A Different Time
A Different Place
It was nothing like she had expected, and she had foreseen it. The infinite metaphysical plane lay before her, and behind her, and she was painfully, horrifyingly aware of how small she was. Not just herself, but all of humankind. Everything they found purposeful, necessary, important, holy—it was worth exactly nothing in the scope of this massive place of Other.
Apollo was not with her. He was not here.
Asanti had promised her she would be all right, had promised her that this quick jaunt to this Place would be momentary, a blink, shorter than a breath. But she had been there so much longer. The Pythia hadn’t foreseen what this Place would be like, or if Asanti would be victorious. She could only see one way to tether herself, to hold onto home so she wouldn’t get lost here, falling through infinity like a frantic kite. Asanti and her power glinted on the horizon, something she could focus on. However, she appeared on both horizons, where the Pythia had come from and where she was going. Beside Asanti in the past were Menchú and the rest of her team. The vision in the future consisted of Asanti alone, standing under a shining tree. Her eyes were wide and silver, sightless to the visuals around her, but full of all sorts of visions; the kind the Pythia herself got.
Other images. Shadows nipped at her ankles, and blood-red smoke swirled above her. The world was in flux, and it mattered as much as humans disturbing a puddle of water matters to the organisms living inside it. But who was disturbing this puddle?
Her Sight was frustratingly dead here, aside from seeing Asanti at each end of her journey. She tried a few steps and found she could walk in this blind nothingness, and her mind began to form something to understand: a road, a sky, and flat, flat Earth.
She closed her metaphysical eyes and concentrated briefly, then shot her awareness behind her, aiming it at Asanti as if to harpoon her like a whale. If she could anchor herself to Asanti, she might not get lost here.
The tether struck home, although she may have sent it farther than she had intended. That was all right. That was probably necessary for all of this to have happened, and for the things that would happen in the future. Possibly the near future, but the Oracle of Delphi again sensed the shadow beasts that lurked in the corners of her awareness, and saw her destination so far away.
She was not going to die here, alone and lost. When she had been anointed as the Pythia after the death of her predecessor (also in the company of Asanti’s team), she had promised herself to be more aware of threats, to not die on the whim of a vain moment. She might not get lost, but it would be a very long journey. She took her first step, trying not to meet the eyes that glowed in the sky, focusing on her.
Now (around 2100 hours, GMT)
Aboard a train to London
Flights to the ravaged city of London were no longer an option to travelers, but the trains still ran. Liam found something poetic about that. He wiped his hand over his wet hair and shivered. He was soaked to the bone.
His phone buzzed and he fished it out of the waterproof pocket of his jacket. He read the notification and smiled, then passed the phone across the aisle to where Menchú sat with Asanti.
They both looked terrible. Menchú seemed world-weary, and hadn’t bothered to clean the blood off his hands and clothes. The bandage around his hand was soaked, and Liam couldn’t tell if it was from his own wound or someone else’s blood. There had been so much blood.
Asanti had gone in and out of consciousness since boarding, and Liam wasn’t sure you could count what she did as “sleep.”
He touched the bandage on his neck. He had really gotten lucky there. He looked forward to getting home and seeing Frances. He hadn’t felt such anticipation, giving a happy tint to his overall mood of exhaustion and moroseness, in a long time. He had to finally tell her that he could take a step forward, that he could actually show her he cared. He’d had enough close calls in his life to know it wasn’t just the facing of a possible death scenario; it was something else. He wasn’t going to question it.
He was also hoping he had done enough to finally deserve her trust. But then again, things like what he was feeling for her would come along for people much less deserving than him. No one was keeping score, handing out patient, loving women to deserving blokes.
“How did you get this posted?” Menchú asked, frowning at Liam’s phone.
“I am just that good,” he said. “My spider was programmed to release some pre-written news items if a number of things happened at once. Mainly all having to do with the Engströms’ online activity. You know they’re trying to brag about what they did. But this is what...