In which an attempt to help someone goes horribly awry...
Nigel Rosenblatt laughed the sound short and ugly, tearing his arms free of the car-tire chains they'd used to tie him to shelving. I heard bones break and knit themselves together, magic burning through his body like acid. "Human children playing at magic. You think you can kill me?"
"Wray," Sheldon snarled from the top of the stairs. I could smell his gun out, aimed at us. The old lady behind him was chanting some prayer, maybe Latin or French. Something foreign.
"I could, but I'm not supposed to," I said, and shot a glance at Bryce. I didn't want him to act, but I think Sheldon would have shot me if I'd beat his son into the ground, no matter what Nigel had been turned into.
"Stand still or hurt," Bryce said, his voice low and flat.
Nigel stepped forward with a snort then let out a gasp of shock and stopped, muscles and bones twitching as Bryce's curse dug into his body. "I care not if this body dies."
I ignored his words and bent close, taking a deep whiff again, trying to ignore hunger, to deny need. I could have eaten him and never needed to eat again; his memory alone food for a life. I tried to think past that, catch anything, grabbed his mouth and tore a tooth free.
Nigel roared in agony, hand snapping out and hit the ground in a convulsive fit. The tooth tasted sharp, bitter on my tongue, the smell of rotten egg and burnt sugar hitting my nose as I spat it out into my hand.
Bryce was hiccoughing beside me, fighting back tears as Nigel twitched painfully at our feet.
"Let him go," I said to Bryce.
"Blessings against a curse," Bryce managed, his voice cracking. "Your anger to unmake pain. Please work," he added, barely above a whisper.
Nigel – the thing inside him – let out a deep ugly laugh, rising from the ground.
I shoved my left hand into his chest, his tooth in my right and hissed: "I have your bones, as you have the the bones of others. I bind you to this child, your bones to his, your life his life, his death your death: do you doubt I can do this?" I had no idea where the words had come from, why I was speaking them, but Nigel stilled at them.
He eyes narrowed to red slits. "I am nothing to the monsters that made me; they will destroy you."
"Maybe." I held up the tooth and grinned, whatever had been speaking in my voice gone. I hoped. "Or you can leave him and this world and never come back. Choose."
Nigel let out a low growl, his eyes flaring crimson, and then collapsed between one moment and the next, his body shuddering as it shrunk down to the merely human. Above him the air melted. Colours slid into each other, the world blending to grey and sickly-green and swirling into a funnel that pulled something into it.
I knew something had left this place, this world, I knew it in the bone-truth of a ghoul, but what it had been, what it looked like: nothing. My brain had simple shut down, went blank, refused to let me grasp what I had seen. And that was somehow almost scarier than having someone else speak through me.