Devil Cares: Chapter Twenty

June 30, 2008 at 4:50 pm (Devil Cares) ()

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It was like the world hiccupped, Wes decided, like it had been caught in the hitch between breaths. Sometime in the half-seconds between when Kimber had touched the knob and when he’d turned it, the woods around them had shifted. There was no flash of light, no otherworldly wind, nothing at all to indicate something wasn’t right. One minute they’d been standing in the rain before an impossible door, and the next they were in a long gray hallway.
Reflexively, the brothers turned from the door to take in their new surroundings. Their heads had barely moved when Kimber’s eyes widened.
“No!” He swirled back toward the door. It was gone. “Damn it, I know better than that.”
Without the door, the hallway stretched on in both directions. Both walls and ceiling were a misty gray. The carpet was a bit darker, and was the thin, uncomfortable kind used in office buildings. Both walls were bare. There weren’t any light fixtures, but enough light to see by was coming from somewhere.
“Where are we?” Wes asked as he looked around.
Despite the chill that crept down his spine, his whole body was buzzing with excitement. This was it. He was actually on a case.
“Still in the woods, for all we know,” growled Kimber, his anger at himself very clear. “Succubae have powers of illusion, remember? Clearly, we’re caught inside one such deception.
Examining their surroundings more closely, Wes’s eyes were wary. “I don’t know, this seems more than an illusion.”
Kimber shrugged. “I guess our succubus knows what she’s doing.”
Wes’s voice was soft as that statement sank in. “What do we do?”
Swinging his backpack down off his shoulders, Barrett suggested, “Maybe we should pop off a round of rock salt—”
“No way, we have no idea what that would do to us,” Kimber said, alarmed.
“Us?” Wes looked around at their apparently false surroundings. “Why would firing some salt at the wall do anything to us?”
“We don’t know what’s happening here,” Kimber explained, “we have no way of knowing just how we’re caught inside this illusion. What if we’re literally inside of it? If we shatter the illusion, maybe we’ll disappear with it.”
Thoughtfully, Wes said, “Maybe you should pull out those flowers now. You said succubuses respond to them?”
“Succubae,” Kimber corrected absently as he dug around in his attaché.
Before they’d left the house, Wesson had watched as Kimber had wrapped a few bright red poppies and some white rose petals in butcher paper.
As his brother withdrew this same small package, Wes asked him, “What do you do with them?”
“Hell if I know,” Kimber said, and tossed a handful of the flowers into the air.
All three brothers watched as the mix of poppies and roses drifted to the floor. Right as the last petal lay still on the floor a loud click echoed down the hallway. It was the sound a door made as it closed.
“Look down there,” Barrett said. He pointed with the hand that still held his flashlight.
Down the hall behind them, or at least behind where they had been when they’d been in the woods, another door had appeared. This one was different than the one that had led them to this hallway. Wes noticed that this door was much slimmer than the old one had been, like it would have fit in a normal household door frame.
“You think it’s a trap?” Wes asked, heart racing. Whether his adrenaline came from fear or excitement was anyone’s guess.
“Probably,” Kimber answered grimly, “but what choice do we have?”
Almost at the same time they all started to walk. The hallway was not very big so after a few minutes of stumbling into each other they walked single file. Wes, Kimber, Barrett.
For the first few minutes, Wes thought their lack of progress was only in his mind. The hall is way frickin’ long, he thought, so it just looks like we’re not getting anywhere. Pretty soon it became impossible to keep up that thought. The gray hallway stretched on and on, and no matter how much they walked they never made any progress.
“Guys,” Wes groused, “this isn’t working.”
Angrily, Barrett threw his pack off his shoulders. “I’m shooting off a round, enough of this crap.”
“Barrett, no,” Kimber protested.
“Look, we’ve fallen into this trap so deep we might not climb out again.” Barrett’s vivid blue eyes never strayed from the shotgun as he loaded a cartridge. “Enough is enough.”
Kimber urged, “Barrett, listen to me. Whatever this succubus is doing to us, it’s more than just illusion. Remember your icon? It stopped glowing; normal illusion would not have caused that. I don’t know how she’s doing it, but this isn’t illusory. This is real.”
“So what do we do then?” Frustration clear in Barrett’s voice, he went on, “Look where your suggestions have gotten us so far. What brilliant idea do you propose next?”
Wes was impressed when Kimber didn’t fire back at Barrett. Very calmly, Kimber replied, “We opened that door of our own free will. We’re here under our own power, and because of that we have power. Everything we’ve done she’s reacted to.”
Kimber ticked things off on his fingers. “She brought us here when we opened the door. When we took our eyes off of it, it disappeared. The petals brought us another door. Our choice to be here gives us some power over this place.”
Scrubbing his face with his hand, Barrett asked, “How do you even know that’s true?”
“It’s just how these things work, Barrett,” was the reply. “Look, even if what I just said is wrong, she’s reacting to us anyway. If we make a move, she’ll make one back.”
What his brother was saying swam through the youngest Mossberg’s mind. He looked down the hallway at the door that hadn’t gotten any closer. Than he looked back down they way they’d came, his dark eyes narrowing thoughtfully.
“The door disappeared when we looked away from it,” Wes said slowly. “Can we make this door come closer by not looking at it?”
A smile came over Kimber’s face. “That’s exactly what we should do, and I was just about to suggest it myself. Everyone look at the floor and keep walking. If we can’t see the door, then maybe it’s right in front of us.”
Barrett looked at both of his brothers like they were crazy. “That doesn’t even make sense.”
“I don’t think it’s supposed to,” Wes said.
“Trust me, Barrett,” Kimber said, “it’ll work. Just look at the floor and picture that door in your head. Imagine it’s right in front of us.”
Cocking his shotgun, Barrett sighed. “Fine, but I’m keeping the salt ready just in case.”
It took them a few minutes to get into a rhythm where they weren’t bumping into each other. Walking with his head down wasn’t as easy as Wes thought it would be.
“Is everyone concentrating?” Kimber asked after a beat or two.
Barrett’s mumbled affirmative was drowned out when Wes answered in his normal voice. Wes heard Kimber’s voice from behind him.
“All right, let’s try this. Wes, reach out your hand and imagine the door is right in front of you.”
Keeping his gaze resolutely on the floor, Wes tried to keep the picture of the door clear in his mind. Carefully, he raised his right hand. With a deep breath he stretched out his hand…
…And touched only empty air.
“It’s not there,” Wes said darkly. “it didn’t work.”
“Damn,” Kimber breathed, “We’ll just have to try again.”
“Oh, come on, Kimber,” came Barrett’s voice from the back of the line, “this is ridiculous. It’s obviously not working, let’s open up on this God-forsaken place and get the hell out.”
Ice filled the corridor as Kimber replied, “Goddamnit, Barrett, your negativity could be the reason this keeps failing—”
“Guys,” Wes broke in before the argument could get worse, “I have an idea.”
For a few minutes the tension was like a physical force in the cramped, gray hallway. The frigidity of Kimber’s resolve clashed against the electric tingle of Barrett’s frustration. But then the tension eased with a sigh from Kimber.
“What’s your idea, Wes?”
Wetting his lips, Wes said, “You and Barrett close your eyes and picture the door in your minds. You don’t have to imagine it in front of you, just picture it. Barrett’s hand will be on your shoulder, yours will be on mine, and I’ll lead us forward.”
“It could work,” Kimber mused.
There was a loud sigh from the back.
“Barrett, please” Wes said, “just try this okay? If it doesn’t work you can blow the hell out of this place.”
“Watch your mouth,” Kimber said.
“Well, Barrett?” asked Wes.
Another heavy, frustrated sigh came, but finally Barrett responded, “Okay, fine. We’ll try this once, and only once. If it doesn’t work I’m shooting this hall up until I’m out of rounds.”
“If this doesn’t work, I’ll help you,” Kimber offered. “Everyone look up and take one last look at the door. Really imprint it in your mind.”
The door was still down at the end of the hall, and Wes took in all the details one last time. He imagined a wood cutter burning the details into his brain. This must have helped because when he closed his eyes for a few minutes he could picture it much more clearly. Apparently Barrett had placed his hand on Kimber’s shoulder because just then Kimber’s hand rested on Wes’s shoulder.
“You guys ready?” Wes tossed backward.
“Yes,” Kimber said, and Barrett answered, “Yeah.”
Taking a deep breath, Wes lowered his gaze back to the floor. He started walking pretty slowly, giving his brothers time to adjust to walking in darkness. When he heard less stumbling behind him he picked up the pace a little.
It’s right in front of me, Wes thought as he stared at the gray carpet, if I can’t see it, then it’s right in front of me.
He repeated this over and over again to himself, until those words and the image of the door were connected in his mind. Then he repeated it until those words and the image of the door were the only thing in his mind. For just a second he closed his eyes to conjure up the details of the door more firmly.
Once again he raised his hand, and when he extended it outward he felt the cool brush of a metal handle.
Grinning triumphantly, Wes looked up at the door. Before he could say anything to his brothers he felt the prickle of an electric surge in the hallway, and with the suddenness of a blink all the lights went out. He stumbled in surprised, letting out a sound as he crashed into the wall. Barrett didn’t curse, Kimber didn’t ask him if he was okay.
It was then that he realized he was alone in the darkness.
“Damn it, what the hell happened?” Barrett felt along the wall with one hand, the other in front of him trying to find his brothers.
“I don’t know,” came Kimber’s cool voice from somewhere in front of him. “I felt something like the shock of static and when I opened my eyes everything was dark.”
“Wes, did you find the door?” Barrett peered up ahead, but the hallway was completely black.
“Wes?”
“Barrett,” Kimber’s voice held a genuine thread of panic, “Barrett, he’s gone.”
Swearing again, Barrett pressed forward, trying to feel the solidness of Kimber’s body in front of him. “What happened to him?
“Kimber?
“Hello?
“Aw, hell.”


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2 Comments

  1. earthyworthy said,

    This is positively bone-chilling. Where did Wes go?

  2. Zappaz said,

    Well, shit. This is bad. I wonder how they’ll get themselves out of this one.

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