Ryan and I reached the mouth of the Veneer portal at Diamond Head and I could sense my energy flagging. I stopped abruptly. Lightheaded and unable trust my senses.
Ryan waited at the mouth. With one knee down on the ground he loaded rounds into his pistol. The amber glow intensified as he breathed the air of deep Otherworld.
“Robi. You have to go without me.”
Ryan’s head snapped around. I could see his eyes starting to glow with the amplified adrenalin surge of a warrior breathing this kind of energy.
“What the fuck!? Jesse’s out there, Brett! We gotta go!”
I closed my eyes tightly and the tears began to rise. He was right. The one person I truly loved more than anything else in either world was in jeopardy. But I would have to remain within Otherworld.
“Robi! I have no choice. Rex and I are connected. Our spirits are connected. No…more than that.We can’t stay on the same plane together or we start to die. If I go out there we’ll both be fighting at half our power or less. I can’t risk it. Go without me. I’ll catch up when I can.”
Ryan stared at me for what seemed an eternity. He knew what I was saying was true.
“I’ll protect Jesse. Don’t worry. We’ll meet you in the crater at Diamond Head.”
He nodded his head and smiled that Robi smile…a little bit cocky and a whole lot of warmth. Without another word, he turned and leapt though the mouth. Gone.
The cop car was moving up Pulama Place faster than any vehicle ever had. The road was made of dirt and shattered macadam. This was farm country, so the little lane had no street lights and an unwritten speed limit of ‘old lady slow’. Andrew was caught just a bit off guard. Despite the speed though, he managed to make it down the driveway before the cop car overtook the property. The siren was screaming and the blue lights were at full intensity. These cops were in heavy response mode, and the neighbors were stirring from their houses, finally screwing up the bravery to see what all the noise was.
The police cruiser came to a violent halt in the dirt fronting the neighbors property. The tires shot a gout of rich soil and decayed leaves into the bushes. Andrew stood in the center of the driveway with his arms folded. Further down the drive a massive bear beat a cowering figure hard into the lawn with a fifty pound chunk of loose concrete.
“Put your hands above your head. Don’t make any sudden moves!”
The loud speaker on the cruiser’s roof gave up the command at full volume. Andrew’s face broke into a mischievous grin. Before the cops had a chance to even reach for the door latches, Andrew brought his arms up and out toward the car in a gesture of giving. The air popped inside the cruiser and a torrent of hellish fire replaced every molecule of oxygen. The windows melted instantaneously while the figures inside fought the flame. Andrew grin broadened into a sarcastic smile.
“Fuckin posers. If you were real cops you would have brought reinforcements.”
The car doors fell off to either side, and the two figures stepped out onto the grass. The enormous tree above the conflagration had already caught fire in its upper canopy. Andrew backed about ten feet toward the house.
“These things aren’t native to flame…they’ve got protection. Great.”
The two demons stood on either side of the burning car. Andrew backed away a few more feet in anticipation of the exploding gas tank. As the “driver” mirrored Andrew’s move, the “passenger” swayed slightly. Andrew knew the signs of flagging magical protection. Again, he smiled.
“Oh, officers..too bad about your car. I was looking forward to riding in the back seat. You still got the handcuffs, don’t you? Or did they…melt?”
The driver’s clothing and borrowed skin slid off of his frame revealing a creature larger than it appeared in human form. The demon was covered with thick ropes of gray sinew, giving the impression of a ganglia of sickly and gnarled tree roots. Andrew felt a sudden shiver as the figure moved closer. Past the blackened flesh that once covered the face, he could see a broad smile of ivory white, oddly thin teeth.
Then the gas tank went. A solid, bass ‘whump’ preceded the horrible scream as the steel tank gave up its awesome fire. The windows of the surrounding houses shattered as if stricken by lightning. The brush flanking the already burning tree burst into flames. The passenger fell under the heat as his protective shell gave way. He began writhing and attempting to scream while he sucked the burning air deep into his lungs.
Andrew fell back several feet, but he managed to maintain his own protective spell. As he rose to his feet he could tell that his opponent was making its own assault.
“So, it looks like its just the two of us.”
The demon stood in place, unshaken by the explosion.
A sudden growl erupted from further down the drive as Rex was lifted off his feet and thrown, crashing into the car port. The Veiled demon lunged at Rex’s fallen form.
Andrew dodged to the left onto a pad of soft grass. The loose dirt beneath the surface gave slightly and Andrew used his momentum to slide into a deep crouch. He raised his right hand to release an offensive spell he’d been holding, but the stream of deep red energy lanced forward and the demon dodged to the right. The spell struck a neighbor’s large fishing boat parked on it’s trailer out on the street. The molecules of the laminated wood suddenly smacked against one another with an awesome force, causing a man-sized portion of hull to violently explode into a million splinters of sawdust.
“FUCK!!” Andrew felt the energy drain quickly as he tried to recover from the spell. “Stand still, motherfucker!” He brought his left hand up with the companion spell. Again the red bolt shot toward its target. This time the spell hit center mass, lifting the demon up and back into the neighbor’s stone wall at a horrible velocity. The demon’s molecules transferred the reaction into the very stones of the structure causing it to shudder and buckle wildly. The creature’s body crumbled to the ground silently in a mass of fluid, dissolving bone and thick, fibrous ooze.
Another growl from the driveway cued Andrew to turn in time to see Rex pounce with awesome force onto the Veiled demon. His claws sunk deep into the demon’s gut as he lifted the screaming thing high into the air. And with a final growl and a sudden drop, the demon came in two…spraying acid bile into the bear’s face and fur.
Again, Rex growled into the morning air. The pain and triumph were overwhelming as he beat his chest with his two massive paws.
Andrew moved closer to his old friend. “You better get back, buddy. You’re hurt pretty bad.”
The bear dropped to four legs with a massive sigh. He nodded his head then turned silently toward the portal into the Veneer.
I could sense a change in my essence. Rex was home, and I had a job to do. I rose to my feet and leapt into the portal mouth falling with ease into the world of man. My wings carried me up and out into the earthly sky. With a buffet of my wings, I descended onto the grass ringing the east parking lot of the community college. Instantly I could smell the acrid smoke of burning plastic and fuel. This wasn’t good. Police sirens cried out just blocks away. I tried to take in the entire landscape as my eyes scanned from the near empty lot to the garden walk strewn with broken human bodies.
“Brett! Quickly…I have to get back!”
I turned and saw an old friend flying quickly across the parking lot with preternatural speed.
Gabriel was a Hawaiian man in life. Over six feet tall and sculpted of solid muscle. He was the guardian of Diamond Head and an old friend.
With large black wings he landed – and I gasped at what he held in his outstretched arms. Hanging like a lifeless rag doll, Ryan’s eyes remained open. His torso had been opened in what appears a single slice. The ragged shirt he once wore now barely covered the exposed mass of intestines protruding from his gut. He didn’t have long.
My friend’s eyes rolled back in his head. I was shocked that he was still conscious. I looked up into Gabriel’s eyes, and I could tell that he saw the same thing that I did. Ryan’s time had come and he would have to be released to the other side. He spat up a wad of deep red blood.
“Put me down…”
Gabriel placed him on the grass.
“I want to go….back…in…”
He rolled his hand over and motioned limply toward the gate portal mouth.
I put my hand on his head and began speaking the words. Gabriel stood valiantly at guard.
Ryan smacked my hand away. “NO! Andrew…Andrew…I have…”
I put my hand back on his head just as I heard the laughter.
“Gabe! Hold them off! He has to pass.”
Gabriel’s wings snapped high over his head as a shark-tooth Hawaiian sword appeared in his hand. Three dark figures walked out of the shadows at the edge of the walk across the parking lot.
“We’ll take the warrior child off your hands, Aaaaaaaangel! It’s only fair. We just want to claim the kill.”
Gabriel stood in defiance. “Back off vampires. You have no claim here.”
The three figures hissed as if covered in a blanket of scalding steam. The three were the exact opposite of my kind – dark creatures often mistaken as vampires because of their consumption of human blood. While we release the life force of a dying human into the Veneer, they consume it for its raw energy.
Suddenly two of the figures took flight in a direct assault on Gabriel, his sword aflame with golden celestial energy. The third attacker came directly at me. I had no choice but to stand and meet his attack. I willed Serascim into my hand and brought the blade in a downward, intercepting arch. The beast screamed as my blade passed through the meat of its left hand, liberating four of the five fingers. He brought his other hand up in a quick jab with his sharpened nails, raking across my face. Blinding pain shot through my brain, his unholy energy violating my senses. Blood poured into my eyes.
Then out of my peripheral vision, I saw Ryan run toward the Veneer gate.
“NO!! Robi! You can’t go in there! NO!!!”
He ran with a vulgar limp, his left hand holding his guts together, his right hand reaching out toward the portal mouth. I took to the air, closing about half the distance as Ryan reached the gate. He leapt head first into the fissure, his loose intestine trailing behind him like a runaway dog’s leash.
I turned back toward Gabriel, my attacker body checked me with terrible strength. I was brought down to the pavement with incredible force, my left cheek ripped open exposing the muscle beneath. I could no longer see clearly. My field of vision was blighted by alternating flashes of light and dead shadow. Blood flooded my eyes. But I drove Serascim upward in a final attempt to take my attacker off guard. The blade ran through its throat, opening the back of the skull and spearing the brain on its shaft.
I rolled to my knees. Gabriel reached out and helped me to my feet.
“He’s gone, Brett. That’s not good.”
“ I know, Gabe. I know…”
When a human spirit is released by a Guardian such as myself, the body becomes an empty husk and the spirit is at peace. When a vampire or Dark One drains a human of its blood, it becomes a revenant and balances on the edge between the evil form of their kind and the celestial breed of ours. But if a human gives up the spirit from within Otherworld, the physical host is opened wide to possession and transformation. And within Otherworld there are many who would welcome a chance to play god in the act of creation.
I turned toward the center of campus. “Jesse!”
As the cops raced into the parking lot, I took flight..even as my eyes started to heal and my brain fought for clarity.