CH. 46: Believers

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At first, there was darkness. Then, Rachel Chambers was falling. Then, she was drowning.

Liquid too viscous to be water penetrated her mouth with every forced attempt at breath. She coughed it out and drew it back in, retching in spasms. She kicked at its depths with boots offering little in the way of propulsion. She struggled and wrestled, removing her leather jacket, stripping herself to her tank top and jeans and waterlogged footwear. A large stone fell from the crevice into the liquid and nearly took her down with it. She clawed and sunk and clawed and sunk and sunk again then clawed and clawed at the liquid until it was clear she was going to die and then, with a final reach and grab, Rachel broke the surface and emerged, desperately sucking air from the world around her.

"I...! I...! Holy!" she cried. "I'm aliv-"

Then, a falling stone from the increasingly widening crevice crashed down and, though she put up her hands, it struck her and buried her beneath the liquid once more. She sunk under its weight and blacked out and regained consciousness then blacked out again then clawed as if in a fever dream and once more, with no sense of time, she remerged.

Another stone fell into the pool. She took no notice. Another. And again. She paddled and swam unsure to where, or if there even was a where, but, after sucking and spitting copious amount of liquid, Rachel brought herself to the shore. Then, with whatever passes for strength and determination at the point of near exhaustion, she pulled herself onto land and onto her knees.

Blood, diluted by the viscous liquid, streamed from her dyed black hair down her forehead and into her eyes. She wiped at it and when her hand came away running red, it also came away open palmed and empty.

"The ring!" she found herself saying. "Oh, Mac's gonna kill- Gregg. Gregg is gonna kill..."

But, she trailed off as she looked at her open hand.

"What the..."

Her digits glowed blueish white. Then, they glowed red. Then, to a reddish white. Then, to a deep, regal purple. Her palm glowed with it. Her bracelet of fortune glowed with it. Her wrist. Her forearm and bicep. Her, holy shit! Her, other arm, her entire body, all cloaked and wreathed in violet. But, there was more.

Pain.

It centered in Rachel's palm. It glowed red around something sharp stuck in her flesh. She winced as she picked at the foreign object embedded in her palm and winced further into a closing fist but she would not be deterred. She dug in with her free fingers and pried and pulled and removed the object trailing a small rush of blood. Holding it up to the moonlight sneaking through the crevice, it took only a moment to realize what it was, despite it being smashed and crumpled.

There wasn't much left of it, but the skull with roses down the side glinted enough to remove all doubt. It was her ring which was Gregg's ring which was Mac's before that, broken and despoiled. And bleeding.

It's magic seeped from the silver and mixed with the Blood of Thrun into which she'd fallen and the two plasmic forces combined in her open wound. And now... Purple.

Rachel climbed to her feet and looked up to the hole in the earth and listened and heard screaming. Not the feral arguments of war, but the naked, yelping of inflicted pain. Above it, she heard the booming, unfathomable voice of what must be Thrun, but she couldn't make out what was being said. She looked around the cave and the endless pool of Selfridge water and thought, almost casually and off hand, how it would be nice to have a ladder to climb back to the surface. And in a casual, off hand manner, it was so. A purple, steel ladder appeared before her, leading up and into the night.

She walked up to the ladder, completely sure it was not real, yet completely sure it was, and placed her unwounded hand on a face level rung. When it felt solid in her grasp, she took hold of the next highest rung and placed a soggy boot on the first rung off the stone floor.

This isn't happening, she thought as she started to climb to the surface. I've died. This is a dream and I've died in my dream. But, if you die in a dream, don't you die in real life? Or does that mean you wake up? Before an answer came to her, she was at the surface and what she found there rendered such trivial questions mute if not illegitimate.

Towering toward the sky, the ancient god, Thrun reined down pain and upheaval on all mortals in its wake. Wyatts and Selfridges alike squirmed on the ground, writhing in agony as Thrun spoke its will aloud.

"That you would dare defy me! That you would soil my land with your vileness and petty grievances! You are worms that you should wriggle at my feet!"

And that would have all been it for Rachel's sanity had she not looked to where Thrun stood and seen and tired looking, very old man resting his weight on a cane. The old man looked sweet almost in his overalls and battered gimme cap with his coke bottle glasses. Like someone's grandpa who would give you a butterscotch and tell you about life before television.

"Thrun is not to be mocked but to be cowered before!"

The giant god's voice boomed, only it didn't. It came from the old man. When he would wave his arms, so would Thrun. When he was make a fist, again Thrun would do the same.

"Crawl before Thrun! Feel the agony Thrun has wrought upon you!"

The Wyatts and Selfridge shivered and shook upon the ground, convulsing in pain. Rachel looked at Gregg. Looked at Mac. Her love. Her friend. Consumed by physical despair. Their families, whom Mac had brought into Rachel's life, were dying before her. Before the old man. So, with aberrant lucidity, Rachel decided to meet him.

She stepped tentatively at first, not wanting to startle him, but soon it became clear he was so wrapped up in his connection to the holy behemoth towering above that Rachel could walk up to him playing the Star Spangled Banner on a tuba and he wouldn't notice. Feet away from him, she noticed the sweat collecting under his arms and on his brow. The slight tremor in his hands. The labored breathing. She almost reconsidered, but she walked up to him and went ahead and tapped the old man on the shoulder.

"Jumpin' Christ!" the old man yelled and actually jumped himself.

He turned to see Rachel, ringed in purple, standing before him and surprise turned to utter disbelief. His jaw dropped and his concentration broke into a stupor and just like that, "Thrun," disappeared. Vanished. Vamoosed. Poof! As if it was never there in the first place.

"Sir, are you OK?" Rachel asked, taking no notice of the disappearing illusion.

He took off his coke bottle glasses and rubbed them on his overalls, but even without the comically thick lens, he eyes were bugging out of his head.

"My God," he said. "Louise...? Louise Latimer...?"

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Feud: Season 1 is spiraling toward it's thrilling conclusion, but fear not!

Unlike on TV, where you have to wait an entire year between seasons, Feud: Season 2 starts directly after Season 1 is finished!

If you want more Mac, Gregg, Rachel and the ever twisting, turning world of Sunshine Beach, go to my profile page and add the Season 2 cover to your reading list.

I hope you come along for the ride. But, I'm not gonna lie to you, it's gonna get weird...

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