End of this chapter.
It was the same as the night they had all gathered to watch the gate open: three groups taking turns possessing, watching. Only this time they were here to act. Once the gate opened the group possessed at the time had maybe five seconds to begin containment and alert the others that it was time. The other two teams had only a couple of seconds to possess, deal through the pain, and help with containment. It wasn’t enough time. Everyone was on edge whether they were possessed or not. Only ten minutes in someone panicked, thinking the gate had opened, and everyone possessed only to discover the glow of a mouse in a corner had set the agent off.
“Christ, people!” exclaimed Connors as they regathered themselves. “We’re not looking for a mouse! You’ll know the gate damned well when you see it! Stop getting worked up!”
This is where we are, Bryan thought. Connors is telling people to not get worked up. Indeed, Connors was wringing his hands so hard he might work them off his wrists.
Hussein interrupted the ribbing at the faulted agent and got the room quieted down again. The only sound was paper rustling, mostly from Connors’s book.
Again Bryan got that feeling that something was waiting. Not for sunset – that had already happened – but for something else. For the gate? They were all waiting for the gate. He was just paranoid from the beta and gamma watching him.
But they weren’t watching him. Their focus was elsewhere. The gate?
Voices snapped him out of his thoughts. The third team taking over. They possessed and cried out and the second team put their demons away and gave sighs of relief and slowly silence settled again.
Bryan was off to the side and behind the teams, closest to the entrance. Harper was the same but opposite him. He looked at her and for some reason practically willed her to look at him. But she didn’t notice; her vision was firmly fixed on where the gate would appear.
Which is where you should be looking, he told himself. He looked forward and reached out to the beta and gamma again. They were watching the entrance.
He spun around, and Harper did look at him then but he didn’t notice. He was looking at the doors, propped open in case a rapid exit was required of anyone. He fully expected to see something or someone there, though he couldn’t place why. But nothing was there.
He grit his teeth and thought fiercely at the two demons: What are you looking for?
They didn’t answer right away, and he had the impression they were uncertain themselves.
Someone is out there, one of them said. Bryan was annoyed to find he couldn’t tell which one.
Who? Bryan demanded. His thoughts were of the woman – the thing – in the rain.
Not her, the demons said.
That should have relaxed him, but it didn’t. Who then?
“For fuck’s sake,” he snarled aloud. “Just tell me – ”
Twenty people shouted twenty different things, and everyone – Bryan included – turned their attention to the gate, or in Bryan’s case where he assumed the gate was. He felt the wind blow out from it and smelled its emptiness and saw everyone wave their arms around as if this were a concert, but he knew the demons were there in front of them, spilling out of the gate. Then the silent invisible explosion of the gate closing rocked them all.
As he was thrown off balance by the blast – not by any force but by an idea of the blast – he knew with absolute certainty that the thing that had been waiting was here, was behind him, was leaping.
He spun and shielded himself with his arm. It bit down to the bone and tore the muscle away and Bryan fell to the floor, a mess of pain and confusion. It went for his throat.
But it stopped and reared up instead.
“Ivers! Get away!” Harper shouted.
Bryan looked her way and understood. She had possessed and was containing it – him. It was a man, face smeared with Bryan’s blood.
Bryan crawled out from under him, but even then the thing was already looking to Harper. It would contain her too. And Bryan knew she couldn’t win that battle.
But then Skinner and Coates – a rookie, Bryan thought, what is he doing – were there, had turned away from the synagogue demons to help Harper.
The others were still struggling with the demons, trying to capture them one by one. A few people were getting double or triple possessed and working through it. They couldn’t help.
They’ll all die.
No, Bryan thought. They have it.
The thing was indeed frozen in place, hunched over, trying to rise.
He couldn’t tell anything about it. He couldn’t see its power.
You need me.
A memory of blood filling his mouth darted through his mind.
I can’t possess. Not again.
Skinner and Coates vanished in a spray of blood as Bryan watched. They didn’t even have time to cry out. Harper did cry out, was slashed in ten places, but she was further away and missed the brunt of whatever the thing had sent out. As it was she was blown back against the far wall.
I can get rid of him.
It was winded, but was gathering itself, rising from the floor.
I can’t possess.
I can’t possess.
I can’t –
Everyone will die.
His arm didn’t work. He pawed at his bag until it opened and the decks spilled out. He fell to his knees on the ground and the thing was straightening in slow motion but he was slower.
His hand fell on the deck and tossed the two cards from it and for a split second he didn’t know which card it was.
He didn’t want to know.
He snatched it up with his one good hand and put it between his teeth.
He ripped it open.