Death of a Hero, Chapter 60- Cassandra

This is Anima and Guardian. I just stared at two of the strongest people on the east coast; the country, even. How strong was Kitten, to do so much damage in a fight against these powerhouses? Zach was unconscious and half naked, laying on Anima’s lap. Some shimmering cloak kept him mostly covered, but I caught the occasional peek through the shield. He looked unhurt, just sleeping.

“Umm, I have to look after Zach,” Anima spoke. “The driver will take you home, or to a hospital if you need to. Maybe file a police report?”

I swallowed, trying so hard not to think about it. “I don’t think it’ll make a difference. She’s dead now, right?”

Anima hesitated, looking down at Zach. “If she somehow survived, I will kill her myself.”

She then looked over at Guardian, and I had to look as well. The man was a living legend, supposedly untouchable, and he was bleeding through the bandages over his missing arm. “What about you, will you be alright?”

Guardian took a slow breath. “Yeah, I’m just going through shock. Not as young as I used to be. I know a couple high end Gifters that will have me back to full an hour after I’m back home. You get Respawn somewhere comfortable first, then we can drop off, uh…” Guardian looked at me.

“Cassie,” I managed to say after a moment. “I’d just like to go home and take a bath.” No one would be home, I begged off going to Christmas dinner by claiming to be sick, so I could try to talk to Zach. It didn’t work out how I’d hoped.

Anima gave instructions to the driver, leading them to Laura’s house, and I just sat there and listened. No one bothered pushing me for information. Anima was too busy focusing on Zach, and Guardian sat there looking like he was about to pass out. They saved my life, and I couldn’t think of anything to say to them.

….

I looked at Laura’s apartment, forced myself to breathe, step forward, and knock. Last time I waited too long, it didn’t go well for me. Laura opened the door and looked at me. “Oh! Hi, Cassie. I didn’t expect to see you. You should be getting some rest after…” she trailed off. She couldn’t say it, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I offered what I hoped was a nice smile; I was never very good at dealing with other women. “I wanted to return this.” I held up the coat that I wore home. It was a stupid excuse and I knew it, but if it gave me a chance to fix things, then I didn’t care. Maybe, even if it didn’t work out, he’d smell my scent and think about me.

Laura hesitated, glancing into her apartment for just a heartbeat. Now I knew he was in there, but I didn’t know if she’d tell me. Please let me in, I begged her with my eyes. “I need to talk to him, to set everything right.”

Kitten was right about me, I really am a stalker.

….

You can do it, Cass, all you have to do is drive up, knock on his door, and apologize. He’s with his family, this isn’t the right time to cause a scene. It’s Christmas, the time for forgiveness and love, he has to accept it now. No, that’s just manipulating him, you can come by in a couple days and-

“Hey.”

I screamed and jumped, twisting around to look for the source of the voice. “How’d you get in my car?!” I didn’t even hear the door close, and for that matter my doors had child safety locks.

A middle-school girl with dark brown hair and Asian features was in my backseat smiling.  “Speaking as one stalker to another: you suck.”

Stalker? “Get out before I-” I stopped talking when she held up her hand and a knife of solid ice formed between her fingertips. “What do you want?”

I thought about running, but I didn’t know what kind of power she might have. My self defense classes said the same thing about Imbued as guns: stay calm and cooperate until you can escape. Besides, she already had a knife, she could stab me like five times before I got the seatbelt off.

She leaned forward, resting her chin on the back of my chair. “Just a bit of girl talk about our mutual love interest.” She sighed and smiled like a schoolgirl with a crush. “It doesn’t surprise me that he bagged a babe like you. Tell me, how is he in the sack?”

I looked away. I didn’t want to have this conversation with anyone, but she had powers. “We… we never did anything.” She just waited and watched, angling the knife to reflect the sun at me. “I wasn’t ready, and he didn’t try to make me.”

“Aww, he’s the sensitive type.” After a breathy sigh, she giggled. “I bet you wish he did, right?”

Yes. “No.” Again, the girl just watched me, a knowing smirk on her face. “It doesn’t matter now, he doesn’t want me.”

“I know how to change his mind,” she offered happily. “I was looking for a good Christmas present. I was going to kill that meany-face from his school for him, but even I’m not crazy enough to break into a maximum security prison.” She talked so casually about murder that I was convinced she’d done it before. “So how about we play a game? I’ll kidnap you and he can come save you and it’ll be like a fairy tale.”

She’s going to kill me. “I… he won’t come for me.”

“Nonsense. Trust me, he’ll come rescue you and then you’ll get the fucking of a lifetime. Now drive north and cross the river on 495.” I shook, but forced myself to turn around. I didn’t have any choice, and maybe she’d even be right. “Oh, my name’s Kitten, what’s yours?”

I gulped as I shifted into gear. “Cassie.”

“Trust me, Cassie, this is destiny.”

….

“It’s okay, I’ll talk to her.” Zach’s voice, the first time I’d heard it since he rescued me from Kitten. She was right about everything else; he did come for me, he did save me, and he even defeated her in the process. Now we just need the reunion and kiss and everything will be okay again.

I smoothed down my skirt and made sure everything was perfect. This is it, your last chance to say it. To apologize, to let him know how you feel. To explain why you’re such a fuckup.

Instead of letting me in, Zach stepped outside into the chilly wet weather. I was disappointed, I wouldn’t be able to show off my figure as much with my coat on. Maybe I can take advantage of this, I can get away with more without his sister watching. 

“Okay, Cassie, what do you want?”

He still hasn’t forgiven me. “I should probably give this back.” I offered his coat to him. In the process, I allowed mine to open a bit, letting him get a good look at my cleavage. I smiled my best smile while he tried, but failed, to look at my face. I didn’t have much else to offer, but my body was spectacular.

….

I struggled to stop gasping and sobbing long enough to catch my breath. Kitten climbed up and straddled my lap, then stroked my face as a gentle lover might.

“You know, you’re lucky.” I said nothing, she’d punish me even worse if I cried out or argued with her. “You’re only the second girl I’ve done that with who got to live. You’re almost as beautiful as she was.”

I shuddered, and pretended it was all in revulsion. This wasn’t the first time I’d been raped, but that was nothing like this. Kitten dragged it out and talked to me the whole time. She wasn’t in it for sex; she wanted to torture me on every level, and she was good at it.

She kissed my lips, and I tried not to think about the taste. “You love him, don’t you? Don’t worry, you’re allowed to speak, but if you lie to me, I’ll have to find an even more exciting way to punish you.”

I nodded, trying to find my voice. “Y-yes, I love him.” With her insane obsession, I wasn’t sure how she’d take that news. “Are you going to kill me?” In a way, I almost hoped she would. It would be so much easier just to give up and be free from the heartbreak, the guilt, and the memories.

“Nope,” she popped her lips. “You’re Zach’s gift. He gets to decide what to do with you. Maybe he’ll kill you, or maybe…” she slid her hand down between my legs again.

….

Zach accepted his coat, finally pulling his eyes away from my chest. “Okay, thank you. Is that all?” That actually made him more attractive: he at least tried not to treat me like an object. Even when I was tied up by Kitten, completely exposed and vulnerable, he treated me like a human being.

I took a breath. “And I wanted to say I’m sorry for everything. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I just-”

“You didn’t hurt me,” Zach interrupted. “I don’t care about that.”

My heart jumped. Does this mean he forgives me? “Really?”

“Well, yeah.” His voice didn’t sound forgiving. “I mean, all you are is a groupie.”

No! No, please don’t. “But I…”

“You telegraphed it from, like, a mile away.” Every word drove the pain that much deeper. “But you were attractive and fun to be around, amazing arm candy. So I figured what the hell? You used me, but that’s okay because I used you back.”

I almost broke down crying. That’s all I’m good for, to be used. Nothing I didn’t already know, but having the man I loved say it was a new kind of agony. “O-okay.”

“But then you had to stab me in the back. No explanation, not even a warning. I just come to school thinking everything’s fine, and the people who are supposed to have my back screw me over. You’re a traitor.”

I fought back my tears, all the words running through my head. I wanted to explain why my popularity was so important to me. I wasn’t smart enough to get a decent grade without help, and I wasn’t charismatic enough to talk people into helping me. I had no way to make people like me other than my looks, and I wasn’t strong enough to be alone. I was lost, so I resorted to what always worked before.

I stepped forward, and pressed my body against his. It felt so good to touch him, to smell his skin. After what Kitten did to me, I needed to feel the touch of someone else.

“What can I do to convince you I mean it?” I looked up at his hazel eyes and poured on the sex appeal. “I’ll do anything you want.” I ran a hand down his stomach, feeling his abs underneath.

Zach’s hands came up and grabbed my shoulders. “What I want is for you to turn around, walk away, and stay the fuck out of my life.” He held me back, then stepped back into his sister’s place and slammed the door. I turned and walked away, crying.

….

I looked out at the bank of the Potomac. The river was slow and peaceful, the full moon reflecting off its surface despite the drizzle. On another night it could have been romantic. But tonight was cold and wet and unpleasant; even the muggers and prostitutes didn’t bother coming out. I was alone, for every sense of the word.

I slipped out of my boots and stepped into the water itself, the frigid cold sending pain up the nerves of my legs. A couple more steps in and I felt something slice my foot; it could have been a rock or broken bottle or anything. I shivered and took a another step into the water,  now it halfway up my thighs.

Zach asked me to get out of his life, and I was going to give him what he asked for. It’s not like I had anything else in life. Kayla got the brains, the talent, and the drive. I didn’t even get to say I was better looking than she was. Sure, I had more curves, but she’d always be taller and more graceful then I would ever be. The best I had to look forward to was being some rich old man’s trophy wife. There was a time when I was okay with that, but not anymore.

I shed my coat as I made my way waist deep into the water, pushing through the thin layer of slush and controlled my breathing so I didn’t hyperventilate. Then I jumped forward and kicked out my legs. I was a good swimmer, and trusted muscle memory to handle the movement, since I couldn’t feel my legs. There was even a time I thought I might become a competitive swimmer, until puberty ruined that for me as well.

This way’s better for everyone. I pushed myself harder, finally the pain stopped and I started to feel warm again. Everything felt so calm out here in the water, like everything might actually work out in the end. I looked at the shore, so far away. Oh well. I closed my eyes and sank into the water. I’ll just rest a bit first, that’s all. 

A sensation more than a voice spoke in the back of my mind. The cold, fatigue, and numbness faded while my thoughts kicked up to a level I’d never experienced before. Moments later, it pulled away.

I opened my eyes, looking at the surface of the river from below and barely able to make out the moonlight through the murk.

The siren’s song was still there waiting, just beyond the senses I was familiar with. Somehow, I knew I had to be the one to accept both the power and the consequences, whatever they might be. I only hesitated for a moment before grasping that one last opportunity to matter.

Pain and strength in equal measure coursed through my body, mending and redesigning every aspect of my physiology. I screamed out as I plummeted to the bottom of the river, kicking up a cloud of mud consisting mostly of pollutants. My density was roughly double what it had been before, making me far too heavy to float in water.

I stood up and looked around. I was equipped to survive down here despite being unable to swim. I no longer needed my lungs to survive, and my eyes could see the shore through the virtually lightless environment. I started walking, bits of glass and other garbage breaking under my feet.

Sorry, Zach, I love you too much to let go.

NEXT

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19 thoughts on “Death of a Hero, Chapter 60- Cassandra

    1. Typos:
      I caught the occasional peak
      peek

      have be back to full
      me

      forcing myself to breath
      breathe (same text occurs twice in chapter)

      he rescued me Kitten
      +from Kitten

      You’re almost as beautiful she was.
      +as she was

      more graceful I could ever be
      +than I

      being some rich old man’s trophy wife
      wife.

      ever aspect of my physiology
      every

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Fucking Mark of Cain…

    Zach sounded like an asshole there, maybe he had a reason, but i think he stabbed to deep there.

    Also his surge at the last fight was not explained, it would be nice to know that he got.

    i can only imagine what is going to be Cassie reaction to Zach+Beth

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing entry!!!!!
    I’m still a bit puzzled over how kitten died? and as Keizero said what is Zacks surge and what is the cost of it?
    Will your next book be about Anima? I would love to figure out what her cost for her abilities was like and why she seems to be all alone and what was the fallout between her and the government sponsored heroes.
    Yeah i’ve gotta lot of question?????

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kitten was bathed in a fire hot enough to melt most grades of steel. Because Zach used himself to make sure she was caught in Crucible’s power at full strength.

      Zach’s still only had one surge- though as Kitten pointed out, he’s third stage (he started at second- not an especially rare thing).

      You should check the news section that says stuff about the future possible books.

      Like

    1. I know you mean. What a bitch, getting raped and letting it affect her and how she interacts with people. Why can’t she just communicate her feelings in a clear and concise manner like every other character in this story?

      Seriously, this chapter painted Cassie in an incredibly sympathetic light. She was damaged when she first started seeing Zach, and was never able to see herself as more than just a pretty girl. Zach, of course, has all of the emotional maturity of a sixteen year old, and is still too hurt by her perceived betrayal to even ask how she is doing after knowing that Kitten raped her.

      So after going through a legitimately terrifying and psychologically scarring ordeal, her main concern is still to apologize to Zach and hope that he can forgive her. Once that blows up her immediate reaction is to say fuck it and kill herself. If it weren’t for that Mark of Cain (maybe) then she would have been a goner. And even now, it sounds like her Imbuement cost her her body, which was the one thing she relied on to help her survive up until that point.

      Like most Cassandra’s, her story is tragic and damn near heartbreaking.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Wait, this was intended to be sympathetic? Did I miss a memo? Trying to kill yourself because life isn’t going your way is sympathetic now. Yes, she was violated on a deeply personal level. No, that does not give her an excuse to commit an objectively immoral action. I’m not saying that religiously; I’m basing that off of Kant; if everyone committed suicide, society would collapse, and therefore suicide is objectively wrong. Yes, I’m aware that involves black and white morality. I’m also coming from the perspective of having a father comit suicide, and I have never had pretensions that he is anything but a terrible person for it.

        Sure, it’s a legitimately horrible experience that she went through. A terrible one, which few would recover fully from. ‘Damaged’. ‘Limited in perspective’. I have to wonder who else that describes. Oh wait, everyone. Literally. Everyone. But not everyone decides to drown themselves, and I have no patience for those that do. None. Or, for that matter, decide to drown themselves after someone was moderately rude. Oh, woe be to be she that hast shattered pretensions and thus decries themselves, for they shall have no ears among them.

        Oh, and then she gets superpowers in return for being a terrible person, while losing the element of her identity which she chose to base herself off of. Boo hoo. Oh, what a wretched fate, to be less than hyper attractive! Really, there are five year olds in this world whose stomachs are slowly eating away at their muscles, before eventually reaching their brains. There are paralytics, the mentally disabled, women barely out of their prime being ravaged by cancer. Cassandra is so unsympathetic that I can hardly fathom how she could be conceived otherwise.

        Like

        1. From my understanding of your position, people who commit suicide are not sympathetic to you. I suspect that it largely comes from your experience with suicide and that the moral philosophical position stems from that.

          From my perspective, Cassie’s decision is stupid and short-sighted – she was not in a “bad enough” situation that her actions made sense. That being said, I reserve the right for anyone sane (more below) to self-terminate. No one should have the right to say that someone in an extraordinarily bad situation with no other way out should stay alive for the objective good of society – that principal is far too easily abused.

          The unfortunate fact is that most people who attempt suicide are clinically insane. Those people should be stopped and treated. In that sense, Cassie is a sympathetic character because she has a mental illness that needs to be treated.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. I was binge reading this series yesterday (fantastic work, by the way – more on that later), but I just had to take a break on this one.
    Now, just to get it out of the way, neither I nor anyone close to me have ever been through something even remotely like what Cassie or Zach have. Still, out of all the chapters up till now, this was the one that hit me the hardest. It was enough to cast Zach straight into my shit list.
    When Cassie was first introduced, I didn’t much care for her. I was always the kid who did all the group work in class, so I didn’t have much appreciation for a freeloader. Still, she won me over. She proved to be supportive, sweet and overall a nice girl.
    Then she turned her back on him when he needed her most, and that was shitty of her. She deserved to get dumped over that. Still, that after he felt all that rage on behalf of Erica, after knowing what Kitten did to people, he didn’t even spare her a bit of concern? Traumatized or not, I can’t forgive him that.
    Not after all she did for him and especially not after what he knew she went through, because of him.
    I will continue to read after posting this, but it will be hard. It will be hard because I *hate* Zach just a bit right now, and I’d feel disgusted to be in his head. That I can feel like this about a fictional character just shows how great this work is.
    I don’t know if the author will read this comment on a finished work, but thank you. This is awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, I’m still watching the old chapters. And you’ll find I rarely create characters that everyone’s supposed to agree with and like. I also rarely create characters the readers are supposed to absolutely hate… though there is Kitten…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The fact that your characters are not perfectly likeable or hateful is, IMO, one of the greatest draws to your work.
        They’re interesting – it gives them depth and life. But I guess you already know all that.
        It’s hard to completely loathe even kitten – she’s clearly deranged and that makes her hard to hate.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s always gratifying to hear others say it, however.

          Not so much because I need validation that my work’s good- that’s nice, but it isn’t what really drives me.

          I am, however, able to admit that I constantly fear I’m the only one that really *sees* what I’m trying to create. There’s a meaning to my work, underlying messages and an effort to craft art. It terrifies me that others are reading my work and I don’t know if my work’s being seen as art, or merely entertainment.

          Yeah. I’m one of *those* people. *Bows head in shame*

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Well, that’s part of why I commented on it – when I see something as carefully crafted as this, I feel I owe to the author to at least let them know that I’ve taken something away from their work.
            There’s also the component of using positive reinforcement to train artists to produce good work (mwahahahaha).

            Liked by 1 person

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