself do anything other than stand there gaping at him like an idiot. Only she couldn’t get her legs to react as he shambled closer, one hand outstretched toward her. His dirty fingernails were blackened and split, making her think of a zombie forced to claw through its coffin lid.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, her voice a mixture of guilt and fear. Guilt at not having been able to bring him back to her, despite all her efforts to do so welled up inside her, overriding the fear at what he might do to her because of it.
“Your apology means nothing to me, Kim.” Malcom sucked in a breath that whistled through his punctured lungs. “You need to come get me, Kim. You can’t leave me alone here. You can’t.” He was nearly upon her now. His hand caressed her cheek, leaving a trail of slime on her flesh. “You promised you wouldn’t leave me here all alone.”
Kim awoke with a start. Her blanket fell off her as she sat up, leaving her naked flesh exposed to the night air. Her heart hammered in her chest as she looked around the room wild eyed. She didn’t recognize it at all. Something shifted next to her in the bed, and she glanced toward it, adrenaline still surging through her veins. A dark haired boy lay asleep under the blankets, a small puddle of drool dripping from his lips. Unfortunately, he was as unfamiliar as the room she was in with its posters of aged rock bands and graffiti covered walls.
Another surge of fear rushed through her. She’d done it again. She tried to remember last night, tried to piece together how she’d ended up here, but just like every time before, her memory was a fuzzy blank. The first time it’d happened, she’d started screaming, waking up everyone in the frat house. The second time, she’d screamed again, but only loud enough to awaken the girl sleeping next to her.
Now, fifteen times later, she was used to it as much as she could be. If only she could figure out why she kept blanking out, kept losing entire portions of her life only to awaken in the bed of a stranger. She’d thought about asking for help, but if she was honest with herself, how would she go about it? It wasn’t like she was close enough to her friends to feel comfortable telling them she was waking up in the bed of strangers with no recollection of the events leading up to it.
She shut her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. There was no use worrying about it. Still, what troubled her was the dream. Malcom showing up was becoming more and more frequent. The desperation in his voice more urgent. The anger more real. If this kept up, she might just have to find Amy or Ian and ask for their help. Doing that would mean getting dragged back into the world of the horsemen, of accepting the call of her mantle to be near them. If she did that, she’d have to acknowledge the ache inside her, the loneliness filling every part of her being now that Malcom was gone, made worse by her absence from her friends.
“It’s just a dream,” she murmured to herself, trying to force truth into the words. “Just like the last one. Malcom is gone…” She had told herself that a lot over the last several weeks because if he wasn’t gone, if he was trapped in that otherworldly dimension by himself, it was her fault. If he was still there, she had to rescue him, but she couldn’t. She wasn’t strong enough for that. What could she say to him anyway? Sorry for leaving you alone in a demon world for weeks. Thought you were dead, my bad?
Kim climbed out of the foreign bed, careful not to awaken the other occupant. It would only lead to an awkward conversation she didn’t want to have anyway. She dressed quickly. One look through the closed blinds told her it was still dark outside. Good, she could avoid a walk of shame. That was the advantage with leaving before morning. There would be no forced conversations, no knowing smiles on friends’ faces.
Leaving was easier, especially when there was no one to stop you, and if there was one thing she’d gotten good at over the last couple weeks, it was leaving. Part of her felt bad for walking out on her parents, but as far as they knew, she’d just left for college early. They didn’t know what had happened to her, to Malcom, and if she had it her way, they wouldn’t ever know. No one would ever know. Hell, if there was a switch she could flip to drive the memory of it from her mind, she’d throw it in a heartbeat.
The door to the strange boy’s room closed behind her with a soft click, and as she made her way down the hallway of the grungy apartment building, she let a single tear slip from her eye. Nights like this made her remember what had happened. Much as she tried to drown it out, tried to ignore what had happened to her, it seemed like the memories of the fight with Jormungand were destined to haunt her. Forever.
It’d be easier if she had someone to talk to about it, but then again, maybe it wouldn’t be. She could have talked to Caden. He would have listened to her, but she hadn’t so much as tried. Hell, she hadn’t even thought about him at all. Her thoughts had centered on Malcom, and how she had left him behind even though he had saved them all. It didn’t seem fair, but it wasn’t like Ian or Amy had tried to bring him back either. Then again, neither of them had dated Malcom.
“I wonder if Ian and Amy are having nightmares too?” she mused, surprising herself by speaking their names aloud for the first time since that day. Part of her knew she should find them, should talk to them about what had happened, but she knew if she did, they’d try to tell her lies. They’d try to tell her it wasn’t her fault Malcom had died even though she’d used Thor’s Hammer, Mjolnir, to cave in his chest while he held the demon Jormungand long enough for her to deliver the coup de grâce. They would tell her he was more than ready to sacrifice his life to save the day.
True, Malcom might have been. But she wasn’t ready to let him make that sacrifice. No, he’d forced her to sacrifice him. And now he was gone, leaving her to deal with the guilt of his death all alone.
“Malcom, why did you go and leave me?” She gritted her teeth and glanced back toward the building behind her. “Would I be waking up with random people if you were here to hold me?” She swallowed down the thought before it could take root, before it could burn her in fresh flames of guilt. No, when it came to that guild, avoidance was better. If she could avoid it long enough, maybe the nightmares would fade too.
Even if they didn’t go away, even if they haunted her until the end of time, she didn’t want to step back into that world again to find out if Malcom was still there, still somehow alive. Reliving terrible memories was one thing, forging new ones was quite another. Deep down she recognized she was being selfish, but that didn’t really change her opinion of the matter. If something else happened, Ian and Amy could take care of it themselves.
She was done. And they couldn’t make her come back. She wouldn’t let them. Not even if it would bring Malcom back. Which it wouldn’t. No. The world would have to find a way to keep on spinning without her.
“The universe wasn’t very smart when they picked me as one of its defenders.” Kim stifled a sob as she reached her car and unlocked it. The beep of the door echoed through the empty parking lot. She pulled the door open and stared at the pile of energy drinks and fast food wrappers littering the passenger side of the vehicle. “I’m a mess.”