On the other side he didn’t stop, kept his inertia moving forward. There were houses here, and he was able to walk between them, the grass rustling at his shoes. He hadn’t been here on this path, maybe the demon hadn’t crossed the road at all, but the sound of the grass touched something in him. He seemed to see something ahead that didn’t make sense, a place with no grass at all, an empty desert with empty sand and empty dirt. He rushed forward, breaking into a run. He knew it was somehow directly ahead, a dead place among the city, a place opposite to this place. He felt it, though he didn’t know where he was going. He didn’t let himself think about it. He kept his mind blank, as if meditating. It was difficult; he had never been one for meditation, much as the Office touted its benefits.
The darkness helped. He didn’t have the chance to inspect his surroundings save for the little bit illuminated by streetlamps and porchlights. The sound of crickets and the grass amplified the dichotomy up ahead, convinced him that this was all new, he had been astounded by all this, had fed upon little blades of grass and ants as if they were a feast. And they had been, compared to what was ahead, where he had been blasted from, that beginning somewhere up ahead.
He came to a stop in front of a building, and when he broke upon it from the backyards he thought it was a church until he saw the two Stars of David engraved above the windows. Again he stood in the street and stared at it, somewhat in awe.
Something had happened here. Both of the demons practically confirmed it as they looked upon it.
“Harper,” he said quietly, as if not wanting to wake something. “Can you see anything?”
She didn’t respond right away, as if searching. “Just an old synagogue.”
He wasn’t sure what he had expected from her He hadn’t expected there to be demons here. But it did seem like there should be demons here.
Why did he think that?
He was getting a headache.
There was a fence around the building, the type with the horizontal bar up towards the top, and Harper had to help him over and vice versa. Bryan tried the doors, but of course they were locked. They circled the building, again quietly, like a monster slept inside. Several of the windows were broken.
“It’s abandoned,” Harper whispered.
“Yeah,” Bryan said. “But why?”
“Shifting neighborhoods. Economy.”
“No. Something happened here.” He took off his jacket and wrapped it around him arm so that he could clear a windowpane of glass.
“What are you doing?” Harper was incredulous. It was the first emotion he had heard from her.
“Breaking and entering.” Bryan hoisted himself through the window. The glass pieces cracked underneath his boots as he landed. It was dark outside; it was pitch in here. He took out his flashlight again and shone it back and forth. Pews, a platform, balconies. Nothing out of place. No dead bodies. No commotion.
Harper was climbing in after him. “We could just come back with the keys,” she said.
“And if something happens tonight? We need to check it out now.”
“But what would happen?”
“I don’t know!” he shouted, dropping the whisper.
“Well, tell me what you do know.” Harper didn’t shout, but her voice was tight and constrained. “Was the gamma here? What was it doing here?”
“Yes, it was here!” He stormed out into the aisle between the pews, looking up at the empty wall at the head of the space where tablets might have once been. “But it wasn’t here.”
“That doesn’t help,” Harper said, her voice even again.
He breathed in deep, and something in the air seemed to enter and lodge in his lungs, and the desert flashed in his mind again. “It was here but then it wasn’t. It was in the road and it was confused. This wasn’t the right place; it wasn’t supposed to be here. This place had energy everywhere and the cars came…and I crawled into the grass. Eating.” His voice had dropped. He didn’t quite believe what he was saying. What place would have been the right place?
The place it came from. The dead place.
But that wasn’t possible. What place was like that? A desert? Even a desert had sand lice and lizards. Even the sand had nutrients. The place he envisioned was entirely devoid of life energy.
But that was crazy.
“Ivers, did it…come from somewhere?”
He looked back at her. He couldn’t tell if it was the poor lighting or not, but she looked deathly pale. He felt pale too. The source of the demons had always been a mystery. What he had just babbled was crazy talk. But he knew it was right. He knew there was a dark dead place. He knew he had been there, hungry, starving.
Not he. The demons. The gamma and the beta. He had to stop inserting himself in the thoughts.
But surely they were his thoughts?
His head was hammering now.
He tried to empty his mind again, but it was racing with thoughts of countless sources of energy, of gobbling a trail through the grass to the apartments, eating for the first time in…
Harper had accepted his silence at her question and walked to the platform. The podium – the bimah – and a few scattered chairs resting on it. She didn’t use her own flashlight. She seemed to be looking for something, and using the dark to her advantage. Bryan followed her, switching off his light so as not to interfere.
“What about you?” he asked her. “See anything?”
“No,” she said in the gloom. “But I can only see what’s present at a given moment, not history.”
“Right.” He was disappointed. He wanted someone else to back him up. He felt like the Office was going to stick him in the loony bin. Like Gennick. He winced at the thought of him.
“But we’ll need to report this. Maybe have the place watched. Maybe it could happen again.”
“You mean another gamma?” He gaped in her general direction. He wasn’t sure why he should be so shocked. The idea had always been there in his head, he just hadn’t given voice to it until now. But hearing it said aloud was like making it happen.
“Let’s get out of here,” Harper said. “Place gives me the creeps.”