Afterlife Page 84

“You don’t want to be a vampire anymore,”l said. “But if you use me for this — you’ll be worse than any vampire.”

“I will be alive.” Mrs. Bethany displayed not a flicker of hesitation. “An old betrayal will at last be set right. I will be able to die as I ought to have — as a human woman. And you will be no less dead than you already are.”

A swirl of light, and the world took shape around me. At first I thought myself free, and prepared to vanish or run or do whatever I could — but 219 then I saw where I was.

Mrs. Bethany stood in front of me, trap in hand, in the middle of a room that shimmered in every color, floor, ceiling, walls. I realized that it had the exact same dimensions as the records room, but instead of bare stone and dust, this glittered, deep and translucent. Mother — of — pearl, I realized. And the copper roof on the south tower — the strange sensation I’d often detected from the empty room above my parents’ apartment — she’d brought the trap into the other tower, into this place. And now I knew what it was.

“You turned this entire room into a trap,” I said. Already I knew I wouldn’t be able to get out.

“My theory is that you can provide the power for many of us to revive,” Mrs. Bethany said. “You will be returning life to nearly a dozen individuals, Miss Olivier. Perhaps that is some small consolation.”

I backed away from her. The mother — of — pearl felt slippery against my feet — but no, that Wasn’t it. I couldn’t be solid or insubstantial; I couldn’t float, couldn’t run. Everything was in — between, robbing me of the abilities I could use in either state. Although I had a sense of place within this trap, it was still a trap, eating away at my very sense of reality and self. It just took longer. A slower death. No wonder I’d heard the wraiths screaming.. . .

More gently, Mrs. Bethany said, “Think of it like being an organ donor.”

I had been able to hear the wraiths screaming, even when they were trapped….

With everything I had, with every ounce of strength, I screamed, both aloud and within my soul, “Help me! “In the scream I put the place I stood, Mrs. Bethany in front of me, everything I thought and felt and knew. The effort alone seemed to make me less than I’d been before — as though I had screamed out part of myself.

“The room is soundproofed,” Mrs. Bethany said. “No one can hear.”

Not with their ears, maybe. But if Maxie or Christopher detected it, or if Lucas could hear me within his dreams — A rap on the door startled me into hope. But Mrs. Bethany didn’t seem surprised. She simply held up the trap and opened it, then set it on the floor. The grayish swimming void unfolded before me again, and I desperately tried to keep from sinking within it. As I flailed about wildly, unable to resist, I heard a murmur of voices — hardly the rescue mission I’d been hoping for. o The trap swung shut. For a couple seconds, I felt a dizzying rush of relief, and I tried to make sense of what I could see. We remained in the mother — of — pearl room, but the door had already been closed again, cutting off my chance at escape. And now Mrs. Bethany and I weren’t alone. Half a dozen vampires ringed the room, each of them staring at me as eagerly as Mrs. Bethany had. Most were students; a couple were teachers. None of them were people I knew very well, but I knew one thing — they were ancient and powerful. Mrs. Bethany had chosen her accomplices well.

“I do not know how many of us you can resurrect, Miss Olivier.” Mrs. Bethany reached into the pocket of her long skirt and pulled out the blade I remembered from Samuel’s transformation. “But for myself, and those who follow, may I express my most profound gratitude?”

“You can go to hell,” I said.

“We’re vampires,” Mrs. Bethany said, and for a moment I saw an echo of the darkness and self — hatred I’d glimpsed within Lucas these past months. “We’re already there.”

“You’re killing me.” I still couldn’t believe it, although it had begun.

“If it helps, you are also killing me.” Mrs. Bethany smiled, like that was great news. “I do not intend to live long as a human. This extended existence has been more torment than pleasure to me. I want only to die as I ought to have done.”

“To die? You’re doing all this just to — to die all over again?”

“To die as I ought to have done,” she repeated. A deep sadness darkened her eyes. “To go where I should have gone, after death, and be reunited with those I knew in my one rightful life.”

Christopher, I realized. She thinks if she dies as a human, she’11 be with Christopher again.

She pushed up the sleeve of her lacy blouse, angled the knife. and sliced open the skin of her wrist. Her vampire’s blood began flowing down her hand, and I felt a crazed hunger unlike anything else I’d ever known. I didn’t want to drink her blood; I wanted to be one with it. The instinct to rush into her — to become a part of her and lose myself forever — was more powerful than anything I could’ve imagined.

Don’t! Hold back! Think about Lucas, think about everyone else you Jove, hold on for them! But as I thought this and I tried to cling to it with all my strength. I could feel my resolve breaking down with the rest of me. My humanlike form began turning into cloudy vapor. Mrs. Bethany lifted her 221 head, triumphant. Soon she would be human again, and I would be . .. nothing.

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