Black Heart – Chapter IX Part III
by Steppen Sawicki
Bryan insisted on going to the hospital. He said it was necessary to get all information quickly but surely everyone saw the real reason – he had to see Cam for himself. The ride there and the walk through the hospital doors into the stuffy heated air of the lobby was surreal, as if it had just hit him that what had happened – everything that had ever happened – was out of the realm of possibility. Approaching the agents in the hallway put up a defense in his head: he would speak to them and they would tell him they were mistaken, this was somebody else they had found, or they hadn’t really found anybody. Maybe he would wake up and it would be one of his rare dreams.
But when he got to them Reddy said “He’s woke up now. He’s very calm. We heard you were on your way and decided it would be best to wait for you.”
“Did he make it over?” Bryan asked.
Reddy nodded, fear in his eyes.
Bryan went into the room. It was Cam lying in a bed, hooked up to an IV, quietly speaking with a doctor. He saw Bryan, but didn’t smile, didn’t give any indication of emotion.
The doctor stood as Bryan introduced himself and asked how Cam was. “Dehydrated,” the doctor said. “But other than that, physically healthy. I suggest psychological counseling though. He appears to be in some shock. I know you want to interview him, but I’m not sure that’s the best idea right now. Give him time.”
“No,” Cam said. “There isn’t any time.”
“He’s right,” Bryan said, and went to the bedside. Connors and a couple of others filed into the room after him and began setting up a camera. Bryan glanced at it.
“Are you okay with recording this?” he asked Cam.
“It doesn’t matter,” Cam said, his voice flat and dead. His face was the same – cold and emotionless. Bryan couldn’t tell if the camera really bothered him or not.
“I’m so sorry, Cam,” he said.
But you’re not, he told himself, and nearly cringed at the truth in it.
“None of this is your fault,” Cam said, as if to preface what would follow.
He said nothing more until someone behind the camera announced “Recording now.”
“All four of us made it. It was instant; we took a step and we were there, like crossing a threshold in a doorway. It was pitch-black, and the air so thin it hurt to breathe, but we could see their aeons, stretching on for miles, and could hear them chanting. I flipped the switch on my pack. God, it was crazy, expecting to die and going on ahead with it. But nothing happened. I flicked it again and nothing happened. We all started yelling at each other to set theirs off but none of them were working.
“I thought they were going to kill us right then and there, in the dark, before we could even catch a glimpse of anything. But when they came to us as the gate closed they stripped the bomb jackets from us and threw them away into the crowd. They were all shouting and murmuring in some sick guttural language I’ve never heard. I saw them scuffle over the jackets too, though I didn’t understand why yet.
“I was waiting for my eyes to adjust, but they couldn’t. It was too dark. I could only see the aeons, pale red and weak. I looked up and behind me and could see no moon, no stars. We were in a covered area.
“More started to press forward, and the ones before us that had taken our jackets turned and snarled at them. Some fought, gnashing and screaming like feral animals, but none were allowed to get to us.
“It was still so hard to breathe, but I could breathe. I don’t know how but they had some way of making oxygen in the building. I think I could hear it humming distantly after things quieted down. They wouldn’t tell me anything about that. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
“Once they were all spent fighting over us, one spoke to us in English, as if just making conversation. ‘You can put your demons away. We are shielding you.’
“We didn’t at first. I think we all thought it was a trick. But a trick to what end? Surely they were just going to eat us anyway. So one by one we took out our spare tokens – who would have thought we would use them? – and put our demons away.
“That’s when it hit me, what kind of position we were in. With the demon in me, I had felt like I had actions I could take, I was indignant, I was confident and I was in a place I had once considered home. I put it away and the freezing cold of the night enveloped me and set my teeth chattering. And the darkness around us was silent; the Eternals barely spoke to each other, just shuffled around. And any moment they could strike out of the dark and kill us. I couldn’t see them anymore, couldn’t see their aeons, it was just blackness all around. It was like being in a dark house at night, worried that something might be lurking behind you, but I knew there were things lurking there, right in front and right behind me. I fell to the ground and felt behind me for the others, and found someone’s – I don’t know whose – hand and we held on to each other.
“That voice came again from the dark. “I will take your totems.”
“’You knew we were coming,’ I heard Molotch say.
“’It was always a possibility,’ the voice said, no jest in his voice, no satisfaction. He was just stating facts. ‘It has happened before, and it will happen again. The demons give off an electric and magnetic current. Creating an EMP with them is simple.’
“’Everything we could do,’ Molotch went on, ‘you’ve seen it.’