An exclusive excerpt of Lost...
Knock! Knock! Knock! Someone was banging on my door.
My door? Wait. I’m in the stables with Persephone. Are they banging on my stalldoor?
I lifted my head. Dark—it was really, really dark. How could it be that dark in the stables?
Knock! Knock! Knock!
“Okay, okay! I’m coming!” I said.
I said? But I hadn’t said anything.
A light clicked on and I jumped in shock.
I wasn’t in the stables. I was in the dorm. In my old room, but it only kinda looked like my old room. My stuff was there, but the twin bed on the other side of the room was empty. Stevie Rae was nowhere. None of her stuff was there, either. It was like she didn’t exist.
Knock! Knock! Knock!
“Hey, I’m getting dressed! Sheesh! Hang on!”
I watched a version of myself pull on jeans and a black and gold Broken Arrow Tigers sweatshirt.
What the hell?
I felt super dizzy and sick, and then my confusion started to clear when I saw that my body was almost completely transparent, and I was hovering a little above the bed.
Then I got it! Ohhh, I’m asleep. This is a dream—a dream about fledgling me. Which actually made sense. I mean, I was so stressed out that I was hiding in the barn, napping with my horse, pretty much wishing I was a carefree fledgling. No big surprise I was dreaming that I was a fledgling again.
Only I wasn’t the fledgling. I was the observer of me, the fledgling.
Okay, so, fine. Dreams are freaky. I looked around the semi-familiar room as “Zoey” hurried to the door. If Kalona shows up—again—I’m waking up this time. Right away.
Dream Zoey paused in front of the little mirror over the sink and tried to smooth back her bedhead, and I got my first good look at her face.
Wait, that’s wrong. This fledgling Zoey has a regular Mark, like all the other fledglings.
But, again, I rationalized that that wasn’t a big deal. I mean, if I was dreaming about escaping stress by being a fledgling, I definitely didn’t want to be the only fledgling with a colored-in Mark. Again.
Dream Zoey opened the door a crack. I saw her body jerk in surprise, and then she stepped back so that she could open the door all the way to reveal Neferet standing in the hallway.
“Ah hell! Run! This is a sucky dream!” I shouted.
But Dream Z didn’t hear me—neither did smarmy Dream Neferet.
“High Priestess! Hello. I, um, would you like to come in?” Dream Zoey asked lamely.
“No! Don’t let her into your room!” But, again, neither of them heard me.
“Oh, no, my dear. I am sorry to wake you, as the sun hasn’t quite set yet, but I’m afraid you have a rather distraught visitor,” said the Dream Neferet with sickeningly fake niceness.
“F off, Neferet!” I yelled. Of course they didn’t hear me, so I sighed and waited to see what dream weirdness would happen next—and I seriously reconsidered my anti-cussing stance.
“A distraught visitor? I’m sorry, High Priestess, but I don’t understand.”
“It’s your stepfather. He’s rather …” Neferet paused and grimaced in obvious dislike, “insistent that you speak with him. He mentioned something about your immortal soul.”
“Oh, ugh! Him,” Dream me said, and I echoed the thought. Just tell her to tell him to go away and never come back!
But Dream Zoey seemed younger and nicer than me—or maybe just younger and more naïve. “Okay, I’ll talk to him.”
“Excellent. I will escort you to him, and remain with you. He really is an unpleasant man.”
“Yeah, he sure is, and thanks for staying with me.”
Neferet motioned for Dream Zoey to follow her, which she did even though I was yelling, No, don’t go.
And when Dream Z closed the door I felt myself float after her and right through the closed door.
“Okay, this is the weirdest dream I’ve ever had.” I spoke aloud to myself as I drifted after dream me and Neferet, who were chatting nonchalantly together like Neferet was actually a decent High Priestess and Dream Zoey was just a newly Marked fledgling—kinda like when I’d first been Marked and Neferet had seemed like a mother to me.
I’d been very wrong about that, but this was just a dream. It was supposed to be strange.
And the House of Night looked strange, too. It seemed somehow darker, and emptier than my always busy, never sleeping school. In the year since my friends and I had taken over, we’d expanded the human/fledgling program so much that there was usually something going on at all hours.
Not so here. Everything was silent, and the fading light of the setting sun did nothing to alleviate the sense of gloom.
“Um, aren’t we going the wrong way?” My dream-self’s question pulled my attention back to her and I saw that Neferet had led Dream Zoey out a back door of the school, instead of toward the administrative offices in the front of the main building.
“Oh, I apologize. I should have explained. Your stepfather refuses to enter campus. One of the Warriors discovered him lurking outside the east wall.” Neferet paused and gave my dream-self a big, pretend smile. “That didn’t sound very charitable of me. I should have chosen another word than lurk.”
Dream Zoey’s cheeks blazed pink and she shook her head in disgust. “No, that’s the perfect word. And I’m the one who needs to apologize. Again. My stepfather is awful. A total religious hypocrite, filled with hate and judgment.” Dream me shuddered. “Getting Marked and being able to move away from him was a relief. I’ll talk to him and be sure he doesn’t come back here and bother you, or any other vampyre.”
“Oh, my dear, please do not worry about a human man being a bother. That’s nothing new. That’s what human men seem to do best—bother their betters.”
Dream Zoey didn’t appear to know what to say to that, and about then Neferet picked up her pace, so both of us had to hurry to keep up with her as she strode across the lawn, heading straight to the trap door in the east wall.
“The east wall. That figures. Horrible stuff always happens there.”
But Dream Zoey couldn’t hear me, so we followed Neferet to the trap door, which she tripped by pressing the stone stamped 1926, the year the wall was built. I floated through the opening behind them out to the area just outside the wall. If the sun hadn’t set yet, it sure seemed like it had, because it was so dark under the arms of the giant old oaks framing the wall that we were all cast in shadow.
“Mike?” Dream Zoey called, looking around the dark, empty area. “It’s me. Zoey. What did you need to tell me?”
Dream me was searching the area, hands on hips, obviously exasperated. But my attention wasn’t on dream me. It was on Neferet. The High Priestess had stayed close to the wall, where I noticed a wooden fencepost had been stuck into the ground—you know, like something a rancher would use to string barbed-wire on.
But there were no barbed-wire fences in midtown Tulsa. What the hell was going on?
Neferet went to the fencepost and opened a big duffle bag that was lying behind it—and unsheathed a long, dangerous-looking sword.
I understood in a flash. The fencepost was way too much like the one I’d found Professor Nolan staked to, without her head.
“Zoey! Get the hell out of here!” I yelled at my clueless dream-self, but that Z did nothing but peer around looking for her annoying stepfather.
Soundlessly, Neferet approached her from behind, carrying the sword with two hands, looking like a samurai assassin.
“Ohmygod, turn around!”
Dream Zoey didn’t hear me, but she did turn as she said, “Neferet, I think he took off. I’m really sorry this was such a waste of your time and you had to—” Her words cut off as she saw Neferet’s sword.
“Oh, my dear, there is absolutely no need to apologize. And things have gone exactly as I planned. When they find you they will believe this was the work of humans—the People of Faith in particular. I will have my war.” Neferet’s smile was feral—a victorious baring of her teeth. “And you will never have to be bothered by your ridiculous stepfather again. I consider it a win for both of us.”
Dream Zoey’s eyes looked glassy with shock, and she kept shaking her head back and forth, back and forth. In a little girl’s voice she repeated over and over, “No, I don’t understand … I don’t understand … I don’t—”
I screamed as Neferet whirled around in an arc that was as graceful as it was deadly, and with one single strike she severed Dream Zoey’s head from her body. Blood sprayed everywhere as the body collapsed, twitching spasmodically.
So much blood! There’s so much blood!
I couldn’t stop screaming. I wanted to close my eyes. I wanted to wake up. But I was frozen in place, hovering over myself as Neferet wiped her sword on the ground and then returned to the duffle bag to pull out rope and a rough, homemade plaque that had scrawled on it: THOU SHALT NOT SUFFER A WITCH TO LIVE! EXODUS 22:18.
I recognized the Bible quote. It had been the same one found on Professor Nolan’s crucified, headless body.
And then I heard her. Heard me. My gaze went from Neferet to my severed head. It had rolled to land in a bloody pool beneath me, face up. As I stared in horror at it, she opened her eyes and my own voice blasted inside my head.
You have to help Kevin stop her—nothing else matters!