Afterlife Page 87

I ran out of the school onto the grounds. When I looked up at Evernight, I gasped; it now looked as though it had been carved of crystal, its outline blurred and fractal like the edges of snowflakes. Other students had congregated outside, shivering in their nightclothes as they looked up at the bewildering sight. Snow must have fallen that day, because some of them were knee — deep in it.

It could take hours for help to get here, I thought. People could die of exposure in that time. I have to do this now.

Do what?Skye thought, increasingly worried. Given what I’d put her through in just the last couple of minutes, I couldn’t blame her.

In the near distance, I saw Balthazar fighting with one of Mrs. Bethany’s surviving guards. Their fangs extended as they roared and leaped toward each other.

Skye screamed, momentarily taking her body back just by sheer force of terror. What are they?

Vampires. Remember what Lucas told you? He’s a vampire, too. Plus my parents. Plus — you know, a Jot of people. We have to go over this later. Right now, I have something to do.

She repeated, Do what?

Don’t wony; I can only do this alone.

With that, I let Skye go. We both fell to the ground, and it seemed as if the impact of her body against the ground snapped us in two. I rolled over, semisolid, but leaving no impression in the snow; Skye sat up, sputtering, icy flakes spangling her dark hair. Her expression was strange — horrified, maybe as if she didn’t remember giving me permission. But she said, “I can feel them.”

“Feel what?”

She clutched her hair in her fists, as if she were trying to use pain to block some other sensation. “The ghosts — all of them — it’s like they’re in my head — ”

Had my possessing her for so long opened her up to some other realm of perception? We’d have to find out later. “I’m going to take care of them, Skye. I promise.”

From his place a few steps away, where he was trying to revive Patrice to full consciousness, Lucas said, “Bianca, what are you doing?”

“I’ll be back soon,” I swore. “Did you get my brooch?”

He patted his pocket — then went still. “We’ve got trouble.”

Like we hadn’t had trouble already? But I followed his gaze to see Mrs. Bethany’s carriage house, shutters fastened tight, with only slivers of ulue — hullighl cuming lhruugh lhe :slit:;. They luukeu like knive:s culling upen lhe night. Mt. Bethany wa:s uegimting her :spell; :suun, :she wuulu have destroyed Maxie, and resurrected herself. Maybe a few of her cronies were in there, too. I could just make out the outline of Vic, who was throwing himself against the door again and again. trying to save Maxie.

“Go help them,” I said. “I promise, I’ll be back soon.”

With one last look at Patrice, who finally seemed to be sitting up under her own power, Lucas took off running toward Mrs. Bethany’s carriage house.

I let go of my physical self and floated upward, pure energy now. Evernight was below me, less something I could see and more something I could feel as the collection of so many lost, desperate spirits, no longer able to feel anything but fear. Before, when I had never been trapped, I couldn’t understand what they felt. I hadn’t been able to communicate with them. Now I knew what to do.

Remembering my time in the trap, I created around me the memory of that dark, fathomless void. As strongly as I could, I sent that downward, so that the wraiths would recognize it for what it was. just as I felt them react in pain and panic, I opened up that brilliant circle of light — the way out.

And past that circle, I envisioned the land of lost things in all its beauty and ugliness and chaos. It seemed to take shape in miniature, like the magical castles at the center of a snow globe: an old Tudor mansion, a mobile home, a brown horse with knobby knees and friendly eyes, a twisty dirt road — not things I had seen there before, but the things these spirits were bringing along with them.

The energy beneath me changed from fear into something like hope.

I took hold of them. Every one of them. I couldn’t say how I did it, but the power must have been within me from the beginning. In that instant, I knew each of them, could envision their faces, their personalities, sense fragments of the lives they must have led. They were as familiar to me, in both their virtues and flaws, as my dearest friends, and I felt them recognize me in return. More importantly, I felt them recognize themselves — the people they had been before darkness and fear had taken them over. Then I lifted us together, soaring upward into that sphere of light.

Then there was laughter, and cheering, and embraces. I stood in a patch of sunlight near what looked like a version of the Taj Mahal, though it was black instead of white, and even more beautiful. A crowd of perhaps a hundred people milled around me, wearing clothes that varied from T shirts and jeans to one woman in a full, hoop — skirted dress who carried a parasol.

“Thank you,” she whispered as she hugged me tightly. “You got us out. You brought us here.”

I hugged her back, but I remained vividly aware of how quickly time could pass here, and how badly I needed to return.

Christopher seemed to appear in the middle of us — no puffs of smoke or bursts of light, but one minute he Wasn’t there, and the next he was. His smile transformed him into the younger, happier man he had been in his memories of his life. “Bianca. I knew you could do it.”

“Yes, and it’s awesome and tremendous and all of that, but we have a situation,” I said. “Mrs. Bethany’s captured Maxie. She’s going to destroy her. Is there anything we can do?” E His smile faded. “That poor child. She must be terrified.”

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