Falling. Not the wind-whipping-through-your-hair falling, but the stomach-precedes-you-by-about-fifty-feet falling. The feeling of being completely out of control, and knowing that when the thrill stops, there’s going to be nothing but pain.
Sal had stopped trying to wrest control of her body from the Hand. She mentally let go, not wanting to see what it was doing to Team Three’s library with her body. She didn’t want to feel the pains—little burns and cuts, but enough—that the Hand’s spells inflicted on her. She didn’t want to see the looks on Grace’s, Liam’s, Asanti’s, and Menchú’s faces.
Once she let go, she fell into the maelstrom of the Hand.
As a child, she had visited Niagara Falls with her family, and she remembered being disappointed. She had wanted to see a waterfall, but all she saw was what looked like a big cliff, and then a lot of mist. She wished she could have seen through the mist to the waterfall, never mind the fact that the waterfall and the mist were the same.
Now she felt as though she would be able to see the Hand, understand him, if only the chaos of his power wasn’t making it impossible to concentrate. She glimpsed a ruined plain, cracked and smoking, with countless demons of all sizes standing still, waiting. Another vision buffeted her, and she saw herself, startled, but grim and determined. Perry’s view, she realized. Her face looking into the mirror, slack and lifeless except for the eyes, and then her kitchen, and her oven.
Shit, the oven. It wasn’t broken at all.
The sudden stop after the Hand’s rampage was painful. It was even more painful to open her eyes and look at her apartment.
Sal wanted to ask how they got there, but she didn’t have to. They stood in her kitchen, the Hand and Sal, and her oven door gaped open, with light streaming out of it.
Close the oven, you’re wasting energy , she admonished mentally. She wanted to laugh at the absurdity. The laugh didn’t make it all the way to her mouth.
“Welcome back. I thought you had maybe checked out for good,” the Hand said, using her mouth. “You missed the fun.”
Missed. Funny word. Sal pushed momentarily at the barrier the Hand had raised between her and her actual motor functions, and it didn’t give. So you have what you wanted. What are we going to do now?
“‘We?’” Her voice sounded odd to her ears. “You make it sound like we’re partners in crime. Or that I want you along.”
You need a body, so perhaps wanting and needing are the same thing. Was it time to devolve into 1970s soft-rock references? Probably not. And the whole of the Vatican just saw me blow shit up and attack my friends and steal from the library. I think we broke about five commandments and committed five deadly sins right there. They will always suspect me now. She felt sick—but the sensation didn’t make it to her stomach. The Hand apparently controlled involuntary muscles as well.
“No one left to play with,” said the Hand, rummaging through her dresser. “You always wear the most boring things. Why can’t you look more interesting?”
You have the Codex Umbra, you have control of a cop’s body, and the first thing you’re going to do is play dress-up? You’re wasting one of your wishes, man!
The Hand actually laughed. “No, I’m not playing dress-up. Just looking for your spare weapons. You hide them like squirrels hide acorns.” Her hand closed around a small gun. She tossed it onto the bed. “But someone who understands fashion might be good to talk to, now that you mention it. I hadn’t thought of her . . . yes.” It removed her cell phone from her pocket and dialed it.
Cell phone service has been crappy in my apartment , Sal said helpfully.
“No, I’ve been blocking your reception,” the Hand said. “Now hush, I’m on the phone.”
Sal realized with horror that the Hand had started to take on her way of speaking. This would be bad if they encountered Team Three again. Her only saving grace was that the Hand was very obviously not Sal, behavior-wise. What if it started acting like her?
She held her mental breath and waited as the Hand spoke into the phone.
If she had hoped to eavesdrop on a conversation between two demons, she was out of luck. The Hand spoke guttural, harsh syllables Sal would have been incapable of making on her own. The voice on the phone was similar, crude and cruel. Sal focused on her body briefly, feeling the burns on her hands, the cuts on her arms, the scrape on her leg. She held on to these little pains as tenuous connections to something she no longer owned.
The Hand ended the call. “You wanted to find out what I’m up to. Come and see,” it said as it stashed the Codex Umbra under her arm as if it were nothing more than a textbook.
Like I have a choice.
Sal was grateful that they didn’t travel by oven again. She suspected it was that moment that she had lost control, when everything around her had gone from using magic to being used by magic. She hadn’t considered what the view would be...