She awoke with a start, her heart racing in her chest. She swallowed several times to try and push the dust away and all she could manage was to cough weakly and try desperately to focus her eyes on anything, anything at all. Her body was numb, unfeeling in every way. Her eyes darted back and forth desperately trying to find…something. She had no idea what it was, who it was, just that she needed to find it because it was important. Yes, important, that’s what it was. With an extraordinary effort, she raised her back off the ground, her eyes finally settling, fixing on one thing.

Her arms, or at least what used to be her arms. Now they were not but mangled pieces of flesh-covered bone. They were broken, shattered in dozens of places. Some of them sticking out of the skin, others at angles that should not exist. There was no pain, none at all. She sat up farther, her back screaming as she did until finally, she was sitting straight. Then she saw her legs.

They were worse, so much worse, than her arms. They were at a dozen angels, flesh torn and blood dried where someone had left them to knit the way they were, not setting them in place where they should be, not caring that they would cripple her beyond hope.

Then it all came back to her in a flash.

Deliah, that was her name. She had been hanging for the slaughter of her friend, for reading the future, the reading that saw this very moment where she remembered everything while she was in a twisted and deformed pile of broken bones and twisted flesh. She did not know how she got to where she was, or how long she had been unconscious. Looking at her arms and legs both, it must have been weeks. The flesh had begun to heal over the breaks, the bones setting hard into place with calcified nodules exposed everywhere. Deliah took a deep breath, not a calming one, no there was no calm in the foreseeable future. She knew everything that was to come, and she knew that the next little while would be a hell, an agony that would make her want to live no longer, but the other side of it would be everything she had worked so hard on, a plan realized.

She looked around and saw what she knew would be there. All of the trying to remember what she was looking for was realized in that glance. She blinked back tears as her weak and crippled arm reached and, with a massive effort, picked up the stone beside her. She wept loudly, not wanting to do what must be done.

Even as she slammed the rock down with all of her force, breaking the broken over and over again, even then she did not lose hope no matter how much her body screamed, how much blood she lost, how much agony moving each bone back inside her caused her.

Never. Was. Hope. Lost.

——

Hours? Days? Time was meaningless through the pain. Every movement was agony, every breath was the weight of the world pressing down on Deliah’s chest. She looked over her body, or what was left of the old one. All the bones were in place, at last, even the memory of it made her close her eyes and nearly panic. They were where they should be and with time and a blessing from a deity she tried so very hard to despise, she would at least be able to walk again. Her arms were easier, the bones thinner, knitting faster than the ones in her legs.

She could not remember the last time she had been free of pain, had not been covered in blood and piss, snot and shit. She had made it, over days, to a small creek. She had greedily drunk from it when she could. The small fish that were too dumb or slow to get out of her hands had nourished her the best they could.

Anger flowed through her like blood. She was mad at creation itself and everything less than that. She knew it was coming, she knew every detail and yet she was still not ready for the agony and weight of it all. How dare some thing she did not see or know curse her with the ability to see the future the way she could. How dare this goddess in the darkness presume to make her do things. Why would anyone want to know the precise second they were going to die? Deliah could close her eyes and see the vastness of time in front of her and not be surprised by any of it. It was a burden she did not want, did not ask for, would try all she could o to rid herself of.

There was the future that she knew, but then there was the future that could be, and that single thread of hope is what kept her as sane as she was all this time as she sat in a pile of her own filth, most bones in her body broken, the shape of her body permanently disfigured. Why? Why was she punished for something that came from a Goddess they all claimed was all-knowing and loving?

She would have her answers, one way or the other the truth would come.

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