Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

  “It’s the room where they keep the electric chair,” Priest answered. “In some prisons, electrocutions were held in a separate building. They called it the Death House.”

  “Look.” Alara pointed at the gray metal door next to us. Words were written on this one, too:

  Darien Shears

  “That must have been his cell,” Lukas said.


  “The prison serial killer. A local war hero convicted of killing this girl who turned up dead after she left a bar with him. Shears swore he didn’t do it, but the jury didn’t believe his story and sentenced him to life. After a few weeks, prisoners started dying—stabbed in the shower, strangled on the yard, suffocated in their sleep. Shears confessed to all the murders even though there were no witnesses.”

  Alara raised an eyebrow. “A serial killer with a conscience?”

  “Who knows?” Lukas nodded at the white door at the end of the hallway. “But they executed him in the electric chair right there.”

  Shears’ cell faced the Death House. If he looked out the tiny square window of his cell, the only thing Darien Shears could see was the room where he would take his last breath.

  Jared peered through the square cut into the metal and froze. “No way.”

  “What?” Alara angled for a better look.

  He unbolted the door, and the hinges groaned. The room was empty, but it didn’t feel that way because every inch of the walls was covered with words, symbols, and pictures, overlapping in a dizzying pattern. In the center of the madness, one drawing stood untouched by the edges of the others.

  The Shift.

  It looked exactly like the one in Priest’s journal, though clearly drawn by a different hand.

  Priest pushed his way past Jared and stood in front of the enormous sketch. He reached out and held his hand over it, without touching the smooth concrete on which it was rendered. “It’s not possible.”

  “Maybe Shears found the casing hidden in the prison,” Lukas offered. The fifth and final piece of the Shift was the casing itself, the cylinder into which the four disks slid.

  Priest wasn’t convinced. “But how did he know what the disks looked like? This sketch shows the Shift assembled.”

  Lukas shook his head. “I don’t know.”

  As I scanned the walls, my mind memorized the pictures and symbols automatically. My eyes rested on the words scrawled over and over above the drawing of the Shift, words I knew I’d never forget: THE SPIRIT IS NOW AT WORK IN THE SONS OF DISOBEDIENCE.

  Alara read them, too. “That’s not crazy or anything.”

  “It’s a verse from the Bible.” Jared studied the wall. “But it should say, ‘the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.’ It’s a reference to the devil. He’s the spirit at work.”

  Demons were bad enough. I didn’t want to know who the sons of disobedience were.

  “There was something else in the article about Shears.” Lukas hesitated. “When he confessed, he told the warden he was just a soldier following orders.”

  “You think the devil was giving him orders?” I couldn’t hide the shock in my voice.

  “I was thinking more along the lines of a demon,” Lukas answered. “One that doesn’t want us to find the Shift.”

  The hinges creaked again, and the heavy door slammed shut behind us.

  A tall man stared wide-eyed like he caught us breaking and entering. His hair was buzzed down to nothing, pale eyes lost in the gaunt shadows of his face. A dark band of scarred skin cut across the man’s forehead, circling his skull.

  Every muscle in my body urged me to run, but there was nowhere to go. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from him.

  “I’ve been fighting this war too long to lose now.” Darien Shears was still in the orange jumpsuit he was probably wearing when he died.

  “There’s no war.” Lukas kept his voice even. “Nothing to lose.”

  We all knew it was a lie. The spirit stepped away from the door. It was covered with more writing: YOU DO NOT KNOW THE DAY WHEN YOUR MASTER IS COMING.

  The spirit pointed at Lukas. “I sacrificed my life to protect it. Don’t tell me there’s nothing to lose.”

  It’s still here.

  My eyes darted around the room. There was nowhere to hide a cylinder the size of a coffee can.

  Shears straightened. “I’m a good soldier. Stopped everyone who tried to take it. The same way I’m gonna stop you.”

  Priest raised the paintball gun. He fired off round after round, but the balls burst against the vengeance spirit’s chest—holy water, salt, and cloves spraying onto the walls. I waited for the spirit to explode, but he only flickered for a second and vanished.

  I stared at the paintball casings lying on the floor. “Why didn’t they destroy him?”

  “He’s stronger than the average vengeance spirit.” Lukas ran his hands along the walls checking for cracks. “They weakened him, but I’m not sure how much. We need to find the last piece of the Shift before he comes back.”

  “It’s not here,” Jared said. “The walls are solid concrete.”

  “Then where is it?” I asked.

  Alara stood in the doorway, staring at the view from Darien Shears’ cell. “I think I know.”


  Death House

  Priest opened the white door at the end of the hall. A crude wooden chair with heavy armrests was bolted onto a raised platform in the center of the room like a dead man’s throne. Padded leather wrist and ankle cuffs were buckled below the thick straps that secured the prisoner’s chest to the chair. A coiled black wire snaked up the back and attached to a medieval-looking headpiece, with a metal band that matched the scarred skin around Darien Shears’ head.

  Alara kept her distance. “Do you think any of them were innocent?”

  Lukas stopped in front of a row of numbered switches under the words CAUTION—HIGH VOLTAGE. “I don’t know, but it looks like they all suffered.”

  Rows of hatch marks extended across the wall beside the panel. Someone must’ve been keeping a tally of the men who died here.

  “Maybe they deserved to suffer.” Jared sounded like the guy who burst into my house the first night I met him, not the boy I kissed inside the wall.

  Echoes of murmuring voices bombarded us, too faint to decipher, and the unmistakable sound of frantic scratching coming from behind the walls.

  “Well done, Jared.” Lukas sprinkled salt around the base of the chair. “Good to know you can piss off the living and the dead.”

  The scratching grew louder. Then all at once it stopped, plunging the room into an eerie silence.

  Priest took a step back and bumped into the panel of switches.

  “You’re all monsters.” A disembodied voice slithered through the room. “That’s what they said right before they threw the switch.”

  Alara’s body lurched back violently, thrown by a force none of us could see.

  She fell into the electric chair. The padded cuffs unbuckled themselves and closed around her wrists and ankles. The leather chest strap snaked around her torso and tightened, completely immobilizing her.

  “Stop it!” she shrieked.

  Jared and Lukas struggled to unfasten the cuffs, but the leather straps held tight.

  “Leave her alone, Darien,” Priest shouted.

  The voice laughed. “It’s not Darien.”

  Faces appeared one by one, solidifying into full body apparitions—men still wearing their standard prison-issue orange jumpsuits. Their heads were shaved, and identical scars circled their foreheads where the metal had seared their skin.

  They looked like shells of the men who had died in the same chair where Alara was sitting now.

  A man with dark shadows around his eyes stepped in front of her. “Do you have anything to say? They gotta ask you that before they throw the switch.”

  The one with empty gray eyes nodded. “It’s the law.”

  “Let her go.” Jared raised t
he semiautomatic paintball gun. “Or I’ll give you a new set of burns.”

  Lukas aimed his own weapon and a vengeance spirit with a jagged scar across his cheek and the number eighteen tattooed on his neck smiled. “Ain’t nothin’ left to burn. Except your friend.”

  Jared and Lukas opened fire, the lethal mixture of holy water, salt, and cloves spraying across the walls until they ran out of ammunition. Two vengeance spirits exploded, but a half dozen stood fast.

  Priest and I lifted our weapons.

  Before I squeezed the trigger, the gun was ripped from my hands.

  I searched for a faded form, or the shadowy features of a spirit that wasn’t fully materialized, but there was nothing. Priest was disarmed the same way, his weapon floating in the air next to mine.

  Our guns hovered, turned, and pointed directly at us.

  Then the weapons changed direction, and the rounds discharged in rapid succession, hitting the tally marks on the wall over and over. When the ammo was spent, the weapons dropped at our feet.

  “A prisoner built this chair. That seem right to you?” The spirit with the dark shadows around his eyes appeared. “Saying goes that if you die in this prison, your soul stays here. Don’t matter if you’re an inmate or not—no heaven or hell, just Moundsville.” He lowered the metal cap onto Alara’s head. “Let’s see if your friend makes it out.”

  Alara screamed as Darien Shears materialized and clamped his hand over her mouth. He held a finger to his lips. “Shh.”

  Flashes of the prisoners’ faces superimposed themselves over hers—the spirit with the shadows around his eyes, the one with the number eighteen on his neck—a parade of faces rotating in front of Alara’s. Each man buckled and strapped in the chair, the metal headpiece secured to his skull.

  Each one screaming and writhing in pain the way Alara was now.

  Jared and Lukas ran for the chair.

  “I wouldn’t do that.” Number Eighteen flipped the switches on the panel.

  “It’s okay,” Priest said. “There’s no power in this building anymore.”

  The vengeance spirit tilted his head, considering it. “Who said anything about using the building’s power?”

  The spirits focused on the control panel, and the indicators lit up one by one.

  Oh god.

  The last indicator blinked, but the light didn’t fully illuminate.

  “Shears,” Number Eighteen called out. “We need more juice. Hit the generator downstairs.”

  Darien looked at Alara, then back at the rest of us. “Now don’t go anywhere. Everybody will get a turn.” He vanished, leaving the other vengeance spirits behind.

  I scanned the room, searching for a way to escape, when I noticed Priest reach under his hoodie. He pulled out the caulking gun from the hardware store, the barrel loaded with purple cans of cheap hair spray.

  What was he doing?

  Priest aimed at the vengeance spirits and pulled the trigger, simultaneously igniting the fireplace starters wired to the end of the caulking gun. It was a makeshift flamethrower made from Aqua Net, electrical tape, and ingenuity.

  A stream of flames shot out, and Priest scorched the wall from left to right. The prisoners’ faces contorted as the fire burned them to ash—and then nothing.

  I ran over to Alara and kneeled in front of the chair, unbuckling the stubborn leather cuffs.

  “Come on!” She pulled against the restraints, her face streaked with tears. “Get me out of this thing!”

  “I’m working on it.” I fumbled with the ankle cuffs, yanking the last one free. Alara leapt from the chair.

  My eyes were still level with the base. A single piece of wood attached the chair to the platform.

  A piece shaped like a cylinder.

  Someone had cut a crude notch in the wood, the knife marks faint but still visible. It seemed impossible, but I had to be sure. I held my breath and reached inside. The wood popped out, revealing a strip of silver glinting behind it.

  In a sick twist, had Darien hid the casing in the instrument of his own execution?

  My hand closed around the metal that felt as smooth and seamless as glass.

  It looked exactly like the sketch in Priest’s journal—strange looping symbols cut into the outside, and empty slots where the disks slid in place.

  Lukas noticed the casing in my hand, his expression a mixture of awe and relief. “You found it.”

  Jared’s eyes darted to the door. “We still have to get it out of here.”

  “Shears said he was coming back. He might catch us before we make it,” Priest said. “We have to destroy him.”

  “How?” Alara’s voice trembled.

  The answer appeared in my mind slowly, like a print developing in a darkroom. “I know what to do, but I need you to distract him.”

  Jared grabbed my arm. “What are you talking about?”

  “I don’t have time to explain.” And I knew he would never agree if I did. “Do you trust me?”

  The words hung between us—the question the four of them had been asking me all along. Now I was the one asking.

  One by one they nodded and Jared spoke the words. “I trust you. But—”

  “Then I need you to buy me some time.”

  Priest handed me the disks. “Take these just in case.”

  “No.” I tried to push them back into his hand.

  “Don’t you trust me?” Priest gave me a lopsided grin, but his tone was serious.

  I shoved them in my pocket.

  “I’ll buy you that time,” Priest said before he turned to Alara. “You have to get back in the chair.”

  She stumbled away, her eyes wild. “Are you crazy? I’m not going anywhere near that thing.”

  “It’ll be fine. I’ll disconnect the wires….” Priest led her by the elbow as I took off down the hall.


  Devil’s Trap

  I ran toward the gray metal door at the opposite end of the hall.

  I was the only person within these walls, living or dead, who wanted to get into a cell—especially the cell of a psychotic serial killer’s ghost. But there was only one way to destroy him and if I was going to do it, I needed the element of surprise. And about eight minutes.

  That was all the time it would take me to draw the one thing Darien couldn’t use his disappearing act to escape.

  The Devil’s Trap.

  I pictured the intricate design as I stepped back into the cell—the pentagram inside the circle, within a heptagram inside another circle—every line, every shape, every letter of languages I didn’t recognize.

  The square cell was tiny. If I drew the outer circle big enough, the curved lines would touch the walls, leaving only the four corners of the room unmarked. Darien would have to step inside the symbol when he entered the room.

  How can I get him in here?

  It didn’t matter unless I finished the Devil’s Trap.

  Shouts echoed from the other end of the hallway.

  My hand started to move. I worked quickly, trusting the part of my mind that remembered the details on the face of a dollar bill, and the spot where every kid stood in our kindergarten class picture. I ignored everything else but the voice of my memory.

  Seven names surrounded the circle—Samael, Raphael…

  Looping the script perfectly, I copied the unfamiliar symbols like I’d written them hundreds of times. But I was careful, haunted by the entry in Jared’s journal from the night the Legion summoned Andras.

  What if I make a mistake?

  I stopped, momentarily paralyzed by the thought, until a metal door slammed at the end of the hall.

  My hand shook as I finished the last few details.

  “Where are you?” an agitated voice called.


  How could I hide the Devil’s Trap long enough to get him to step inside?

  I glanced at the tiny window cut in the door, hoping the spirit wasn’t as close as he sounded. The opening was only ab
out eight inches across. If I stood right in front of it, Darien wouldn’t be able to see anything except my face. My knees buckled as I stumbled toward the door with the final piece of the Shift in my hand.

  He stormed down the hall.

  “I’m right here.” I held up the cylinder, my face positioned in front of the window.

  We were only a foot apart when his body passed through the door. I scrambled into the corner—one of the only places the curves of the Devil’s Trap didn’t touch.

  Darien looked down, his feet firmly planted within the confines of the circle. His eyes mirrored the terror in the faces of the men that had flashed over Alara’s in the electric chair.

  He lunged forward until his fingers hit the edge of the circle. The supernatural force field threw him back into the center. “What have you done?”

  “I think we both know.” I huddled in the corner, clutching the Shift’s casing against my chest.

  “Kennedy!” Jared and Lukas called out, their footsteps getting closer.

  Darien focused on the door. The metal rattled and the cell’s heavy bolt clicked into place.

  Bodies slammed against the door on the other side, and Lukas’ face filled the small opening. “Are you okay?”

  “Yeah.” I slid my back up the wall until I was standing. Drawing the circle up to the very edges of the walls had made it easier to trap Darien.

  Now I realized that it also made it impossible for me to get out.

  “Don’t move,” Lukas said. “If you step inside the circle, he can hurt you. Stay there and the Devil’s Trap should destroy him.”


  It sounded like something else they weren’t sure about.

  “How long will that take?” I asked.

  “I don’t know,” Lukas answered.

  What if he found a way to get out before then?

  Darien ignored Lukas and pointed to the cylinder in my hands. “You have to put it back or innocent people will die. That’s what she told me.”


  “The one who asked me to hide it.”

  “You mean the demon,” Lukas shouted from the other side of the door.

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