Black Heart – Chapter VI Part V
by Steppen Sawicki
I still don’t know if this type of break room would sell food, and maybe I should call it a cafeteria. But Bryan needed a sandwich.
At 12:40 he got word that the synagogue had been contained. Hussein was rubbing sleep from his eyes as he answered Bryan’s knocks. The emails waiting for him told them DC had contained perfectly their own building – an empty church – at 10:30. LA was certain they had found their own gate in a ruined Sikh temple and was gathered and waiting for it to open.
“I’m not used to all this good news,” Hussein said, shuffling the papers on his desk. “I’m waiting for notification of a meeting on how to manage all this good news.”
“Can I have my demons back?” Bryan said. He wasn’t aware that the question came out of nowhere. It had been on his mind all night, and now was a strategically good time to ask, while Hussein was in a good mood.
“No,” was all Hussein said, his demeanor changing entirely.
“Why? You’re taking risks keeping them separate from me.”
Hussein pointed to the door, not looking at him. “Not arguing this. Get out.”
The old Bryan would have argued. This new Bryan got out, went to quarantine, and told the woman at the desk to release his demons. But what he had suspected was true: Hussein wasn’t allowing them out, or Bryan in. He felt stupid for even trying. But he had had to try. He felt like he had to break in and forcibly take them, but he made himself turn around and walk away. He passed the elevator and went to the stairs. Inside the stairwell he stopped and leaned back against the door, and he had another moment where he knew he should be doing something the normal Bryan would do but he didn’t.
He should be crying.
He should be angry that he wasn’t crying.
He should punch the wall.
Instead he stood in the stairwell, feeling only a vast loneliness, his missing half worlds away, maybe gone forever, and maybe holding that card wouldn’t do a thing to help him.
And what if he went further, and tore the card?
He felt dizzy, and sat on the floor. He realized he hadn’t eaten in over twenty-four hours, not since he and Harper had grabbed some quick Chinese noodles, and he was hungry. But it wasn’t that desire for life; it was just a pain in his stomach, and it felt good to feel anything at all that wasn’t a need to kill or that loneliness. So he sat on the concrete and relished it until three hours had passed and he knew he would have to eat something.
He went to the break room and though there were few people in there at 4 AM they all turned to look at him and turned back to whisper. He went to the sandwiches and stared at them. They all looked unappetizing to him, because they weren’t what he really wanted. But if he stood there staring for too long everyone would have more to whisper about. He grabbed a sandwich at random and turned.
Andrade was there, and she yelped and stepped back when he spun around, though she was already several feet away from him.
“Ivers,” she rasped, her eyes like dinner plates. “I…I wasn’t sure it was you.”
“It is,” he said, stepping towards her, meaning to pass by her. “What do you want?”
“I…nothing.” She backed away again.
They watched each other.
“I’m sorry,” she finally said. “I have to go.” She spun around before he could respond and nearly ran from the room.
She had looked like she was about to cry.
Bryan paid for his sandwich, which he wanted even less now, and was heading for the door when Cam and two other Possessed walked in, laughing. Cam saw him right away and shouted his name, still half-laughing, and everyone in the room looked again.
Cam hugged Bryan and though Bryan could barely stand the touch of another living being he was able to tolerate it with minimal cringing. Maybe he would learn to deal with it.
“Nobody knew if you were okay,” Cam said. “Where have you been?”
“Around the office,” Bryan said, backing away to put some distance between them. “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be out hunting?”
“Nothing to hunt! We closed out everything at the gate. Rest of the night has been clean-up of whatever was already out there. Calls have been few and far between. Half of us got sent home. But I wanted to see how you were, so I came back here.”
“I’m fine.” Bryan walked around him, heading for the door. “You should go home.”
“Wait, Ivers.” Cam grabbed his arm and he jerked away, not expecting the contact this time. “Hey,” Cam said. “Sorry. Are you okay?”
“What do you want, Cam?” Bryan said sharply.
“I just…wanted to talk to you.” He looked wounded. “I know you know what’s going on. I needed to talk about it.”
“I can’t do that right now.” He turned to the door again.
Bryan stopped and looked back at him, saw him as Cam and not as a life source. There was anxiety etched in his face. Bryan sighed. “I owe you, don’t I?”
Cam smiled through the worry. “Yeah, you do.”