Chapter 28

Before there had been only three figures in long blue robes and cowls. Now there were three hundred, all crammed into the warehouse, surrounding us.

I had managed to get Emma to calm down, sobbing into my shirt. But when she sensed the figures around us, she looked up and screamed.

I stood, keeping a hand on my sister’s shoulder. It had only been a minute since I took the silver ring off but already I felt lost without it.

All the figures were motionless, the round darkness of their cowls facing us. Only one moved forward, the one closest to the ring. It reached out a pale, skeletal hand, picked the ring up and cupped it in its palm. It slowly began to approach us.

Emma screamed again, holding onto me now, her fingernails digging into my leg.

“What do you want?” I asked.

The figure kept approaching.

My sister’s fingernails digging even deeper, I shouted, “What do you want?

The figure came to a stop only a few feet away. For some reason I expected to smell something awful coming from its body — decay and death — but there was no scent at all.

Beside me, Emma had buried her face in my stomach.

I stood my ground, keeping my hand on her shoulder.

The figure raised its hand, the one cupping the silver ring … which had begun to glow.

The silver ring thanks you, said a voice both inside and outside my head.

“For what?”

For helping eliminate the Shadow Man.

“That’s not his real name.”

No, but you could never even begin to comprehend his real name.

“Why me?”

Why not you?

“People died. My parents died.”

Many people die. It is just the way of the universe.

“That’s not the type of universe I want to be part of.”

The figure didn’t reply. The ring in its hand kept glowing.

“What are you anyway?”

We are the protectors of the silver ring. The protectors of the universe.

“Yeah? Well judging by the past twenty-four hours, you’re lousy at your job.”

We do only what the ring commands. And it commanded us to come here to this planet so it could find you.

Emma had loosened her grasp on my leg, still scared but understanding that these figures meant us no harm.

“Now what happens?”

Now the ring will grant you one request for your troubles.

I glanced down at my sister, glanced back at the figure. I shook my head.

“I want nothing from the ring.”

The ring knows what you want. It also knows you think it cannot work. But you are wrong.

“How? Cashman and the Shadow Man … they would still be alive.”

Remember, both time and space are infinite. They cross over into one another. What has happened here tonight will never change.

I glanced down at my sister.

Emma, tears drying on her face, looked up at me.

“What do you want to do?” I asked her quietly.

She whispered, “I just wanna go home.”

I looked back up at the figure, at the silver ring still glowing in its cupped hand, and nodded.

“Let’s do it.”

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