WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE Excerpt
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
There is a moment in every life that defines, shapes, transcends your previous spirit, molding you as if from newborn clay. It’s come for me. I have changed, and that change is irreversible.
Sam, there’s no doubt anymore. I’m losing my mind. The shooting is haunting me. The horror of your loss, of who I’ve become, all of it is too much. I’m not sure how much longer I can stand to go on like this, trapped under glass, trapped away from everyone. I’m lost.
The walls here speak. Disconcerting at times, but at others, it’s a comfort. The ceilings dance in the candlelight, and the floors shimmer and ripple with my every step. I escape out of doors, and when I do, all I find is fog, and mist, and lumbering sheep. Cows with gentle, inquisitive eyes. The dogs have a sense of humor. But you can tell they’d turn on you in a second. I’ve known people like that. The deer are patient, and sad, resigned to their captive lives. The crows are aggressive. The seagulls act foolish, and there’s something so wrong about seeing a soaring gull against the mountainous backdrop. The chickens are huge and fretful, the grouse are in a hurry. The mist settles like a cold shawl across the mountain’s shoulders, and the road I walk grows close, like it’s planning to share a secret.
Above all, there is no one. And everyone. I feel them all around me. All the missing and the gone. I can’t see them, except for late at night, when I’m supposed to be asleep. Then they push in on me from all sides, stealing my breath. The room grows cold and the warnings begin.
It strikes me that I’m surrounded by doctors, yet no one can help. I have to find the strength from within to heal. Isn’t that what they always say, Physician, heal thyself? I shall amend it: Lieutenant, command thyself.
Sam, please, forgive me. It’s all my fault. I know that now.
In moments of true peace: outside by the statue of Athena, looking over the gardens, watching the animals on the grounds, I feel your sorrow. I finally understand what you’ve lost. I’ve lost it, too. I don’t think there’s any coming back. I don’t think there’s any room for me in our world anymore.
There’s something wrong with this place. Memphis’s ancestors are haunting me. They don’t like me here.
I did the best I could. I messed everything up, and I don’t know if I can fix it.
Hug the twins. Their Fairy Godmother loves them. And I love you. I’m all done.
Taylor slammed the laptop shut. Nauseous again. Pain built behind her eyes. A demon’s hammering. Her only recourse was to lie down, lids screwed shut, praying for the hurt to pass. Percocet. Another. The pills they provided had stopped working. Nightfall signaled her brain to collapse in on itself, to allow the doubt and pain to rule. Weakness. Mornings brought safety, and courage.
Her mind was made of hinges, pieces that held imaginings she didn’t want to acknowledge. If she did, the demons overtook her thoughts.
Defying the headache, she stumbled to the window, stared out at the mountains. Darkness enveloped their gentle curves. Bitter snow reflected the outline of the massive Douglas firs. Completely desolate. Private. Perfect for her to hide away, in the wilds of Scotland, pretending to the world that she was fine, just visiting for a time, on holiday, as the Brits around her liked to say.
She’d run away from the people who knew the truth about her situation—Dr. Sam Loughley, her best friend, and Dr. John Baldwin, her fiancé. She’d even managed to push away Memphis Highsmythe, a friend who wanted more from her than she was willing to give.
She brushed her hair off her shoulders and leaned against the window. The cool glass felt good on her temple. The small, puckered scar, another battle wound, nearly healed. Even the pinkish discoloration was beginning to fade. She no longer bore the blatant stigma of the killer known as the Pretender, at least on the outside. He’d stolen something from within her though. Something precious she didn’t know how to retrieve.
Now she was only half a woman, half herself. A crazy little girl shut up in a castle, too tired to play princess anymore.
Movement over the mountains. The storm was changing. Gray clouds billowed down into the valley, nestled up against the loch, and opened. Stinging ice beat a merciless tattoo on the ground.
Her heart beat in time with the sleet, the pounding as insistent as a knock on the door—over and over and over—and the grip of the pain became too much to bear. The migraine overwhelmed her. The heavy Victorian- era furniture in her room was coruscating, beginning its nightly danse macabre.
Defeated, she pulled the curtains, went to the bathroom. Dumped two of the thick white Percocets in her palm and swallowed them with water from the tap. Hoped that they’d help.
Back to the bedroom. She saw her laptop was open. She’d been online? She shouldn’t have had so much to drink. She was feeling sick again. The drink, the drugs, the pain, it was all jumbling together.
Shadows heavy as blankets swathed her body, nipped at her bare feet. She made her way to the bed by rote, lay down on the ornate spread, and gave in to the pain, the fear, the gut-wrenching terror that filled her night after night after night. The only things she could see were the dancing lights that shimmered off her brain, and the pearly outline of the ghost who’d come to tuck her in. She closed her eyes against the intrusion. Per- haps it would leave her alone tonight.
No. It was here. She felt its chilly caress slide against her cheek, its slim finger moving across her forehead, stopping at last to trace the bullet’s entry wound. The scar burned cold. She would not move, would not call out in fear. The thing loved her terror, and this, this moment of abomination, when the ghosts of the past and present mingled in the very air she breathed, this was the one moment when her voice came back full and true. She’d made the mistake of screaming the first time it touched her, and would not give it that joy again.
The chilled path moved lower now, to the long-healed slash across her neck. She wouldn’t be so lucky the next time. The touch was a warning. A sign.
And then it was gone. She let the throbbing wash over her and wept silent tears.
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