Chapter 14: Necropolis
A slight chill played at my skin as I slid back on the bed’s comforter, readying myself for a second attempt.
“Be careful.” Ian’s eyes looked pained.
It killed me, but I tried to look confident. “I will.”
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. The scene with my dad drifted into my mind again, resurrecting long-forgotten sadness.
The painless sensation of flesh tearing from bone washed through my limbs. I exploded from my body, thrust into the air this time. My weight drained off. Talk about a weight-loss plan.
I fell to the ground in front of my bed, landing with one hand and one knee to the ground, Ironman style. Errr...Iron-woman style. A gigantic smile spread from cheek to cheek.
A lingering darkness lay at the fringes of my soul. It was one of the most unsettling feelings I’d ever had. I’d always wanted to understand what everyone else here felt like…until now. But if the others could control it, so could I.
I stood and looked back at Ian. He sat beside my motionless body. The dark haze still thinly outlined his figure. Was that his aura?
“Abby?” he said, checking to see if I was still present in my body.
When he received no response, he placed his fingers on my neck and waited to feel a pulse. Then Ian leveled his ear to my nose, feeling and listening for breath. Even though this was more controlled than last time, he still looked worried.
I gasped as he boldly placed his hand on my chest. When I realized he was merely checking for a heartbeat, I blushed. But part of me enjoyed it. Savored it, in fact, even though I could barely feel it while separated.
Ian put his ear to my chest and listened for a long moment. My knees wobbled as a strange, warm, tingling sensation welled up inside of me like I was being seduced back into my body. My god, it felt good, unlike anything I’d experienced before. I put a hand out to steady myself against the bed. It passed right through and I stumbled forward. As I made contact with my physical body, I was yanked back into my skin. Darkness consumed me, then light streamed into my eyes.
Ian jerked back with a gasp as I sat up and gulped air. He wrapped his arms around me, letting out a sigh. I let myself relax into his chest. I could’ve stayed there forever.
“You’re back.” He sounded better than he’d looked a moment before, then he let me go, snapping back as if he’d accidentally invaded my personal space.
Silently, I chided myself for being weak.
His nervous eyes weren’t quite sure where to look as I composed myself. He was adorable when flustered, but I forced myself to stop noticing.
Our eyes finally met and Ian frowned. “That was a bit…premature, wasn’t it?”
“I didn’t mean to come back,” I said. “I accidentally fell into my body.”
He became serious, like he was trying to figure out some grand puzzle. “What do you mean? You touched your body and that made you reconnect with it?”
“I think so.”
“So it’s not necessarily an emotion that brings you back,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say that. I felt…” Well, I wasn’t about to tell him what I actually felt. “…something.”
I could almost see the gears turning in his head as he tried to sort out this mystery. Was it the mystery that intrigued him, or was it me?
“Okay, you’ve figured out the emotion that causes you to separate,” he said. “So how did it feel right before you were pulled back into your body?”
I wouldn’t let myself go there with him, so I lied. “I’m not sure. I don’t even know if it’s an emotion at all. I’ll pay more attention next time.” I breathed deep, trying to sooth the rush of plummeting back into my body that still coursed through me. “I can tell you how it feels when I’m being pulled into my body. It’s an intense rush, like an insane roller coaster. Like something out of a movie.”
“You’ve watched movies?”
“Of course. Who hasn’t?”
“But you don’t own a TV. I haven’t seen or heard one the entire time I’ve been here. I thought you said you’ve lived here your whole life?”
“I have,” I said. “My dad used to take me to the movies during the supply run that fell closest to my birthday. And we watch movies on supply runs, too.”
“You do?” He looked puzzled.
“Sometimes, sure. But I haven’t set foot in a movie theater in thirteen years. Not everything is serious around here, you know? We go out and have fun like everyone else. Just maybe not as often.”
“Wow. Why haven’t you gone to a theater?”
I shifted uncomfortably. “Because… It was something only my dad and I did together.”
“Oh.” Ian’s lips creased into a flat line and he looked down as if he’d done something wrong.
“It’s okay. It’s nice to talk about it with someone finally. All Joseph told me was that my father left—that he couldn’t do it anymore.” I hadn’t realized those emotions were locked away, wanting to come out. At least I wasn’t scared of them anymore.
“That’s tough,” he said.
“Yeah…it was. But that was a long time ago.” I smiled. “And besides, we wouldn’t have discovered this ability if you hadn’t stumbled onto the subject. Speaking of which…” I smiled, feeling a bit wild. Unhindered. “I wanna do it again.”
“Okay, you’re way too excited about doing something that causes your body to possibly die.”
He wasn’t wrong, but I was hooked. “I don’t think I died. I think I might be a dreamwalker.”
He frowned. “You mean, the people from the inscription who walk around invisible?”
“You know…that actually fits. Do you think you can enter someone’s dreams?”
I shrugged. “I’m not a hundred-percent sure dreamwalkers could actually do that.”
“But isn’t that what the inscription said?”
I pursed my lips and tilted my head to the side. “Translation’s not that simple. It’s not like English contains every word or concept in the old Hebrew language. Our cultures are very different. Not to mention, each of their symbols has multiple meanings. So we’re never completely sure we have a translation correct.”
“You haven’t read my journal yet, have you?”
“You’ll understand once you read it.” I put my hand to my chest, feeling my heartbeat. “So…did you find any signs of life?”
Ian shook his head, unsure. “I thought I heard one heartbeat, like it was beating only a few times a minute, but you came back while I was checking.”
“I’ll do my best to stay out of my body longer this time.” I tried to quiet the excitement in my voice for his sake.
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll come back to you.” Oh, geez. He was rubbing off on me. Not wanting to give him enough time to think about what I’d just said, I laid back. “Ready?”
Ian nodded, though he looked anything but ready.
“Alright, here I go.”
Before I knew it, the memory of my dad sprang to mind, consuming me.
I burst from my body, shooting out, landing at the foot of the bed. My sadness quickly turned to excitement.
I peeked over the railing to judge the distance, then jumped. Fifteen feet below, I landed firmly without a hint of pain.I could get used to this.
Life seemed to emanate from everything around me, like it was all alive and I was connected to it. It felt nearly as excited as me.
Just in case proximity was the cause of me being sucked back into my body, I decided to venture out this time.
I walked to my door, weighing my options. There was an entire ancient city to explore. No wall or door could keep me out. Which meant the only place I wanted to go was the one place I’d never been.
Mindlessly, I reached for the door. My hand passed right through it. I rolled my eyes at myself, then pressed my body through the door, into the hall.
That’d never get old.
The rooms on the other side of the hall were backed up to the Old City, so I took a straight path through Kat’s quarters, passing through her living area. Kat was nowhere to be found. Where was she so late at night?
I shrugged it off and continued. A split second of darkness occurred as my eyes passed through the smooth stone of the back wall and into an empty, unused room I hadn’t seen for many years. We found little use for most of the rooms of the Old City.
The room should’ve been dark as night, but this body’s eyes saw it clear as day. Well, clear as dusk, to be more accurate. That would come in handy.
After moving through a few more rooms, I passed through one of our weapons caches. Guns covered the room, hung beneath unlit fiber-optic cables. My hands disappeared through a fifty-caliber rifle as I exited the room.
It became second nature to walk through walls without hesitation. I went through several more before reaching the graveyard door. I froze.
Joseph stood there, studying the door. Why would he be there so late at night?
I’d gone still because he was standing there, but it wasn’t as if he could see or hear me. I moved up beside Joseph, the door’s familiar engraving of demons floating up through fire and emerging on the other side as angels stared at us.
I’d read the door’s warning several times over the years, but this was different. I could finally enter the chamber. Finally see what was inside. I hesitated, reading it once more.
Herein lies destruction, sealed until the Day of Judgment, that it may be cast into the Refiner’s Fire until its purification is complete.
What destruction lay inside? Or was that just a warning to keep people from defacing the graves? Elian’s last words to Joseph before he left were, Never open the graveyard door. Ever. But his powers had probably gotten out of control and driven him mad.
I wasn’t in my physical body. This was the safest way to go through the door, wasn’t it? At least if it were trapped, I wouldn’t spring it.
Regardless of what I told myself, I was still anxious. I took one last look at Joseph, then pushed through the door into the chamber. Good. No trap. At least we’d be safe to open it one day.
Inside, a giant, web-ridden necropolis of tombs stretched out before me. A towering crypt lay at its center, covered in elaborate stone carvings and engraved Paleo-Hebrew texts. As usual, everything was huge.
I stepped up to a web-cocooned tombstone and tried to clean it off, but my hand passed through, leaving the silk strands undisturbed.
Or were they? Had the webbing moved just a little?
I tried once more to brush it away. It moved.
Concentrating on solidity, I willed my hand to become corporeal. The webbing tore this time as my hand passed through it. Not much, but it was a start. I concentrated harder, waving my hand through the tangled mess repeatedly, the lacerations growing larger with each swipe. Once the tombstone was cleared, I’d started to get the hang of it. I wouldn’t be attempting to move boulders anytime soon, though.
An ancient, stone-carved cross wore the older Phoenician inscrip-tions of the city. It stood approximately four feet tall, about a foot-and-a-half shorter than me. The grave belonged to a well-respected stone mason who had died of natural causes at the age of eight-hundred-fifty-nine. Most people in Winter’s Edge assumed the Ancients gauged time or age differently than we did today, but I believed the ages were probably accurate.
As I walked toward the center of the graveyard, my footsteps disturbed antediluvian dust from an age long past, stirring fine powder into the stale air. I released any hold to solidity I might have had when wiping the webs from the cross earlier. No new dust kicked up. This ability would take time to get used to.
Everything here was dead, but it all seemed to radiate with life. Something was off about the place, though. Maybe that was just how graveyards felt in this spirit form.
An inscription on the giant crypt caught my attention. As I moved closer, I could see the texts more clearly. Likely another prophecy.
A small voice in my head called out my name. It was Ian. I’d nearly forgotten about him. This wouldn’t take long, though.
I wiped away the layers of dust covering the inscription and read it aloud. “She will cross the seal and awaken the destruction within. She will seek the souls of the dead, but find only the dark one left behind.” Below that, almost like a signature, it read, “Gail of the Abbey—Run.”
Chills ran through me like spiders spreading across my flesh.
Should it be translated Gail of the Abbey…or Abigail?
I breathed deep, considering the unthinkable. Was this about me? If so, why did it say Run?
The chills spread, my whole body vibrating with them.
Ian’s voice called out for me again.
Officially creeped out, I stood and turned to leave. Best to get back to Ian. I’d check the graveyard another time…maybe.
I stopped dead in my tracks as a silhouette moved in my peripheral.
Across the chamber, a massive, human-like figure stooped over a grave, dwarfing its tombstone cross. He must’ve been twice my height. Something like forward-bent horns protruded out of the sides of his head. Was his back turned toward me or away from me? His consuming darkness made that difficult to tell.
Fear clenched my legs, refusing to let them run.
The thing snorted, catching a scent. My scent. But there was no breeze here. How was that possible? Then I understood. He hadn’t smelled my scent at all.
He’d smelled my fear.
His stooping posture went rigid. As his head turned slowly in my direction, bright, scarlet eyes came to bear on me. My deer-in-head-lights tactic wouldn’t save me from this thing.
The hell-wrought beast charged, roaring like a lion.
As if fear itself became frightened, it released my legs and I catapulted forward.
I rushed for the sanctuary of the nearest wall hoping the beast couldn’t cross it. I was fast, but the monster was faster.
He plowed through me, trampling me. I grunted as gargantuan feet smashed my tiny frame. Whatever this thing was, he could touch me in my spirit form.
A small, fearful voice called my name, followed by light thumps to my chest. Ian.
I rolled to recover my footing. As I stood, jagged claws ripped through my stomach and I let out a shriek.
The voice came again, tainted with despair, accompanied by a moist sensation at my lips. Ian was trying to resuscitate me.
Smoke seeped from the wounds in my stomach, a searing pain engulfing them.
I scrambled backward to put distance between the beast and me.
He grabbed my foot, dragging me back to him. I willed solidity into my fingers and clawed at the ground.
Effortlessly, he swept me into his crushing grip, lifting me to his face. His crimson eyes screamed murder as they bore into mine. Rancid breath saturated my face with drizzle. I squirmed to escape the putrid stench.
Ian was right to be worried. This would be the end of me.
This dark one was about to kill me, and my only option was to give up.
Images of my life flashed before me, but I locked onto an image of Ian the first time I’d laid eyes on him. His face scraped up from tumbling and sliding a good quarter mile. Some part of me had broken that day—a wall I’d had since I was five. Ian had done something to me I couldn’t explain, something no one else had. And I owed it to myself and to him to figure out what that was.
No, I couldn’t give up. I wouldn’t abandon him the way my father had abandoned me.
I jerked my arm free and launched a fist into the beast’s eye. He writhed in pain and let out a roar, then tossed me into a stone outcropping. A tingling rose up inside along with that wet sensation at my lips and the subtle feeling of air forcing its way into my lungs.
Something yanked at my being. The earth below pulled along with me. The graveyard hinged like the page of a book being turned. As the necropolis stood on end, my quarters came crashing into me headlong. My vision went black for a heartbeat, then light streamed in as my eyes snapped opened to find Ian giving me mouth-to-mouth.
He lurched back.
I lunged from the bed, crashing into him, and tumbled to the floor. My back hit the armoire as I scurried away. I hugged my legs to my chest, hyperventilating.
Ian’s arms wrapped around me, trying to calm me. He whispered in my ear, soothingly. “Everything’s okay.” He drew me in, holding my head against his chest. “You’re safe, now. I’ve got you.”
Everything in me wanted to believe him, but my body still trembled. How could I ever feel safe again?