She stopped. “Goddess?”
“That’s what you called yourself.”
“Do you ever dream, Kali?”
This guy was nuts. “Doesn’t everyone?”
He inclined his head as if in acknowledgement. “Your dreams should be more intricate. More real. They should be so real that they feel less like dreams and more like memories. They are, in fact. Memories of your past life.”
She let out a short, barking laugh. “You mean when I was Cleopatra, right? I remember that, sure.”
“You were much greater than a mere queen, Kali. You were a goddess. You should have memories. You told me you saved them. Your people, your rituals. Things you did. Places you’ve seen. Being worshiped by hundreds like you.”
His voice was soft. Seductive. Her head spun, and her eyes grew heavy.
“You were thousands of years old. As old as civilization itself. And you drew people, young and old. The strong and the weak, all of them were drawn to you. To your power, your beauty.”
Her vision darkened. The miles of cars stretched out before them were suddenly replaced by a circle of people, all bowing, their pale skin glowing, reflecting the fire they were gathered around. She stood above them on a platform, wearing a long heavy dress. When she raised her hands, the people raised their faces, showing their fangs.
She blinked the image from her eyes. Rubbed them against her hands, trying to clear it away.
“You must have dreams of yourself in the past,” Garrison was saying. “Dreams of yourself in the desert. In England. France. Russia. Persia. You were so well traveled.” The van picked up a little speed. “But they’re not just dreams. They’re memories of your past life. You were a vampire. The first.”
She tried to laugh, but it stuck in her throat. Something tingled in the back of her mind. Something like a half-buried memory or story she had forgotten.
“A vampire.” It was crazy. And yet…
Dreams she’d had rose in her mind’s eye. She’d always had dreams, strange, vivid dreams where she was a queen or speaking to queens and famous people from history. Dreams of strange ceremonies. Of fields covered with dead, dirt stained with blood. Of ripping out people’s throats with her teeth. Tearing out their hearts with her hands. Dreams of saving a beautiful slave from his Roman master. Of pleading with a man in a garden to run away with her. Dreams of pleasure and pain, dreams that filled her journals and kept her friends enthralled with the retelling. Friends enthralled and psychologists worried. For her, they were normal, part of every night’s less than restful sleep.
Then, she remembered one dream with startling clarity: Garrison. Garrison, his pale, thin face rising over the backwards collar of a priest. Garrison, standing in front of a church. Him handing her a communion wafer. Blessing her as she drank from the communion goblet. His eyes burning fire as they gazed into hers.
That dream was chased away by the other dream. The horrible dream. The one she could never recall clearly, but there he was. He was in it. He stood over her, holding a knife, tears and blood streaking his face as he glared at her.
Kali gasped, pain erupting all over her body. It wasn’t the pain from where he’d hit her, but the other pain. The phantom pain that had plagued her all her life. Pains in the palms of her hands, her ankles, her stomach and shoulders.
Kali doubled over. Her hands clenched her keychain, squeezing as she rode out the pain.
“I had to kill you,” Garrison said in a low, almost desperate, voice. “I had to. Your mind forgot and your body is new, but your soul remembers.”
Kill her. He was going to kill her.
Kali forced her eyes open. She’d managed to make a tiny tear in the duct tape with her keychain. She grabbed at it with her teeth. Tugged.
The tape came apart, ripping under the pressure. She yanked her wrists apart and stabbed at the tape on her ankles with her keychain. Broke it and pulled it off.
“Well, you’re not going to kill me this time.”
Garrison whirled, looking over his shoulder. “Kali, no!” He reached out, grabbing for her.
The van smashed into the car in front of them. She was thrown forwards and then backwards again. The airbag hit Garrison in the face.
Shaking the dizziness off, Kali grabbed the handle of the door and pulled it open. She tumbled out of the van onto the asphalt, elbows skidding over it, skin tearing off.
“What the hell, lady!” someone shouted. A car honked. Tires rolled frighteningly close to her head.
Garrison coughed behind her. Wheezed out, “Kali!”
She jumped to her feet and ran. Every car on the freeway seemed to erupt in a storm of horns. People stuck their heads out of their windows. They shouted at her. Waved fingers.
She kept running.
Garrison shouted again behind her. She didn’t look back. Instead, she found an opening in the traffic and darted into the lane.
A car slammed on its brakes. It stopped so close to her, Kali could feel the heat from its engine through her clothes. She stumbled and fell against it bracing her hands on its too-hot-hood.
“Christ, you okay?” the driver shouted.
Kali shook her head and pushed herself up. She finished crossing the lane and began to run along the shoulder. Her feet pounded the pavement. Her ankle throbbed in pain. Lungs burned. Ahead, cars lined up on the exit ramp. She ran alongside them until she hit the street.
Kali had no idea where she was. Los Angeles wasn’t her city. She’d been there before, but never to this area. She was completely lost, bleeding, scared, and alone.
She kept running.