Scrambled pieces of information invaded Divine’s mind. They didn’t make sense. His connections fed his memories. Something was turning those memories inside out, upside down. Words, images, even faces passed through his mind— distorted and out of order. The harder he worked to make them right, the worse they got.
He wanted to crush his head with a club. These twisted memories were making a mess of his mind.
He opened his eyes. Shade was tense. So was Wraith. He sat up letting the blanket fall in his lap. Shade was already standing over him.
Senses alert, he scanned the Darkness. Divine wanted to call them beasts. That seemed an insult to Wraith. They were monsters. At one point, the things surrounding them may have been tigers or some other large feline. Black leathery skin replaced fur. Bulging muscles created grotesque lumps all over the body. Their eyes were large white clouds. Their teeth were too long to fit in their mouths.
“How many are out there?” he asked.
Shade’s grin was a row of sharp teeth.
She lifted her hand. Shade created a fist then stuck out her first finger and thumb. Divine’s skin tingled. He smelled burning air around Shade’s pointed finger. Her arm and shoulder flinched. A monster became chunks of meat. The lumps of flesh, bones and muscles skin reformed. The monster returned. It roared.
Shade sucked her teeth. “Damn this new Darkness.”
“Why are they attacking now?”
“It would seem we’re reaching your destination and they’re growing desperate. Something’s been trying to plant suggestions in my mind that I need to leave you. Someone doesn’t like that I’m traveling with you. For some reason, they’ve been weary of attacking me outright.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I do a little. I’m going to take the shield down. Wraith, no matter what, do not leave his side.”
Female and beast glared at one another. From the anger in the air, Wraith was arguing with her.
It bobbed its head in what Divine assumed was a nod.
Shade dropped the shield. The air attacked him. Divine forced it to the back of his mind. Shade strolled towards the army. She was grossly out-numbered and her help just promised to stay by his side no matter what. Shade couldn’t die. She couldn’t. Not because of him.
Damn the Darkness, he was not so weak that he needed anyone’s protection. He always looked after people, not the other way around. He needed to help. He didn’t know how to. Damn the Darkness, he was pathetic.
A monster jumped. It dove at Shade. She lifted her left palm. The beast dropped to the ground, throwing sand in the air. She raised her right hand, pointing her first finger. Invisible claws sliced into the animal. Flesh, blood and limbs flew across the desert. It didn’t pull itself together. The army charged.
Shade’s arm movements became a blur then vanished. Nothing got close to her.
Divine enhanced his senses. His eyes slowed down the scene. Not by much. Shade pulled a stream of black grains from the felines with her left palm. She fired it through her right finger as a large ball.
Wraith’s sharp movement caught his attention. One attacker got past Shade. Its speed turned it into a cloud of dust.
Wraith lowered his horns. He pulled dark air from the thing. It fell out of the dust cloud, sliding head first across the ground. With a deafening roar, Wraith released a black wave at the creatures. The waved ended. Piles of flesh surrounded them. The desert reeked of blood and fear.
The animals thundered around Divine to get at Shade. Their heavy bodies shook the floor. Wraith danced around him clawing, biting stabbing. Shade, with her eyes closed, put them down. Their lacerated bodies rained down on her.
Divine needed to do something. He was as fast as Shade and he could sense them. He didn’t want to move too far from Wraith. Might make Shade angry.
The creatures passed close enough to touch. They didn’t want him. Divine always knew how to fight. His body moved on its own.
His senses slowed them down. Divine stabbed his fist down, onto the beast’s back. It hit the ground with a yelp. Arms made of Darkness shot out of Divine center. They attacked the struggling feline, sucking the life out it.
Divine’s senses sharpened. His body felt lighter. A presence inside him trembled with excitement. More.
Knives sliced through his mind. The air turned vicious as it burned down his throat—as it stole his energy.
He dropped his elbow into the back of another creature. His body ate its power. The pounding in Divine’s head stopped. Wraith stayed close to his side. Divine leapt aside as a beast Wraith attacked slid into his path.
A determined presence hurled towards Divine’s back. He jumped aside. Another came at his front. Divine sped to the left. Wraith bumped him. Divine stumbled forward. A feline-creature narrowly missed crashing into his side. A menacing presence raced for his head. Divine jerked his neck. Biting air sliced passed his ear. That wasn’t a physical attack.
They kept coming. Shade’s left palm sucked black streams from the carcasses. She dodged the animals’ teeth and claws without disrupting the streams. She kept her eyes closed. She didn’t see her attackers. She sensed them. The dark ball Shade created at the tip of her finger was almost bigger than she was. It destroyed half the army.
Shade was glowing. Her aura rose out of the grey. Bright oranges, reds, and yellows made her look like fire. She was laughing. Not the hollowed sound Divine was used to hearing. A laugh from the soul.
The remaining monsters climbed over each other in a desperate attempt to get away. Shade roared. An animalistic, primal sound that stirred his core. Wraith responded with an equally savage sound. Divine wanted to join in. His roar would be an embarrassment compared to theirs.
Shade walked to them. The sizzling air told him Shade erected a shield. She wasn’t out of breath. She beamed.
“I am glad I decided to travel with you Divine Mathews. I haven’t had this much fun in a long time.” She frowned at their campsite. “I’ll have to soak my blankets.” She grabbed her things. “Let’s move to a cleaner spot.”
They didn’t walk long before Shade stopped. They were surrounded by carcasses. At least this area was clean.
Shade pulled fur from the bottom of her bag and spread it out. Divine sat down.
She made such a comical, child-like expression of disgust as she looked herself over.
“Since there isn’t a river nearby—,” she dug into her bag and pulled out two jugs of water and a wash and drying rag.
That bag must be bottomless. Divine pulled it to him while Shade stepped back and stripped off her underwear.
It was possible to use whatever was inside him as a weapon. Shade used it to grab…power from those beings. Her body changed it into an attack she shot out of her right hand. Could he do something like that?
The bag wasn’t bottomless. The top layer held different sized meat wrapped in color plastic, many bottles— some empty, some filled with water.
“Shade,” Divine said.
“If you have a question, spit it out. You don’t need permission to ask me something.”
Snapping at Shade would leave him bleeding. Divine swallowed his annoyance.
“You pull power through your palm and shoot it out through your finger. Why? Wouldn’t it be easier to use your palm or your finger? Why both?”
Shade poured water over her hair. She combed out the filth with her fingers.
“I’m going to need more water after this,” Shade mumbled. “Hand me that white bottle.”
Was she going to ignore his question? He dug out the bottle. It smelled like a field of flowers. She squeezed some in her hand. She worked it over her body and through her hair. Didn’t Shade realize she was bathing in front of a man she only knew for three days?
“I don’t need to use my hands.” She continued. “They make it easier to aim.” Shade held up her right palm. “I can fire out of here, but the power shoots out in a ball the size of my hand every time. I use too much Energy that way. I can control the amount that fires out of my palm. However, it’s easier to use my finger.” She pointed at him. “Shooting through my finger improves my accuracy and limits the amount of power I use. As long as I hit the target at the right spot, I don’t need to use much Energy. That giant ball earlier was me showing off. I got carried away.”
Shade dropped her hands. She rung out her washrag then wet it again.
“How do you know what’s the right spot to hit?”
Shade smirked. “Practice. When I sparred with my family, we fought to kill each other.”
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