REVENANT IV

Benjamin Farrow ascends the crumbling, unstable stairs to the second story of the old manor house, stepping carefully, recoiling whenever the steps creak under his weight. He keeps a tight grip on the carved old bannister and tries not to think of the possibility that the stairs might collapse underneath him.

Outside, night is falling again. Who knows how many days have passed? Who knows how time moves in this place? He has never been so lonely, yet without any privacy, for the old ghost that dwells in this house can see his every move, can read the shape of his thoughts. I live in his shadow now. He shines a light on the page to write.

Where’s your room?

It is the third on the left, Farrow. Step carefully.

Benjamin Farrow checks his journal for my response, and his gaze lingers as the words continue to write themselves across the page. I suppose this journal is the closest thing I have now to a body. My substitution for a physical form.

Is this a dream? Farrow wonders. Has all of this been a strange, waking terror? Or a purgatory constructed just for him?

Tell me, Farrow. Why did you become an explorer of abandoned places?

He has just entered my old bedroom. I cannot see it the way he sees it. I see what once was: the bed neatly made, the rows of masks over my headboard, the window nailed shut. I’m sure it looks very different to him. In this realm of words and death, this world I inhabit, the physical truth of things has very little meaning.

Farrow glances down at the pages again and prepares to settle himself down by the wall, where once stood a wardrobe my father commissioned from a Russian carpenter

Stop.

Let me describe what I see. This is still my journal, you know.

Describe your reality, then, and I will augment it with my own. Perhaps by overlaying the two we may see the truth of this.

There’s a hole in the floor. I can see down into the winter garden. The windowpanes are missing and those damned white branches are growing through the frames, curling around what I assume used to be a bed. There’s a moldy old wardrobe lying on its side.

This room is a little smaller than I expected, for some reason. I’ve actually been in here before, but I didn’t know it was your room. This is where I found …

Hey. Did you, like. After Hazel Lawley died, you didn’t, like, keep a lock of her hair in a box or anything, did you? I found her last letter and some other … stuff in a shoebox in here.

Castile?

Hey, we’ve talked about this. You can’t bail on me, Castile.

Come on. You’ve had more than enough time to reply.

Yes.

I did.

You gonna tell me why? Because I’ll be real with you, man. That’s super creepy.

At the risk of offending you further, Farrow, I find it galling that this, of all things, is what you decide to judge me upon.

Keeping a lock of dead girl’s hair in a box under your bed? Yeah, Castile, that’s a doozy. I thought you didn’t even swing that way.

Does it help if I tell you it was for a specific purpose?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that actually makes it worse.

I’ve told you about my abilities. I’ve told you I learned at a young age I could bring dead things back to life, even if they did not always turn out quite right. First it was with Jacksie, my cat. There were others … animals, mostly. A bird that flew into the atrium window. My

My mother. And plants. But it didn’t always work, and for a very long time, I did not understand why. Half the time I could pull a creature from death, and half the time I could not. I was young — naive. I thought if I loved something enough, I could will the life back into its body.

What a little fool I was, to think I had that sort of power over anything.

Hang on. Your mother? You brought your mother back to life?

It was a small thing. She died in her sleep when I was eleven. I found her, already cold, alone in her bed, but when I pawed at her face and begged her to wake up — she did.

I know how that may sound. I assure you, she was dead. I did not roust her from a deep slumber. I remember how her lips parted as she drew in a rattling breath, how I felt warmth returned to her stiff limbs. I think I was the only one who ever knew what happened that morning. She lived years after that, but there was always something behind her eyes. An uncertainty in her expression, as if part of her knew that her time on earth was unscheduled.

But it was not my love that brought her back, though at the time I thought it was. If the fervor of my love was the only ingredient in a resurrection, there would have been much less death in my life.

So what is it? What’s the trick?

Permission.

The power I have amounts to nothing more than opening a door. I cannot pull anyone through it against their will.

It was not my love for my mother that saved her, but rather her love for us. When I opened that door to her, she did not hesitate to leap through it, even if, in her conscious mind, she never even knew she had died. Perhaps the bird that hit the window had hatchlings, or a mate. As for my cat, I believe she simply missed me.

A resurrection is a handshake. Not a manacle.

And Hazel didn’t come through when you opened the door.

She refused to come home, in the end.