Luke’s words stayed with me. They had been all I’d been able to think about all week. I wanted to say he was wrong about everything. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. He had been unusually quiet these last few days, and I wondered if there was something more going on with him than what was between us.
He hadn’t brought up the talk we had the night I returned from the island, and I was grateful for that. He had made some good points, though. His words played on a constant loop through my mind. I had come to the conclusion that all those years I spent locked in Gorgon form broke something inside me. I wondered if it was as apparent to others as it had been to Luke.
Reaching up to move the hair from my face, I paused, surprised to find my snakes hanging limply around my shoulders. I had been trying to hold my human form, and I wasn’t sure when it slipped. My shoulders slumped with the realization that Luke was right. I had been using my Gorgon form as armor, protection against the world. No one would ever get close to someone covered in snakes.
It hadn’t even been a year since I came back from the dead. Since that day, I have tried to block all memories of my previous life. Completely closed the door on who I had been. That door was slowly opening, and sooner or later, I knew I’d have to come to terms with my past. Or at the very least, stop denying that it’s a part of me. When darkness consumes you so completely, how do you react when the light is suddenly thrust upon you and forces you into a new life? That’s how it felt for me—being trapped in the dark, with only the darkest parts of myself to keep me company until I died a horrible death.
The time I spent cursed had been at the forefront of my thoughts more and more lately. It took increasingly more effort to distance myself from the feeling of utter emptiness that consumed me during that time. I shuddered as I felt the familiar darkness creep closer and did my best to ignore it. I thought, instead, of the only reprieve I had from the loneliness. The Goddess of Ruin, and probably the only reason I managed to stay sane. Atë.
I had been hiding in an old cemetery when she found me. The sound of heels clicking on the stone floor brought me out of the shadows. She trailed her fingers lovingly over a broken pillar of the once beautiful mausoleum as she moved throughout the room. My snakes hissed, and I ducked behind a crumbling piece of wall.
“I love what you’ve done with the place. The scattered remains of your…anger?” she said as she examined one of my statues. “I have heard stories of you, the beautiful maiden. Tricked.” She continued walking as she spoke, pausing to look over a statute of a man frozen in fear. His hand grasped a half-drawn sword, and he wore battle armor that would never see another war.
“Lovely statues,” she called out, her voice filling the empty space.
She kept talking until I stepped out into the open. I didn’t realize she was a goddess until she met my gaze and held it, shoulders back, and her head held high.
A loud crack of thunder startled me, and I shook off thoughts of the past. I couldn’t help but think that the storm raging outside matched the way I felt inside. The monster felt closer to the surface, just waiting for the chance to be set free. The part of me that I kept buried and tried so hard to deny its existence. It was growing stronger. I pushed the feeling aside and focused instead on the scene spread out before me.
Here we were, once again, standing in another warehouse surrounded by dead bodies and blood. I know that I’m the one who asked to be here, so hush. I’m not complaining. What? I’m not. It was a welcome distraction. I needed to focus on something else.
“You don’t see anything wrong with what you’re trying to do? No possibility of any unforeseen consequences?” Luke stood with his hands out in front of him, palms up, giving me a sideways look. “You think you can just wake these fucktards up, and they’ll just go on their merry little way?”
The more time he had to think about bringing someone back from the dead, the less he liked the idea. “Well, I’m not stupid. Of course not! We’ll have to talk to them and make sure they aren’t mindless—”
Luke cut me off to say, “Do not say, brain eaters. Just don’t. We can end this right now if you think we’re going into this expecting them to wake up and eat our brains.” He stood and folded his arms over his chest, the muscles tightening as he tensed up.
He was definitely a little off today. It just wasn’t like him to back away from a situation just because it could get a tiny bit unpleasant. I mean, really? At worst, we’d probably only end up with a couple of walkers. There was no way I was going to tell him that, though. Literally, zombies that you could walk away from and escape. Slowly. I had the sudden urge to laugh, but I knew Luke would not appreciate it, so I bit my cheek to keep quiet.
The body parts I had turned to stone were okay once I turned them back into flesh and bone. Well, the body stayed dead. That shouldn’t matter, though. Hopefully. “What’s the worst that can happen?” I shrugged my shoulders and crouched next to a man who looked like he had lived, and died, rough.
“I have a feeling we’re going to find out,” he said under his breath, then louder added, “I just don’t think that a dead body will react the same way a dead body part would. I mean, yeah, you can turn an arm or leg to stone then turn it back, but the person is still dead. I think we need more time to think this through.”
I stood and walked over to Luke. “I can feel the power waiting. It’s there. I just need to use it. There isn’t anything to think about. I want to see what I can do.” Giving him a quick hug, I stepped back, thinking. “We need something to call them. They are dead, but then, hopefully, they’ll be alive. We can’t use zombies.” Then in a whisper, I asked, “They won’t be zombies, will they?”