154 - Chicago
SEVERAL WEEKS AGO I threw myself at not-Alex’s side. I doubted that it would do any good, but there had to be some hope–although I knew in my heart of hearts that there was none for John. I could see the blood. I could see how still he was. I knew that he was dead. Again, if he had been telling the truth. Not that that mattered any more.
I dived forward into a sort of football tackle. All I could think to do was get him off his guard–and hopefully off of his feet.
Instead, it felt like hitting a steel pole. My momentum was stopped dead. So far as I could tell, I hadn’t moved him so much as an inch. Letting out a hiss of breath, I slid down to the floor.
Looking up, I saw him looking down at me. There was little enough expression on his face and what there was wasn’t pretty. He drew back a fist, the one with the metal of the extinguisher still wrapped around it. Rather than doing any good, it seemed as if all John had accomplished had been to give him another weapon.
Not that whoever he was now–whatever he was now–he needed anything more…
I rolled out of the way a fraction of a second before the torn, jagged edge of metal would have struck me. Instead, he struck the floor, driving the twisted steel at least an inch–maybe more–through the carpet and into whatever was underneath. I continued to roll, trying to put some distance between myself and him, trying to think of some way, any way, that I could possibly survive the situation.
I could stand and try to fight. But I knew how well that had turned out for John. He was lying somewhere behind me; I didn’t have the time to look back and figure out where though.
I could run. I was less sure that I would be able to get away than I once was. And that would likely leave Mrs. Claire–and definitely Amanda–here all alone. Not to mention all of those innocent souls living and working all around me.
I could pray. There was always a chance for a miracle. Personally, I tended towards the belief that God helps those who help themselves, but at this point, there wasn’t much more that I could do.
As I was rolling, I suddenly bumped into something rather solid and warm. It took me a minute to realize what it was–when I did, it sent my skin to crawling. It was the scent that did it. That same scent of old leather and wet dog that I’d first smelled so long ago.
I’d rolled right into John Smith.
But there was something else. Something cold where John’s flesh was still warm. Something metallic and solid where his still form was softer and giving.
I reached back. Felt a long slender piece of metal, bowed in the middle.
This time I knew immediately what it was.
John’s gun. And it was fully loaded.
The fight had suddenly gotten just the tiniest bit more even.
I sensed as much as felt the movement and managed to roll out of the way just as the now even more ruined remains of the fire extinguisher came crashing down inches away from my nose. I could feel a chill rolling off of it still, most likely from whatever chemicals had cause that cloud in the first place.
At least the cloud was starting to thin out.
I managed to keep my hold on the gun as I rolled, looking down at it, trying to find the safety. I was only going to have one shot at this, maybe two on the outside. I would have to make them count.
There was a sound like two stones being ground together right above me. It took a moment to place it as a close cousin to a growl of frustration. Or what must pass as a growl of frustration coming from the throat of a demon.
I rolled again, trying to get enough out of the way that I could at least sit up, maybe even rise into a crouch. It had been years since I’d last fired a firearm. I didn’t doubt that I remembered how though.
I got perhaps four feet away and decided that would have to be enough. I was making enough noise rolling that I couldn’t hear if not-Alex was following me, but I doubted he was far behind.
Even that feeling that he couldn’t have been far behind wasn’t enough to prepare me for the reality. I rolled into a crouch–I would have been impressed at that move had I not been quite so terrified for my life–turning to face not-Alex, only to find myself face to crouch with the demon himself.
155 - Chicago
SEVERAL WEEKS AGO Not-Alex stood there, no more than a foot behind me, the fire extinguisher gone. I briefly glanced it still embedded in the floor, torn almost completely in two now, back where he had last tried to skewer me.
“It is time,” he said, that gravelly voice sending chills up and down my spine.
I had the gun, but I had no time to react. Before I could even think about bring it up to fire at him, he swung at the side of my head with one of those rock solid fists of his–although blessedly no longer encased in steel.
The impact turned the world white and suddenly I was flying through the air. There were fluffy white clouds all around–a part of me knew they were nothing more than the remains of the chemicals from the fire extinguisher, but the rest of me didn’t care. It felt wonderful actually–although the rational part of my mind knew that was only an illusion.
I hit the table on the far side of the room, the same table that I had set up the spell that had first brought demon-Alex to the forefront. I wondered briefly if we hadn’t cast that spell–what would have come then? Alex hadn’t been hurting anybody. Not really. Would John still have been alive? Would I?
I crashed against the table with enough momentum to send the entire thing crashing onto its side. It was a solid table, real wood like they used to use in the olden days. Still, I hit it with approximately the same force as a family car.
I heard crunching sounds and was sure that I had broken every bone in my body.
Strangely, there was no pain. Not much of anything really. It felt like when I had broken my arm, all of the way back in the fifth grade.
Of course there had been drugs then.
No such luck now.
I watched the clouds of white mist swirling from where I had cut through them. They were much thinner now, thin enough that I though I could make out a sort of lump on the floor where I though John’s body must lie.
Another taller lump where Mrs. Claire had been with Amanda. Why was she still here? She couldn’t help her now, neither of us could.
And a much taller mass, right in the center of the room, giving off a faint light of its own, turning the clouds from a peaceful pearly white to a deep ember red.
He was stalking towards me now. I saw the fog parting around him. I didn’t know how he knew that blow hadn’t killed me–honestly I wasn’t sure why it hadn’t–but he was coming to finish the job.
I tried to move, tried to stand, but my legs wouldn’t listen to me.
There was a brief moment of fear–had I broken my spine? But then a sense of calm settled over me. It didn’t matter. None of it mattered. All that mattered was stopping the demon.
He had stepped out of the fog, about five feet away, when I realized my salvation.
Through all of that, being thrown through the air, hitting the table, crashing through the floor, I had managed to hold onto John’s gun. It lay there, laying on my open palm.
Not-Alex took a step forward. He hadn’t noticed the gun.
I willed my hand to move, my fingers to close around the grip, to close on the trigger.
I got a twitch. Nothing more.
He took another step forward, clenching his fists.
*Come on, damn it. Move.* Another twitch. Curving.
One more step. He raised one arm, readying a blow I knew I could not survive.
And then there was a burst of light, deep inside of me. There was no other way to describe, except perhaps a warmth, spreading through the very core of my being. I couldn’t have said what it was, but everywhere that warmth touched, suddenly I could feel again. It spread, to my arms, my legs, my fingers and toes.
I could move again.
With a single swift motion, I grabbed hold of the gun and swung it upwards. Moving by a combination of half forgotten training and instinct, i centered the barrel on not-Alex’s forehead. He was a foot away now, no more. At that range, there was no way that I could miss.
I pulled the trigger.