Afterlife Page 10

“So you understand,” I said. “You see why I can’t give up on the world.”

“Vic’s human. He’s alive. He anchors me to life and lets me experience it through him, just a bit. Lucas can’t do that for you, not anymore.”

“He does. He can. I know it.” But I didn’t know any such thing. There was so much about being a wraith that I didn’t understand yet.

“You need to talk to Christopher,” she said encouragingly. “He’ll make you understand.”

I remembered Christopher. He had appeared to me, a mysterious and foreboding figure, at Evernight; he had attacked me there with intent to kill, so that my transformation into a wraith would be guaranteed. Yet when he had appeared to me and Lucas this summer, he had rescued us from Charity.

Was he benevolent or evil? Did the actions of wraiths even fit into any kind of morality I understood? The only thing I knew for sure was that Christopher had power and influence among the wraiths. Now that I had become one, our paths were certain to cross again.

Thinking about this made me nervous. I managed to ask, “He’s sort of the … wraith in charge, right?”

“Nobody’s ‘in charge.’ But plenty of us listen to Christopher. He has a lot of power, a lot of wisdom.”

Maxie cocked an eyebrow, her saucy sense of humor already returning. “I already told you. Vampires and wraiths? Not a good mix. A really, really bad mix. We’re poison to them, and they’re no friends to us.”

“I love Lucas. Our deaths don’t change that.”

“Death changes everything. Haven’t you learned that much by now?”

“It didn’t change you haranguing me nonstop,” I snapped.

Maxie ducked her head, her dark blond hair tumbling around her face. If she’d had blood flow, I thought, she might have blushed. “Sorry. You’ve had a rough couple of days. I don’t mean to — I’m just trying to tell you how things are.”

A rough couple of days. I’d died, found out I was a ghost, seen Lucas get cut down and turned into a vampire, and fought off a Black Cross attack. Yeah, that counted as a rough couple of days.

“You used to play with Vic in this room, when he was a little kid.” I glanced at the place he’d shown me, where he used to sit and read his storybooks to her. “You didn’t separate yourself from the world after you died.”

“But I did. For the better part of a century, I just . .. I was stuck between here and there, and I didn’t quite know what was going on. Sometimes I’d stab into people’s dreams and turn them to nightmares, just to do it. just to prove that I could affect the world around me.” I’d heard of wraiths doing worse things, maybe for similar reasons.

Maxie sat on the windowsill, her long white nightgown seeming to glow as the moonlight filtered through the billowing sleeves. “As you can probably imagine, people usually didn’t stay in this house long. It was like a game for me, seeing how fast I could scare them out. But then the Woodsons took the place. and Vic was so tiny, just a couple of years old. When I showed myself to him, he Wasn’t scared. That was the first time in so long that I remembered what it was like to — to be accepted. To care about someone.”

“So you understand,” I said. “You see why I can’t give up on the world.”

“Vic’s human. He’s alive. He anchors me to life and lets me experience it through him, just a bit. Lucas can’t do that for you, not anymore.”

“He does. He can. I know it.” But I didn’t know any such thing. There was so much about being a wraith that I didn’t understand yet.

“You need to talk to Christopher,” she said encouragingly. “He’ll make you understand.”

I remembered Christopher. He had appeared to me, a mysterious and foreboding figure, at Evernight; he had attacked me there with intent to kill, so that my transformation into a wraith would be guaranteed. Yet when he had appeared to me and Lucas this summer, he had rescued us from Charity.

Was he benevolent or evil? Did the actions of wraiths even fit into any kind of morality I understood? The only thing I knew for sure was that Christopher had power and influence among the wraiths. Now that I had become one, our paths were certain to cross again.

Thinking about this made me nervous. I managed to ask, “He’s sort of the . . . wraith in charge, right?”

“Nobody’s ‘in charge.’ But plenty of us listen to Christopher. He has a lot of power, a lot of wisdom.”

“How did he get so powerful? Is it because he’s especially old?” That was how it worked for vampires. “Or is he, well, like me?” I’d already figured out that my status — as a child born of two vampires, and therefore able to die a natural death and yet become a ghost — gave me abilities most ghosts could never claim.

“Neither,” Maxie said. “He Wasn’t born to be a wraith, like you were. Christopher learned everything on his own. He has this amazing inner strength. You’re going to like him, Bianca. Why don’t you come with me now?”

I couldn’t do it. Christopher might have amazing strength he’d used to save me — but he had also attacked me. The world of the wraiths remained foreign and frightening; I had no idea how my powers related to the cold, revenge — driven creatures I’d encountered at Evernight Academy. Maybe it was crazy to still be frightened of ghosts after I’d become one myself, but the thought of joining them forever scared me deeply. More than that: going into that world felt like giving up on life.

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