22. THE AMBER-EYED DEMON
“Take a deep breath,” Marianne said while Mitchell followed her instructions, taking enough air to fill his lungs, and once she introduced one of the orbs into his chest, he breathed out again.
“How weird. I didn’t feel different without the gift, but now that I have it back, I can feel a slight tickle in my skin,” Mitchell said, moving his fingers in front of his eyes and touching his face.
Frank had already his gift back and they were still in that wasteland Addalynn had brought them to. She was sitting on a rock, massaging her temples while Vicky stood still, looking to the horizon.
Samael was surveying the place with an analytical stance, examining the ground, and then looking at the distance where he could see intact treetops.
“Do you know where we are?” Marianne asked.
“Don’t you recognize it? It’s where we trained for quite some time,” Samael answered, squatting as he removed the soil, taking a handful of it.
“What? But… what happened here?” she asked, opening her eyes wider and looking around bewildered. “It’s as if a bomb was dropped inside a huge dome.”
“I think this place was erased by a dark power: Demian’s,” he replied, standing up and dusting off his hands.
“How can you be so sure?”
“There are still traces of energy all over the place, and not because he was just here recently. It’s quite possible this place became his refuge to vent; far away from any inhabited place where innocent people could be hurt.”
Marianne didn’t know what to say, she just contemplated the desolated place, trying to imagine how it was before and which way the camp was. She wondered how many times Demian had come to this place in a moment of despair, when he felt he couldn’t control his instincts and had to unleash his destructive power.
“Can we go now?” Vicky suddenly asked, the first thing she had said in several minutes. “I must… go back home. My brother might worry if I’m out for long.”
Everyone looked at her as if she had lost her mind. Demian had left with the smoke demon, and she could only think about going home so ‘he wouldn’t worry’. Was her denial so strong that it prevented her from recognizing her brother in a demon skin?
“…You’re right. We should leave,” Samael said. “We have nothing left to do here.”
Nodoby said a thing, they simply gathered around him and even though Addalynn seemed a little dizzy, she got up and remained close to Vicky at every moment. Marianne was torn about talking to her but had no idea how to bring up the subject.
She and Samael made sure they both got home safe, and after a brief ‘Thank you’, Vicky quickly ran up the stairs, as if in a rush to get to her room.
“Is she going to be okay?” Marianne asked.
“She’s just absorbing it. Give her some time,” Addalynn said.
“Do you still have a headache?”
“Just a migraine,” Addalynn finished, heading for the stairs too. Samael watched her intently; something seemed different about her, but he wasn’t sure what could it be.
“I didn’t know angels could have migraine,” Marianne said.
“If you hit me, it will hurt. I also get weaken every time I’ve exhausted my reserve of energy.”
“Yes, but at what point did she use her own energy?”
Good question, Samael thought. He looked back at the girl going up the stairs, clutching the railing, and just out of curiosity he tried to hear her thoughts for a moment.
“Come back. You have to come back.”
There was no intruder alarm this time, but he still didn’t want to risk her realizing he was listening to her thoughts, so he just left it that way.
“Let’s go,” he took Marianne’s hand and disappeared.
Vicky stayed several minutes sitting on her bed, staring at the sheets as if her brain had simply turned off. After a while, she looked around, the way someone would at an unrecognizible place. Then she suddenly stood up and headed towards her brother’s room, stopped at the door, and knocked.
“…Demian? Are you there?” There was no answer. She stood there with a helpless expression and then knocked again. “I’m coming in, okay?!”
She opened the door and looked inside; the room was neat, and his screensaver showed a generic image jumping from side to side… but no sign of Demian. Well, of course there was sign of him: his trophy showcase was still there, books on his desk, his sports bag looming behind the closet door ajar. All of his belongings but him.
She entered the room without thinking, and began to snoop around, going through his things, his books, desperately looking for something, though she couldn’t explain why. After a while, she sat exhausted at his desk and stared at the generic screensaver, hypnotized by it.
Demian will be angry if I keep prying through his things, she thought. But he wasn’t there. Where? Where was he? She looked down at the keyboard and the mouse, and driven by a new urge, her hand clung to the latter and looked at the screen, waiting for the start menu to display. Then she opened the search engine and began to check the history. The last visited pages were all about representations of death in different cultures, but what caught her attention was that in one of the searches he used the word ‘obit’, which she had heard from Samael days before. She was still wondering why he could be looking for such information when she ran into another search from way back before: ‘demons’. She felt a long cold finger running down her spine.
Lowering the cursor, she still found more searches under the same context. Demons that could pass for humans, posessions, human women that were supposed to had borne demonic children. She couldn’t continue. She closed the page and released the mouse as if it burned despite her gloves. She then felt a wave of bleakness falling upon her and resting on her shoulders.
“You should get some rest.”
Vicky looked up and saw Addalynn standing at the door.
“You shouldn’t be here. You’re just hurting yourself.”
Vicky just nodded blankly, as if not really listening. She got up and gave tentative steps until stopping in front of her and looking back at the room.
“I don’t get it… I don’t understand anything… How’s that he—?”
“Forget the questions for now,” Addalynn interrupted, making way for her to pass. “You’ve had enough for today. What you need is rest.”
“Did you know?” Vicky asked with a contorted face, but she refused to answer and made another gesture towards the door.
Vicky finally returned to her room without Addalynn. Once she was there, she felt the weight of the revelation on her back again. She dropped on the bed, burying her face in the pillow, and putting his hand underneath it. Then she felt there was something hidden in there.
She raised her head in confusion and took out an envelope with only her name on it… and it was Demian’s writing.
I know right now you may be full of questions, and I might not be there to answer. I’m aware that a letter is perhaps the easiest way to avoid talking, but I must admit I’m still not ready to do it.
There’s no easy way to say this. For some time, I’ve been fighting my instincts and inner demons. And I use this word not in a figurative way, because that’s what I am: a demon.
You have prejudices against demons. I know. I’ve seen it firsthand. I don’t blame you for that and I don’t intend to change it for I have done things I’m not proud of, and I’m likely to keep doing them if I don’t attempt to erase the root of the problem. And if that doesn’t work… let’s just say I’ve arranged some security measures in case my plan backfires.
It’s okay if you hate me now. You may be right. I’m the reason dad is dead, and I could never forgive myself for that. Everything is yours: the house, the company, everything dad left; it always belonged to you anyway. I was nothing but a serpent’s egg in a bird’s nest. And before I hurt you, I’d rather emigrate, find some answers about who left me there and why. Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll have some help, and you’ll eventually understand how everything works. You’re not alone and that soothes me.
I know there’s no turning back now. I’ve been acting aloof and reserved with you for a reason. It’s been days of choices and meditation. Days I’ve questioned again and again the risk I’ve put everyone through for the ilussion of a normal life I will never have. And now you know why.
Nevertheless, I hope you don’t hold a grudge for hiding the truth from you. You were all I had left as a link to my old life, and I wanted to hold on to it, but I didn’t want to hurt you… and at the end, I think that’s what I did.
I’m sorry. For everything.
The hand that held the letter fell limp at her side on the mattress. Her face was pale and addled, until the first tears finally rolled down her cheeks, and as they fell on the back of her hand, she couldn’t stop them anymore. With a whimper, she started to openly cry, folding her legs, and putting her arms around them with the certainty that this time there would be no one to comfort her.
Marianne left her room dragging her suitcase and stopped halfway to ensure all closures were sealed.
“Are you ready? Your father will come soon to pick you up,” her mother said downstairs and she took her time to respond with a short and dry ‘Yes’.
The events from the previous day still occupied her thoughts and kept wondering what the consequences would be, what would happen to Demian. And Vicky too, since she would be left alone now that they were going to the interstates.
“Everything okay?” Samael asked, carrying the same explorer backpack he had taken to the camp.
“No. Nothing’s fine and you know it,” Marianne replied, getting back on her feet with a frustrated expression. “Yesterday wasn’t supposed to happen. We should have foreseen it. What are we gonna do now? Does that mean he’ll join them again?”
“The gifts are back with their owners. They cannot use them to control him.”
“But they could have another tactic in store or else they wouldn’t be looking for him. What if they brainwash him and set him against us? I don’t think I can handle another confrontation with him. I just can’t.”
“Maybe he has a plan; we can only hope he knew what he was doing. If not… we’ll think of something at the time,” Samael replied, and she snorted, squatting and pressing her hands against her face to stiffle a grunt. Then she stood up and tried to regain her composure.
“I don’t know how we’ll be able to go on with the trip. I don’t even know how to focus on the games.”
“You’re really worry about Demian, aren’t you?” Samael said, watching her intently and she blushed.
“Well… of course I am, just like I would worry for you or any of our friends,” she answered, looking at all directions, hoping to get rid of the accumulated heat of her cheeks, though it failed to distract Samael. Whenever it was about Demian he could catch an emotional tug of war inside her that neither did she seemed to understand.
They heard running footsteps up the stairs and saw Loui’s head peeking with caution after the video evidence he had handed to them.
“…Dad’s here,” he let them know and Marianne straightened up, trying to shed any emotion response from her face. They went down the stairs, but she stopped right next to the kid.
“Can I ask you a favor?” Loui narrowed his eyes, expecting nothing good of it. “Take dad to see Vicky constantly during the week, will you? Make sure she’s okay and if possible, convince her to stay in my room so she won’t be home alone.”
Loui was not expecting that request and had to remind himself to give a quick nod since his voice didn’t seem to respond.
Noah was waiting near the front door while Enid went back and forth, primping herself up and looking for the pair of an earring she already had in her ear.
“You look good, Nide,” Noah said, and she tried to look nonchalant, yet strutting in front of him.
“Thank you. I’m going out later,” she replied, looking through the mirror to check his reaction. “…With someone.”
“I hope you have fun,” he added with that kind and aloof smile that got in her nerves.
“…You bet I will,” she muttered through clenched teeth.
“We’re ready,” Marianne said, carrying her suitcase. Noah smiled and opened the door, but there was a man at the entrance with his hand about to knock.
“…Oh, sorry. I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”
The man at the door was Angie’s father, and she was also there, standing next to him, looking abashed. When her eyes met Marianne’s questioning gaze, she just shrugged in resignation.
“Gil! What are you doing here?” Enid said with a start of surprise and almost slipping in her haste to get to the door. “We weren’t supposed to meet until… a couple of hours.” Her attitude immediately suffered a change, aware of the presence of Noah and her children. She looked at them back and forth, expecting a reaction from them, but outside Marianne’s restrained outrage, Noah was just watching the scene analitically.
“I’m sorry I came without warning,” the man said, embarrassed by the situation. “I just… since our daughters are going to those games, I thought… maybe we could take them to the airport. Together.”
Enid glanced at Noah and there was a silence that only lasted a few seconds, but it was so heavy, Marianne was about to ask Samael to transport her directly to the airport and avoid that torment. Noah finally smiled and offered the man his hand.
“Gil, right? We’ve already met before. I was just about to take the kids to the airport. If it’s okay with you, I would gladly take Angie too, so you can proceed with your plans,” Noah solved with his best diplomatic smile. Marianne gasped in disbelief and Enid looked at him wide-eyed.
The man looked uncomfortable, but at Noah’s proposal, he looked at Angie, like asking for her opinion, and she just stared back at him as confused as the others.
“If she’s okay with it…”
Angie felt the pressure of having to make a choice, and since everyone was looking at her, waiting for an answer, she just ended up nodding.
“Well, let’s get going then,” Noah said with a clap and then heading to his car. “By the way, Nide, if you’re looking for an earring, I think you have it in your left hand.”
She raised her left hand, closed in a fist, and when she opened it there was indeed the earring she had been looking for.
“Good luck, dear. But don’t strain yourself so much,” Angie’s father said, giving her a hug while putting the bags in the trunk. She tried to smile but could sense Marianne’s huffiness when she placed her luggage on the side and then ran back home.
“I forgot something,” she excused herself as she went up the stairs, stopping in front of Loui. “Do you still want to be a ‘honorary member’ of our team? This is your chance. Use your super special tadpole skill to spy on others and follow mom whenever she’s out with her new… friend. Report to me everything and try to break any moment they get too close. Understood?”
“I’m ahead of you; I’ve been slipping in her purse a transmitter from my detective kit every time she goes out, and I listen to their conversations with a transistor I found in the attic in one of my many raids when you’re not home,” Loui said, raising an eyebrow with a bragging smile, and Marianne didn’t know whether to be surprised or outraged by his shamelessness. She squinted, but still nodded, deciding to let it go this time.
“…Okay. But I still want those daily reports. And if you manage to go with them, I might consider arranging a training session with Frank.”
“Would you really do that?” Loui asked, his eyes widening brighter at the sole mention of a training. “He looks so tough and intimidating. I want to be like that too.”
“A single session with him and you’ll have enough for a month,” she assured, leaving out the part where he wouldn’t be able to move after that.
“Deal!” Loui accepted heartily at the prospect of a training that could teach him to defend himself.
The trip to the airport was the most silent and uncomfortable with Marianne sitting in the front seat, looking wearily out the window while Samael refrained from making any comment, and Angie feeling out of place after her unfortunate decision to give her father some extra time to spend with Marianne’s mother. They occasionally heard Noah whistling a tune to fight the silence, but that seemed to irate Marianne even more.
She was in a very bad mood; she couldn’t believe her own father had facilitated her mother’s date with another man and still being so relaxed, as if he didn’t care at all.
“…I’m sorry,” Angie whispered as they arrived at the airport and waited outside the car.
“Why would you feel sorry?”
“Because… our parents,” Angie replied not daring to meet her eyes.
“Nonsense. It’s not your fault.”
“But… I’m guilty of wanting to see my father happy,” Angie added with that knowing gesture that she had hit the nail on the head and Marianne winced, feeling selfish for not wanting her mother to go out with another man.
“I think everyone has different ways to deal with their parents,” she said while Noah and Samael approached with their luggage.
“I’ll go with you,” Noah said with a smile, urging them to walk.
The waiting room was full of teens with their parents. Lilith and Lucianne were already there, and officer Perry was next to them, reprising his role as the ‘cop nanny’, giving Frank suspicious looks while he was hanging around, carrying nothing more than a hand bag in tow and keeping his required distance from Lucianne.
On the other side was also Kristania listening at her mother’s advice and blessings with annoyance while Mitchell stood away from them, looking for familiar faces in the crowd, finding Belgina between them, though the imposing presence of her mother kept him from getting close.
Among all those people, Marianne was able to see the lonely figure that was Addalynn, looking out the window towards the landing track. There was no sign of Demian or Vicky anywhere.
Marianne let her father take their bags next to Lucianne and Lilith, and she went straight to Addalynn, followed closely by Samael.
“How’s Vicky?” Marianne asked, standing beside her in front of the huge window.
“She’s at home. Locked inside her room since last night. Crying.”
“Has she realized—?”
“I think she’s finally got it,” Addalynn replied, gazing at the planes taking off.
“Don’t you worry that she’ll be alone a whole week?”
“She’s not a child anymore, she can handle it.”
Marianne looked surprised at how easily she could leave her ward on her own when she had to practically force Samael not to follow her all the time. Guardian Angels were definitely very different despite their similar background.
“So… is there any news about Demian?” she opted to ask and Addalynn finally looked at her in a way that made her feel like she had made a stupid question.
“What do you think?” she replied in an ill-tempered tone. Marianne held her tongue not to snap back. Even though she was an angel, she definitely lacked Samael’s soft nature.
“Are we getting in one of those things?” Samael asked, pointing out the window at one of the aircrafts that was taking off. Once again, he had that look of wonder and innocence from the beginning, when he had just taken human form, and everything was new and wonderful to him.
“They’re called airplanes and yes, we’re gonna fly in one of those in…” she checked her watch before continuing. “…about an hour.”
“We’ll fly? How amazing!” Samael said, opening his eyes in astonishment, granting him a more childlike expression. Out of the corner of her eye, Marianne could see how Addalynn rolled her eyes in annoyance. They were definitely two sides of the same coin.
One of the teachers started calling the students with a megaphone to gather and all the parents began their farewells.
“I think that’s my cue to leave,” Noah said. “I wish you all luck. Although I don’t think you need it.” He laid his hand on Marianne’s head to ruffle her hair and she twitched like every time he did it.
The roll call began and while some shouted ‘Here’ or raised their hands, Marianne looked around, expecting to see Demian arrive at any given moment, but the only one who got there bordering the deadline was Dreyson with his mother. She was not only fully clothed, but also had sunglasses on, which looked completely out of place.
Dreyson tried to keep walking and join the others, but his mother stopped him for a hug even though he remained stiff, as if not used to that kind of affection. She finished by caressing his face, though he didnt’ seem fond of it, and as she pulled away to leave, Marianne thought to see a shadow circling one of her eyes under the glasses. Like… a blow.
“Any of you have a suitcase big enough for me to hide in it?” Everyone turned their heads and saw Mitchell standing right behind them. “Maybe if I use my neutral layer I won’t be detected by the x-ray.”
“What the hell are you doing here? You should be gone by now,” Frank said.
“I just wanted to be with you a little longer to bitterly grieve for not having joined any club thinking it was a waste of time, and now I’ll be bored out of my mind at school while you go to the beach and have fun for a week,” Mitchell replied with a long sigh of resignation. “Seriously, if someone makes room for me in your suitcase, I promise to be quiet and behave, all I ask for is a bed, food and hair products.”
Frank let out a guffaw and put his arm over him with camaraderie.
“My dear giddy cousin, I warned you when you still had a chance, but you wouldn’t listen, so… that’s on you, for being a big lazy guy. On Monday when you’re in school with a numb butt, remember I’m probably sleeping on a cot in the sun with a beer in my hand and watching girls playing on the beach,” Frank said, squeezing his arm and adding something to his ear. “…Who knows? Perhaps even Belgina comes out in a bikini, and you won’t be there to witness it, tough luck! But don’t worry, I promise to take note of every single detail and write a summary every night which, of course, I WON’T be sending to you, but I want you to keep that image in your head before you get escorted out by the airport guards. You know, because I like you.” Mitchell gave him a bitter look.
“N-No, I-I wouldn’t—” Belgina stammered, blushing.
“You wouldn’t what, Belgina?” Lilith asked, not having heard the last thing Frank had whispered to Mitchell, but Belgina refused to repeat it, shaking her head, and burying her face in her scarf to hide her embarrassment.
“Oops; it seems like your girlfriend has now sonic earing; you’ll have to start watching your big mouth, young man,” Frank said, patting Mitchell on the back as if he had made the comment.
“Were you able to hear at that distance?” Samael asked, and although she seemed self-conscious, she finally nodded. “Interesting.”
“Interesting how?” Marianne asked.
“She’s starting to develop one sense over the others, it may be a form of compensation for her limited sight,” Samael explained. “Eventually your own bodies are responsible for fixing birth defects. Your adaptation process has been taking a few months now, it hasn’t reached its full potential yet. During the process you may develop certain skills you didn’t have before, but don’t panic, remember you can learn to control them and I’m also here to help.”
Mitchell suppressed a grin at the thought of his recent ability that anyone, but Frank, knew about.
“Demian Donovan,” one of the teachers called and they all went silent, looking at each other. “Has anyone seen Demian Donovan?” As no one answered, the coach marked something on his list. “Hopefully he’s just delayed.”
He continued doing the roll call while the guys remained quiet, aware that this wasn’t a simple delay, and everything seemed to indicate he wouldn’t even show up. After finishing the list, the mentors met to discuss something and murmurs in the room began to grow.
“Now what? When are we going to aboard?” Frank asked impatiently.
“Some guys haven’t arrived yet,” Belgina said with an attentive expression and face tilted on one side so her ear was exposed. “They’re deciding whether to wait or make us all board the plane.”
“Wow, do you really can hear them from that distance? Damn! It’s like you’ve woken up with a bionic ear,” Lilith said, as surprised as anyone, and Belgina reburied her face in her scarf, ashamed of her new skill.
“What if one of the selected fails to appear?” Mitchell asked.
“One of the coaches in charge would have to stay behind and miss the flight to find out what happened and call for a replacement in the worst case,” Belgina replied, feeling more comfortable when it came to explain some rule from school. “Normally the next one in the ranking. And depending on the reason the original student was unable to attend, a curricular sanction would apply.”
Everyone was then called to start boarding. They stayed until the end of the line and Marianne kept looking back, as if Demian would appear at the very last minute, but when their turn came, the door was as closed as ever. She convinced herself it was useless to think he was going to make it somehow, so she crossed the boarding gate, and after a few steps she heard a commotion behind that caught the others’ attention. She quickly turned around, hopeful, but all she saw was Mitchell being restrained by the airport security when trying to pass the gate while his arms were twisted behind his back.
“I just wanted to say goodbye to my friends! I can’t even do that? Hey, guys, over here! Tell them I’m not trying to sneak in!” Mitchell shouted, but they just shook their heads in disapproval and continued their way, although Belgina stayed behind undecided, even when the girls kept dragging her.
Frank turned around to wave a hand to Mitchell, and it slowly turned into an obscene gesture as he smiled mockingly while walking backwards.
Inside the plane, several rows of seats were meant for large teams while individual representatives could practically sit wherever they wanted.
In the back of the tourist class was a sign for the basketball team and most of the guys were already there while the girls occupied the seats in front of them. Marianne, Lucianne and Lilith, took the empty row while Frank got in a seat behind them despite complaints by Kristania and another girl, already in the row.
“I hope we have service because I could use a drink right now,” Frank said in a casual tone after stealing the seat and leaning on the front seat, showing a playful smile while looking down at Lucianne.
Marianne rolled her eyes and opted to look around to locate the rest of the ‘gang’. Belgina was with the gymnastics team; Angie with the track team and Samael and Addalynn were with the swimming and diving team. The plane was almost at its full capacity and would soon take off, but she kept glancing to the front, until the sound of the gate closing forced her to lean back with resignation and look out the window.
After a few minutes she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned to Lucianne who pointed to one side and saw Addalynn standing next to her row with an impatient posture.
“I want to change seats,” she said firmly, and Marianne raised an eyebrow.
“Why? I thought Samael was sitting next to you.”
“The flight is making him nervous and incidentally he’s making ME nervous. I’m not in the mood to deal with an anxiety attack, so either one of you change seats with me or I don’t know what I might do during the flight,” Addalynn replied coldly. Marianne huffed, knowing this was her way of saying ‘Take care of your angel, he’s your responsibility’, which made her aware that she was thinking of him as a pet again.
She couldn’t leave Samael in the hands of anyone else if he started to suffer a panic attack during his first flight, so she gave up her seat. When she took Addalynn’s place, Samael was shifting uneasily in his seat with a contorted expression.
“Don’t you think is a little bit ironic that you’re nervous of flying?”
“I heard comments from some guys,” Samael said with a worried look, “About aircraft accidents and the likelihood of a plane crash or that it could explode midflight.” The natural glow of his skin accentuated his pallor and alarm on his face. “What if something happens and I can’t do anything? What kind of angel would I be if I fail to save you midair?”
Marianne put her finger to her lips in a sign to keep quiet and took a quick look around to make sure no one else had heard it, but the others were so busy with their chatter that they were barely paying attention. She sighed and sat in the middle seat. Samael was next to the window.
“I understand your concern, but if we all thought like that, nobody would ever fly. Some risks have to be made,” Marianne said to reassure him. “In addition, statistically speaking, more accidents happen on the road than in the air. Everything will be fine.”
Samael didn’t answer, but looked out the window without much conviction, as if trying to detect an engine failure with his own eyes. Marianne sighed and considered sleeping during the flight when they heard the sound of the gate opening again. Dozens of curious eyes turned to the hallway and Marianne almost felt her heartbeats in her ears, getting stronger at the time. They had connected the bridge again for someone to join them in the next few minutes. Voices from the crew were heard, and they they finally saw a boy from the baseball team coming in. No one else came behind him.
Marianne leaned back again, deciding she’d had enough. She wouldn’t keep hopes of any kind anymore. Samael stirred in his seat again and she thought of suggesting him to take a pill or something when she noticed he was looking warily forward. She followed the direction of his gaze and for a moment she stopped breathing. Demian was coming down the hall. He looked around and stopped for a split second at the familiar faces while keeping an inscrutable expression and then headed for the back seats.
The guys followed his path, attentive to his behavior, to any attitude that could denote what had happened during the last hours of his absence, but he remained impassive. He sat down almost at the bottom and kept his back straight, staring at the nearest window, avoiding their eyes… as if he had something to hide.
“…He’s back,” Marianne whispered, finally remembering to breathe out the air she was holding as he entered. “…That’s good, right?”
“I don’t know,” Samael said, watching him cautiously. “There’s something odd about him, but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what.”
“Do you think he’s renewed his link to the Legion of Darkness?”
“I couldn’t tell. I just know there’s something different about him,” Samael replied, squinting and sitting back down. “We’ll know until we’re out of here.”
Marianne glanced back at Demian, hoping that at least he would look askance at her, but he kept his gaze fixed on the window. He seemed restrained… but from what?
From the speakers came the announcement that they would take off soon, so they all put on their seat belts. Marianne tried to relax and stop thinking about Demian’s odd behavior. She sat back and noticed that Samael had already stiffened again at the announcement.
“Everything will be all right. Relax,” Marianne said, helping him buckle up. Within minutes the plane began to move, and Samael stood still, trying to follow Marianne’s advice, but when it began to tilt upward, his fingers digged into the armrests. “Are you okay?”
“What’s happening? Are we falling down?!” Samael asked, immobilized.
“No, we’re taking off. Pressurization is normal, take it easy,” Marianne replied, trying to sound as reassuring as possible, but Samael’s panic attack was already attracting the attention from several around, turning curiously to him, some even smiling mockingly.
“…We’re flying! We’re flying!” Samael said, leaning on the window and seeing the ground all the way down. Some laugher and giggling triggered Marianne’s rage.
“It’s the first time he gets on a plane, okay?! Mind your own business!” She shouted and then pulled Samael’s arm to sit upright again.
“We keep going up,” he said, his face as white as paper.
“I know. It’s supposed to go up, so the plane can hover in the air,” she muttered through clenched teeth, adjusting his seat belt to keep him at bay like a child. “Now stay still and behave during the flight.”
“Say, ‘mom’,” one of the girls in the front row suddenly said, resting her arms on the back of her seat with an amused smile; she was from the diving team, and next to her were two other girls from the synchronized team, also kneeling over their seats. “I wouldn’t mind taking care of him during the flight. Wanna change seats?”
The other two girls seconded with huge smiles and synchronized nods as if the practice of their discipline would come out naturally for them. Marianne only glowered at them, and instead of answering, she put her hands on the backs of their seats and shook them up to get rid of them. The three girls protested and chose to sit right back as one of the coaches appeared from their side of the plane to bring order.
By the time the plane stabilized, and calm returned to that side, Samael was going back to normal, breathing slowly and his limbs distended.
“Better now?” Marianne asked in a low voice.
“Is it always like that? Do you fly in these things all the time?” Samael’s expression, although less disturbed, was still cautious and seemed ready to jump at the slightest sign of turbulence.
“Well, it’s not like we do it all the time, unless you’re a millionaire and have to travel constantly,” Marianne replied with a shrug and Samael sighed, resting his head on the back seat and closing his eyes.
“In that case I would rather never be a millionaire.”
Marianne chuckled and heard her cell’s ringtone. She had received a message. She calmly took it out of her backpack while receiving disapproving stares from the girls in the front row and she bared her teeth with a growl as a response.
She read the message and her face contorted with distress at the thought of the implications of that brief text: ‘He’s disappeared’.
“What’s going on?” Samael asked, frozen in his position as if he had merged with his seat.
Marianne unfastened her seat belt and quickly placed her knees on her seat to look at the back of the plane. Demian wasn’t in his seat. She looked at her friends and they shook their heads; they had no idea where he had gone.
Beep. Another message. ‘We turned around and he was gone’.
“Phones must be turned off during the flight,” one of the girls in the front said, leaning over her backrest. “…Don’t you see that their magnetic waves could interfere with the mechanism of the plane… and make it fall?”
Samael’s eyes opened like two big golf balls and turned pale at the words, but Marianne rejected them with a snort. It so happened that right then, the plane started shaking due to turbulence and Samael’s hand immediately seized Marianne’s wrist like a mechanical claw.
“…Turn it off. Turn it off!” he demanded, panicking. He then unfastened his seat belt too and climbed on his seat. “Turn off all cell phones or we will die!”
The laughter that ensued right away inevitably attracted the coaches’ attention and sent back another couple of them to impose order.
Amid all the commotion, Marianne suddenly saw Demian going out of the bathroom. His hair was all wet and his face too, as if he had tried to allay his impulses with water. But impulse for what? Destruction? Could it have been him who caused the turbulence?
Ignoring the fuss and everyone else around, he took a seat and looked out the window again.
Marianne was puzzled, but at least he hadn’t just disappeared without a trace again. She sat down and pulled Samael down to stop stirring up the masses with his warning of impending doom if someone left a single cell on. Although the coaches had managed to appease most of the kids, Samael still looked pretty nervous and constantly watched out the window with a paranoid look on his eyes.
“What’s that? Is that smoke coming out fo the turbine?” Samael asked, sticking his finger to point at one of the wings. “…Oh, my god, we’re going to explode!”
“No, we’re not! It’s a cloud! Calm down!” Marianne replied, losing her patience, but since it was impossible to get Samael out of that state of panic, the only solution she could think of was getting up of her seat and walking to the row across the aisle. “…Angie, I need your help.”
Angie looked at her with dazzled doe eyes and then at Samael, who kept his forehead pressed to the window, wide-eyed and alert. Angie nodded and ended up exchanging seats.
“…Hello. Are you okay?” Angie said to get his attention.
“That crack on the wing. I’m sure it wasn’t there before,” Samael said without looking away from the window, pointing at an indistinguishable part of the plane. Angie fiddled with her hands for a moment before finally daring to hold Samael’s hand.
“…I think you’ve worried enough already,” Angie said and Samael turned to her with an alarmed expression, making her hesitate for a moment, but without releasing him. “…You should enjoy the rest of the flight.”
Samael’s face began to soften and his body relaxed, as if her touch was some kind of anesthetic. He gradually settled back in his seat with a relaxing gesture.
“…Thank you. I needed it,” Samael said with a sigh and Angie struggled not to sigh herself, given rise to all kinds of thoughts that in her mind would be harmless, but holding the hand that provoked them, not so much… and even less when he squeezed her hand tighter. “Please, don’t let go of me for the rest of the trip. It feels good like this.”
To say Angie’s red face rivalized with the tone of her own hair at that moment would be an understatement. She stood in the same position, fearing the slightest movement would break the connection, and despite her discomfort, she felt exultant. On the corner of her eye, she saw Marianne from her seat, waiting for results, and after making strange contortions with her free arm, she finally managed to make a sign with her thumb up to indicate it all went well, even in her uncomfortable position. She didn’t mind spending the next hour sitting sideways with a numb arm while she could stay next to him, holding his hand and watching his resting face. It felt so good she even flinched when he opened his eyes and turned to face her.
“Is it normal to feel my ears throbbing?” he asked, and she just mumbled without knowing what to say.
Samael smiled and closed his eyes again, returning to his original position. Angie wondered if she was transmitting her feelings to him as much as she tried to limit her emotions at the time. She also felt her ears throbbing, what else could she make him feel if she kept holding his hand for longer? She knew it was wrong, it was manipulation, but she would be lying if the idea of him eventually developing feelings for her, or at least pique his interest, wouldn’t thrill her at all. If she was doing it unconsciously, maybe he wouldn’t notice it either… even though everything would stop once she released his hand. The contact was needed after all to make it work. In front of her, the three girls from the diving team were glaring daggers at her, so she tried to clear her mind and think of other things.
When the plane finally reached its destination, Angie tried to move; every muscle of hers felt stiff, and gently shook Samael’s shoulder to wake him up. She didn’t dare to release his hand just yet, she didn’t want to startle him with a sudden movement.
“Thanks, Angie,” Marianne said, approaching to them and suddenly furrowed her eyebrows. “…Samuel?”
Angie turned to him and noticed a trickle of blood running down his nose. She quickly released his hand and he finally opened his eyes with a jump.
“…Are we there yet?” was the first thing he asked.
Marianne took a napkin from her backpack and offered it to him.
“You’re bleeding through the nose.”
Samael took the napkin, and after rubbing it under the nose, he saw the blood.
“…So much for my first flight,” he remarked dismissively, though Marianne still looked worried and Angie kept silence, uneasiness stealing color to her face.
The same thing happened in the camp, when she used her power to force some answers out o f him; she felt so guilty afterwards. And now she had done it again, she had exposed him to her power for too long. It hadn’t even crossed her mind it would happen again.
“Thank you,” Samael said, grinning at her, no traces of blood in his nose anymore.
Angie tried to fix her face to respond with a smile, even though her concern was still clear, so much she kept her hands now hidden under her arms.
Everyone started to get out of there row by row as indicated by the coaches. Out of the plane, a trolley transported them to the airport. It wasn’t until the last trip with the rest of the basketball team that they saw Demian coming through the doors, keeping his distance from the others. There were so many people going around, looking for their luggage, that they constantly lost sight of him, but by the time they had managed to locate him, he was talking to his basketball coach. His face looked gaunt, and despite the distance, they could almost swear he seemed tense. They tried not to lose track of him while collecting their luggage. And yet he still didn’t look at them once, thus enhancing their concern about the state of his mind now that he was back from the Legion of Darkness.
“You still don’t perceive anything?” Marianne asked softly as she picked up her suitcase and pretended to check the zippers. Samael shook his head without hiding his obvious watchful eye on Demian. He wasn’t even carrying any luggage, which meant he had virtually materialized straight into the airport after coming back from the Legion of Darkness. He was even wearing the same clothes as the day before.
“Let’s not lose sight of him,” Samael said, carrying his explorer backpack in tow.
Everyone was taken to the hotel where they would be staying and discovered that each one of them would get their own single room.
The coaches started calling one by one to give them their keys, and when it was Demian’s turn, he seemed increasingly stressed, beads of sweat glistened on his forehead. He didn’t even wait for them, just closed his fist around the key and walked towards the elevator.
“He’s walking away!” Marianne said.
“Follow him,” Samael gestured and although not all of them had received their keys, they still went after him. Suddenly, Demian decided not to wait for the elevator and changed path towards the stairs, hurrying enough to keep his distance from them, but not enough to let them know he had noticed their presence.
They followed him up to the fourth floor, and even though it was clear they were going after him, he didn’t turn at any time, just kept going until getting to the corridor leading to his room and his steps became faster.
“Demian!” Marianne called him out, expecting him to finally face them, but to everyone’s surprise, he started to run instead. “What the…?”
“Go after him!” Frank shouted, moving ahead, as if leading a hunting party, and they followed Demian until he got to a room and struggled with the lock.
When it finally opened, he quickly pushed it, not only to close it but to block it with his own body. However, Frank lunged himself forward, reopening the door so violently that it was sheer luck that the doors didn’t come off its hinges, tackling Demian and falling on top of him to immobilize him.
“Were you trying to go somewhere?”
“Frank! You don’t have to be so rude!” Lucianne rebuked as they all crossed the doorway.
Marianne pushed Frank away and leaned over Demian who was face down with his hands against the floor and flexed muscles.
“What the hell was that act of escapism? Why are you avoiding us? What happened in the Legion of Darkness?” Marianne asked, and when he rolled on his back, they watched in bewilderment that he seemed to be suffering from some kind of seizure that was slowly distorting and changing his face.
Marianne retreated a few steps to join the others, unable to look away in shock. Not only Demian’s face was suffering a strange metamorphosis, but also his clothes were transfiguring. Slowly, the ripples under his skin began to fade until they completely vanished, and his body unstrung.
The guys stood still and silent, not even daring to blink at the unlikeliness of what they had just witnessed.
“…Son of a bitch,” Frank said, letting out a laugh after understanding the sham.
Lying on the floor, exhausted with a resigned expression, Mitchell stared at the ceiling, trying to catch his breath after the great effort of maintaining that appearance for so long.
“…Hey, guys, what’s up?” he said with an exhausted smile while the others looked incredulous and perplexed at him.
Contrary to what Demian supposed, once he was back in the Legion of Darkness, it wasn’t so hard for him. He thought setting one foot in that place again would be like tempting his evil side that, once awake, had become another personality trait of his. He could restrain himself through sheer will power, but sometimes it faltered, and just like an addict out of rehab faced with the drug he’s addicted to, he thought his destructive desires would resurface with such an irresistible force that it would be impossible to suppress. But it hadn’t been like that.
Of course, that didn’t mean the desire wasn’t there anymore, but he had already made up his mind that he would have to live with it for the rest of his life; the meaningful thing for him was that it hadn’t increased more than usual. He could still feel the heavy atmosphere around him and the intense feeling of being constantly watched not by hidden eyes, but by the place itself, not like it had life of its own, but as an extension of his father.
He knew that once in the Legion of Darkness he wouldn’t have the freedom to do or go wherever he wanted without his father’s knowledge. Those were his domains after all, everything was controlled by him… and incidentally, he wouldn’t be able to leave unless he was led by another demon or restore the broken link, and there was no way he would accept the latter —which didn’t rule out that they could try to force him to.
That left him in a very risky position, because if he intended to leave once he got the information he needed, he would have to convince his father he could be trusted again, or he could get caught in the Legion of Darkness forever. And one day spent there could be enough to drive him crazy, especially having for company demons as weird as the smoke creature right in front of him.
As soon as they appeared in the middle of one of the multiple cavernous passages leading to everywhere and nowhere, the smoke demon hovered over Demian, swirling in the air, repeating over and over ‘Master has returned!’ with that ghostly disembodied voice that disgusted Demian so much.
“I want you to inform my father I’m here,” he interrupted his chant. The smoke demon stopped and dove in front of him with that disturbing expression that was all eyes and a Cheshire cat smile.
“Master knonws. Since we here.”
Of course. The Legion of Darkness, an extension of his father. The only thing lacking was the eyes on the walls.
“Tell him then that I want to talk to him.”
The smoke demon laughed with a rhythmic panting accompanied by a hissing sound, like a pressure pot boiling.
“Master talks when he says,” the demon replied, suddenly turning its attention to the end of the corridor, like a dog distracted at the slightest noise, and soon began to hover above him repeating ‘Master’ to then follow that direction and disappear in the shadows.
Demian stood in the same spot for about a minute. He was alone in the middle of those labyrinthine corridors, not knowing where to go and with no one to guide him. To take any path represented the same chance of getting lost as standing there. So, he finally decided to walk in the same direction as the smoke demon. He woud have to get somewhere eventually, perhaps with some luck he would find his way to the huge stone gate guarding his father… and then he could see by himself if the amber-eyed demon was there or not.
He’d been just walking for a couple of minutes when he recalled the room Ende showed to him the first time he had been there. Where he had seen the craddle and the flashbacks. Logic dictated that if he was in that room as a baby, then his mother had to be there too. If he thought about it, maybe there was still some remaining objects that belonged to her.
Encouraged by that thought, he wondered if he could figure out himself the way to that room, but just when he was thinking about this, he discovered a soft edge forming in the wall to his left, as if emerging from a muddy surface. When the wall recovered its solidity, there was a reinforced cell door before him. If his eyes weren’t mistaken, it was the door to the room he was looking for… and it had appeared just when he was thinking about it. Was that how things worked in this world? If he focused his mind on the huge stone gate, would it also appear before him? Perhaps if he had stayed longer in that place, he would have slowly discovered the secrets involving the Legion of Darkness, but since that didn’t happen, maybe he could try again later, but first… he needed to explore that room, something he should have done from the beginning.
The door opened without resistance, almost as if he were the key to access it. Inside, everything was as he remembered. Old-looking furniture cast aside and seemingly in disuse. The crib was in the same corner behind the largest divan in the room. Everything was exactly as he had left it and he tried to decide where to start. He looked askance at the cradle, but didn’t dare to approach it for now. Perhaps he would leave it for last. Nearby, on his right, there was some kind of dusty desk with a vertical panel on top that should have contained a mirror at some point, but had been torn or perhaps broken.
Demian started checking over the drawers. He opened one by one, but found nothing inside, not even cobwebs —Mental note: apparently there were no other forms of life apart from demons. He was about to open the bottom drawer when he heard a female giggle. He turned to the door and saw a silhouette hidden in the shadows, watching him curiously and then giggling again with a cadence that made him shudder. He could feel an evil trace in that laugh that was offputting. He’d already heard it before, the first time he was led to his father… but even then, it seemed too familiar to him.
“Who are you?” he asked, but the figure just kept giggling and suddenly took off with a graceful movement before he could even follow it. He decided to stay and keep looking around. There was still a drawer left.
He made a gesture to open it, but the drawer remained closed. He tried to force it and it still didn’t budge. Bingo. Perhaps he had finally found something important; why would it be sealed if not?
He pulled back from the desk and pointed his hand to the drawer. If he couldn’t open it the conventional way, he would have to use his power. Just enough to open it but not destroy its contents.
An energy beam came out of his hand and hit directly in the drawer… but it remained closed. He didn’t even leave a scratch. He tried again, increasing his power, but it was useless. It had some sort of protection that absorbed any kind of power aimed to open it. He tried to think; if the drawer belonged to his mother, most likely she would have liked to protect it from any external force trying to pry into it. Perhaps it could only be opened by her or something that retained her essence, maybe something that belonged to her…
A sudden spark of recognition crossed his eyes and quickly pulled the medallion he carried everywhere. He turned it over and approached it to the drawer, pressing the medallion against the lock. But after a few seconds, nothing happened. It had all been a waste of time. He kept the medallion back with frustration, and kicked the drawer, after which it opened ajar as if just getting unstucked from the cabinet.
Heart beating fast, Demian quickly bent over and pulled the drawer out. Empty bottles, corroded and worn pieces of fabric, old papers that practically disolved at the touch; he rummaged inside with growing anxiety and impatience for not finding anything useful or at least intact, and was about to give up when his hand touched something solid at the bottom. With renewed enthusiasm, he took the object out to give it a closer look. It was a brush that was incredibly well preserved compared to the rest of the objects inside. It had an unknown metal mounting inlaid with unknown stones, and apart from the dust that could easily be removed, it seemed to be intact. When he flipped it, he discovered between the bristles there were still some hairs tangled and once again he felt that revolution in his chest. He plucked them from the brush very carefully until gathering enough to form a strand which he held in his palm as if it were the Holy grail.
His mother’s hair. The lock consisted of hair the color of ash, retaining its shine and silkiness, as if no time nor dust could reach it. Not only he had now something that belonged to his mother, but also something that had been part of her. It might not be much, but it was significant for him.
He kept looking inside the drawer until finding some kind of lace from the remainings of one of the worn-out garments, and after securing the lock, he pulled a brass box between the objects he had discarded at first and kept it in it.
He stood up with the idea of keep checking the place, but when he looked up, he froze at the sight of a silhouette blocking the door. The shadows around didn’t let him see more than a pair of intense amber eyes glaring fiercely at him.
He had no time to react, the amber-eyed shadow darted towards him really fast, crashing him against the back wall and leaving a trail of overturned furniture and broken objects on the floor. Demian tried to move, but he was pinned to the wall. He opened his eyes, and amid the dust lifted by the impact and the darkness surrounding the demon, he could only distinguish those glowing wolfish eyes fixed on his prey. He coughed and tried to pull away from him, but the demon leaned until he could almost feel his breath on his neck.
“…You shouldn’t have returned.”
Demian’s eyes widened upon hearing those words spoken so coldy it took him unaware, and when he realized, the devil’s hands were already around his neck, shining with an infrared glow that burned his skin and suffocated him, like a powerful poison invading his body, blocking any attempt to fight back. And yet, he couldn’t look away from those eyes. He was going to die and couldn’t stop feeling like the helpless baby from all those years ago.
His vision began to fade, so he didn’t know if what happened next was a trick of his withering mind or the work of that demon. He just suddenly felt weightless, the wall behind him lost consistency and he began to sink in it. He stopped feeling those hands around his neck and assumed that was it, that was the end for him; his whole body relaxed and drifted away into unconsciousness.
The demon quickly pulled away, watching that sort of luminous gate formed behind Demian, absorbing him; energy wisps wrapped him like little hands pulling him inside until he disappeared completely along with that hole, instantly closing and leaving everything the exact same way it was before. The amber-eyed demon just turned around and left the way he came in.
Scattered around the room, the guys looked at Mitchell with stunned expressions; he sat in a chair near the bed and drank half jar of water from the nighstand. Between sips and spraying its content to his face to freshen up, he looked as if he had put his head in a bucket of water. Even his usual pompadour that resisted any kind of climate onslaught was dripping at his sides.
“…So? When did this started?” Marianne questioned him with folded arms. Mitchell looked at the ceiling with a thoughtful gesture while stroking his chin.
“Well, you see, if we’re gonna get technical, I’d say it all started several months ago, from the moment you laid eyes on me in the stands, so you could say that everything has been because of you and your reluctanct grumpy-looking mermaid manners.”
Marianne clenched her jaw, increasingly irritated, but instead of retorting, she took out a hand from the tangle she had formed with her arms and, after a brief motion, the jar Mitchell was holding emptied over his head.
“…Okay, maybe I deserved that,” Mitchell said with a shiver.
“When did you get that new power?” Samael asked. “It must have been at least two weeks ago. You’ve already impersonated me, right?”
Mitchell closed his mouth shut and averted his gaze, while the rest of them looked from one to the other, trying to make the connection.
“What are you talking about? When did this supposedly happen?” Marianne asked intrigued, and Samael looked at Mitchell waiting for his confession, but he still didn’t say a thing, so he decided to answer.
“I noticed something strange was happening when you began to tell me things I didn’t remember saying. I didn’t have any specific suspicion, so I waited for another sign, but nothing happened for a while, so…”
“Because he had been stripped of his gift,” Marianne interrupted, finally making sense of it. “And now that he’s got it back, he wasted no time to use it again.”
Frank whistled from the wall he was leaned on in a nonchalant pose and soon the attention shifted to him, curious about what he would say.
“And that hasn’t been his only transformation,” Frank said with a smirk on his face at his cousin’s alarmed expression. “Perhaps you’ve all had an interaction with someone that acted in a different way than usual and noticed some kind of tension, a hurry to finish, a flushed face with no reason.”
There was a brief silence, as if they were digging into their memories, and Marianne suddenly pointed at Frank.
“You knew about this! You were already aware of what he could do and didn’t say a thing!” Marianne cried with an accusatory tone. “Surely you tried to use it to your advantage somehow! You’re worse than him!”
“Frank, is that true?” Lucianne asked, and now that he was the target of recriminatory glares, he decided to change the focus.
“…Hey, he’s the one who posed as wings, grumpy, demon boy and god knows how many more to fulfill his fetishes or whatever was going through his sick mind, not me!”
“Did you pose as me?!” Marianne’s voice rose exponentially and seemed about to throw lasers through her eyes. “Why?! What the hell were you thinking?!”
Mitchell only stooped and raised his arm to shield himself, but Belgina came forward and stood before him with a contrite expression.
“Was it you who talked to me at Vicky’s party instead of Marianne?” she asked, and Mitchell looked at her as a scolded puppy, fearing her reaction so much that he didn’t dare to answer, but his silence said it all. Behind them, Marianne was scowling; she didn’t remember seeing Belgina during that meeting. “Was it also you who posed as Samuel and sat with us during the gymnastics exhibition to talk about yourself?”
Mitchell couldn’t meet her eyes anymore; he looked at his hands, holding the empty pitcher, and drops of water dripped from his head. It would be useless to deny it at this point, especially after everyone else had witnessed his ability to transform into someone else. The only thing left was to apologize and hope for forgiveness.
“I’m sorry, I just… wanted to get close to you again.” He lifted his gaze, trying to look as sorrowful as possible, but her expression was worse than he expected. Worse than three gallons of cold water thrown on him or shaving his hair permanently. “Babe—”
Belgina said nothing, just stepped back with her hand over her chest, her face twisted with disappointment until she finally left the room in silence. Mitchell knew then that he had lost any chance with her; all he had achieved was to sink even further, if possible, in her esteem.
“I hope you’re happy now,” Marianne said, returning to her pose with arms folded.
The only thing Mitchell could do was lower his head with shame, but before anyone could make any other comment, Addalynn stood abrutply on her feet and looked out the window; the sky was already dark. She seemed to be looking for something in the distance and took her hands to her temples as if having a migraine.
The others remained silent, waiting for her reaction, until she unexpectedly bolted out of the room. This time they wouldn’t stand there, looking at each other’s faces, they hurriedly followed her to keep her in sight. Addalynn went down the stairs, but instead of going through the main entrance, she diverted toward an emergency exit at the back of the hotel, and then to a parking lot. She kept going nonstop until getting through a lonely and poorly lit alleyway with unfinished asphalt, giving way to sand, all the way up to the open beach. The area was riddled with brambles, and due to its location behind several buildings, it didn’t seem to be part of the tourist area. They barely managed to see beyond their noses with the blinking lights they left behind, but it was clear that there was not a soul in that place other than them.
“What are we doing here? This looks like the perfect scenario to be killed by a masked psychopath with an axe,” Frank said, shaking his foot to extricate himself from a bramble and only received several ‘Shhhhh’ as an answer.
Addalynn had stopped at the front, looking at the sky as if waiting for a signal from the mother ship, and the others waited patiently for her to speak.
“What do you think she’s picking up?” Marianne whispered, trying to find something up in the sky that could be overlooked. “Could it be a message from the Superior Realm? Is that how they communicate with her maybe?”
“…I don’t know. If it were the Superior Realm, I should also be able to perceive it,” Samael whispered back. “I can honestly say I don’t know what’s going on.”
A gust of wind began to blow, and Addalynn squeezed her temples once again, but this time she bent over in pain, falling to her knees in the sand.
“Stop! Make it stop!” she said, clutching her temples and closing her eyes, writhing in pain.
The guys looked at each other, not knowing what to do; even Samael seemed as confused as them.
The gust of wind intensified and several clouds began to swirl in the sky as if forming a storm, forcing them to raise their hands against the wind.
“Look!” Lilith suddenly shouted and they all looked at the storm clouds swirling around, as if a tornado was about to be created.
Lightning and electrical flows fed the turmoil, creating a vortex with a flashing light in the middle of the disturbance where something was expelled from it, falling several feet away. Almost instantly, the disturbance began to clear out until the sky was as clean and empty as moments before.
Addalynn’s body finally relaxed and her arms fell to her sides, exhausted. The look on everyone’s faces was of utter and complete confusion. They didn’t know what to ask or where to even start.
“There’s something there.” Lucianne finally spoke, noticing a form several feet forward. “It came out ejected from that… whirlpool in the sky, did you see it?”
There was no answer, but everyone seemed to think the same. Marianne kept her eyes in that direction, her heart beating so fast she couldn’t even hear her heartbeat anymore. She could see it: a barely pronounced silhouette on the sand. At that distance it looked large enough to resemble a body.
“Do you think it’s…?” Lilith began to ask, but before she could complete her sentence, Marianne was now the one running towards the beach. Samael went after her and soon they were followed by the rest.
Marianne stopped a few inches away from the body lying face up on the shore. The sea couldn’t touch it yet, but there were mounts of sand around, after the impact of the fall. She stood there, watching, not daring to go a step further. Samael reached her, as well as the others, and also stopped to contemplate it, like a weird creature from the sea.
“Is he…?” Lilith started to ask, but Marianne raised her hand to keep her from finishing her sentence.
Lying there, with no sign of life and with that unnatural appearance, Demian looked like a props’ dummy out of a science fiction movie— But it would also have worked in a horror movie when a few seconds later he snapped his eyes open and his body arched, uttering a loud gasp for air, causing everyone a jump scare.
“He’s alive!” Mitchell shouted in his best imitation of Dr. Frankenstein, shaking his fists at the sky as if expecting it to cooperate with a lightning or a thunder for his reenactment. Of course, he didn’t even get the slightest gust of wind.
Marianne didn’t move, she seemed in a daze. She watched Demian, coughing and rubbing his neck, when she unexpectedly made a motion with her hand and her sword came out of it, pointing it at him.
“What are you doing?” Lucianne questioned her, looking as puzzled as the rest, but Marianne didn’t flinch; she kept the sword steady and fixed at Demian, who was just catching his breath and sat up with his arms resting on the sand.
“If you’re going to do it, make it quick. Maybe we can save ourselves all this frustrating search to find out what my father really wants from me,” Demian said after a few seconds, and then he looked up at her. His eyes were the same blue as ever, the clear and limpid look he had when he wasn’t being controlled by his demonic instincts.
Marianne let out a breath of relief and let her hand absorb the sword, making a staggering step backward.
Lucianne was the first one to lean over Demian to make sure he was okay, and the others followed suit, except for Frank, who stood aside with a dismissive attitude, and Samael, who stood next to Marianne.
“Would you really have done it if he came back different?” Samael asked, pretending not to notice the slight trembling of her shoulders.
“…I don’t know,” she said, watching Demian being helped up on his feet, wearing the same clothes as the day before.
They had many questions about his brief stay in the Legion of Darkness, but the important thing now was that he was back, and despite the initial shock, Marianne also felt an inexplicable tingling in her chest.
Samael looked over his shoulder and she followed his gaze. Addalynn was standing a few feet behind them, watching the point in the sky where that sort of portal was minutes earlier. Her face was as inscrutable as ever, but now it had a touch of intrigue and interest.
“…I think we have more questions than answers for now,” Samael said, and Marianne nodded, looking askance at Addalyn once again. After all, she had led them to the portal before it even appeared.