142 - RomePRESENT DAYA knock down, drag out preacher fight was coming between Father Antonio and myself, that much was sure. But whenever that might be, it most certainly wasn’t now.
Just as I’d managed to threaten my fellow priest, there was a sudden grinding sound all around, so loud that for just a moment nothing else seemed to exist. Nothing but that terrible sound.
Then there was a sudden dropping sensation, deep in the pit of my stomach. It felt like I were in an airplane suddenly beset by turbulence. But that was impossible… Unless. I turned back to the man in the armor. “You’re kidding, right?” He just smiled. I knew he could understand me. As if to further the illusion, a voice came over the air, most likely an intercom. I couldn’t entirely make out the words, they were garbled at best but also definitely not in English. I felt another sudden drop in altitude leveling out into a slower, more steady pace. I turned back to Father Antonio. He was looking at me with a troubled expression on his face. But nevertheless he translated. “They said ‘we’re coming in for a landing.’” interestingly, the idea that we were in a truck in the belly of some massive airplane didn’t even seem to phase him at all. That just brought the question to mind even more strongly though. I turned back to the man in the armor. “Okay, forget where we are. We’re in the air. Fine. Were are we going?” Finally, he answered me. And I doubted it was because of my charming personality. I turned to Father Antonio for a translation. “He said, ‘back to the beginning.’” Before I could ask what in the world that could possibly have meant, there was another sudden drop, enough to send me to my knees. Then the terrible sound of engines firing up to full strength and the sudden burst of deceleration. I fell forward onto my hands and knees and felt the weight of Father Antonio falling against me. I guessed that perhaps the warning voice had a valid point at that. The forces at work were more than I could take to easily stand up. There was a feeling of tremendous weight pushing me towards the front of the truck while at the same time Father Antonio’s weight held me down. It was only when the weight lessened somewhat and I could feel Father Antonio shifting off of my back that I realized just how terrible of a position that left the both of us in. Rolling onto my back, I found myself looking right back up at the man in the black armor, now on his feet. And right back up into the barrel of his gun. “Well, crap,” I said. “Father!” Father Antonio said from atop me. Then he gasped. He must have seen the gun as well. Briefly, I wondered if it had been the one Father Antonio had been holding, if he’d lost it in the confusion. But it really didn’t matter. Even if he still had one, the man in the armor most likely had decades of training on him. I had no doubt that if he choose to do so, he could kill the both of us before we could so much as blink. Before he could make that fateful descision though, there was the sound of the back door opening. A barked word in what I assumed was Italian form the man with the gun on us and I heard a series of clicks out the back door. Great. More guns. Then I heard another voice. It too was speaking a language I didn’t understand, but there was something all too familiar about that voice. It had a tone of command and after a moment, I heard people outside the truck shifting. A moment more and there were metalic bootfalls as the man with the gun crossed behind us. I heard a faint moaning. Most likely he was helping the man that I had hit with his own gun to his feet. I hoped I hadn’t actually done too much damage when I’d hit him. It hadn’t been my intention to do anything permanent, just to take him out of the fight for a little while. Then there was a grunt–the man in armor helping the other to his feet?–and more slow footsteps. “Father,” I asked, “can you get off of me?” I wanted to see what was going on. By way of answer, he slid to one side. I heard a sharp release of breath as he hit the floor, but didn’t think any more of it. Because now that his weight was off of me, I could see who it was giving orders. In that smooth voice that seemed to slide between syllables from accent to accent, that all too average man spoke. “Welcome home, friends.”
143 - ChicagoSEVERAL WEEKS AGONot-Alex took a step forward, raising its fists as I went. I swear they were glowing, like two balls of semi-molten stone.
“Demon.” I said it under my breath, but in the sudden silence of the room after after whatever it was that I had done, the sound carried. The girls’ heads snapped towards me and I heard a gasp from one of them. Not-Alex looked up at me too, but he just grinned. The same faint light leaked from between his teeth as he did as well, giving the impression that his teeth were slowly melting away before my very eyes. He took anther step forward. And abruptly ran into an invisble wall. It would have been comical if my brain weren’t already overloading with the impossibility of the whole situation. In hindsight, I think people use the word ‘impossible’ a bit too freely. The grin on his face turning into a grimace of anger, not-Alex reached out one hand and pressed against what appeared to be empty space. So far as I could tell, there was nothing there. But if that was the case, he was doing a rather impressive mime impression, sliding his hands along a curving cylinder of air. “What–” I whispered under my breath. Not-Alex abandoned sliding his hands along his invisible prison and instead pulled back both fists into glowing balls of lava. The grimace had been completely stripped from his face, replaced by a look of pure rage. With a grunt, he slammed both fists forward against the wall in front of him. A ringing sound like the worlds largest bell rang out. I clapped my hands to my ears, but it was a second too slow. There was a rumbling sound and I thought I could feel a warm stickiness in my hands. I pulled them down, only to find a faint trickle of blood on each palm. Not-Alex was still standing there though, leaning with what appeared all of his weight forward on nothing. If anything, he looked angrier than he had a moment before. I only chanced to look down at the table in front of me, otherwise, I would never have noticed the circle of gemstones surrounding the bowl of burnt herbs. Sister Kat’s words echoed in my mind: “If the circle is precise, it will act as a measure of protection. But not for long.” I made a mental note to thank her once I’d gotten out of this mess. She really knew what she was talking about. There had been something else too about the circle, but I couldn’t remember what it was. A roar of pure frustration from not-Alex’s direction brought me back to the present predicatment. He was drawing back his arms to hit the wall again. I threw my hands up to cover my ears–hopefully quickly enough this time–and yelled for the others to do the same. All the while, I thought furiously. Sister Kat had said that the circle would protect us, but had she said anything about what to do once it failed? One option was to run. I was willing to be that it would hold at least that long. All we had to do was get to the car. No matter what not-Alex was now, I doubted he would be to outrun a car on the highway–even in Chicago. The problem with that idea was that the whole area was full of innocents. I was sure that some were on their way over even now after hearing that sound. Out of curiosity even if not wanting to help their fellow citizen. The sound like a bell rang out again. It was deafeningly loud, but my hands over my ears did muffle it a bit. At least I didn’t think I was bleeding any worse. I could see looks of pain on the other’s faces though–at least the girls. Come to think of it, I wasn’t sure where John had gone. He wasn’t standing where he had been before. Where was he? I saw him as I remembered just as I remembered what the rest of Sister Kat’s warning had been. “But remember, just as you’ve created the circle to protect you, the circle has no power of you. From the outside, it can be broken.” And there was John, right behind not-Alex, a fire extinguisher of all things in his hands. He had it raised above his head about to strike. About to break the circle. “No!”