But he did feel them. They did happen. They rest on the murky seabed of his mind, buried under sand and silt and miles of grey waves. Patient seeds waiting for light.
“You’re not Dead!”
Nora watches the apparition move toward her on the street below. Golden hair, azure eyes, fair skin like the saints on her mother’s candles, except those saints never had blood running down their chins.
“We’re going to South Cascadia!”
The apparition is moving away now, getting smaller.
“You’re not Dead! You can come with us!”
Nora blinks, and the apparition is gone. She is alone on a bridge, overlooking miles of desolation. She stands there for a while, watching the apparition’s truck disappear into the distance. The wind blows a beer can against her feet, bits of ash into her hair.
“What are we looking for?” Addis demands.
She stumbles down the overpass and onto the freeway, walks for a few minutes, then stops. There is something on the road.
“There are good people somewhere.”
“Are you sure?”
The sun glints off bumpers and mirrors, and off the foil wrappers of thirty small cubes scattered across the pavement.
“There’s got to be one or two.”
She closes her eyes. She sucks in a deep breath. She gathers the cubes in a grocery bag, and she starts walking.
She walks until sunset. She sleeps in a car. She wakes up at sunrise and starts walking again. She thinks about the volleyball. Its smooth white simplicity; bump, set, spike. One clear thought to keep aloft, nothing more, and now her volleyball is this: to become a good person. To make her brother proud of her. And to find a way to save him.
So Nora Aynalem Greene is walking. She is sixteen years old, but now she is seventeen. Now she is twenty. She is seeking a cure for the plague, the curse, the judgment—people may never agree on what to call it. She will search for years until she forgets this city, until she forgets that she ever had a family and begins to think of herself as something that sprouted unbidden and unwanted through the concrete of an empty parking lot. But even then, alone in the driest desert, she knows that a rain will fall. It may be a long time, but not forever. Nora knows better than most that nothing lasts forever. Life doesn’t, love doesn’t, hope doesn’t, so why would death, hate, or despair?
Nothing is permanent. Not even the end of the world.