My father is obsessed with where people go after death. He swears Heaven and Hell are legends of parallel worlds. He claims the energy released during death propels a soul into the world beyond this. He thinks if he traps that energy, he can travel worlds without the inconvenience of dying. He experiments on the most vulnerable souls—ones with no shields. Ghosts.
“Morrigan-Persephone! I said get my voltage-amplifier!”
I frown at my full name. Like naming me after the goddess of death wasn’t bad enough without tacking on Hades bride. Someday, when I’m free, I’ll only answer to the nickname he hates. Mori.
At my desk in the corner of the cavernous lab, I deliberately knock my schoolwork to the floor.
My father mutters, “Clumsy bitch.”
I crouch, slowly gathering my things. My eyes flicker to the tiny plexiglass room in the lab’s center. White candles and salt encircle it. Ghost prison.
Behind the plexiglass walls, Jack watches me. Contrary to beliefs, ghosts aren’t transparent. Except for radiating a soft luminescence, Jack is just a hot seventeen-year old guy. Dark, perpetually-mussed hair and eyes the color of the torn jean-jacket he’s been wearing since his motorcycle skidded off the bridge.
His voice fills my mind. “Get him the amp.” I shake long blond hair over my bruised cheek, hiding what happens when I don’t obey my father. Jack bangs on the glass. “It won't hurt me.It's okay.Please, Mori." He can't be sure about that, but I reluctantly stand.
All ghosts sound different. The angry ones hurt, like knives carving my mind. The sad ones are like prickly burrs. The lost--icy water. But Jack…Jack’s all summer.
“Godamn it, Morrigan!”
I hurry to hand my father his voltage-amplifier. He snatches it, glaring. His latest experiment involves slamming electricity through Jack.
Returning to my desk, I glance at Jack's cell. Nobody else would see him huddled in the corner. They’d see an empty room.
My father loves bragging that his experiments on my mother during her pregnancy made me into his secret weapon. He doesn’t care that my mother died from his experiments. He cares that I’m “extraordinary.”
I see ghosts. Hear them. I sense when someone’s dying. I find my father souls. Even knowing ghosts feel pain, knowing how many disintegrate after my father’s experiments, I’m too scared to refuse. I’m as bad as him.
My father stands. Thin and balding, he appears harmless--except for he’s holding something like electrified prongs. As he approaches the glass room, Jack shuts his eyes.
With every step my father takes, I remember.
Jack in the hospital, his charcoal hair sketched across the canvas of bandages. He melted my defenses, even then. I tried to stop my father from taking him. I woke in the lab, bloody and bruised. Jack was already behind glass. Dead-- his essence imprisoned. He still asked, “Are you alright?”
I pretended I couldn’t see him.
Jack wouldn’t give up.
Mid-way through the first week he was yelling in my head. “I know you hear me. I can tell!” By the end of the second-- begging. “Please? Just look at me, Mori.”
That’s what won me. Not Morrigan. Mori.
I remember Jack’s grin when I finally looked into his eyes. “There. Was that so hard?”
His dimple deepening when I answered, “You’re a pain in the ass.”
Over the months, Jack became my first friend. I finally tried stealing my father’s key to release him. It took weeks to recover from the beating. And somewhere in all that, our friendship became…more.
My father approaches Jack and something in me snaps.
Then I’m running, skidding on the linoleum. As my father steps into Jacks room, I crash into him. He stumbles as Jack yells, “Mori! No!”
But sixteen years of fury is exploding. Kicking, screaming, I grab for the glowing prongs.Everything happens so fast…
My father jabs wildly with his weapon.
Jack dives in front of me.
The electrified-prongs pass through him...and slam into my heart.
Excruciating pain. Roaring pulse. Flash-grenades of memories and emotions that aren’t mine. My face hovers before me. But not the weak, bruised girl from my mirror. This girl has a bright smile, autumn-sky eyes, hair like sunlight. In Jacks eyes, this fearless girl is me.
I crumble. The pain slips into numbness. Calloused hands help me stand. Only…my body’s still on the ground. Strong arms surround me. “Don’t be scared.”
Jack’s breath is warm. He’s solid. Alive. I’m not.
He turns me. “Look.”
I gasp. An archway hangs in the air—showcasing a Technicolor world. Jewel-like birds trill in kelly-green treetops. Puddles of rainbow flowers splash the emerald hills. Cobblestone ribbons unspool towards the horizon.
“We’re free, Mori.” We step towards the doorway together.
My father breathes. “It worked.”
I turn back. He’s smiling fanatically. He doesn’t see his dead daughter--just the doorway. In killing me, he finally opened it.
Jack and I move like one person. In some ways, we are. I feel his emotions, see his memories. When my father hit us with that current, part of our souls…melded. Jack loves me. It’s all I feel, all that matters.
To my father, we’re invisible. He steps towards the door. Jack and I thrust our hands towards him. The whole, “ghostly-moving objects” is crap. Ghosts don’t have enough life-energy to move dust. My father should walk right through us.
Instead, he flies backward, crashing to the floor. For a split-second, our eyes meet. Somehow, he sees me. I flip him off and slam the door. The handle melts. Maybe Iam extraordinary.
My father screams.
Jack laughs. “Nice! Now come on!”
As we step through the archway, it disappears. The grass is downy-soft. The air smells like I’d imagine starlight would. But I’m not looking around. I’m looking at Jack. He leans in. My whole world becomes his mouth, soft and hot against mine.
So, it turns out my father was wrong. Heaven’s no myth. It’s right here in front of me.
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