Divine by Mistake

Divine by Mistake by P.C. Cast

Book: Divine by Mistake by P.C. Cast Read Free Book Online
Authors: P.C. Cast
touch and smell it. It was like after you drive your car over an animal that has been lying dead in the road for a very long time. The stench seems to cling to your car’s wheels and to your throat even after you’ve left it miles behind.
    My body turned gently as I continued my search, and I found myself looking out over the forest—
    That was it. No question about it, the evil was there, coming from the forest. It emanated from the northern edge, the part that eventually met the distant mountains. It was so strong that I found it difficult to keep my eyes focused on that area; my vision kept shifting, like I was trying to concentrate on one of those 3-D pictures but couldn’t quite get the hidden image right.
    It was as my gaze slid over the trees, not quite focused, that I saw it. A ripple in the darkness of the night-shadowed trees. Blinking, I focused above the tree line and, again, the forest rippled. It was like ink seeping down a naked page—crawling shadows, oily and thick. A mass of something was moving through the trees, singular in intention and demeanor. The forward line of it was swift and silent.
    I gasped in realization. Its destination was obvious—it was converging on the sleeping castle.

5
    There was nothing I could do to help. I tried to scream at the dice-playing guards, and my ghostly voice was carried away by the wind. My body still wouldn’t descend, and, for a moment, I felt shamefully thankful as I realized that the thought of being in the castle as the darkness drew closer and closer terrified me. And I couldn’t wake up. Glancing back to the edge of the northern tree line, I was horrified by how quickly the darkness had advanced. And as they got closer, the evil radiating from them felt thicker. How could anyone in the castle sleep or play cards or hang out? How could they not feel it, too?
    And suddenly it wasn’t a dream to me anymore. Here and now the unfolding horror had become my reality.
    As if responding to my thoughts, my floating body moved closer to the dark line. I was afraid, but curious and committed to understanding what was happening. I watched the front of the line break out of the trees. I drifted closer.
    At first I thought they were tall men wearing dark, flapping cloaks. They appeared to be running with amazingly long strides, and then leaping, like a long jumper at a track meet, only not landing on two feet and falling, but landing on still-running legs. This odd manner of movement ate up the land beneath them and gave them the appearance of gliding more than of running.
    Like instead of being living beings they were really specters or shades of the dead.
    As they got closer, my attention was riveted on their long, loose cloaks. I watched them move against the wind currents caused by the gliding run, until in horror I realized that the movement was voluntary. More and more of them poured out of the forest, and I understood what the cloaks really were—wings, enormous dark wings that spread and trapped the wind, aiding the leaping run and enabling the glide.
    A shiver of revulsion shuddered through my floating body. There must have been hundreds of them. They were like huge predatory humanoid bats, or gigantic humanoid roaches. I began to be able to make out individuals and their features. It was only their wings that were dark, and because they were so large and outstretched, they lent the line the appearance of being dark. In truth, under the wings, their bodies were so white they almost seemed translucent. They were naked except for loincloths, and their thin torsos looked skeletal. Their hair was light colored, ranging from blond to silver and white. Their arms and legs were abnormally long, like what would result if a human was mated with a spider. But they were most definitely humanoid. They had the faces of men—cruel, determined men.
    And a short Bobby Burns poem flashed through my mind:
    Many and sharp the numerous ills
    Inwoven with our frame;
    More pointed

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