I suck at life. And exorcisms.
Which was why I stood in front of my uncle, ready to Speak him into the Nether: a place where demons and all other baddies of the world resided.
With my folks gone, you could imagine fighting a demon wasn’t exactly on my agenda of things to do this parental-free night of teenage bliss.
Earlier tonight, when I banished the Oculi demon from my classmate, my newfound abilities only upset the she-demon enough to leave one unsuspecting body to occupy another.
Like I said, I suck at exorcisms.
My uncle rolled his shoulders and neck, the demon inside wanting to adjust to the new feel of his skin. His usually tall frame hunched over awkwardly, and his head cocked at an inhuman degree.
“Why won’t you just die?” I asked.
His lips twisted, letting the demon’s voice spill from the side of his mouth. “Dear Hunter, you must put forth more effort next time.” The demon stepped closer, turning my uncles eyes coal black and elongating his fingernails into sharp, vicious things. My mouth fell open.
“I believe ‘WTF’ is the acronym you are looking for.”
She was right. That was the acronym I was looking for.
It occurred to me that now would be the best time to run—and I did.
I scurried backward, feeling all the pain from earlier radiate around my rib cage, and in a show of true athleticism, leapt over the three steps of my porch.
As I headed for the woods, ready to see how fast a human could scale a tree, I heard two things: the shrill taunts of the demon close behind me and a voice echoing in my head.
Mikayla, we need to talk, came my Sentry, Lucas’, husky voice. I know you’re upset with me, but I have to explain.
If I could hear him, it meant his blood still coursed my veins—it meant we were still linked.
I’m kinda pressed for time, I mentally pushed to him as I dodged a low branch. Between his confession earlier and this demon chasing me, now was not the time for him to go into rehash mode.
But there must have been some alarming tone in my thoughts because he asked, Are you okay? And I thought, Define ‘okay’?
Demon? he replied.
Know the one I exorcised earlier?
Yes, he pushed.
Well, she’s here.
I’m on the way, he thought, and I immediately felt a burning sensation down my left arm. If I could feel Lucas scarring, it meant he was close.
Something you should know about Lucas. As far as I could tell, he was a duty-bound, take-no-prisoner, kill-on-sight type of guy. He was a shape-shifting Sentry with a savage temper. And since I happened to be his charge, you could understand my brief moment of excitement at the prospect of him coming to my aid, followed by sheer terror.
Lucas would waste this demon in the bloodiest manner possible. Under normal circumstances this would have been totally acceptable except for the tiny matter of my uncle being attached to this thing. And if Lucas was as predictable as he had been, the casualty didn’t matter to him. He’d kill this demon even if it meant killing my uncle in the process. A big no-no since this demon obviously wasn’t going down without a fight.
You know, Lucas, I think I’ll go solo on this one, I pushed, while running up the craggy path toward the cliff I’d left him at moments ago. It seemed a good enough place. With the moon so bright, I’d be able to see an attack coming.
You know better, Lucas thought. Unfortunately, I did know better. He’d never let me fight alone.
“Hun-ter, Hun-ter, Hun-ter,” the O-demon singsonged while darting between the trees like a squirrel hammered on Red Bull. God, she was fast. At the rate she ran my uncle’s out-of-shape, forty-something body, if Lucas didn’t kill her first, a coronary surely would.
Moonlight pelted me through the webby awning of trees. I blinked hard, adjusting my eyes to the slick reflection of the stone cliff ahead of me. I stepped through the woods, gunning for the edge that overlooked town.
Mikayla, I’m here.
Where? I scanned the dark landscape. I can’t see you, Lucas.
The demon’s wretched laughs and strains echoed off the trees as it closed in. All the blood evacuated my legs as my heart pounded against my chest.
There was a sound over to my far left, breathy and coarse.
Eyes, iridescently grayish-blue from the moonlight, revealed themselves first. Then a set of fangs from a long muzzle covered in thick, brown fur. Wide fur-covered shoulders sawed the air as the creature stepped forward on all four paws, each easily the size of my head. His stare was just as intimidating in lycan form.
Can you see me now? Lucas asked.
I nodded. Seeing him in lycan form wasn’t frightening. It left me in awe more than anything. Still, I’d have to adjust to it especially since he was in human form when last I saw him.
Lucas circled me. His fur brushed against my hand, sending blue, static shocks up my arm. I felt intense waves of heat radiating from his body. He was always so hot. This only worsened the impulses I fought to bond with him, a desire my body had for him since my ascension.
Are you sure it’s the Oculi from earlier? Lucas asked.
Positive, I thought.
Is she in her true form?
Not quite. I scanned the forest, wondering where she hid.
So she has possessed another body. We can’t be so gentle this time. Promise me you will finish her. And you know what that means.
I knew what that meant. Killing. Plain and simple. He explained that aspect of the job once before, and I’d told him that I wasn’t a killer. I thought I made that point perfectly clear when I had said, “I’m not a killer…”
I pushed a thought toward Lucas. This is a little more complicated than before.
It’s all the same.
How’d I know he’d say that?
That’s my uncle, Lucas.
I waited for his response, but he met me with a cold, unsympathetic stare.
Not wanting to start a fight, I said, “Lucas, you can’t ask me to do that. I just can’t. I…”
And before he could respond his ear twitched at a sound. Our heads followed the crackle, and there in front of us stood the demon.
“Your heart first, Hunter,” it said with a raspy grunt.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Then my soul, right? Just like last time? Promise?”
Don’t provoke it, Lucas pushed.
My uncle’s body shook violently. He clenched his arms at his sides, both hands twisting into claws. His eyes rolled back, showing only the whites. He inched forward, each foot dragging behind the other at an agonizing pace.
“Lucas,” I whispered, “what’s happening?"
Don’t trust anything you’re about to see, was all he thought.
“What do you mean?”
Lucas didn’t push anything toward me. And just when I was about to hit his muzzle for an answer the demon moaned.
No. It wasn’t the demon’s moan but my uncle’s.
“Uncle Joe,” I said. Not sure if the small voice was mine.
“Lucas don’t,” I hissed. I didn’t need another lecture. I knew all too well that demons were deceivers. They could make suicide seems like the only answer in order to open the portal that allowed them to come to our world. They could take on human form to distract and kill you. This happened to me. But this…his voice… It was like my uncle wanted me to know he was there. That he was still fighting. And that meant I wasn’t giving up. I’d fight for him too.
Lucas thought, Do it. Or I will.
I wasn’t about to call Lucas’ bluff. I’d say the likelihood of him not doing what he said was slim to shit. I needed more time.
Lucas was no longer by my side and prowled the vacant area to my left. I gauged the distance between him and the demon. Lucas was fast. From where I stood, I didn’t stand a chance of stopping him unless I used my fading skills.
I’ll do what you can’t. When I have your uncle down, I need you to use your Speak on his body, Lucas pushed. And I imagined all the blood that would drip from his jaws. Don’t stop until it’s finished. Don’t stop until it’s dead.
I nodded, bracing myself for what was about to go down. All I could think about was the distance between Uncle Joe and me. And how fast I could close it.
My uncle’s body convulsed once more, eyes returning to the coal black stare of the demon. When it saw the Sentry curling around in its direction, all the Oculi’s focus belonged to Lucas.
“Hello, pet.” She crouched cat-like and hissed at him. Lucas sprang into action, holding my uncle’s jugular in his sight.
I froze. Nervousness wrapped every inch of my body. I knew every bead of sweat dripping from my forehead by name. This felt like the moment before I opened my SAT scores.
I closed my eyes and faded.
I beat Lucas to my uncle and faded again to the spot I’d been standing earlier, leaving Lucas to crash against the stone slab. The demon turned to me. She spread a hideous grin and encompassed my entire neck with her hands. It felt like my eyes would squirt from their sockets.“Together,” was all it said, as if it knew and were pleased I used my ability to fade this close to it.
“Riiight,” I gurgled between the constricting grasp. “To-geth-uuur.”
I raised my left hand at Lucas, who ran full speed in our direction, jaws snapping. All I wanted to do was wave him off, to tell him to stop. But the blue streak that projected from my hand beamed him in the chest and sent him flying backwards into the woods. I heard him yelp.
Holy piss. If I lived after this, he’d surely kick my ass for that.
With a poor excuse for a grip, I held my uncle’s body and readied myself to fade again. Visualizing a place in my mind and willing myself there was easier said than done, especially when hands restricted blood flow to my brain. Fading a short distance was not nearly as complicated as what I had in mind. I needed to get far, not as far as the time I faded to Seattle, but far enough from Lucas. Problem was I had never faded another person beside Lucas before (after he’d pushed the imagery to me) let alone a person with a demon possessing his body.
So yeah, this had the potential of not ending well.
But here I was, hands gripped in my uncle’s overalls ready to take him and his demon somewhere else, anywhere else in order to have more time to save his life.
Though the demon’s grip on my neck was firm, I could feel her probe my mind, raking through with dirty fingernails. “Together,” it whispered in my ear again. I closed my eyes and stilled. Struggling to breathe, I let its thoughts fill my mind, let the two of us connect as she created the imagery of where we would go.
Now why did I go and do that?