I lifted the mirror from where I’d hooked it onto the bookcase, then carried it to the window, pushing the curtains apart. I set the bottom end of the mirror on the windowsill.
There were five more Others than before. All clustered around the fence. The rest were still there. Waiting.
Rose was turned away from me, so I couldn’t see her, and she was silent, leaving me to stand there, presenting our situation.
“That’s the issue, right now. That’s the biggest complication we’re facing with the rituals, with life in general. Someone’s done the equivalent of putting a price out on our head, or they said that the usual rules for going after someone in an inhabited area are on hold, for me, or for us,” I said, my voice low. “We can’t conduct any rituals, because those guys are waiting to fuck us up.”
“That-” Rose started.
She stopped short as a car appeared, parking at the far end of the street, a sign perched on top.
This time, seeing the vehicle approach, I could see how the Others moved out of the way of the headlights. Stepping literally into shadows, or stepping to a position where they were out of sight. In the latter case, it looked like they were stepping out of my field of view, to where the fence or columns on either side of the gate were blocking my view, but I felt like they were doing it for everyone that might be looking. Finding a universal blind spot.
A young man stepped out of the car, holding the insulated bag with the pizza inside. He crossed the street, and approached the gate. Seeing me at the window, he waved, smiling genially.
“Stop him, Blake,” Rose said.
“I want to, but how?”
“I don’t know. Shout?”
I strode to the front door, hauled it open, and bellowed, “Hey!”
Others appeared from the shadows by the gate, a ‘child’ with his back to the stone column, glancing my way. Further down the street, I could see the faceless woman with the cigarette appear behind the delivery guy.
He didn’t stop walking. When he shouted back, I couldn’t make out the words.
“Stop! I don’t want it! Go back to the car!” I hollered.
Again, I couldn’t make out his reply.
I watched as the Others closed in.
The ‘little boy’ who’d been scratching himself walked down the street, so short I could barely make him out over the stone wall which bordered the property.
He approached the delivery man head on, not moving out of the way. When it looked like they might collide, the ‘boy’ hopped up onto the short stone wall. His hand snapped out, going for the man’s wrist.
Just as quickly, the delivery guy moved his arm. The kid stumbled, thrown off, and tumbled off the wall.
The assorted Others paused at that, just as confused as I was. Did he know? From the mirror, Rose muttered something in surprise. I wasn’t focused enough to tell what.
The Others resumed their approach just as quickly as they had stopped. A little girl charged forward, leaping with her forearms like a monkey, and used the man’s calf as a vault to climb up his torso. Her giggles echoed across the property, but again the guy reacted. He balanced the pizza on one hand, higher than the girl could reach, and did a perfect 360 spin. It was hard to tell exactly what happened, but the apelike Other got an elbow to the chin at some point and flew back through the rest of the crowd.
This time I heard Rose. “He’s not looking at them.”
She was right, I realized. He’d dodged the bloody boy without seeing his approach, and in the course of his spin he hadn’t bothered to check what was coming after him. Or… he couldn’t see them?
“He’s not a practitioner?” As much as it was terrifying to have a random guy assailed by Others, it would be just as bad if one of our enemies had taken our order as an invitation to get in.
“I don’t think so. But then-” The Others were frustrated, now, and Rose didn’t have time to finish before another one charged. The faceless woman with the cigarette, who the rest had been afraid of. The delivery guy visibly flinched as she came closer, one hand out to catch him.
Once more, he reacted without even looking. He threw the pizza, almost straight in the air, then leapt after it. He flipped in the air, once, twice, not reacting as he saw the woman’s missing face, then landed on the other side of the gate.
The pizza fell into his waiting hands. The Others seemed ready to chase him onto the yard - the house was a sanctuary, I recalled, not the property - but he did something to the gate, sealing it shut when the younger Others tried to pull it open.
He jogged to the front door. Already, the more enterprising Others were moving to climb to our side of the fence and wall, so I hurried to let him in. Closer up, I could see that he hadn’t even broken a sweat. His short brown hair was barely ruffled, though there were some muddy handprints on his vest. I could tell he was looking at me carefully, no doubt wondering just why he’d been nearly assaulted outside my house. Behind him, Rose was looking just as bewildered as I felt.
As he placed the food in my hands, though, he said two words that set me entirely at ease.