He grew to wish he could extend his ability to heal. Though it had taken most of the night, Graeme had healed without any problems. Two days later and he felt back to normal; he didn’t even notice the scars. Gabriel, however, had rapidly spiraled once she’d gotten him as patched up as she could. He’d had to finish wrapping his own ribs because her hands had simply fallen, useless, to her knees as she nodded off. It took her a full twenty-four hours to regain her strength enough for them to move on to the next hotel.
They had formulated a sort of plan. Hasty and reckless, but definitely not as suicidal as some of their alternatives. Their first goal was to get information, and in order to do that, they needed demons to interrogate. Graeme felt as if they’d finally gotten through the rough first lap; they were well oiled and in tune now.
He wasn’t necessarily wrong. Their first summoning took place at dawn, because the early morning light would weaken greater demons. It wouldn’t make them defenseless by any stretch, but any lessening of demonic power would be a boon for the two of them. They’d researched a few new techniques only to find that most of their ideas were previously untested; Gabriel was nervous about this, her fingers shivered as she traced the pentagram into the carpet fibers, the sticky demon blood – a viscous, rust color – staining her fingers up to the knuckles. Her lips formed words he couldn’t hear, but he knew in his bones the summoning spell she cast was not for the same caliber of demons they’d summoned before. The air grew chilly, even though the thermostat on the environmental control read mid-seventies. Graeme watched it drop. Seventy, sixty-five, sixty.
Gabriel’s hair fell forward, shrouding her features. He wanted to see her clearly, he wanted to observe every small trace of existence on her face so as to not miss anything. So often, she knew more than he did and he had determined one of the best ways to sense an absence of information on his side was by watching her eyes. She couldn’t help it when they gave her away.
With the pentagram completed, she set aside the jar of demon blood with an impressive amount of disgust for her gentle face. He offered her a wet towel from the bathroom and she cleaned off her hands as much as she could. The ruined rag she threw in the trash.
Pulling a large jar from the closet where they’d stashed most of their supplies, he set it down next to the pentagram. The organ floating inside, which had been a bright, fleshy red when he’d put it in, had turned nearly black. Gabriel handed him one of her knives, it glistened a pure, untouched silver in the golden light of dawn. He hesitated only briefly before opening the jar, knowing the foul stench it would release would make them both feel sick to their stomachs.
He was correct. The odor wafted out from the opening and saturated the entire room immediately. Worse than rotten eggs mingled with a decomposing corpse, the smell was so strong Gabriel began heaving into one of the small trash cans by the dresser. Graeme couldn’t fault her, the urge was strong in his stomach too but he pushed it down, choking back the flood of saliva in his mouth. Before he lost his nerve, he reached his hand into the murky, foul liquid; the jar was enormous to compensate for the dramatically oversized demon heart, and he had to sink his whole forearm in up to the elbow before he could get a grip on it.
“Graeme,” she said, from somewhere behind him. He didn’t dare turn around, didn’t dare risk anything that might cause his already perturbed stomach to revolt. “You can’t do this. It might not even work.”
He shook his head with deliberate slowness. “But it might. It’s worth it if it does.”
She made to speak again but had to stop in order to choke back another bout of nausea. “In theory,” she said, finally, but he could tell she’d resigned to it. He was going to do what he was going to do.
“It’s time,” he said, glancing up to the window as the sun crested the mountains beyond and spilled bright light onto the pentagram on the floor. “Are you ready?”
Graeme pulled the heart out of the jar as Gabriel began the chant. He couldn’t help but think that her voice was beautiful, even when reciting demonic chants. Compulsively, he wished he were drunk. It would make this whole thing a lot easier – at least, it would make his upcoming part much easier.
With absolute will power, he bit into the heart and the blood inundated his mouth, spilled down his chin. It tasted worse than it smelled – which was impressive, even as he choked on the mouthful of fleshy organ. The meat of it was tough and slimy. He swallowed it whole, knowing that there was no way he could bring himself to chew it, and even then, the lump hung in his throat like it was as reluctant to go down as he was to force it. A riot sprang to life in his stomach, the acid fighting valiantly to absorb the rotten meal he was shoving down into it. Revolting bite after revolting bite, he swallowed it down. It left a trail of film as it went down, like a river of snot he couldn’t quite swallow or spit up all the way. The blood was rank and putrid, like curdled milk with bad eggs all blended up. The arteries were soured and tasted like he was trying to ingest condoms coated in cream that had been allowed to spoil.