“Why are we out here in the middle of the night, Matt?” Zack asked, stumbling to keep his balance on the rough ground.
“I told you, I had a dream.”
“You know what? Your dreams are making me miss my beauty rest.” Though he made a joke of it, his voice filled with irritation.
Matt rolled his eyes and kept walking, causing Zack to take a deep breath to keep his temper in check.
“We’re out here in the woods, in the middle of the night, trying to find a cave, and you don’t even know why.” Zack’s exasperation poured off him like perspiration, and all the anger from their earlier argument at the concert returned. Matt could be selfish when he set his mind on something, no matter what it did to Zack.
“I know, okay? I feel myself being pulled here. We’ll probably get some answers when we find what I’m looking for.”
“Did it ever occur to you, vision boy, that it was just a dream?”
Matt stopped walking to glare at his brother, tired of being bossed around. “Vision boy?” he echoed and drew his head back. “You know better than that.” With jaws clenched and hazel eyes narrowed, he waited for an apology. Zack stood and stared. Sweat poured from his face and his eyes glittered with anger.
Instead, Zack ran his hands through his short hair and looked away.
Matt turned his brother by the shoulder to make him face him. “When are my visions ever just dreams?”
He had a point there, Zack thought, and fell into step behind Matt. “There’s probably not even a cave anywhere near here,” Zack mumbled and cursed loudly when he almost ran into his brother who had stopped suddenly.
“Oh yeah?” Matt retorted. “Then what’s that?” He motioned toward and opening in the side of a mountain and walked forward, once again feeling compelled.
Thinking back, Zack remembered how their parents had abandoned them ten years before. They hadn’t taken care of them except for leaving them a trust fund so that, when Zack turned eighteen, he would have control of the money. He guessed he should thank them for that.
For awhile, they’d lived with their grandmother in her apartment, but she had always been sickly, unable to care for either one of them, so it was always up to Zack to make sure Matt had what he needed.
When Zack graduated high school, he took a job as a dishwasher at one of the cafes in town. Their grandmother died that year. They stayed in the apartment for awhile and when Matt graduated at seventeen, Zack decided they should leave before Social Services came to take Matt from him. Zack would not let that happen. He’d always taken care of his little brother and he always would.
“Zack?” Matt glanced back at his brother. “You okay?”
Zack shook his head, coming back to the present and followed reluctantly. “Shit,” he mumbled. “Yeah, I’m fine. Let’s get this over with.”
Matt turned and stared at him.
“What?” Zack said.
“You sure do that a lot.”
“Do what a lot.”
“Curse,” Matt said. “You shouldn’t. I’m going to get this big jar and from now on, every time you say a curse word, you’re going to have to put a dollar in it.”
Zack snorted. “Don’t be a dork, Matt.”
“It wouldn’t take long before we’d be millionaires.” He grinned.
“You ready?” Matt nodded toward the opening.
“I guess,” Zack said reluctantly.
Matt nodded again.
Clicking on their flashlights, they entered the dark cave and gazed around. It consisted of one large, deep room. The opening to the outside offered the only light. Matt heard water drip in the pool, and the wind howl across the entrance, just like in his dream.
“Okay, what are we looking for?” A look of resignation showed on Zack’s face.
“I’ll know when I find it.” Matt studied the wall closest to the opening and Zack scoped out the other side.
Behind them, if they had noticed, a shadow formed on a wall, a shadow with the head of a human but the body of a dragon. It raised clawed hands to its head and its mouth opened in a silent roar. The brothers shouldn’t have come together. The fight over Kira should have ensured Matt came by himself. Zack’s presence ruined the demon’s best chance at defeating Matt, and Alanya’s fury knew no bounds.
After a few minutes of pressing on rocks and inspecting the ground, Zack blew out a breath. “I don’t see anything. Do you?”
Exasperated, Matt said, “No. I don’t understand. There’s nothing here. I don’t know. Maybe it was just a dream, but the way I felt…”
“Don’t worry about. We had to check it out.”
“Come on. Let’s get out of here.” Matt walked toward the cave opening, but stopped when bars of dull gray light rose and covered the entrance, preventing them from leaving.
“Yeah?” Zack stood at the back of the cave, his flashlight focused on the pool.
“I know what it was.”
“What?” Zack glanced over his shoulder, then turned completely around when he saw the bars. They started to pulse and throb, a prism of color shooting all over the cave, almost blinding the brothers in their brilliance. They both ducked instinctively.
“It’s a trap.” Matt shivered as the cave became ice cold.
“Son of a bitch,” Zack proclaimed.
Both brothers whirled around, looking futilely for another way out. Zack walked toward Matt to protect him. The bars pulsed brighter, the colors changing and dancing off the walls. Before Zack could reach Matt, a separate, smaller set of bars encircled the younger brother, trapping him inside.
“Get me out of here, Zack.”
Zack grabbed the bars, thinking he would pull them apart, but when he touched them, they burned his hands. Crying out in pain, he let go. Large welts formed where he’d been burned.
“The bars are pure electricity. I can’t get you out.” Zack threw his flashlight at the bars, but it bounced back and rolled across the ground. Next, stripping out of his shirt, he tried to wrap that around the bars, but it started to smoke. Before it caught fire, he yanked it back. Wild-eyed and panting, he ran all around the bars, looking for some way, anyway, to get his brother out.
“Zack!” Matthew huddled in the middle of his prison, too afraid to move.
At the sound of his name, Zack stopped running and tried to still his breathing.
“You know what? We need to figure this out.”
“How?” Matt plopped down on the ground.
“Tell me about your dream. Why did we have to come here?”
“There’s something here I need, but I don’t know what.”
“And that’s it? Then why the trap?”
“No, there was more. An evil presence kept trying to grab me.” Matt looked over his shoulders toward the back of the cave.
“Did you see what it was?”
“No. Just dark.”
Zack put his toasted shirt back on, mindful of his burned hands. “Okay. Let’s calm down. What do we know about evil?”
“Well…” Zack’s confidence had a positive effect on Matt, and his brain kicked in. “Evil feeds on fear.”
“Yeah, and what else?”
“Evil always lies.”
“Exactly! So, we can’t be afraid if we want to get out of this. And we can’t believe it when we feel hopeless. That’s the lie.”
“Alright.” Matt stood and put his hands on his hips. “I am not afraid!”
Alanya’s shadow grew. He needed them to feel hatred and fear. He fed on both for the strength those emotions gave him. At Matt’s announcement, Alanya felt the fear fade away until nothing remained, leaving him cold and hungry. He’d expended so much energy in contriving the trap, weakness threatened to undo it. Raising both fists into the air, he muttered to himself, willing the bars to hold.
“Okay, so we’re not afraid. Now what?” Matt watched Zack with trusting eyes, waiting for a solution to present itself.
Zack paced to the pool and back, then paced from one side of the cave to the other, all the while, brilliant colors reflecting off of him and the walls. He stopped in front of one wall and spun around, snapping his fingers.
“Yeah?” Matt asked, puzzled.
“You can make things move if you think about it hard enough. Right?”
“Uh…yeah. If I think hard enough.”
“Then move these bars enough for you to squeeze through.”
“What?” Matt’s expression told that he thought Zack had lost his mind.
“Think about it. This isn’t normal.” Zack gestured toward the bars. “So it’s gonna take something equally not normal. And that’s you.”
“I don’t know, Zack. I haven’t done anything like this, ever. Moving things with my mind only works if I get angry or upset.”
“Yeah, I know. So. Get angry. Get upset.”
Matt shook his head.
Matt, listen to me. You have to try. You can do this. I know you can. I have faith in you. I’ll help. I’ll concentrate with you, okay?”
And just those words from his big brother gave Matt the courage he needed. Taking a deep breath, he stepped into the center of the circle. Closing his eyes, he concentrated, drawing all his emotions around him. He thought about his life. He thought about how something was always after him, how he would never be normal. He thought about the argument he and Zack had at the concert last night, and the dream. He thought about being trapped now and the anger built. Feeling his brother concentrating on the outside of those bars helped. He screamed.
Opening his eyes, he concentrated on the bars, his emotions swirling around him, all the anger surfacing, but nothing happened. He started to shake his head and quit but his brother was right there.
“No Matt. Come on. Don’t doubt yourself. You can do this. I know you can.”
Matt concentrated. Sweat poured from his face but he kept on. Still nothing.
“Don’t give up Matt. Keep it up.”
“You can do it Matt. I know you can.”
Matt concentrated harder. Slowly, the bars began to bend and Matt squeezed through, careful not to touch them and get burned.
His screams echoed off the cave wall and the bars covering the opening split as well, leaving just enough room for the brothers to get out.
When they were outside the cave once again, Matt turned to look at Zack. His brother stared at him, grinning like an idiot, filled with pride.
“I did it!” Matt screamed, excited.
“Yeah, you did. I didn’t doubt you could.” Zack frowned.
“Yeah. Just remind me to never make you mad.”
“Let’s get out of here,” Zack said and two left the cave, headed for the motel. Inside, Alanya roared in anger. Once again, they got away.