Silas Nash crawled through the darkness for an unimaginable length of time. The rough stone under his hands gradually smoothed, until it resembled glass more than anything else. In the distance, he could hear a distant thumping that reached right into his bones and shook them. It grew louder with each move forwards, making his stomach clench each time. He started counting seconds, and realized it was happening regularly, once a minute.
The basement was full of strange items that were apparently necessary to the ritual. “The rock-salt.” Irayama pointed, and Nash hefted an eighty pound bag over his shoulder, legs shaking slightly under the weight. “We will need to create a place of purity. Souls can escape easily if there isn’t a circle of salt ready to catch them.” She studied the walls. “There.” She pointed towards a rolled up scroll. Isabelle gently lifted it in both arms. “And of course, we will need to get Dean’s body.” With this, the old woman opened the door of the meat locker. She pulled a body bag out. All the racks had been withdrawn and discarded to make room for it.
Nash blinked at the blinding light of Irayama’s dingy basement. “How long were we in Yomi?” he asked, as he looked around. A portal to the underworld, sitting right in the basement of a suburban house. There was a large foosball table, and a meat-locker. He frowned. They didn’t seem particularly appropriate. Sure, he hadn’t been expecting the bones of one thousand dead samurai or anything, but she could’ve done better than this.
Izanami leaned against the boulder, panting and sobbing from the run and the rage. She had not been thinking when she had said those words to Izanagi. It had been said in anger. But so many of the words they shared with one another were said in anger. She hated that. And yet, they just seemed to come so easily when she was around him. Take what had just happened. She had died in childbirth, and watched her husband murder the child she had died for in a fit of pique.
The darkness was absolute. There was no wind in this place, and whatever was under Nash’s feet, it was not earth in the traditional sense. Every step was uncertain. It felt like climbing stairs in the night, not knowing whether there would be something there to meet your next step. Waiting for that awful moment when reality contradicted expectations. The powers Gene and Ariel had given him were not able to help. And in the realm of the dead, he didn’t even know where he was going.
Nash walked out of the forest alongside Officer Crupky. In the wide grassy lot behind the hotel, a number of tables were being set up. Gene was huffing and puffing as she moved chairs and tables into place, struggling with stubborn joints and levers. It was afternoon, now, and there was a warmth in the air as she worked. She wore a pair of denim overalls, and a tight white cotton shirt, simple clothes that seemed quite comfortable in the warm summer air.
“Why do you dislike me, Cassandra?” Nash asked, as he drove. Cassandra sighed.
Morning came, and with it a slew of anxieties. Nash sat up slowly, prepared for his bones to scream at him, protesting at the treatment from the night before. But he felt good. A bowl of the fish stew sat on the bedside table, with plastic wrap over it. He was so hungry that he ate it cold, gobbling down bite after bite, almost choking on a tiny bone. The stew had thickened as it cooled, and he luxuriated in the taste of saffron and meat. When he finished, he set the bowl aside, and walked to the shower.
Silas Nash walked up the path with the hero and the monster. His throat still hurt. Quite a lot of him hurt, but the big man’s grip had been an entirely new kind of pain. Watching that fist prepare to come down on his tender skull had been more frightening than fighting Talos. Now, Harry had his lion skin around his wife’s shoulders, showing a galling lack of embarrassment about his own nudity. The three of them walked to the front door, with Harry making soft clicking noises of disapproval at the broken bay window, and the shattered floor. “I hope it’s not going to rain anymore tonight.” He gave his wife a questioning look. She flushed, quite to Nash’s surprise.
Harry Constantinou was born in a slum, in one of the worse parts of Athens. It was never quite clear how the Sarin wound up in the apartment complex’s basement. With such a short shelf life, someone had to have kept it there. They might have been a lethally careless chemist. Perhaps a home grown terrorist with more knowledge than sense. The government officially blamed it on the actions of a group of mercenaries who had been planning an attack on government buildings. By the time the hazmat teams managed to sweep the building, a hundred and twenty three people were dead, and Harry Constantinou was getting hungry, crying in his crib for his mother. People called it a miracle, celebrating the child’s survival. They were right about that much, at least.