do that,” Dad reminded her.

Emily sighed. “I know. But please. I need you alive, not dead.”

He just smiled and pulled her in for a tight hug, one that she enjoyed. It reminded her of her childhood. When he was done squeezing her, he broke the embrace. “Now get up there and take them out. I’ll go up to the roof and shoot down as many as I can.”

Dad squeezed her shoulders one more time before slipping back into the night. Emily stood there for a minute, heartbroken. She tried not to cry. She tried not to think of what would happen if the bat horde got to Dad before she could thin them out early enough. She didn’t think Aunt Anastacia’s defenses would keep him safe.

Well, he’s not going to be safe at all if you keep staring at nothing like that, Selena said. Fly, Emily, fly! And give those bastards hell!

Emily was about to run off when Selena used the ‘bastard’ word.

What? Emily thought with a smile. She was already high on adrenaline.

You know what I mean! Selena went on. Make them pay!

Emily leaped onto the ground and took off into the night. She pumped tremendous force into her legs, wondering how she was going to get to the necessary height she needed. She remembered the car parked beside the house. Before she turned away from her approaching foe, she scanned the night.

There were truly thousands of them. She could see them clearly now, from the first ones to the stragglers. They all had their eyes on her and the cottage. Their eyes had a strange orange glow to them, as though they were being controlled from somewhere else—Dad had that same orange glow in his eyes when he was being controlled by Gregory Alfred. Their screeches were closer, louder, and more terrifying.

They had about five minutes before the creatures got to the cottage. If Emily took to the skies now, she could get to them in less than one minute. That meant she’d have about four minutes to destroy a thousand of them.

Could she do it?

Emily swung around, putting her back to the horde and her face to the cottage. She sighted her car parked by the house. She headed for it, already seeing herself jumping off the ground onto the trunk of the car, then onto the roof, and into the air.

She saw Dad break out of a skylight somewhere on the back side of the roof. He carried a different weapon with him and wore a rueful smile on his face, the same one you’d have if you acquired your favorite toy. Emily was no gun expert; however, Dad had traded the rusty old bucket for a state-of-the-art sniper rifle, very similar to the one he’d used in his days as a Marine operative.

He was also dragging a large metal container of magazines and bullets. And then there was a large candle he had with him. A strange-looking red candle with white markings on it.

Dad took one look at her and waved. “Hey, look at what Aunt Anastacia managed to bring me!”

Emily did not have the mental capacity to reply to him and still call forth her Owl form. So she waved back, wondering how Aunt Anastacia was still awake and how she’d brought him top-tier military gear.

Her car was parked not far from the porch. Emily leaped off the ground onto the trunk just as she’d planned. She bounced off onto the roof and then leaped with all her strength into the air.


That’s when Emily released. After a moment, her entire body was inundated with an indescribable power. Her body snapped in all different awkward angles as a bright light exploded from her innermost being.

She should have dropped down on the ground like a stone; however, a snap of wind swatted her into the air as she transformed. The transformation process took less than ten seconds. When it was over, Emily shot out of the blast of white light as a fully formed Owl. She let loose a ringing whistle as she tilted up, barely grazing the edge of the cottage’s roof.

She spun several times as the winds carried her higher and higher into the skies. The feeling of the rush of wind through her plume was unquantifiable. She felt like the skies belonged to her—like they were her very subjects.

A newfound power burned away in her chest. Like heat. Or a blazing fire. Pure power. All her fears and concerns vanished. As she swooped around the cottage and headed for the coming swarm, she had only one notion in her thoughts: Kill them all.

Yes, kill them all! boomed a fiery, brash voice in Emily’s mind. It was a new voice, not like Selena. It was fierce. Incendiary. Unafraid. And strangely, it fueled Emily’s rage, feeding her power even more.

Uh, who are you?

I am the fire demon! the voice screamed. Weirdly, it was a male voice this time. Emily wasn’t terrified or anything for having another consciousness in her mind. After spending a few days with Selena, she got used to the idea. But she still wondered where this fire-demon-guy came from.

Uh, Fire Demon, where did you come from, though? Although she was conversing with the fire demon, she had her eyes on the swarm. In forty seconds, she would make contact.

I’ve always been in you, the fire demon said. You just haven’t given me expression. Hey, can we have this conversation later? I’m going to help you destroy the entire horde.

That’s when the conversation got interesting.

Okay then. I’m listening. Can you really help me destroy them all? asked Emily, impressed. There are a lot of them. Like three thousand.

The fire demon let loose a rambunctious laugh, one that startled Emily even in flight. His laughter lasted for longer than necessary, which had Emily wondering if this fire demon wasn’t perhaps a little unhinged. And why did she have to have two consciousnesses within her mind?

The laughter faded away. They should have sent

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