Lies Page 2

“Is she down there now? It’s, like, two a.m.”

“That’s when they do it. They don’t want Zil or…or you, I guess, giving them a hard time. You know where the wall runs down from Clifftop to the beach? Those rocks out there? That’s where she is. Not alone. Other kids are there, too.”

Sam felt an unwelcome tingle running up his spine. He’d developed a pretty good instinct for trouble over the last few months. This felt like trouble.

“Okay, I’ll check it out.”

“Yah. Cool.”

“’Night, Sinder. Take care.”

He left her and continued walking, wondering what new craziness or danger lay ahead. He climbed the road up past Clifftop. Glanced up at Lana’s balcony.

Patrick, Lana’s Labrador, must have heard him because he gave a short, sharp warning bark.

“Just me, Patrick,” Sam said.

There were very few dogs or cats still alive in the FAYZ. The only reason Patrick had not ended up as dog stew was because he belonged to the Healer.

From the top of the cliff Sam looked down and thought he could make out several people on the rocks, right down in the surf that wasn’t quite surf. They were big rocks, dangerous back in the days when Sam would take his board out there with Quinn and wait for a big one.

Sam didn’t need light to scale down the cliff. He could have done it blind. In the old days he’d done it hauling all his gear.

As he reached the sand, he heard soft voices. One speaking. One crying.

The FAYZ wall, the impenetrable, impermeable, eye-baffling barrier that defined the boundaries of the FAYZ, glowed almost imperceptibly. Not even a glow, really, a suggestion of translucence. Gray and blank.

A small bonfire burned on the beach, casting a faint orange light over a small circle of sand and rock and water.

No one noticed Sam as he approached. So he had time to identify most of the half-dozen kids out there. Francis, Cigar, D-Con, a few others, and Orsay herself.

“I have seen something…,” Orsay began.

“Tell me about my mom,” someone cried out.

Orsay held up her hand, a calming gesture. “Please. I will do my best to reach your loved ones.”

“She’s not a cell phone,” the dark girl beside Orsay snapped. “It is very painful for the Prophetess to make contact with the barrier. Give her some peace. And listen to her words.”

Sam squinted, not quite able to recognize the dark-haired girl in the flickering firelight. Some friend of Orsay’s? Sam thought he knew every kid in the FAYZ.

“Begin again, Prophetess,” the dark-haired girl said.

“Thank you, Nerezza,” Orsay said.

Sam shook his head in amazement. Not only had he not known that Orsay was doing this, he hadn’t known she’d acquired her own personal manager. Not someone he recognized, the girl called Nerezza.

“I have seen something…,” Orsay began again, and faltered as though expecting to be interrupted. “A vision.”

That caused a murmur. Or maybe it was just the sighing sound of the water on the sand.

“In my vision I saw all of the children of the FAYZ, older kids, younger, too. I saw them standing atop the cliff.”

Every head swiveled to look up at the cliff. Sam ducked, then felt foolish: the darkness concealed him.

“The kids of the FAYZ, prisoners of the FAYZ, gazed out into a setting sun. Such a beautiful sunset. Redder and more vivid than anything you’ve ever seen.” She seemed to be mesmerized by that vision. “Such a red sunset.”

All attention was again focused on Orsay. Not a sound from the small crowd.

“A red sunset. The children all gazed into that red sun. But behind them, a devil. A demon.” Orsay winced as if she couldn’t look at this creature. “Then, the children realized that in that red sun were all their loved ones, arms outstretched. Mothers and fathers. And all united, all filled with longing and love. Waiting so anxiously to welcome their children home.”

“Thank you, Prophetess,” Nerezza said.

“They wait…,” Orsay said. She raised one hand, waved it toward the barrier, fluttered. “Just beyond the wall. Just past the sunset.”

She sat down hard, a puppet whose strings had been cut. For a while she sat there, crumpled, hands open, palms up on her lap, head bowed.

But then, with a shaky smile she roused herself.

“I’m ready,” Orsay said.

She laid her palm against the FAYZ wall. Sam flinched. He knew from personal experience how painful that could be. It was like grabbing a bare electrical wire. It didn’t do any damage, but it sure felt like it did.

Orsay’s narrow face was scrunched up in pain. But when she spoke her voice was clear, untroubled. Like she was reading a poem.

“She dreams of you, Bradley,” Orsay said.

Bradley was Cigar’s real name.

“She dreams of you…you’re at Knott’s Berry Farm. You’re afraid to go on the ride…. She remembers how you tried to be brave…. Your mother misses you….”

Cigar sniffled. He carried a weapon of his own devising, a toy plastic light saber with double-edged razor blades stuck into the end. His hair was tied back in a ponytail and held with a rubber band.

“She…she knows you are here…. She knows…she wants you to come to her….”

“I can’t,” Cigar moaned, and Orsay’s helper, whoever she was, put a comforting arm around his shoulders.

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