From the personal journal of Benjamin Cooper:
4th November, continued...
My hand remained smack over the twin pin-prick wounds in my neck. My eyes were dancing between Gregg and the pale girl, begging for information.
"Relax," Gregg assured me, "you're not infected or anything. She just drained you a little."
"I wouldn't turn you," the girl added, crossing her arms, revealing a sort of insecurity, as though I had just insulted her.
"I might," snickered Selina from somewhere above us. My hands dropped back to my sides. For now, my fears had been assuaged, but I still needed to know what happened the previous night.
"You said you needed me to be out for a bit to make things easier," I began, looking to our newest friend, "what do you mean? What happened?"
She shifted uncomfortably. It was only now that I saw she was still completely barefoot. This bothered me, as the ground had begun to frost over in the last few days. The soles of her feet must have ached unbearably. She had definitely cleaned up since the last I saw her, but she still kept up some odd habits. I noted at that moment that her cryptic, almost scarred personality had faded into a clarity of sorts. She was definitely more sober in mind than she had been.
"Todd didn't respond well to me doing that," she said, unfolding her arms and pointing to the marks on my neck, "but after ducking under that uh... stick he carries around, I managed to drain him a bit, too. A bit more than you. He's not very nice."
"From there, she kinda knew what to do from there..." Gregg added. "She took your phone from your pocket and took a look through."
"I saw the pictures of the pentagram on the outside wall," she continued, "I mean, I knew it was you all. The ones they whispered about."
"Who is they?" I asked, shrugging a bit over-dramatically.
"Coop, this is going to sound pretty far-fetched," muttered Alex from the opposite end of the garage. Beside him, Sam's transparent form flickered. He himself looked rather bored by the proceedings. I mean, most things must seem boring to him. There's no risk when you're already dead, I guess.
"Nothing's far-fetched in our lives," I stated bluntly.
"I had been in that school for a really long time," the girl squeaked. Now that she had cleaned up, she was actually pretty cute. Her now clean reddish-blonde hair reflected the dim light of the garage, highlighting those horrifically deep blue eyes of hers. "I was..."
She paused, taking a moment. A shiver ran along her arms and legs, as though the very memory of it all physically hurt her.
"I was the reason the school was burned down. I said there were secrets in this town. There are bad people..."
Seeing that she was uncomfortable stating it, Gregg took it from there, patting the girl on the shoulder comfortingly. For some reason, Gregg had always been the gentlest of us all, despite his awkwardness. It seemed he best related to the fairer sex, even if Alex was more predisposed toward wooing them.
"Let's skip the unnecessary details, shall we?" Gregg offered. The girl nodded, then burrowed her chin into the top of her shirt, hiding away from the rest of us emotionally. "When you found her, she was acting as a conduit. Like a... a radio for the other side. Someone had opened her up for energies to pass through her."
"That's why I was such a wreck when you found me," she whimpered, pulling the top of her shirt up over her mouth. Her words became muffled beneath the fabric. "My head. They were using my mind to come through. To come onto this side. I got these brief moments where... where I was myself, and all the other times spent as their doorway."
"And when you and Todd found her, she was luckily in one of those moments of clarity," said Gregg.
"Okay," I muttered softly, "then how did we get to here? This moment. Go on. Explain to me."
It's only now, writing this, that I realize I probably came off as a bit too confrontational. I mean, I was really, really confused and utterly exhausted, but my words were sort of harsh. I could see that I had bothered the girl even further, as she simply buried her entire face beneath the fabric of her shirt.
"Okay," Gregg replied, holding up his hands defensively. He knew how to deal with my temper, which I must admit, comes through now and again. Quite frequently, actually. "So, moment of clarity. She had heard those... things from the other side talking about us. And she knew you when she saw you. She knew we could help. So, with your phone, she dialed up the first name she recognized."
"Me," whispered Alex. "It took some talking, but she convinced me to come to the school. I mean, I couldn't just leave you in the custody of some random girl in the ruins of our middle school, right?"
He chuckled oddly at this comment, trying to break the tension. It didn't work. My glare remained fixed on him. He brushed a lock of dark hair from his eyes, coughed awkwardly, and continued.
"But I thought rationally, I assure you. I rang up Victoria, figuring she might be helpful with uh... conduits... girls with demons talking in their head. So I met up with her and Will outside the school. He ran in first, full wolf-form, to make sure we weren't going to be ambushed or anything. When we got the all clear, we went in. From there, Vicky went to work on Liz."
Liz. I looked to the pale girl with her head stuffed down her shirt. So at least I knew her name now. Liz.
"Cleared her head up real quick. Vicky knows what she's doing."
"Oh, are we calling her Vicky now?" asked Sam in a sarcastic manner, "I figured we were sticking with Loony Lake?"
"Hush," scolded Gregg from the couch, "Alex, go on."
"Anyway, we got her back to what we could call normal. I mean, she's not exactly normal, per se."
This remark received a poison glare from Gregg and a chuckle from Selina as she circled the room above our heads. It seemed to me that Selina wasn't too fond of our latest guest. Maybe it had something to do with nightwalker versus daywalker. But I figured it was something else. The next bit of the story sort of confirmed my suspicions.
"But... with a girl with no backstory other than mental torture and no family to speak of..."
Alex looked to Liz, who shivered beneath her shirt. It seemed this last detail hurt her even more. Gregg sighed aloud and pulled Liz over to the couch so that he might make her feel more welcome and secure.
"We had to find her a place to stay, under the assumption she'd be of assistance."
"And since I'm basically already running a boarding house for the supernatural..." Gregg sighed, looking up at Selina, who only offered a casual middle finger in response.
"We brought her there," concluded Alex. "Dumped Langley in a dumpster behind the Shop Rite. He'll be fine. Not happy, but fine. And here we are."
"Alright," I grumbled, rubbing my eyes with two fingers. I had developed quite a headache over the period of listening to the tale of Liz. In fact, my mind ran rampant with more questions, beckoning more mysteries to be solved. Bobby was still missing, this girl didn't want to talk about her past, but most of all, the headache hit hardest the next day when I was told of another new, yet oh-so-familiar friend in town.
"Gavin?!" Cooper shouted aloud, completely ignoring his surroundings. His gruff voice echoed among the books of the high school's library. Stephen shushed him immediately.
"Yes," Stephen replied, keeping his voice quite low. "Alex phoned him up. He left college to come home and help us."
"I sincerely doubt he'll believe our story," Cooper sighed, resting his aching head on one hand and slouching onto the table. "He wasn't there when all this..."
He gestured wildly at the word "this", circling his hand to represent the madness that had befallen them over the summer and the previous few months. Stephen nodded solemly in a combination of somber agreement and exasperation. He honestly didn't want much to discuss the matter. Gavin had truly been the closest to Alex before he graduated a year ahead of them. To the rest of the band, he was mostly just a bossy sort of former keyboardists. He had had high hopes and dreams for them all, but when a better offer, Berklee, came calling, he quickly abandoned them for greater, more academic heights. It had left a bitter taste in Stephen's mouth, and now that Gavin had returned, the old wounds had been reopened.
"Hey, I know this is kinda too soon and stuff," erupted Alex as he emerged from the bookshelf section of the library, surprisingly sporting no books whatsoever, even for his later afternoon classes. "but did anyone else notice somethin' about Liz yesterday?"
"Her lack of modern social graces?" scoffed Stephen.
"No, dude." Alex replied, taking a seat next to Cooper and across from Stephen. "She got new clothes from Gregg's house."
"So?" asked Cooper, sounding bored at the very topic.
"Gregg obviously didn't have any bras lying around," chuckled Alex, his eyes staggering up and to the left, indicative of his thinking of dirty thoughts.
"Jesus, man, too soon! Crippling mental torture and you're staring at her -" Cooper snarled, looking away from the two and out the window. As his mind drifted into the clouds, Stephen and Alex continued behind him. It seemed that "male" conversation had engulfed both boys. Cooper had to admit, he had noticed Liz's nipples had been poking through the white sweater she had borrowed from Gregg's house. For a moment, Cooper wondered if Gregg had actually done it on purpose, but then assured himself that Gregg was far more sensitive than that. Then again, it had occurred to him that -
"Why didn't Selina just loan her one?" asked Stephen, a grin creeping across his face.
"Seems to me she doesn't like Liz leaning in on her squeeze," Alex laughed, miming a sort of old-fashioned talk.
Cooper sighed audibly and tried harder to focus himself away from their silly little talk. They prattled on for a bit about Liz's physical features, moved on through to Selina's thin but attractive body, then finally onto things Cooper could think about for a second without feeling guilty: the upcoming show they had scheduled a few miles south of the Garden. He had to wonder for a second about what could possibly go wrong. He had become cynical in the preceding months. He thought about the legions of creatures looking for them, to drag their souls down to an eternal pain. He thought of how Gavin could react to their sudden small-time success. He thought of the what-if if Gregg decided to bring Liz instead of Selina. Would that create a jealousy? What if he brought them both? And what if Todd Langley or the hunter Solomon decided to make an appearance? But where would they get the means to find them? As Cooper scoured his mind, the other two spoke on, moving from the show back to Liz's physique.
Hours later and miles away on the edge of town, just a block away from where Bobby would be sleeping if he had come home, a figured walked alone along the edge of the street, relishing the silence of the dead of night. All the warm, happy folks in Ganton, hiding deep scars beneath their happy exteriors, were sound asleep, dreaming of better lives. The figure walked along until it came to a four-way intersection; a crossroads. The figure moved quietly into the center of the street, kneeled, and held out one finger. The figure then began to drag its finger along the cement, and as it did so, a warm glow emerged from its fingertip, scorching the jagged form of a simple pentagram with an eldritch symbol carefully made in the very center. The figure stepped back, and an instant later, an intense light emerged from the pentagram.
"I've integrated myself with them," said the figure.
From all around, and nowhere at all came the horrific voice from beyond this world, layered over what sounded like a thousand other voices, all emerging as terrible screeches behind the main, abominable speech.
"Then you know the next step."
In the night, the figure nodded wordlessly. Moments later, following the simple report, the figure turned on a heel and walked away from the scene as the pentagram's burn mark on the pavement faded back into unidentifiable concrete. The darkness of the night enveloped the shadowed figure in utter silence, masking his steps, and the sickening deeds done in the dark that evening.