Nick took my hand and pulled me from my coffin. We traveled together through the dark hallway and to the exit. A dim light filled the entrance of our dormitory as the door opened, and rain found its way immediately to the floor. We dashed hand-in-hand through muddy grass and to the gazebo, which we could clearly see articulated against the blue backdrop of our stormy sky. Ripples of thunder were as constant as the ocean’s waves, and lightning lit the scene like a wind-torn fire. It was elemental, like we were witnessing the Earth’s creation. I felt a burst of energy, a charge that could be harnessed and used to bring down our enemies.
“Take it all in,” I told Nick. “Soak it up.”
He was catching his breath and watching the dormitory door to see if we’d been followed. It didn’t move at first, but then it startled. I twitched at the sight, but nothing came. We’d left it open and the wind was getting around it.
Above us, the gazebo roof screamed with rain.
“Nick,” I said. “Are you listening to me?”
“The door,” he said.
“Forget it,” I said. “From here, we can see everything coming. Nothing can surprise us. This is where we’ll stay.”
“For how long?” he said.
Lightning throttled the darkness.
“Until we both understand what we have to do next,” I said. “The important thing is to be calm and patient. We are not beetles.”
“Okay,” he said. “I know that.”
Above us, the wasps weren’t moving. I could see their frozen back ends jutting out of the nests along the corners of the gazebo’s roof. Were wasps frightened of thunder? I wondered. How could they not be? What would thunder be like to something so sensitive and small? Then again, it was hard to imagine they were capable of feeling fear at all. They were wasps. I couldn’t get my head around it in the moment. I wanted to understand them, but it was beyond me.
“Nick”, I said, “do you believe it’s possible for two living things to ever reach a place of mutual understanding?”
“You said you had a plan,” said Nick.
“Of course I have a plan, Nick,” I said. “I’ve gotten us this far, haven’t I?”
“And where exactly are we?” said Nick.
“We’re in a safe place,” I said. “Alive and well.”
“I was alive and well before our alliance,” he said. “Everyone here is alive and well for now, and without even trying. Without getting themselves stuck out in a storm. The roads are covered in mud. They valley is filling with water. There’s no way in and there’s no way out. At least I had a bed before. So far, I’ve only lost comforts and gained nothing more by joining up with you.”
It was time to put all my cards on the table, time to tell Nick everything I knew and to break the claw of ignorance that held him in its grasp.
“You mentioned a ghost before,” I said.
“Tell me everything you know about it,” I said.
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