Afterlife Page 51

“They are not as powerfully anchored to the mortal realm as I have been,” he said. His gaze was distant. “My connection has lasted longer than most, more intimately than most.”

Lightning flashed, and I felt rain begin to patter onto my hair and jeans, despite the fact that nobody else was getting wet. “I can’t. I’m sorry — I see that what you want me to be is a good thing — that it’s important — but I can’ t.”

Christopher didn’t look as discouraged by my refusal as I would’ve thought. “You have time to consider the matter,” he said. He was right, of course; we literally had eternity to go over this. As I edged away from him, already eager to leave, Christopher hurriedly added, “You need not be entirely separate from those you care for, even here. Your powers would allow you to hear them.”

“Really?” Not that this was that big a selling point for me — l mean, I wanted to remain with the people I loved, not just able to reach them. But knowing that those bonds survived here was encouraging, somehow.

Apparently encouraged himself, Christopher nodded. “Reach into the depths of your own spirit until you find, within, someone that you love.” What was that supposed to mean, reach into my own spirit? Then I remembered what I’d thought about the skies overhead. They were a reflection of my innermost self; I should concentrate on the darkening storm.

I closed my eyes but could still see the brilliance of the lightning through my eyelids. Cold raindrops spattered on my face, but I held out my arms, accepting the storm as part of myself.

And then my eyes flew open wide as I heard my name — as a scream.

Someone’s in trouble, I realized. My first thought was Lucas, but I realized that the voice in the thunder sounded familiar.

It sounded like my father.

Chapter Fourteen

“DAD,” I WHISPERED. I COULD HEAR HIM — THOUGH “hear” wasn’t quite the right word. It was more a matter of sensing him, feeling his fear and anguish through the sound of the thunder and the chill of the wind whipping around me.

“Will you go to him?” Christopher didn’t seem to approve or disapprove; he just watched, like he was taking my measure.

Could I face my father again? Face the risk that he would reject me forever, or turn against me?

Then the thunder rumbled one more time, and I felt the fear in my father’s heart more strongly than the fear in my own. Something terrible was happening, something much more important than the answers I needed. If Christopher turned against me now — if he tried to trap me in this place — I had to find Dad if I could.

“Yes,” I said . “I’m going.”

Christopher wasn’t angry; that was the first moment I felt that perhaps I could trust him. “Then I shall hope for your return.”

‘Til come back,” I promised Christopher. “I want to know more.”

“And I want to tell you.”

“How do I reach my father?”

“When the person you love wishes for you so desperately,” Christopher said, “you will find it impossible to be anywhere else.”

His face looked sorrowful as he said it, so much so that I wondered who had wished for him. But I couldn’t worry about Christopher for very long, not with Dad in danger or despair or whatever it was that clouded the skies above. I couldn’t worry about myself, either. My fears had been only a kind of selfishness; I saw that now. This land of lost things gave everything. whether seen or unseen, a brilliant clarity.

I closed my eyes and thought of my father. For the first time in months — since I’d died — !didn’t just think of the idea of him. I let myself remember so fully that it filled my heart. Tucking me into bed when I was a baby. Slow — dancing with Mom while Dinah Washington played on his old hi — fi. Making small talk with our neighbors in Arrowwood in an effort to fit in. Taking me to the beach because I loved it, though he hated sunlight. Griping about having to get up early in the morning, with his hair sticking out all over the place. Acting out his resurrection from the dead m with one of my old Ken dolls, to an audience of one very interested little girl and some highly surprised Barbies. Everything that made him Dad.

When I opened my eyes. he was there.

Or rather, I was back with him, at Evernight. Night had fallen — no telling how long it had been since I’d left. It had felt like minutes but could have been hours or days. My father stood in the center of the school library — The library! I thought, terrified, remembering the trap that had been here. But Lucas had taken it away, and perhaps it hadn’t been replaced. I felt fine. My father, on the other hand, seemed to be bracing himself against high winds. No, not “seemed to” — a gale — force wind had whipped up inside the room itself, each gust ice cold. I realized he was trapped; ice had formed between the bookshelves, creating a ten — foot — high frozen maze with my father in the center and no way out. A blue — gray shimmering form could just be made out in the far corner, someone skinny to the point of boniness, very old, almost bald. It could’ve been male or female. It was certainly a wraith.

“It tries,” the thing wheezed, in a voice that sounded like cracking ice. I recognized it: one of the Plotters. “It tries, but it’s too stupid to know what it’s doing wrong.”

Dad said, “You’ll be pulled in. You can’t hold out forever.” But he didn’t sound like he believed it. His eyes didn’t look angry or scared, just sad — the way they had when I’d seen him on the couch when I first retumed to Evernight. The way Lucas had looked when he went into his fatal battle with Charity. I realized why Dad had been thinking about me, calling to me; my father believed he was about to die his final death.

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