Authors: Graham McNamee
Tags: #General Fiction
Also by Graham McNamee
The author acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2012 by Graham McNamee
Jacket art copyright © 2012 by Sara Jarrett/Arcangel Images
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Wendy Lamb Books,
an imprint of Random House Children’s Books,
a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Wendy Lamb Books and the colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Visit us on the Web!
Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools,
visit us at
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Beyond : a ghost story / by Graham McNamee. — 1st ed.
Summary: Everyone thinks seventeen-year-old Jane has attempted suicide more than once, but Jane knows the truth: her shadow is trying to kill her.
eISBN: 978-0-375-89759-7 [1. Near-death experiences—Fiction. 2. Ghosts—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.M232519 Be 2012
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment
and celebrates the right to read.
I remember dying.
After I got injured my heart stopped and I flatlined.
I was done and gone. But I wasn’t alone.
There was something waiting for me when I died. Something dark and cold tried to take my soul away.
When they brought me back to life I escaped from it. Left it behind.
But what if it came back with me, followed me home like a hungry stray?
Don’t think about it.
I keep telling myself that.
Today I find out what they’re going to do with me. I’m counting down the hours till my doctor’s appointment.
My best friend, Lexi, is doing her best to distract me. So on this stormy afternoon she drags me out in my backyard to try a new trick shot with her camera. “We’re going to stop the rain.”
That would be a real magic trick out here on the Rain Coast, in the town of Edgewood. Never heard of the place? I’m shocked. We’re famous for our wet weather.
Lexi gets me to stand under the tree in back. It doesn’t give me any shelter, with all the dripping branches.
“What do I do?” I ask as she sets up her tripod on the grass.
“Just stay still, Jane. Facing me. I need to get the focus perfect.”
Most days are gray around here, where the sky is always crowded with clouds and the rainy season never seems to end. Makes you feel color-blind sometimes, starving your
eyes. Only the bloodred of Lexi’s lipstick saves the world from fading to black-and-white right now.
“Ready?” she says. “Okay, the camera’s set for superquick shots. Don’t move for a minute. And close your eyes. This flash is really intense.”
I shut them, and Lexi starts shooting as the wind shakes cold raindrops from the branches above. Through my lids I can make out the flashes, like rapid-fire lightning. When it feels like a minute’s gone by, I open my eyes and catch the last blinding flares.
“Done,” she says.
We run to the back porch and check out the results. As I blink away the afterimage fireworks, my vision clears and I see Lexi beside me.
Always in black, she looks like the Grim Reaper’s hot little sister. Right now she’s wearing a hooded slicker over her miniskirt and tight sweater. Raven-dark hair frames her pale face.
“Got it.” She shows me the image on her camera. “Took a hundred shots to get it, but we tricked the rain.”
There I am. Brown eyes wide, frizzy blond hair blown wild by the wind so it seems like I got zapped by lightning. Makes me look witchy.
But the magic is in how the raindrops are stopped in midair. They show up as streaks around me, but where the focus is tightest right in front of my face a few are frozen. Caught in the split-second flash, they seem solid, as if you could pluck one out of the air and hold it. Crystal clear pearls.
“You stopped the rain,” I say.
Lexi shrugs it off. “A minor miracle.”
“I could use a miracle right about now.”
“The rain falls too fast to really
it. But the drips from the branches are slowed down enough to catch.” She hands me the camera. “Now you try.”
We experiment some more, capturing the dribbles off the porch roof, suspended before gravity splashes them to the ground. Cool special effects.
But Lexi’s best trick is to take my mind off everything. And it works wonders.
Playing with the camera lets me breathe for a while. Before everything unfreezes, the drops start falling again, and the clock counts down.
The X-ray on the wall shows the ghost image of my skull. Me skeletonized. No eyes, no skin, no hair.
It’s like seeing my reflection in Death’s own mirror. Spooky.
The neurologist is talking to Mom and Dad, but I only catch fragments of what he’s saying.
“No intracranial swelling … no bleeding … no infection … no change.”
Skeletons are so anonymous. Hard to tell a guy from a girl, old from young. Stripped down to my bare bones, the only way I can really tell this is me is by that little white sliver buried inside the skull.
I’m so fascinated by my naked bones that it takes a few seconds before I realize Mom’s talking to me.
“Do you have any questions?”
I glance at their faces, all grim and worried.
“Just one,” I say, pointing to the X-ray. “Does this make me look fat?”
The neurologist frowns, Dad sighs, Mom looks pissed.
“What?” I shrug, like I can’t help it. Nobody ever gets me. I mean, if I don’t joke about this a little I’ll curl up in a ball in my room and never come out.
“Okay, seriously then. Are you gonna cut the thing out, or will I be setting off metal detectors for the rest of my life?”
The doc glances down at my chart. “Eventually it will have to come out, but right now, the situation is stable. You’re doing remarkably well. It might be more dangerous to go in and remove it. We’ll have to run some additional tests.”
Great. More tests.
They start going over all the pills I’m taking.
As the doc writes some new prescriptions, Mom grills him on side effects and complications.
I turn back to my X-ray. Lexi always said I was wrong in the head, and here’s the proof. But really, I can’t lay all my weirdness on that little white sliver there. I was twisted long before that showed up.
The nail in my brain.
On the drive home everybody’s all silent and gloomy.
“Call off the funeral!” I say to break the tension. “I’m still breathing.”
Mom grunts and shakes her head. Dad frowns at me in the rearview mirror.
“You age me, Boo,” he says. That’s his pet name for
me, Boo, because my big, wide-open brown eyes make me look permanently startled. “I got my first gray hair the day you were born. If I hadn’t been there to see you come into the world with my own eyes, I’d swear the devil switched babies with us and gave us a little screaming demon.”
He glances over at Mom with a weak smile, but she’s not playing along.
So we go back to gloom and doom.
Dad was just getting off work when he picked us up for the doctor’s appointment, so he’s still in his police uniform. He’s a constable here in Edgewood.
The Edge is a small town on Canada’s west coast. The Rain Coast. From autumn to spring we get about eight months of wet weather. And even when the sun does break through, all we see is liquid sunshine.
Right now the downpour is drumming on the roof of the car. During the rainy season you tune out the constant
ping—that never-ending background of white noise—the way you forget the sound of your own breathing.
The windows in back are all steamed up. I wipe a patch clear as we pull off the coast highway onto the road that runs along the ridge above town.