It seemed rooted to the floor, swaying on its heels like a drunk or a sleepwalker, death’s head drooping, its tongues a nest of snakes I’d charmed to sleep.
Me. I’d done that. Jacob Portman, boy nothing from Nowhere, Florida. It was not currently murdering us—this horror made of gathered dark and nightmares harvested from sleeping children—because I had asked it not to. Told it in no uncertain terms to unwrap its tongue from around my neck. Back off, I’d said. Stand, I’d said—in a language made of sounds I hadn’t known a human mouth could make—and miraculously it had, eyes challenging me while its body obeyed. Somehow I had tamed the nightmare, cast a spell over it. But sleeping things wake and spells wear off, especially those cast by accident, and beneath its placid surface I could feel the hollow boiling.
Addison nudged my calf with his nose. “More wights will be coming. Will the beast let us pass?”
“Talk to it again,” Emma said, her voice woozy and vague. “Tell it to sod off.”
I searched for the words, but they’d gotten shy. “I don’t know how.”
“You did a minute ago,” Addison said. “It sounded like there was a demon inside you.”
A minute ago, before I’d known I could do it, the words had been right there on my tongue, just waiting to be spoken.