The baby was sleeping. I’d found some diapers and changed him. He had a heck of a diaper rash. (And that had been the grossest diaper I’d ever changed.) I was cradling him in my arms. His little mouth had gone slack against the bottle I was holding.
Kieran was watching me with interest. “You sure do know how to take care of babies,” he said.
“I helped with my niece a lot,” I said.
“Huh,” he said. Mercifully, he didn’t ask any more questions. There was nothing I wanted to tell him about little Jenna. I never wanted to talk about that. Ever.
We were sitting in the living room. The sun was going down. It was dark. God. It was always dark. I missed electricity. “I don’t want to stay in here with all these dead bodies,” I said.
“Okay,” said Kieran. “But what are we going to do about this baby?”
“Take him with us,” I said. “We’ll have to go back to camp. We can come back and look for the grimoire later.”
“But do we need to pack up baby supplies?”
He was right. We didn’t get our tent pitched until it was very dark outside. I let Kieran work on building a fire while I tried to get the baby supplies into the packs we’d brought with us. I was sure that there wasn’t anything we could use back at the church. I didn’t know if there were supplies to be raided in the nearby convenience store or not, but I knew that we needed to get all the formula, bottles, diapers, and baby clothes we could. Of everything, the diapers were the bulkiest. Kieran wanted to leave them behind, but I wouldn’t. He said that people used cloth diapers before the advent of disposable ones and considering there was a finite supply of them, we might as well get used to that. I told him that he could wash the cloth diapers if he felt that way. He caved and let me bring the disposables.
With a fire built, Kieran and I heated up some cans of chili and ate next to our tent. The baby was snoozing inside. I’d made him a little bed of blankets away from our own sleeping bags. The last thing I wanted to do was roll over on the baby and kill it. This happened more often than people thought.
I watched Kieran eat, the fire dancing on his face, lighting up his long hair. He was a good looking guy. He was nice, too. Decent. If I were really going to have a baby, he wasn’t the worst pick for a father ever. I didn’t think he’d run off or leave me in the lurch or anything. I thought he was a pretty stand-up guy. Still, the whole idea felt too foreign to really wrap my head around. I couldn’t believe that there could actually be a tiny being growing inside my body.
Actually, it sounded kind of gross. If I were pregnant, wasn’t I supposed to be releasing hormones that would help me bond with the little creature? Maybe that came later. I stared down at my flat stomach and willed it to stay flat. I was only a week late. My period would come. Maybe it was stress. Maybe I’d lost too much weight. There were lots of things that could be going on.
Inside the tent, the baby woke up and started fussing. I left my chili and went in to get him. I didn’t know if he needed another bottle already. It hadn’t been that long since I fed him. Sure enough, he quieted as soon as he was in my arms.
He was lonely, poor guy. How many days had he lain by himself in that house, his family rotting around him? It made me feel sick. I tickled his tummy, and he gave me a huge toothless grin. Kieran came around the fire and sat next to me, peering at the baby.
“Did you see his name anywhere?” he asked me.
I shook my head. “Nope.”
“He’s very cute.”
“Yes,” I cooed to the baby, “this little guy is adorable.”
“Well, that’s what we’ll call him, then,” said Kieran.
“Guy. You said he was a little guy. Guy’s a good name. It’s very masculine.”
I laughed. I brushed his nose with my forefinger. He grabbed at my finger with his tiny hand. “You like that, Guy? Is that a good name?”
He gurgled and smiled.
Kieran reached in and tickled his chin. “I think he likes it.” Guy grasped Kieran’s finger. It was crazy, how big Kieran’s fingers looked next to Guy’s tiny ones. Kieran smiled at me over the baby. “He’s got quite a grip.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Babies go through a stage where they love to grab stuff.”
“Cool,” said Kieran, looking at Guy again. He gazed at the baby. “Very cool.” Guy and Kieran made gurgling noises at each other for a bit. The two of them were fun to watch, I had to admit. “We could do this,” Kieran said.
He caught my eyes.
“Kieran, we don’t even know if—”
“We could, though, I mean, don’t you think?”
I sighed heavily. “There’s way more to babies than diapers and formula and finger grabbing.”
“Sure, I know that,” said Kieran. “Can I hold him?”
I handed the baby to Kieran, who look a little terrified at first. He wasn’t sure where to put his hands. After I assured him that he wasn’t going to break the baby, he relaxed a little bit. The warm light from the fire lit up the angles of his face and the swell of the muscles on his arms. He was a big guy, but he held Guy so tenderly. I had to admit that I kind of liked the way it looked, Kieran holding the baby by the fire like that. It was comforting. I hugged my knees to my chest and took the sight in. Kieran would be a good dad. Definitely.
“So,” said Kieran. “What else is there to babies?”
“Come on,” I said, “are you serious?”
“Totally. You have to feed them and change them, right? And once I get to be okay with washing dirty diapers, that’s not going to be much of a problem.”
“Feeding them,” I reminded.
“Well, not to be crass, but doesn’t nature sort of cover that part? I mean, you’re going to be equipped to feed the baby once it’s born with your—”
“Stop,” I said. I was not entirely comfortable with Kieran discussing my breasts as a food source. Okay, sure, that’s what they were actually for and everything, but… “I guess you’re right, but that whole idea makes me feel sort of ooky.”
“How come? It’s totally natural.”
“Well, of course, you think it’s neat. You’re a guy.”
He shrugged. “Okay, then, we’ll find formula. We work for the government. Shouldn’t be a problem. What else?”
“That’s a problem,” I said. “The fact that we work for the government. How am I supposed to take care of a baby when I’m gallivanting all over the U.S. trying to gather up fuel?”
“I guess you’d have to take maternity leave.”
“Do you think they’d let the chick with the nifty magical powers take maternity leave? And besides, it’s not like the baby will be able to take care of itself right away. There aren’t schools anymore, exactly, or day care centers. This is a full time job for at least fifteen years.”
He laughed. “It’s not ideal. But we could do it.”
Another horrifying thought occurred to me. “There aren’t hospitals, anymore, Kieran. How would I have a baby without a hospital?”
“It seems to me that babies predate hospitals.” Kieran shifted Guy in his arms.
“Yeah, and there used to be a huge infant mortality rate,” I said.
“Whatever,” said Kieran. “I think the delivering mother is doing most of the work there. Somebody just needs to be around to catch.”
“And to make sure the baby’s not breach and that there’s no umbilical cord wrapped around its neck and to administer the epidural—oh, God. There are no more epidurals. Or heart rate monitors. Or—” I broke off. God. I couldn’t be pregnant. I just couldn’t be.
Kieran was quiet for a few minutes, and then he said gently, “Azazel, if you’re pregnant, there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Right, I thought bitterly. No more abortions either.
“If we have to make it work, we will,” he said. “We can.”
I shook my head.
“I’m just saying, whatever you need from me, whatever I can do, I want to do.”
“Look, let’s just wait, because maybe it’s all a false alarm. Maybe I’m not pregnant.” Please, don’t let me be pregnant. Please.
Kieran looked into the fire. The dancing flames illuminated all the hollows in his face. He looked older and more serious than he usually did. “I lost my family right after the lights went out. After that happened, I was kind of destroyed, you know? I, um, I just didn’t want to ever care that much about other people again. It hurt too much.”
Should I touch him? To comfort him? Or would he think that meant something else? I knew how he felt. I’d lost my family too.
Kieran kept talking. “Back in Georgia, before we left, Thomas said something to me. He was teasing me because he said I was watching you a lot.”
“Kieran, you don’t have to—”
“No, I want to tell you this. If there’s a baby, that’s scary. It’s really scary. But, it might be nice to have someone to take care of. I kind of miss feeling that about another person.” He looked up at me. “I think I might feel that about you.”
“Kieran, I’m not—”
“Yeah, it’s okay,” he said. “I’m not pledging my everlasting love or something. And you don’t have to feel anything for me at all. I just wanted you to know that I’m here, and I’m going to try to take care of you. That’s it.”
I chewed on my lip and didn’t say anything. That was sweet, so why did it make me feel awful? “We should sleep,” I said. “We’ve got to lug all this baby crap back to camp tomorrow.”
He handed me Guy. “I’ll be in a little bit,” he said.
I was asleep before he got into the tent.
I had a dream about talking flies. There were a bunch of them. They were all standing on a half-eaten piece of cantaloupe in a trash can. Abruptly from above, a human hand reached down and tied the trash can closed, leaving them in darkness. A few escaped but the others were trapped inside the bag.
There was panic. The flies flew against the stretched plastic, screaming.
But one of the flies nudged another fly. “This is it,” he said. The flies all had tinny little voices, like Alvin and the Chipmunks. “This is our chance.”
The other fly didn’t seem much interested in what the first fly was saying. “Go away,” she said.
“It’s the end of the world,” said the first fly. “We’re important. We are special flies with magical powers.”
The girl fly just laughed at him. “We’re flies,” she said. “Nothing we do matters.”
“Sure it does,” said the boy fly. “If it didn’t matter, then why would you be so interested in trying to stop me?”
The girl fly rubbed her two front legs together and didn’t answer.
“If it doesn’t matter,” said the boy fly, “then why won’t you join me? We can rule this trash bag together!”
The girl fly flew away from the boy fly.
Then the dream sped up, like time-lapse photography. The flies laid eggs. The eggs hatched. The trash bag was thrown in a landfill and covered with other trash bags and dirt. The flies all died.
I woke up and stared up at the top of our tent. Kieran was lying on his side, his eyes closed. Guy was twitching in his sleep. They both looked peaceful. I burrowed into my sleeping bag. Was it true? Did we matter at all? Were we nothing more than flies in a trash bag to the universe? The sun had wiped out our transformers and left us without power. We were a civilization forced to its knees. It was odd, I thought, because all the stories and predictions about the apocalypse involved humans doing something wrong. Nuclear bombs or pollution. It was weird that when it really came down to it, as destructive as we might have been or as powerful as we might have thought we were, it only took one overactive flare from the sun to cripple us. We were nothing.
I woke up the next morning to Kieran hovering over me with a hand over my mouth. My eyes opened wide and I tried to struggle away from him, but he held a finger to his lips, signifying me to be quiet. Cautiously, he moved his hand away from my mouth and gestured outside of the tent. Now, I could hear footsteps and muffled voices. Who was it?
But it was pretty obvious who it must be. Our people wouldn’t be out here. It had to be Jason’s people. Perhaps this was how they’d captured the scouting team. They weren’t going to capture us. I got my gun out, which I always kept close while I was sleeping, and sat up. Kieran also had his gun drawn. Together, we softly crept to the door of the tent. Kieran mimed unzipping the tent quickly and jumping out with our guns drawn. I nodded. It was a good plan. With any luck, we’d get them by surprise.
But there was one thing we had forgotten to take into account with our little plan. Guy.
He woke up at that moment and started screaming.
Kieran and I both sat back from the door, exchanging a look. Whoever was outside knew we were inside at this point. And they knew we had a baby. I holstered my gun and picked up Guy. He didn’t stop screaming.
Kieran glared at me.
Since I wasn’t sure why we were being quiet anymore, I just said, “Look, he’s hungry. He’s just going to keep crying.”
Kieran rolled his eyes.
“See?” I said. “This is why it would be hard to have a baby.”
Kieran unzipped the tent and got out. He had his gun in his hand, but he wasn’t pointing it at anybody. I climbed out after him, still holding Guy. There were two men outside the tent. I say men, but they were really teenage boys. Neither of them looked older than eighteen. They both had big guns, which they put away immediately when they saw the baby.
“What are you folks doing out here?” one of the boys asked, his eyes trained on Guy as if he hadn’t seen a baby in years. Strangely, the sound of the boy’s voice seemed to calm Guy down. He swallowed one of his cries, hiccupped once, and was quiet.
Kieran started to say something, but I elbowed him.
“We’re just passing through,” I said. “I’m Ella, this here’s my man Jim, and our baby Guy.” I did my best to imitate the easy drawl the boy had. It wasn’t hard. I’d grown up in West Virginia. Talking like I was from hickville only meant I needed to stop concentrating on pronouncing everything properly and talk the way that came most naturally.
“Passing through?” asked the other boy. “Why aren’t you just staying put where you live? There ain’t any real reason to go no place.”
“Well,” I said, “we heard they got power on the other side of the river. That’s where we’re headed.” How would Jason’s people field that? What kind of lies was Jason telling them?
The boys crossed their arms over their chests. “You don’t want to go on the other side of the river, ma’am.”
I cocked my head to the side. “Why not? Ain’t they got power?”
“They have power all right,” said one of the boys, “but they’ve all gone crazy over there.”
“There’s a dictator,” added the other boy. “He won’t let anybody do anything. It’s like communist Russia or something.”
Inwardly, I groaned. Trust Jason to cook up a story like that.
“You all might just want to head back with us,” said the first boy. “We got a nice little camp out in the park. It’s real nice. We’re all real friendly folk. People have been showing up at our camp from all over too. You’d be welcome.”
“Yeah?” said Kieran, who couldn’t fake an accent at all and wasn’t even trying, “then how come you guys have guns?”
People had been showing up, huh? And Jason was taking them in? What did Jason want with all these people? It didn’t make sense.
“Well, for the same reason you got a gun, mister, I reckon,” said one of the boys. “Because you never can tell about outsiders.”
“But you all seem nice,” said the other boy. “In Columbus, we all take care of each other. This power outage thing wasn’t nearly as big a deal to us as it was to some. See, back in 2010, we had such a bad ice storm that we were out of power for over a month. And nobody got out of line then.”
“Exactly,” agreed the other boy, “here in Columbus, we’ve got each other’s backs. We gave to other people what they needed, and they helped us out too. No rioting or shooting each other here, no sir.”
I guessed I believed that. Small towns tended to work in more subtle ways. For instance, here in Columbus, no one was shooting each other, but they were all following Jason around and doing his bidding. I bet that there wasn’t an easy way to get out of that either. Small towns were good at creating all kinds of peer pressure. Heck, my hometown had been jam-packed full of Satanists. Nicest people on the outside, though, really. It also explained why the store I’d been in hadn’t shown any signs of looting. Probably, the store owner had just shared with the community.
I looked at Kieran. “I don’t know, honey. I’m not sure if I don’t want to see the other side of the river for myself.” How would they react to that? Were they going to force us to come with them? If they did, I was going to have to hurt them. I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t be Jason’s prisoner either.
“Ma’am,” said one of the boys. “We’re not letting anybody across that river. It’s for your own safety.”
“You heard the man, Ella,” said Kieran. “We might as well just head back on home.”
I steeled myself, waiting for them to insist that we come back with them.
But instead, one boy just said, “If that’s what you folks want to do, we ain’t gonna stop you.”
“You might want to come by our camp just to see it, if you’d like.”
“No thanks,” said Kieran. “We’re just going to feed the baby and be on our way.”
“Okay, then,” said a boy. “Just you folks watch out. There’s those crazy witch ladies that live out here, pretty close by, and once you get into town there are some meddling government folk. They shouldn’t come out this far, but if they do, you just watch yourselves.”
We thanked them. The boys shook Kieran’s hand and ambled off into the distance. Weird. So, Jason was patrolling the area, and he was actively trying to recruit people to his encampment. He wasn’t forcing people, though.
“They never would have believed us if it wasn’t for the baby,” said Kieran. “I don’t know. I think babies are lucky.”
Guy started screaming again. I raised my eyebrows. “Lucky, huh?”
After breakfast, Kieran and I started back for the church. It had been a lot easier on the way in, because we hadn’t had to carry Guy or all his stuff. Even switching the baby back and forth, we found ourselves taking more breaks. We were sitting down on one of these little breaks and had perched on a fallen down tree. I was feeding Guy. Kieran was rubbing his arm and complaining that babies sure were heavier than they looked, when a woman’s yell interrupted us.
“It’s them!” cried the female voice from behind us.
We got up in a hurry, Kieran pulling his gun. (I was pretty annoyed that the baby kept me from having a gun out at any time.)
Two women were approaching us from behind. They were both wearing jeans and t-shirts. One had a short, pixie hair cut. The other wore her long hair in a ponytail. The ponytail chick waved at us like we were long lost relatives. “You’re here,” she said, as she approached. “I can’t believe it.”
I pulled Guy close, protectively. Kieran showed the women his gun.
“You guys want to stop right there,” he said.
Ponytail waved her hand dismissively. “Oh, you don’t need the gun. We’re not going to hurt you.” She kept right on walking, even though the other woman trailed behind her, looking a little concerned. Once she was right up on us, she offered her hand. “I’m Nancy,” she said.
Kieran and I both stared down at her hand. Kieran switched his gun to his other hand and shook her hand. “I’m—”
“Kieran, right?” she said, grinning.
Kieran dropped her hand. “How do you know that?”
“Carol, I told you they were real, and that they were coming,” Nancy said excitedly to her companion. “I told you!”
Carol stopped a few paces behind Nancy, putting her hands in the air. “Don’t shoot us, please. Nancy’s a little nuts, but she’s harmless, I swear.”
Nancy turned to me. “You’re Azazel, right?” She put a hand on the back of Guy’s head. “And this is little Guy?”
The lady was creeping me out. “Do you work for Jason?” I asked, even though that wouldn’t explain why she knew who Guy was.
“The Wodden guy?” asked Carol. “Oh, no. The rest of the community would never have stood for us camping out at the park with them. They’ve been calling us witches for years.”
The boys had said we needed to watch out for “the witch ladies.” Was this them? Why did people think they were witches? How did they know our names?
“You don’t have to worry,” said Nancy. “We’re going to help you. And we’ve been waiting for Guy for ages. It seems like ages, anyway.” To Carol, “Come over and look at him. He is so precious.”
“I’ll keep my distance until he puts his gun away, thanks,” said Carol.
“Kieran, put the gun away,” I said. “They seem harmless.”
“Except she knows our names,” said Kieran.
“She’s right about that?” Carol said. She looked surprised. “Nancy thinks she can see the future. She’s been babbling about people bringing us a baby for the past two months.”
Kieran put his gun away. “Azazel can see the future too. She has dreams.”
Oh, God, seriously? That’s what made him feel at ease? Some chick claiming to have powers? What was the world coming to? Anything was believable these days, it seemed. The world was screwed up without electricity.
Nancy and Carol invited us to lunch. Their house was an old farmhouse. All the windows were open. They had pink curtains fluttering in the breeze. They had a few chickens and two goats. I could also see that they’d planted a garden recently. I guess they’d be okay here, even without power. For lunch, we drank goat’s milk and ate fried eggs. It was amazing to have fresh food besides meat.
Nancy and Carol said that Columbus had never been the most welcoming of communities to them. They were lesbians. Before the power outage, people had mostly left them alone. After the power outage, they said that people got downright hostile.
“They were convinced that we were witches because we grew herbs and did a lot of natural homeopathic medicine,” said Carol. “Sounds like something out of the middle ages, right?”
Before the power had gone out, Nancy had used a sperm donor to get pregnant. Unfortunately, she’d lost the baby sometime in November. She credited it to stress. It had been hard for both of them, especially Nancy. But then, she’d started having dreams.
“I saw him in my dreams all the time,” said Nancy. She was holding Guy now, feeding him his bottle. He seemed very content. “I knew his name was Guy. I knew he was our baby. And I knew he was coming to us.”
“I thought she was nuts,” said Carol. “I thought it was some kind of coping mechanism to deal with the miscarriage.”
“But he is ours, isn’t he?” Nancy asked. “You are going to leave him with us, aren’t you?”
It made sense. How would we take care of a baby back at the camp? We weren’t equipped to do that. And we were all a little busy trying to get west. Nancy and Carol were the best fit. I thought they’d be good mothers.
“So, the dreams started after the power outage?” I asked them.
They had. And something else strange had started at that point too. Carol recounted to me a story about cutting herself while chopping some vegetables (some of the few fresh ones left from the stores at that point). Nancy had been able to heal her, somehow. She’d done it twice now.
“I don’t know why this is happening to me,” said Nancy. “It’s almost like the fact they started calling us witches came true or something.”
“You said Azazel has dreams,” said Carol.
“They don’t make any sense,” I said. “Last night I dreamed about talking flies.”
“You did?” said Kieran.
Kieran took another long swig of goat’s milk. “Azazel has more powers than that, though. She can influence people’s minds. Huge groups of them.”
“I don’t like to do it,” I muttered.
“I’ve dreamed about flies too,” said Nancy. “There were a bunch of them. They were carrying a big book on their backs. They were grunting. They were trying to hide it from the vessel.”
“Not the vessel again,” Carol groaned.
The vessel? I felt a little twinge of nervousness. It couldn’t mean me, could it?
“Yes,” Nancy said. “The vessel. The book was called the Key of Ashes or something.”
“The Key of Asher?” I said. “You dreamed about the Key of Asher?”
Suddenly Nancy looked at me in an odd way. “Yes,” she said. “They took it to the park, where the Wodden guy is. To keep it from you.” She paused. “You’re the vessel.”
The twinge deepened. Nobody had called me the vessel in a long time. “What do you mean?” I asked.
Nancy’s eyes seemed to glaze over. “I have dreams sometimes, about things… They don’t make sense to me. There’s a sun, and the sun is inside a vessel, something that contains its fury. Then the vessel tips over. The sun spills out. And the sun is so bright, it dries up everything. All the grass gets burnt and curly.” Guy started crying. Nancy shook herself, as if trying to bring herself back to reality. She handed Guy to Carol and got up. She went to the sink. The window over it was open. The breeze made her ponytail flutter. “You’re the vessel aren’t you?”
I went over to her. “No one’s called me the vessel in a long time,” I said. “And it isn’t true, anyway. My grandmother made it all up. She forced people to think bad things about Jason and me.”
“Jason.” Nancy turned to me sharply. “That’s the Wodden guy, isn’t it? The one in the park? He’s the sun.”
“The Rising Sun,” I said softly. “But it isn’t true, what you’re saying. It can’t be. You’re saying that I caused the solar flare? That breaking up with Jason made him bad?” If I was the vessel, and I was covering Jason up while we were together, then it seemed her dream stated that when I left him Jason was free to burn up the world. Like a solar flare. But that was silly, because Jason couldn’t cause solar flares. I mean, could he?
“I don’t know what the dream means,” she said. “I have other dreams though. Like the flies.”
“It’s stress,” said Carol. “They’re nightmares. She can’t sleep. I don’t like them.”
I took her hand. “They don’t always come true,” I told her. “Sometimes, I think they’re just possibilities. We dream them so we can stop them.”
But Nancy didn’t look comforted. Instead, her eyes bulged and she dug her fingernails into the palm of my hand. Her mouth opened, and she started to speak, but her voice didn’t sound like her own anymore. It sounded a little older, and a little deeper. I knew the voice, just like I knew the words. “Your power feeds his. Together, the things you will do. The terrible, terrible things you will do. Do you know what he is capable of?”
Michaela Weem. Michaela goddamned fucking Weem! I tried to yank my hand away from Nancy’s. I didn’t want to hear the rest of it. I’d heard it before. I didn’t need to hear it again.
But she didn’t stop. “Ah, I see that you do. I see that you have seen his face. His true face. Do you think it will stop, Azazel? No! It will only get worse. Soon it will be thousands upon thousands of bodies heaped on a pyre. And you will lie dead as he feasts on your guts!”
I pulled harder on my hand, trying to make her let go, trying to get away from her. “No,” I said. “None of that is true. My grandmother put those visions in Michaela’s head. She made all that happen.”
Nancy’s fingers dug in tighter. Her eyes burned into mine. And her voice wasn’t Michaela’s anymore, but it wasn’t quite her own either. “It doesn’t matter where the visions come from. If enough people believe them, they are true. You will find him sitting alone. He will be crying, like a little boy. You will put your hand on his forehead, and you will reach inside with your mind. You’ll squeeze something in there. Something vital. He’ll look up at you for that last moment, wondering why. He’ll whisper that he loves you. And then…he’ll die.”
I swallowed hard. I put my hand against Nancy’s forehead in much the same way she’d just described. I reached inside. And I made her let go of me!
We broke apart, both stumbling and gasping. Nancy clutched her head. “Augh!” she screamed.
I started swearing. I wanted to run for the door, but I didn’t. I couldn’t because, suddenly all around me, the world was buzzing with flies. They blocked me. They stopped me. I blinked once. Hard. And they were gone.
Nancy was shaking herself again. She rubbed her face. “Like a brain freeze,” she muttered. “Like too much slushy, too quick.”
Kieran and Carol were both on their feet.
“What did you do to her?” Carol demanded. Guy whimpered in her arms. Carol went to her girlfriend and touched her face. “Are you okay?”
Nancy took the baby from Carol, grinning. “I’m fine. I’m fine. That was crazy! What was that?”
“I don’t know,” I said. What was I supposed to say? I think you channeled Jason’s crazy mother and then had a vision where you predicted the way I would kill Jason?
We left not too long after that. I don’t think any of us were much in the mood for visiting after Nancy’s outburst. Kieran tried to talk to me about whether it was a good idea to leave the baby there or not, but I was preoccupied. I said the baby would be fine. We were right to leave him there. I also insisted we just go straight back to the OF encampment. I believed Nancy’s dream. Jason had the Key of Asher. It wasn’t lying around outside, lost in a scuffle. Jason had it.
Kieran tried to engage me in conversation. He wanted to know why Nancy’s outburst had freaked me out so much. He wanted to know about my grandmother. I didn’t want to talk about any of it.
All I could think about was what Nancy had said. She’d envisioned me killing Jason. When I’d met Jason, people had wanted me to kill him, but I’d refused. Now Jason was hiding out, cutting off people’s fingers and making threats. She’d echoed the words Michaela had said to me all those years ago. Was it possible that Jason really was going to become the monster she’d envisioned?
A long time ago, I would have argued against it until I was hoarse. Back then, I didn’t believe there was darkness inside Jason. Now, with everything I’d seen, I wasn’t sure anymore. Maybe I should have killed him when I had the chance.