“So, ahh…how you kids holding up?” Cross asked nervously. Comforting children…this was not her department. Comforting anybody wasn’t her forte to begin with. Go out and catch the bad guys, sure. Avenge the fallen, no problem. But emotionally supporting a couple of kids? This was the type of thing she usually delegated to somebody else.
“I’m okay.” Amber said in a small voice that said she very much wasn’t. Scott, meanwhile, was almost beside himself.
“…who do they take me for?! I mean, yeah I can’t throw fireballs or turn knives into snake monsters, but I can resurrect the dead! Only necromancy can do that! Urg.” He put his head between his knees and breathed deeply to avoid hyperventilating. “Crap. This is not good. I can’t do this. What made me think I could stop them? I’m gonna fry. I’m gonna get everyone fried…” Amber began to sniffle again. Between her bawling her eyes out every five minutes and Scott’s incessant stream of consciousness muttering, Cross was at the end of her rope. Amber began sobbing.
“Lousy, rotten, no good magic books, why the hell does she have one…this is nuts. The daemons are going to invade, and I can’t stop it…”
“Enough!” Cross roared, and slammed on the brakes. They both stared at her. “I have had it with this crap! I do not tolerate this within my officers, I will not tolerate it from you two!” They leaned back and tried to make themselves smaller.
“But-” Scott started.
“No.” Cross cut him off with a glare, then took a breath to collect herself. “Listen, I know this is a tough situation. If I had any choice at all, you wouldn’t be involved in this. But as it stands, you’re the only two I can really count on right now, so I need you to focus and have your breakdowns later.
“Amber.” The ghost girl flinched when Cross turned to her, and she tried to soften her gaze. “Your friend betrayed you. That’s terrible, and I sympathize. But she did more than that. She’s betraying humanity, and she needs to be stopped. I need you to be brave and stand up to her, for us and yourself. Hell, you get to avenge your own death. If that’s no motivation, I don’t know what is.”
“But…she was my best friend.” Amber said sorrowfully.
“So?” Cross raised an eyebrow. “Just because you’ve lost your friends now doesn’t mean you’ll never make any more. You’re in high school. I forgot half of my old friends at our reunion. Don’t treat losing your friends like the end of the world. Having people you can count on is great, yeah, you couldn’t get through life without ‘em. But if they were the sole reason for your existence…that’s not fair to them. Or you. Besides, you’ve still got me and this guy pulling for you.” she said, pointing a thumb at Scott. Amber smiled softly.
“Yeah. I guess I couldn’t ask for more than that.”
“And you.” Cross rounded on Scott. “Calm down. It’s not your fault this’s happening. You need to pull it together and work with us so we can get through this. We can do this. Listen, we’re low on options at this point. Do you know what a bug-out bag is?” He sullenly shook his head. “It’s a bag that Special Forces agents have, containing everything they need to survive on the run for awhile. I want you to go home and get one ready. Pack everything you’ll think you need, nothing more: extra pair of clothes, toothbrush, any cash you can get together, anything you need for your magic stuff. Keep your cell phone with you, but I can get you a new one, they can be tracked. If worst comes to worst and we fail-” her knuckles went white on the steering wheel “-we need to get out. The girls don’t seem like they want to hurt the populace, so the people who know the most about this need to be able to inform others about the situation, and you’re the only one who can actually prove this stuff really exists. I don’t see them gunning for us tonight, so you should try to get some rest now, while you can. I know it’ll hurt to say goodbye to your family, but if you want to save them you’ll do what it takes. I can let you guys stay at my place in Nahumville, but we’ll have to scram soon. Unless you think we have a chance at stopping them here?” she asked, hoping against hope he had a spell to make it all better.
“You don’t understand!” he exploded, nearly tearing his hair out. ”Here, there, it doesn’t matter! If the ritual goes down and a daemon rises, there won’t be anywhere to run! Daemons will pour in through the cracks of reality! The army might be able to contain them, but good luck trying to get them here in time! And that’s no guarantee in the first place!” he shouted, nearly in tears from frustration.
“Why? What can the daemons do?” Cross asked calmly, letting him vent.
“Hah! Glad you asked! Daemons who can get into this dimension aren’t much to write home about, kind of like an angry raccoon. Most are small, see? Like a foot tall. But if the bigger ones are allowed to fully cross over and manifest? For one thing, they’re gestalt entities. Shapeshifters. Any form you can think of, including your loved ones. They can possess corpses, too. And with enhanced strength and durability, they can make a lot of those. They’re also supposed to be able to use magic, but I don’t think they have much power for it, save the archlords. Here, see for yourself.” he dug in his bag and pulled out the Necronomicon, flipping to a page concerning daemons, with a large, red, horned humanoid illustration. He handed the book to her, and Amber peered over her shoulder. They browsed the page, and Cross started to flip through the pages, frowning.
“Kid…how do you expect me to read this? This’s in ancient Sumerian or something.”
“Huh?” Scott said, puzzled. “Really?”
“Yeah. I can’t make heads or tails of it. It’s all chickenscratch.” Amber confirmed. He leaned over to check.
“It’s perfectly legible to me.”
“In what language?” Cross asked, suspicious.
“English?” Both Cross and Ambers’ eyes met.
“Scott, think carefully,” Amber said slowly. “How can you read this in a language that hasn’t been invented yet?” He blinked, realizing she was right.
“Y’know, I never actually thought about that.” he said, starting to get weirded out.
“I guess it’s just a magic thig.” Cross said dubiously, rubbing the pages. “And what is this made of? It doesn’t feel like paper.”
“Oh, the pages are made from human skin.” Scott said absently. Cross yelped and tossed the book back to him. “Anyway,” he said, double-checking the page. “Daemons don’t normally use magic spells, their power’s usually the only thing that’s keeping the pressure of reality from squeezing them back out again. But if the ritual goes off correctly, then that won’t be too much of an issue.”
“I see.” Cross said, a sour look on her face. “And that’s what that girl wants?”
“Maybe. Maybe not. I know what the daemons want, I don’t know what kind of deal she made. We know she wants to be queen of the world, but a portal for the daemons could either help or hinder that.” Scott said, growing more irritable.
“Right.” Cross leaned back and started driving again. “So it’s best to stop it now at ground zero. Hrmm. I have a few friends over in the Nahumville precinct who owe me some favors, I bet I could get them to help me out. If their help will be of any use. Rrrg.” She rubbed her temples. I’d say it’d be another sleepless night, but we’ve had too many of those and we both need rest. I’ll pick you up in the morning on the way to school. We’ve got bigger problems than skipping class.”
“Right.” Scott said sullenly. Amber gave him a worried glance.
Soon they had arrived at his house again, and Cross let them out a block away as usual. Scott climbed the rope up to his room in silence, then sat down on his bed in the dark and put his head in his hands.
“Scott?” Amber said softly.
“What?” he said without looking up.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah.” he said woodenly. He got up and turned on the light. “Guess I should get started on that bag.” He grabbed his book bag and started shoving clothes in, tearing opening his closet, his movements becoming jerkier and rougher as he started ripping his sock drawer apart. He violently threw a shirt at the bag but missed, and when he bent down to get it he smacked his head against the drawer. "Aaah!" He hissed in pain and kicked it in anger.
"Scott, chill. There's no need to get so worked up." Amber said, flinching away. She'd never seen him lose his cool like this.
"Right. Yeah. No prob." he said, rubbing his head. He glared at the bag. Amber drifted over and put her hands on his shoulders, forcing him to look at her.
"Scott. Calm down and tell me what's wrong." she said firmly.
"Wrong? Wrong? Why don't you tell me what's right?!" he nearly shouted, remembering to keep his voice down at the last minute. "There's a freaking coven of witches out there who've mind controlled the city's officials, they've got super-strong magical powers that are way more versatile than mine, and they're one step away from bringing a daemon army down on our heads! They probably have the final heart already! And we've only got three people who know what's going on, and two of them don't seem to get how bad all this is! I am talking the end of freaking days, and no one knows!" he said, throwing his hands in the air and pacing nervously. "I've read about their home dimension, its hell! Literally! Nightmares beyond description, horrors beyond comprehension! If they come through, you can kiss peace and safety goodbye! We're doomed! Don't you get it? Doomed!"
Amber stared at him coolly. She had only known him for a few days, but she had learned much about him during that time, and her soul was linked to his. She could tell when he was holding something back.
"And? And!?" He stopped pacing and stared at her, trembling and red faced. She didn't know whether he was going to shout or cry. "And...I...I can't stop it." he said in a small voice, finally breaking. "The Necronomicon doesn't have a spell to reverse this, and I...I don't have a plan. I don't have a clue what to do. Everyone expects me to come up with something, but I'm drawing a blank! I can't do everything, you know!" he said, exasperated, resuming his pacing in a circle. He felt like the walls were closing in on him.
"I know. But you aren't alone. We can figure something out together." Amber said, trying to be reassuring. Scott was muttering to himself, barely listening.
"Gotta get a plan...gotta stop the witches...gotta stop the daemons...gotta...gotta..." He started hyperventilating. "I gotta...gotta..." His eyes darted around the room. "Gotta...get out of here." His eyes landed on the rope in the window, offering escape. "Yeah. Gotta get out of here!" He quickly scribbled a note on his desk and taped it to the other side of his door.
"Scott?" Amber said, but he paid her no heed. The only thing he could focus on was escape. He opened the window. "Scott! Where are you going?"
"Don't know. Don't care." he said, clipped. "But anywhere's better than here. Gotta get out, least for awhile."
"But, you need to rest! We have to meet Detective Cross in the morning. You can't just take off-"
"Shut up!" he cried, nearly in tears. "I just-I just can't do this! Just leave me alone!"
"Fine." Amber said, starting to tear up herself. "But I'm coming with you." Scott froze in terror. Amber, the ghost girl he'd promised...the world ending on Halloween...Amber, such a lively and friendly girl despite being deceased. Having her around for one more moment, a constant reminder...it was too much for him to take.
"Arg! Don't you listen? I said I'm getting out of here! God, I wish I'd never met you! Don't follow me!" The last words he said weren’t a suggestion. They were an absolute order, magically enforced by the spell binding their souls. She tried to move to him, but was forced to obey. She could only reach a futile hand out at his back. He swung himself quickly out of the window, so he couldn't see the hurt in her eyes.
He ran, ran away from the problems, ran away from his betrayal, ran from the ghost girl who once again was shedding spectral tears.
"Scott..." she said mournfully, watching him disappear into the night.