Chapter Twenty- One
The door creaked open behind me and I turned expecting to see Leif with food but instead it was Wyatt. He closed the door behind him and a sad smile touched his lips. He was more solid than souls were supposed to be.
I stared at him as it registered that he’d just spoken to me in my head.
“Wyatt, I’m so sorry,” I replied stepping closer to him.
“This isn’t your fault Pagan. I didn’t understand any of it at first but Leif has visited me several times and he’s explained everything.”
“No, it is my fault. If I’d just gone with him when he told me about my soul you’d have lived. But I didn’t know. If I’d known they’d take someone else in my place I would have never stayed.”
“You thought Death would fix it in time,” he replied.
“Yes, I did. I guess you know about Dank now.”
Wyatt nodded then reached out a hand and although I wasn’t sure if mine would go through it or if he was a solid as he seemed I reached out to take his. The cold hard hand under mine surprised me.
“You aren’t like other souls. They can’t talk and they aren’t solid.”
“I believe it’s because of where we are. Here Ghede makes things the way he wants them to be. I believe he... uh,” Wyatt stopped talking and looked away. He almost seemed embarrassed and slowly tonight’s dinner came back to me and I realized what he was trying to say.
“He uses souls as his entertainment?” I asked
Wyatt peered back at me and nodded. My stomach felt sick again. Had Ghede used Wyatt that way? I was going to throw up.
“No Pagan, he hasn’t forced me to do any of ... that stuff. I’ve just seen it. I believe my age keeps me safe from it, I’m not sure.”
I leaned against the side of the bed and sagged in relief.
“He intends to keep you here you know.”
I lifted my eyes back to Wyatt’s and nodded. “I know. I just wish there was a way I could get you out of here. It isn’t fair that you have to remain here now that I agreed to come. He has me. I won’t leave.”
“How is Miranda?” Wyatt asked and the pain in his eyes sliced through me.
I remembered her sitting on her bed with his notes encircling her and the teddy bear he’d given her in her lap. I couldn’t tell him how much she grieved his death. It would be too much.
“She’s okay. She misses you something fierce but each day she gets better,” I assured him.
His face fell, “That was before. When she had you. Now she’s lost us both.”
The unsaid words hanging in the air between us were thick and painful.
“She’s stronger than you think,” I assured him but the memory of her drunken body staggering out of the graveyard said another thing entirely.
“I hope so.”
I could tell from his tone he didn’t agree. He was right of course. Miranda was like a fragile flower. One that needed tending and special care. Wyatt had always understood that and gone out of his way to give her exactly what she needed. I’d loved him for that.
“He’s coming,” Wyatt said, staring at the closed door.
“Can you stay?” I asked, not ready to see him go.
“No. But I’ll come back again.”
“Stay. I’ll ask him to let you.”
Wyatt shook his head, “I don’t want to Pagan. I don’t want to be near him.”
I understood. Leif had taken everything from Wyatt. His future. His eternity.
Leif opened the door and Wyatt walked past him without a word.
Frowning, Leif closed the door and walked over to the table beside the bed and set down a silver tray filled with recognizable items such as cheese and crackers, strawberries, dinner rolls, pulled pork and chocolate chip cookies.
“He isn’t fond of me,” Leif murmured as he handed me a large round porcelain plate.
“No,he isn’t. But then who can blame him? You took away his eternity. He is now stuck here, forever.” The anger lacing in my words caused him to flinch.
“I didn’t take his soul Pagan, my father did. I had no idea he was going to. Ghede answers to no one within our realm. He makes decisions that please him and he overindulges in anything pleasurable and corrupts enjoyable pursuits, making things that should be good and satisfying into depraved behaviors. Nothing I can say will stop him. I was a child when he asked me to choose a soul. I had no idea what the implications were. I chose you. I didn’t know then what that meant. You can hate me but try to understand I am not my father.”
He may not be his father but he didn’t have the courage to stand up to his father. He was weak but hadn’t I always known that? Even back when I thought he was a human Leif had been weak. He never really accepted the weight of his actions. He always made you feel as if his apology were something precious and special that you would be stupid not to accept. The charisma he’d carried had won him many advances. Who was he exactly? If his father was Ghede then who was Leif?
“Who is your mother?”
Leif paused from fixing his plate. The strawberry in his fingers plopped onto his plate then he sighed wearily before raising his eyes to peer through his long blond eyelashes at me. “My mother is Erzulie, she is the reason my skin is pale and my hair is blond. She’s the Voodoo Goddess of many things. Love being one... vengeance being another. She takes many lovers and enjoys the same things my father does. I see her on occasion but for the most part I live with my father. She has never had any desire for a child but then I’m not her only one. She has several, many of whom walk the earth. She is not above taking human men to her um... bed.”
His mother was a deranged voodoo sex goddess. Great.
I stuffed some pulled pork into a dinner roll and chewed while I let this information sink in. I’d never really questioned his skin color until tonight. When I’d seen that his father was dark brown in coloring it had surprised me. But then I was a little shocked by the wild orgy going on and that kind of took precedence. After taking a long swig of the canned coke Leif had brought me I studied him a moment.
“You don’t talk like your father either. He has a bit of a cajun accent.”
Leif shrugged, “I’ve spent the majority of my life following you. I adopted your accent so I would fit in with your life. I didn’t want to appear to you as an outsider.”
“So all those dreams I’ve had are real? Those things really happened. Are there more memories I’ve forgotten?”
Leif stared intently at the food on his plate. Then managed a small shrug, “Maybe a few more.”
He was lying. He couldn’t even look at me. “A few more? That’s all?”
Setting his plate on the table Leif stood up and began to pace at the end of the bed. I watched as I ate the cheese and crackers on my plate. I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like this answer and I decided I’d better eat now before I lost my appetite again.
“I’ve been with you many times in your life. When you were lonely or sad, I was there. When you were in danger, I was there. It was what I did. Father said you were mine and I should protect you. So I did. I’m sorry that you don’t remember. It wasn’t something I did on purpose. It’s just that I am soulless and your soul can’t remember me for long when I’m not near you.”
“Why did you want me to remember those times? The ones you’d picked out for me to dream about?”
Leif stopped pacing and placed his hands on the railing at the foot of the bed. His intense blue eyes bore into me. “Because those were the times I fell a little more in love with you.”
No. Nonononono. I did not want him to love me. I wanted him to let me go. “You don’t love me, Lief. If you loved me you’d never have been able to hold me against my will.”
Leif growled in frustration and threw his hands up, “I’ve told you I can’t control my father. He saved your life. He owns you Pagan.”
“No one owns me.”
Leif shook his head, “I don’t want to argue with you. Not tonight. Let’s just eat. Okay?” he walked back around and picked up his plate.
I finished eating my food until my stomach was finally satisfied and then drank every last drop of my coke. I wasn’t sure how long it would be before I got a chance to eat again. Because there was no possible way I’d go back to that dining room. They could starve me for all I cared.
“Are you full?” Leif asked standing up and stacking our plates on the tray.
“Yes,” that was the only reply he was going to get from me.
He turned to leave then stopped. His shoulders heaved with a heavy sigh and he looked back at me.
“What can I do to prove to you that I do love you? Anything except letting you go; because I can’t. I’ll do whatever else you ask of me. I want you to accept this. Us. Just tell me.”
I stared back at him and I knew what I could do to make my eternity more bearable. “Release Wyatt to a transporter. Don’t keep him here.”
“If I can convince my father to release Wyatt to a transporter then you will believe I love you and you’ll let this work between us?”
I felt the lump rise up in my throat at the promise I was about to make. I’d be throwing away the small hope that Dank could save me from this. But Wyatt’s soul was at stake because of me. “Yes, if you hand Wyatt’s soul over to a transporter and I get to see this happen. Once I know it has happened and that his soul is where it belongs then I will stay with you. I’ll do whatever I can to make you happy. To make... us... happy.”
Leif’s face broke into a grin for the first time all night, “You have a deal. Get some rest Pagan. Tomorrow is a new day and I can’t wait to start eternity with you.”
I couldn’t agree with him. I’d just shattered my own heart.
Standing in the crumbling school building left devastated by the tornado that had just taken out an entire town I couldn’t focus on my purpose. I needed to be searching for the entrance to Vilokan. But souls had to be taken. I stalked through the grief stricken building pulling souls from the bodies of children and teachers. Several transporters followed in my wake. Each time I’d pass a child whose soul wasn’t in need of release I was thankful. One more life that had been saved from this tragedy.
I continued on to each building and house no longer counting the souls as I took them. It only took moments and I was then walking across the muddy roads of Nicaragua taking souls from sick women and children who never stood a chance. Cardboard houses and dirt floors littered the land. No clean drinking water for miles. So much poverty here while other places had such an abundance.
Different countries, continents, causes all flashed before me as I snatched souls from bodies. Death happened often. It was a dark void I’d once walked with no joy. Then Pagan had entered my world and she’d made everything right. She’d made the emptiness leave and given me a reason to exist. Now, she was gone. I’d let her down. I’d lost her and I was on the brink of storming the streets of New Orleans and ripping it wide open until I found the portal I was looking for.
“Dankmar,” Gee’s voice called out to me and I spun around from my task and glared at her.
“What?” I snarled angrily. Seeing her only made me remember Pagan. My Pagan.
“Ghede is releasing Wyatt’s soul to a transporter. The Creator has summoned me. He said to alert you and you could choose to do with that information what you liked.”
“Where? When?” I asked as hope soared through my chest.
“Tonight. He wants it done as soon as possible.”
Why? What was his game? “Where?” I demanded.
So the portal was on Bourbon Street.
“I need all transporters to go with us. You rally them. I’ll handle the rest.”
Gee ran to keep up with me as I stalked down the street toward the Catholic church where a priest had just ended his life. I’d deal with that soul then I’d call in the troops.
“Why? What’re you gonna do?”
“I’m going to bust Hell wide open. That’s what I’m going to do.”
“You mean Vilokan?”