I wasn't as shocked as I should have been to find out demons existed. But then again, I knew from when I was thirteen that there was magic in the world.
It was all because of Lo.
It was a hot school day in June. School was coming to an end, and I was ecstatic. Everyone avoided me at school like I was the plague, but really, I was fine with being left alone. The only thing I had ever wanted was to be by myself so I didn't have to care about other people who didn't care for me. So I hated Lo when he arrived at school.
Our class had been sitting down, all ready for the lunch bell to ring, when our teacher, Miss Lilly, stepped out of the room and came back in with a shy blonde boy.
"Class, this is Lowell Orinson," she smiled down at him kindly. "He'll be in our class next year and has come to stay for the day."
The boy turned his head, eye twitching. "H-hey," he said, and his gaze dropped to the dusty floor.
At that, the bell rang, and the class filed out, some exchanging glances before leaving Lowell in the dust. I went to follow, but for a second I turned back to the poor boy.
And for some strange reason, I did what I normally wouldn't have done. I said hello.
Lowell's left eye continued to twitch as he replied. "Hi. You can call me Lo, since I don't like Lowell."
I shrugged. "Fine by me."
After that, we grew closer. Too close. And then I discovered what Lo really was. And then he left me.
"Alyvia?" Brennan's voice jolts me from my thoughts. I look at the scaled demon ambling beside me and bark out a laugh. Brennan blinks before ducking his head. "What's so funny?"
I take a deep breath and shrug. "I just...I can't believe I ended up here. Walking and talking to a creature like you."
Brennan's walk slows and his wings slump. "'A creature like me,'" he echoes, staring off ahead into the elm trees.
For a second I think I've hurt him, but soon enough he shakes out his wings once more and starts to flap them. "I'll scout ahead," he says. "I think we'll be at the safehouse soon."
I'm about to protest but the combination of seeing him fly and the dizzy gusts of wind stop me. When I look back up at the patch of sky, Brennan is gone.
I stop and glance around, my stomach clenching. Don't you think it's funny that you've always wanted to be alone, and now that you are, you want someone again?
I ignore the voice in my head and head over to a fallen tree, sitting down and relaxing. My feet don't hurt, but the clothes I was wearing when I died have stuck with me and are getting worn. I wonder if they make clothes for a spirit.
The silence stretches on, and there's no sign of Brennan. My mind starts to wander as the sun sinks behind the trees, casting long shadows over me. Could Brennan have gotten caught by the Hunter? Could he have left me here as bait? My thoughts become more geared towards his betrayal, so I cut them off and listen for a moment.
Only, there are no bird song or crickets chirping.
I stiffen and wait for it to resume, but all I can make out is the faint crashing of branches in the distance. It gets louder, nearer, and I start getting up, ready to climb a tree or run. Brennan betrayed me. He lured these creatures to me. He's probably working with the Hunter. As these assumptions grow more sour, a twig snaps from the bush around me. My heart pounds.
What the-I whirl around and come face to face with him.
He still has those sparkling brown eyes, that crooked nose smattered with freckles. He stares at me before breaking into a coughing fit, spittle flying from his lips. I rush to his side, disbelief still gripping me.
"Are you okay?" I ask. He nods, wiping his mouth and blinking at me. He looks so bewildered it makes me want to cry.
"What are you doing here? In the...BorderWoods?" I continue, my heart racing.
At this, Lo's brow furrows. "Didn't I tell you?" He says. "I came to train as a witch."
It all comes back to me then. The nights gazing at the stars, him explaining how someday, there will be a place for magic and humans to become one, and that he would be the one to bring that day about.
"You live here now," I say, more to myself, but Lo nods again.
"I'm sorry Al," he says, "but-"
Another crack of brambles reveals a huge wolf barreling through the trees, jaws snapping and slavering at me. Lo holds up his hands, and the wolf stops, blue eyes glowing in the dusk light.
"Hold, Selene," he says. "It's alright, I know this human."
"She could be the Hunter." I jump when the wolf's words sound in my mind, ringing with a feminine chime.
"I know Alyvia, and she isn't the Hunter," Lo's gaze snaps from mine to the wolf. "Trust me, Selene, it's-"
"Get away from her!" A sudden shadow barrels through the air towards the wolf, and it howls as Brennan knocks it over.
"Selene!" Lo shouts, raising his hands again. Vines spurt from the ground, entangling Brennan's limbs and wings.
"Let-go-of-me-" Brennan spits out, clawing and tearing at the vines. More shoot out, encircling his neck and tightening.
"Stop it!" I yell, running towards Brennan. Suddenly the wind is knocked out of me and I tumble to the ground. A huge weight presses my chest, making me choke. The wolf leans so I can see it and narrows its eyes.
"Stupid girl," it growls, opening it's massive pink jaws. I glare and knee the wolf in the stomach, but it doesn't move.
"Stop, Selene!" Vines shoot up and wrap around the wolf's legs. Selene howls and struggles away, but I shove out quickly and make a bolt for Brennan.
The vines are getting worse now, tripping me up too. Lo's hands are glowing green, but his eyes are wide and panicked.
"Stop it Lo!" I shout, reaching towards a hardly breathing Brennan and glancing over my shoulder. "He's my friend!"
Lo doesn't seem to hear me. His head is drooping to the side, but his hands are still glowing. I look from the wolf to Brennan to Lo, my hands beginning to shake.
"You know how I deal with stress, babe?" My mother says. "Letting it all go."
"Down the bottle," I mutter.
"There's more to it than that," she continues. "It's all about letting your problems be, knowing the world will take care of them for you. You trust the earth, and it'll help you."
Trust the earth, and it'll help you.
"STOP!" I scream, dropping my hands, and a bolt of yellow light zig-zags through the clearing, busting every vine into a pile of mulch. The vines release Brennan and he slumps down, gulping for air. I grab his claw as his head lolls back.
The yellow light dissipates as though it had never been here. Lo stands up, brushing a leaf off him and frowning. The wolf pads up to him and nudges his head before glowing with a blue light. I watch as it becomes a human girl.
"Now Lo, tell me what the hell is going on here?" She says, embracing him and kissing his cheek. He puts his arms around her, pressing his forehead to hers. I watch them blankly, my heart devoid of emotion.
"You almost killed Brennan." I say after a minute of watching them. "Why did you do that, Lo?"
The girl tosses her hair back and scowls. "The demon has a name? The slimy reptile has a name?"
"Of course!" I glower at her, "and he's been so kind to me. He was coming to help me because of you, wolf girl."
"We're sorry," Lo cuts in, eyeing the demon in my arms. "It's just that...demons are not good to have around."
"So are witches, from what I've seen," I shoot back. I can see Lo visibly flinch, but from what he's done tonight, I don't care. "Where can I get him help?"
Lo is silent, but Selene sighs almost begrudgingly. "I know a herbalist," she says. "She will be able to help."
"Good. You'll take me there?" I ask, glancing back down at Brennan's scaled snout.
"Thank you," I say, then whisper to Brennan. "I'm sorry I ever doubted you."
The only response I get is the twitch of his ear, but in his sleep, he looks more human than what the others say.
But human or not, I'm going to save him.