Afterlife Page 86

“I don’t give a damn!” Lucas arrow — staked another vampire; the room fell quiet, but he hardly noticed. “We have to get Bianca out of here!”

“She’s got my ghost!” Vic started running down the stairs, and Balthazar followed him. My parents and Lucas remained.

“Go,” I whispered. It was the only thing I had strength to say. Maxie didn’t deserve to be destroyed like this.

“The trap — this room — olh, my God, it’s killing you,” Lucas said. “Bianca, come on. The door’s open. You can leave.” So it seemed. And yet even reaching toward the door was impossible.

“Sweetheart, please, “Mom pleaded. Dad’s eyes filled with tears as he gripped her shoulders. “You can do it.”

“Your brooch!” Lucas fumbled in his pocket and held out my jet brooch. For a moment I felt something like hope; if I could become substantial again, even for a second, I could get out the door and maybe recover. But the brooch just dropped through the blue smoke where my hand had been I no longer had the ability to touch it, and so I could no longer call on its power.

The jet black flower clattered on the stone floor, dark as ink in this shimmering world, and I remembered the long — ago dreams that had led me here. They had warned me that when I reached out for love, storms would come. And in all my dreams, I hlad never made it to safety. To Lucas.

Lucas shook his head. “This isn ‘t happening.” His voice was hoarse. “This can’t be happening. Bianca, come on. Come back to me.”

“Bianca?” said an unfamiliar voice. A female figure, wearing a bright blue robe, standing in the doorway — “Skye, what are you doing here?” Lucas said. “It’s not safe! Go downstairs!”

“Yeah, “Lucas said. He put his hand around my waist, the better to steady me: he touched me gingerly, which I realized was because he didn’t want to upset Skye. “We realized this morning you were missing, because there’s no way you wouldn’t have been talking to us about the night’s plans “

“I was in that trap a whole day?” It had seemed to last forever, and to end in a split second, at the same time. Lucas nodded. “Apparently. We’ve been turning the school upside down looking for you.”

“When we stole her traps, Mrs. Bethany must have realized we were on to her,” Dad said. “She stopped bicting her time. Went on the offensive.”

After d1is is over,Skye thought, will one of you explain what’s going on?

Sure, I replied. As soon as I understand myself. “What about the traps? Mrs. Bethany’s got to be going after them.”

“Hopefully she won’t have the chance,” Mom said as we went farther down the stone stairs. The entire student body seemed to be awake rnow, and aware that something dangerous was going on; there was murmuring and shouting on every floor. “Patrice and Ranulf should be taking care of that right now….”

Her voice trailed off as the stones of Evernight began to scream.

That was the only word for it, though it didn’t sound like any human scream. It was like the building itself had come alive, and hated it. The sound was the grinding of the real versus the unreal, existing in dimensions that had nothing to do with sound but echoed within us regardless. We clapped our hands over our ears, except Lucas, who kept holding on to me but grimaced in pain. “What the hell?” he shouted over the din.

I felt them, then — snaking their way up through the bones of the school, climbing toward freedom. “The wraiths,” I said. “They’re free.”

They were free, and they were angry. Instead of flying straight to the people who anchored them, or letting go of the mortal realm, or wishing themselves back to the places they’d haunted before, they were attacking Evernight Academy and everything within it. Before, I hadn’t been able to understand why they wouldn’t be reasonable, why they acted purely on instinct. Now that I had spent a day in a trap, I understood; those things stole away your sense of yourself. It wouldn’t take long to turn into nothing but fear and rage.

My breath had become foggy now, and frost began to lace its way along the walls, the steps, the ceilings. My father nearly slipped on the ice that was caking underfoot, so fast it stung my feet, nearly entrapping them. The murmuring upstairs turned into shrieks.

“Hurry,” I said, feeling strength flow into me with a fresh sense of purpose.

We ran the rest of the way, although it was difficult. The ice now was thicker than in any other wraith attack I’d witnessed — as though the school itself were made of ice. As stones creaked and cracked from the pressure of ice in the crevices, we slipped and stumbled through a stairwell that increasingly looked more like a cavern of snow.

At last we reached the great hall, and even if I hadn’t already known this was the place the wraiths would be freed, it would have been obvious that this was the heart of the storm. The entire great hall seemed to be no more than a great maze carved from one block of ice. Shivering at the sides, white with frost, were Patrice and Ranulf. Both of them slumped near the entrance, apparently unable to move.

“Are you guys okay?” l said, hurrying to Patrice’s side. Her hand was like ice in mine.

“I’m fine, Skye,” Patrice said through chattering teeth. “You need to get out of here.”

“We’re all getting out of here,” Lucas said. He let go of me to pick Patrice up in his arms; she hung stiffly in his embrace, but he was able to get her out the door. Mom and Dad put their arms on either side of Ranulf to help him out.

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