Fake blood, the stuff they used on movie sets when the director didn’t want to use CGI, was nothing like the real thing. It lacked heat, turning a regular shoot into a sticky, shiver-inducing chore.
Scott’s blood was warm. After what felt like an eternity—but couldn’t have been any more than a few minutes—his blood still hadn’t dried or cooled. Drop by drop, it fell from the ceiling onto me, the cashiers’ counters, the tabletops, and the floor.
I couldn’t force myself to move, fearing it would shatter the quiet that had taken hold of the store. Maybe, if I stood there long enough, everything would prove to be a nightmare instead of reality.
I wanted to close my eyes, but I didn’t dare. What I might imagine terrified me more than the reality of Scott’s mangled body lying at my feet. His sightless eyes were fixed on me, accusing me of not having done something to save him. I shifted my stare to something—anything—other than him, picking one of the shelves filled with books I’d probably never get a chance to read.
Then my thoughts wandered to the last thing I wanted to think about. Could I have saved him? People like me—wizards, practitioners of the darkest arts—were hunted down because there were those who believed we could do anything, and that made us dangerous.
Scott had died right in front of me, and I hadn’t been able to do anything to prevent it. If wizards were so powerful, I should have been able to stop his death.
I survived each day by running and hiding from those who believed people like me needed to be destroyed. Maybe they were right. Maybe, somehow, I had caused Scott’s death. Had I lost control and used the powers I tried to so hard to hide? I wasn’t sure. I didn’t have any answers.
Someone must have had the presence of mind to call for help, though I didn’t know how they had managed to. When the police arrived, the stunned silence broke into a chaotic cacophony of everyone talking at once. Some screamed. Some cried. Others crumbled under the horror of a death too gruesome to be real.
The presence of the cops turned the nightmare into something none of us could deny.
I kept still, staring at the uniformed men as they burst into the bookstore. They stopped and stared at the cash registers, their mouths hanging open as they took in the kind of carnage that belonged in a zombie movie. One of them fainted, collapsing in a boneless heap. I drew several quick breaths, but managed to quell the surge of panic coursing through me. Fainting would’ve been smart; I wouldn’t have to see anything at all. I wouldn’t have to face the nagging doubt that I was somehow responsible for Scott’s death.
At the light touch of a hand on my elbow, I sucked in a breath, flinching away. My heart tried to escape out of my chest via my throat, strangling my shriek.