Black Heart – Chapter I Part III
by Steppen Sawicki
Not sure about the flirty banter in this part. Might scrap it.
“You need to show this to the office,” she added. “And then take the rest of the night off. You look like hell.”
“I feel like hell.” There had been some physical damage – the cut on his arm, a minor concussion – but the mental damage couldn’t be measured by anything in the ambulance. He was utterly exhausted as if he hadn’t slept in days and his ability to focus was dulled. This wasn’t typical; he could feel sick and slimy after a possession but nothing like this. It was the result of the fourth demon trying to fight its way into his body. He couldn’t imagine what it would be like to let it possess him.
“You could have died,” Andrade said. “Betas killed four Possessed in Germany alone, and Japan’s worse off even than that.”
“Maybe I’m a prodigy.” Again, he meant to seem cocky but only came off tired.
Andrade studied him for so long he fidgeted. Any other woman looking at him for that long, as pretty as Andrade was, would have charmed him. But he knew what Andrade was looking at, and it wasn’t his deep brown eyes or tousled hair. She was looking at his aura, reading it to see how injured he really was. And there was apparently a lot to read.
“Scratch going to the office,” she finally said. “Go home and rest. I’ll put in a report tonight, and tomorrow you can do the show and tell.”
“That’s ridiculous.” He stood up in protest, but his legs gave away the act and he had to steady himself against the ambulance’s doorway.
“Is it now?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Look, if there’s one there could be more, so I need to bring it in right away.”
“Which is why I’m making the report as soon as I leave you. And once they get it, it’ll take a day to arrange a meeting of all the Spotters to view the demon. So it’s not even going to be needed until tomorrow night. And how would I look if I sent you to collapse in the office?”
“But Hussein at least – ”
“Will get my report. This is an order. You’re going home.”
Bryan sighed. It was easy to forget that in the end Spotters had authority over the Possesseds’ actions. He had never been hurt so badly, the situation had never come up. He was put out that the order should be go home and rest.
Andrade took his sigh as resignation. “Come on, I’ll drive you home.”
He nearly fell asleep on the ride home. Andrade asked whether he would make it up the stairs okay.
“Are you offering to accompany me to my room?” he said.
“I think you’ll be fine on your own,” Andrade deadpanned.
He threw up his hands. “Sorry, can’t help it. You’re just too beautiful.” He stepped out of the jet black year-old Audi, thinking as he always did when he stepped into or out of it how ten years ago a Spotter’s salary wouldn’t have bought a ten year-old Geo. He shut the door and poked his head back in through the open window. “Are you sure? I mean I’m feeling better.”
“I’m not coming up to your apartment.”
“No! Not… I mean about me not going to the office tonight.”
Andrade grinned. “I’m just messing with you. I say again, you sure can dish it out, but you can’t take it. Go rest.”
He rolled his eyes. “You tease,” he said, and waved goodbye, watched the Audi retreat into the night. His failed date at the club flashed through his mind, and he again lamented the fact – as he so often did – that joke as they did Andrade would never really accept his advances. No Spotter would take a chance on a Possessed. They knew too much.
The stairs did wind him, but not as much as the ones at the hotel had when he went down them after the fight. Still it would probably take hours to fully recover. Well, it had been his night off originally.
Remember when you didn’t get nights off? He thought to himself as he unlocked his door. Maybe that’s why you go on dates certain to fail. Because you don’t know what to do with yourself on a night off.
His apartment was deadly quiet. Even the noisy upstairs neighbor was asleep. He went straight to the remote and turned on the tv. He wanted to flop down on the couch right away but pushed himself to the pantry first to grab a nutrition bar. He had meals ready in the fridge, meals he had to make on days off or right before work, but he felt the standard Clif bar worked best when he was at his lowest.
A woman was on the tv, gabbing to the camera. “Well it’s not working, is it? There were 12,000 deaths two years ago, and last year the toll skyrocketed to 26,000. That’s more than deaths from firearms. And I’m not talking about India or Brazil or God forbid Somalia, I’m talking about the U.S. So what are these guys doing? Why are we funding them?”
A man in the panel beside her interrupted. Bryan knew his face well; he was an apologist for the Office, always getting yelled at on news shows. “Now I’m not denying things are getting worse. After all, you’d be hard-pressed to find a denier these days compared to ten years ago. The proof is all around – ”
“Assuming these ‘demons’ are the supernatural beings the Office claims they are and not just a physical phenomena,” cut in the shrill woman.
The moderating newscaster stopped the both of them. “Such arguments about the nature of the problem aside, what is the Office doing to fight back?”
“Look,” the man said, exasperated to find himself repeating explanations he had spoken a hundred times before. “The picture is bleak, but let’s look at countries – like Somalia – who had no infrastructure to battle this. There’s widespread death and resulting disease to the remaining population. People can’t even enter the area without a very high risk of attack. Now look at the U.S., at Korea. People are…understandably worried, but they work, they go to the movies, they go shopping.”
“Are you suggesting we institute martial law like Korea?” the woman asked.
He held up his hands. “That’s not what I said – ”
Bryan switched the channel to a stunning knife set on sale for only $49.99. He had heard the arguments almost as much as media control guy had. Well Ms. Shrill was welcome to try out for a position as a Possessed. And if she failed, all the better.
He smiled at the thought before he caught himself. That was the demons speaking. He also didn’t like the thoughts the knives were bringing up. He switched the channel again, and again, and again.