It didn’t take very long. Time flowed differently in the real world than it did in whatever place they had been trapped in; that much was obvious. One look at the news was enough to tell Nancy, Jamie, Kyle and Jessie that one of the escaped demons had already found its way into a vessel. In the time that they had been gone, the country’s leader had changed considerably. In the beginning, he had been a fair and just man, with most of the Americans backing any decision that he made. But things were different now. In a short amount of time, according to the news anchor, the president had become a ruthless man who was willing to do anything to get what he wanted and readily killed anyone who stood in his way.
“Citizens are living in a state of fear, akin to that which was created by the likes of Hitler and Stal─” There was a sickening cracking sound and the anchor’s head twisted all the way around. He shuddered only once, his eyes rolled up into the back of his head, and he slumped over onto the news counter, dead. The blood curdling shriek of the woman next to him pierced the air like a dagger cutting through flesh.
Jessie looked away from the television, sickened. Jamie turned off the set. He looked better than he had, but by no means did he look like he was okay. He was in all black this afternoon and his eyes still had the red hew of a person who had only recently finished crying. It was nearly five-thirty in the afternoon and the four of them were all sitting in Jamie’s living room, trying to decide what the best course of action would be.
“It makes sense,” Kyle said.
“What?” Jamie said, looking over at him.
“Go straight to the head. If you want to be in the position of power, go for the most powerful man in the country.”
Nancy scoffed. “What, you think they’re watching the elections down in hell? Rooting for who they want to win? How would they know who the most powerful person in the country is?”
Jessie looked at her. “Do you always have to be so negative about everything?”
“Get real. What, you think there are demonic factions down there. Or, even better: a demonic hierarchy?”
“Duh!” Kyle said. “Ever heard of Lucifer?”
“Please! Lucifer is as much of a myth as the Easter Bunny, or Santa.”
“How do you know he’s a myth?” Jessie asked.
“How do you know he’s not? I mean, look around. What proof is there that he really exists?”
Jessie gestured at the screen. “Um, did you not see the guy’s head just twist all the way around like he was some kind of a rag doll?”
“Any demon could have done that.”
“You know what? Whatever.” Jessie turned on the couch and stared resolutely at the wall.
“How do we tell who’s a demon and who’s not?” Jamie asked, clearly trying to change the subject.
“I don’t know,” Kyle said. “But we’re gonna have to figure it out before─”
“Do you guys feel that?” Nancy asked. For the first time in what seemed like days, the venom was gone from her voice and she had a look of genuine curiosity on her face.
“Feel what?” Kyle asked.
“Things just feel…different,” she said. “Darker, somehow.”
“Well,” Jessie said without ever looking away from the wall,” it could be all the demons that are running around.”
Nancy ignored her. “I’m serious. It feels like things just took a really bad turn.”
“Because things weren’t bad already.”
Nancy’s eyes clenched shut and she grimaced in apparent pain. “I need air,” she said and got up and ran for the door. They heard her throw open the door and then her own scream tore through the air. They all got up and ran to the door. The scene in front of them told them everything that they needed to know.