CHAPTER 6

Humans are a pitiful race, Malachi thought. Weak and ineffectual. They didn’t deserve to live.

Being forced to inhabit a human body to interact with the physical world sickened him, and although he knew people sensed his power as they stepped out of the way along the hospital corridor, it was little comfort. Fortunately, unlike Joanna Raines, they couldn’t see him for what he was.

He didn’t know how Joanna could see him, but she’d seen him infiltrate Lincoln’s body after the accident, and she could see him when he took possession, when Lincoln was asleep or unconscious. That made her a nuisance at best and a threat at worst. And the best thing to do was to infuse her with one of his brethren.

He would have done it the other night if she had been alone, but the opportunity didn’t present itself, and he didn’t want to jeopardise his plan. Besides, who would believe her? He wouldn’t have been bothered now if her pathetic boyfriend hadn’t come questioning Lincoln. Not that Lincoln could answer any questions as he didn’t know he was possessed.

Putting all thoughts of Joanna aside, he decided to concentrate on the more important task, that of bringing his brethren out of purgatory.

With his army alongside, one girl with the ability to see him for what he was wouldn’t matter, for soon the world would have a new master.

The demon smiled.

Little did those he passed along the corridor realise they stood on the brink of a new era, an era of fire and brimstone. He saw some of them stare at Lincoln’s missing limb, and then turn quickly away. Being saddled with a one armed human wouldn’t have been the demon’s first choice of host, but at the precise moment Lincoln lost the limb, he died, leaving an empty shell. That’s when Malachi gained access to his host. Unfortunately, Lincoln’s spirit returned, and they now had to share the same space. While Malachi was active when the human slept, the human was in control when its host was awake.

When in control of Lincoln, Malachi had use of all the man’s senses. He could sometimes feel the human’s consciousness, like a tickling sensation, and he despised the feeling.

“Excuse me, but you shouldn’t be out of bed.”

Malachi turned at the sound of the woman’s voice and saw the nurse that had entered the room earlier when Lincoln had his petulant fit. Despite Lincoln having no awareness of something else residing within his body, Malachi remained aware, even if he couldn’t react.

“I thought a little exercise might do me good,” Malachi said.

“You’ll have time enough to exercise when you’ve regained your strength.”

Malachi chuckled to himself. He’d never felt stronger. He flexed both Lincoln’s hand and his own black, scaly appendage that protruded from the stump of Lincoln’s shoulder. It looked strange seeing only his wraithlike arm, while the rest of him resided with the skin of a human, combining with muscles and corpuscles, synapse and nerves.

“Come along, get back to bed,” the nurse said.

Malachi stared at her brown eyes; wondered what they would taste like if he crunched through the retina, how sweet the vitreous humour as it dribbled down his throat. He salivated at the thought.

He glanced along the corridor, saw no one looking their way, and then motioned to the nurse.

She frowned. “What is it?”

“I need to show you something.” He pointed towards a storeroom door; could tell that she felt a little afraid in his presence as she held her ground, eyeing him suspiciously.

“What’s in there?”

“I’ll show you.” When the nurse didn’t move, he decided to play on her sensibilities. “I think he’s in trouble.”

“Who?”

“The boy in the storeroom.”

The nurse’s expression turned to one of concern and she stepped forwards and opened the storeroom door. As she stepped into the room, Malachi followed her inside.

“Where is he?”

Malachi grabbed her around the throat. The nurse struggled and kicked, Malachi maintained his hold, the stink of hairspray thick in his throat as he held her tight, his own superhuman strength combining with that of Lincoln’s enhanced physique. As he strangled her, he chanted ancient words, words that resounded with power. Even as he spoke them, he felt the air around him crackle, alive with the tongues of the ancient ones. His body felt like a tuning fork, its pitch giving darkness physical form.

As the nurse’s spirit fled, she slumped forwards. Her body went rigid, then her eyes snapped open and she sucked a breath, drawing oxygen back into her lungs.

Malachi released his grip and stepped back, allowing the nurse to stand. She cocked her head to the side, drew her shoulders back as though to relieve tired muscles, and then held her hands up to inspect them. She smiled.

“It’s good to be back,” she said with a wicked grin.

Although exhausted by the effort of transferring its brethren to the human host, the demon smiled. “Good doesn’t come close, Bethena.”

Malachi suddenly slumped, his power dwindling after the toll of performing the possession, allowing Lincoln’s consciousness to rise to the fore.

Malachi cringed – to think he was at the beck and call of a snivelling human.

Lincoln felt as though he had just woken from a deep sleep. He yawned and stared at the nurse in bewilderment; saw the wicked red mark around her throat. “Sorry, were you talking to me?” He glanced around the room. “And where are we? How did I get here?” He guessed it was a storeroom, the clean towels and sheets of which were stacked on shelves. The smell of washing powder tainted the air. The small confines of the room made him feel giddy, the walls appearing to close in, and he felt his pulse quicken.

The nurse glared at Lincoln with what he could only describe as malice.

“Malachi? Can you hear me?”

Lincoln frowned, turned and looked behind him to see who she was speaking to.

Seeing no one, he turned back to the nurse to see her staring at him, as though waiting for something to happen. “What?” Lincoln asked. He felt a chill slide down his spine and beads of sweat dotted his forehead as he fought to catch his breath. Pretending exasperation at the nurse’s lack of response, he turned, walked out of the room and headed back to his ward, trying to remain calm and not run.

He didn’t have a clue what was happening, or how he had found himself in the storeroom. Had he started sleepwalking?

The thought made him shudder. As if losing an arm wasn’t enough.

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