HER GRAVE IS DIFFERENT.
Less a marker, more a quiet reminder—it sits humbly under the moonlit hollyhocks, half-disguised by overgrowth: a face of wordless, flaking limestone.
To be fair, I haven’t seen many graves.
Where I’m from, they don’t exist.
The grave before me is the first real one I’ve ever seen, and everything about it is tragic and stunning. Gone are the days of organized rows of marble headstones, poetic epigraphs, and red eyes crying behind black veils . . .
These days, you’re more likely to share a poorly-built pyre with a handful of others, your limbs tangled up in theirs, with a fire roaring you into another world.
My knees meet the slightly damp, rocky soil, and I wonder to myself if it’s more fertile now that she’s sleeping there, if that’s why all the flowers grow so well. “Lindall?”
As though she’ll reply.
As though I even deserve a reply—after all I’ve done, I don’t deserve anything. Not a reply from a dead girl, let alone a house stuffed to the gills with supplies: a final gift from Rion.
Maybe he saw it coming.
Maybe he didn’t.
Either way, he’d left a key and an address—a future, tucked away in the outskirts of Kipling, Colorado. A house draped in a swath of dusty sheets, a careful layer of shattered glass glittering over the outdated parquet flooring.
And a cellar out back—buried and locked and priceless.
A sepulcher for an old, long-dead life.
My eyes orbit skyward, to the moon: as white as a peony in full bloom, as solitary as a widow. The spaceship that once lingered beside it is gone . . . Vanished without warning.
I return my gaze to Lindall’s grave. “So, the Ora’s gone and apparently the apocalypse is over.”
I swallow, sitting back a bit. “Yeah, I don’t believe it, either.”
The tip of my finger traces the damp soil, making some kind of a mindless journey over it—finding all the weeds, thorny and full of bristles, which I rip up from the roots.
They’re crowding out the flowers.
“Well, thanks for the chat,” I say lightly, getting back to my feet at the same time a noise echoes over the landscape: a choke, deep and guttural, that’s become way too familiar.
My posture stiffens ever so slightly.
I flip my rifle into place, snug against my shoulder, stroking the length of it like it’s a well-behaved lapdog. My focus circles its way back to Lindall’s grave, and for some reason, I suddenly see it for what it really is: a hole in the ground with a body inside.
There isn’t a person there, only a skeleton.
Sentimentality is weakness. There’s no room for it here.
With a sigh, I shift my focus to the shrieking of the Muted echoing in the distance—turning my back on one dead thing in order to face another.