The moment the pressure let up, I rushed back into the room with an almost audible pop. He was gone, the candles were no longer lit. I looked around the room and found Julia sitting on her bed, she looked up as I approached.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
She shook her head. “Yeah, he didn’t touch me or anything, he’s just -” She shivered a bit. “Well, he’s Death.”
“I mean your hand,” I interrupted. Had she already forgotten about the knife on the floor still dotted with blood? How could she have? Watching her do that had been the worst thing I’d ever seen. If I could have I would have grabbed her hands and forced her to stop. But I couldn’t even touch her to comfort her, must less stop her from doing anything.
“Uh,” she looked down at her hand. “Yes, it’s fine,” she held her hand out for me to see. There was no bloody wound on her palm. Nothing that showed she’d stabbed herself, only a faint white scar remained. I thought the scar looked supciously like a scythe. Had he healed her?
“Oh James,” she said as she pulled her hand away, “He told me how to help you.” She was excited, for her whispered voice shook as she spoke.
How was I going to tell here that I wasn’t going anywhere? If the door to the afterlife opened in my room that moment, I would not go through it. I would not leave her.
“He told me how to bring you back to life.”
I froze, back to life? What did that even mean? That I would be alive? Like Julia was, like James had been before me?
“Yes.” She nodded. “It’s called ambrosia. I don’t have all the details yet, but it starts with the death flower. You remember – from that book?” She looked around for the book for a moment and then shrugged.
“Oh, yeah – he took it.”
“He took the book?” I was actually happy the book was gone. Although I tried to hide my emotions. That book had held the ritual she’d used to summon Death into her bedroom. It was not safe.
“He said it was his.” She chuckled and then frowned, “I knew I should have photocopied the pages. The Death Flower is something you give to Death to prevent him from taking you. I remember that much. It’s kind of white and purple or white and black…? Anyway, the Grim Reaper said it doesn’t grow here anymore and I should ask the Oracle of the Falls for help.”
“But I’m already a ghost, how will it help me?” I couldn’t imagine finding the Grim Reaper in the Darkness and handing him a flower. No matter how important a flower. I would fee stupid.
Julia frowned. “I’m not sure. I don’t think that’s the only thing I need to make the ambrosia. He said it was a really long process. But it’s a place to start.”
A start to bring me to life. For the first time, I kind of hoped Julia would succeed.
“How can I help?” I asked. And her smile lit up the room.
Julia wished the Grim Reaper had been more specific. The Oracle of the Falls had sounded very singular and impressive so she started her research off at the library. First, apologizing for losing the book she’d borrowed. She couldn’t really say the Grim Reaper stole it, but she hoped it wouldn’t be too expensive.
“We don’t have any records of you borrowing that book,” the librarian looked up at Julia over her computer. “The Book of Gods, you say?”
“Yes, I borrowed it just last week, Mrs. Waters. You checked it. Don’t you remember? It was an older book, leather bound.” Julia pantomimed the size.
“Oh, I thought we weeded out those older books years ago. Did it come from the free pile?”
Julia stared at the librarian, confused. How could she not remember? “No, I definitely checked it out.”
Mrs. Waters frowned and clicked around Julia’s records. She shrugged. “Well, don’t worry, we don’t have any record of you checking it out.”
Had the reaper done that? Erased all traces of the book? She walked upstairs slowly and, before claiming her computer, checked the shelf where she’d found the book last week. She expected to see a blank space where the book had been. There wasn’t one. The shelf was completely full of other books. Books that hadn’t been there last week.
She sat down at the computer heavily. Don’t worry about it, she told herself. What’s a little magic when you’ve talked to Death himself? But this was a library! She didn’t expect magic here, at least not outside the covers of books. Focus. She turned on the computer.
Several hours later she was just as frustrated. There was nothing on the web about an Oracle of the Fall, and if possible, less than nothing on Death Flowers. At least she had a list of nearby waterfalls. Julia hadn’t realized how many falls there were. How would she ever find the Oracle?
Her phone buzzed and she looked down.
She was late! It was already past noon and she was supposed to meet Bre and the others for lunch!
Julia grabbed her notebook and practically ran out the door, waving goodbye to Mrs. Waters. Happy Burger wasn’t far from the library, but she was the last one there. Everyone else had already ordered.
“Sorry,” she said dropping into the chair. She snagged a fry from Bre’s plate.
“S’okay,” Marq said, biting into his burger. “Movie doesn’t start for thirty minutes.”
“Go, get food – you probably haven’t eaten since this morning,” Bre said and shooed her away from stealing another fry. Breanna was right, Julia was starving, breakfast had been ages ago.
It didn’t take long for her to order and return to her friends. Even so, Marq and Ben had already finished eating by the time she returned. She sat down and dug in hungrily.
“Two more weeks of classes,” Ben moaned dramatically. “And finals in every one of them.”
“We should go somewhere this summer.”
“Like go to the beach!” Marq said.
“You just want to see girls in swimsuits.” Bre accused.
“What about Granite Falls,” Julia blurted out. She bit her lip. There were tons of waterfalls up North that she had just written down. Most of them were near the State Park. She thought it was her best bet to find the Oracle.
“I thought you hated camping?”
“Oooh – my parent’s just got a timeshare on a cabin up there,” Bre said. “We could totally spend a week there.
The talk continued on about what to bring and when they should go – obviously after school was out. The boys got bored of waiting and headed inside with the money to buy tickets. Bre waited with Julia as she finished eating. They found them again inside in line at the concessions stand.
“Why do you want to go to Granite Falls?” Bre asked as they waited for the boys to order.
“Lucky, we go every summer. It’s not that great, just a bunch of rocks and tree. Although I’m sure it’ll be more fun with you all around.”
“I guess, I’ve never really paid attention?” Bre shrugged. She turned to the boys as they sauntered up, buttered popcorn and boxes of candy in hand. “Aren’t you full?”
Marq and Ben looked at each other and then turned back to the girls. “No?”
They headed into the movie. As Julia sat down she was still thinking of her morning’s research. That took care of all the Granite Falls waterfalls. She thought there was one or two close to home that she could visit sooner. Then the movie started and she was slowly sucked into, her list of waterfalls forgotten. For now.