Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book 3 Chapter 26-6

Her mind was awash with fear. And with that fear came understanding. She saw the horrors in his mind. A horrific car accident. A blonde woman, dead, her head partially severed by the shattered windshield. Blood all over. His own body ripped to shreds. But he wasn’t dead. No matter what, he never died.

The sequences continued to race into her mind. Pain was ripe with fear. Another woman, another death, this time as they both drowned. Stabbings, dismemberments, the horror of living for decades in constant agony.

Pain knew what his name meant. He lived with it every moment of every day. And his fear wasn’t more pain. His fear was never finding an end to the agony.

Fear was only a step away from nightmare.

As she opened her eyes, she unleashed her horror upon him. It was a moment too late.

Pain wrapped a hand around her neck and hefted her off the frame of the floor. Wind whipped through her hair. It obscured her vision in black and white as she fought to find her breath. But she watched Pain’s eyes gloss over. His connection with reality separated as the nightmare took him.

She couldn’t see what he saw. But she knew he was in an endless oblivion. Alone. Forever.

Pain’s grip loosened around her neck. She reached up and grabbed his fingers. She was stronger than a mortal her size and only that allowed her to work her way against his strong hands. She tumbled to the floor, just inches from the weak framed wall of the tower.  

She stared up at Pain. His body seemed to shake. The nightmare consumed him, but it wouldn’t do so for long. This was her chance. Perhaps, her only chance.

While nightmares were her calling, she was not without other abilities. They paled in comparison to her control over fears, her very ability to bring them to life around her foes. But she could still manipulate the energies of the universe to her own needs.

Pain wasn’t like a normal powered human. She could feel the spell place dover him. And while she couldn’t break it, she could manipulate it to her needs.

The geas over him was strong. It formed strange tangles around his soul, but she could loosen a few of them. Retie a few others. Within moments, she had an opening. And a way to finally grant Pain escape from his nightmares.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Book 3 Chapter 26-5

As the elevator ascended, all Melinoe could hear—all she could feel—was her own breath.

Her body was numb. Her mind raced. But each hard, heavy breath filled her lungs with a sense of calm. She may not survive tonight, but she was the goddess of nightmares. She would bring agony to anyone that tried to end her. These assassins were no different.

The elevator dinged. The long sense of calm faded as Melinoe stared out on to the lights of River City. Here, little of the building was finished. A series of metal columns connected to each other, parts of the floor and walls were framed, but not enough to make the room feel anything but open. Wind whipped against her face as she took the first step out of the confined space of the lift.

She looked down through the open spaces in the walls, framed only enough to protect workers from a perilous fall. Melinoe could see cars race by on the freeway, hundreds of tiny lives unaware of the horror in their midst. She could see the flashes of red and blue as the police raced down the streets of the city. They would all close on Wainwright Center soon enough, but until then, she was on her own.

“You’re a hard one to catch, girly. Makes things interesting.”

Melinoe turned to her left. She instantly recognized the male assassin. He wore little more than a pair of leather pants and boots. His body rippled with muscles. He had the perfect skin of a movie star, albeit with a bit more body hair. His long dirty blonde locks framed his face. His average appearance ruined his movie star body, but he tried to hide it behind a full beard a shade darker than his hair. She could do interesting things with that body—if it wasn’t being used to kill her.

“Who are you? Why are you trying to kill me? I don’t even know you.”

“The name’s Pain. You’ve got a lot of enemies, lady. I’ve never been paid close to what I’ve been paid to kill any other stripper whore.”

“Stripper, maybe. Whore, nay. I’ve been many things but I would never dain to let anyone buy my affection, mortal or immortal.”

He grinned. “You talk funny. Guess it won’t be a problem in a minute though, will it?”

Pain started towards her. Melinoe froze in place. She didn’t have any weapons, barely had any clothes. But she was far from defenseless.

She only hoped her mother and stepfather wouldn’t bring down greater punishment upon her as she closed her eyes and reached into this Pain’s mind.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Book 3 Chapter 26-4

“Move! Move!”

Keith’s words forced her back to reality. They were still in danger. The engines of the assassins’ motorcycles hummed a not distant enough tune. The cop grabbed her by the arm and pulled her out towards his door. She had to awkwardly climb over the cluttered middle console of the police cruiser, but within seconds, she was free of the car.

Keith pulled her towards the finished frame of Wainwright Center, which looked like a massive concrete block carved into the land. Framed by marble columns spanning four stories, the entrance would be majestic if not for the killers after them. He ran her to the front entrance, which was still uncovered by any door. She found herself plunged into darkness. Only the dim lights from the street outside and a single fixture across the room provided any illumination to the massive unfinished lobby.

“Come on. The elevator.”

Keith pulled her towards the light on the far side of the room, which he clearly knew to be the elevator. But he barely reached the halfway point of the room. Still in mid-run, his feet suddenly slipped from beneath him. Melinoe stumbled at his sudden movement. He released his grip on her just a second before he was yanked backward, even as she regained proper footing. Melinoe glanced back to see the female assassin. She held a long whip which seemed to undulate in the darkness like a living thing. Though the assassin didn’t move her arm, the whip tightly wrapped around Keith’s leg and pulled him back towards her.

“Run!” Keith yelled. “Get as high as you can, then disable the elevator. You’ll be safe until the rest of the force arrives!”

Melinoe had her doubts, but his plan was sound enough. More space would give her time to think.

She watched as Keith drew his gun and turned away from her. She heard the first shot as she reached the elevator. As soon as she hit the button, it opened.

She hit the higher buttons on the console wildly. She got the top floors, but she also struck buttons on the panels below. Seventy-two was the low number on the list. It would do as well as any other floor for her to escape their grasp. Even with parts of the building still open to air high above, she needed the space to think.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Book 3 Chapter 26-3

Keith nodded towards a massive structure looming in the distance, the infamous Wainwright Center. It was half built, still more steel frame than actual building, but the eighty-seven story structure was a regular sight in downtown River City. The skyscraper would be the city’s largest upon construction, but delay after delay had slowed the massive structure’s creation.

Massive cranes filled the roof to the buildings next to it, while more equipment lined the streets below. The frame had enough walling to make it easy to disappear into the maze, but she doubted it would save them from the man and woman for long. Still, Melinoe had to admit it was their best chance so far.

She glanced behind them. The twin Ninjas were still on their tale, the hum of the engines a constant presence even as the wind rushed around them. The assassins wouldn’t stop, unless she and Keith at least slowed them until the police could arrive.

“Alright,” she said. “I don’t think we’ve got any other choice.”

Keith said nothing as he powered the car down the road. The Wainwright Center grew larger as they approached, its peak disappearing from view. Melinoe knew they would have to stop suddenly and then move quickly if they hoped to escape into the structure before the assassins ran them down. They would have to take a very sudden stop.

“Hold on and brace yourself. This isn’t going to be a very smooth stop.”

She didn’t say anything as he veered left. The divider offered only a small opening there, but he flashed the police car through it and towards the flat plowed dirt and concrete at the base of the Wainwright Center. Melinoe felt her entire body pulled taut as he slammed on the brakes. The car leapt as they went off the curb and into the packed dirt. It hit the ground hard, the tires and suspension shuttering as Keith spun the wheel.

Melinoe saw why a second later. They pitched towards a front loader, a massive field of red filling their view. Suddenly it wasn’t in front of them, but the Wainwright Center’s frame loomed large before them instead. But their spin turned, even as the car shook as one of the rear tires burst beneath them.

Melinoe gritted her teeth as the car screeched and shuttered. Then it stopped.

And somehow she was still alive.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Book 3 Chapter 26-2

“I wish I knew,” Melinoe said. “They are no one have I ever met. I don’t know why they came after me. I don’t even know why anyone would want me dead. I’ve only been in the city for a couple days.”

“A couple days? And you’re already working at Jacks?”

“He liked my audition. I just came to the town to stay with my brother. I had a falling out with my stepfather.”

Keith shook his head. “You kids these days. Living with your parents until you’re thirty.”

“Are my former living arrangements really a concern? I think we should be more concerned with the murderer and murderess on our tail.”

He glanced up into the rear view mirror. “You’re certainly right about that one, lady.”

“I’m often right. Hopefully I’m not right that we’re going to die tonight.”

“Not if I have anything to say about it.”

Keith put on a brave face, but Melinoe knew it was only that. The motorcyclists could keep up with their pace far longer and far more easily, winding in and out of traffic while Keith was forced to slow for it. It would only be a matter of time before they were close enough to the car to strike. She might not know why they wanted her dead, but either the muscular brute or the whip-carrying dominatrix could easily take them off the road sooner or later and make sure she would visit her father’s kingdom for the last time.

Keith suddenly veered right and Melinoe was forced to catch herself before her head struck the window. He turned from the eight lane freeway onto an exit. A second later, they ran a red onto a four lane road leading back towards downtown.

“We’re never going to outrun them,” Keith said. “My only chance is to bring them to somewhere we might have a chance to stand up to them. And it has to be a place where no more innocents will get drawn into the carnage. And I think I know just the place.”

“The place? What are you thinking? Where do you think we’re going to take this that we won’t get killed by two metahuman psychopaths?”

“Right up there.”

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Book 3 Chapter 26. Melinoe

Rosa’s cop friend certainly knew how to drive. As the lights above their head flashed red and blue, he drove at blinding speed down the winding streets of River City. His speed might be considered dangerous at first glance, but only before one saw the twin Kawasaki Ninjas streaking behind them at even greater speeds. They were little more than yellow and blue streaks endlessly pursuing the police cruiser.

Melinoe knew they had no hope of escape. The two killers seemed unworried about their own safety. The chatter on the car’s radio made it clear police were moving in on the scene from every side. Helicopters were in the air, inbound from the city airport. Within minutes, a perimeter would cut off the entire area from the rest of the city.

But even if it came, it could very well be too late to save her or Keith.

Melinoe wondered who could have sent the killers. Caelus might still have pawns, but the likelihood they would come after a loyal servant like her her seemed slim. The Fates hated her, but they would never act directly or openly. The fools of GENESIS already tried to capture her brother, but they would have called off any police involvement if they wanted her captured. This was someone else, some kind of new threat or some kind of much older threat, one emerged from decades or centuries away.

This bodes ill. I dislike such a lack of control. This is what stepfather’s punishment brings upon me. He should have simply killed me. He has forced me into death by one means or another.

Melinoe silently cursed the god of death once again. She hated Pluto. She hated her mother’s loyalty to the monster. He kidnapped her mother and forced her into marriage. Persephone’s revenge was her, the ultimate cuckoldry. Yet still she stayed with the lord of the underworld, even bore him her fool of a half brother. Persephone should have killed the fool long ago, and taken his place as the true ruler of the dead.

Instead she stood by and left me to this fate.

“Who are these two?”

Melinoe let Keith’s words linger in the car. She had no answer for him. She wished she did. If she knew anything about the male and female assassins, her chances would be far better. She hated direct confrontation, but it seemed clear she would have to face her killers tonight.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Casting Call: Melinoe

Finding my Melinoe was one of the hardest choices I needed to make when thinking about a dream cast for Walking Shadows. I needed a figure slightly older than the rest of the cast, yet one that can blend with them. The healthy dose of evil and the need to look good topless all add up into a difficult casting choice.

After far too long contemplating my choice though, I realized the best answer was appearing on one of my favorite series already, Da Vinci's Demons. English actress Laura Haddock encompasses pretty much everything I need in a Melinoe outside a good dye job: beauty, subtlety, and a penchant for treading the line between evil and good.

Image credit: Wonderland Magazine.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Book 3 Chapter 25-4

Cyrus spit in the other man’s face. It was the only recourse he could think would get his position across.

The other man slapped him across the face. He drew back from Cyrus and raised his hand to his face. As he wiped away the spittle, Cyrus watched the hand shrink. The nails elongated. In a second it was clearly a female’s hand, even as the transformation started to work over his—or her—arm.

The man looked up at it, stared as his own body changed before him. He smiled as his form seemed to betray him. If what he said was true, he already embraced his own death, subsumed into some new existence with the other personalities Cyrus met. He prayed to his father that Marilyn would not be lost inside them. He wasn’t sure he could bare her loss after everything he’d been through in the months before.

The transformation continued. The thing before him was half man, half woman. All three forms he saw in the last few minutes all mixed into one. The body moved unnaturally, the shifting bone structure causing arms, legs and neck to spasm in ways not quite human.

Then she came.

It was only for the briefest moment. The figure’s hair turned blonde and suddenly Marilyn’s face stared at him. He pulled forward, strained against his chains as they locked eyes.

“Help me. Stop them, Cyrus. Stop them.”

A second later, she was gone as Solomon’s face mixed with that of the two other women. Cyrus’s rage boiled inside him. It was the rage of his father and uncle, the unrelenting rage only a god could feel. He felt his power surge inside him.

He opened his mouth and that rage washed out from him. It struck the shifting body in front of him. The body that was once Marilyn seemed to explode as the wall of sound struck it. Suddenly liquid it flew back and slammed into the far wall. It stuck like slime in large chunks, several oozing pools slowly making their way back to the floor.

The room shook with it. Stones fell from the walls. Bits of ceiling flaked away. The power shook everything. Cyrus’s chains caused him to reverberate with it.

Then all was silent again but for his deep hard breaths. He was alone again, but Cyrus knew this misery was far from over.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Book 3 Chapter 25-3

“Ah, the lover. I almost forgot about you.”

The voice was nothing like Marilyn’s. It was smooth and calculated, with the careful inflection of someone used to public oration.

He was a handsome man with a clean cut bald head, perfectly groomed van dyke beard and a sweater to make Steve Jobs proud. He looked like a modern millionaire instead of some strange personality once buried deep inside Marilyn.

“Give Marilyn back her body.”

“Marilyn is gone, godling. Or at least she will be soon enough. She was never supposed to exist in the first place. The mistake is being corrected now.”

Cyrus struggled against his bonds, but the metal wouldn’t break. He wasn’t strong enough to free himself. He couldn’t stop this bastard. Even if he could, he knew he didn’t have the ability to bring Marilyn back from inside her own mind.

“You can fight all you want,” the bald man said. “But this is our body now. Even now, I can feel the power welling up. Soon we will overtake it. Audrey, Jolene and I will disappear with your precious girlfriend. In our place, will be something new, a power unlike the world has ever seen. And we will take our place at the side of our king.”

“You’re sick in the head. You’re just some dark corruption. You need to be purged. And I will see you destroyed, one way or another.”

The man laughed. “You will do nothing, godling. Any harm to me would only make it easier for us to take control of your dearest love. We will soon be in control. We will soon have our way. And you will survive to be our plaything. We will learn what makes a god tick when we pull you apart a piece at a time.”

He walked up to Cyrus. His hand caressed Cyrus’s cheek. His flesh was cold and damp. Not quite human.Cyrus tried to pull away, but his bonds held him fast.

“I will have so much fun playing with you. And when I am done you will beg me for the sweet release of death. You will want an end because your continued existence will be naught but agony. And I will deny it until I’ve taken every ounce of fight you possess and broken you down to the pathetic nothing you truly are. I will rule over you as your parents once ruled over this world.”