“Stop!” I said. “I don’t want to do this anymore!”
“Are you sure you want to do this, Jack?” Gabe asked.
My mouth formed around each of Jack’s words. “Are you sure it’s her, Gabe?” He paused for Gabe’s answer, and then continued, “Then you know the answer.” I shook my head from side to side as I spoke along with him, copying him like a toddler, angry and snide.
A ferocious rage overtook me, and I grabbed the book from Jack’s hands.
Time stopped. Several times before, I had attempted to physical y interrupt, and failed. Jack, Gabe, and the book were always very real, but when I tried to interfere, they were the consistency of a hologram. This time the book was in my hands.
Gabe’s head turned up in quick motion to face me, his eyes a solid black. “Ars Notoria,” he whispered in a voice not his own.
The change of events frightened me. I stumbled back, away from my father and his friend. They were frozen in time like everything else in the room. Even the moonlit dust motes were hanging motionless in the air, but I could hear the screeches of the demons as they approached.
The dimensions of the room stretched, and the wood groaned and creaked. As I worked to keep my feet beneath me, I gripped the book tighter in my hands. The possibility of taking it back with me crossed my mind. It was the only reason I would be able to take it from Gabe.
I looked to the large window and closed my eyes. “It’s just a dream,” I said softly, confident the fal would wake me up. Opening my eyes with the Naissance de Demoniac in my hands wouldn’t be the most impossible thing that had ever happened to me.
In a ful sprint, I bound for the window, bracing myself to leap through the glass and into the night, but before I could, a searing pain spread throughout my hands. I abruptly stopped and threw the book to the ground. Although the leather no longer touched my skin, the parts of my fingers and palms that had been in direct contact with the binding were charred and smoldering. My hands shook violently as the burns traveled up my arms, and I wailed at the intense heat spreading throughout my body; it was as if I were on fire. The sensation was unlike anything I had experienced before, but I couldn’t imagine anything more excruciating.
The sound emanating from my throat didn’t sound like my own as I protested the torture consuming me. Any moment the demons would come, and I would beg them for death.
A hole opened up beneath me and I fel . In that instant the pain was gone, and a soft, cool mattress was beneath me. Jerking to a sitting position, I held my arms in front of me. They were peach and unblemished.
Jared and Bex stood next to the bed with terror in their eyes.
“She was at least four feet above the bed!” Bex said, his eyes wide. “Has that happened before?”
“No,” Jared said, his expression exponential y more intense than the agonized look I had been accustomed to waking up to. He was afraid.
“Above the bed?” I asked, confused.
Bex sat on the bed and watched me for a moment, then took the sheet and wiped the sweat from my hairline. “You were seriously hovering! It was something straight out of the Exorcist!”
I hoped for one moment that Bex was being Bex, trying to make light of the situation. Gauging the storms in Jared’s eyes, it was true.
“How is that even possible? What does that mean?” I said, frightened.
Jared looked away.
Bex tugged lightly on my shirt. “Same dream?”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “I was angry…so angry that I took the book from them. It was in my hands.”
“You’ve tried that before and your hands went right through it.” Jared said, his eyes on the floor.
“Not this time. I was so damn mad that I screamed at them, and then grabbed the book. And then Gabe…he looked at me.”
Jared knelt beside me, then. I touched his face. He was desperate for guidance from his father. “It wasn’t him,” I warned. “His eyes were solid black. Like Shax’s.”
Bex shook his head. “How can that be? If it were d— them I would have known. The whole time you were stretched out…suspended…there were none.
“Bex,” Jared warned.
“Not a single one,” Bex continued, lost in thought. “They crowd Mom’s house more than that.”
“None?” Jared asked. Bex nodded and Jared stood up again, and then began to pace. Final y, he spoke, “Something’s wrong.”
“But you can feel them, too,” I said to Jared. His question to Bex puzzled me.
“I can. Bex is more tuned-in to their presence—more so than any hybrid. His sensitivity to them rivals Samuel’s.”
“Sometimes I can tel when they’re even thinking about coming around,” Bex added.
Bex’s frown instantly alarmed me. My mind raced over every second of the dream, trying to think of something that might help. I wasn’t sure why they were so disturbed, but for Bex in particular, uncertainty was not something they handled wel .
“Ars Notes something,” I said.
Jared’s face transformed from worry to anger. “What?”
I searched my memories again. “Gabe said ‘Ars Notary’ or ‘Ars Notes’…something like that.”
Bex looked to his older brother. “Ars Notoria.”
“That’s it!” I said. “What does it mean?”
Jared sat on the edge of the bed and tenderly touched the sides of my jaw, looking into my eyes. “It means we’re going to have to get a Naissance de Demoniac. And not just any bible. Shax’s. My father is trying to tel us something.”
My brows pushed together. “What are you saying?”
“It’s not demons doing this to you,” Bex said, seeming vexed.
“That leaves one thing,” Jared said.
“You think it’s Gabe,” I said, horrified.
Jared pul ed me closer, and then leaned his cheek against my hair. “We need that book.”
Coffee shop meetings stopped. Attending bal games ceased. My chair at study group had been fil ed due to my persistent absences. The only friend from school that I kept in contact with was Beth, and that was only because she was my assistant at Titan.
Fielding her constant questions about my behavior was exasperating, but her help had become indispensable. The dreams were a nightly event, and the sleep deprivation wore on me so much that half of the time I needed Beth to remind me what day it was.