* * *
“Are you sure about this?” Kay asked, her words coming just before the warped roar of the make-shift engine shuddering to life.
“Not particularly, but I don’t have the luxury of time to doubt.” Auggie helped Kay out of the car, then slid into the driver’s seat and gripped the wheel. “Tell me as soon as you light it. I won’t have a lot of time.”
“That’s sort of my fucking point,” Kay snapped. She pulled out her lighter and glanced at the tremendous amount of gas and liquor shining on top of the Charger’s orange paint. “This is fire, and the whole point of doing this is that fire hurts ghosts. If something goes wrong you could get roasted too.”
Auggie’s translucent hands tightened around the worn leather of the wheel. “I can think of worse ways to go than saving the world. Maybe there’s some sort of action-hero section in Heaven for people who pull that off.”
“Since when do you believe in Heaven or Hell?”
“Let’s just say I am feeling far more open to all manner of possibilities,” Auggie replied. “Now, please light the car on fire.”
“I wonder if other girls get told that multiple times in the same year,” Kay mumbled. Auggie might have been tempted to ask for clarification, but there was no time. She clicked the lighter on, pressed it to a central spot coated in flammable a liquid, and watched the fire bloom. With a sturdy kick to the tire, Kay whirled around and yelled at Auggie.
Auggie didn’t need to be told twice. He slipped the car into drive and slammed down on the gas. For the barest of moments, the tires spun uselessly. Then, they finally caught traction, and the Charger zoomed forward, racing toward the edge of the cliff. They’d park far enough back to allow for the build-up of momentum, enough to get the car in an arc that would terminate in the island’s center. At least, that was how Auggie’s calculations estimated it would land.
Eye glancing to the ground, Auggie could see the shadows flickering about as the fire spread. He just had to get the car over the cliff, and he’d be fine. His foot pushed on the accelerator with all its might, willing to the vehicle to go just a little bit faster. In the end, it didn’t matter if he survived this, but he couldn’t let anything go wrong before the car was airborne. Auggie kept the wheel steady, and though he had no breath to hold, he tried to take a deep gulp of air anyway.
The Dodge charger flew off the side of the cliff, and for one beautiful moment it hung in the air, suspended by momentum. In that freeze-frame, it almost seemed to be a flaming chariot, delivering a vengeful god from on high. Then, as it always does, gravity asserted itself and the flight metamorphosized into a fall. The hood dipped down, and just like that Auggie and the car were on a crash course for the island.
Though did consider his life less important than the well-being of the entire world, that didn’t mean he wanted to die if it was unnecessary. He jerked on the handle of the door, popping it open with minimal force. As he leapt out of the falling Charger, taking care to keep interacting with the physical material in order to push himself clear of the fire, his foot accidently kicked the center of the steering wheel just as he shoved himself into the air.
As the fiery vehicle, strapped down with explosives, gas, and liquor, fell toward the small patch of earth amidst the watery terrain, a strange melody blasted out, catching the attention of the humans and spirits alike. While all noticed it, and therefore became of aware of the impending impact of fire and metal, only Topher actually recognized the song.
It was the first twelve notes from the song “Dixie.” He had time to think, just before the Charger landed, that whoever owned it had really gone the extra mile their attempts to replicate the General Lee. After that, the only sound to fill the air was a horrific crunch and subsequent explosions.
Well… that and the screaming of dozens of suddenly flaming spirits. Auggie calculations had been slightly off about where the car would come down. It missed the center of the island, but that was okay.
The Charger had landed dead center on the portal instead.
If not for the horn, Auggie’s body and the evil spirit piloting it would have both been caught in the explosion, if not crushed directly under the falling car. When those curiously upbeat notes bounded through the air though, The Emissary looked up to see what was coming. The other spirits surrounding him did this too, and as a group they realized that something on fire was falling toward them at a rapid clip.
Before The Emissary was even able to consciously process the danger of being where he was, Auggie’s body had already begun to move. Unlike the spirits, it was still alive, and was hard-wired with things like “reflexes.” Auggie’s body and its unwanted passenger dashed to the edge of the island, diving underwater just as the car landed and chaos broke out.
By the time The Emissary regained control and dragged the body back onto land, his orderly army was a thing of the past. The initial blast had taken out nearly all of the troops around the portal, and even those that remained were scattered. Pools of fire had sprung up everywhere, the entire island engulfed in a staggering heat. Even the cold water clinging to Auggie’s body began to dry.
It was when The Emissary swept his vision to the left that he saw something worse than even the ruined troops or burning wreckage atop his portal. In the confusion of the explosion, that woman had broken free from the pile of spirits that had mounted on her. Now she stood silhouetted in the flickering night, deftly handling every attacker that had the misfortune to draw close enough to fall in her reach.
The Emissary started forward to handle her, then a thought gave him pause. Hadn’t there been another human with her? The thought came two seconds two late, as Topher’s considerable shoulder slammed into Auggie’s body’s spine, sending The Emissary sprawling to the ground.
Before he was able to turn around or right himself, let alone deal with the surprising pain of being tackled, milky liquid rained down from Topher’s borrowed bottle. The Emissary glanced up to see the large man staring down with unexpected resolve, lighter in one hand and newly emptied plastic bottle in the other.
“Get out of Auggie’s body.” Topher flicked the flint and the lighter sparked to life. The Emissary had seen that woman wield the milky liquid on the others, it already knew what the addition of fire would do.
“Fool, if you burn me then your friend’s flesh will roast as well.”
“I know that.” Topher held the lighter out, directly over Auggie’s body. If he dropped it, if even a rogue spark happened to fall, there would be no chance to get away. “But I know Auggie would rather see his body destroyed than used to hurt people. So one more time, get the fuck out of my friend.”
The Emissary was an ancient being, he had worn flesh millennia ago and had served in the domain of all-but-forgotten for ages eternal. He was a leader of men, then a leader of spirits, and had built his life and afterlife around his ability to command and read others. All of that experience served him well as he looked into Topher’s eyes, because he realized something crictically important.
Topher was one hundred percent not fucking around.
With a concentration of effort, The Emissary released his grip on the flesh he’d worn all night, rising into the air in his true form. Topher could see him now, a creature formed from darkness, with a pair of red eyes glaring intended murder at the man who had evicted him from his useful home.
The Emissary snarled at him, enjoying the sudden look of fear in the young man’s eyes. This one was big and strong, he would make a better vessel of flesh. There was still time to clear the circle, still time to complete the ritual. He could still bring the beautiful new world into being. He reached his shadowy claws forward, intent on sinking them into this large man’s vulnerable body.
“Hey, shitbrick. Let’s dance.”
Standing a few feet away, wearing a few fresh scratches and bruises, stood Velt. She held up her good hand crooked a finger to The Emissary, inviting him to come play. It was a good strategy, he had to admit that. The woman wanted to draw his attention before he captured another vessel, when she had the advantage. It was a good plan, but he would not fall for it. The Emissary turned back around to face Topher...
…and caught a blast of fire directly to his ethereal face.
“Why the hell would you look away from me?” Topher said, spraying the newly grabbed can of bug-spray through the lighter right in this creepy jerk’s face.
The Emissary let out a hellish screech and retreated, trying in vain to wipe the fire from its face.
“Take your friend and get back to the mainland,” Velt ordered, turning to follow The Emissary.
“But I can still-”
“Bodies aren’t made to last without spirits in them, moron. Now the thing is empty, and Auggie has been disconnect for almost an entire night. He needs to get back in there. Soon.” Velt spared Topher no more words, instead rushing forward to press the opportunity he’d given her by wounding The Emissary.
Tempted as he was to ignore her and keep fighting, loyalty to Auggie overwhelmed his need to pitch in. Besides, she’d been telling him all night that she could handle The Emissary. Time to let the professional do her work.
Topher scooped up Auggie’s body, carefully put it over his shoulder, and ran across the island to the boat. Though there were a few of the horde spirits remains, they didn’t feel the need to bother him. Most were either trying to put out fires on themselves, or just steering clear of the growing inferno around them.
By the time he reached the boat where Clinton and Art were waiting, Topher had realized that Velt had successfully broken the army. All that remained now was their commander.
-Last fight scene will be just with Velt and The Emissary.
-Don’t forget to take care of Irwin as well.
-Wrap up the battle, then start moving things toward the epilogue.
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