Daniel is exiled and the new Earth is in trouble. In his efforts to restore Kate, a new world is born out of the Wasteland and the two have to make their way in it. The issue of the besieged Heaven and Earth are never far from their minds as they explore this odd new world.
“What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know. What do you want to do?”
“Oh, come on, Daniel, we can’t do this every Saturday!”
“Sure, we can. And we do.”
“Do you have any money?”
“Wanna go hiking?”
Daniel still didn’t know what to do. And this time, he didn’t have Kate’s irritation and wit to drive him.
He still held her, blood making his t-shirt tacky and stiff. He couldn’t put her down. He couldn’t let her go. He couldn’t accept the inevitable.
She would have laughed at his scattered thought process. What would Kate do in his position? What would Jesus do? Jesus was still in heaven, which was in hell, and he fought the creature that had slipped through the hole in the universe. The armies of Heaven, alongside an army of gods and Norse heroes, had been making short work of the armies of hell. And that great beastie that had devoured Earth still enveloped heaven.
He used to be a god. For that matter, so did Kate. The greatest gods in history had been in his head, advising him. He’d had Kate advising him. Now he had nothing.
Her dead weight made his legs cramp, and he shifted in the sand. He leaned over and took her head in his hands. Her head looked exactly as if something ancient and powerful had been stored inside her and she had been the unfortunate arachnid to the spider-hunting wasp. The gods had not been advisors; they’d been eggs waiting to be hatched out. Had they fed on her? Fed on her godly power until there was nothing left but Kate?
Her skin was split and caked with blood and sand. Smoothing the hair away from the wound, Daniel could see the hole in her skull where the gods had exited. He began to cry again, his fingers tightening on her shoulders and bruising her skin. He didn’t know why it had happened, but she was too big of a sacrifice to make.
How much had she known about her fate? She must have known, she wouldn’t have apologized to him, would not have kissed him like that if she hadn’t known. Is that was Jesus had talked to her about?
He needed answers. If only to quiet his mind. If only to get peace. Then maybe he could die too.
He lifted her, struggling in the sand, his feet slipping. He teetered to the left and then fell to one knee. He had nothing of the strength he once had. He was a tired, grief-stricken man, unable to do the simple thing of keeping his best friend with him.
He began to dig, then, his hands scraping sand aside furiously. At first, the sand slid back into the hole as fast as he removed it, but eventually he got ahead of it and made progress. The sand wore away at his hands, wedging underneath his fingernails and leaving his skin raw.
His shoulders ached and his eye stung, but he eventually made a hole deep enough to receive her. He stood for a minute, looking down at the swirling sand that had already begun to cover her. He leaned down close and kissed her dry lips. “I’ll see you soon, one way or another.”
Covering her prone body was not an issue. He pushed sand into the hole and then removed Izanami’s katana from its sheath at his hip. He stuck it deeply into the sand by her grave, marking it. Removing his bloody t-shirt, he tied it to the sword, a red marker to remind any passerby what she had given.
If there was any left to remind.
He had forgotten what it was like to feel mortal. Even before he had begun taking on godlike powers – and he couldn’t pinpoint when that was, exactly – the knowledge of being a dead soul had made it unnecessary to eat or drink. He breathed out of habit, and every once in a while his body decided it wanted to experience waste elimination, but pretty much he was a metaphysical being.
Even when he had lost his eye, he somehow knew it was a symbolic thing, and the blood and humor that had gushed down his face were not actually real.
Now he was aware of his body: the large bag of organs and blood he had to carry with him. The thirst tore at his throat and his eye socket ached at best and screamed at the invasion of sand particles at worst. His lips cracked and bled, making his body lose precious moisture even faster.
He didn’t care. Dying of thirst was not ideal, but what did it matter? He would either get his answers or die trying. It pleased him that he had only two choices here, and either one would be fine. He couldn’t mess this one up. He tightened the bandage around his eye and trudged on.
“She made the ultimate sacrifice,” Izanami said, her voice in a light tone as if she were discussing the latest stock prices. “You should be proud of her.”
Daniel turned his head. She stood there, shimmering, in her human form. “Are you real?”
“By now you should know to ask, ‘What is real?’” came a voice behind him. Kagut-suchi, the fire god, blazing brighter than the sun overhead.
Daniel shielded his eye and winced. “I have no clue, honestly. I want to believe this is just a vision quest and I’ll wake up at some point and be able to get a drink.”
“It’s not about you anymore, boy.” Odin’s gruff voice made him turn around yet again. The man glared at him from under his wide hat, his one eye boring into Daniel’s. “It’s not about Kate, either.”
“The Earth has been enshrouded in darkness,” Anubis said. The huge dog nearly gave shade in the lethal heat, except he too shimmered as a mirage. “It needs help.”
“Let the gods deal with it. Isn’t that what you are for?”
“Battle still rages in heaven.” This was Horus. “The Christ keeps the city safe, and the armies of heaven and hell battle outside. No one knows how to destroy the creature, however. Kate was the only one who wounded it.”
“Kate is dead,” Daniel said, his voice breaking in the new grief that felt as if it turned his bones to sludge.