As expected, Kate woke up screaming. It was another night full of violent nightmares. She was sweaty, tangled in blankets and sheets, and was surrounded by a curious audience composed of five Guardians.
“What was that?” Annabel asked, astonished.
“I do not know, but the dream must have been terrible!” Samuel looked at the girl, worried.
“It must be about her parents. She must have dreamt of some of those creatures you saw the night before,” Tiago concluded.
“That’s it! Possibly, she dreamt of the disemboweled bodies of her poor parents,” Joanna said, all dramatic.
“Guys, get out! Leave the girl alone! Kate needs space. I can’t believe you guys. You are just disturbing and scaring her even more. Out!” Julio shouted, shooing the Guardians out of the room. “Honey, are you okay? Was it a nightmare you just had?” Julio asked.
“Yes. Don’t worry, I’m used to it. It’s part of my routine,” she said with a smile as she hugged an old teddy bear tightly. However, her face showed an enormous sadness. The conductor felt sorry for her. It was true, Julio had sympathized with Kate from the first time he saw her. Her distorted aura gave her a touch of mystery. He thought about how Mark had been so crude so as to imagine that she might be in cahoots with the darkness or be some kind of evil creature. Mark should have probed the girl from the beginning. He was a coward. Now, it was too late. Her family was dead.
“What exactly did you dream about?” he asked, puzzled.
“My dreams revolve around a leak and my death. Almost everyday, I dream the same thing but I am constantly murdered in a different way. Fire is always present. I try to get away but I can’t.
“That’s interesting. You know, dreams are often warnings or past memories,” he said thoughtfully, scratching his beard.
“Good. One of these options can be ruled out. I know I have never died. I have never been in a hospital and cannot remember any time in my life where I had been sick. Based on this theory, we can conclude that my dreams indicate my future. What is happening, involving all those tragedies which I witnessed, nothing scares me.” She sighed wearily, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear.
“Tragedies? There were other murders?” he asked, surprised.
She said, “Yes, with my other families. Before this, I had already been adopted two other times.”
“They were also killed by demons?”
“Unfortunately, they were. Until yesterday, I did not understand why. I was always at home during the killings and survived. Before my mother died, she mentioned something about demons chasing me and that they could not see me,” she replied.
While chronicling her story to Julio, she noticed the look of horror that came over his face. She put his hand on the conductor’s shoulder to tell him that it was okay, although she knew it was not. Kate had no idea how to move forward and overcome another loss again. She just decided that she would overcome and survive anything to honor her families who died and gave their lives for her. Kate promised to herself that she would be strong even with guilt and unbearable pain in her heart.
“Strange ... Demons usually do not chase anyone, much less for so long. How old were you when you were adopted and after your adoptive families were murdered?” Julio inquired.
“My first foster family was murdered when I was around two years old. The second was killed when I was completing five, and the last family with whom I lived hitherto, adopted me when I was eight,” she said with a sinking heart, remembering her beloved family members. The two were silent for a moment. Kate wiped a tear that rolled down her face.
“Let’s think together ... If the demons are following you, there is an interval of about two or three years between incidents.” He lifted his head and looked at the girl. “However, after your last adoption which completed eight years, they took over a decade to find you again. It makes no sense!” He looked at her tenderly. “Honestly, nothing makes sense from this absurd story!”
She sighed and nodded.
“They are having difficulty in locating you. What I can conclude is that they need some source or something that can give away your location.” He pressed his chin thoughtfully, “Somehow, even you ﬂee a town or change regions, they still end up discovering your whereabouts. Therefore, it is imperative that you stay living here with us just so we can unravel this mystery that revolves around your life.” He embraced the commitment to help the girl.
“Julio, since humans can see the Guardians, can they not see the demons?” Kate asked.
“My darling, you have no idea. It’s all part of their strategy.” He quickly rose from the bed and stared into her beautiful blue eyes. “They prefer to live in anonymity, a mystery to everyone. This way, it is easier for them to pass through the portals through the gaps so they can hold and feed on human bodies. It is a fact that the vast majority of humans do not believe that there may be creatures of darkness. Of course, they become vulnerable and easy prey,” he said with a wistful smile.
Kate squeezed the teddy bear to her chest and vented to the conductor, “All I wanted was to be a normal girl without any demons or malevolent creatures interfering in my life.”
“This is another detail. You do not have a human aura, Kate.” Stroking his beard, he suggested a different alternative which indeed was the most plausible. “In my honest opinion, I think that your aura is being blocked by some kind of spell, preventing its identification. This would explain the fact that the creatures cannot see you. I believe someone is trying to protect you somehow,” Julio tried to piece together the puzzle.
“But who? I do not know anyone else. I’ve never had siblings, grandparents, or uncles.” She arched an eyebrow in doubt.
“The only certainty I have is that whatever you are, I can feel that you are fascinating and a being full of pure goodness,”
Thrilled and grateful, she gave Julio a hug. No one had ever treated her with such consideration apart from her parents.
“Thank you, Julio! If by chance I am an apocalyptic evil being, I promise to spare your life,” the girl said with a grin, not ruling out the possibility of being even some kind of alien.
“In gratitude, I will prepare your breakfast. Let’s meet shortly in the kitchen,” he said smiling as he left the room.
Kate drank coffee in the company of the Guardians and then went to her room. She did not feel like talking and decided to spend this Sunday in bed. She needed to plan and think about her life, how to move forward and continue where she left off. Julio had suggested for her to continue with her normal life and go back to college. Even if she changed into some creature, she would not be able to attack during the day as she was in the presence of the Guardians and humans. However, her biggest obstacles were not the creatures but rather Jake and those young people. She was not prepared to take a sermon from them.
Kate remembered Jake with his loving knack and charming smile. She had goose bumps and felt her stomach turn as if she had something inside. She wondered if that was so when a person felt loved by someone. She barely knew him but carried so many strong and conﬂicting feelings for him. Hearing a knock on the door, she went to check who it could be. When she opened it, Tiago was leaning against the doorframe, making charm.
“Hi! Julio told me that you are afraid to go back to school. Is that true? If the reason is Jake or that redhead, I can accompany you. I guarantee that no one will bother you,” Tiago said.
Kate shot him an incredulous look. Was Tiago trying to be a gentleman, or did he want another thwack from Jake? She would never go to college with Tiago in tow knowing that the two detested each other. It would be very embarrassing. Kate replied, “I appreciate your concern, but when I go back to school, I’d rather go alone. Do not worry, no one will disturb me. I can handle myself very well.”
“Are you sure? Knowing the other Guardians, they will not forget that you have run away. Do you want to get an earful about what happened? They are even being accused of the tragedy involving your parents.
She looked at him, frustrated. “Let’s do this. When I go back to college and they harass me, I’ll warn you, okay?” she asked hopefully.
“Of course, if you prefer it that way. Even so, I’ll be watching!” the Guardian said smiling, and soon after disappeared down the hall. Relieved, she returned to her room to put her thoughts in order.
Jake arrived exhausted due to the tiring ritual of exorcism he just did. His body ached and felt dirty for having contained, even for a few minutes, a demonic entity within his body. Any ritual required a lot of vital energy of a Guardian. It was for this reason that night when Lana was asking for his help, he vehemently refused to do so. He would rather drag and bury coffins off at dawn. All kinds of rituals involving expulsion and encompassing this were the worst part of the job of a Guardian of Orpheus.
However, what was making him concerned was that threat. He could not understand it. Which sordid authority had spoken to him about Kate? Kill her? When they return, it will be worse? Who? Demons? Jake was worried and didn’t really appreciate the infamous wink that the demon gave him.
It was no secret to him that lately, there was something unusual going on in Alcantes. He would have to take action as soon as possible. Kate had just lost her parents and was now seriously in danger. The Guardian was absolutely sure that the demons were up to something and only Gabriel could help unravel this puzzle. For this reason, he decided not to tell anything to Mark or any other Guardian.
The day began to dawn and the storm clouds were beginning to transform the stormy sky. They finally brought rain, softening the climate. He checked his phone to see if Kate had replied to him. There was nothing, no message or call. The girl was really tough. Jake decided to chart a course to locate her whereabouts. According to the first road, he was hoping to get some information. If she had chosen to ﬂee the city, this would most likely be the location. Leaning on the snack counter, a chubby man with a pen behind his ear asked him in a very friendly voice, “Good morning, young man. How can I help you?”
“Hello, good morning! Could you give me some information?” Jake asked anxiously.
“Of course! What you need to know?” the man asked.
“Last night, did you see a girl with long black hair, very light blue eyes, wearing a black dress, embarking on a bus?” With a vulnerable expression, he added. “She is very important to me.”
“I saw her, yes! She bought a sandwich here. She was a very pretty girl and not hard to miss, especially with the sadness on her face. Is she your girlfriend?” the man inquired.
He looked thoughtfully at the man and replied, “No, we’re just friends. I need to find her urgently.” Feeling a little apprehensive, he asked, “Did you manage to identify the destination of the bus which she boarded?”
The nice man gave him a half smile. “No, she did not actually embark. While the girl waited on a bench, a tall guy approached her.”
Jake felt dizzy and something tangled inside his stomach. A boy? Who could it be? Kate had no friends. She had barely lived in Alcantes. Stricken, he ran a hand through his hair. Swallowing hard, he asked the man, “Did you notice the appearance of the boy? Maybe his physical type?”
“Yes, he also caught my attention. The boy was tall, had brown hair, striking eyes, and an athletic build. He looked fond of her and showed enough confidence ”
“I get it!” He interrupted the man in a fright. He could not believe that son of a bastard Tiago had taken the girl. How did he know that she was miserable? He recalled Mark saying that the Congregation de Julio had learned of the tragedy. Obviously, he sacrificed himself in a boring ritual of exorcism. That smart ass, rescuing my girl like an enchanted prince. Realizing that the man looked haunted, he soon made it clear, “Sorry! I know the guy who took my friend. Thank you for the information, it was very useful.” He thanked the man and headed straight home.
Jake returned upset, almost knocking the door down upon entering. It was not enough that Kate was possibly with Julio’s congregation since the girl had become his responsibility. He stomped into the room and to his surprise, found Mark watching TV. This was rare and unusual as the ruler claimed it to be a waste of time. Sighing, Jake collapsed beside him on the couch. Mark stared at him with a look and concluded, “From that entrance, I can deduce that you have learned of the whereabouts of the girl. Before kicking the door of our neighbor, I want you to listen,” Mark said.
Jake looked at him sullenly, arching an eyebrow. He doubted that he would like what Mark had to say. “Well, let’s just get this suspense out of the way. Julio called me this morning to inform me that he had found Kate and was already aware of the story about the aura of the girl, including the demonic attack on her family. He decided to offer her help and hosted her in his congregation. He told me not to worry. He assured me that he would keep her safe,” the conductor explained slowly while staring at Jake.
“Let me guess. You accepted!” Jake raised his hands indignantly. “Some things never change. You know what I do not understand? He just discovered her that fast. Don’t give me that bullshit that came through the sniffer.” Tilting his head thoughtfully, he concluded with a yell, “But of course! Tiago was there at the party and noticed that Kate had a strange aura. Without the least disguise, he threw it in my face! He was intrigued and began his own investigation, at least after we left the party. I’ll kill that scoundrel! That was not his business!”
“You have to agree with me, that bastard was smart,” Mark said, repenting soon afterwards. It would not be a good idea to instigate his anger. He was already very nervous and upset for bringing up this undergrowth.
“Smart? I will vow to improve such knowledge of it so I can put my hands on that cheater. He does not lose for waiting!” Jake screamed.
“Keep calm! You cannot go out and get in trouble with a Guardian, even if the jerk is Tiago. Listen and watch.” Mark placed his hand on Jake’s shoulder, trying to calm him down. He continued, “The rules are there to be followed. Promise me right now that you will behave like an adult guardian and will not further complicate our situation. Come on, promise!” Mark said.
Jake, as he was feeling betrayed and challenged, ran a hand through his hair. He sighed, closed his eyes, and mentally counted to a million. After a while, in silence he vented, “I’m an adult! It is you who treats me like a kid!” He clenched his fists in anger and said, “They act behind our backs and now, I have to swallow it all very quietly! This is not right. They should have told us when they found her and brought her here.” He rose from the couch. “Do you want to know my opinion about it? Tiago was the only indulgent approach to the case of Kate because he saw me at the party with her. You know how he loves to make my life miserable. He probably led the way, figuring that I’d be a beast. That’s what I am now!”
Mark was quiet for a moment. Those two were hopeless. What would be the real reason for such outrage among them? The conductor would question that matter later. At that time, there was something more troubling and urgent. He asked suspiciously, “Clarify one thing for me. Are you really in love with this girl?” Mark spoke, annoyed. “That attitude’s not normal. For God’s sake, Jake! It hasn’t been seventy-two hours since you’ve known!”
“Do not give me that. I just want to help her. I feel sorry for the girl. She’s just an orphan! Kate’s mother made me promise to take care of her. Spare me your sarcasm!”. He clarified, “I don’t know how to fall in love with a person anymore. It would take some time,” Jake said. “I think that when we find the right person with whom we want to spend the rest of life of our life with, we love and protect her. We know the first moment we look into their eyes. Of course, this is not my case. It is just my opinion.”
The conductor was fascinated. He was really charmed by Jake. It was no doubt that it would not be easy to keep him out of trouble. It was through this confession that Mark was sure he would not allow Tiago to approach the girl. Besides being impulsive, Jake was very determined.
“If you promise me you’ll wait and will not invade the neighboring congregation with the intention of scalping Tiago, I will give you my word that I will talk with Julio, and arrive at a viable solution for everyone. Just wait. Have patience and be complacent,” he pleaded for Jake, to prevent the apocalypse.
Facing the conductor with an eager look, he questioned, “When you say “viable solution,” that will bring her here, right?” Jake was agonized as he needed to talk to her to clear things up and apologize ASAP. A strong feeling of anxiety was corroding his insides. Sighing, he asked, “Anyway, for how long am I waiting? I really cannot wait. I need to see her now!”
“Do I have to draw for you? I do not want to go to Julio. I know you Jake. You will not tolerate the insults of Tiago and it will cause trouble. Just talk to her tomorrow in university so there will be no fights, she won’t feel intimate, and you can even mark the wedding date!” undid the ruler, losing all the patience he had left. The boy was tenacious.
“To fill me with this business of a wedding ... What? She’s going back to university? Are you sure? But as it ...” He looked suspicious. “You’re lying!”
"You stubborn boy!” Mark was about to burst. “Would you stop playing the brat? I’m not lying. Tomorrow, you will go to class and talk with her. Now, get out of here!”
Jake turned sharply and left fuming. He decided to take a walk to cool off. Tomorrow would be another dog day ahead.