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The midnight club, p.15
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       The Midnight Club, p.15

           Christopher Pike
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  Those were the last words she heard before she died.

  Her dreams, her nightmares, her visions—all wrapped together. Ilonka stirred uneasily in her sleep and instinctively reached out for Kevin's arms, experiencing a repeat of the episode with the wizard as she felt a stab of pain in her lower abdomen. It was not a blade that hurt her, however, but her cancer. Yet it was possible there was a connection between what had been and what now was.

  In any case, she felt relief as she pulled Kevin closer. Her mixed collage of the past brightened and cast a ray over her future. In that light she saw Herme the angel painting a blue-white star that shone in a starry heaven. She stood at his shoulder as he worked, as if she were his personal muse, and

  THE MIDNIGHT CLUB she felt hope staring at his work, yet she did not know why. She only knew that one day she would journey to that star.

  Ilonka slept the remainder of the night wrapped in the warmth of that hope.

  And she dreamed no more.

  In the morning she awoke with Kevin lying asleep beside her. The sun shone in through her open window, which surprised her because she thought it had been closed when they went to bed. A fresh ocean breeze played gently with the curtains, but it was not as cold as she would have expected. It was warm and sweet, as if they had skipped the fall and winter in the space of one night and come to an early spring. A bird sat singing on the windowsiU and Ilonka waved to it. At the gesture the bird paused and stared quizzically at the two of them as if trying to decide which one to continue singing for. Ilonka smiled and pointed to Kevin and the bird sang some more. It was then that Kevin opened his eyes.

  "Is that you?" he asked.

  She leaned over and kissed him. Before she had fallen asleep, she had kissed him a lot. "Yes, my darling boy. I told you I have a beautiful voice."

  He smiled at her. "What a beautiful sight to wake up to." He closed his eyes and sighed. His face was very thin. "What a beautiful sound."

  She ran her hand through his fine hair. "Did you dream last night?"


  "Yes. About you."

  "So did I. It was nice, but I'm glad it's morning." "So am I." "I love you, Kevin." "I love you, Ilonka."

  He never did open his eyes again, dying a few minutes later in her arms.




  cliff throwing Kevin's ashes into the wind and the ocean. She didn't sing as she had told him she would, at least not out loud, but there was a song in her heart. She was satisfied that she had told him how she felt before he left the world. It also meant a great deal to her that he had felt the same way.

  Kevin's parents had no objection to her dealing with his remains, especially since he had left a written request to that effect. Ilonka finally got to talk to them. They were nice people, the mother especially. The woman naturally was grief stricken over the loss of her only child, yet her grief seemed equaled by the relief that her boy was no longer suffering. Ilonka had written an apology to Kathy and gave it to Kevin's mother to give to the girl. In the card Ilonka said that Kevin had died peacefully. Dr. White had told no one where Kevin had taken his last breath.

  Dr. White did another favor for Ilonka. He put



  her in touch with an old friend of Anya's—a guy named Shizam. Ilonka called him and explained how she wanted to get hold of Anya's old boyfriend. Bill. Shizam promised her he would do what he could to find him.

  Sandra also called and Ilonka talked to her. Sandra was back in high school, trying to catch up on the work she had missed. Although they spoke at length, they didn't say much that was significant. Their worlds were too different—Sandra was rediscovering hers and Ilonka was losing even the hospice she called home. Her health was failing swiftly now. Ilonka wondered, as she talked to her, if the reason Sandra had never been able to tell a story was because she had never really belonged to the club, if it truly had been only for the dying. Their precious Midnight Club—would there ever be another?

  Probably not in this world.

  Ilonka had little contact with Spence after Kevin's death because they were both feeling so ill they spent all their time in their rooms. Spence had contracted a severe case of pneumonia that could kill him. The staff did nothing to treat him; they just kept him as comfortable as possible. Uonka's own comfort was costing her six grams of morphine a day, and even that didn't stop the pain entirely. But she bore it patiently, there was nothing else to do.

  A day arrived—it was almost two weeks after Kevin's departure—that Dr. White came to her room and told her that Spence was near death and


  wanted to talk to her. Dr. White took her down to Spence's room in a wheelchair and left her alone with the Midnight Club's one and only wild man. Spence's new roommate was at a group meeting. Dr. White had yet to assign a new roommate to Ilonka, for which she was grateful. She found herself craving solitude as her time ticked down.

  Spence looked awful and she told him so and he said as much about her. They laughed softly over their predicaments, they were so hopeless. Actually, though, Spence's appearance did shock her. In the short time they had spent apart he had developed a severe case of what looked like skin cancer on his face and arms. It made her wonder, many things. He was having a terrible time breathing. They had him propped up with so many pillows he looked like a stuffed skeleton.

  "Hey, when are we going to Hawaii?" Ilonka asked.

  "I've been saying all along that I'm ready when you are."

  "Yeah, but you never come across with the airline tickets,"

  "You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip."

  She laughed. "Is that an old saying or did you just make it up?"

  He scratched his head. His hair was very thin as well. "I honestly can't remember."

  A silence settled between them. Ilonka was not troubled by it. Maybe it was all the morphine she was taking or maybe it was just that she had finally come to terms with her impending death, and

  CHRISTOPHER PIKE nothing could disturb her now. Yet she still had many questions left in her mind.

  "What can I do for you, my dear friend?" she asked finally.

  He raised an eyebrow. "You assume I want something from you? Maybe I just wanted to enjoy your company for a few minutes." He paused. "There were a few things I wanted to talk to you about."

  "Fire away."

  "Did Kevin tell you the final installment of his story before he died? I know he spent his last night with you."

  "Who told you that?"

  "No one. I figured it out for myself. He wasn't here."

  She nodded. "Yes. He did tell me what became of Herme and Teresa. Would you like to hear?"

  "Yes. Very much."

  She told him the third part as best she could remember. When she was done Spence smiled.

  "That was a nice touch there at the end," he said. "I was wondering why he called it 'The Magic Mirror.'"

  The retelling of the story had brought back to Uonka the many similarities the characters in the tale had to the people in their club.

  "But we want the blood ceremony."

  "You can have it if you want. I'm going to bed."

  "Is there a story you want to tell me?" she asked carefully.


  "What do you mean?"

  "About the night Anya died?"

  He was suddenly wary. "What about it?"

  "How did she die?"

  "She had cancer."

  "We all have cancer, Spence. I remember something odd about that night. I had taken a long nap that afternoon and yet I was hardly able to make it back to my room after we were done with our stories."


  "I also remember how when you went to pour my glass of wine you suddenly stopped and got another glass. You said there was dust in it." She paused. "But I didn't notice any dust."

  "The glass was filthy,"
Spence said.

  "Oh, I think my glass did have something in it. But I think it was the second glass. Come on, Spence, what did you drug me with, and why?"

  "You have a wild imagination. You've been listening to too many preposterous stories."

  "Don't B.S. me. There was a drug in my wine.'*

  "Why did you drink it if you thought there was something in it?"

  "Because I am a stupid Polish girl. Answer my questions, please."

  He sighed. "Phenobarbital. One gram. I spread it in a fine coat around the inside of the glass."


  "I can't tell you why. I promised not to."

  "You don't have to tell me. I know already. You


  wanted me out cold so that you could help Anya end her life." "You said it, I didn't."

  "And I notice that you don't deny it. What puzzles me, though, is how she died. Dr. White said it couldn't have been a drug overdose. Certainly she didn't shoot herself." She spread her hands. "What happened?"

  "Does it matter? She's dead. Let her rest in peace."

  "I don't ask for her sake. Nor do I ask out of curiosity, even though I am curious. I ask for your sake." Spence chuckled. "Don't worry about me." "I do worry about you. You're my friend, and something is troubling you. It doesn't take a psychologist to see that. Your stories were amusing—a hundred people blown away every night. At the same time they had a common theme: rage against society, the establishment. Where does all that rage-come from?"

  "You said it, you're not a psychologist. Don't dissect me." "Why did Anya chose you to help end her life?" "I didn't say that I did help her." "Why hasn't your girlfriend ever shown up?" "She couldn't afford the train fare." "Why do you have sores all over your face?" Spence suddenly flared up. "Because I'm dying, dammit! Leave me alone."

  Ilonka nodded. "You are mad about it, aren't you? I was mad, too." She leaned over and touched


  his hand. "I care about you, Spence. I'm not here to torment you." He shook off her touch. "Why are you here?" "You asked me to come. You wanted to talk to me about more than Kevin's story." She stopped. "What are you dying of, Spence?"

  He drew in a shaky breath and nervously rubbed his hands together. When he looked at her there was so much pain in his eyes it almost broke her heart,

  "Why do you ask when it's clear you know?" he said. "I have AIDS." "Did you catch it from Caroline?" He swallowed. "His name was Cari.** "It's all right. You don't have to be ashamed." "What do you know about what I have to be ashamed about?" he shouted.

  She wheeled herself closer and grabbed his hand. "Tell me."

  He shook his head pitifully. "This isn't story-time."

  "Yes it is, Spence. It may be early morning for the rest of the time zone, but it's close to midnight for us. They're going to turn out the light soon. This will be the last chance we get to talk. This will probably be the last chance you get to talk to anybody. So what if you're gay? That's nothing to be ashamed of It never was anything to be ashamed of"

  Spence coughed. "That's so easy for you to say. But this day and age is not that far removed from the Middle Ages when you're in high school. Yes, I

  CHRISTOPHER PIKE am gay—have been since I was bora. Don't try to probe for a reason why. There isn't one. My parents didn't molest me when I was young, and I wasn't exposed to radiation from your local nuclear powerplant. You can admit being gay if you're famous or live in the right part of the country, or even if you're older. But when you're a teenager you have to hide it and don't try to tell me that you don't. In my school fags were fags, they were not people. And I wanted to be a person, Ilonka. I am a person."

  "You are one of the greatest people I know."

  "Only because you don't know me that well. Who was Carl? He was the love of my life. I met him when I was fifteen. He was a great person. He would do anything for anybody. He was as brilliant as Kevin. When I met him it was like finding a life preserver in the middle of a turbulent ocean. I clung to him that tightly, and that was fine because it didn't make him love me any less."

  "I'm happy you were able to find someone special," Ilonka said.

  Spence gestured helplessly. "A couple of years ago I went for an AIDS test. I thought I should get checked out. I'd had a lover before Cari. Well, to make a long story short, I tested positive."

  "I see."

  "I didn't tell Cari."

  "Why not?"

  There were tears in his eyes. "Because I loved him and I was afraid I would lose him if he knew I

  THE MIDNIGHT CLUB was sick. Don't you see what I did? I loved him and I killed him!"

  "He's dead? But who's been sending you all these letters?"

  "I write them and mail them to myself," he whispered.

  "You don't know if you killed him. He might have given you the disease."

  "I doubt it. Carl was never promiscuous."

  "You don't know," Ilonka insisted.

  "That's just it. I don't know. I will never know. But I can't stop thinking about how he looked the week before he died. He looked like something that should be burned and buried." Spence pointed to the mirror on the far wall. "He looked like me."

  "I'm sorry."

  "That's what I told him! But it was too late." Spence buried his face in his hands, "The worst thing was he never blamed me."

  "Even if you did give it to him, by the time you found out you had the virus it was probably too late." She reached over and hugged him and he slipped into her arms, tears running over his cheeks. There was so little of him left, of either of them. She couldn't remember the last time she had eaten a meal. "You have to let it go. You can't die tormenting yourself like this."

  "I've tried. I can't let it go. What I did—who could forgive me?"

  "But he forgave you."

  He buried his face in her chest. "It's too late.


  There are no words you can say that will make things better for me. I am going to die this way. I deserve to die."

  She stroked his head. ^'I had a dream last night. I was a witch who controlled a young man, and the ironic thing was I loved the guy. I'm not sure, but I think it was Kevin. Anyway, there was this evil wizard and he stabbed me in the guts, and I was bleeding to death when this guy found me. I had done nothing but use the guy and still he loved me. As I was bleeding to death he told me we would meet again, either in heaven or on earth in a future life. But I doubted his words. I didn't think I could be with him because of the awful things I had done. But he told me something just before I died that stayed with me as I crossed into the other world. He said that if I had indeed done something wrong, then he was willing to share the consequences of that action with me so that wherever we went, we would go there together. I honestly think that's why Kevin was here with me. I don't think he deserved to be here, I think he chose to come to teach me what I had to learn. To teach me what the Master has been trying to teach me in every life."

  Spence raised his head. "What is that?"

  "It will sound corny if I say it."

  Spence reached for a Kleenex and blew his nose. "I'm in a corny mood."

  "I think I am here—we are all here—to learn divine love. To love the way God loves us."

  Spence coughed. "If God loves us so much, why did he invent AIDS?"


  "If you had not caught AIDS I would not have a chance to make you the offer I am going to now."

  "What is that?"

  "If you honestly feel you have done something so terrible that you cannot be forgiven, then I am willing to share your sins with you. When we die, if we should have to stand before God and be judged, then I will tell him I am as much to blame as you and that half your punishment should be portioned out to me."

  Spence was incredulous. "I don't think you can do that."

  "Kevin did it."

  "That was just a dream."

  "I think this whole world is just a dream."

  "That's all that morphine you're taking."

  "Are you accepting my offer or not?" she asked.

  "Why are you making it?"

  "Because I love you, Spence. You're my buddy."

  "Do you really think God is going to judge us together?"

  "No. I added that part for effect. But I do think you should stop judging yourself. But if you can't, I accept that." She grinned. "We'll both go to hell together."

  Spence brightened. "Think of the stories they must tell down there."

  "I imagine the Midnight Club is always in ses-


  Spence reached over and embraced her. He kissed her on the cheek. "It means a lot to me, what you say. Maybe there is magic in your dreams.


  Kevin kept telling me there was. I do feel better being able to share my burden with you. I always wanted to tell you."

  "Did Kevin know?"

  "I didn't tell him, but I think he guessed. He was very perceptive. Anya knew, though."

  "You told her."

  "She knew Carl. They lived in the same neighborhood." Spence released her and sat back. "I smothered her to death. She asked me to."

  "She couldn't stand the pain?"

  Spence sighed. "It was bad for her at the end. The morphine couldn't stop her agony. She told me that I was the only one who could kill her because of what I felt I had done to Carl. She said it matter-of-factly, not in a cruel way. I understood what she meant—I didn't hold it against her." He shrugged. "I guess everything gets easier the second time around."

  "It wasn't easy for you."

  Spence nodded. "It was worse than you can imagine. I took her pillow and pressed it down over her face and I could hear her smothering—with you sleeping peacefully only three feet away. I had to keep telling myself that I was just giving back to her the thing I had stolen from Carl. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense, but even more than his life I felt like I had taken Carl's dignity from him. He did not die easily. Anya told me that she wanted to go out with a little dignity. I could give her that much."

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