In Chapter 18 of The Might of Gabriel, Nate briefly references a hunt where he and Sam went up again a gorgon-esque demon. This is that hunt…
Sam cracked his knuckles, feeling his power course through him. It swelled through him in a cascade of golden light. He stretched his muscles and turned his neck. The vibration of his hunter instincts buzzed against his skull and trailed down his spine. Whatever the demon was that they were hunting, it was a bad one.
Next to him, Nate double-checked his gun before holstering it and checking his spare. His expression was tightly drawn as he went through his process. Sam didn’t blame him, considering the disadvantage Nate was at when it came to hunting.
“Do you miss Riley as much as I do right now?” Sam asked, trying hard to break the silence. Riley had left them to fend for themselves—at least, that was what Sam was calling it. In truth, the kid deserved his hard earned vacation with his parents. Unfortunately, neither Sam nor Nate really understood Riley’s demon system, which left them doing things the old way.
“It’d sure as hell be nice to know what we’re getting ourselves into,” Nate commented softly. He drew in a deep breath as he faced Sam, hands dropping to his hips. “Either way, we’ve done this before on our own, and we can do it again. Just don’t do anything stupid.”
“I’d be less inclined to do something stupid if I had a flamethrower.”
“You don’t need a flamethrower.”
“You owe me one though—”
“I know, I know!” Nate exclaimed, his face breaking into a grin. “Who thought we’d get an ice demon in Arizona?”
“I warned you, I did,” Sam said. His tone, however, didn’t match his words as his instincts went wild in a warning. His heart pounded harder in his chest as he rotated toward the patchy woods. Whatever the hell was hiding in the dark—waiting for him—was going to give them a run for his money.
“All right, nightlight,” Nate teased with no humor in his voice. “Lead the way.”
Sam stowed the comment away for later. He’d get his payback when it was appropriate—or not. The statement wasn’t exactly a wrong one. In the dark of the night, he was a goddamn beacon of golden light.
As Sam wandered ahead into the woods, he realized having his power activated was probably not a great idea. While the light from his power made it easy to see where they were going, he was probably calling the demon straight to them.
“Do we want to see, or do we want the element of surprise?” Sam whispered over his shoulder.
“Can we not have both?” Nate asked.
“Either we don’t see where we’re going, or we’re calling the demon straight to us, bud,” he said. Anything else he was going to say was lost in a horrific screech. He muttered, “Nevermind. Too late.”
Swirling through the darkened trees, a demon rose off the ground and towered over him. A bolt of fear sliced down Sam’s spine, and his power flared in response. Light washed over the demon, giving them a good view of the thing hovering over them.
Its upper body was barely human with its bald head and naked skin slick with oil. Sharp angles created an ugly face with gaunt features and green eyes too large for its face. Bones stretched its skin and knobby fingers ended in razor claws. The lower half was coils upon coils of a muscular tail that disappeared far behind it. It shimmered from scales of vivid emerald.
“Is that… is that a…” Nate stammered, trying to get the words out. “Is that… is that a fucking gorgon?”
“Does that make me Hercules?” Sam countered.
The demon bellowed in response. It surged forward.
Nate lurched one way while Sam threw himself the other.
The demon smashed into the ground.
It was fast, vanishing into the darkness with its tail bolting past them.
Sam scrambled to his feet, and Nate was right there beside him, gun in hand.
“Bullet to the chest?” Nate asked.
“I sure as hell hope—” Sam’s words were cut off by Nate grabbing him by the shirt and dragging him to the ground. Sam’s heart shot into his throat at the contact. He scrambled away, desperate to put space between him and Nate for fear of hurting him. “Get off!”
“I touched you not the other way around!” Nate exclaimed.
The rush of wind distracted them as the demon crashed between them. Its tail thrashed around, tearing up dirt and grass as it went.
Its tail wound around Nate’s center and yanked him off the ground.
Nate screamed as the demon tossed him into the trees.
“Hey!” Sam shouted, throwing his hands up in the air and waving them wildly. His power grew in intensity, his muscles bolstering as he readied himself to draw the demon to him. “Hey! Come on, you ugly fucker!”
The demon whirled on him, and its face contorted with anger. It drew itself upward, using the length of its tail to nearly double its height.
Keeping his movements deliberate and slow, Sam reached for his gun. Slow and steady. That’s what he kept telling himself as the stare-down with the demon intensified.
His hand curled around the grip.
Sam exhaled, controlled.
Two gunshots rang in the air, and Sam threw himself to the ground—hands over his head—as the demon’s chest exploded outward.
The demon crashed hard, the dirt reverberating with the contact.
Sam unfolded and found himself face-to-face with the demon. Eyes wide and mouth gaping, even in death it was an ugly son of a bitch. Bioluminescent blood pooled under its heavy body as ashy flakes peeled off its shoulders.
“Did I get it?” Nate called out.
“Yeah!” Sam replied loudly. “Yeah, you got it. You good?”
The tremble in Nate’s voice sent Sam’s heart racing. That wasn’t a good sign. He rushed to his feet and hurried around the demon’s ridiculously long tail in search of Nate.
“Bud, talk to me,” he said as he went. “What’s going on, Nate?”
“I… I can’t feel my legs…” Nate let out quietly. He sat on the ground, propped up on his elbows with his legs sprawled out in front of him. The torso of his shirt was in shreds, and the demon’s sharp scales had cut open his skin. A glowing residue clung to the open wounds.
“Oh shit,” Sam faltered. His chest tightened painfully at the sight of Nate’s helplessness. “Fuck, fuck, fuck. I need my cross, bud. I can’t help you until I have it.”
“Yeah… yeah, I got it.” He struggled to produce the cross from his pocket and toss it. Sam wasted no time harnessing his power. They were blanketed in darkness. As Sam fumbled to use his phone as a light, Nate rambled on, “We should call Riley. I’m sure he knows what to expect. I can’t feel anything… I can’t feel my own ass, Sam. I can’t fucking move.
“Does it hurt?”
“My chest a little, but I can’t feel anything else. No pain.”
“That’s a plus,” he muttered. Crouching, he poked Nate in the hip. “Feel that? No? Okay… fuck. Your hands seem to work okay. Think you can hold the phone for me while I carry you?”
“I don’t want you to carry me,” Nate protested with a groan of frustration. “I want my legs back.”
“Well, you’re a sack of potatoes right now,” Sam teased, trying to lighten the mood. Jokes were all he had as answers were few until they got ahold of Riley. It was the only way he knew how to handle the dread building inside him as he maneuvered his best friend off the ground. “You’re a handsome sack of potatoes, though, if that makes you feel any better.”
“It doesn’t,” he grumbled.
“I know, bud, I know,” Sam whispered and did everything he could to get them the hell out of there.
Nate stared hard at the edge of his blanket, determined like hell to move his feet. However, the longer he stared, the more aware he became that it wasn’t going to help. He felt nothing from his torso to his toes—which was probably a good thing, considering the tubes he had shoved into unsavory places.
Not that Sam was ever going to let him forget it.
According to Riley, the demon had been some sort of demented gorgon that coated its body in an oily toxin. It wasn’t fatal, but it was a paralytic. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an antidote of any kind. It would wear off with time, but that meant Nate was stuck in a hospital bed until it did.
“You know what I don’t understand,” Sam announced loudly.
“How the hell you snuck a pie into the hospital?” Nate snapped.
“It’s pumpkin pie,” he said as if that made all the difference. It didn’t—to Nate anyway. To Sam, pie was life. “I’m missing Cole’s Thanksgiving pie assortment to sit here with you.”
“You could’ve gone back to see him.”
“Yeah, but then who’d sit here and eat pie with you?” Sam asked. He held out a massive forkful of pie as an offering, but Nate shook his head. “Besides, someone has to make sure your piss bag gets changed.”
“God, I fucking hate this,” Nate muttered.
“Oh, come on. It’s just you, me, and whatever this soap opera shit is that we’ve been watching for three days,” he replied.
“Okay, but there has to be something better you can do than just sitting here with me—”
“I’m not going anywhere, bud,” Sam dismissed quickly. “You saved my ass, I’m staying here with you. No regrets. It’s what we do.”
“Thanks.” Nate rolled his eyes but deep down he appreciated the gesture. He didn’t want to be alone in the hospital. “You couldn’t have gotten a better pie than pumpkin? It’s like the worst of pies.”
“Excuse you, you uneducated fiend! Pumpkin pie is fantastic. It’s only beaten out by pecan and apple. The worst kind of pie is coconut creme,” Sam visibly shuddered, making Nate chuckle. “Rhubarb pie is pretty grotesque.”
“Remember when Riley tried to make… the breakfast pie thing?” Nate asked, forgetting the word for it.
“That fucking kid… set the kitchen on fire,” he said, grinning. “Kid should stick with computers and leave the cooking to us.”
“Us?” he repeated ludicrously. “You can’t cook for shit! You know how to put shit in the microwave!”
“At least I don’t blow the place up! And I can bake!”
“What the hell was the last thing you ever baked?” Nate demanded. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d ever seen Sam in the kitchen where he wasn’t grabbing a beer or a freezer meal.
“Ah-ha!” Sam exclaimed. He reached down next to him—where, Nate couldn’t see—and brought up a small container that he promptly dropped in Nate’s lap. “I made you Thanksgiving cookies, bud.”
“I don’t like chocolate chip cookies—”
“Which is why I made oatmeal raisin cookies,” he interjected.
“Really?” Nate asked. He popped off the lid to find a dozen awkwardly shaped oatmeal raisin cookies.
“I know they don’t look half as good as the ones Cole makes, and I burned the living shit out of the first batch. I burned the bottoms of the second batch. They stuck to the fucking pan because I forgot to grease it. The third batch looked like total shit so I tossed those out, too. But these ones turned out halfway decent if I do say so myself.”
“Jesus fuck, Sam,” he said. “You didn’t have to make me four batches of cookies.”
“I didn’t,” Sam stated. “I made you one batch and experimented with three. There’s a difference.”
“You didn’t have to—”
“Eat your damn cookies, Nate,” he interrupted as he grabbed the television remote off the side table. “And let’s find out what Rodrigo did to his evil twin brother in the parking garage. God, I love this fucking show.”
Sam turned up the volume on the tiny television hanging on the wall across the room. The words were in Spanish and the subtitles were barely visible from across the room, but Nate didn’t mind. Even though he couldn’t feel half his body, it wasn’t the worst way he’d spent Thanksgiving.