Ghost Devlin – Devil Out Of Time: Chapter Eight

“You have a car?” Andi asked, surprised. She didn’t know why she was surprised. Plenty of people had cars, even in the city. But she didn’t understand his driver’s license situation. How did an American-born king of a no-longer-existent foreign country go about getting a driver’s license?

“I do,” he said. It looked like he’d taken it home from World War II and kept it, all utilitarian off-road army green. There was a telescope and a folded tent in the back seat. She wanted to ask, but didn’t.

“How far is your place?” she asked, clambering into the passenger seat and setting her purse by her feet.

“A ways,” he said noncommittally.

“You’re not reassuring me,” she said. “I’m already agreeing to let you take me to a second location.”

He grinned under his sunglasses. There was something funny about seeing him in sunglasses. Too modern, somehow. He’d worn jeans and a long-sleeved henley today. “Where do you think I’m taking you?” he asked.

“Abandoned warehouse?” she suggested.

“You think I live in an abandoned warehouse?” he asked, pulling away from the sidewalk.

“I’m not saying you live there, I’m saying you’re taking me there,” she said. “I wouldn’t put that past you, though. Living in an abandoned warehouse. Full of trees, like a jungle-themed mall restaurant. Then, in the middle, a cabin.”

“I can see that,” he agreed.

Andi fidgeted with her skirt. “Carrie asked me about Doc,” she blurted.

Ghost’s grip on the steering wheel tightened, jaw a little squarer. “Ah,” he said mildly.

“I told her that Doc Colossal was an asshole and I don’t care.”

His double-take nearly took them off the road, and he had to take a moment to correct his steering. “You’re feeling yourself?” he checked.

“I feel fine,” she said. “I’m allowed to curse, when the situation calls for it. And it does. Because he was. I just—I wanted you to know that. We’ve never talked about it before.”

“We haven’t,” he said. “I don’t like to talk about… him.”

“We don’t have to,” she said. “It felt important. As a thing you should know about me.

“Thank you,” he said.

“Have you been feeling better?” she asked.

“I have,” he said.

“I’ve been really excited about this,” she admitted. “Coming over to your place. Not because—not like that. But I don’t know what to expect? Aside from a cabin in a rainforest in an abandoned warehouse.”

“I will warn you now, that’s not where I live.”

“Aw. I was getting attached to the idea.”

“I could tell.”

She glanced at the line of cars behind them in her side mirror, and then at the speedometer. “You drive like an old man,” she observed.

“Shocking,” he said, and she giggled.

“Do you know how old you are?” she wondered. “It’s okay if you don’t want to answer.”

“I don’t know,” he said.


“I think it might be close to eight-hundred,” he admitted.

She stared at him. “… really?”

“I can’t be sure,” he said. “Time stopped working, for a while.” She gnawed at her lip and contemplated the chasm between eight hundred years and twenty-six. How young did she seem? How small was the whole of her life? It was no wonder he seemed crazy. “Everything would reset,” he continued, though she hadn’t expected him to clarify. “Every twenty-four hours. Not all at once. Twenty-four hours between when you cut your hand off and when it came back.”

“Oh.” That was a specific kind of example.

“It made it hard to keep track,” he said. “I had a system. If I kept multiple journals I could copy them into each other. They reset at different times. I had shorthand. They weren’t detailed, but I tried.”

The very idea made her anxious. “You brought it with you?” she asked. “When you got out?”

“Not intact,” he said. “Some. I keep it at home.” He pulled into his driveway.

“… you have a house?” she demanded. “I thought—didn’t you say you had an apartment?”

“I have a few places,” he said, sliding out of the car.

“With royalty money?”

“Good investments,” he said.

“Like stocks? There’s a guy out there who’s Ghost Devlin’s stockbroker?”

“I have a lot of things,” Ghost said.

“Yeah, I’m getting that impression.” It was a nice house, two stories with a willow tree out front. There was a front garden that managed to imply the presence of a larger and nicer back garden. It wasn’t a Victorian, but it was old enough to have character. It seemed like the house of a man who ought to have a large dog. Everything about him suggested he ought to have a large dog. She followed him awkwardly inside, gawking all the while at his nice floors and his welcome mat and the bench he kept for shoes.

“I imagined you more rustic,” she said, and he shrugged. “Where do you take all those cursed pictures of food, if your house is this nice?”

“I have ways.”

“Please don’t tell me you keep a second, shittier house to keep up appearances.”

“I might.”

“Weren’t you a communist?”

“You don’t have to be a communist to punch McCarthy,” he said. “I was broke and then I was royalty, I don’t know what that makes me.”

“Really cool?” she suggested.

“Thank you,” he said. His house did have a rainforest vibe. Plants hanging from hooks in every window, pots on shelves and sitting in corners, special planters with built-in grow lights. “You are being very normal today?” he asked.

He was always prompting her to stop hiding her tail. Sometimes she worried it was a sex thing. She shouldn’t verbalize that.

“Do you have a thing for when I have a tail?” she verbalized.

He frowned. “I was under the impression that it was more comfortable for you,” he said.

“It is.”

“I want you to be comfortable,” he said. “I want to see you and know that you can be comfortable. With me.”

She clapped her hands together to draw them out. “Like this?” she asked.

“Don’t do it for my sake, Pizote.” he said.

“I’m doing it to be comfortable,” she said. “And also because it’s cute that you want me to be comfy.”

He took her hand and kissed her knuckles. “Would you like to join me in the kitchen?”

“Heck yes,” she said, feeling pleasantly domestic all over again.

“There’s something I want to show you,” he warned, leading her by the hand.

“It better not be a mug too close to the edge of the counter.”

He let out a surprised laugh. “I should have! Shit. Go back and give me a moment.”

“Absolutely not,” she said, delighted by his delight.

“It’s about the butterflies, and the slugs,” he explained.

“Do you have a theory about that?” she asked. “They definitely seem related, right? Bugs doing weird things.”

“I believe they are related,” he said. “I have theories, but nothing concrete. I am not confident of my conclusions.” He let her go, and she sat herself on a barstool at the island of his kitchen. She admired his wooden countertops and the size of his sink. He’d set out several maps, one of them smaller and hand-drawn. “I was sent that map in a message,” he explained, opening his fridge. “It was on the day of the butterflies.”

If this lacked specificity, it wasn’t the kind of vagary that worried her. “You think it’s related?”

“I have strong reason to suspect as much.”

She set the hand-drawn map of an island next to the map of the world, where a small space in the Atlantic Ocean had been circled. If there was an island there, she couldn’t see it. She moved it aside to find a topographic map of the Atlantic, where another circle marked the island’s location. The shape of it looked similar enough, to her untrained eye. Another space on the same map, too close for comfort, had been drawn on. ‘Atlantis’, he’d labeled it, in his careful handwriting like an old textbook.

“Do you think they came from this island? The slugs, and so on?”

“Do you recognize it?” he asked, chopping potatoes. Logically he couldn’t use the machete for everything, and yet somehow she’d thought he’d try.

“I don’t,” she admitted.

“Have you heard of Xenoia?”

She gnawed at her lip. “Is it one of those land-before-time islands? Where there’s dinosaurs but also big gorillas for some reason?”

“Exactly,” he said.

“Wait—okay.” She rubbed her temple. “Is this the aliens one? I remember hearing about aliens making a dinosaur island, but I assumed it was fake.”

“Real enough,” Ghost said, dropping potatoes into a bowl of water before starting in on an onion. She pulled out her phone to check the wiki. She opened up the camera first and stealthily took a picture of him cooking. She couldn’t help herself. It was too cute.

“Okay, yeah,” she said, scrolling the article. “This says alien nature preserve, from dinosaur times. Except they also experimented on the animals? So there’s weird ones. Did you ever go here?”

“Once,” he said, with a shake of his head. “I was shipwrecked there. It’s where I met Jolene.”

“Oh,” she said. “I… don’t remember that one.”

“I never wrote about it,” he shrugged. “It was personal to me, and not that interesting, I thought. Lots of giant spiders.”

“That would have been in…”

“1941,” he said. He started frying potatoes. The fact that he didn’t flinch from the popping oil definitely counted as a superpower. “I also did not think anyone would be interested in my excuses for showing up late to the war,” he admitted.

“That’s fair,” she said. “You didn’t know about Atlantis until later, though?”

“It seemed plausible to me that she could have ended up there from Europe,” he said. “I had ended up there, after all. But I did not ask many questions. We were busy with the spiders, and the bees.”

“Giant bees?”

“Robot bees.”


“Part of the security,” he said. “Perhaps they were meant to resemble whatever beings created the island—but to me, at the time, they looked like bees.”

Andi looked over the series of maps again. “Someone is sending weird bugs from Xenoia, then,” she said.

“It seems that way,” he said. “Or they only want me to think so. It’s difficult to say.”

“Who knows that you were on Xenoia?” she asked.

“Someone stole my journal from that time,” he said. “But that would have been after the slugs had already been released in Midton, and so it may have been a poorly-timed feint.”

“This is really weird,” Andi fretted, as Ghost drained away oil and used what remained to start cooking onions. The whole kitchen smelled divine.

“Is it vanity to assume this relates to me, somehow?” he asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” she said. “Especially not if someone sent you this map. This makes it seem like someone’s trying to get your attention.”

“That was what I thought,” he said, “but I cannot imagine who.” He dropped a steak into the skillet, and it started to sizzle and smoke. “Who knows I was there, except my wife?” he asked quietly. She shrank in on herself. “And the bees, I suppose.”

He turned on the fan above the stove, and Andi didn’t bother trying to say anything that would need to be yelled to be heard.

The problem with getting swallowed up into some kind of space-time anomaly is that it didn’t exactly leave a body. Just an emptiness where once there was a person, was a country. How was a person supposed to get closure? Especially when coming back was so common? It was almost a meme now, that you couldn’t be sure unless you saw the body. Black Knight had been presumed dead twice. Skulltina had been presumed dead twenty years before she reappeared. Doc Colossal’s wife—what was her name?—had ‘died’ so many times it was almost a joke.

What if she was alive? His wife, out there somewhere, trying to get Ghost’s attention while he made Andi dinner. She rested her chin in her hands, covered her mouth with curled fingers. That would be wonderful if he didn’t have to mourn. He loved his wife. They’d been together for seven hundred years, by the end. How could Andi ever want anything but for the two of them to be reunited?

She watched him fry eggs with a sense of defeat unfamiliar to her.

“Do you think it’s her?” she asked quietly when he’d finally turned off the fan and started plating their food. Steak topped with onions topped with eggs, and a side of homemade fries. It was deeply unhealthy and she could already tell she’d wish for seconds and not ask for them. She told herself her heart was hurting in anticipation of all that cholesterol. That was a thing, right?

“It would make no sense,” he said, tipping his head to suggest she follow him into the next room. “It isn’t her style, these roundabout ways. She was always direct in her demands. If she were alive, she would have announced herself unmistakably. I’m sure of it.”

She reminded herself that this was a disappointment because she wanted him to be happy and have his wife back.

His dining room table was small, and he hadn’t bothered with anything like candles. There were four chairs, and he’d set Jesús the dinosaur into one of the extras. She snorted when she saw it, and he grinned at her.

“I am told it is important to eat meals together, as a family,” he said, setting out her plate.

“Very important,” she said, sitting down.

“What would you like to drink?”

“Water is fine,” she said, watching him disappear back into the kitchen. She prodded the yolk of her egg to make it run before it solidified in the heat of the steak beneath it. He set a glass in front of her before finally sitting down across from her. “It would be a good thing, right?” she asked, poking at the threat of an open wound. “If it were her.”

“I would be happy beyond compare,” he said, so she shoved a fry into her mouth. “I won’t get my hopes up.” He frowned at his glass of wine. “I… worry that it might be Tilzer.”

“… is that a person?”

“One of our husbands,” he said, and Andi choked on a bite of steak. Which was unfortunate, because it was delicious. “Of all of them, I have most often wondered if he was the one to blame for our downfall. His machinations were many, and subtle.”

“Roll back,” Andi said, swallowing. “Husbands, go back to husbands.”

“Ah.” Ghost sliced at his steak. “No, you wouldn’t know, would you.”

“I would not.”

“Seahorses,” he said.

“… seahorses.”

“Atlanteans are not—were not—human. They carried their young as seahorses do. Not exactly the same, but close enough.”

Andi squinted at him. “… the men… carry the babies?” she ventured. He nodded. “You. You were the king of mpreg country.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“Don’t look it up.”

“You know that I will.”

“I guess it won’t be anything you haven’t seen before,” she said, sipping at her water.

“It was tradition for the Queen of Atlantis to take a King with whom to rule, and many consorts beside him.” He twirled the stem of his wine glass between his fingers. “She knew that I was not familiar with the ways of Atlantis. In deference to me, she took only husbands who would be my consorts, also.”

She jammed bites of steak in her mouth so she wouldn’t be tempted to say anything. If she focused on her food, he might not notice that she was having an absolute crisis at the moment.

Had there been orgies? This was Ghost. Of course there’d been orgies. Drug orgies, probably. With pregnant men. For seven hundred years. She was reconsidering the part where she tried to convince him that she was a woman of the world. She’d never even been to a sober orgy. She’d just assumed it would never come up, like a fool.

“Is this a problem?” Ghost asked softly. She realized he was watching her. His expression was… worried.

“That’s not—no,” she said, shaking her head. “I’m not about to… slutshame you?” That didn’t sound as reassuring as it had felt. His fork bounced in his hand, fidgety.

“It doesn’t bother you,” he pressed. “That I was with men.”

“What!” She dropped her fork. “Oh, my god, no. That’s—no. That’s fine. I’m cool with—oh my god.” She pointed at herself. “I’m totally bisexual. I sort of assume everyone is until they correct me, which is kind of problematic actually, but, I mean. I’m cool with it. That’s not—I’m sorry. Are you—were you coming out to me? Was that a big trust thing you did, and I totally dropped the ball because I didn’t realize? Oh my god, I’m the worst.”

The worry had left him, replaced by that easy smile as he watched her flounder. “I forgot,” he admitted. “Until I said it. I was in Atlantis for a very long time.”


“It was… strange. When I came back. I had forgotten many things about America. Being American.”

“Going from Atlantis and your royal husbands to the 80s is kind of a worst-case scenario,” Andi sympathized.

“Even when I managed to find my old things—my journals—things had changed. Not only with time, but time had changed. People and places missing. No more hippos.”

“It’s really impressive,” she said, “that you’re doing as well as you are.”

“I’m not,” he said. “I fake it well.”

“I think it counts,” she said.

“Did you hit it yet?” David asked from the futon, still looking at his phone.

Andi slammed the door behind her. “We’re taking it slow,” she snapped.

David looked up. “You are, or he is?”

“It’s fine,” she said, careful not to slam her bedroom door.

Say the word, he said, but that was before she’d known about the orgies. How was she supposed to compete with orgies? She had superpowers, sure, but she also still had a gag reflex. This was going to be a disaster.