Black Heart – Chapter III Part VIII
by Steppen Sawicki
Last part for this chapter.
“This is weird,” Harper said. She had an open Miller in her hands but she hadn’t had a sip yet.
They were out on Dusable Harbor, feet hanging over the water, listening to the water lap the piers. Watching the lights of the shore to their right, the lights of the boats drifting in front of them, and the absolute darkness beyond that.
“What is?” Bryan asked.
“I just…thought you meant you wanted to go to a bar.”
“Oh.” Bryan couldn’t remember the last time he had been in a bar, save for a month ago when he had captured some demons in one. The location wouldn’t have occurred to him. “Naw, isn’t this better than a bar?”
She seemed to think about it, then answered “Yeah.” She finally took a sip of her beer.
He took a gulp of his own. The breeze picked up and ruffled at his hair, blowing cold. For an instant he thought again of the cold dead wind that had brushed past him in the synagogue, that blew through the dead place.
“I wanted to thank you,” he said “for not asking me if I’m okay. Whether you realized it or not.”
“I noticed your reaction when others asked it.”
He gave a short laugh. “My aura.”
“Everyone’s been asking me if I’m okay. It might not bother me so much if I had an answer.”
“You seem distressed a lot, even for a Possessed.”
He flinched. “Do you have to be so damned blunt?”
The beer was cold in his hands. He shifted it and turned it, fiddling. “Were you possessed by your beta?”
It was her turn to flinch. “I was careless. Caught off guard. So yes, it possessed me.”
“What was it like?”
She turned her head to look at him. “You’ve been possessed by one too.”
“Yes, but I want to hear from you.”
She was silent for so long Bryan thought she was refusing to answer. Then she reached behind her into her bag, and brought out a walnut shell. She held it up before her.
Bryan gaped. “They made you bring it with you?”
“In case you go out of control with your gamma. The idea is I could do something other than jack shit.” She turned it in her fingers, perilous over the water. “It is so tempting to think I could just throw it into the lake.”
“It talks to you, doesn’t it?”
She nodded. “It’s realized that my father’s voice gets the best reaction out of me.”
“Fuck.” He looked away from her, from the shell. “I’m sorry. It’s because of me you have to–”
“I agreed to this assignment.” Her voice was still level. It had been matter-of-fact all along. “It took something when it possessed me. Some part of me that I don’t know what it was but I miss regardless. People call me a cold bitch. Maybe that’s why. But who knows?”
“That’s how it was to me too. I mean, without the cold bitch part. But everything’s just been…wrong ever since. Harder. Nothing makes sense anymore.”
“But you have the gamma as well.”
“Yeah, and it doesn’t really talk. If it does it tries to go through my thoughts. But mostly it just watches me. Like its trying to learn Bryan.”
“It can’t do anything. It’s in that card.”
He sucked in breath sharply, so that she looked at him. He wrestled inwardly for a moment.
“Harper, can I trust you? Like you’re not going to secretly report what I say back to Japan? Or even to here?”
She studied him, then sighed and looked out at the water. “I’m not some secret agent if that’s what you’re asking. My job is to support you and make sure you don’t go crazy.”
“I’m saying…” he said too loudly, close to shouting, angry. “I can’t just figure this shit out on my own! They put me in a glass case and then they…” He stood and threw his can of beer out into the water, still half-full but he didn’t care. He threw it so hard he nearly fell in the water himself, and Harper rose in case she had to pull him back. But he righted himself and stood there breathing hard.
“I’m your partner,” Harper said.
He looked at her, expecting her face to spell out concern or – worse – pity. But she only regarded him with cold discerning eyes, as if to say it was up to him whether he talked or not. It was what he needed.
“They want me to possess with the gamma so they can question me – it.”
Her mouth dropped open. She turned away from him, and then back again. “Kuso! That’s insane! It could take you. People could die. Agents could die. And then where would we be if another gamma…” She stopped, drew in a breath and let it out slowly. “I’m sorry. I’m thinking too far ahead again.”
“No, you’re right. What if another gamma appeared? What if I could give proper information on it? Or that rift in the synagogue, what if I could tell where that was going to? That place. It’s in my head driving me crazy. I need to know where it is.”
“Who cares where it is? There’s nothing there!”
“I was there. I need to – ”
“You weren’t there!” She shouted over him. “You were never there. That demon was.”
“Maybe it’s the same thing.”
“No, it’s not. You’d be risking your sanity and the lives of who knows how many people just to find out where some place full of dust is.”
“But the demons are coming from there. More and more of them. You must know. We ignore it the best we can and soldier on but we’re gonna be overrun before this is over.”
“And you’re going to solve all the problems? You’re going to possess and find out how to stop the demons showing up?”
“I don’t know! It’s all I can do!”
“Listen to you, you’ve made up your mind already!”
“Maybe I have. So what?”
She grabbed the collar of his shirt and swung him to the edge of the pier as if she would toss him in the lake, and he caught hold of her hands and fought her to the edge as well. She was smaller than him, but he had been caught off guard and was unsteady, so in even danger of falling over they pushed and pulled at each other momentarily before they both fell on their asses on the boards. They sat there, breath puffing into the cold air.
“I haven’t made up my mind,” he gasped. “I can’t. I’m fucking terrified!”
The water lapped at the pier, pointing out the silence. Harper grabbed her beer and downed the remainder in one go.
“We do ignore it,” she said when done. “We just keep going out every night and capture until dawn but we know we don’t get them all anymore. That they carry over into the next night. But we just go out the next night and do the same thing.”
“We need to know what that thing is in the synagogue. I thought if I was there tonight I would remember something. Find out something. But I only thought of that place.”
“What if you possess and it tells you nothing? What will it get from you?”
He wished he hadn’t thrown his own beer into the lake. He could get up and get another just a few steps away, but the act of standing seemed impossible.
“When I was thirteen,” he said, “demons killed my family. My parents and my sister. And one possessed me. It was in me for three days before I found a way to push it out and into the cuffs on the bed I had been strapped to. I was strapped to that demon in that cuff for three more days before I could pretend well enough to be sane enough to be unstrapped. Ever since that, I’ve said no more dead parents and no more dead siblings and no more Possesseds tied to demons. And I do the best I can but people still die and we still recruit. And if I can do something different and help in a different way, then…”
Harper’s voice was quiet and wavered the slightest bit. “You’re Possessed. We can shout and scream all night but you’ll make your own decision.”
The night wind blew through the space between them, cold, like the wind through the dead place.