A dowsing rod, a shield, a barrier between the past and present the dark and the light the then and the now. I hadn’t dared go back there, back up those stairs. Not since it happened. But now, with Marcy in-hand, bravery sprouts anew and guides me toward paths I dared not tread. The thick pile of the carpet beneath my toes, the creak of the third step. All is as I remember it, as if time has collapsed and then is now. Like nothing has changed.

But everything has changed. Had it not, I would not be here—not in the state I’m in. The pink room at the end of the hallway … the third door on the left. It has not changed, though everything has changed. And yet, with my newly acquired bravery, I still dare not turn on the light. I dare not bathe the past in the light of now. The place is just as I’d left it, I know this … and I need no light to guide my way, for I have the space committed to deepest memory.

And what would the neighbors think? A burst of light in the dark of night. Another lighthouse on the horizon, warding off wayward travelers … or guiding the lost among us home.

I cannot live with ghosts. I already live with ghosts. I am a ghost.

I lay down on the bed, the thick down of the comforter surrounding me like the feathers of my pigeon disciples on the long-ago eve of my resurrection.

Breathe in.

1

2

3

Breathe out.

1

2

3

Breathe in.

I stare at the ceiling and the ceiling stares back. My breath goes in, the ceiling sinks. My breath goes out, the ceiling expands. We are one, me and this house. Leaving it behind was never an option, I know this now. What it has yet to offer, I do not know. But the past beckons, and the numbers sing to me.

My eyes drift shut, and the door in the basement appears again. Numbers and codes and locks and keys.

4 8 15 16 23 42

Once upon a time, a man on an island pushed a button. Every 108 minutes, he entered the numbers and pushed a button, staving off unknown catastrophe. Until the time he didn’t, and everything changed.

Fact or fiction, truth or lies. My numbers, unlike his, are ever-changing. There is no constant. No repetitive path to safety.

9 13 6 28 4

22 28 56

14

7

2

Two of us. A bonded pair. Lost in the night in the place in which I hope to be found.

A hum in the dark, growing louder and louder. A hum a buzz a rumble a scream.

The ceiling above me shatters into flaming fragments of pink painted plaster as a meteor tears through the roof through the floor to the living room beneath through the concrete and into the space where a basement should be.

I do not move. I remain utterly and deathly still.

1

2

3

Breathe in

1

2

3

Breathe out.

A shooting star streaks across the starlit sky. The gentle breeze of the ceiling fan caresses my cheek.

I rise from the bed, clutch the skull of Marcy VanNeal, and put one foot in front of the other. Down the hall. Down the stairs. Through the kitchen.

There is no meteor. There is no crater.

Though perhaps, there should be.

Continue to Chapter Thirty-Seven.