CHAPTER TWO: GHOSTS AND MAGIC
Freyr Brand stared balefully at the canvas in front of him. The painting had to be perfect, but not only was it not perfect, it wasn’t good. He didn’t believe it was even passable. He should toss it. But he had to finish it by the end of the week! He couldn’t start all over again. Maybe he could fix it. Maybe it was salvageable. It had to be. He could not let down Kei Wakahisa!
Freyr scowled and grabbed his paintbrush off the easel, smearing more crimson paint over his long, graceful fingers in the process. He began to use light feathery brushstrokes on the armor of the samurai he was painting.
He glanced over at the vid screen in the corner of his bedroom where an ancient, delicate scroll with the image he was copying was displayed. The scroll was over a thousand years old and the colors were faded to mere pale shades of what they had been. Some of the paint had flaked off in areas altogether and in others the scroll had cracked and the image was lost entirely. He was using his imagination and several reference treatises on samurai armor from this period to help him bring the image back to life. He switched the paintbrush to his other hand and wiped the excess paint that coated his fingers onto his jeans. That just added to the rainbow of stains on his pants and the sleeveless T-shirt he wore. He brushed his chin-length dark blond hair out of his eyes so he could see the detail he was painting.
“Aren’t you done yet?” Jake Stewart, one of Freyr’s four roommates, asked from the doorway of Freyr’s bedroom.
“Not even close,” Freyr said, striving not to show his dislike of the dark-haired young man who belched and sauntered into his room without asking.
Jake came up behind him, drinking a beer, looking at the half-finished oil painting of the samurai warrior with a jaundiced eye. Jake was a business major and would have completely scoffed at Freyr’s art except for two things. The first was the fact that Freyr had just last month sold several pieces to some high-end collectors and there were more orders coming in if Freyr wanted to ditch the college scene and paint full time. In Jake’s view, if someone was willing to pay for it then it was deserving of respect. But, and Freyr knew this was a luxury and how lucky he was, he wanted to paint what inspired him, not for money. If what art he created made money then that was great. But he wanted to follow his muse. Except for this piece, because the person who had asked for it meant so much to him. This person, Kei Wakahisa, was the second reason that Jake didn’t scoff.
“So this painting is for Kei Wakahisa, right?” Jake asked too casually. He took another swallow of beer to hide his desire to talk about the Japanese businessman.
“Yep.” Freyr gritted his teeth.
Jake knew very well who the painting was for. Kei Wakahisa was the CEO of the transnational company called Black Ocean. As a business student, it was Jake’s wet dream to work for him. Freyr’s father Conrad Brand was one of Wakahisa’s most trusted lieutenants, which Jake, who followed business insiders like other people did sports teams, had known before Freyr had moved into the apartment with him their junior year.
And why did I ever let Lucy talk me into rooming with this guy? Oh, right, because we’ve been best friends since diapers and she begged. She begged and begged and begged. That was before she stopped having the hots for him in the middle of the school year …
Jake was handsome in a jock sort of way. He had short, wavy dark hair and a lean, toned, athletic body. His dark brown eyes were almost black and he had thick, dark lashes that softened the strict maleness of his face. Lucy had been “madly in love” with him. She routinely was madly in love, which Freyr had pointed out before Jake had moved in, but she had convinced him that her feelings for Jake were far more substantial than what she had felt for anyone else. Except her feelings hadn’t been able to survive living with Jake. Unfortunately, the four of them, Freyr, Lucy, Jake and Dash, another friend of Lucy’s, had signed a two-year lease. Her love was supposed to last forever. It had lasted four short months and now they still had another sixteen months with the guy. Freyr tried not to sigh.
Jake looked over at the vid screen. “This was an ancestor of his, right?” He tapped the green glass beer bottle against the screen causing the image to flicker.
“Yep.” Freyr hoped that answering in monosyllables would key Jake in that he really didn’t want to talk.
He had to concentrate! He had hoped to have this piece done yesterday, but it just hadn’t happened and it didn’t look like it was going to be finished today either. His chest felt tight as he waited for the soft ding of his comm announcing a message from Werner, his parent’s live-in driver that he was here to pick up Freyr and all his stuff – which was not packed yet – and take him home to San Francisco for the summer between his junior and senior year in college. All Freyr could think of were the wasted hours in the car where he wouldn’t be able to paint and fix this blasted portrait. His skin itched just thinking about it.
“So this guy was a samurai, right?” Jake leaned against the wall beside the vid screen.
“Yes, Wakahisa’s family goes back generations. They were samurai and one of them was a shogun,” Freyr said. It was more that he meant to say, but he was proud of Wakahisa’s lineage. It was fitting that such a noble man had such a noble history.
“So are you going to give Wakahisa this painting in person?” Jake’s dark eyes were calculating for a minute, which if Freyr was not excitedly thinking about seeing Wakahisa himself, he would have laughed at.
“Yeah, I’m giving it to him at the end of the week. He’s coming in especially to … to get it,” Freyr bit his cheek to stop the words from coming out. He knew not to tell Jake anything about his father or Wakahisa, but the words had just slipped out.
It was just that he was so anxious to see the Japanese businessman. Though he and Wakahisa communicated often electronically, they rarely got to see one another in person.
I’m sure he’s going to again try and convince Dad to move to Hong Kong and take over Arctiel, his newest business venture. Freyr smiled. Dad is never going to do it. Mom’s job as a federal prosecutor is here. He would never ask her to give it up, she loves her job, and he won’t go without her.
But even if Wakahisa hoped to wheedle his father again about the job, Freyr knew that the Japanese businessman was mostly there to see him, which was a big deal. Not only was Wakahisa incredibly busy, but in America, Survivors were quarantined even though it was clear to Freyr – and anyone who had met a Survivor – that Ghost was not a disease. Wakahisa had told him the truth of how a Survivor was made, about how the vengeful spirits of the dead attacked the living and those that survived their attacks were changed forever by it.
Survivors weren’t sick or contagious in any way. They were special, different, set apart by their experience. Half in the world of the living and half in the world of the dead. Wakahisa was only able to walk free because of his vast wealth and connections though he did not like to stay overly long and risk his freedom.
“Power invites envy, Freyr-kun,” Wakahisa had explained. “My enemies would be happy to see me locked away in an American military installation.”
Thinking on that, Freyr would take what he could get of Wakahisa’s company.
“So … what’s Wakahisa like?” Jake’s left hip jutted out as he drank his beer and watched Freyr paint.
Freyr bit back the statement, “Why do you care? You’ll never find out.” Instead, he answered, “About what you would expect.”
“I would expect a lot!” Jake laughed.
“He would exceed your expectations, I’m sure,” Freyr responded dryly. Jake’s expectations were undoubtedly based on how much money Wakahisa had, which was likely beyond counting.
“You’re pretty close to him, aren’t you?” Jake probed. “Lucy was saying that you and he … well, were together.”
“What?!” Freyr’s head snapped around so that he was facing Jake. He knew his cheeks were flooded with color. “She told you that he and I were -- what? Exactly?”
“Like you’re having sex --”
“We’re not!” Freyr snapped once more.
Jake held up a hand. “Hey, it’s okay if you and he --”
“He’s my father’s boss. He’s a great man. You don’t just say things like -- like that.” Freyr’s hands were trembling slightly. It wasn’t that he hadn’t thought about what it would be like to be with Wakahisa. The man, though of indeterminate age, was incredibly handsome and compelling. He had a large part of Freyr’s heart already. But hearing Jake so crudely say that they were sleeping together made Freyr’s blood boil. It made Wakahisa sound dishonorable and he wouldn’t stand for that. “I can’t believe Lucy would say that. She’s knows its not true.”
“She didn’t say you were having sex with him, just that you guys were really intense about one another --”
“He’s known me since I was a child! He saved my life!” Freyr yelled.
Jake’s eyes widened. “Saved your life?”
“Yes, I -- I almost died of a fever and … and he recognized how sick I was and saved me,” Freyr said, the words sticking in his throat because he didn’t want to share them with Jake. The memory of what had happened flooded over him.
Like most people after the destruction of Japan, Freyr had never met a Japanese person before and Wakahisa was more than just Japanese, he was a Survivor of the Ghost disease. So a six-year-old Freyr could not help himself from creeping down from his bedroom with his beloved stuffed bunny gripped by the ears to see this mysterious man that his father liked and admired so much.
Wakahisa was at his house for a dinner party. Freyr was not allowed at adult parties, but even if he had been, he had also been sick for a few days with a strange fever that wouldn’t abate, which had kept him stuck in his room for what had seemed like ages to his six-year-old mind. So stealing out of his room to see his parents’ dinner guest sounded like the best idea ever.
As he carefully came down the stairs, his head felt odd like it was stuffed with cotton and he had to hold onto the railing’s spindles tightly so that he didn’t pitch forward and tumble down the stairs. He was alternately cold then hot. Right then though there were beads of sweat on his forehead and he was shivering slightly. But Freyr was determined to get at least one glimpse of a man from old Japan.
He made it down the stairs and hid by the doorway into the living room where Wakahisa was sitting sipping a glass of wine. He was surprisingly alone. Freyr thought he heard his father and mother’s voices farther in the house, looking for something perhaps or making sure everything was ready for dinner.
Wakahisa had long white hair that was tied in a neat ponytail at the base of his skull with a slender piece of black ribbon. He wore a white suit that looked far different than his father’s suits, but appeared quite perfect on the slender yet muscular man. Freyr estimated that Wakahisa was slightly shorter than his father but taller than his mother when she didn’t wear heels. He looked to be about forty years of age and he was handsome even in Freyr’s inexperienced gaze. The lines of his face were clean cut and graceful at the same time. But it was his eyes that Freyr wished to see most. He had heard that a Survivor’s eyes were “funny”, but he was pretty sure that didn’t mean laughing funny, but maybe scary funny. But he couldn’t really see them because Wakahisa wasn’t facing him, but then at that moment, the Japanese man turned and look straight at Freyr with a smile. How he had known Freyr was there had seemed like magic.
The little boy had gasped and hopped just like his beloved bunny would have if it had been alive and startled. “Oh!”
“Hello, Freyr-kun,” Wakahisa said, his voice rich and warm.
“Oh!” Freyr had repeated. The Japanese man knew his name! Though he added something on the end of it, ‘kun’, which sounded nice somehow.
Wakahisa smiled warmly. “You can come in and talk to me if you wish.”
Freyr gripped his bunny tighter but he slowly shuffled out from behind the wall and crossed over the threshold. “Are you … are you …”
“My name is Kei Wakahisa though you may call me Kei,” Wakahisa said and put down his wines glass on the low table in front of him.
He had never been allowed to call an adult by their first name before so Freyr wasn’t sure if he would truly be allowed to call the man ‘Kei’.
“Are you … Japanese?” Freyr’s voice had dropped very low as if it were a secret what race Wakahisa was.
Wakahisa tossed back his head and laughed. “Yes, yes, I am, though you make it seem like I am a unicorn or some other mythical beast.”
“Are – are unicorns real, too?” Freyr brightened immeasurably.
Wakahisa’s cobalt eyes widened in surprise and then he smiled again, this time more tenderly. “Some people will say they do not exist, but me? I am not certain of these things. I rule nothing out.”
“So maybe they’re real, too?” Freyr perked up.
Yes, maybe. There are far more miraculous things in this world than most people can ever comprehend,” Wakahisa said and Freyr’s heart beat rather fiercely at that. It sounded like the Japanese businessman might see things, too.
His parents normally just laughed when he said things like this. His mother was more indulgent than his father, but both of them were strident realists. His father was a keen businessman and his mother an attorney so neither was very imaginative in the same way Freyr was. His mother said that his imagination was what made him see things that no one else did. His mind was simply “making things up”.
Wakahisa patted the seat on the couch beside him. “Come sit with me and tell me about you. Tell me who is Freyr Brand.”
Freyr made his way to the edge of the couch where Wakahisa was sitting. He put his bunny on the couch cushion first before lifting himself up. He was wearing footie pajamas though and when he looked at his legs and feet they seemed much smaller than normal. Or maybe that was the fever making him see funny things. Once Freyr was seated on the couch, one of Wakahisa’s elegant hands went to Freyr’s forehead. He touched it and frowned.
“You have a fever, Freyr-kun,” he said softly.
“I won’t get you sick, I promise!” Already, Freyr knew he would never do anything to harm the handsome man in front of him. He could already sense that he liked the man very much.
“I am not worried about that,” the Japanese businessman said. “I am worried about you.”
“I’m okay,” Freyr declared stoutly. He ignored the fact that the room was spinning a little. When he looked into Wakahisa’s steady cobalt gaze, everything seemed completely steady and safe. “I am.”
“You are?” Wakahisa cocked his head to the side.
“I am Freyr Brand. You asked who is Freyr Brand,” Freyr pointed out quite logically.
Wakahisa snorted softly. “Yes, I did. But what is special about you, Freyr-kun? What is inside of you that makes you … you?”
Freyr contemplated that for a long moment. He found himself saying, “I … I … see things.”
“You see things?” Wakahisa’s voice sunk low with surprise. His hand was back on Freyr’s forehead, but the fever wasn’t the cause of him seeing things. Freyr saw things when he was healthy as well as sick.
“Things,” Freyr said, his voice sounded strange, like it wasn’t his at all. His lips and tongue felt mushy. He was so hot and cold at the same time. He found himself adding, “I see things that Mommy and Daddy can’t see, that no one can, but they are there. And then … then I draw them.”
In fact, right at that moment, his feverish gaze glimpsed blooming colors all around the room. Crimsons, oranges, yellows, except in one corner it was pure black. His gaze focused on that corner. Why was it so black? The blackness seemed to grow and Freyr drew in a deep breath as his body stiffened suddenly with fear.
“Are you seeing something now, Freyr-kun?” Wakahisa’s voice was sharp.
Freyr couldn’t speak. He blindly reached for the stylus and tablet on the table and turned the device on to his drawing program. Freyr began to draw. He didn’t take his eyes from the corner where the blackness now lapped at the carpet and streamed across the wall like oil. Finally, his hand stopped moving and Wakahisa tenderly took the tablet from him to look at what he had drawn. Freyr forced his gaze away from the spreading oily blackness and looked down at the tablet at the same time.
The world began to spin wildly as he saw the image that he had drawn there. It wasn’t simply blackness, but people. It looked like hundreds of them climbing out of a black pit. Their mouths were open with hunger or rage. Their hair was all long and snarled. Their eyes were empty black pits. They were coming. They were coming!
“Have you seen this before?” Wakahisa whispered. He was so pale.
“Just -- just now. I feel … feel funny.”
Wakahisa suddenly dropped the tablet as if it was on fire and his arms caught Freyr as the little boy pitched forward off the couch. He was so hot! He was so cold! The world was being swallowed by black, hungry mouths! He said some of those things to Wakahisa or maybe he just imagined he had.
Faintly, Freyr had heard his mother’s voice, “My God, what’s wrong with Freyr?”
“He is very sick! We must get him to a hospital now!” Wakahisa cried. “There is no time to waste!”
He had then felt himself being lifted up in Wakahisa’s strong arms and carried out of his house. And that was all that Freyr remembered of that day though his parents had later told him that it was determined he meningitis. It had spread to his brain. It would have killed him in a matter of hours if he hadn’t snuck down to see Wakahisa and the Japanese businessman hadn’t recognized how ill he was.
The tablet that Freyr had drawn that terrible image on was gone by the time that Freyr came home from the hospital. His parents claimed to not know where it went. Freyr had been too afraid to ever ask Wakahisa about it. What if he had imagined the whole thing? What if he had just scribbled something, not figures, but just junk? He didn’t want Wakahisa to have to tell him that his drawing had been nothing but the fever.
Whatever the case, the Japanese businessman had encouraged him to draw as much as he wanted afterward. To this day, Wakahisa would bring him expensive canvas, handmade paper, Japanese inks and brushes and whatever other things he could find that would stir Freyr’s creative spirit. Freyr sometimes wondered, if he really had drawn those people that day, if Wakahisa was hoping he would draw them again or something else meaningful.
But I never saw anything else like that after I recovered from the fever. It was like the fever burned that gift – or curse – right out of me. If it was ever real anyways. Kei still loves my work though. That’s why he commissioned me to paint his ancestor for him.
“Earth to Freyr!” Jake waved a hand in front of Freyr’s face.
Freyr shook himself as he realized he had been lost in his memory. “Oh, sorry, just concentrating on the painting.”
“Funny, you weren’t painting. You were just staring,” Jake said with a smarmy smile.
“I was thinking … about painting,” Freyr muttered. He leaned forward towards the canvas to touch up the samurai’s armor.
“You know, we haven’t had a chance to hang out much this year and I was thinking that maybe we should take part of the summer to get –”
Thankfully, the ding of Freyr’s comm indicating an incoming call stopped Jake from inviting himself to Freyr’s home for the summer. The image on the vid screen split from showing just the scroll to showing the scroll on one side and his mother’s face on the other. He flicked his fingers over the holographic image that was displayed over his right forearm. He had been fitted with a dermal comm when he was a child, because of his mother’s work as a prosecutor. It was a tracking device as well as a media player.
Jake faded out of his room with a gesture that said they should talk later. Freyr intended to avoid the guy altogether if he could help it and leave like a thief int he night. There was no way that Jake was meeting his dad or Wakahisa. He wouldn’t inflict Jake on his worst enemy.
“Mom?” he asked, his voice brightening. “What’s up? Werner’s not here yet so --”
“And he’s not going to be,” she said, her voice lit from within by laughter. “Because I am coming to pick you up! I’m about five minutes away!”
His joy at the thought of spending time with his mother immediately turned to panic as he looked around his room. His clothes weren’t packed. His bed still had the bedding on it. Not to mention his paints everywhere. Since they were living here next year, not everything had to go, but he hadn’t packed a thing! If it had been Werner picking him up, he wouldn’t have felt too bad about asking the man to wait around for a bit, but his incredibly busy mother who didn’t have time to waste was a whole other matter.
“Really? You’re – you’re five minutes from here?” Freyr knew he sounded guilty.
“Let me guess. You’re not ready!” She laughed again. “Well, that’s fine because I’ve picked up your favorite Chinese takeout. We can eat and pack you up. By the time we’ve finished all of the General Cho’s Chicken we’ll be on the road.”
Freyr flushed and rubbed the back of his neck. “Am I that predictable?”
“When you’re working on something for Kei, yes,” she said and he could almost hear her shaking her head in amusement.
Freyr toed the scuffed wooden floor of his bedroom. “The painting’s got to be perfect.”
“I know and I’m sure it will be. You’re too hard on yourself, Freyr,” she said gently.
Freyr immediately started capping his paints and cleaning his brushes as he continued to talk to her. At least he could have something done before she came. He would have to finish the painting at home. “So how did I get so lucky to have you picking me up?”
“Because I want to see you desperately. You are my namesake after all,” she said. “And you also happen to be my favorite son.”
“Your only son,” Freyr pointed out with a wry grin as he continued to clean his brush in linseed oil.
“That, too,” she admitted. “Can’t a mother just want to see her only son and spend time with him?”
“Of course, but Dad told me that you were working on some big case involving triads or something.” Freyr vaguely knew that triads were Chinese criminal organizations much like the Japanese yakuza or the Italian and Russian mafias. His mother was the lead federal prosecutor in the Organized and White Collar Crime Division of the San Francisco office. People thought she should run for mayor and then governor, but her interest lay in putting the bad guys away and keeping the citizens safe.
“I am,” the joy in her voice dimmed and she sounded almost stressed. Her next words confirmed it, “But I … I wanted to get away from it.”
Freyr’s eyebrows rose at his mother’s confession. “You? Wanting to take a break? My awesome, hard-charging, type A mother wants to take a break?”
“Yes, even me, Freyr.” Her voice dropped down as she said, “This case I’m working on is … different.”
“Can you talk about it?” Freyr asked as he paused in cleaning his brushes. Normally, she couldn’t speak about her cases, but he sensed she really wanted to now. Sometimes he acted as a sounding board for her. He went to his door and shut it just in case Jake was lingering nearby and could overhear.
“I – I shouldn’t but … I’m feeling a little … well, nuts,” she said with a laugh that wasn’t mirthful at all.
“Tell me. Whatever it is, Mom. I don’t know if I can help, but I do know that talking aids you in getting things straight,” Freyr said. He hid his alarm at her words.
She sighed in relief and he imagined her running her hand through her long dark blond hair. “You’re right. It does. And I’m so grateful that you would do this for me.”
“Listen to one of the smartest people I know talk about how to stop criminals? Uhm, I’m pretty sure that isn’t a hardship,” Freyr answered her lightly.
“Yes, well … I did tell you that you’re my favorite son, didn’t I?” Her voice turned serious though as she then asked, “Do you believe in magic, Freyr?”
Her words were so startling that at first he didn’t answer. This was his mother who had never believed in anything she couldn’t have tested and confirmed by three different forensic scientists. She didn’t even believe what happened in front of her eyes oftentimes. She had seen too many eyewitnesses be wrong. Finally, he sputtered out, “M-magic?”
“Chinese Black Magic to be exact,” she said the words with a playful tint to her voice, but he also heard a uneasy undertone mixed with it.
“Uhm, I can’t say I’ve considered whether Chinese Black Magic exists,” Freyr responded honestly. “What’s this have to do with your case?”
“The people I’m going after believe in magic,” she said.
“Okay, it’s like those drug runners from Mexico that believed in Palo Mayombe, right? That it would make them invisible to cops?” Freyr remembered an earlier case she’d prosecuted.
“I thought the same thing at first, but …”
“But?” he prodded.
“I’ve seen something, Freyr, something I can’t explain. There is no scientific explanation for it either,” she said.
“What did you see?”
“A phoenix rising,” she said and then suddenly she let out a surprised gasp.
“Mom? Mom?” he repeated when she didn’t respond. The call hadn’t cut off. The comm still showed that they were connected.
“I’m – I’m here, Freyr,” she said, her voice though sounded so strange, almost strangled with excitement or fear, he couldn’t tell which. “I’ll – I’ll be up in a moment. Just – just wait for me.”
“Mom, what –” Freyr began, but she had already hung up.
Freyr stood there, perplexed for a moment, before he went to the large window that looked out at the street. His apartment was on the third floor of a six story brick building on a small side street. He pressed his forehead to the glass and looked down. He saw his mother’s large black SUV parked just outside the door to his apartment. The windows were tinted so he couldn’t see inside. He waited for a few minutes, expecting her to get out of the SUV, but she didn’t.
She must have already gotten out, he thought. He gazed up and down the street, thinking that she had gotten out to take another call. Or maybe she had seen someone she knew in the street and had gone to talk with them. But no one was out there. He kept expecting or hoping to hear the comm chime again to tell him that she was at the door, waiting to be buzzed up, but no chime came and the SUV’s driver door didn’t open. Maybe she’s still in the car. What the hell’s going on?
Freyr brought up the tracker program that his parents had allowed to be installed. It enabled the three of them to know where each other was at all times. He searched for his mother. He saw the ping of her location at first from the city view, his city, then the street view, his street, and finally it narrowed down to the physical location on the street. She was in the alley that ran next to his building.
What would she be doing in an alley?
A wave of unease went through Freyr. First, the strange phone call and now his mother hanging out in an alley at night? This wasn’t right. He charged out of his room, right past Jake, who was still lingering hopefully near his door.
“Hey, Freyr! Where are you going?” Jake called after him.
“To get my mother,” Freyr said, which he knew would mean nothing to Jake.
Freyr didn’t take the elevator, but instead headed down the stairs. His heart pounded sickly in his chest as he saw that his mother still hadn’t left the alleyway. What was she doing in there? He made it to the lobby and pushed open the heavy, locked outer door. The night was cool and immediately goose flesh appeared on his bare arms. He hustled into the alley.
Night had fallen and the streetlamps from the main street did not cast much light into the alley. There was one light at the far end of the alley. It was a dim green-yellow color. It flickered at him like one of those bug zappers.
“Mom!” Freyr called as he strode down the alley in his half-tied black boots. His heart was pounding in his chest and his saliva tasted sour. When she didn’t answer, he called again, more frantically this time, “MOM!”
The light at the end of the alley snapped and buzzed. Freyr saw sparks actually fly from the light and cascade onto the alleyway’s dank road. The light flared for a moment and Freyr thought he saw two people, one was his tall curvaceous mother while the other was a slender, stooped figure.
“Hey! Hey!” Freyr called, trying to sound threatening. “Get the hell away from my mother! What are you doing --”
Freyr’s voice died as the alleyway was suddenly lit by green flame. He brought one hand up to his face to shield his eyes as the light was so intense, so blinding. He kept walking forwards though. He had to get to his mother. Then he heard her scream just as the green light died out and the fixture on the alley wall imploded in a shower of sparks
Freyr blindly raced forward. He could hardly see. But his foot touched something on the ground. His chest seized as he looked down at what it was.
Freyr dropped to his knees beside the stricken woman. She did not move. Her chest did not rise and fall with her breath. She was still as stone. Her hair covered her face like a veil. With trembling hands, Freyr moved the hair away from her eyes. She had to just be unconscious! She had just fallen and hit her head after the flare of light, but even in the darkness, he knew that was not so. Her eyes stared sightlessly upwards. Her lips were slightly parted, but no breath issued from them. She was dead. He knew it.
Agony and shock clawed at Freyr’s chest. He was shaking so badly that he couldn’t hardly lift her head up into his lap. He was saying something. It was “no” over and over again. And that when he saw it. A burn mark on her clavicle. When he had lifted her to cradle her against him, he had disarranged her shirt and that’s how he saw the mark. At first, he couldn’t make it out because it was too dark, but slowly more light, a cold blue-ish white light, spilled over them both. Freyr didn’t care where it came from at first. It allowed him to see that the burn was in the shape of a phoenix rising.
His breath frosted the air. His trembling was now as much from soul-deep cold of the alley as anguish over his mother. His head lifted. In some ways, he wasn’t surprised by what he saw. In the back of his mind, he had been been waiting for this since the day he met Wakahisa and saw the figures in the darkness. He knew what they were now just as he knew what this one was that floated down the alley towards him.
Wakahisa must have recognized what he had drawn that day, because the Japanese businessman had seen one, too. He was a Survivor after all and the things that Freyr had drawn that day, the thing that was touching his face right at this moment, was a Ghost.