“You with me?” Hussein said.
Bryan nodded and pushed himself into a sitting position. He was shivering. The room felt ice cold after the heat of the demon.
“Everyone out,” Hussein ordered, “except Harper. Connors, get everyone to work. Someone bring blankets from the lounge.”
“I’ll do that,” Cam said, his voice hollow.
“You shouldn’t have stopped,” Cantrell said as the others filed out. He was clearly planning to stay in the room. “We only got bits and pieces here.”
“If you’re going to stay here, keep quiet,” Hussein told him.
“You may be a Possessed, but that doesn’t give you the right to insubordination.”
Hussein shot up from the floor and imposed all of his 5’5 frame on Cantrell. “You may be a prick, but that doesn’t give you the right to put my men in danger.”
Cantrell’s face flushed red. Another suit laid a hand on his shoulder, as if to tell him not to fight a Possessed.
“Sir,” Harper spoke up. “We had to end the session. Ivers’s aura was fading. Or changing. But it signified danger.”
“Well, since you sound so certain about what you saw,” Cantrell said, turning away.
Cam arrived with the blankets. He draped them over Bryan, who thanked him weakly. Almost immediately Hussein was waving him out. Bryan looked over his shoulder at Harper. She actually looked livid, eyeing the suits with contempt.
“We’re only thinking of the city,” the other suit said. “This demon is our only lead. This interrogation gave us our only clues. We don’t want to have to do this all over again.”
“Great,” Harper spat. “Next time I’ll let him eat you.”
“Enough,” the third council member – Bey, the only one who ever seemed to know how to deal with Possesseds – broke in. “It’s done. Let’s move on. Did Ivers catch anything else from the possession?”
Five pairs of eyes turned to Bryan, but he didn’t notice. He hadn’t been listening to the arguments. He had clutched the blankets around him, staring at the card on the floor. His mind was fuzzy, half-remembered scenes floating through it.
“What?” He looked up at Hussein, trying to focus.
“Did you get anything out of this that you didn’t say aloud? About the Possesseds on the other Earth or the gateways?”
Bryan shivered. He thought of the hooded figures roaming the dead place in his meditation. “They aren’t really Possesseds. Not like us. They’ve been Possessed for so long there is no human and no demon. Only one being. Eternally.”
“You mean they’re immortal?”
Bryan didn’t answer. He didn’t have the words to explain the horror of those figures in the empty desert, searching for new food for all of eternity, jumping from Earth to Earth to feed. Only to feed.
“How do they open these gateways?” Hussein asked.
Bryan shook his head. “I don’t know. They use the demons somehow. A great number of them.”
“Then how do we stop them?”
Bryan shook his head again.
When he laid down on the couch in Hussein’s office, he meant to only rest a few minutes. But when he woke hours had passed and it was 1 AM. He sat up, rubbing sleep out of his eyes and wondering what to go do now. He desperately wanted some coffee, but it was prime time for people to be milling through the lounge and break room. He didn’t want to have to bear the weight of that many eyes. So he went down the hall to where research had been set up. It had been a conference room, but was now stuffed with monitors and computers and printers and eight people working hunched over cups of coffee. When Bryan walked in they all looked up at him and stared.
“Hey boss,” Bandy said. He was a young agent of no talent save electronics, part of their glorified IT. He took off his glasses and rubbed at his screen-dazed eyes. “Good to see you alive.”
Bryan mumbled a reply. He was still fuzzy.
“What brings you here?” Bandy continued.
Bryan watched a television showing the synagogue with a crowd of people. “I, uh, was wondering if you found anything new in the data.”
“Nothing we haven’t shown you guys already. Pressure increases, temperature shoots up, infrared lights up like a Christmas tree. Typical environmental effects for demons. Just higher than normal because there’s so many.”
“Can I see the infrared from tonight?”
“Yeah, sure.” Bandy put his glasses back on and turned to his computer. He clicked about until a video popped up of a blue space with red bodies milling about. “Give it a second,” he added.
Bryan watched and waited. Suddenly there was a flash of red on the platform, which swirled for maybe five seconds and then shot outward.
“That’s all she wrote,” Bandy said.
“And you still have no evidence for the gate itself?” Bryan asked. “The way they came through?”
“Are we calling it a gate now? No, there’s nothing. Just the demons appearing out of nowhere.”
Bryan stood straight and chewed on a fingernail. “But they aren’t appearing out of nowhere.”
“Conservation of energy, they wouldn’t.”
“But they have no energy where they’re coming from.”
Bandy took off his glasses again, glancing up at him. “What’s that?”
“Not sure why we even set up the speakers. Demons don’t register as voices or noise on them.”
A woman Bryan knew only as Caddy peeked from around a computer monitor. “Don’t knock the EVP. We got something tonight.”
“Tonight?” Bryan said. “Why only tonight?”
“Damn equipment wasn’t recording previously,” Caddy explained. “No one bothered to check it. Nobody thinks anything of EVP.”
“Well what’s on it?” He went around to her computer. After clicking about on it for a moment she pulled up a sound file. She played it and the crackle of speaker noise played.
“Wait for it,” she said.
After a few seconds of silence, there was an expulsion of sound, deep and rumbly, as of hundreds of voices speaking together. It went on for about five seconds, and then there was sudden silence again.
“That from the gate opening?” Bryan asked.
“Yeah. We’re not sure if it’s the sound of the…gate itself or something else. Demons don’t make sounds, even that many demons. So I’m at a loss right now on that.”
“Hm,” Bryan grunted. But he already had an idea what the sound might be from, because he had a memory of hooded figures gathered and speaking in an unknown tongue.
He left the research room and headed to the training room where he had scattered a deck of cards before showing off a beta to a crowd of Possesseds and Spotters. A ridiculous concept now, that betas were the danger. He was nearly to the room when he realized classes might be canceled for the day due to his interrogation, but Ward was lecturing to the new kids – kids though at least one of them was over forty years old. Bryan slipped in the door silently and sat in the back row so that no one noticed him.
Ward was prattling on about how to project, how to encircle the other demons with your own demon’s power, how to put up a shield to protect yourself. Everything Bryan had learned from practice but what these kids were having to learn from Powerpoint slides. He wondered which way was easier, though in the end they would have to practice off of paper anyway, even if they had been schooled on procedure.
It would have been easiest to have died when those demons possessed us.
It wasn’t a new thought. Bryan shoved it away as he had before and listened to Ward drone on about the front and back of the mind and how it manifests outside the body.