More than two
hundred homes and two thousand square acres were destroyed in the fire. Two
people were severely burned, but they survived. Amazingly, no one died. At
least, that’s what the papers reported. They never found my body, and they
looked for days. I know; I watched them search for me. I had always said I
wanted to be cremated when I died, asking to have my ashes scattered at the
roots of an old tree, but being burned alive was not what I had in mind.
My parents held
my memorial outdoors, on the beach. Search and rescue told my parents it was
too soon to be completely conclusive about my whereabouts, but after seeing the
site where Jodi and Steven said I’d died, my parents came to the hard decision
that I was, more than likely, gone.
A pack of
surfers I had known since childhood paddled out to sea, each bearing a flower
wreath. Once they were past the last break of waves, they cast the flowers into
the ocean, letting the ebb and flow of Earth and sea take them. The beach was
covered in black from mourners milling around, huddled against the winter bite
in the breeze.
Deb had brought
her entire coven to show their respects. Little Trisity clung to Deb’s hand
while tears streamed down her face, her aura a pale gray obscuring her sweet
face. Deb lifted her up and held her on her hip, letting Trisity cry into her
shoulder as she made her way to my parents. Half the senior class had turned
out in a wash of black, white, and gray; even a few teachers were in
attendance. I had no idea so many people had known me. A huge, obnoxious
picture of me stood on an easel, flowers littering the ground around it. Beside
it, my surfboard stood, jammed in the sand.
Jodi and Steven
received just as many hugs and whispered condolences as my parents. Their faces
were dry of tears. Jodi looked hard and determined, as though an idea had taken
root in her mind and she was unaware of her surroundings, whereas Steven looked
distant, the fire in his eyes banked to cold embers. They accepted the hugs and
nodded at the words, but otherwise they weren’t truly present. I felt Jodi’s
uncontrolled magic, the sudden gusts of wind whipping her signature around,
making the mourners cling to their coats and inch closer to each other.
there, wrapped in a black peacoat and wearing a grey beanie pulled low over his
ears. His hands were jammed into his coat pockets, and his tiny mother was next
to him, her arm linked through the crook of Jensen’s elbow. I traced the line
of his profile with my eyes, remembering the heat of his full, red lips and the
sharp lines of his cheekbones under my fingers. An ache blossomed in my chest
as I waited for him to turn toward me, let me see the stormy ocean of his eyes,
but he never did.
I stood alone on
the rocks, watching from a distance. I found when I came too close to those who
had loved me in life, I stole what little peace they’d carved out for
themselves. Any calm or happiness they had found would seep away, the color of
their aura draining to gray. I was a wraith, bound to the shadows, trying to
find my way home.
I had spent my
time in the Ether, somewhere between the living and the dead, hiding and
running from that which would take me from this plane. I’d seen the bright
Light, the tunnel, felt the inexplicable compulsion drawing me toward it. I
felt the peace it offered. It felt like home. And I turned away from it.
It was strange,
watching those people, so close to them but totally apart. Even at this
distance, I saw Death’s next victims. Everyone was marked for death, but the
closer they came to it, the darker the mark grew over their bodies. It was a
cancer that made the soul rip away from the body. I saw lung cancer creeping up
on my English teacher. In another year’s time, he would know about his
diminishing chances of beating it. One of Deb’s sisters stood with the shadow
of Death looming over her shoulder, ready to snatch her away in a few weeks
when she stepped off that curb just fifteen seconds too soon because she was
digging through her purse with her phone braced between her cheek and shoulder.
I was so close and yet so far away. I couldn’t warn them though the words
screamed in my mind. I felt the phantom weight of my wings on my back, but I
knew they weren’t there. When I died and turned away from the Light, they were
ripped violently away from me.
I looked at my parents they were crystal clear, no shadow looming over them. In
time, the grey of their auras would clear and resonate in the rainbow spectrum
as they should. But when I looked at Jodi and Steven I saw the merest whisper
of a shadow. It blurred against their gray auras, but when they moved I saw it
and panic nearly strangled me. But what could I do?
I turned to Jodi
and watched her face, seeing the peaches and cream complexion drained to pale
anger. My fingers twitched with the desire to wave to her, get her attention,
make her see me even though I knew it was futile. Steven had turned his back on
the congregation, looking out to the sea that usually terrified him, but today
nothing scared him, nothing moved him. I sighed even though I no longer
breathed, and when I pulled my gaze off of the back of Steven’s head,
remembering how soft the curl of his hair felt under my fingers, I looked into
For one heart
stopping moment, she stared right back at me.
Her pale blue
eyes didn’t blink, the line of her mouth pressed hard and angry. I started to
open my mouth to call out to her, but before I could, I heard the crunch of
rocks behind me, making me break our eye contact. I spun around and saw the
angel terrifyingly close to me.
whispered, his voice carried on Jodi’s wind, gusting now in frantic confusion.
“No!” I yelled,
jumping from the rocks. I took off running, faster than I ever could in life. I
prayed for my wings, willed them into existence, but the pain never came and my
back remained whole and unmarred. I heard the thunder clap behind me,
reverberating as his wings erupted just before he took flight, chasing me.
through me, threatening to trip me up. I felt the Heavens opening behind me,
the warm light pressing against my back, growing warmer the closer the angel’s
outstretched hand got to me. I closed my eyes and drew in the shadows of the
rocks around me, turned on the spot, and let my body fall. The shadows wrapped
around me and pulled me through the cosmos just as the tips of the angel’s
fingers touched my sweater.