Unmarked by Kami Garcia

  He was the source.

  Alara tugged on my jacket. “Kennedy, what are you staring at? We’ve gotta go.”


  A couple ran toward him holding hands, huddled together under the guy’s jacket. The girl brushed against the black-eyed man as they passed. Within seconds, she let go of her boyfriend’s hand and shoved him away. They stood in the icy rain arguing, as if they didn’t remember being happy only moments before.

  The chilling chain reaction repeated itself over and over.

  “Guys,” Alara yelled. “You need to see this.”

  I didn’t turn around when I heard Jared, Lukas, Priest, and Elle come up behind us, or when Bear started growling.

  “Is there a reason we stopped walking?” Elle’s teeth chattered. “I’m freezing.”

  “What exactly are we looking at?” Priest searched the crowd.

  “The guy in the Red Sox hat.” Alara said. “But I don’t think he’s a guy.”

  “He looks like one of those possessed people at Faith’s,” Elle said.

  “But he’s not acting like a zombie,” Lukas said.

  The crowd around the black-eyed man grew more agitated by the second, as people pushed and shouted at one another. A fight broke out between two businessmen trying to hail a cab and spilled into the street. A car swerved to avoid hitting them, but both men were so enraged neither seemed to notice.

  Alara turned to Jared, Lukas, and Priest. “Look at the way the aggression is spreading through the crowd. Have you ever seen anything like it?”

  Lukas shook his head. “Never.”

  Jared didn’t say a word.

  The black-eyed man tilted his head slowly to the side. There was something familiar about the way he moved and the gesture itself. He took a step forward and focused his gaze on me. His eyes narrowed in what looked strangely like concentration. After a moment, he jerked his head back and blinked, as if something had startled him.

  His expression… he seemed impressed.


  The man’s pupil-less black eyes began to change, transforming into brown ones that could’ve belonged to anyone on the street.

  Including me.


  A slow, menacing smile spread across the demon’s face—because my instincts told me that was who I was looking at. I remembered that smile. It was the same smile the little girl who crossed the salt circle at my aunt’s house gave me.

  The demon raised his hand slowly, as if he were going to wave. Instead, he touched his fingers to his lips and blew me a kiss.

  “It’s Andras.” There was no doubt in my mind now.

  “He doesn’t look like a demon to me,” Elle said.

  “Were you expecting a tail?” Alara snapped.

  Lukas studied the man in the Red Sox cap. “How do you know?”

  “The way he looked at me… that smile.” I pictured the scene at Faith’s house, focusing on the details. “The little girl at my aunt’s had the exact same smile. Even her mannerisms were the same. And remember the way she licked the salt off her finger? She was the only one who wasn’t acting like a zombie.” I looked over at Lukas. “Did you see the way his eyes changed color? They looked human.”

  “Demons can change their eye color,” Lukas said, without taking his eyes off Andras. “It’s one of the ways they hide in humans bodies.”

  When they possess people.

  “Kennedy’s right. That’s him.” Alara unzipped her coat and reached for paintball gun on her tool belt.

  Jared caught her wrist. “What are you doing? You can’t pull out a gun on a busy street. The cops will be here in two minutes, if we don’t get our butts kicked by a mob of people first.”

  Alara kept her hand on the grip. “We can’t let him get away.”

  “Um… I don’t think he’s trying to get away,” Elle said. “It looks like he’s coming over here. Sort of.”

  The man in the Red Sox cap walked toward us, zeroing in on a blond a few feet ahead of him. She stopped when she saw him, and her eyes locked on his. The man’s body jerked forward. A second later, the blond lurched backward as if someone had bumped into her, and the man in the Red Sox cap collapsed on the wet sidewalk. Two people stopped and helped him up. From the dazed expression on his face, it was hard to tell if he remembered anything.

  The woman stood frozen, ignoring the sea of people pushing past her. Everything from her stick-straight posture to the way she stood motionless in the rain, mirrored the way the man in the baseball cap had looked only minutes ago.

  The blond stared right at us, and the familiar smile spread across her lips.

  Within seconds, it happened again. A kid, clutching the straps of his backpack, rushed by her and stopped the moment her black eyes found his. The woman’s body jerked forward then went slack, like someone had yanked the string on the back of a marionette. Something hit the kid’s backpack, forcing his body backward. He started to fall, but caught himself before he hit the sidewalk. The kid stood up wearing the same menacing smile.

  The demon drew closer, only half a block away now.

  The kid watched a girl skateboarding toward him. The moment the skater looked at him, she stepped off her board. It rolled into the street, just as the boy’s body jerked. The same invisible force smacked against her, and the skater caught herself mid-fall. The boy wasn’t as lucky. He hit the ground hard and curled into a ball, clutching his arm.

  The skateboarder pulled her shoulders back, until she was standing impossibly straight and smiled.

  Priest watched with a morbid fascination. “He’s moving from body to body.”

  Lukas looked around. “We need to get out of here.”

  Alara still had her hand on her gun. “We can’t run.”

  “We can’t unload salt rounds and cold-iron bolts out here in the open,” Lukas said. “And if he can jump from body to body like that, it’s easier for him to get away if we get the upper hand. We need him to follow us somewhere more secluded.”

  “The wharf isn’t far.” Jared point up the street. “I bet the longshoremen don’t work when it’s pouring rain.”

  The skateboarder Andras had jumped into was only a quarter of a block away.

  “Go,” I said, pushing Jared.

  He grabbed my hand and took off.

  The sky darkened the way it had in the prison yard, the night I assembled the Shift. Icy rain pounded down on us, and thunder rumbled in the distance. The traffic lights next to the demon shorted out and sprayed sparks onto the street.

  A transformer blew ahead of us and every light on the block went black.

  “Make sure we don’t lose him,” Priest said.

  I glanced behind us, and the demon was still there—strolling casually down the street in the body of the skateboarder. No matter how fast we ran, the distance between us didn’t change.

  The sky grew darker. Even in the failing light, I saw them—the source of the rumble I had mistaken for thunder.


  Thousands of them.

  Black rain. That’s what Alara called it.

  Bear barked, but the sound of a sky full of dark wings drowned him out.

  The demon jumped again, this time into a woman carrying an armload of shopping bags. She dropped the bags, and her back arched until she was standing perfectly straight like the others. Something hit the ground next to her and splashed in the puddle at her feet. Another object dropped, and then another.

  Birds fell from the sky all around her, crashing against the sidewalk like rocks.

  People screamed and covered their heads.

  The demon strode toward us, still animating the woman’s body. The carcasses of dead crows, pigeons, and sparrows littered the ground as more birds thudded against the roofs of nearby cars. She stepped over the feathered bodies and crossed the street.

  As a man in a blue hoodie rounded the corner, the demon changed direction and stepped in front of him. The woman’s black eyes met h
is. Her body sagged for a split-second before she dropped to her knees. The man lurched forward, barely breaking stride.

  The traffic lights swung dangerously from the wires on the street alongside us. A wire snapped, and one of the lights smashed against the asphalt like a warning.

  We elbowed our way through the mob of frightened people, who were rushing to get out of the street or too stunned to move. We turned onto Pearl Street, where the sky hadn’t turned completely dark yet. I fought the urge to look back, terrified that Andras might be right behind us. Judging from rate at which he was jumping from body to body, he could be anywhere. Or anyone.

  Jared ran down an alleyway that led to the waterfront.

  When we reached the wharf, Bear charged ahead of us, dodging forklifts and rows of metal shipping containers. He darted into the metal corn maze, stopping to be sure we were still behind him.

  Priest pointed at an unchained warehouse door at the end of the row. “That way.”

  Inside, there were more shipping containers, surrounded by palettes of lumber and sheet metal that were stacked along the walls. Cables hung from the ceiling above sawhorses and makeshift worktables, outfitted with rusted table saws and heavy machinery.

  The metal door slammed behind us, the sound vibrating between the containers.

  I turned around slowly, my heart thudding in my chest. I knew the demon had a clear view of the six of us—and Bear—from the entrance.

  Instead of Andras, a rough-looking dockworker, wearing a hooded canvas coat and matching tan coveralls, stood just inside the door. He lit a cigarette with a blue, plastic lighter and took a long drag, like he’d been waiting for a smoke break all day.

  “We gotta rid of this guy,” Priest whispered.

  The dockworker looked up, the cherry of his cigarette glowing in his shiny black eyes.

  Jared tightened his hand around mine and tried to pull me behind him, but I held my ground. I was the reason Andras was here, instead of trapped inside the Shift where he belonged.

  I’m not hiding behind anyone else.

  Jared opened the duffel bag pulled out a semiautomatic paintball gun. Priest grabbed the Punisher and dropped to the floor, aiming the massive weapon at the demon.

  Andras took another drag and walked toward us slowly, his brown leather, work boots squeaking across the concrete floor.

  Lukas and Alara scrambled for the bag, but Jared and Priest didn’t hesitate. They both fired, and a hailstorm of ammo ripped the air. Paintball cases exploded against the demon’s chest, the salt and holy water cocktail inside burning right through the canvas coat. The Punisher’s crowd control rounds pummeled the demon’s torso, and he stumbled back.

  Lukas reached for his crossbow and a handful of cold-iron bolts.

  “You can’t use those,” I yelled over the ammo. “You’ll kill the guy he possessed.

  “Right.” Lukas shook his head as if he should’ve known better and tossed the weapon on top of the bag.

  Priest peered over the Punisher’s sight. “He’s not going down.”

  Andras glanced down at the smoking holes. “I hope you have something more than this.” His voice didn’t sound anything like the demonic voices in horror movies. It was deep, and deceptively human.

  Bear charged in front of us snarling.

  The demon flicked his cigarette across the floor and responded with a growl of his own. The dog dropped onto his belly, whimpering.

  Alara knelt on the floor and used a black marker, which never left her tool belt, to draw an octagon. I recognized the beginning of the protective voodoo symbol etched into the necklace around my neck.

  The Hand of Eshu.

  Between my eidetic memory and artistic abilities, I could draw the symbol more accurately than Alara. The demon watched, mildly interested.

  Elle and I sprinted toward Alara and dropped down next to her. “Let me do it.”

  She held out the marker, her hand shaking. I worked fast, drawing three of the perpendicular lies, the tiny pitchfork shapes, and the slanted cross in the center.

  “In the Labyrinth, names have power,” he said.

  He’s talking about hell.

  “Alara,” the demon pronounced her name slowly, “Means ruler of all. I command 6,000 legions, and you do not even rule this Legion of black doves. Tell me, Alara, Ruler of All, when the nightmares come, what do you fear?”

  Footsteps echoed from somewhere beyond the shipping containers.

  “Alara?” a girl’s voice called out.

  Alara’s eyes darted around the room. A girl a few years younger than her stepped out from a dented metal aisle of shipping containers. She was tall and thin with dark corkscrew curls, and she shared her sister’s striking features.

  “Maya,” Alara whispered. She stumbled toward her younger sister, the person she had sacrificed everything for.

  My eyes darted to Andras, but he was gone. A moment later, he stepped out from between the containers where Maya was standing.

  The demon’s eyes were blue again, disguising his true nature. “Hi Maya. I’m a friend of your sister’s.” His formal tone and speech pattern had changed, replaced by a more casual one.

  Maya gave him an open smile. “Hi.”

  “Don’t go near him!” Alara yelled, racing toward her sister.

  Lukas and Jared were already closing in from the sides.

  When Maya saw the terrified expression on Alara’s face, she took a step back. But she wasn’t fast enough. Andras was behind her in seconds, and the huge hands of the man he’d possessed closed around the girl’s throat.

  Lukas raised his crossbow as Maya struggled for air.

  “I wouldn’t do that,” Andras said. “You won’t hurt me, but one of those bolts could kill her.”

  Lukas lowered the crossbow slowly.

  Jared inched closer. Andras noticed, and tightened his hold on Maya’s neck.

  “Please don’t hurt her,” Alara pleaded.

  “You never answered my question,” Andras said. “When the nightmares come, Alara, what do you fear?”

  Alara fell to her knees, tears running down her cheeks. “I’ll tell you anything you want. Just don’t hurt her.”

  The demon’s irises turned black, the color seeping out from the center of his eyes like ink. “Wrong answer.”

  Andras lifted Maya off the ground by her neck. He looked right at Alara and twisted his hands in a sharp motion. Maya’s neck turned unnaturally between his palms, and her body went limp.


  Jared and Lukas charged Andras, as he let Maya’s body drop onto the concrete floor.

  “No!” Alara let out a piercing scream, the sound so raw and guttural it made my skin crawl. She collapsed on the floor sobbing, and I threw my arms around her.

  Elle’s eyes went wide. “Oh my god.”

  Andras stepped away from the body, moving slower than before.

  Jared knelt next to Mia’s body and reached out to close her eyes. When his hand touched her skin, it slipped right through. He swept his arms over the spot where Mia’s body had fallen. Her faded silhouette remained for a moment, before it vanished completely.

  Alara stared at the chipped wall behind us, her expression blank. I grabbed her shoulders, forcing her to look at me. “It wasn’t real. Andras created some kind of illusion. Maya was never here.”

  “She’s right.” Priest knelt down beside her and pointed across the room. “There’s no body.”

  It took a moment for the words to register before Alara stole a glance at the spot where Mia had fallen. Alara rubbed her swollen, red eyes and looked again. “Where is she?”

  Jared and Lukas rushed back to where we sat huddled on the floor with Alara. Bear chased after them.

  “It wasn’t real,” I repeated.

  “Somehow he manifested your fear,” Lukas said.

  Alara frowned and stared at Lukas for a long moment before she responded. “How are we going to fight him?”

our physical weapons won’t work, let’s see how he handles a spiritual weapon.” Priest opened his journal, flipping through the pages. When he found the page he was looking for, he recited the words:

  “We exorcise you, every impure spirit

  every satanic power, every incursion

  of the infernal adversary, every legion

  every congregation and diabolical sect.”

  I recognized the Rites of Exorcism from Rituale Romanum.

  Priest was still reading:

  “Thus, cursed demon

  and every diabolical legion, we adjure you.

  Cease to deceive human creatures,

  and to give to them the Poison of Eternal


  The demon laughed. “I have shed blood on the sword of an angel and battled demons in the cages of hell. I do not fear you.”

  Priest’s voice rose:

  “Go away, Satan, the inventor and master

  of all deceit, the enemy of

  humanity’s salvation.

  Be humble under the powerful hand of god

  tremble and flee—I invoke by

  us the sacred and terrible name

  at which those down below tremble.”

  “I am the Author of Discords, and I have faced exorcists stronger than you,” Andras said. “But in the cages of hell, they called me by another name. Maker of Nightmares. Allow me to make yours, Owen Merriweather.”

  Jared, Lukas, Alara, and Elle looked around. It us all a moment to realize the demon was talking about Priest.

  Andras raised his arms in the air, and a spray of black liquid the consistency of motor oil, rose toward the ceiling. The liquid splashed against the rafters above our heads, twisting into thick ropes on its way back down.

  Not ropes.


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