Susan smiled. “Survive. Not, for example, to do anything about this end of the world-”
I took a deep breath, and it didn’t seem to fill my lungs. I tried again, and found a great weight on my chest. There was a gray mist all around, and a strange plant. The world was gray. I was among the asphodel-
The door to the bedroom opened, and Horace looked up. The boy’s expression was worried. “Are you okay? I told them not to hurt you, but they wouldn’t listen to me, they were scared, they-”
“I’ve never heard of this,” I said, as the two of us hiked up the hill, puffing a bit. I was still in good shape, despite my age, but breathing in deeply was making bones grind together unpleasantly in my chest. “Someone… possessing a monster, like this.”
A car crash is unimaginably violent. I’ve been in no fewer than nine of them in my life, and this was the second that hadn’t been intentional on my part. Even with that experience, it was still enough to knock me for a loop. I was vaguely aware of Horace being pulled away from me. I tried to cling to consciousness, but felt it slip through my fingers. Silver foxes sprinted through my dreams, and grinning cartoon dinosaurs followed them.
When I was 24, four very important things happened to me. First and foremost, I bought my first car. A second generation Ford Thunderbird, it was my first truly selfish purchase. It represented the freedom I had been searching for since I was a child, growing up in the booming industrial heart of upstate New York. Second, I passed the Bar Exam, and proved that I was worthy of being a lawyer, possessing the intelligence and recall to defend the liberty of others. Third, I stabbed a man who I probably shouldn’t have, because it was the only right thing to do under the circumstances. And fourth, I was recruited into a secret society. The Order of Set. I had written the name Randall Creed in the secret history of the world, in blood and splintered bone. I had been the greatest fighter the Order had trained in living memory.
In a fight, there is rarely room for tactics, or strategy. Strategy is for wars. Tactics are for battles. In fights, what you use are instincts.