Afterlife Page 52

He’d been trying to lure this ghost into a trap, I realized — I could see one of the coppery seashell boxes at his feet, cracked in two and now apparently powerless. Why was Dad helping Mrs. Bethany?

The wheeze turned into a cackle. “Freeze it cold. Break it in two. No more head, no more noise.”

Dad’s face didn’t change, because he probably didn’t know what the wraith was talking about. But I knew. I’d used the power myself — the ability to reach inside a vampire and turn its body to ice. I’d seen how powerfully it could hurt vampires, and I didn’t doubt it could kill them.

The wraith swooped down, the malevolent spirit from my worst nightmares, the embodiment of everything that still terrified me about ghosts. I didn’t know what to do; I didn’t know if I had any power over other wraiths. Could it destroy me as well as my father? What could I do?

Instantly, I thought of my coral bracelet and the records room, and my spirit rematerialized tl1ere. Vic, who was sitting on a beanbag and reading a comic book, half snorted, half choked on a mouthful of soda when I appeared. “Whoa! Bianca, you gotta warn a guy.”

I’d hoped for Lucas or Balthazar. but I’d take whatever help I could get; even a simple interruption might make the wraith leave. “My dad’s in trouble — get to the library! Quick!”

just as fast, I thought of the gargoyle outside my old window — and I was there, hovering outside my old room. It was worth scaring the crap out of my mother if that got her down to the library to help Dad, but she Wasn’t there. Frustrated, I zipped down along the stones, seeking a familiar face; luckily, Patrice was there, alone, putting the fmishing touches on her manicure. I realized she was the one I’d needed all along. I frosted the window so fast it shook, and she opened it to thrust her head outside. “Bianca?”

“The library! Bring your mirror, now!”

I have to get back to Dad. But the tether I’d traveled along before had snapped; that kind of connection didn’t seem to work here in the mortal world. I’d have to take the long way. The only way to avoid leaving ice in my wake was to calm down and slow down, but this was no time for that.

I zoomed through Patrice’s room and down the hallways, ignoring the frost and the eerie blue lights that rippled around me, eve n when the other students began to scream. Skye, emerging from the shower, nearly dropped her towel, and I could see the wet strands of her hair freezing into icy points. Sony, I thought absently. I couldn’t worry about anyone right now besides my father.

My journey to the library probably took no more than a couple of minutes, but it seemed like eternity. When I went through the doors, a quick swipe of wood through my whole body, I cotuld see flickering blue light reflecting on and within what was now an enormous cage of ice. Somewhere in the middle of that crackling, sparkling prison was my dad. I pushed through the ice to the center.

There, to my horror, I saw Dad — swaying on his feet, leaning back at an impossible angle, pushing desperately against the fist of ice that was buried within his chest.

The wraith cackled. “Stupid it. Stupid it.”

“Get away from him!” I screamed. Not knowing what else to do, I threw myself into it from the side, as hard as I could. It simply went filmy and let me topple thr — ough. But I at least provided a distraction; the wraith pulled its icy hand from my father and turned toward me.

It was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen. At first I’d thought it was only old, but old people didn’t look like this. The “flesh” that it manifested didn’t seem to fit any longer — its lower eyelids sagged so far that I could see the full eye socket, and its lips drooped over its jaws, down by its chin. I backed away untilI touched the ice; I could’ve gone through it, but that would have meant abandoning Dad.

I heard a soft voice say, disbelieving, “Bianca?”

Dad! But I couldn’t look at him right now; this wraith needed to stay focused on me and not him.

The wraith’s round, eerie eyes lit up — literally, as though they were gas flames. I had no idea we could do that and seriously did not want to start. ··A baby,” it said.

“I might be new to this, but I promise you, I can — ” What could I do? “I can out — haunt you any day if you don’t leave him alone.”

“You can take us there,” it said, shuffling forward with an eagerness that was slightly childlike, and tl1erefore more disturbing.

Was this what Christopher had meant? That I was supposed to help creepy things like this?

Then I felt bad. If I hadn’t been able to create a body, and interact once more with the people who loved me, maybe I would have turned creepy, too. If it could go to that land of lost things. maybe it would stop being so scary and start to look like itself again. If I’d thought working with dead people was going to be pretty all the time — especially given some of the dead people I’d already known — then that was stupid of me.

Til take you,” I promised. I didn’t exactly know how to do that yet, but already I understood that if I couldn’t pick it up quickly, Christopher could help me. “Just let this man go, okay? We can go there right now.”

The wraith hesitated. Maybe it couldn’t believe its good luck.

But then its flaming eyes narrowed, slits of unearthly ftre blue. “It doesn’t get to run away,” it hissed. “Not after what it did.”

“I don’t care what he was doing. It doesn’t matter! You can leave this place now. Isn ‘t that more important?”

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