He had to fight against himself to keep speaking, until Harper was pulled back out, blood flying from her arm where the thing had clawed at her. Then he stopped, and fell to his knees. Opening a gate wasn’t a one-man job. He was spent from directing the demons.
The demons rushed out from the synagogue, the force of the gate closure blasting them out over the city. They hadn’t gone through the gate – there had been nothing for them on the other side. The other Possesseds hadn’t expected it and couldn’t contain it. A few of them were knocked to the floor, not from a physical cause but a mental one – it felt like a weight had been thrust against them.
Then it was silent in the synagogue. That horrid dead dust spun in the air, kicked up by all the commotion. Everyone stared at Bryan. He felt guilty of something he couldn’t put a name to.
Hussein stood up from Harper’s side and spoke too loudly for the space, as if he had forgotten the madness was over. “Connors, everyone outside and give assignments. There’s still hunting tonight.”
Connors squeaked out an affirmative, then came to himself and barked everyone out. And everyone stole last looks at Bryan as they filed down the aisles and out the doors. To avoid their gawking Bryan looked to the three who had tossed the thing through the gate. Harper was a mess. Hussein was wrapping her tattered arm. She was covered in splashes of blood from head to toe – her own blood. One slash had stuck her across the left cheek, leaving blood to drip from her chin.
The blood was alive. It pointed out that the woman was alive. That all three of them were rich with life. And he was still hungry. He was lightheaded and hungry from his own blood loss.
He stood and took a step towards them before realizing his intentions. He moaned and turned away, stepping down into the aisle.
Cam followed him and gripped Bryan’s arm as he tumbled against a pew. His touch was so warm, so close. It would be so easy.
“Don’t touch me!” Bryan’s voice was guttural. It rebounded off the walls and shook the place. He thrust Cam away so hard he flew back and struck the edge of the platform. He fell to the ground and coughed in the dust. Bryan looked back at him and saw that he shone green light, enticing green light that meant life and sustenance, and he took a step back towards him.
“Put it away, Bryan.”
Hussein was standing now, watching him. But keeping distance between them. It wasn’t the distance of a few feet anymore; it was the distance between worlds.
“Why?” Bryan said. He felt a grin pull at his lips, baring teeth. Teeth that could rend meat.
Horror crossed Hussein’s face, there and gone. Then he stood straight and stared him down. “Because you work under me and you’ll follow my orders.”
Bryan lost his grin. He tottered on his feet. That was true. But it wasn’t true. He didn’t have to listen to Hussein. He suddenly hated Hussein for telling him what to do when it wasn’t his place, not any longer. But the hate was love, and he loved Hussein already.
He turned away to look down the aisle to the entrance doors. He heard the faint barks of orders from Connors, far away, far away from him – the threat.
Could he put it away? What part of him was it housing in? What parts? Every part?
“Put it away,” came Hussein’s voice from behind him.
He didn’t have to listen. Not anymore. Perhaps in another life but not now.
He could devour them now.
He shook his head to clear the thought, but it didn’t leave. He began taking steps down the aisle. His cards were ahead, to the left of the entrance. But he didn’t know yet if he would go to them. He just walked to give him time to decide. His thoughts were no longer clear. This wasn’t a path to opening a gate, to getting rid of a threat. What he might do was a threat to himself, to his very identity, which he could no longer separate from the demon. The pain in his body seemed to respond to the turmoil in his head and tore at his inner flesh until he was struggling to take steps. But the pain was also pleasure, separate and the same. And he was angry at the demon for forcing him into this, but the anger was also peace, separate and the same. And he hated and loved what he had become. He understood all this and didn’t want to leave it.
He knelt beside his cards, picking up the blank deck. Hussein and Harper had followed him, and Cam further behind. They watched and waited to see what he would do.
But when he pulled a card from the deck and willed the demon in nothing happened. He paused and tried again. He gasped for breath and looked up at Hussein.
“It won’t go,” he said, terrified and delighted.
Hussein glowed so brightly. He opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again. “It’s just like first possession. You have to figure out how to thrust it out.”
But what am I thrusting out? He looked down at the card again, and he wanted to know now. He wanted it out. This wasn’t him.
But it is.
He gripped the card in both hands and willed it out. Even without knowing where it was in him, even as it ripped at his insides, even as it stripped him raw and tore so much of him as he crushed the card in his fist and wept and screamed.
As he fell Harper ran to him, screaming herself. She caught him and shook him but he was awake. He looked up at her and she gasped, her eyes filling with tears. He saw now that her glasses were gone, lost in the void with the Eternal.
“Ivers,” she choked, “you…”
His own tears were already drying, his eyes blank. Everything was blank.
“It took me with it,” he said, and there was nothing in his voice.