Dead Reckoning
CHAPTER
1
Ghost
Living with ghosts is one of the best things a girl can do. The dead and the living together is the best population type for a town–the dead teach the living history, and the lessons that everyone have already forgotten, while the living offer new technology, and a hope for those with unfortunate lives and unfortunate deaths.
Devi knew that full well. Ghosts, she knew, were the kindest sort of friends–they would never stab her in the back, unlike the living. They had already experienced that sort of treatment.
As Devi watched the town of Eastern Soleil pass by her eyes as she stared out the dusty car window, she settled into the soft, worn seats. Her amber eyes were bright, and her face was flushed. She was going on her first vacation outside of Eastern Soleil, the only town in the world where ghosts and humans lived peacefully. It had taken months for her Mom and Dad to relent, but they had eventually agreed, after her uncle had told them about the beauty of nature and all of that. Her parents were anxious about the trip, but she didn’t quite understand why. It wasn’t going to take long to get out of town, but she was already impatient to get past the borders.
She passed by the Ghost Authorization Office, the G. A. O, and waved to a new spirit, celebrating at being let in through the borders.
Devi wondered if the spirits were as sweet outside the borders as inside. Outside of Eastern Soleil, she had heard, ghosts rarely revealed themselves, so almost no one knew about the ghosts who lived (died) there. Still, based off of her best friends in town, she could guess that most ghosts outside were as genial as they were.
But of course, only very certain ghosts and spirits were allowed into Eastern Soleil. The non-violent type, the sort that had taken all the tests and hadn’t committed horrible crimes in life (although she knew a few thieves, who had reformed). And they had to want to be in Eastern Soleil, after all. It wouldn’t have been fair to stop them from moving on just to bring them to town.
As the old, yet still running car neared the border, a patrol in an orange suit held up a sign, and the car slowed before halting.
“Take out your identification, please,” the man demanded.
She pulled out her card, and her parents took out their own. She dropped it into the patrols’ outstretched hand, and he looked it up and down, scanning it. Why did he have to do that? He didn’t believe that they were real enough?
“Pass through, slow and steady. We will scan your car for ghosts, illegal smuggling materials, and radiation as you cross the border.”
Devi rolled her eyes, as the car had to go five miles per hour to cross the border. It was an agonizingly slow process in her mind, with the patrols eying their every movement. She was sure that it was going to be time for the holidays before they got over the line. But they made it in just two minutes.
As the border, a chalked white line that was made out of a special, anti-ghost dead coral, appropriate for the occasion, was crossed, she cheered. She was out of Eastern Soleil for the first time in her life, and she was ready to take her trip across the lake that her parents had told her all about.
While she was in the car, Devi knew that she had at least ten minutes to ask questions about the outside world before being thrust into it. Even if she was ecstatic, she didn’t want to be clueless. All the books in the library weren’t much help when she needed specifics.
“Mom, do you think we’ll see sparrows out there?” I questioned, “Sparrows are supposed to live outside! I read it in this book.”
She pulled out a thick, rough book, smelling strongly of smoked meats, and handed it to her Mom in the passenger seat. She waved it away, covering her nose.
“Hey, Mom...why don’t we see sparrows, robins, or bluejays in Eastern Soleil? And why aren’t there any cats? I’ve read about cats in my books. They’re adorable, even the weird, hairless ones. Do you think they feel like sandpaper? Hey, look, I have one on the subject now! Let me just pull it out of my bag–”
She was about to rummage through her thick, canvas bag, in search of one of her many books on nature, until her mother cut her off.
“Look, Devi. Birds and cats can never come inside Eastern Soleil. I’m sorry...but they’re more dangerous than almost anything. I know that you want to get close to everything, but on this trip, you need to stay away from certain animals,” Mom warned.
Devi scratched her head. She didn’t understand–how could birds be a hazard? Alligators, maybe. But birds seemed to be graceful sky ballerinas, swooping in and out of the skies. And cats were like shadow companions. But she trusted her mother when it came to ghosts–she was a respected leader in the field, after all.
“You see, birds, cats, and parasites are easy targets of malevolent ghosts. They can be taken over very easily. If we let any of those animals past the border, Eastern Soleil could be infiltrated with the worst sort of people.”
“But...how could a ghost be a danger to anyone? I know why you filter them, because you’re looking for the best of the best. But a ghost would never do anything to me.”
“I love you, Devorah, but you never seem to understand that some ghosts are monsters. They’re vindictive, and they’re not afraid to ki–harm. Dogs, however, can’t be taken over by a spirit. That’s why almost all of your friends have one. They stil have to get checked for worms, though, once a month.”
She knew that. Her safety was paramount to her mother, but Devi didn’t understand why she had to worry. Her mother was never much of an uptight woman–she dressed casually when she could, enjoyed a mug of hot chocolate with sprinkles on top of whipped cream, and threw pillows at her all the time. What had changed when they had decided to take a one week vacation from Eastern Soleil?
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