“No. You’re not real. Not buying it.”
Over the past few months, I’d lived and seen through so much that I was willing to believe anything. But that also meant believing in an infinite number of ways something like this wasn’t really happening.
“What’s not to believe?” the man I watched jump into Hell casually said, sitting down on a bar stool. “Maybe I used a spell to go into Shay’s soul as I jumped into that portal. Or maybe Abraham freed me and put me here to block anyone from doing what you’re attempting.” From one moment to the next, and open bottle of beer appeared in his hand. “Like you’re thinking right now, the possibilities are endless.” He chugged back the beer.
Takato, of whatever this was looking like him, was inside my head. Did that mean Shay could see inside my head? Or was he some kind of defense mechanism created by Abraham? If it was the latter, maybe I could get her to show herself by thinking about something that would enrage her. Like...screwing Carter maybe?
No, no that was too gross to even think about for a second.
“Aren’t you a little young to be drinking?” I asked playfully, deciding to see what further information I could get out of this fake.
He put his bottle down and said, “That’s rich coming from you.”
“True,” I said nodding my head. I smirked. “Of course I’m not too sure how Takato would know about my drinking habits.”
“Like you thought, I’m in your head,” he matched my smirk.
Eve hadn’t elaborated on how time worked in here. If it was passing in real time or this was happening in an instant, I had no idea. But if it was the former, the longer I was in here, the greater a chance there was Carter was going to get killed.
“Okay, let’s say you are who you say you are,” I said, getting off the stool. “Can you take me to Shay?”
“Of course I could,” he replied, his face not changing. “But why would I do that? In case you forgot, I kinda hate you.”
It was strange to see. He clearly had the rightful bile Takato would have toward me, but his demeanor was more remeanicistent of the humorous, heroic man who’d stepped up to help me when we’d first met, and not the sad and rage filled one he’d become.
“You know where we are right now?” Takato asked, turned away from me.
“You mean besides inside Shay’s soul?” I stood up. “I don’t know, one of the many roach infested bars I imagine she patrons?”
“Are there roaches?” He turned his head half way around. “Hadn’t noticed.”
It had taken me an oddly long time to notice what he was wearing, though given I’d had a hard time looking away from his face, it wasn’t too weird. He had on a sky blue button-down shirt with a beige sweater vest over it, along with slacks and loafers.
The look was only adequate, but if this was really cooked up by Shay’s mind, I was impressed.
Takato nodded his head toward the massive cage.
“You’re right about this being a bar Shay comes to,” he started. “It’s her favorite. Not for the drinks or the atmosphere, as I’m sure you could tell, but because of what this place offers: cage matches.” As he said the last two words, he turned around and did jazz hands.
“She comes here to fight,” I said.
“How astute,” he mocked, suddenly inside the cage. “You two fought once, right? How’d that go?”
What were they aiming for here? Did Shay just want to play head games with me? Takato obviously already knew the answer to his question.
Need to pick up the pace.
“I lost,” I said flatly, teleporting into the cage a few feet away from Takato.
“Of course you did,” he paced around. “She thinks of herself as one of the best martial artists in the world. Don’t know if that’s true or not, but she’s definitely very skilled. And that’s why she comes here.” He was going somewhere with this, meaning it was best to just let him continue and get to his point. “Demigods, demons and angels. People with privilege. The ones who can change the world. The ones who stand above others. A powerless, lower class woman just can’t compete with all that. But here? When she’s on more or less the same level as those she faces off against? Here she can shine. Beating down those around her to make her feel better about herself.”
My head felt a nasty bit of pain as someone struck me from behind, dropping me to the floor.
Looking up, I saw it was Shay, her pupils missing.
“Guess we have something in common after all.”
“Die!” I’d lost track of how many times he’d screamed that as he flailed me around.
Holding me by the ankle, Abraham repeatedly slammed me into the pavement face first, not giving me a moment to catch by breath. Lightning wasn’t coming out of me though. Just blood. Didn’t know why. Didn’t even know why I was still alive.
Carter Myers...let me free, Sarah moaned. You’re going to die.
“And you with me,” I said softly under my breath.
With a switch of his hand placement, Abraham went from holding me by the ankle to holding me by the neck, the feeling of his cold palm even greater.
“Finish it,” I spat out, closing my eyes.
“Even if it is in vein, I will still do my best to defend this world,” he said, returning his other arm to his blade form. “Farewell”.
I braced myself for death, but was instead met with just a cut to my side.
“Did...did you miss?” I croaked, opening one eye.
Sneering, he stabbed at me again, but again, only cut me, this time on the other side of my chest.
“Raah!” he shouted, throwing me down into the snow covered ground, the color of my blood clashing against the white snow. “What is the matter? Why can’t I…” he paused. “No, no I should have noticed. She couldn’t have…” He stomped on my stomach. “That damn telepath played me again!”
“Ray okay in there? Tell me she’s okay in there!”
“Someone please shut him up,” Eve groaned, her eyes and mouth clenched shut. “Bad enough I have deal with Carter’s screams.”
As if on cue, Carter belted out another expression of agony.
Obviously I wanted to help the kid, but waiting for Raina and Shay was the only way I could do that right now.
Eve kept a hand on both Raina and Shay’s bodies, both of which had their eyes bulged open and were slightly shaking. Was it unsettling? Yeah. Did I still not trust this magic crap at all? Completely so. But like with so many other things, this was our only option.
As Olivia punched Sammy in the face, knocking him to the floor, I heard knocking sound from outside.
“Damn,” Olivia said. “They’re fast. I didn’t even sense them till they were already here.”
“Sense who?” I asked.
“Hello, hello, hello!” Gordon cheerfully exclaimed, walking into the room with Salaran.
Sneering, I turned my attention from Shay to them. Olivia and Sammy turned to them as well, the latter standing up and rubbing his jaw.
“Malcolm,” she replied in turn.
“Creeps,” Sammy spat.
“Gordon!” he screamed himself, lifting his arms into the air.
I didn’t know these two all that well, but from what I’d seen first hand and heard about them otherwise, despite the loyalty they had to Abraham,I remained confident that they were good people.
That was just about the only reason I wasn’t terrified they were here. Because if they wanted to kill us, there would be absolutely nothing we could do.
“If you’re all done, why are you two here?” Olivia asked. “You don’t seem to have any desire to harm us.”
“We don’t have to tell you anything,” Salaran growled.
All three of us stared at Gordon.
“We were outside watching Abraham beat up Carter, but since that got boring quickly, we decided to come in here when Salaran smelled magic going on.”
“Hmph,” Salaran turned her head away.
I’d gotten a half-decent grip on her, but I did want to find out more about Salaran once this was over. I wasn’t sure why, but I felt like I could help her through a lot of pain.
Not that that was close to being my top priority right now.
“What I want to know is what’s going on over there,” Gordon commented, looking over at the others.
“And why should we tell you anything?” Sammy asked, looking like he wanted to get up in Gordon’s face, but even he knew that Gordon could smack him across the state if he wanted to.
He levitated himself off the floor, looking over at Shay and the others.
“What’s happening to Raina?!” he asked with wide eyes, flying right over to her.
“Eve sent her into Shay’s soul to try and save her,” I answered, the rest of us, save Salaran, walking closer.
Upon the mention of her name, Eve shot all of us the evil eye, out conversation clearly not doing her concentration any favors.
“But that’s really dangerous!” Gordon panicked.
“Why do you even care?” Sammy questioned. “Your boyfriend is the one who did this to Shay in the first place.”
“Duh! I care because Joey Bro cared about her!”
Olivia and I exchanged a look.
“What did you just say?” I scowled.
“That Joey Bro cared about…”
“I heard you!” I screamed, getting closer to him. “I’ve given you the benefit of the doubt that you’re not that bad a guy, but you do not get to call Joey your bro.”
“Calm down,” Olivia said softly.
“No!” I shouted back at her.
“I know what you must think, but Joey and I really did become friends. He called me his bro. Raina was there. She watched it all”
“And I watched your boyfriend break his neck!”
The room became silent, Gordon hanging his head low. Sammy and Olivia’s eyes were on me as I exhaled.
Salaran stepped forward and placed a hand on Gordon’s shoulder.
“We’re sorry,” she said.
I wanted to punch him so badly. But I’d only hurt my hand in the process.
Rumbling came from the couch, Raina and Shay’s bodies shaking much faster and harder than they had been.
“Shay!” I screamed, turning my attention to where it needed to be. “Eve, what’s going on in there?”
Eve opened her eyes, where in place of her normal blue pearls, random images were appearing, each one only lasting for an instant.
“Something’s gone very wrong.”