This is an excerpt from the second book in my Gods series, The Gods Appeal. In it, Cassandra’s thrust into a vision walk to test her powers.
The chatters and light breeze stood still, like I was in another one of the psychic mind melds, only this time there wasn’t anyone else there with me. The marble platform shimmered under me and I kneeled to touch it.
Silken liquid pulled up with my fingers, solid and not all at once.
And snapped back down, taking my hand with it.
“No!” I screamed, barely getting the word out before the marble sucked me under like quicksand with a mind of its own and an appetite for young women.
I thrashed against the hard world, pain exploding in my arms and fists everywhere they hit.
I calmed, holding still and focusing on the world around me. It wasn’t pressing on me, wasn’t holding me down and trying to crush my lungs. I didn’t draw air, but then again, I didn’t think I had to. The cards appeared in front of me, floating at hand level. I grabbed the deck and put them on the ground.
The world lit up, a rosy glow lining the checkered black and white road in front of me. Everything to the sides was black but that was okay, I just needed to see where I was going.
The cards shuffled themselves and the top one flipped over, growing to human size.
The Empress stepped out of the card, becoming flesh and three-D as easily as someone stepping through a doorway.
With her blond hair and round belly, she looked kind of like Persephone when she was pregnant. She represented the germination of an idea before it was ready to be fully realized.
So when she held out her hand, I stepped back.
“There’s no way back, only forward,” she said, voice thick with the accent of the old ones. The term popped into my head and I didn’t have to ask where it came from.
“I’m not ready,” I said.
She smiled, still holding out her hand like she could stand there for a hundred years and never get tired. She rested the other hand on her swollen stomach. “Babes never are ready to be born, but the world waits for no woman.”
Pink champagne bubbled down the blackness lining the trail and she frowned.
“I can’t,” I said.
“You’ll stay here then. The world will not tolerate the unknown.”
I looked behind me. Black. The type of darkness no human has ever truly experienced outside of being buried in the earth. “The world won’t, or Zeus won’t?”
“Zeus is merely king of his gods, he is not the world.”
I nodded and stepped forward, taking her hand. It was warm and soft in mine, more real than anything else going on.
We walked down the checkered path in silence and I watched… and waited.
The champagne waterfalls cut off after maybe a minute and we kept walking. A man-sized card peeled up in our path and the man on it stumbled out, falling to his knees.
I let the Empress go and ran to him, grabbing his arm to help him up.
“Sir, are you okay?” I asked.
He met my eyes. His switched between colors so fast I couldn’t tell what they were. He sagged and huffed, but stayed on his feet. His back bent and he straightened it. Alcohol leaked from his face, as though squeezed from a grape. Its amber color and burning vanilla high notes said it was scotch. He wiped it away and took a deep breath, pulling his arm from me and standing straight, pulling to his full height, at least a foot taller than me.
“Thank-you,” he said, bowing at the waist. He didn’t have hair, and then he did as he pulled back up. It grew in thick and black, turned silver, and receded to bald, then started all over again.
“What card are you?” I asked.
“What care are you?” he asked.
I glared and he glared back.
“I’m going to keep going,” I said, trying not to look at him too hard.
“I’m going to as well,” he said. I sighed but didn’t complain. At least he didn’t say the exact same words back to me again. That would’ve been too annoying.
He wore blue pants and a white shirt. Nothing that was on any of my cards that I could think of. But then again, I’d had them so long i really didn’t focus on the individual details anymore. He could’ve been anyone of many male figures on them.
“If I’m a card, you’re the holder,” he said. “Read me and speak the truth.”
“Okay, no. No riddles,” I said. “I’m getting out of here. This is getting old.”
“Getting, getting, it’s redundant.” He giggled, high like a little kid then a deeper chuckle. It made my stomach jerk.
“I feel like I should sing,” he said, taking my hand. He spun me around and dipped me so fast I couldn’t react. That hadn’t happened in a while. “Sing, dance, make love.”
I pulled away and he just smiled, young and rakish, then older and charming.
What card was this?
“What game?” he asked, skipping ahead of me. “What game indeed!”
I walked slower, maybe he’d just prance himself away and leave me the fuck alone.
“Not happening,” he said, appearing next to me. “I’m yours to keep. You’ve chosen me. You chose me when the world cracked open and chaos reigned. You chose me. No going back now. You’re ours and we’re yours.”
“Stop talking. You’re hurting my brain.” I rubbed my forehead and he handed me a glass of water. I took a long drink, the cold water clearing the cobwebs. “Thank-you.”
“Always, my goddess.” He bowed and fell to his knees, curling up on his side and shriveling, life blowing out of him. His body convulsed and disappeared.
“What!” I shivered and rubbed my arm with my free hand. The water tasted like the best mountain stream and I took another gulp.
The road dropped away, just disappeared under my feet into the blackness.
I shook my head. “What do I do now?”
“We’re supposed to ask you that,” a voice said, making me whirl.
I stared back at me. I raised my hand and so did she, a direct reflection.
“I don’t have answers,” I said. My reflection’s mouth moved with it but nothing came out.
“You will,” she said, walking forward. She pushed me and I fell back into darkness.