She felt a fleeting caress against her cheek and stopped. Turning slightly, she felt it again, though this time stronger. The draft ruffled her hair, the musty odor reminiscent of the gush of stale air expelled by the arrival of a subway train. She felt the skull glow through the cloth. Her stomach tightened in anticipation. "Dylan--"
She had barely grabbed his hand when the vortex exploded through a barred door like a cannon shot, its resonance a banshee scream. Swept off their feet, Aislinn desperately clutched the skull while Dylan struggled to keep a grip on her. They slid along the cold stone. Ahead, Dylan spotted the recessed niche to yet another barred door and half scooted, half crawled toward it. Pressed close to him, Aislinn glanced behind and gasped as an infernal glow oozed from the open doorway. The malevolence emanating from it reminded her of the entity that had first terrorized her in her apartment on Earth. A nauseating stench of scorched rubber filled the air.
"My God, what is that?" Dylan cried, cradling Aislinn against his chest.
Strands of loosened hair whipped around her face and almost dislodged her tiara. She slipped the skull from the sling, gripped it and focused on the vortex. Her ring sparkled like a Roman candle. Reveling in its freedom, the vortex churned, writhed and ricocheted off the walls in a bizarre dance of exaltation. The walls trembled from the force, the doors rattled in sympathy. Pushing the din from her mind, Aislinn felt her fingers merge with the skull, the energy forming a bond with her ring. It flared, crackled and fanned out, immersing the shadowy ruins in immaculate white light.
"Get out!" she cried. "Return to the dimension that spawned you. You have no power here." Defiantly, she rose into the buffeting wind and raised the skull.
Dylan reached to stop her but she stepped away from his grasp. He pressed himself into the door niche and shielded his eyes from the skull's almost solar glow.
"You're nothing," she continued. "Merely a shadow of the past and the hatred that nurtured you."