Chapter 1: Her Destiny Beckons
"If you call one wolf, you invite the pack."
The dry grass of the cemetery crunches underneath my sneakers, as I walk my usual route through the final resting place of the dead. The cemetery is hundreds of years old, yet that doesn't stop new tombstones from being added each week. Some are more elegant than others. Most are run down and neglected, with cracks sprouting from the ground imbedding themselves in the rock with dying flowers bordering them.
I sometimes wonder if I'm the only visitor of these lost souls, I hope not. I make the same walk to the dying tree beside the tombstone of Anne McLary that I do everyday, but the sound of the grass never seizes to fill me with a sense of dread that I can never seem to shake.
My name's Blake Larson and I see dead people. It's like a switch I can turn on and off, but in cemeteries it's almost impossible to turn off, the pull is too strong. It's like being tethered to the ground, but the ground are the spirits, and instead of keeping me on solid ground, they only succeed in pulling me under. Sometimes the fall was freeing, other times it left me an anxious mess. Today is one of those days.
I make my way into the shade of a dying Willow tree. Its branches drooping pathetically, any signs of life cast away. I sit down carefully, and pull a book out of my knapsack, its stitches weathering away. Paradise Lost, one of my favorite books. I've reread it five times, but when a book is as good as this one, it hardly feels so. I open the page my bookmark is on, but don't start to read. That sense of dread I had walking over here, still remaining.
I looked around the cemetery searching for any familiar faces. Some days I talk to the spirits, other days I ignore them. Their hushed whispers and jagged screams seemed louder today. I'm not scared of them though. On the contrary, their presence fills me with comfort. I've never been great at making friends, and the dead are lonely. Walking the Earth for all eternity, talking and whispering yet no one can hear them. Everyone but me anyways.
When I first found out I could see them, I thought there might be others like me. But that notion was disclaimed when I saw the utter shock and horror that graced the faces of all of them the first day I spoke to them. I see myself in them sometimes. I will end up like them one day after all. Death and mortality are always on my mind, and while most fear it, I instead embrace it.
My dad doesn't even know I'm here. Well my adoptive dad anyway. I don't know who my real parents are, some days I yearn to find out, other days I think it'd be better to not know. He told me that almost seventeen years ago, while visiting his grandmother's grave, he found me lying here under this very same tree. Apparently I was bundled up in a bunch of blankets, and I wasn't crying. He said he felt the urge to care for me instantly. He adopted me a couple of months later. I doubt he feels that way now. He's too busy to care where I am at various hours of the day, because he has a school to run. In fact, the very same school I will be late to if I don't get going right now. I let out an exasperated sigh, which seems to blow away some of the ghosts. I open my mouth to apologize but quickly close it, deciding not to bother them any more than I already have. I stuff my book back into the backpack, and get up, dusting my grey sweatpants off in the process.
I walk over to the only tombstone that I've avoided looking at my entire time here, and other times before. His tombstone is not like the others, I made sure of that. Although it was put here only months ago, it feels like just yesterday. I say nothing as I walk over to the only tree here with any signs of life, and pick a red flower, resembling the color of blood. I place it carefully on his tombstone and stare at it for a while. I'll join you soon, I whisper more to myself than him. I wonder what it will be like to finally be six feet under.
I look up at the sky and the moon is still visible. The moon is at its fullest, resembling a great, round silver dish in the sky. I always feel a pull when the moon is like this. Not like I am being dragged down into the ground by an unknown force. This pull is different. It instead dragged me out of the Earth, filling my lungs with a different yet familiar kind of feeling—life. I stare at the moon for a few more seconds, before turning on my heel and leaving the cemetery. The sound of the grass following me ominously.
I stop running by the abandoned railroad to catch my breath. I keep telling myself that I'm gonna exercise and get more fit—I need to stop lying to myself. My eyes size up my surroundings. Vines curl over the cracked concrete wall next to a broken bridge, all meeting in the middle. Mold and foliage cover the railroad tracks and a few rats litter the floor. Just the typical wonders of living in New York.
I've lost all serenity the cemetery gave me and start to get a little worried that coming here maybe wasn't such a good idea. This is my first time ever taking this route, something about the area was just calling to me. Plus, it's common knowledge that the tracks lead to anywhere and everywhere in town. Just as I'm about to walk away, I hear a clattering noise.
I turn around to see a woman and a coin twisting and whirling until dropping onto the cold pavement. The coin is silver and unusually large—almost the size of a small flower. It has a weird engraving on it and an animal of sorts. Just before I can start to investigate further, the woman clears her throat.
"Ahem." Looking at her up close I see that the woman is actually a spirit. I guess I failed to notice it since she came up behind me so quickly. Weird, usually I notice that at first glance or I can feel their presence. She is translucent. Every movement of hers is like a flicker—so fast that if you blinked you could miss something important.
"Oh, hello. I don't think I've ever seen you before. What's your name, if you don't mind me asking?" Being around the cemetery a lot gives me the opportunity to learn the name of every single spirit in the city. I've never once seen her before, perhaps she died recently.
"Rosie Samuels." She responds, her eyes not meeting mine. I can tell she is lying. Perhaps, when she was alive she was an infamous person. Either way, it's none of my business. She looks neither old nor young. She has hardened yet delicate features. Her hair looks fair, but it is hard to be sure since she is so see through. She has on a summer dress of sorts, immediately standing out to me since it is a windy autumn day. She reminds me of a tree. A balance of beauty and wisdom.
"It's nice to meet you Mrs. Samuels, I'm Blake." I offer her a friendly smile. I am like this with all the spirits. I try to be as cordial and respectful to the spirits as possible since it can be quite nerve racking to find out that someone, other than another spirit, can see you. That's why I consider seeing them a gift, even though it can feel like a curse sometimes.
"I know who you are Blake Larson. I've been looking for you for a while now." She admits with an indiscernible gleam in her eye, and a certain airiness to her tone. I take a step back, suddenly feeling a bit intimidated which hardly ever happens to me, but she gives off such an intense vibe, it's hard not to. A greatly powerful one, that I almost began to tremble in her presence. I start to become more and more aware of the vulnerable position I have put myself in.
"So one of the other spirits m-mentioned me? That's how you k-know my n-name?" I stutter out, inwardly cursing myself for acting all nervous. I am the alive one in this situation after all. As terrible as that may sound, I definitely have the upper hand if threatened.
"Nope," she answers in a smug tone, "A bit of advice my dear. Listen to the whispers in your dreams tonight, and during all the nights to come. Only then will your truth be revealed and everything will become clear. You have a great gift, that will one day prove helpful in achieving your destiny." Then she vanishes. Into thin air. One second she was there, the next—Poof.
That's when I start to freak out.
If I wasn't an anxious mess before at the cemetery, I am now. Spirits don't just vanish into thin air. I've spent almost seventeen years of my life studying them and understanding them, and not once have I seen one do that. They could travel quickly but not at the speed of light! I didn't even see her float away. Suddenly, I begin to feel a vibration in my pocket. My phone must be ringing.
I grab it and look at the caller ID. It's my dad. Shit, shit, shit, shit! I'm going to be late to school, again. Pushing recent occurrences into the back of mind, I turn and start to sprint to school.
I stop at the huge double doors of the school with five minutes to spare until my first class of the day—AP United States History. I'm a bit of "history buff" as my best friend Emerson likes to call me. I wouldn't go that far, but I do enjoy learning random facts about the old times. The older spirits have taught me so much—some of them have lived more centuries than you could ever imagine.
I open the doors and take a deep breath ready to sprint across the halls to room 237 when I jump at someone poking a finger at my ribs. I relax when I see those familiar green eyes that belong to my long time friend—Emerson. His dark brown hair is shorter on the sides and the back but fuller on top, drawing less attention to the thickness of his eyebrows on his light olive skin. His lip ring seems to glisten in the bright lighting of the school as he flashes me one of his glittering smiles.
Next to him is his boyfriend of almost three months—River. He has dark grey eyes that sometimes remind me of smoke-with long eyelashes that any girl would kill for. He has black unruly hair that is a shade softer than Emerson's with a dimple carved onto his warm brown skin beside his mouth, which I know Emerson absolutely adores about him. I've never seen two people more in love with each other than them. Although, Emerson told me they haven't said that word yet, but it's quite obvious how they feel. The story of how they got together is quite an interesting one. But I am just so happy that Emerson found someone to complete him. Yet, moments like this make me question our friendship.
"You scared me, asshole. You are lucky I realized it was you before punching you in your pretty little face," I mumble, flashing him my signature glare. His smile falters, he clears his throat before squeezing River's hand a little bit tighter. I consider my glare to me one of my greatest assets. Though it sometimes stops people from associating with me. Sure, I long for more friends to keep me company but the ones I have are already awesome plus spirits are much easier to understand than people unfortunately. Emerson has been my best friend for as long as I can remember, and he knows I'm only joking when I glare daggers straight through him.
"This reminds me I'm gonna be late to Economics." River says with a fake sense of uneasiness, as he leans closer to whisper into Emerson's ear loud enough for me to hear, "She scares me sometimes." I soften my glare and give him a small smile accompanied by an eye roll, and he shoots me a charismatic wink. Emerson being with River has led him to also become a close friend of mine, and I couldn't be more grateful, he is good company. Emerson gives him a quick peck on the lips after looking around us, before releasing him.
Seeing them this close always reminds me of someone, but I don't let that shadow my smile. But I'm sure Emerson noticed the little twitch that I momentarily reveal before putting my mask back on, but he chooses not to acknowledge it which I'm grateful for. Just then the bell rings.
"Great, my dad's going to kill me when he finds out I was late again." I sigh, running a hand down my face. The hall is clear of any passing students now, and it is just Emerson and I standing in the middle of the listless hallway.
"You better get going, principle's daughter. Or Daddy might give you detention." He teases. I raise my hand to give him the finger, before he leans close to give me a one armed hug goodbye, still in the middle of laughing at me. As my head makes contact with his shoulder, a surge of electricity pulses through me knocking me back into the lockers. The back of my head slams against the metal, and I slide down the wall letting a strangled gasp escape my lungs.
"Blake!" Emerson exclaims, rushing over to help me up, eyes trailing over me to make sure I am alright.
"I-I'm fine." I groan, still not fully processing what just happened. I still feel tingly all over even after the shock of the blow. I wonder if it is Emerson's proximity that is making me feel this way since my whole body is buzzing just by making eye contact with him. I grab his hand, and he pulls me up, his arm slinging around my waist to steady me. I feel another shock this one hurting even more, and I back away from him, leaning against the lockers.
"What the hell is happening? Why can't I touch you?" He asks, pacing up and down, running his hand through his hair, pulling at the ends. His eyes are darting everywhere and his anxiety is radiating from him in waves, choosing to overcome me as well.
"I was gonna ask you the same thing." I whisper, barely audible that I wonder if he heard it. My eyes are wide, and I begin feeling the same panic I felt when the spirit vanished before my eyes, moments ago. Today is turning out to be very eventful, more interesting than things ever get in this part of New York.
"I hope she doesn't blame me. What if this is all my fault?"
"Don't say that, you are not to blame for whatever craziness this is." I say to him, throwing my hands up in the air, to gesture the range of this entirely ludicrous situation that has me grasping at straws for an explanation. But I can't think of anything.
"Blake." Something about his tone makes me whip my head towards his direction and I see fear and horror evident in his expression. He stops pacing back and forth and it's as if his feet are glued to the ground in that moment. He looks as if he's seen a ghost. I've never told him I can see dead people. Sometimes I wonder if he can see them too. But I doubt that. But it would be cool, wouldn't it? It'd bring me a sense of overwhelming happiness knowing I'm not as crazy as I think I am. "I never said that out loud." He shudders, his eyes finally meeting mine after minutes of avoiding them entirely. His jaw is set, and I can tell this is too much for him, he's never been good at dealing with stress, but who is anyways?
Now is my turn to laugh. It is empty, void of all emotion. Except fear. Why is this happening? "What do you mean you never said that out loud Emerson?" When he says nothing after a few moments, I whisper screamed, "Answer me!" My tone makes him flinch, filling me with regret.
"I was feeling guilty but I never said so. I never voiced what I was feeling."
"This is too much." I begin to tremble. I raise my hands in front of my face to see that they are shaking too. Emerson steps forward to try and comfort me, like the great friend he is, which is why it hurts when I force myself to take a step back and hold a hand out, stopping him in his tracks. I turn and run away.
After school ended, I made my way back to the cemetery. Knowing that the atmosphere the spirits bring was the only thing that could calm me down. I went through the school day trying to act like everything was normal. I didn't sit with Emerson at lunch. He's texted me as well, but I haven't answered. I went home after about three hours since my dad was blowing up my phone. I haven't seen him all day, and I knew he'd be upset.
I open the door, and cringe at the creek of the door alerting him to my presence. He is in front of me in seconds. His hair is tousled and there are bags under his eyes—It was physically clear the stress my absence had on him. I feel a twinge of guilt inside—hating that I worried him so much.
"Young lady, where exactly have you been? Do you know how worried I've been? I bought you that phone for a reason you know." He scolds, his voice unyieldingly stern, but not forceful either. He rarely yells at me and I am thankful for that. I wouldn't be able to handle that right now, I'd probably just break down.
I tense up, trying to think of a believable excuse for my absence. I was rescuing an injured bird from a tree. Nah, too far-fetched. I was at Emerson's. No, he'll probably call to confirm in the state he's in, and after the way I left things with E I'm not keen on the idea of asking him to lie for me. "I was at the library studying for my Eng—"
"Then tell me why Mr. Stanley said he saw you at the cemetery again?" He asked, his voice a couple of notches louder this time. My heart starts racing, he is on to me. Stupid, Mr. Stanley, always poking his nose where it didn't belong.
"I was only studying there. It's quieter, and I can get more work done."
He studies me for a few seconds, before sighing. He softens his gaze, and looks me straight in the eyes. "Have you been visiting Sam's grave again?"
I take a step back and blink a few times to make sure I heard that correctly, before looking up at him with wide eyes. I'm in complete shock that he would even think to bring Sam up right now. He knows I'm still hurting, yet he assumes he can bring him up in a conversation as if the subject of him is trivial to me. It is anything but. Tears threaten to prickle my eyes, but I wouldn't let them fall. "How dare you bring him up? After everything I've been through? It hasn't even been a year dad, I'm still allowed to grieve!" I state, my voice threatening to shatter in to a million pieces.
He takes a step forward and his expression turns to one of concern. "Sweetie, I'm only worried about your well-being, I didn't mean to upset you. I know his death has had a great impact on you, but you rarely spend any time at home and I don't want you to be unhealthily fixated on him anymore, it's time you move on. I want you to live your life, and that means not spending every waking moment at an old cemetery that will only take you back. Be closer to home. Take a few steps forward. Please, for me." He finishes, giving me a small yet uneasy smile. His eyes are almost begging me to listen to him, to talk to him about what I am really feeling. But I just can't.
"Right now, that cemetery feels a lot more like home than this place." And with that, I walk out of the living room into my bedroom, slamming the door. I fall on to my bed, sinking my face into the pillows. I want to cry, scream, and shout. All of the above. Too much happened today. It is all too much.
I turn over so I am laying on my back. I look up to the ceiling, studying the white surface, loving how it resembles a blank canvas. I turn a switch beside my bed, which turns on a set of lights that projects an illusion of a night sky above my head, but right now I want to see the real thing. So, I turn my head to look out my window, staring at the moon. Its presence in the night sky is alluring and captivating—so much so, that I can't take my eyes off of it. It's at its fullest tonight, and I find a bit of reassurance in believing that it will watch over me while I sleep after worrying about what that spirit said earlier. I am in dire need of sleep. I don't want to think about what happened today. With the spirit, with Emerson, with my dad, any of it. I will ponder over it all later, I just want to shut my eyes and go to sleep—forget everything. Soon my thoughts begin to feel hazy, as the deep pulls of sleep take over.
Three hours later, a voice begins to boom inside my head, breaking up my dreams, and pounding its way in to my skull.
"Blake Larson. Wolf of mortality, divination, and necromancy. Go, henceforth, and connect with your pack. Your brothers and sisters, your companions for life. The Creation and your parents are in dire need of your help."
I wake up.