BOOK II: Gates

Chapter 44

     The matron snorted.  "There's nothing beyond death.  To give people the hope of more is to rob them.  If you tell the dying there is more after, they don't make the same decisions before they die.  They don't say good-bye like they should.  They think they can return and make a difference.  You should think on that."
     We turned a corner and she slammed on the brakes.  A crowd was gathered.  This was no market gathering.  This was the beginnings of a mob.  A march.  A protest of some type.  Everyone looked angry.  And yet. . . no banners, no cardboard signs, nothing being shouted.
     The matron's hands shook on the steering wheel.  "Out."
     "What?"  I was startled at the idea of walking through this to get to the palace.
     "Out.  Now.  Take Joy with you.  They need to see you both are well."
     "But -"
     "It's about hope, Andy."  Her eyes blazed at me.  "You have to give them something to believe in.  Even if I don't believe in the afterlife, they need someone who does.  Go.  Show them you're taking care of their future."
     I was expelled from the matron's car.  Joy clutched my hand.  "What do we do now, auntie?"
     "We go to the palace.  And we be polite." 

     At my words the crowd turned.  A path formed.  Murmurs of noise preceded us, and followed us.  But those we passed were silent.  Eerily silent like the in-between of last night.   That is, the silence in between the haunted laughter.  Only these weren't spirits playing tricks on my mind.  These were living people watch me closely.  Judging.  Needing.  

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