Chapter 25

“Humans are stupid. Not pathetic, okay? Don’t go confusing my words like that. After everything your species has gone through and survived, I can’t quite call you pathetic. But stupid? You better believe it.”

We were back in the warehouse district, parked in a black sedan. The river was in front of us; a large abandoned building was directly to our left.

“See, David, I knew what you were going to do even before you did. Trying to get the ring off your finger was a waste of time. Yeah, I should have known it from the start, but still I wanted to try. But then I was just getting pissed, and bored, and decided to mix things up. After all, we had time to kill before the Shadow Man could make an appearance.”

Cashman was in the driver’s seat, smoking a cigarette. I sat in the passenger seat. In the back was Nancy and Emma, Nancy holding her gun pointed straight at my sister’s head.

“So we played a little trick on you, so what? Mom back there acted like she was scared, let you go, and immediately called me. I was waiting down the street the entire time. I’ll give you credit though. I really didn’t expect you to shoot at me like that. It took balls, and for that I salute you.”

Glaring back at him, I said, “You didn’t have to kill my parents.”

“No, you’re right. I didn’t have to. I wanted to, and so I did. Just like I killed that cop. All I had to do was touch him, just get a sample of his DNA, and I could instantly copy him. But, well, the guy was an asshole, you know?”

“I don’t understand why you’re doing this anyway. I thought you said as long as I’m wearing this ring I’m invincible.”

Practically invincible,” Cashman said, taking one last drag of his cigarette and stamping it out in the ashtray. “The keyword there is practically. Yeah, nothing can hurt you as long as you’re wearing the ring. Why else do you think we brought your little sister along?”

In the backseat, Emma, who had managed to stay quiet this entire time, whimpered.

Cashman grinned at me. “See, your species is stupid.”

“Where do you come from anyway? What planet?”

He and Nancy seemed to find this question quite amusing as they both burst into a fit of loud laughter.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” Cashman said, lighting another cigarette. “It’s just a very human question for you to ask. See, my species, those things chasing you earlier, the Shadow Man, and a thousand other beings, we don’t come from other planets. We just … we come from other planes of existence.”

“You mean like dimensions?”

Cashman shrugged. “If you prefer that word instead, sure.”

“And what’s so special about this ring?” I don’t know why, but right then I thought as long as I kept him talking, kept him from hurting Emma, we would be okay. “Why is this Shadow Man coming for it?”

Cashman took a long drag of his cigarette, staring out his window. The surface of the river rippled, the lights reflected off it making it look like diamonds.

“Well?” I prompted.

“In every plane of existence — every dimension, as you like to say — there are different worlds. One big infinite universe, but a million different worlds. And that silver ring right there on your finger, it’s the one constant between them all.”

I glanced down at the ring, the thing which hadn’t glowed since I was back in the house.

“What are you saying — that it’s the most powerful thing in the universe?”

Cashman laughed again, shaking his head. “No, David, that’s where your human mentality stops you. The silver ring isn’t the most powerful thing in the universe. It is the universe.”

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