It was too hot to breathe, but she continued to run – she needed to run. Even as the blood continued to seep into her jeans, there was no stopping. She had to get to the water. It was her only salvation. The rocky terrain added to her anxiety as her paced slowed – she couldn’t risk falling from this height. With no large rocks or tree, the sun’s oppressive gaze only added to her misery. The only good news was that the path began to ascend sharply upward, so she knew she was close. She forced her legs to stop and slowly look behind her.
There was no one there – just smoke in the distance. The town of Glass was on fire.
She took a deep breath and the smell of fresh water filled her lungs. The sound of the water thrashing itself against rocks almost made her cry. The river was just on the other side of the ridge.
The wind shifted, a gentle breeze cooled her aching back. The chill was welcomed for a brief moment, but she immediately stiffened up.
She could smell their musky, foul odor.
It was almost rancid – like a mix of fear and alcohol. She pushed herself forward and looked over the ridge. It was a fifteen-foot drop into the rushing waters below. There was no safe way down other jumping. This was her only chance. If she jumped – she could die against the rocks or drown to exhaustion. Ultimately, either fate was better than what was behind her. She shook her head to an unanswered question. Without any thought, she took a deep breath jumped over the edge. There was no more time to think. Staring as the water came closer, she prepared for the shock.
– – – – –
1 Hour Earlier
It was Wednesday and the thermometer read 111°. Like its namesake, the town of Glass did not instantly roast, instead it absorbed the heat gradually and just got hotter. The heat lingered in the afternoons and did not fade away until the sun had set.
There were only a few people in the bar: a couple of truckers, George the bartender, and Jenny. The peaceful mood of the day was broken by a low rumble in the air. Like animals – everyone began to look around and react to the unseen stimulus. George’s hand lightly touched the bar’s security – a pump action shotgun. The rumble seemed build – getting louder and louder as it got closer to the bar.
Then the world exploded.
Two bodies came crashing through the front wall of the bar with the force of a wrecking ball. One trucker had the unfortunate luck of being by the front door. His body was on the ground with his neck turned the wrong way. The force of the blast had shoved the other trucker onto a table, pieces of the metal door frame found their way into his stomach bleeding him out.
It was unreal – something like a man, but with dog-like features picked itself up from the ground. Its skin looked like a mix of dried leather and cracked earth. It surveyed the room with yellowed eyes.
With shaky hands, George leveled the shotgun and pulled the trigger. The creature looked down at its chest. Black blood leaked out of the wound from where the rock salt had hit. For a moment, it almost looked like the creature sighed. With its clawed hand, it flicked the blood across the room. It spoke with a guttural voice, “Kill them.” Jenny watched in horror as the two truckers rose up and shambled toward the bar. Their eyes were filled with black blood. George raised the shotgun and pulled the trigger again.
George had only kept one round in shotgun. Rock salt was meant to end fights. Two dead truckers did not factor into this equation. Each had grabbed George and pulled him over the bar top. George screamed as Jenny forced herself away and scrambled to the side door, and ran.
– – – – –
The shock of cold water forced the air from her lungs. The force of the current carried her at a downward angle offering her no control. She went headlong into a rock. There was a nasty sound of a crack and the world began to lose focus.
“You tried to run, though all for naught. Do you want to die?” said a voice off to the side.
Jenny blinked slowly, her head was bleeding and barely above the water, “…no…”
“You are going to die alone. However, I will make you an offer – share your body with me, and I promise you that we will both live,” they said.
Slowly turning her head to one side – Jenny saw the outline of a woman in the water. Her form was a mix in the water, current and the light. “Do we have a deal?” the water woman asked.
Jenny nodded her head once and closed her eyes, “…Yes…”
– – – – –
She was sitting on the riverbank – but there was no pain or blood. Tentatively she looked forward into the water to see the damage. Instead of her face in the reflection – she saw another. It was strange and beautiful. While “humanish”, the features were too fine – too exotic or maybe alien. The face smiled back, “It is time for you to listen to a story, and maybe we will find a happy ending in all of this.”
Jenny looked around – she was safe, or at least she was safe for now.
Turning back to her reflection, she nodded her head, “I’m listening.”