Authors: Barry Lyga
Thank you for buying this
Feiwel and Friends ebook.
To receive special offers, bonus content,
and info on new releases and other great reads,
sign up for our newsletters.
Or visit us online at
For email updates on the author, click
The author and publisher have provided this e-book to you for your personal use only. You may not make this e-book publicly available in any way.
Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author's copyright, please notify the publisher at:
For Morgan. Because it's her favorite.
Look all around.
All around, there is the world and there is the dark, and there is something else besides, something I have brushed up against and experienced but cannot explain or understand.
And heÂ â¦ he has been asleep too long, able to dream only of himself, while I have been awake longer than I thought possible.
I wish I could say I've been looking for you, Zak, that I have been on a quest, but the truth is, I've always known where you are. I've always been there. Watching you, trying to speak to you, desperate to steal even the smallest moments of your attention.
Look up. I'm there, against the ceiling, along the sky.
Look down. I'm there, on the floor, on the ground, gazing up at you.
Look all around. I surround you. I envelop you. I am in the air you breathe.
For years, I've tried to break through. Beat my fists against the invisible walls between us and screamed to you.
You've only ever heard whispers.
Until now. NowÂ â¦
Look up. Look to the sun. The sky and the stars. There are worlds awaiting.
Look down. This earth, this soil, is not a conclusion. It is not
Look all around. There are people beyond people, Zak. There is something
, and you are closer to it than you realize.
But it, too, is closer to
It lurks and looms. It hides in the sunlight and laughs silently.
If only you knew.
If only you could
Zak Killian knew it was crazy, but there were daysâlike this oneâwhen he thought he might have a guardian angel.
He knew there was no such thing, of course. Guardian angels were superstition, like black cats causing bad luck. “Garbage,” his dad called it. “Nonsense.”
Still, even though he knew it was either garbage or nonsense, Zak couldn't help occasionally fantasizing that there was someoneâsome
, maybe?âwatching over him. Trying to protect him from harm.
It could only “try” because it was an angel, ethereal, incorporeal. It couldn't touch the world or interact with it. It could only advise him, whispering in a voice high and breathy. Warning him away from danger. It had never steered him wrong, this disembodied voice.
This voice that sounded like his own.
The voice sounding like his own sort of made sense if you stopped to think about it. Which he often did, like today, on the subway on his own for the first time.
He had finally persuaded his parents to let him take the subway to school when it started again in the fall, and this day was his summertime dry run. His parents were so overprotective it was ridiculous. Probably because he was an only child.
Well, and there was his health problem, too.
Zak placed one hand on his chest and the other tight against his ear. He listened to the thrumming, rushing bellow of his heart. So like the ocean.
He couldn't hear or feel anything amiss, but his doctors assured him there was indeed something wrong with his heart. “Nothing we can't control,” they said. “If you listen and take your medicine and watch your diet, you're going to live a long, happy life.”
Now he closed his eyes for a moment, letting the rocking motion of the subway soothe him. It was like a boat, in a way. With his eyes closed, he could almost hear gulls screaming against the wind, the
The train squealed and ground to a halt, jolting him out of his fantasy. And good thing, too. He'd been dreaming of boats for a month now. How weird was
? To the best of Zak's knowledge, he'd never been on a boat in his life. After the third or fourth dream of riding the waves, he'd asked his mother.
“Mom, have I ever been on a boat?”
Zak's mother had been packing her suitcase for the week she would spend out of the apartment while Dad lived with Zak. At first, distracted, she'd misunderstood, saying, “You want a
What on earth do you need a boat for?” And then, before he could clarify, she'd blown a stray golden-brown hair out of her eyes and chuckled and said, “No, wait, I'm sorry. I didn'tâhave you ever been on a boat?” She planted her fists on her hips like a comic book superhero, something she often did when she was deep in thought.
“I don't think so,” she said after a moment or two. “There was one time when you were littleâwe were going to take the ferry to Governors Island, butâ¦” She drifted off and shrugged, her expression sad.
Zak wondered if “we” included his father, or if they'd been fighting and divorce-bound even then. At twelve-going-on-thirteen, he was old enough and wise enough to recognize when he shouldn't push her for more information. He didn't need the whisper of a guardian angel to know that much.
So. No boats. What accounted for the dreams, then?
That question would have to wait. The train had stopped, and Zak had to get off in lower Manhattan. This wasn't his final stop, but it was where he needed to transfer from the 6 train to the R, which would take him back home to Brooklyn. The 6-to-R routine would be his daily commute home once school started up again in a few weeks. Today, he'd managed to get from Prospect Park in Brooklyn all the way to Wellington Academy in midtown Manhattan with no glitches. Now it was just a matter of reversing the route.
He shuffled out of the train with a cluster of commuters and made his way to the far end of the platform. When he arrived at his final destination, he would want to be on the first car because that would get him closer to the exit that was nearest to home. He was proud of himself for figuring this out. His dry run would be a total success.
“They call it a dry run,” Dad had told him, “because firefighters used to practice drills without using water. So that was a dry run, and when they needed to use water, that was a wet run.”
Dad was full of obscure facts like that. It came with being a history professor.
But his dry run hadn't been totally without glitches.
After arriving at Wellington Academy, he'd lingered for a few minutes, not wanting to turn around and go home after just arriving. He was alone in the city for the first time ever. So he'd wandered into the bodega across the street from Wellington Academy. It had a sign that read
MOST EXCELLENT GOODS AND FOOD
, which soundedâlet's be honestâpretty freaking awesome. He and Moira and Khalid had wanted to go inside for as long as they could remember, but they'd always been accompanied by parents or teachers, none of whom ever wanted to slip inside and sample the possibly forbidden delights of the store.
This had been his chance.
He'd gone inside and roamed the store's aisles for a couple of minutesÂ â¦ which was all the time it took, because the place was tiny and packed tight. Disappointingly, there was nothing really “most excellent” about the goods or the food. It was all stuff you could find in any store.
Still, he'd fished around in his pocket for a buck's worth of quarters and bought a small bag of gummi bears. Then, satisfied with his rebellious individuality, he'd left the store and headed back to the subway.
The voice of his guardian angel. The voice of his garbage and nonsense.
Standing by the subway entrance had been a tall man in a long black coat. There was nothing strange or off about him, but when Zak had focused on him, the voiceâso high, so youngâhad said again,
something wrong about the man. The black coat, in such hot, humid weatherÂ â¦ And why was he just loitering by the subway? He didn't look like he was waiting for someone. Usually people fiddled with their cell phones or read a book or did
while waiting. This guy was justÂ â¦
Zak had gnawed at his lower lip, then he'd waited for the light on Lexington Avenue to change and crossed the street to enter the subway there instead. As he waited for the train, he'd looked around for the man in black. Nothing. He'd felt a well of relief when he got on the train and the doors closed safely behind him.
And now, standing on a different platform, Zak heard the voice again. It saidÂ â¦
Well, that was crazy. What did
The sound of the train interrupted his thoughts. It was coming down the tunnel, but something sounded wrong. Instead of the clanking bash of the subway, that mechanical and rattling echo, he heard something different. It was a whisper rising to a roar.
, the voice in his head said again. It didn't shout; it just insisted.
He couldn't help itâa charge of absolute terror ran through him, borne on the words from the guardian angel. Something was coming. Something awful.
“Get out of here!” he yelled to the others on the platform. “We have to get out of here! Something's going toâ”
Something splashed against him. His calves and shoes were suddenly cold and wet.
He looked up just in time to see a gushing wall of water filling the subway tunnel.
And then the screams started.
Zak would have stood frozen, rooted to that spot on the platform, if not for the guardian angel's voice continuing to urge him on. He spun and dashed around a column, then scrambled up the steps as fast as his legs could churn, leaving wet footprints on the concrete. At the top of the stairs, he paused for a single instant to catch his breath, then launched himself through the turnstile and fled up another flight of stairs and into the summer sunshine.