Now things get crazy.
Mouse was hard at work in his turn to chop up the prone body of the Eternal when Connors walked into the break room.
“This is very unhygienic,” Connors said, unperturbed. “Where’s Hussein?”
“Hussein’s dead,” Bryan told him.
Bryan had expected to be hit with the realization once he put the demon away. But the demon was away and Bryan was still empty about Hussein’s death, as if it were someone he didn’t know that had died. The bite wound in his left side hurt worse than the loss of Hussein. He didn’t know whether this was just another thing in the long list of things wrong with him or this were some stage of grief. More than anything, he was angry that he didn’t feel anything.
Connors practically dropped his book. “Dead? How did this happen?”
“I’m not going to repeat it every time another Possessed enters the room. Let’s wait until everyone’s here.”
Connors looked about to argue, but conceded. “They’re all rushing over here. I suppose the urgent call was warranted.”
“Did the containment work out?” Bryan asked as if making polite conversation.
“It did. But who gives a shit?”
Bryan only nodded.
It didn’t take even an hour for everyone to arrive. They had all taken the call to return to office seriously, and they all took in the view of someone carving up a body in the center of the space in their own way, from raised eyebrows of indifferent interest to open-mouthed shock. But only Connors had had the guts to say or ask anything. The rest uneasily watched the Eternal bleed, restitch, bleed again.
“Everyone’s here,” Harper said.
Bryan turned to her. She was calm and composed again, though the bandage on her arm was soaked through with blood. Bryan was likewise covered in both his and Hussein’s blood. His own bandaged arm that had been stitched at the hospital was singing – he had attacked the Eternal with it with no regard for its injury.
“Tell them what happened,” he told her.
She shook her head. “They don’t know me. They should hear this from you.”
His heart skipped a beat. “I can’t.”
“It wouldn’t be right for me to tell them.”
She was right. He knew it. But he didn’t want to do it.
She got a chair from where they had all been shoved against the walls and Bryan climbed onto it, nearly toppling it over as he did. Everyone in the room turned to watch him before he had even cleared his throat. He broke out in a sweat.
He couldn’t grieve Hussein, but he could get the shakes at the idea of speaking of his death before a crowd. It was ridiculous the parts of him that remained.
“Everyone, um…” He realized he didn’t need to call for attention. All save Harper, who had taken over cutting up the Eternal again, were staring at him. He cleared his throat again and tried to start. “While containment was being done tonight, the Eternal on the floor there somehow snuck into the Office and attacked several of us in a conference room. We, uh, captured it. But before we did, it harmed Cantrell and killed Bey, Wallmann, Utterklo, Ruggeri, and Hussein.”
There were gasps and an eruption of voices, and Bryan had to hold his hands up for attention, though he almost fell off the chair again doing so. When the talk died down he continued.
“All Possesseds are going to contain this Eternal while I put some questions to it. There are things we need to know to go forward, and we have a way now to find out those, uh…things.” His voice dropped as he added “Let’s make sure they didn’t die for nothing.” He climbed down off the chair before anyone could ask him anything and dove through the people to Harper and the Eternal. The crowd parted for him like a Red Sea.
Connors clapped twice. “All right. Spotters get back. Possesseds possess and contain that body.” He shuffled over to Bryan and almost grabbed his arm before reconsidering. “Are you sure about this?” he whispered.
Bryan nodded. “If everyone here contains her at once, she won’t be able to do a thing. Against two or three she could have a chance. But not against a roomful of Possesseds.”
Connors wiped sweat from his forehead. “I hope you’re right.”
Harper stopped her slashing as everyone circled around and possessed. Once it was quiet again, Bryan turned to her. She looked ready to keel over. Manifesting energy was hard work both mentally and physically, and she had also fought the Eternal while it was on its feet.
“You should put yours away,” Bryan said. “You must be exhausted.”
“I’m fine,” she gasped, her hands on her knees.
He stared her down for a few seconds, then waved at the chairs and tables against the wall. “You want me to get you a chair?” he snapped.
She glared at him as she tried to mask her gasps for breath. The bones and blood on the floor click-clacked and slupped and moved together.
“Fine,” she spat, and put her demon away. Clearly she was worn out, or she would have fought him.
He looked back at the body. He knew everyone was working on containing it – he could see it on their faces, frightened and determined and concentrating. And he could feel it. He wasn’t possessed, and he shouldn’t have been able to tell they were doing anything, but he felt the power of the containment before him. It made him nervous and itchy.
The room was silent as the body came back together. Bryan could hear Harper’s breaths beside him.