My first sense when consciousness returned was the feeling of sand beneath me. Gritty and painful, it ground into the cuts and bruises left over from what happened after I let loose the storm on the ship. My mind pushed away that thought, unwilling to face the possibility of tragedy, and in some ways, my failing. I opened my eyes to the burning sun shining down onto the beach, flashing off the white sand and blinding me. I tried to push off the ground, but my head swam, I couldn’t tell up from down. My stomach heaved, and I vomited ocean water onto the beach. Collapsing back, I touched my head tenderly and felt a gash hidden in my hairline, my fingers coming away covered in ichor.
I pushed the damp tendrils of hair out of my face as I again struggled to get up and survey my surroundings. By all telling, this is what most would call a tropical paradise, luscious beaches, forests of palm trees, and the scent of the ocean. To me, right now, this was my worst nightmare. The beach, as far as I could see, was empty. I was alone. I crawled away from the ocean, moving on hands and knees to the treeline and leaned against one, taking stock of what I could. What happened to everyone else on the cruise liner? Were they able to get away? What had I done? I shuddered at the memories before the darkness had overtaken me. My sundress was torn and frayed in places. Combining that with the pain in my head, the cuts, and the washing up on an island, it all pointed to me falling off the ship.
Depending on what had happened after, the ship could be so far away by now. I had been alone in my room, so no one would know where I went overboard. I sunk into worry about Morpheus and the others. It was morning when the attack happened. He and I had only glimpsed each other for a brief second. What if the attack succeeded? What if due to that and the storm, the boat went down? I felt my stomach drop. A sickening grip took hold as I realized I did not know what had happened to them. Wrapping my arms around my legs, I felt the emotions well up, my tears combining with the saltwater of the ocean that still clung to my skin. I huddled in on myself, sitting in the shade and mulling over how I would get out of this. Worry for my friends and the mortals on the ship dominated my thoughts. I may have dozed off, or the pain in my head caused me to lose track of time. I sat in a daze beneath the trees as the sun crawled higher.
A rustling in the undergrowth interrupted my self-pitying spiral and brought my attention back to my surroundings. I raised my head, vision blurring as I tried to focus on what came streaking across the sand. It was just a lizard. I sighed as it danced along with the strange gait of an animal in fear. I followed its movement across the sand, and my gaze stopped on feet. Multiple sets of mortal feet.
I skittered backward in shock as I jerked my eyes up, my vision wavering from the movement. Four men stood there. Their skin darkened from the hot tropic sun. Adorned with sigils and primitive jewelry, they wore only the basics of coverings around their waists and carried long spears.
“Take her,” the man who wore the most growled, commanding the other three with an angry voice.
My heart slammed into my throat as I turned to flee. My hands and bare feet scrabbling in the sand for purchase. I launched myself into a full run. Knowing my only chance was to get into the forest where I could hopefully find a hiding place amongst the trees and undergrowth. With every footfall, my head pounded more, and my vision blurred. I could hear the pursuit behind me as I wove amongst the trees. The only grace was the small amount of power I could extend to clear the undergrowth for my path, but even that sent sparks before my eyes. Terror shivered along my spine.
The voices of the men hollering behind me as they chased me through the trees were like the barking wolves at my heels. Fear controlled my every movement. I ran in a blind panic, and my lungs burned for air, every gasp feeling as if my chest would explode. The childhood games of running through the forest around Olympus with Hekate were all that fueled my flight now. The constant urge to catch up to her. Our chases in the woods were spurring me forward. Something whizzed by my ear as my hand closed around the trunk of a tree, bark cutting into my palm as I used it to swing myself in another direction.
Everything was ringed in black, and I blinked hard to clear my vision. My legs were on fire, and everything hurt, but I could not stop. The sounds of my pursuers were all that kept me moving. They knew this land better than I, and it was only a matter of time before they caught up to me if I did not find a place to hide.
I heard that same whistling sound as before, this time a sharp stabbing pain in my shoulder followed it. I could not slow my pace to see what it was. To do so would mean giving up. Weaving between the trees, I did everything I could to separate myself from them, keeping myself in motion. A second whistle and a second stabbing pain, this time in my neck, ripped a desperate cry from my lips. My heart raced as I continued to flee through the jungle, knowing I must get away from my pursuers was at the forefront of my mind.
As I continued to run, I felt made of lead. With every step, my arms and legs grew heavy. My breathing became ragged like I could not get enough air. Worst of all, I could feel each thread of power I tried to weave, fail me. I could not keep my path clear. As it waned, my feet tangled with the undergrowth, and due to the growing weakness, I could not stop my fall. My arms refused to respond to the command my brain issued, and I hit the ground hard, the wind knocked out of me. My forward momentum carried me in a sprawling roll, the skirt of my sundress tangled in my legs as I slammed into a downed tree.
The smell of salt and dirt filled my nose, my head pounded anew, and my stomach again threatened revolt. Panic was a hand around my throat. I could not feel anything, and my limbs were dead weight. No matter how hard I yelled at my body to obey, I could not move. Tears of frustration and fear spilled down into the earth beneath me. In my immortal lifetime, I had never been afraid like this before. Alone, paralyzed with fear and whatever those islanders had tipped their darts with. I tried to pull a meager wisp of my power to hide, working for the rapid growth of the grasses around my body, but it was to no avail. It came in fits and starts, and the grass failed to cover me fully. Whatever they had done dulled my control of my immortal powers. Nothing came when I called. That piqued a new terror. Alone. Powerless. Helpless. Was this what it was to be mortal?
I lay watching as they stalked towards me, their feet making no sound on the dirt. My chest rose and fell as I gasped for air. I could see anger on their faces. A derisive glare shot in my direction. I had never seen a mortal look at me with such hatred before. I felt it to my core, that whatever was to come, these islanders had nothing good in mind.
Like moss covering stone, the blackness grew, and I fell deeper into the unknown. I felt the islanders’ ripping off the meager camouflage I had called to my defense. I felt their hands on my arms, pulling me up. I could feel my body hang like a rag doll between them, my feet dragging in the dirt as they moved deeper into the jungle.
I knew I had to grasp at every chance that came my way. As I felt the darkness taking over, I tapped the fibers of my skills, searching for the remaining power welling inside me. I drifted in and out of the consciousness, struggling to do what I could. Using what was left of my powers, I pulled snowdrops into existence. A little one here and there sprinkled in my wake, like white diamonds against the dark jungle backdrop.
Before the black fully overwhelmed me, his name was on my lips. Morpheus. I could see his eyes, the smile he greeted me with. The darkness that cloaked him in shadows, and the power that rippled with intensity just beneath the surface. His scent filled my nose as my mind and heart clung to him. Poppies and shadow, I had once told Hekate. I felt the touch of his hand softly against my skin. I burned him in my memory. Helpless and afraid, I felt the hot tears of frustration burn my cheeks. I wished with all the powers in the universe that he would notice I was missing and find me, that the flowers sprinkled in my wake would lead him to my destination. I only hoped it was not too late.
The islanders jostled me between them, and with a whimpered cry, I blissfully fell away into the clinging darkness for the second time that day.