Black Heart – Chapter VI Part IV
by Steppen Sawicki
Here begins the “Bryan mopes around the office” portion of the book. Because when I have writer’s block I just keep writing until I work it out, and I’m still not convinced I’ve worked it out.
Hussein burst back in the room, looking oddly triumphant. “Finally some good goddamned news,” he announced. “DC and Vancouver have found their gates.”
“What?” Harper gasped. “How?”
“We’ve been sending out samples of the dust from the synagogue. Our colleagues have been using it as a compass of sorts. Seems alphas store memories too, you just have to give them a strong enough stimulus to pull them up. Anyway, DC and Vancouver found their gates last night, and LA thinks they came close before the sun came up. They’re going to try again tonight. The samples to Mexico City and Cordoba are still hustling through customs but they’ll be receiving them today. The found gates have the same dust, which can be sent elsewhere. Exponentially we should reach all cities within five days.”
“That’s great,” Bryan said, “but how will they do anything about Somalia and Syria, or North Korea? You can’t even enter those areas, let alone find a gate.”
“We’re already brainstorming that. If we get stable enough capturing directly at gates, we might can free up enough agents in the world to tackle the overrun places. This is just a first step.”
“That’s incredible,” Harper said. “This could completely halt demon-caused deaths.”
Hussein clapped Bryan on the shoulder – his bad shoulder, but it was still numbed up enough not to bother him. “It’s all you, Bryan. You found the place.”
Bryan was still wondering if all Hussein said was possible. He said nothing.
“Now,” Hussein continued “to break you two out of here. Since here Kiyoko is, walking around and arguing with me.”
Harper went to her apartment on release. Before leaving Bryan she squeezed his good hand and gave him a smile that was probably meant to be reassuring, but was filled with sadness. Bryan barely noticed – he was staring at the life coursing through her hand that grasped his. He turned quickly away from her, sick at the thoughts in his head. Only after did he realize he had effectively brushed her off.
He didn’t go to his apartment. There were still Eternals out there, after him. He was escorted to the office, where he fell asleep on Hussein’s couch. He didn’t dream, and woke even more tired than he was when he laid down. The room was empty. The clock on the wall read 6:30, but he got up anyway to check through the blinds. The sun was setting, dusk heavy over the city. Most of them would be at the synagogue, except for whoever was guarding him downstairs. He wasn’t sure where Hussein might be. But clearly Bryan himself wasn’t invited to the containment. Good call.
Bryan looked over the room. His bag was resting against the couch, but his cards weren’t in it. Hussein had taken them to quarantine. Bryan might have argued had he not been so out of it. He was still out of it – out of it might be his default mode now – but now he wanted his cards back. He needed them. Or needed one.
He stood there at the window, staring at his bag for seventy minutes, until Hussein walked in. He jumped when he saw Bryan, despite having left him in the room earlier.
“Did you sleep?” he asked.
“Yes,” Bryan answered.
“Oh.” He studied Bryan, the desk between them. “You don’t look it.”
“You’re one to talk. You didn’t sleep at all, did you?”
Hussein groaned and relaxed. The same as he had done earlier, the same as Harper had done earlier. Everyone was testing the waters any time they walked into a room containing Bryan. “When would I have done that? We’re tracking packages of dust, coordinating new ways of containment, and then there’s Lori and Tom,” he said, referring to Skinner and Coates. He hung his head and walked the rest of the way to the desk and flung the folders in his arms onto it. “And all of this needs to be communicated to the public in the most positive light.”
“You were double if not triple possessed last night,” Bryan said. “I don’t know how you’re still standing.”
“No rest for the wicked.”
“Get some sleep right now.”
Hussein sighed and rubbed at his eyes. “I’m waiting for word on the synagogue.”
“I’m here. I’ll get the word and wake you up.” He thought about that, averting his eyes. “Unless you don’t want to sleep with me around.”
“Why would you say that?”
“I know what I look like. I know what Harper told you.”
“And what do you say about it?”
Bryan looked at him again. He shined green. “I look at people and I think how wonderful it would be to devour their life.”
Hussein’s eyes widened almost imperceptibly, but he kept his posture. “But that’s not you. I know I can trust you.”
Bryan rounded the desk, keeping his eyes on Hussein. “That’s a lie. You don’t trust me. I’ve been overtaken twice and I’m still standing. I make no sense. And it is me. It’s part of me now.”
Hussein didn’t budge, but there was a flash of fear in his eyes. But he was Possessed. And no Possessed trafficked much in fear of demons. At least not up to this point
Bryan passed him by. “Lock the door,” he said, “and get some sleep.”
Outside Hussein’s door, he didn’t know what to do. If he didn’t figure it out he knew he would stand there all night staring at the wall, like he had stood at the window and stared at his bag for over an hour. He called Connors and told him to forward word on the synagogue containment to Bryan’s phone. Connors’s voice was tinny and strained at the concept of speaking with him. Bryan hoped he had listened. Then he started wandering.
He could go sit in on the classes if he wanted someplace quiet, but he didn’t want to run into Sonia. He could go to quarantine, but he didn’t want to discover Hussein wouldn’t allow his cards to him.
He went there anyway, or at least to the floor where it was located. He stood in the hallway and tried to catch some glimpse of it through the doors and walls. Tried to imagine it lying on a table, tried to figure out if he was in there with it, the part of him that was missing and maybe now a part of the gamma just as part of the gamma was now a part of him.
Then two agents exited the elevator, glowing beautifully, and he moved on to stay inconspicuous. He may have felt something as he had reached out to where his cards might be, but it may have just been him wanting so badly to feel something.
He wanted to go to the lobby and find out who was on watch, who wasn’t at the synagogue and was guarding him. But if the Eternal was scoping out the building it was best to stay away from entrances and windows.
He wanted to go back to Hussein’s office and curl back up on the couch.
He stopped in the hall, nowhere in particular. There was nowhere for him to go.
He didn’t belong here anymore.