Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

The Devil's Engine: Hellwalkers

(Book 3)

The Devil's Engine (Volume 3)

Alexander Gordon Smith

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK

WELCOME TO HELL


Open your eyes.

The easiest thing in the world, and the hardest.

Hardest because Marlow knew he wasn’t in the world anymore. He was somewhere else, somewhere far worse.

Open your eyes.

He didn’t even feel like he had eyes to open. He couldn’t sense anything, not the beating of his heart, not the weight of his flesh, not the pressure of his eyelids. There was literally nothing left of him, just a lost soul adrift in the ash that had once been his body.

Open your eyes.

He didn’t want to, because if he opened them then he would know for sure where he was. There would be no going back. He would be able to see exactly where this journey had led him. With his eyes closed, though, there was no hiding from where it had all begun.

He could see himself now, just a kid back on Staten Island, a kid with no memories of childhood, kicked out of school for being an asshole, for burning all his bridges. Yeah, Marlow Green: big, bad hellraiser.

He saw the day he’d left school, stumbling into an underground parking lot, stumbling into a war. Hell had come to Staten Island that day, and somehow—despite his cowardice, despite the fact he’d always put himself first—he’d done his part to send it back.

Open your eyes.

That first battle had opened his eyes—opened them to a world that he never could have imagined, a world where demons were real, where hell was real. He’d been recruited into one of the armies fighting this war, the Fist. He’d become a soldier—a true Hellraiser—alongside Herc, Truck, Night, and the enigmatic leader, Sheppel Ostheim. Not to mention Pan, a Hellraiser for four years, ever since Herc had rescued her from juvie for killing a guy who’d attacked her. Through them he’d learned about a weapon, something ancient and something evil.

The Devil’s Engine.

Make a deal with the Engine and you could have anything you wanted—money, fame, and power beyond your wildest dreams. The Fist had been using this machine to turn its army into superheroes, giving them powers like invisibility, strength, speed, even invulnerability. And all it asked in return was your soul. Because once your contract was up, the demons came for you.

They came to drag you to hell.

Marlow had thought the risk was worth it, because it wasn’t like your contract couldn’t be cracked. The lawyers for the Fist—quantum mathematicians armed with the world’s best technology—could undo the Hellraisers’ deals with the Engine, they could free you up to fight another day. And the cost of not fighting the war … That was unthinkable. Because on the other side of this battle was a group called the Circle, armed with an Engine of their own, and all they wanted was to open the gates of hell and flood the streets with blood.

Not good.

Open your eyes.

He hadn’t opened his eyes, though. He’d been blind to the truth. The Fist had destroyed half of New York trying to get hold of the Circle’s Engine, trying to end the war once and for all. But at the last minute they’d been betrayed—betrayed by the person Marlow had trusted most, his best friend, Charlie. Charlie had been working for the Circle all along, for their commander in chief, Mammon. He’d found a way inside the Fist’s Engine, and he’d opened the door to their enemies. Mammon had obliterated most of the Fist in one blood-soaked swoop, and he had control of both Engines. As far as Marlow had known, as far as any of them had known, it was only a matter of time before Mammon united the Engines and opened the gateway to hell.

There had still been hope, though. One last chance to find the Engines, to win the war. And they did it. Together, he and Herc and Pan and the others had found the physical location of the Engine—inside the world’s largest graveyard, beneath the streets of Paris. They’d found it, they’d entered it, and they’d been about to destroy it.

Except Mammon was already there, Mammon and Charlie and their army.

And they were already destroying it.

Open your eyes.

It had been too late to open them, too late to see what was really going on. Ostheim had always said that they were fighting to save the world, that Mammon was the bad guy. But Ostheim had been lying. He was the true force of evil, and they’d been doing his bidding. He’d followed them to the Engine, finally revealing his true form—a demonic creature of immense power. And right there, Ostheim had killed Mammon and taken control of the Engine.

And now the barrier between this world and the realm of the demons was about to crumble.

Open your eyes.

There had been no time to think, no time to see. They’d been so desperate to fix their mistakes, to undo the harm they’d caused, that they’d done exactly what Ostheim had wanted them to do. Mammon’s dying gift to them had been a name: Meridiana, his sister. They’d fled the Engine and found her in Venice, a crazy woman stuck in a loop of time who had managed to build an Engine of her own. She’d offered to make them one final contract for powers to use in the fight against Ostheim—an unbreakable contract for a single soul—but Marlow and Pan had fallen into the Engine together, and made a deal side by side.

Armed with the ability to travel through space and time, they had found their way back to the Engine, to an instant in time where Mammon couldn’t find them—an instant in time where they could pull the bastard machine to pieces. Meridiana had told them to find the heart of the Engine and destroy it. But their contract was corrupted, it was already unraveling, the demons were on their way.

It was over.

* * *

Open your eyes.

Why, though? Why would he do that? Why would he want to see? The demons had taken Pan first, had pulled her to pieces and dragged her soul into the molten earth. Then they’d come for him.

They’d shredded him.

Devoured him.

His soul had been ripped out of his body, pulled through the void, up and up and up and into the darkness.

Into this darkness. Endless, unfathomable.

This was hell, he knew—an eternity of nothing.

And he couldn’t even scream.

“Marlow?”

The word was a whisper, right into his ear. He tried to turn his head, reached out for it with arms he didn’t have. He wanted to laugh, wanted to cry, wanted to speak, but he could do nothing but listen, willing the voice to speak again. An eternity seemed to pass before it did.

“Marlow?”

Not a whisper this time but a voice, Pan’s voice.

And she sounded pissed.

“Marlow,” she said again. “You idiot.”

Pan? he tried to say.

“Marlow, just open your eyes,” said Pan. “You’re not going to believe this.”

Open your eyes.

The easiest thing in the world, the hardest thing in the world.

Just open your eyes, Marlow, he told himself.

And he did.


Text copyright © 2017 Alexander Gordon Smith