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Then she started wrapping me up in duct tape. Even in the middle of a car accident, I was stil public enemy number one.

We got in the car and after I was careful y belted in, Dex managed to reverse it up the embankment. Luckily, it wasn’t as steep as it looked when we went bounding down it. The Highlander shuddered and smoked a bit but she worked and we were soon roaring down the highway again.

The night sky was clear as we left the mountains and entered the softly rol ing hil s, and far off in the distance you could see the sky easing black to blue. The horizon looked fresh and clean and the dying stars twinkled brightest before they faded. Dawn was coming.

Time was ticking.

It was near eight in the morning, when the landscape was sunny, dusty and squint-worthy bright, that I felt a cloak of blackness settle over me like opaque net. It had been waiting to drop all night. I had been waiting to receive it. A net of indescribable evil.

A voice spoke out deep inside my head. That voice from the bowels of creation, one that encapsulated all pain and suffering the world has ever known - and relished it.

Give up, it said. To resist is to bring pain. Pain to your loved ones. Pain to yourself. Give up and you’ll be spared. You’ll be free.

Try me, I thought.

I raised my chin and looked at Dex and Ada, who were lost in their own thoughts, watching the flat farmlands rol past.

“Guys,” I said, my voice shaking out of my chest. “I don’t have much time left.”

Dex stepped harder on the gas. I didn’t know if it would be enough.

When we arrived outside the small , reservation town of Lapwai, I was a complete write-off. There was no hope left for me. I pushed and tried and projected and did what I could to get control back but I was too tired and too weak to be any threat. I spent the entire car ride trapped in my body and under the demon’s rule. I spoke in tongues, I writhed and screamed and tried to bite Ada and Dex until she was stealth enough to put a piece of duct tape over my mouth.

She then proceeded to tape me down to the actual seat, using all three rol s of the tape they’d purchased from the gas station.

It was good timing that as soon as Dex navigated the Highlander up to a desolate rancher on the sage-brushed outskirts, the tape began to come loose from the seat and my thrashing was at an all -time high. Any longer and the thing would have propel ed me into Dex and taken the car off the road again, for the final time. You only get to cheat the devil once.

Dex slammed the car into park and he and Ada jumped out of the car while I remained writhing inside. The rusty door to the small house banged open and a tal , slim native man in jeans and an old, grey San Francisco Giants sweatshirt stepped out. He was surprisingly young, you know, for an exorcist, maybe a few years older than Dex.

Dex shook the man’s hand vigorously and then, as the man shook Ada’s, someone else emerged from the trailer.

It was Bird. Stoic Bird from Red Fox, with his dusty denim jacket, weather-beaten face and imitation Raybans.

Aside from a quick slap on the back, and Bird motioning to Dex’s head wound with concern, there was no time for a reunion. Dex pointed at the car and they all came running for me.

I tried with all my heart to get the creature away from me, to be able to act as myself to Bird and to tel him how much I appreciated him for trying to help me once again, but I couldn’t. If anything, my attempts made it push me back even farther. A layer of film settled over my vision, like I was looking through a thick piece of laminate, and all sound came at me as through underwater channels.

Dex opened the door and the exorcist and Bird peered down at me, sussing me out. I puffed in and out the piece of duct tape instead, tried to wriggle myself free and uttered supernatural groans.

The man, who I assumed was Roman, shook his head defiantly and started muttering in his native tongue. Then he began yel ing at Bird in that language, pointing at me and frowning. Bird laid his hands on Roman and answered him back calmly, stil in another language.

Final y, Dex asked, “Excuse me but what’s the problem?”

Bird looked at me and then at Dex with a tight-lipped smile. “Roman’s upset because I didn’t tel him how bad she real y was.”

“I didn’t know,” Dex said to him, then he turned to Roman. “I didn’t know until last night. You speak English, right?”

“Yes, I speak English,” Roman snapped. He gestured at me without much concern. “She’s too far gone; this is unfixable.”

If I had a heart that stil belonged to me, it would have been shattered wide open.

I was unfixable.

I was going to die.

Dex grabbed Roman by the front of his sweatshirt and brought him right up to his face.

“You’re going to fix her,” he snarled, his dark eyes sparking as they bore holes into Roman’s. “She’s a lot stronger than she looks. She is stil in there and you’re going to help her, or so help me God.”

“You’l need your God if you think you’re going to win this battle,” Roman said. He exchanged a measured look with Bird and then gave a short nod. “OK. Let’s see what we can do. Just, please release me.”

Dex stared at him intensely for a few seconds, the dried blood down the side of his face making him look borderline homicidal, before he backed off and unclenched his hands from the sweatshirt. He took a quick look at me and then walked away, shaking his shoulders, trying to cool off.

I was foaming at the mouth, the spil age leaking out underneath the duct tape. Roman brought his face in deeper to mine and started muttering in his language again. Even though he was Nez Perce, it sounded like Navajo to my faraway ears and would explain why he and Bird could talk to each other.

Bird nodded and replied back. Then as Roman started to undo the duct tape, Bird’s warm face fil ed my line of sight as he leaned close to me.

“Perry,” he said gently. “I can see past these eyes. I know you’re in there. I know you can hear me. I know you must be scared right now but we’l need you to listen to us.

You must do what we say. This is going to be very complicated. But it’s not impossible. You must have faith.

You must cal on your faith. Faith in God, if you stil believe.

Faith in the universe if you don’t. Faith in love. Faith in yourself and faith in others. Faith wil give you courage and grant you hope. Use that.”

Roman said something else as he ripped off the duct tape from my legs.

“What was that?” Bird asked.

This time Roman whispered it. Bird looked back at my face and eyed it distrustful y.

“I see,” Bird said softly. His jaw set.

Neither Dex nor Ada had caught the exchange. They were standing outside the trailer, Dex with his arms crossed and tapping his foot nervously, Ada babbling distressingly. They were too far away to hear. But I knew something was going on, something that only Bird and Roman knew. I wished I could have asked but all I did was continue to make shuddering groans.

When Roman was done freeing me from the seat, I thought the thing would have made me attack him and flail wildly like an injured worm. But I was motionless. Not in control, but quiet. Maybe waiting for them to let their guards down. Maybe the thing inside me knew what Roman was capable was. I sure as hel didn’t.

Roman took my legs and Bird wrapped his hands around my shoulders and together they lifted me out of the car and walked sideways to the house. It was sunny but surprisingly cold, with a bitter breeze that rolled off the far- off hil s. Dex kept the rusted door open as they took me inside.

From my limited view, the house was clean and threadbare. What little furniture there was was neat but stil gave the impression of either poverty or neglect. There was a screen door that had holes punched through it in places and looked out onto the rol ing, brown land outside.

They took me down a small narrow hal way with yel ow wal s that Bird kept hitting with his stocky shoulders. I could see a room at the end of the hal that looked like a study and a greenhouse combined, fil ed with plants and books. I was put into a room comprised of a narrow bed, an armchair and a few native artworks on the wal .

They laid me down in the middle of the bed, and as Bird left the room, Roman reached under the bed and pul ed out three leather straps.

Dex’s eyes widened. “What are you doing?”

Roman ignored him and went around to the other side, pul ing out three more straps. Then he leaned over me and started strapping me in, one across my chest, one across my hips and one across my legs.

“Is that real y necessary?” Dex exclaimed, making a move for him.

Ada reached out and grabbed his arm, pul ing him back.

“You know it is,” she said quietly, her eyes warning him to stay put.

Dex eyed her hand and then relented. They watched from the back of the room as Roman finished up. He fished a pocket knife out of his back pocket and flipped open the blade. He held the blade above me and I heard Ada gasp.

But he merely stuck the edge of the blade underneath the duct tape and freed me down the middle, tearing me open like sausage casing.

“I won’t rip it off,” he said to me. “I know it would hurt you, stil .”

“I hope you’re talking to Perry,” Dex said.

Roman gave Dex a grave look. “I am. I can see she’s there, too. But you both must understand that I may have to hurt Perry at some point.”

“What? No!” Ada protested. “You don’t hurt her. You hurt what’s in her.”

Roman straightened up and flipped his knife back in his pocket like it was second nature. Just what kind of a shaman was he?

“Sometimes you don’t have a choice,” he said matter-of- factly.

“Is that what happened with the last boy, the one who died?” Dex asked snidely. He immediately regretted it.

Roman’s eyes turned to steel.

“I barely touched the boy. He would have died anyway. I did get the demon out and that’s what counts. Do you think it’s easy to see that happen? He was only four. I had to move towns; everyone was saying I did something wrong.

But I didn’t. The damage was already done when he came to me. It was too late.”

The room grew silent. Dex looked down at the floor and Ada shifted uncomfortably.

Bird came back in the room holding a heavy box and placed it in front of Roman. He gave Dex and Ada a stern look. “If Roman seems cold, it’s because he has to be. The medicine man can have no emotional attachments to the person in question. He can have no fear. Evil preys on fear.

It feeds on emotions. Even love.”

Roman started lifting things out of the box. I raised my head to look and was struck by the fact that I could. Was I in control?

I tried to talk but nothing came out. My throat wouldn’t work, my mouth wouldn’t move. Just my head moved and it was probably the thing, trying to take stock of what was going on.

But Dex, he took his attention off the boxes and looked right at me. I held his gaze, wondering if he could see my real eyes or if they were just swirling black pools. His own eyes were magnetic, his brows furrowed grimly. It was like he was trying to tel me something, hoping I’d hear it. I didn’t know what it was, but it helped knowing he was there and watching me, trying to establish a connection.