Afterlife Page 69

Samuel had always looked like an average thick — headed jerk to me, but his expression hardened, and for the first time I could see the ancient monster within the boy. “This isn ‘ t actually a school, or did you forget? I don’t need to study algebra. I need to figure out how to pass for human. Everything else here is a waste of my time.”

“Harassing the human students seems, to you, a better use of your time?” Mrs. Bethany arched one elegant eyebrow.

“Why are they even here?” Samuel shot back. “If you didn’t bring them in to serve as our dessert tray, I don’t see the point.”

She smiled, just a little, her eyes darting briefly toward Lucas, who looked as confused as I felt. “You don’t see many things, Mr. Younger.”

“I’vehad enough of this.” Samuel rose as if to go, but Mrs. Bethany’s withering glare pinned him in place.

She steepled her hands upon her desk and spoke slowly and carefully. “I asked human students to this school because they were necessary to fulfill a .. . pet project of mine. An interest of Mr. Ross’s as well.” Mrs. Bethany looked directly at Lucas as she said, “The elimination of the bloodlust of our kind.”

Samuel snorted. “So leave me out of it. I don’t want to be free from bloodlust. I like bloodlust. Best thing about being what we are.”

“You enjoy being a vampire too much, I think,” she said. “You’ve forgotten the alternative.”

“So what ifl have? As far as I remember, being human kind of sucked. I was weak, I had to eat vegetables, plus don’t forget having to go to the bathroom, what, like, multiple times every day? What a waste of time.”

Mrs. Bethany cocked her head, taking his measure as she took something from one of the drawers of her desk — a small metal container. A trap. And yet I felt no pull toward it. “We shall see.”

“What?” Samuel said. But she wasn’t paying any more attention to him. To Lucas, she said, ;;Do you know what this is?”

“A trap,” Lucas replied. His gaze was fixed on the box. “For a wraith.”

I realized that ice flaked the metal container, meaning that a ghost was already trapped inside. That was why it had no power over me; the trap was full.

“Very good, Mr. Ross.” She rose to a standing position. “Now, observe.”

Mrs.;my somP.thing in T . tin ts shP. thP. hox. ThP. wrtith within r.tmP. out — ts hol t of light thtt strur.k StmuP.I in the chest. He collapsed onto the floor, twitching violently; the wraith seemed to be circling him, stuck to him, a writhing vapor going over each limb, covering his face, trying to get away but unable to move.

“What the hell?” Lucas rose to his feet, obviously trying to figure out how to help Samuel, if that was possible. But Mrs. Bethany shook her head no.

Fascinated, I stared as Mrs. Bethany withdrew a long knife with a black blade — obsidian, I realized. Despite the barrier of the house’s walls, the obsidian seemed to push me back.

Then she stabbed downward — through the wraith, into Samuel. Silvery blood mingled with red, and both of them screamed.

The wraith suddenly sank within Samuel, clearly being absorbed by him. Samuel twitched one moment more, then sucked in a deep breath. Then another. He pushed himself up on his elbows, staring at the oozing wound in his arm. The blood was pulsing out Pulsing — He has a pulse, I realized. A heartbeat.

Samuel stared up at Mrs. Bethany. mute with shock. His eyes were wild and vacant. She straightened. throwing back her shoulders and smiling so brilliantly that she looked younger for a moment. Beautiful. Terrible. Lucas took a halting step backward, then sat heavily in the chair, like his only 182 alternative would’ve been to fall down.

“It works,” she whispered.

“I’m — ” Samuel kept patting himself down, like that would make sense of it. “Oh, God, I’m human.” Mrs. Bethany began to laugh. “You’re alive.”

My mind seemed to blank out, like where I should ‘ve had thoughts, there was only white light and static. What I’d just seen was impossible — and yet, I’d seen it.

“Make it stop. Make it stop.” Samuel clawed at his uniform sweater, like he was trying to rip through his own chest to tear out the beating heart. Lucas had to open and close his mouth a couple of times before he could say, “What — what did you do?”

“The wraith and the vampire represent two halves of death, Mr. Ross.” Her voice was again crisp and professional, but the hot light in her eyes hadn’t faded. She stepped closer to Samuel, who was by this point writhing on the floor, his living body apparently excruciating to him. “And yet, we also represent two halves of life. The flesh. and the spirit. Unite them once more. and the result is … resurrection.”

“I never heard of anything like that,” Lucas said. “Black Cross never told us this.”

“And yet they are among the very few who have ever known it. It was among Black Cross documents I stole that I discovered this.” Mrs. Bethany leaned over Samuel. His distress did nothing to diminish her delight. “Why didn’t they share the knowledge? You would think anything that resulted in fewer vampires — but no. Black Cross didn’t merely want safety for humans. They also wanted vengeance. And what vengeance could they have had in giving vampires renewed life?”

“Make it stop,” Samuel repeated. His voice was reedy now, which made it almost unrecognizable. It was like coming back to life had driven him crazy.

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