The sound of rain pelting the windows brought Kate back into consciousness. She lifted her head groggily. Then she remembered. About to panic, Kate jerked upright.Where am I? She recognized the worn sofa and coffee table. Her biology textbook still lay open where she had last left it. I’m home. Kate jumped up and ran to the kitchen phone. The police station’s number was on speed dial for emergencies. Her mother was friends with the sheriff. The operator patched her through to Sheriff Delaney’s office. Luckily he was still at the station.
“Delaney,” a disinterested voice answered.
“Hey Sheriff Delaney, this is Kate, Kate Lane.”
“Hey there, Kate. How’s it going, kiddo?”
“Well, I actually needed to ask about something.”
“Have you got any calls from Francesco’s restaurant this evening?”
“Not to my knowledge. Why, did you see something happen up there, kid?”
“Well, not exactly. There were loud noises in the kitchen and then the lights went out. I left before I could see anything. I thought maybe someone had called you guys.”
“Like I said, no one here has been notified. Are you okay, kid? You sound upset.”
“No, I’m fine. I was just worried, that’s all.”
“Okay, well, I’ll let you know if I hear anything, if that’ll make you feel better,” Delaney offered.
“No problem, kid. Tell your mama I said hello. Bye now.”
Kate hung up the phone slowly. Did I dream all this up? Wait, my car! Kate ran upstairs and looked out her bedroom window. There it was. Her car was parked in its usual spot. Kate ran downstairs to check all the locks on the doors. They were all locked, dead bolted from the inside. Taking the stairs two at a time, she darted to her room. Stripping as quickly as she could, Kate grabbed her blue jeans and a sweater from her closet. She dressed quickly and then picked up the phone on her bed stand. Elise’s number was on speed dial too. She waited impatiently for her friend to pick up.
“Hey, Kate,” Elise answered brightly, “You’re home early.”
“Elise, can you come get me?” Kate asked pleadingly.
“Of course. Kate, are you okay? Did something happen with Aidan?”
“I’ll explain later. I just need you to come get me”
“Okay, I’m on my way. I’ll honk when I’m pulling up.”
“Just be careful, Elise. It’s pouring outside.”
Kate pulled her old backpack out of the closet. It was beat up from four years use at Kate’s high school. Kate stuffed a few shirts, underwear, and an extra pair of jeans inside and zipped it closed. She didn’t bother packing toiletries. She knew Elise had enough for an army at her house. It would take Elise fifteen minutes to get there, so Kate tried calling her mom again. Dammit, Kate muttered. It went straight to voice mail. She left her mother a message to call her as soon as she could. She tried not to sound agitated. Kate knew her mother would be frantic if she thought something was wrong. Something is wrong, Kate tried to convince herself.
Kate walked down the stairs, slowly this time, trying to recount the events of the evening. How did I get home? Where is Aidan? Where are my shoes? What the hell is going on? Kate wasn’t one to curse, but she felt she had just cause tonight. Nothing added up. Nothing made sense.I can’t be losing my mind. I’m way too young for that.
The sound of a car horn interrupted Kate’s ponderings. Grabbing her backpack, Kate rushed out the door and into the rain. Elise sat behind the steering wheel with an anxious look on her face as Kate got into the car. Without a word, Elise put the car in reverse and backed out of the driveway.
“Thanks for coming to get me,” Kate said, out of breath.
“Now will you tell me what’s going on? I’ve been freaking out, Kate. Did he hurt you?”
“No, nothing like that, Elise.”
“Then what? You look like you’ve seen a ghost, Kate. What happened?”
Kate didn’t know where to start, so she started at the beginning, when she had arrived at the restaurant. It took her three minutes flat to tell Elise everything. Elise was silent for a moment. She looked as though she was trying to absorb what Kate had just told her.
“So, what does that make Aidan?” Elise finally asked.
“What? What do you mean?”
“Is he an angel or a demon? He said that demons were chasing him, and his skin glowed, right?”
“Elise, listen to yourself. Do you actually believe this? I was hoping you would tell me that I’m crazy, or that I hit my head or something.”
“Kate, you’re not one for exaggeration or tall tales. Of course I believe you. Why wouldn’t I?
“Oh God, what does this mean? Kate muttered, putting her head in her hands.
“It means your boyfriend is either an angel or a demon. I’m guessing he’s an angel. Why else would he be running from demons? Demons don’t hunt each other, do they?”
“How would I know, Elise? I’m not exactly an expert on the supernatural. I haven’t been to church in years. All of that angel and demon talk just seemed like a story to keep kids in line. Now, I’m not sure what to think. Maybe I imagined the whole thing. Maybe I’m having a nervous breakdown.”
“I don’t think so, Kate. Sorry. I think something crazy is happening, but it is definitely real. My mom said she’s seen demons and angels before, when she was a kid. She said it scared the hell out of her, but she knew it was real. I believe her, and I believe that what you’ve told me is real. But the question is: what are you going to do now? How do you hide from demons?”
“I have no idea. How am I supposed to fight an enemy that I didn’t even know existed? How am I supposed to fight something I know nothing about?”
“We could tell my mom. I bet she’d know what to do. Maybe the pastor at our church could help.”
“Or, they’ll just think I’m high,” Kate scoffed.
“Come on, Kate. My mom knows you. She would vouch for your character. You know that.”
“What choice do I have? If this is real, I have to do something. I just wish I could make sense of it all. I just wanted to have dinner with Aidan and look what happened. What did I do to deserve this?” Kate moaned.
“Are you kidding me, Kate? I know this is freaky and all, but come on. How many people can say that demons are chasing them…literally?”
“Elise, this isn’t a game. It’s insane. I’m not sure I even believe in demons, so how am I supposed to react when someone tells me that demons are after me? And what about Aidan? Where is he and what is he? His skin was glowing, like it was luminescent or something. What if I was drugged at the restaurant?”
“Did you eat anything at the restaurant?” Elise questioned.
“No, but I drank some water that the waitress brought me. What if it was laced with some kind of drug?”
“I don’t think you’d come down so quickly from drugs, Kate. But then again, I don’t know crap about drugs. I haven’t even tried pot, much less something harder.”
“Yeah, me either, so I have no way of knowing if I was drugged or not.”
“You probably just fainted, based off what you told me.”
“But what about the glowing skin, Elise? No one’s skin glows.”
“Yeah, I’m not sure about that one. Like I said before, maybe Aidan is an angel or something.”
“I just don’t know. I need to talk to someone who knows about these things, someone who won’t think I’ve lost my mind.”
“We’ll ask my mom. She’ll know what to do and who to talk to, Kate. Don’t worry. We’ll figure out what’s going on…somehow.”
Elise pulled into the paved drive of her family’s two-story home. Elise’s father had had it built five years earlier after becoming a partner at the large law firm he worked for two hours away in Nashville. Because of the long commute, he often spent several days away from home. Kate and Elise had visited his upscale apartment on a few occasions during the summer. Elise’s mother didn’t mind her husband’s long absences. She said it made her feel like they were dating again. Her mom’s silver Tahoe was parked in the drive. Her father’s black Saab was gone.
“Dad’s in Nashville working on a big case, so it’s just me and mom,” Elise told Kate as they walked towards the garage entrance. “He shouldn’t be home for a few days, so we’ll have plenty of privacy.”
“Does your dad not believe the same way your mom does?” Kate enquired, slinging her bag over her shoulder as she walked towards the house.
“Yes and no. He believes in the supernatural in theory, but he’s never experienced anything supernatural like mom has.”
Elise’s mother, Ellen, was on the phone when the girls walked into the kitchen. She offered a wave and mouthed, “I’ll be off in a minute.” The girls made their way up to Elise’s room. Kate plopped down into the armchair in the corner of the room, while Elise threw herself across the bed.
“This is all so bizarre,” she mumbled half to herself.
“Bizarre isn’t even the word,” Kate returned.
While the girls sat in silence, a buzzing could be heard coming from Elise’s bag. Snapping out of her daydreaming, Elise jumped up to grab the phone before it stopped buzzing.
“Kate,” Elise said slowly as she looked down at the screen of her phone, “your name came up on the caller id. Who has your phone?”
“Don’t answer it,” Kate whispered fiercely, “see if they leave a message.”
“Okay. You’re right. We don’t want them to know that you’re here with me.”
“What now? Is your mom off the phone yet? I really need to do something about this.”
“I’ll run downstairs and check. I’ll get her to come up, so just wait here.”
Elise loped down the stairs while Kate moved over to the bed. A feeling of anxiety seemed to overtake her body. She didn’t realize that her hands had been shaking. She wasn’t used to the feeling of fear. It was only lately that she had started experiencing it, first with the dreams and now with this. At least she could wake up from a dream.How can this be happening?She asked herself, trying to make sense of the evening’s events.
Several minutes passed before Elise returned with her mother. Ellen wore a serious expression on her youthful face. Kate had always admired the fact that Ellen was so youthful looking, while having a grown daughter. Her hair was just as blond as Elise’s, with not a strand of gray on her hand. Ellen entered the room gracefully and took a seat in the vacant corner chair.
“Elise tells me you’re in some sort of trouble, Kate,” Ellen started.
“Well, I think I may be,” Kate answered. “Elise told me that you have experience with supernatural…things, so I thought it best to talk with you first.”
“Maybe you should start from the beginning, Kate.” Elise encouraged.
Over the next fifteen minutes, Kate relayed to Ellen the happenings of the last week, up until the last few hours. After she was finished talking, Kate waited hesitantly, holding her breath.She’s going to think I’m on drugs or that I’ve completely lost my mind. She’ll call mom and I’ll be sent to a mental institution.The thoughts of straight jackets and electroshock therapy taunted Kate as she waited in silence.
Ellen broke the silence by letting out a sigh. She walked over to Kate and took her hands in her own before speaking.
“Kate, this is serious. I think we need to speak with a former pastor at my church. He’s an expert in demonology and I’m certain he’ll be able to help.”
“So you really think demons are after me?” Kate whimpered.
“From what you’ve told me about your dreams and Aidan—yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like.”
“You think Aidan is a demon? How could he be if they’re after him too?
“If he was an angel, he wouldn’t be running from demons, Kate. Demons don’t always stick together. You’ve heard the expression ‘no honor among thieves’? Well, demons fall into that category.”
“But why me? Why would Aidan target me? He looked perfectly human until his skin started glowing. I didn’t think humans could see demons, or at least most humans.”
“I wish I had answers for you, Kate. I really do. I believe Robert may be able to explain more about this than I can. My experience was much different than yours has been. Let me give Robert a call and see when he can meet with you, okay?”
“Will you come with me? I don’t want to go alone.”
“Of course, if you’re comfortable with me tagging along. But I have to caution you; Robert may ask some very personal questions to get to the root of this. You must be prepared to answer his questions honestly.”
“Yeah, okay. I don’t think that will be a problem.”
“I have his number downstairs, so you girls wait here and I’ll make the call.”
Elise and Kate looked at each other anxiously as they waited for Ellen to return. Kate could hear Ellen’s muffled voice in the kitchen, but couldn’t make out what she was saying. Elise offered Kate a weak smile when they heard footsteps ascending the stairs. Ellen entered the room, slightly out of breath from all the talking and stair climbing.
“All right, girls. Here’s the deal. Robert is out of town until tomorrow, but he strongly advised Kate to leave town. I wouldn’t dream of asking you to leave on your own, Kate, so I thought we’d all go to Nashville. We can stay in the apartment there until Robert can meet up with us tomorrow.”
“What about dad?” Elise questioned. “Are you going to say anything to him about this?”
“I think we’ll keep him on a need-to-know basis for now, if that’s okay with you, Kate.”
“That’s probably best. I don’t want him thinking I’m off my rocker or anything.”
“I don’t think he’d think that, Kate, but he doesn’t quite share the same views as I do when it comes to the supernatural. He likes to take a more practical approach.”
“You can borrow some of my clothes if you want, Kate. Who knows, we may be up there for awhile if this turns out bad.”
“Well, let’s pray that the worst is over,” Ellen encouraged as she left the room and headed to pack her own clothes for the night.
Thirty minutes later, Ellen, Elise, and Kate piled into the silver Tahoe. Silence filled the SUV as they made their way to Nashville. The rain had let up, but forced Ellen to drive below the speed limit on the damp roads. The Beatles’ “Let it be” was playing on the radio, easing some of the apprehension in the air.
I would be having a blast if this were any other day, Kate thought to herself as she stared into the misted window. She hadn’t been to Nashville in over a year. Elise sat in the passenger seat next to her mother and occasionally glanced back at Kate to offer an encouraging smile. Kate had no idea how serious her predicament might be. There was an unseen, unheard, unfelt enemy about, and she didn’t know how to fight such a foe. Kate prayed that this Robert character would know what was going on. She prayed that everything would be okay and that neither she, nor her friends would be hurt. She prayed that the world would be right again, that her world would be right again. She prayed.
“Elise, can I borrow your cell phone? I really want to get in touch with my mom. I need to let her know where I am, just in case she calls my cell or the house phone.”
“Sure,” Elise agreed, handing her cell back to Kate.
Kate dialed her mother’s cell number, only to be sent straight to voice mail. She decided to leave a message about leaving town. She didn’t want to alarm her mom, so she didn’t go into details about her spontaneous trip with Elise.
After ending the call, Kate sighed as she handed the phone back to Elise. Her mother would be worried sick if she knew what was happening. Kate felt guilty about not learning more about Aidan before agreeing to meet up with him. Her mother’s advice left her worried that she was in the middle of a worst-case scenario. Even if his skin hadn’t started glowing, he still could’ve been a serial killer. She had placed herself in a dangerous situation when she had got into his car. She strained to remember what had happened after she had collapsed onto the road, but only fog remained where a memory should have been. Replaying the events over and over again began to frustrate her, so she decided to concentrate on the music playing on the radio.
Their journey half over, Ellen pulled over to get gas and to stretch her legs. The gas station itself had closed, so Ellen used her bankcard to purchase gas at the pump. Kate watched Ellen from the window, while Elise texted her father to let him know that they were coming.
It’s so dark outside, Kate thought as she shuddered. The cold air from Ellen’s open door had invaded the vehicle, causing Kate to shiver. Ellen climbed back into the Tahoe shivering. The temperature felt like it had dropped ten degrees since they had left Elise’s house. The rain had been replaced with a thin veil of sleet. Kate hoped the next hour would pass quickly. She was starting to feel fatigued, but was too wired with anxiety to rest her eyes yet.I’ll sleep when we get to Nashville, she promised herself. Kate watched for signs on the roadside to let her know how much longer her journey would be. The last sign read thirty-nine miles to Nashville. Just thirty-nine more miles, then I can sleep.