A Few Days
Jeras awoke to a bright white light.
At first he thought he was with the angel again, but then a masked face came into view and that illusion was dispelled. The masked face withdrew, replaced by the face of his parents. His mother looked worried, and his father looked grim. The nurse said something indistinguishable and Jeras closed his eyes again. The nurse kept talking and with an effort Jeras made sense of her words.
"He is recovering, but he still needs rest. Let him sleep for a little while longer."
"Thank you. We appreciate all you have done for him." That was his mother.
"Well, it's been busy here the past few days, but we did all we could for him." The nurse sounded relieved that he was recovering and her work was over, but then what she had said hit him.The past few days?
Good to see you're back with us. I was worried about you for a little while there. The angel was back again, and Jeras felt a pang of regret at the lost time.
"If you could leave us for a few moments?" That was Jeras's father.
"Sure. I have other patients to see anyway. If I could just ask again that you let him sleep? It is best to be safe." Footsteps implied that the nurse had left the room.
"I just want to know how he got half a suburb away from our house in the middle of the night. And I wish I knew how that crack in the road got there too." Jeras's father sounded tired.
"If he knows, he'll tell us. We are his parents, after all," said Jeras's mother and Jeras felt a small pang of regret. He wouldn't be telling them anything.
"I think the real question is what on earth happened that night. The news reports don't explain much of it at all. I taped the 'comprehensive report' they showed last night on the news. Maybe that will explain some of all this."
"I'm going to go get some coffee. You want some?" Jeras's mother sounded like she was at the door.
"I'll come with you. There's not much point just sitting here watching him sleep." The door swung open, then clicked shut. Jeras opened his eyes, and Scott was sitting at the foot of the bed.
"Shush!" Scott waved him into silence. "Good to see you're awake."
"How long was I out."
Scott waved his hand again flippantly. "Oh not long, not long," In a quieter voice he added, "Three days."
"Three days!" Jeras exploded and Scott winced. "How could you let me sleep for three days?"
"Well it's not like I could get near you with all those government officials running tests!"
Jeras went white in sheer horror and Scott hastily explained. "It seems that the government has been keeping a close watch on this place since the fires. Once the Night of Demons, or so they call it, began, they swooped down on this place faster than a hawk on a fat rabbit. A few seconds after you collapsed, Special Forces blocked off all the areas, stopped anyone leaving the valley, put out the fires and systematically destroyed each and every last ghoul, ghost, demon and all the other general nasty things. It was a bit hairy there for a minute. We had to ditch you before they nabbed us, but we saw they had medics and thought you'd be OK if you left you to them. Since then they've been conducting tests on everybody, but luckily they still haven't got a sophisticated enough detector yet and they couldn't figure anything out. They were particularly interested in you, seeing as you were just collapsed in the middle of a road, ages away from where you lived, out cold without a mark on you and with the road underneath you cracked from one end to the other." He paused for a breath, and Jeras squeezed in a sentence.
"Matt? Oh, Matt. He's fine. He's actually the only one of us who didn't end up in hospital. He's been in and out a lot though, visiting."
Jeras didn't miss the importance of that. "Are you hurt?"
Scott lifted a foot swathed in bandages and grimaced. "Fractured toe. Looks like we'll all have scars from that night. It was pretty hectic."
"Understatement of the century," Drake laughed.
"Yeah, that guy in the black cape can sure throw a party."
"I wish I picked up his name." Jeras sounded wistful.
"Oh, I already know that. It's Eric."
Jeras started. "How did you know that?"
"Eric is the name of a boy who mysteriously vanished after his mother and stepfather were consumed in a unexplained fire. Inexplicably, all efforts to find him have so far failed. That's too many mystery, unexplained, and inexplicable for this to be coincidence."
"Right. Is Matt around?" Jeras didn't bother asking how Scott knew.
"I'll get him." Matt faded out of existence, but Jeras could hear him hobbling out the door. He sat back and closed his eyes. Eric.
We must destroy him.
We must. Are you well?
Not really. I still feel sick.
Then rest, and plan. Matt has some interesting information for you.
No answer. Jeras sighed and opened his eyes. The door opened and Matt sidled in, closing the door quietly behind him. "Nobody is meant to be in here. It was an effort getting past the nurses."
"Good to see you. You're alright, I see."
"Not from lack of trying. Those things attempted to take my head off more than once before Special Forces took them out." Matt's eyebrows rose. "Come to think of it, I didn't even know there was a Special Forces. Did you?"
Jeras shook his head. "Probably something the public didn't need to know." Jeras was one of the government's eternal critics.
Matt was unperturbed by this. "Anyway, the streets are crawling with them. You can't walk down the street without somebody attempting to jam a scanner into sensitive areas, it's horrific. Half the valley can't leave their houses. Some don't even have houses anymore. Eric saw to that." His face went dark. "The government is copping it heavy from the public lately. Yesterday I saw some people burning the Prime Minister in effigy. It's getting really strained in the streets. Anyway," here he lowered his voice, "it's not as if any of their scanners work, otherwise they would have picked me up a hundred times over. Not to mention you, Scott or Cindy."
Jeras raised an eyebrow, and Scott flushed. "Well, you know the girl?" It was obvious which girl he was referring to. "Turns out she fell foul of one of the larger demons. Multiple lacerations down her left side and second-degree burns on her back. We've been talking." As he spoke, he avoided meeting Jeras's eyes, and Jeras's left eyebrow joined his right one at the top of his forehead. He filed that piece of information under 'very interesting', and he felt the angel's amusement. Matt continued. "As a matter of fact, I was going to see her now. See you in a day or so when they let you out of here." He left hurriedly.
That's not the half of it. I can't get in.
Her head is still as tough the rock she commands. I thought it was a side effect of the high pressure during the fight, but it seems to be lasting. On the plus side, it makes her untouchable by mind powers and other things like induced terror. On the down side, I cannot speak to her.
Is it impossible?
Unless she finds a way to lower her barriers, yes.
That's bad. Can he get in?
If I can't, he can't.
That was a relief. If the demon couldn't get in, then there was still a chance that they could sway this Cindy over to their side. He would have to get Matt to try.
The door banged open and Jeras opened his eyes. The nurse who stood in the doorway noticed this, and mistook his open eyes for pain. "I'll up the dosage, " she said briskly, crossing over to a drip that Jeras saw led to his arm. Before he could correct her, she pressed a button and he slipped into unconsciousness.
Matt walked down the hallways of the hospital with difficulty. There had been so many injuries in the Night of Demons, and most of the people who needed treatment still hadn't been discharged. There had been two casualties, but in both cases the person in question had been elderly, and the cause of death had been heart attacks brought on by shock. Matt was glad it hadn't been young people, but there had been three disappearances during the night. One was a boy about his age, and the other two were unrelated adults. He supposed they had just run and hadn't stopped. He knew he had wanted to. This whole situation was completely and utterly insane. He knew that the whole thing really was happening, and that was what worried him the most. He knew that with all the government people involved, not to mention Eric, there would be a time when everything just fell apart. Maybe then he would have to run. But until then, there was Eric to deal with. And Cindy…
She had just ignored him. He had visited regularly, whenever her parents weren't in the room with her. She had just sat and stared at the walls, and that had suited him just fine. He had no idea what to say anyway. She seemed to treat him with a wary contempt, like he was crazy. Perhaps he was. He had absolutely no idea why he continued to visit her, but the occasional touches of her on his mind assured him that it was the right thing to do. He was still not used to communicating with her. She was just alien to him. Besides, he preferred to let Jeras do it. Communicating with angels was just his style. Maybe today Cindy would do some talking. He doubted it.
All this time, lost in thought, he had been taking turns and climbing stairs. With a start he realised that he was just outside the ward where Cindy was being treated. The sign on the door said Burn Ward 5: Second-degree Burns and Severe Scalds. He pushed open the door, seeing that the room had less people in it than it did yesterday. It seemed that second-degree burns weren't enough to keep people long, and for that he was glad. He was also glad to see that Cindy was still in her bed by the long window, and that her parents weren't with her.
Cindy sat up in bed, looking out the window. Her golden-brown hair hung limply down her back and her body looked wasted in the bed. Her eyes, though sunken, still had that look of steel in them, and when she heard Matt enter she turned and that look hardened even more. Matt walked over silently and sat down in a chair near the window. She looked at him, surprisingly. She hadn't done that before. He looked her in the eye, and was fascinated by the strength he saw in there. It reminded him of Jeras's eye when he was using the power. Cindy apparently saw something of his thoughts, because she looked away. Matt slumped. Another day of silence then, it seemed. But to his surprise Cindy spoke.
"It hums to me, you know. Constantly. It's remarkably soothing." She turned to face him again. "Can you hear it?" She saw the confusion on his face and went on, disappointed. "I didn't think so." She looked out the window again. "Apparently, the touch of the devil creature did more to me than just burn and slice me. The 'contamination,'" here her voice went cold, "wasted my body and drained my energy. I was on the brink of death." Her eyes snapped back on his face. "Did you have anything to do with it?"
Matt wet his lips. "No."
She looked him in the eye the whole time, and then leaned back, apparently satisfied by what she saw there. "Well then, I'm joining you. I'm going to hunt down that freaky kid in the black robe and rip his head off." A stream of spittle that narrowly missed Matt's arm accented the last four words. Cindy wiped her mouth. "Sorry. I just get so angry when I think about it. I feel like my head is going to explode…"At last! A way in!
Jeras sat up groggily, the painkiller wearing off. "Wha…" His tongue felt like lead. He thought it instead. What are you talking about?
She is ours.
Jeras gave up and closed his eyes until the dizziness faded.
Cindy let out a small gasp and went pale. Matt stood up hurriedly, wondering what on earth was going on. Cindy, still pale, began to shake, and Matt saw through a slit in the back of her hospital gown the wounds the demon had inflicted. They were glowing bright white. As Matt watched, the wounds faded, shrinking. Finally, they were gone, and Cindy stopped shaking. She looked around in wonder, and then focused on Matt again.
"The pain…it's gone. She…" Cindy gave a start and sighed. "She was beautiful." She got out of bed slowly, reaching for some more appropriate clothing. Matt averted his eyes. "Just beautiful. So, Jeras is the leader? I should have guessed that. He's remarkably passionate about all this, isn't he?" She put on a voice that sounded vaguely like Jeras's. "Her power is a divine gift, and you would bend it to your…" Her voice trailed off, and she looked at Matt, who finished for her.
"Evil purposes. We have to stop him."
Cindy grinned. "I am going to enjoy this."
A day passed.
Jeras made a remarkable recovery. The doctors were amazed, and the government was annoyed. Their sensors proved useless, and in the end they had to allow Jeras to return home, after asking him a few questions he deflected easily.
"How did you get where you were?"
"I don't know."
"What happened to the road?"
"I don't know."
And so on, and so on, and so on.
In the end Jeras made it home, but his parents plonked him on the couch and insisted on a day's rest. The schools were closed for the next week as the valley calmed down and recuperated, so all children that weren't injured had free run of the valley, marvelling at cracks in the road and exploring ruined houses. The first thing Jeras did when he got home was watch the 'comprehensive report' that his father talked about. It was mostly garbage.
"And now we speak to a man who swears that the strange happenings were perpetrated by a roving band of aliens!"
"The strange creatures can be attributed to a combination of global warming and nuclear radiation, says a leading environmental group."
"A Christian minority in our capital city says that the 'Night Of Demons' is actually the beginning of the end of the world! Tony Randolph reports."
"And now we have official government spokesperson Bernard Speckle. Mr Speckle?"
Jeras perked up a bit at this. Finally there was something interesting.
"Thank you, Sandra. Citizens of Lanyon Valley, and people the country over, I would like to first of all assure you that you are in no danger whatsoever. Emergency services are keeping a constant vigil to ensure that riots do not break out, construction teams are repairing the roads and houses, and our top scientists assure us that nothing like that night could ever happen again."
The man on the screen had slicked back hair and a haughty expression, and Jeras took an instant dislike to him. He stepped down from the podium where his address was being made and up stepped a man in a white coat and a grey beard. He began speaking, and Jeras turned up the volume.
"Greetings. We of the scientific community have been working around the clock to establish the cause of the so-called 'Night Of Demons' and we are pleased to announce that such a terrifying event will never take place again!"
Cheering from the crowd.
"We have determined that the night in question was a culmination of the mysterious energy released into the valley when the facility known as CompCorp exploded. We have also determined that the night in question used up all remaining examples of this energy, combusting them and eliminating them. We determine this from the fact that none of our sophisticated sensor devices are showing any abnormalities."
Shows what you know, thought Jeras. Your sensors aren't working because they aren't worth the iron they're made out of.I believe they're made of copper, steel, tiny traces of platinum, barium…
"Shut up," he mumbled.
"Furthermore, we declare that the area is free from quarantine, and that people can come and go as they please. Thank you."
The scientist stepped down and the spokesperson from the government stepped back up and began waffling on about the government's position on crime. Jeras switched off the T.V.
That was a relief. If the government believed the threat to have dealt with itself, they would close down their attempts to flush out any remaining infected people within the valley. The quarantine was gone, not that it had inconvenienced Jeras any, him being unconscious for its duration. Still, if Eric decided to try again with his full frontal assault, their cover would be well and truly blown.
Do not forget that the scientific community will continue to study the energy that we could not contain. There is enough of it scattered around this area for them to analyse it and identify it. If that happens, your cover is blown anyway.
That made things even more difficult. It was clear that eventually they would have to find alternate means of staying hidden. Perhaps an underground lair of some kind, deep in the countryside. Cindy might be able to help him with that. He was anxious to meet her. His own powers over the element of earth were trivial compared to what she could do. She cracked that road with about as much effort as cracking a peanut.
He was well and truly sick of hearing that, and said so. He felt the angel's quiet amusement, but for once it didn't annoy him. He turned the T.V back on. It had been a while since he had had time to relax.
Why on earth did I name her Cindy? Sounds like a performing poodle.
(I apologise to all the Cindy's out there I may have just offended. 3)
Ah well. Updates will continue when I can be bothered to bung them on here. I've gone over the whole story again, biting my nails at how traumatising my choice of sentence structure and plot was, and all I need to do is separate it into chapter chunks.
Perhaps I'll rewrite this one day, but for now I'll work on Scry.
Review/flame, as always.