SynopsisOlivia's life comes to an abrupt end when a run-in with a mugger in the park leaves her with a bullet in her chest. She finds herself transported to an afterlife just as dangerous and unpredictable as the real world. It is an everchanging universe that she soon realizes she has touched in her dreams - a universe where she can be killed just as easily as she was before.
But not everyone who dies is left in this afterlife. In fact, Olivia discovers that she is one of a few souls who has ended up there - along with Paul, an innate fighter and survivor who died over 700 years ago, and the rest of his little gang of departed souls. They are no closer to understanding their purpose in this afterlife than Olivia is. But, haunted by voices on the wind and the face of a ghostly child, Olivia may come to understand why she is there - and what she needs to do to escape it.
ExcerptOlivia almost didn’t see the first mindless they passed. Paul, she was sure, did; he looked about warily as they walked, choosing his steps carefully. It wasn’t until—out of nowhere—she heard a mumbling on her left, right by her. Startled, she looked aside and saw the an old man, bent and crouched, beside her. He was as solid-looking as any man. She could make out the details of his clothes and his skin and his features clearly. Yet there was no color to him. He was simple…colorless.
He did not look at them as they passed. He only continued to mumble.
They passed another, a young woman, a few minutes later. She took no more notice of them than the old man had. A minute later, Olivia spotted another up ahead, this one a boy, maybe fourteen years old. This one saw them, about the same time that Olivia did. His eyes widened, and he pointed at them, stumbling forward. “You walk with the dead,”” he gibbered. “You walk with the dead!”
“Yes,” Paul said pleasantly. “That’s why we’’re called Deathwalkers.”
Olivia shot him a dubious look, but he didn’t seem alarmed by the mindless. The boy continued to splutter as they passed, but he didn’t approach them or try to harm them. Paul didn’t spare him a second look.
As they walked on, the air grew thicker, a light fog coalescing around them. It was a few moments before Olivia realized there wasn’t a fog at all. It was the mindless, surrounding them—they had walked into a dense crowd of them.
They were all relatively quiet, though some of them began to speak as Paul and Olivia came into view, some pointing and jabbering, some muttering to themselves. A few actually turned and spoke to each other, regarding Paul and Olivia curiously.
Suddenly, one of the mindless, a woman, placed herself in their path. She wore an old, striped cotton dress, with a high collar and long sleeves. Her hair was pinned back in a wispy bun, and there were a few hard lines on her face.
“Please,” she begged him, “I shouldn’t be here, I can’’t be here, please help me, help me out!” Her eyes were frantic, her hands wringing together nervously. Olivia was unsettled by the sight of her. Unlike the boy, she didn’t come off as crazy or confused. She seemed extremely anxious, afraid. But not crazy.
“You are all right,” Paul told her. He spoke in a quiet, gentle voice. “This is not a bad place.”
“Please.” She reached out her hands to him, beseeching, though she didn’t try to touch him. “Please help me, I can’t be here, I shouldn’t be here!”
“You should go from here,” Paul told her. “You are all right.”
She fell silent, her arms dropping to her sides. She merely looked at him—not reassured, really, Olivia thought—but she turned and walked away, listlessly, murmuring quietly to herself. Olivia shivered as she walked by.
“Beware the court. Beware the court of the dead!”
Olivia whirled around. A mindless man stood within inches of her. She suppressed the urge to back away, trying to remain calm like Paul. This man did not look quite sane. His eyes rolled as he stared at her, unseeing, and his arms were stretched up high above his head. “Beware the court of the dead,” he repeated. “All are lost and cold. Nergal is black as the night. Ereshkigal stands by him, terrible in her beauty!”
Olivia licked her lips. “You should go,” she told him, trying to imitate Paul’s soothing tone. “You should move on from here.”
“Beware the court of the dead!” the man wheezed.
“I will,” Olivia promised. “I’ll stay away from there. You should go. Everything is okay.”
The man gaped soundlessly at her, then turned and trudged off. He was no longer babbling about the court of the dead.
Olivia turned back to Paul uncertainly. He stood watching her, and nodded. “That’s about all we can do,” he said quietly. “Go amongst them, tell them to leave. Be kind about it.” He shrugged. “This lot won’t try to harm us, I think. If one of them grabs at you, just give it a good shove. If four or more come at you, just shout for me.”
“Okay,” Olivia said, looking around grimly.
Paul shrugged again. “They haven’t been brought here. I doubt any one of them will try anything violent. Let’s just try and convince them to go.””
So they went among them, each on their own, speaking quietly, urging the mindless to leave, assuring them they were all right. When one of them spouted nonsense at her, Olivia just nodded and went along with it, then told them to go.
There was something about the mindless that welled up a sense of helplessness within Olivia. Those that were quietly afraid were the worst, more than those who seemed crazy. Some of them had such a look in their eyes, like they knew something Olivia didn’t, something about this place. But she sent them on their way like the rest, and tried to ignore the horrible sinking feeling in her chest.
“I shouldn’t be here,” many of them insisted. “Can’’t be here!”
“You are pretty,” one said to her. “Too pretty to be dead.”
“All is dark,” another muttered. “All is dark in Yomi.”
“I have to help them!” one insisted. “I have to warn them!”
“They have left the home, and sealed it. When can I see them? When?”
“There is no truth. No truth. No truth.”
One of the mindless surged forward when she saw Olivia, her arms stretched out. Olivia caught her breath and went still, wondering if she’d need to push the woman back. But the woman stopped short of taking Olivia’s face in her hands, and instead cupped the air around her.
“You are his,” she said. “Tlaloc.” She frowned, then shook her head. “No. You have lost your way. Tlaloc will not reward you.” Before Olivia could say a thing to her, she dropped her arms and slowly went on her way.