- Project: Inbetween
- Chapter: Seventeen
- Word count: 2,484
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As soon as she felt it, Willow knew another portal between worlds had opened up. She could hardly believe their luck. They could be there in just a few minutes if they hurried. Then Yuri stopped them from getting there in time. The portal was closing again and they were being followed by someone that really had him unnerved.
Willow wanted nothing more than to get Yuri back to where he came from. After all of their searching, the very thing they had been looking for all this time finally appeared and he wanted to run away from it. The slight tremble in his voice and the unnerved look on his face made her believe something really was wrong. He would go home again if he had the chance. The fact that he was not taking this chance had to mean something horrible was happening.
She knew she needed to take this seriously too. Her senses did not pick up on much of anything wrong, but she believed that it was there. Yuri would not be so nervous about nothing. Her focus had been completely taken up by feeling the emergence of that portal so she easily could have missed another, more subtle sign of trouble.
The thought of finally having proof consumed her mind. It was proof against what she had believed for so long, but she did not care about that. Her belief or lack thereof had always revolved around the lack of proof that there was anything supernatural out there. Finally seeing the pathway between this world and another would certainly constitute as proof. Now she missed the chance to see it.
As much as she wanted to sulk over this lost opportunity, there was no time for that. Everything she did in recent days seemed to be a reaction to her own confusion. She needed to act sensibly now and not react because she felt wronged.
With the sensation caused by the portal fading from her senses, she found it easier to think about the other problem at hand. Someone was following them and whoever it was, they were not the sort to be deterred by the mere presence of her locked door.
With fluid, almost eerie ease, her mind changed gears. One moment she was completely focused on the energy pouring out from the portal. Now she was formulating a plan to make sure the person following them would not be able to make it into her apartment.
Fortunately, she had everything she needed to keep out the supernatural sort on hand. Her supplies might not be infinite, but they were enough to block some of the magic from the other world. She just hoped that whatever there was out there would not be strong enough to steamroll over what she could put up against it in with so little time to prepare.
She hated to do this to her own apartment. Even knowing that there was a real reason for it and that it would work it annoyed her to use her skills on her own home. Yuri was shadowing her and more than eager to take orders. With danger just around the corner, she needed to take advantage of his help.
His skill level prevented him from attempting anything too complicated, so she decided to put him in charge of the salt. As soon as they were in the apartment she locked and bolted the door before dashing through the living room and down the hall to her bedroom.
Fortunately, she kept her personal supplies for her exorcism jobs all in one place. She would hate the idea of trying to scrounge up enough salt from her kitchen cupboards. She dove into her closet, tossing stray items out of the way to get to the back corner where she kept her box of supplies hidden from prying eyes. She grabbed a sack of salt and a couple pieces of white chalk. Those two items were the most urgently needed for the task of keeping whatever was following them at bay.
If — when — this worked, she could go back to her box of supplies and do more to improve the fortifications. Those things would be of no use if they did not get up the initial protections in time. Whatever was after them would be at her door soon and she really did not want to find out what it had in store for them.
Yuri waited in the living room. His eyes were fixed on the door, wide with anxiety, as though he expected the door to be busted down at any second. She knew she had no time to talk him out of this trance. All she could do was hope that he would snap out of it and actually be of use if she gave him a productive task to accomplish.
“Here,” she said as she handed him the sack of salt. “Put this along the doorway, the walls and the windows. Go. Quickly.”
Her words must have reached him because he started to place the salt down almost immediately. He did not seem to be particularly present while he did it, but she did not have time to worry about that. As long as the job was getting done she could worry about snapping him fully back to reality just yet.
Her attention had to shift to writing on the walls. She gripped the chalk in her hand carefully and picked an empty space to start writing the runes. She would need to push some things out of the way as she went, but clean up would be something to think about later — if this worked.
She never worked under such slapdash conditions before. Everything was ordinarily so well prepared with the space cleared out ahead of time.
Most of her willpower had to go into keeping her hands from shaking. She just considered it to be good luck that she could write the runes in her sleep. This sort of situation finally made her glad she went through all of the training and practice that seemed like a waste at the time.
Her heart pounded so hard she felt it in her fingertips where they gripped the chalk. This was the first time she felt as though her skills were being put to a real use.
Her skills always seemed pointless before, as though she was scamming poor, gullible people. Then she met Yuri and began to understand that there really were beings from other worlds getting lost between worlds and sometimes even crossing over completely. Once Yuri talked her into trying to use her abilities on him, she realized just how devastating her abilities could be to beings not of this world. Her guilt grew now that she knew she was effectively attacking these lost souls. Ever since then she had a worry in the back of her mind that she might be murdering innocents. It made doing a job she hated even harder, but today she finally felt as though she could use the skills from that job in a concrete and positive way.
Defending against an attack seemed like a much safer bet than going out and attacking. It might just be that she was not a particularly violent person, but she felt a lot better to know that she was going to prevent harm from coming to those she cared about rather than being the one to cause harm. Thinking about it that way did a bit to steady her hand and she was able to move at a reasonable pace.
She tried to work as efficiently as possible. There were so many protections she could put down, but without knowing what she would be dealing withs eh tried to keep it as general as possible. Really, all she needed to do was keep whatever was out there from getting in. The rest of it was just flair. Her priority here was not to cause anyone any sort of harm. She needed to put that in the past. Now that she knew what she was capable of doing, she wanted to make a point not to cause further harm.
At some point in the midst of her furious writing on the walls, Yuri started hovering behind her. Her attention was too focused on that she was trying to write to change course and find something for Yuri to do while she completed this particular step.
She tried to stay calm, but performing for an audience brought back all the nerves she just barely managed to suppress before. The runes seemed to slip out of her mind as her resolve weakened and her hands began to shake again.
“Yuri,” she said with great care. Any words she said right now seemed to cause her to lose more of the knowledge she needed to hold onto to make the runes work. “Please find something productive to do. I can’t concentrate with you staring at me.”
Without even looking, she felt his presence behind her shoulder move away. Her concentration was slow to return. She wrote the runes haltingly.
Willow tried to focus, but the sound of faint singing in the distance niggled at her mind. She could not regain the focus she lost. The singing grew louder and the chalk crumbled in her hand.
Panic coursed through her veins. She spun around to look for more chalk, unsure what else she could possibly do in defense of what was coming.
Behind her Yuri stood in the middle of the room, staring at the door. He managed to make those knives of his appear again. She did such a good job of avoiding him that she never found an opportunity to ask him about that particular talent and now, once again, seemed like an inopportune time.
There was no chalk left in the room. She wondered if she had any more held back in the supply box in her closet, but she doubted she had time to go searching again. The voice was growing louder and louder. Whoever was after them was surely just outside the door now. The time for preparation was now over.
Her abilities would be put to the test in this moment. For the first time, her skills were put to real use. As much as she wanted to avoid thinking in a negative way, she had to at least acknowledge to herself that she was working with a lot of knowledge that was unproven in the field.
The singing reached such a volume that their opponent had to be just outside now. She could hear the words clearly, although it was in a language she did not understand. Yuri moved to stand between her and the door. A part of her wanted to be offended that he seemed to think that she needed to be shielded, but she had to admit that he was the only one with a weapon at this point. She considered running to the kitchen to look for a knife of her own, but her feet seemed to be glued to the floor.
She peeked around Yuri’s shoulder at the door. The knob was rattling, but for now the lock was holding up. The runes on the wall started to glow. She held her breath, hoping that they would prove to be effective.
Something was happening. The fact that the runes reacted at all had to count for something. The glow from the runes grew brighter. The danger on the other side of the door could not cross the threshold. She wanted to smirk and celebrate her victory. She wanted to crow and announce to the world that she actually had the ability to hold her own against the supernatural.
They waited. Willow could not tell for how long. Time seemed to have no meaning in this situation. Within the magical forcefield, time dilated and contracted with no discernible rhyme or reason behind it. Adrenaline did funny things to her mind too and gave her strength for a time to stand on her feet and wait. Then the waiting stretched on and on.
Her adrenaline fueled strength ran out before either side budged. All her strength, adrenaline related or otherwise, drained from her body. She needed to sit down. She needed to rest, but she was panicking and the danger had not yet passed. Rest needed to wait.
Yuri continued to stand guard. He was watchful, stoic and ready to defend her. She did not know how to feel about it. Gratitude, of course, came to mind, but a part of her balked at the fact that he seemed to think she needed to be protected. She had managed to put up the protective enchantments that held their attacker off this long. If anyone needed to be protected right now, it seemed like it was Yuri.
Then the runes burned and evaporated off the walls. All her effort was gone in an instant. The rattling of the doorknob stopped. For a brief second, she thought she had been victorious and their opponent had given up and turned away. Then she heard the sound of the lock mechanism in the door clicking and she knew that the door would be flying open at any second.
She tried to stay calm and made a point not to hold her breath. The last thing she needed right now was to be light headed.
“Willow,” Yuri said in a hushed tone, “if you see a chance, I want you to run.”
She wanted to argue with him. She could not leave him behind at a time like this, but to be honest, she was not sure she had the courage to stay if she spotted a way out. Responding at all seemed to be out of the question at this point. Her nerves had her frozen in place and kept her jaw locked too. She just hoped that she would loosen up a bit before she ended up caught like a deer in the headlights of a racing semi.
The door burst open of its own accord, slamming into the wall with enough force to get stuck there. Part of Willow that was looking in at all of this from a distant perspective winced at the thought of the dollars shaved off her security deposit by that little display of power. She realized this confrontation would probably end up being a lot more expensive before all was said and done.
In the doorway stood a woman with ghostly pale skin and hair, but a bright, malicious mouth that practically screamed danger to Willow.
Yuri took a step back and Willow was forced to move back as well. Whoever this might be, he apparently wanted nothing to do with her. Willow could not blame him. There was something terrifying and unnerving about this woman from the get-go.
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