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Most people think that death is the end.
The end of life—of good times—the end of, well, pretty much everything.
But those people are wrong.
And I should know. I died almost a year ago.
The weirdest part about dying is that nothing really changed.
I mean, you’d expect a big change, right? Because dying—well, let’s face it, it’s pretty dramatic stuff. They write songs about it, books and screenplays too. Heck, it’s even a major theme on Saturday morning cartoons. But the thing is, it’s nothing like you see on TV.
Nothing at all.
Take me for instance. I’m living, er, make that dead proof that it really isn’t so different. Or at least not at first. And at least not in a bad way like you probably think.
Because the truth is, the moment I died I actually felt more alive than ever. I could jump higher—run faster—I could even walk through walls if I wanted. And that’s pretty much what gave it away.
The walking-through-walls part.
Since it’s not like I could do that sort of thing before, so that’s how I knew something was up.
But up until then, it all just seemed like a really cool side trip. Like my dad just decided to take a sudden turn none of us were expecting.
One moment he was cruising down a curving highway, while I was singing along to my iPod with my dog Buttercup resting his head on my lap, doing my best to tune out my bossy older sister Ever who practically lived to torment me. And the next thing I knew, we were somewhere else entirely.
No longer on the highway, no longer in Oregon, we’d somehow landed smack dab in the middle of this beautiful shimmering field full of pulsating trees and flowers that shivered. And when my parents went one way and my sister went another, I just stood there, head swiveling like crazy, unsure who to follow.
Part of me urging, “Cross the bridge with Mom and Dad and Buttercup—they know what’s best!”
While the other part insisted, “Don’t be such a goody-good—if Ever sees something awesome and you miss out, you’ll regret it forever!”
And by the time I finally decided to go after my sister, I’d taken so long she was already gone.
Straight into the shimmering mist.
Right back to the earth plane.
And that’s how I ended up stuck. Stuck between worlds.
Until I found my way Here.
That’s what they call it, “Here.”
And if you’re dumb enough to ask what time it is, they’ll say, “Now.”
Probably because there’s no time Here, which means everything happens, well, in the moment it happens, which is always just—Now.
So, I guess you could say I live in the Here & Now.
Which, strangely, isn’t so different from where I lived before back in Eugene, Oregon.
Aside from there being no time. And of course, that bit about being able to walk through walls and stuff.
But other than that, and the fact that I can manifest anything I want—stuff like houses and cars and clothes, even animals and beaches, simply by imagining it—it’s all pretty much the same.
My parents are Here. My grandparents too. Even my sweet yellow Lab Buttercup made it. And even though we can live anywhere we could ever conceivably want, in any kind of house we could ever truly desire, the funny thing is that my new neighborhood is pretty much an exact replica of my old neighborhood back in Oregon.
Everything identical, all the way down to the clothes that hang in my closet, the socks that are stuffed in my drawers, and the posters that are taped to my walls. The only thing that’s different, the only thing that kind of bugs me, is all the other houses around us are empty. Mostly due to the fact that all my old neighbors and friends are alive and well and back in the earth plane (well, for now anyway!). But still, other than that, it’s exactly like I remember it.
Exactly like I wished it.
I just wish I had some friends to enjoy it with.
When I woke up this morning—oh, that’s another thing—you probably thought I didn’t need to sleep, right? Well, at first, that’s what I thought too. But as my parents explained it to me, we are, in a sense, more alive than ever, made up of energy in its purest form. And after a long day of creating and manifesting and, well, what ever else people choose to do Here, the energy requires a little downtime, a little shut-eye, in order to rest, recuperate, and regenerate—which, again, is no different from life on the earth plane.
So anyway, when I woke up this morning with Buttercup wagging his tail and licking my face, despite the fact that it’s a pretty nice way to wake, that didn’t stop me from pushing him away, pulling the blanket over my head, and rolling over so that my back was facing him. My eyelids squinched together as tightly as they would go, and I tried to find my way back to my dream as Buttercup continued to whimper and whine and paw at me.
And just as I was about to push him away yet again, that’s when I remembered:
Buttercup was excited for me.
Everyone was excited for me.
From the moment I got Here, I’d pretty much kept myself busy with getting adjusted to my new life, getting reacquainted with my family, and basically trying to learn how things are done in this place. And now that I was settled, it was time for my first day of school (yes, we have school Here—it’s not all cloud lounging and harp playing, you know), and since everyone was acting so excited about it, it became my job to act excited too.
Excited enough to get out of bed, get myself ready, and take the time to manifest something cool to wear, so I could, well, according to my parents anyway, head off to a place where I’d:
“Meet some new friends, learn some new things, and in no time at all find myself picking up right smack where I left off back home!”
And no matter how much I doubted that, no matter how much I was willing to bet just about anything that there was no way that would turn out to be even remotely true, I just smiled and went along with it. Wanting them to think I was as eager for the moment as they clearly were.
Not wanting them to know just how much I missed my old life back home. Missed it so much it was like a constant ache in my middle. And how I was pretty dang sure that this school, no matter how cool they claimed it to be, could never compete with the one I’d left behind.
So after enjoying a little breakfast with my mom and dad (and no, we don’t really need to eat anymore, but would you give up the taste of Lucky Charms if you didn’t have to?), I set off. At first dressed in a typical private-school uniform of white blouse, plaid skirt, blue blazer, white socks, and cool shoes, since I always wanted to go to a school that required that, but then halfway there I changed my mind and swapped it for some skinny jeans, ballet flats, and a soft, fuzzy blue cardigan I wore over a white tank top featuring the logo of my favorite band.
Seriously, manifesting is really that easy—or at least it is Here. You just think of anything you want, anything at all, picture it really clearly in your head—et voilà—just like that, it’s yours!
So anyway, I kept going like that, switching back and forth, forth and back, between the two looks. Taking two steps forward as a private-school girl, and another two dressed as an extremely stylish twelve-year-old girl. Figuring I’d stick with what ever ensemble I was wearing by the time I reached campus, knowing I could always change it in an instant if it turned out to be the wrong choice.
But then, somewhere along the way, I saw it.
The Viewing Room.
The place my parents had warned me about.
Insisting it would lead to no good. That I would only become obsessed yet again just when I needed to focus my energies on moving on, settling in, and accepting the fact that, like it or not, I am now an official resident of the Here & Now. Claiming it was high time I turn my back on my old life and concentrate on embracing my afterlife.
“You lingered on the earth plane long enough,” my dad said, giving me his usual compassionate yet concerned look.
While my mom looked on, eyes narrowed, arms crossed, not fooled by my claims of mere mild curiosity for a second. “Your sister has her own lessons to learn, her own destiny to fulfill, and it’s not your place to interfere,” she’d said, refusing to budge or even try to see my side of things.
But even though their intentions were good, the thing is, they didn’t know my sister nearly as well as I did. Didn’t realize she needed me in a way they could never even begin to comprehend. Besides, if it’s true that there’s no time, then it’s not like I could be late for school, right? So really, what’s the worst that could happen?
With my mind fully made up, I took a little detour and ducked inside, snatching a ticket from the dispenser on the wall before taking my place in a very long line. Surrounded by a whole gang of gray hairs gushing on and on about the grandkids they couldn’t wait to look in on, until my number finally flashed on the overhead screen and I marched straight into the recently vacated cubicle, closed the curtain behind me, settled onto the hard, metal stool, and punched in my desired location, carefully scanning the screen until I found her.
Excerpted from Radiance by Alyson Noël.
Copyright © 2010 by Alyson Noël.
Published in 2010 by St. Martin’s Griffin.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.