The Barrier: Case Four- Chapter Eight

Riley’s hands were shaking a little, and she was thoroughly confused. She had no idea what just happened, but was relieved it least seemed to temporarily work.

“You’re bleeding,” Emily said softly, walking over with a tissue.

Riley quickly jerked back, “Please don’t touch me.”

Emily nodded and stretched out her hand so that Riley could take it.

“Are you okay?” Miller asked.

“Not really,” Riley replied honestly, “But I kind of have to be.”

“Riley,” Ethan began.

“No,” Riley said quickly, “He is messing with me, and I prefer not to acknowledge it more than that. We can talk about whatever just happened and the sharing memories thing later. I need to focus, and if I can deal with this, so can you all.”

Riley turned back to her computer while still lightly dabbing at her nose. Ethan sighed but did not try to push her. She was right; they needed to focus. Otherwise he might just succeed in his plan, and Ethan was not going to let that happen.

“We should talk in private,” Daniel said, walking over to Ethan.

“Do you have a solution?”

“A plan, but the less Riley knows, the better. He is digging in too deeply. We can explain when this is over and explain it might happen in the future.”

“I don’t like this, but I agree,” Gabrielle added.

Ethan nodded, and the three left the room together with Riley watching.

“They are keeping secrets,” the shade said.

“You came back awfully fast.”

“Oh, I am impressed with you, but you won’t keep me away, or distract me. They are hiding things from you.”

“It’s none of your business, and if I have to, I will keep pushing you out.”

Riley turned back to her laptop and reminded herself over and over in her head that he had done this to Grace. That doubting and worrying was only helping him.

When they were far enough from the group, Daniel turned to Ethan, “We can’t exorcise him, that is for certain.”

“I thought you wanted to give me a solution.”

“I do. I believe we need to come at it with a two-pronged approach. I have found a prayer that is meant to drain the power of a shade; it is very dangerous and easy to counter.”

“Okay?” Ethan pressed.

“So we start with a banishment.”

Ethan perked up and understood. “He will be focused on countering the banishment, and then you start with the other?”

“Yes, and hopefully, between Gabrielle, Josh, and myself, we will be able to pull off both. A banishment at full power will not stop him for long, but if we drain then banish him, he should be helpless.”

“And if the banishment fails as long as the other works, we should still have the upper hand,” Ethan said, rubbing his brow a bit. “It is a risky plan but a good one and better than anything else we have come up with thus far.”

“We are still short on some information though,” Gabrielle said.

“I assumed as much.”

“Any ideas on how we could get it?” Daniel asked.

“None that are good or worth risking. We need to figure it out, though, and fast. I do not want Riley here anymore.” The three walked back to the base and saw that Emily and Riley were completely focused. Ethan couldn’t decide if he was happy that Riley was so deep in concentration or not. The reality was probably somewhere in the middle. He was concerned about Riley disconnecting, but also knew it might lower her risk if she did a little.

“This might be something?” Emily said. “The lodge was apparently partially torn down and changed in the 1950s. If this place is his anchor, we can get an idea of his power level based on if missing people slowed down during that time.”

“Alright, that is a good catch,” Ethan said.

Both women started to dig deeper, while Ethan and Daniel continued to research other rituals they might be able to use on a shade such as this. Part of what The Event had done was proven the futility of many of the old ways of finding and dealing with spirits. Some rituals were actually successful, many were proven to be nothing. Replacing older rituals with new ones took time and experimentation, something that Ethan normally did not mind, but now was not the time for it. They needed to be certain that whatever they did worked.

After a bit, Emily sighed, “Well, the news is mixed.”

“How so?” Miller asked.

“Redoing the lodge did slow him down a bit, but not for that long at all. So in the 1950s, he was already fairly powerful, enough that a change in his anchor only slowed him a bit. It could have been worse, it could have had no impact, but it’s far from good.”

“It is something, and thank you for following up, ladies. Keep trying, I know that you are,” Ethan said, wanting to move the group away from being discouraged.

It was a few hours more when Riley spoke up, admitting she needed to go back to sleep. Josh, Mike, and Miller agreed. Riley had been impressed with how much Mike had thrown himself into the case. He really was proof that bravery was not a lack of fear. She knew he must be incredibly uncomfortable but seemed to completely understand the importance of keeping it together and being an extra body for the rest of the group.

Riley fell once again into a fairly restless sleep. In the middle of the night, she jerked away. Something was wrong. Horribly.

“Miller!” Riley yelled.

“What?” Miller snapped.

“Something is about to happen, they are all panicking,” Riley said, quickly getting up and racing to the hallway.

“Riley, no!” Miller called after her, but Riley was already gone.

Riley raced through the hallway towards the base and noticed a barrier keeping her out. She knocked on it, trying to get Daniel and Josh’s attention, but they didn’t seem to notice. Riley searched around and took off in the opposite direction, racing by Miller, who was trying to follow and get help. When she got to the end of the hallway, she walked into a room they hadn’t been using and could see a glowing orb. Her eyes narrowed as she studied it, trying to figure out what it was when it clicked. It was one of the spirits.

“Don’t,” Riley called out, dread settling over her.

“Why shouldn’t I?” the shade said cruelly.

“No!” Riley screamed out, trying to work out whatever she had done earlier in the day. She had to stop him.

She heard him cruelly laugh and saw the form from Grace’s memory. “Stop please!” She yelled again, but the panicked orb disappeared into his bloody maw. Riley screamed out as the pain of a broken connection took over her, only this time so much worse. The other spirits were surrounding her, panicked and trying to get something from her, but Riley was collapsed on the ground sobbing.

Miller made her way into the room as soon as she felt the barrier drop, and sucked in a harsh breath as she realized what must have happened. There was one less spirit in the lodge. He must not need them all in spirit form to complete whatever ritual he was building towards. What he had done was exceptionally cruel.

Miller tried to walk towards Riley, but Riley just screamed at her and hunched more into herself. Miller could faintly make out, “She’s gone, we failed her,” over and over.

“Riley please?” Miller asked but kept her distance only to see Riley shake her head harshly.

“What is going on?” Ethan demanded as the group ran in, having heard Riley’s screams and Miller’s panic.

“He consumed one of the spirits,” Miller said quietly.

“My fault,” Riley’s chants and sobs continued until she threw up. Miller took the chance and grabbed at Riley, pulling her away from the mess and into her arms. Miller looked up at the group, desperate, and Daniel seemed the first to understand and quickly took over, letting Miller escape.

“Riley, it is not your fault,” Ethan said, walking closer but keeping his distance. He had felt how she normally reacted to him when so upset and did not want to push her. He also did not think that whatever he did to calm her was likely to reach her this time. This was genuine emotion, not just her abilities.

“She’s gone, she’s gone,” was all they got in response. Gabrielle and Josh both walked over and did a soft prayer over Riley, and Daniel started to too. It took a while, but she finally seemed to collapse into sleep. The group worked to maneuver her into her room and put her to bed.

“We need to get him and do it quickly,” Ethan growled after watching over Riley for a few minutes and stormed towards the base. Miller quickly followed so he would not be alone.

Emily, who was trying to cry as quietly as possible, was stroking Riley’s hair while they all watched.

“Do you think this will cause the others to hide?” Josh asked.

“Likely, the opposite will happen. They will push the connection deeper, hoping for some form of protection,” Gabrielle answered.

“It was already exhausting her,” Emily protested.

“Yes, but they are scared.”

“I need a few moments alone, I will watch over and radio when I need someone else to come in,” Daniel said, scrubbing his face. It was a weak excuse. They all needed some time. He could not rely on the team as they could each other though, this was only his second case with them, and as of yet, Riley was the only one he felt any strong connection to.

Still, they seemed to understand, and knew he would be able to protect her and walked back to the base. Josh and Gabrielle gathered cleaning supplies and quickly cleaned up in the room. They had no desire to linger in there.

No one really knew how to respond to what just happened, focusing instead on what work they could. Emily and Ethan were back at research while the others watched the monitors hoping he would slip, although doubting it. It was one thing to call him a spirit cannibal, it was other to essentially witness it happening. Ethan found himself hoping that Daniel was right. Ethan had never wanted to work with an exorcist because the idea of destroying a spirit so it could never pass on, never go to what was next, was too cruel. But if Daniel was right about his suspicion that it did not truly happen, then maybe that young spirit hadn’t been entirely destroyed. The darker side of Ethan lectured him against foolish hope based on nothing but desire to be wrong. Still…

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