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The midnight club, p.11
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       The Midnight Club, p.11

           Christopher Pike
 
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  "Yet just before he jumped he remembered back to the day he had first left the Louvre: his joy, his excitement, and most of all, his love. And he wondered where it had all gone, and if Teresa had as much to do with what he had lost as he believed. For he understood in that moment that it was his love that had made Teresa wonderful in his eyes. He understood that something inside him—and not just the outside circumstances—had changed. But what had that change been? It seemed obvious.

  CHRISTOPHER PIKE He had been an angel and had become mortal. He had been divine and had become human. But he wondered, as he stood on the rail of the bridge above the freezing water if it was not possible for a human to become divine, if it was not a two-way process. It was a funny thought, one he had never had before. But it touched him in some deep part of his soul. Yes, he felt he had a soul again. He climbed off the rail and back onto the main part of the bridge. He looked at the sky, seeing the stars shine through the smog above the city, and he felt blessed.

  "Herme left the bridge. He went to rediscover what he had lost. He set out to find himself."

  Kevin's voice had begun to fail him and he momentarily rested his head on his arms on top of the table. Ilonka watched anxiously until he sat back up and smiled at everyone. He reached for his glass and took a sip of water.

  "That's all for tonight," he said.

  "Couldn't you finish it?" Anya asked, with surprising feeling. "Please?"

  He shook his head and coughed. "I don't think I could if I wanted to. I'm tired."

  Ilonka yawned again, so loudly she embarrassed herself. "I'm exhausted, too. I feel like I could go to sleep in this seat." She tapped Kevin's arm in approval. "I am happy you're last. Who could compete? That was fabulous."

  "Does it end happily?" Anya asked, not giving up.

  "If I tell you the end you'll have nothing to look forward to," Kevin said.

  THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

  Anya stared at him oddly, almost as if to say / have nothing to look forward to.

  "Herme sounds like the kind of guy who could have benefited greatly from my counsel," Spence said.

  "I love Herme," Sandra said, playing with her wineglass. "He reminds me of Dan. They both loved nature."

  "Oh, brother," Spence said.

  Ilonka had not been exaggerating her exhaustion. A heavy hand of fatigue lay across her head, its fingers probing deep into the centers of her brain. The weariness surprised her, she had, after all, taken a nap that afternoon. She decided that the trip to the hospital, and her confrontation with Kathy, had taken more out of her than she realized. She continued to worry that Kevin must know what she had told Kathy. Yet when he looked at her during the evening there was only fondness in his eyes. He continued to stare at her now.

  "Are you walking me home tonight?" he asked.

  She smiled. "It's your turn, buster." The words were no sooner out of her mouth than she regretted them. He didn't have the strength to walk her up to the second floor. She hastily touched his arm again. "That's all right. I want to walk you back to your room."

  "Don't be out too late," Spence warned them.

  Ilonka stood up. "Yes, Dad."

  "I'd like to have a few words with you before you leave," Spence said to Anya.

  "Wheel me to my room," Anya said. "Good

  CHRISTOPHER PIKE night, Sandra. Fm glad you got laid at least once in your life. Good night, Kevin. I hope your Herme gets his wings back before the mud of the world drags him any lower." Anya suddenly glanced around the study. "It's been great meeting here," she said with feeling.

  "We'll have a great meeting tomorrow night," Spence told her.

  Anya blinked, her gaze far off. "Yeah. Tomorrow."

  Kevin was having difficulty walking, an unexpected side effect of his leukemia. He said he had awakened that morning with a numbness in his left leg. He had to lean on her the whole way back. He invited her inside for tea, which meant a lot to her. Only she was too tired to accept the invitation.

  "Maybe tomorrow night," she said, putting her hand over her mouth to stifle another yawn. She leaned on the wall for support, as Kevin did. What a fine pair they made, she thought. "After we've found out what became of Herme."

  "You know, I thought about you when I was working on the story," he said.

  She laughed. "I hope you didn't pattern Teresa after me."

  "Would that offend you?"

  "Yeah. She cheated on her guardian angel. I would never do that."

  "Do you believe in angels, Ilonka?"

  She loved his saying her name. He could spend the night whispering it in her ear and she would

  THE MIDNIGHT CLUB have been content. She thought of Anya's last comment to Sandra, about her having had sex at least once. Ilonka had never slept with a boy in her life. She had never wanted to until she met Kevin. It was lovely to be talking with him just before going to bed, but suddenly she was filled with a profound sadness that she might die never having been touched, caressed. She had no idea what it would actually be like to make love. And that's all she had wanted out of her life: to matter to someone more than anything else.

  Where was her Master now? What would he say to her grief? How come he wasn't with her now, in this, her hardest of all lives?

  "I believe in angels," she whispered. / believe in you.

  "Ilonka?"

  She closed her eyes and put her hand to her head. "I have to go to bed."

  He hugged her gently. *'Go to bed."

  He would say your love is nothing if it is based on a lie.

  "I saw Kathy today," she said in his ear.

  He let go of her and stared at her. The hallway was dark; she couldn't read his expression. But she could hear the understanding in his voice.

  "I know," he said.

  "It doesn't matter." He pressed a finger to her lips. "Don't think about it." Her eyes were damp. "I was cruel."

  CHRISTOPHER PIKE

  "This situation is cruel." He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. "Sleep. Dream about your Master. He fascinates me."

  She was pleased. "Really?"

  Kevin opened his door and limped inside. "Really, Ilonka. But wouldn't he say to us—what is reality? Good night."

  "Good night, my love," she whispered after he had closed his door. She had never told Kevin that her Master constantly challenged her to discriminate between what was real and what was illusion.

  She found Spence in her room sitting on her bed across from Anya, who was still in her wheelchair. Ilonka had the feeling she was walking in at a bad time and would have excused herself except she honestly felt she was going to collapse. She plopped down on her bed at Spence's back.

  "Ignore me, I'm just a blob of protoplasm," she mumbled, her eyes closed. She felt Spence stand up.

  "I should be going," he said uneasily.

  "You can go," Anya said, her tone curiously authoritative.

  Ilonka heard the door open and close.

  "Ilonka?" Anya said.

  "Yes?" she whispered.

  "I never told anyone about Bill before."

  "Yes."

  "I told you because I trust you."

  "Yes."

  There was a long pause. Ilonka might have dozed

  THE MIDNIGHT CLUB in the middle of it, she wasn't sure. When Anya spoke next she sounded a thousand miles away.

  "I know Kevin's in each of your past-life stories. I think he knows it, too. But the past is the past, you know. It's dead. I hope you two get to live a little before we're all dead.*' Anya paused and Ilonka heard a faint movement. She felt the touch of something warm and moist on her cheek and wondered if Anya had kissed her. "Dream, my darling," Anya said softly.

  "This is all a dream," Ilonka whispered. Then she was gone.

  She sat with the Master in a lush forest. The sun hung low at the tops of the trees, perhaps ready to set, maybe beginning to rise. Time seemed frozen in the eternal moment. The orange light in the Master's hair was beautiful, as were his dark eyes, those eyes that s
aw all things and never judged. He played with the beads around his neck as she came to the conclusion of her long, sad story.

  ''How do you feel right now?" he asked suddenly.

  She shrugged, confused. "I just told you. My life is in ruins."

  "Yes. Your life is in ruins. But how do you feel right now?"

  'T feel wonderful sitting here with you. But — "

  "There is no but," he interrupted. "There is just now. Your mind dwells in the past. You feel regret about what you have done, anger over what you feel has been done to you. Or else your mind is anxious

  CHRISTOPHER PIKE

  about the future. But the past is past and the future doesn 't exist. All you have is right now and right now you feel fine." He smiled so sweetly, the flash of his love. "So what is your problem? You have no problem."

  "But—"

  "There is no but." He snapped his fingers near her head. "Be in the present moment. Be here with me totally. I am here with you totally. That is enlightenment, nothing more."

  "But I cannot be with you always," she cried. "I have to go back to my life and my life is hard. I have no one to love me, no one to take care of me. I am alone in the world."

  "You are not alone. I am with you always."

  "I know that but I don't always feel that." She began to weep. "My pain is real for me. Words cannot erase it."

  "Certainly words cannot heal. Only silence can do that. So what can I say to you to make you feel better? You want me to work a miracle on you?"

  She nodded. "I need a miracle."

  The Master considered. "All right, I will give you a miracle. When you return home everything will be perfect for you. Your life will be just as it should be."

  She looked at him doubtfully, for she knew how he loved to joke with her. "Are you promising me that?" she asked.

  "I give you my word. And if you believe in my word, if you have that faith, then you will see that everything is already perfect. God gives you what you need in life to learn. He continues to give you

  THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

  hard lessons because you are a slow learner. I am not saying you can't make mistakes. Mistakes are all right. But you keep making the same ones."

  She shook her head sadly. '7 want him back."

  "He is gone. He is dead."

  She took the Master's hand. "But you can do anything. I have seen your power. Please bring him back to me?"

  The Master stared at her gravely. "Be careful what you wish of me. You might get it."

  Chapter V —

  In the morning Ilonka opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling for the longest time. During that time she hardly had a thought, except that her head felt strangely full. She wondered briefly if it was because of the little wine she had drunk the night before. Finally she rolled over to see how Anya was doing. Anya was always awake before her, and Ilonka usually found her reading in the morning.

  Anya was still sound asleep, flat on her back.

  Ilonka glanced at the clock. Wow—ten in the morning. If ever there were two sleepyheads, it was them. Ilonka continued to stare at Anya. She was really sleeping deeply, she was so still. It made Ilonka nervous how still she was.

  "Anya?" Ilonka said. "Anya?"

  No answer. Ilonka slowly sat up, her eyes never leaving her friend's face.

  "Anya? It's ten in the morning. Wake up."

  Still as a mannequin. Anya was hardly breathing.

  "Anya?" Ilonka stepped over to her bed and shook the girl. "Anya."

  THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

  No, not hardly. Not at all. Anya had stopped breathing.

  "Anya!" Ilonka cried. Frantic, she felt Anya*s neck for a pulse.

  Nothing.

  "Anya!" Ilonka shook her hard and the poor girl rocked back and forth like a bag of old clothes. Their bedroom window was cracked a few inches; the roar of the surf could be heard in the distance. The room was chilly; Anya's skin was as cold as the bare floor. Her friend had been dead for several hours. There was no chance of resuscitating her, not that the staff at the hospice would have tried anyway. They were in a place to die. The only way to officially check out was to check out for good.

  Tears stung Ilonka's eyes. "Anya, no," she whispered, hugging her, holding her, kissing her. It was inevitable, she knew, they would all go this way sooner or later. Yet Ilonka was numb with shock. It was as if she knew nothing about death until this moment. She missed Anya already.

  After some time she left her friend and staggered downstairs to Dr. White's office. The gentleman was just coming out of his room when he saw Ilonka. He immediately rushed to her side. She realized she had no robe on.

  "Ilonka," he said. "What's wrong?"

  "Anya died during the night."

  Dr. White embraced her. "I am sorry. Is she still in her bed?"

  "Yes."

  CHRISTOPHER PIKE

  "Let me go see her."

  Ilonka let go of him. "I'll come with you."

  "Are you sure?"

  "Yes. I should—help take care of her."

  Ilonka had left Anya with her arms folded across her chest. Dr. White reached for one wrist and checked for a pulse. Finding none, he opened one of her eyes and peered into it. Ilonka briefly turned her head away. Finally he pressed his palm on her forehead, no doubt attempting to make a rough guess at her body temperature.

  Body.

  That's what she was now. Not a person. Not a young woman with hopes and dreams, but a dead body. Toward the end Anya had abandoned all her dreams. She was more accepting of her fate than any of them, yet that acceptance was not something Ilonka wanted to emulate. Not yet, at least, not today.

  "She is dead, isn't she?" Ilonka asked. It was a stupid question if ever there was one, but she needed to be absolutely sure.

  "Yes," Dr. White said, feeling Anya's muscle tone on her arms and legs. "I would say she has been dead for seven or eight hours."

  Seven or eight hours ago would have placed her death not long after they had gone to bed. So soon after the lights went off. It made Ilonka wonder.

  "Couldn 't you finish it? Please?"

  When had Anya ever begged for anything in her life?

  "It's been great meeting here."

  THE MroNIGHT CLUB

  Said like she was saying goodbye to the study.

  "/ never told anyone about Bill before."

  Said like a confession.

  Then there was the kiss.

  "Dream, darling."

  "What did she die of?" Ilonka asked.

  Dr. White glanced at her as if to say, Yes, you are upset and you can ask one stupid question, but that is two in a row. "She died of cancer," he said.

  "I mean specifically."

  "I am being specific."

  Ilonka shook her head. "Anya was talking freaky last night."

  "What are you suggesting?"

  "Nothing."

  "Ilonka?"

  "I'm suggesting that maybe she killed herself. She was always taking so many drugs. I think you should do an autopsy."

  Dr. White sighed. "There will be no autopsy. I wouldn't recommend it, and the family wouldn't approve of it."

  "She hardly has any family, and why wouldn't you recommend it?"

  Dr. White moved away from Anya's body and touched her arm. "Let's step outside and talk about this."

  "I want to talk about it here."

  "All right, Ilonka. What does it matter how she died? She was in terrible pain in the end. Now she is out of pain. That's all that should matter to us who cared for her."

  CHRISTOPHER PIKE

  "It isn't all that matters." Ilonka was in tears again. "How she died is important to me. She was my friend. I don't want to—" She couldn't finish.

  "You don't want to what?"

  / don't want to end the same way she did.

  "Nothing." She was being unreasonable and she knew it. Yet there was something important here that she was missing, something that went beyond the possibility that Anya might have e
nded her life intentionally with an overdose of drugs. It was there, at the tip of her fingers, she just couldn't get ahold of it.

  "It is unlikely that she killed herself with an overdose," Dr. White said, watching her.

  "How do you know?"

  "An overdose generally takes a while to kill someone. If she did die between two and three in the morning, she would have had to have taken the drugs before your club met. I assume she was at the meeting?"

  "Yes."

  "Then suicide is unlikely here. Had she swallowed enough drugs to kill her by early morning, she would have been unconscious at the meeting."

  What he said sounded logical. Yet Ilonka continued to be plagued by uncertainty. "Is there another possibility we're overlooking?" she asked.

  "Such as?"

  "I don't know, I'm asking you."

  Dr. White looked unhappy. "Are you asking these questions because you don't want to deal with the real issue here, Ilonka? Your roommate has

  THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

  died—she has been close to death for some time now. It's a shock to you, especially considering your own grave illness."

  "Have you gotten any word on my tests?" she asked suddenly.

  "No."

  Ilonka reached out and took Anya's hand, not because she wanted to but because she felt she should. "I loved Anya," she said. "But I never told her that."

  "Fm sure she knew," E>r. White said gently.

  Ilonka shook her head, remembering her story of Bill the previous afternoon. Now there would be no point in contacting him. "No. I'm sure Anya Zimmerman was one of those people who didn 't know she was loved."

  "I have to contact what family she has left. I will move the body from here as quickly as possible."

  "Where will you put it?" She was just wondering.

 
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