"Oh, those are the bones," she replied casually, as though pointing out a rather interesting but obscure feature on a nature walk.
I wasn't sure I heard her right. "Did you say bones?"
In a flash, she turned and her penetrating gaze riveted me. "I did. Like I said, there are things you need to learn. This is one of them."
"But there's so many!" I exclaimed. "Who are they?"
She turned away and kept walking, more quickly now, while Henry pranced about, sniffing at the bones as though the odor possessed some mysterious cosmic significance. She glanced toward me, then turned away. "These are our subjects, Angel. They were once alive, of course, but now they are dead. Or as good as dead. Their ghosts remain. After all, where else could they go? They are everywhere, all around us. Do you not feel them? They're crying out to you, Angel. If only you'd listen, really listen, you would hear their voices. But the problem is, you're too wrapped up in yourself. You can no longer hear their voices because you have wrapped yourself in a cloak of madness as a refuge from the pain you refuse to endure in that other world.
I really had no desire to hear any more. It was all so tiresome. Really, I should never have come back. But the obvious question burned inside me. I just had to know. "Why did they die?" I asked.
She looked at me then, and I felt as though I were looking into a mirror. Her words were not unkind, yet seemed to pierce my mind like darts. "They died because we live in a world given over to corruption. It is the way of all flesh. This is the simple answer. But to answer more precisely, they died because you murdered them."
Angel's head with reeling at the impact of those words. Every fiber of her being strove to deny the accusation, yet she could not. But whom these souls were and how she could have murdered so many of them was beyond her comprehension. Whatever happened, it must have been eons ago, in a place far beyond the confines of her earthly experience. She was Angel Santana, fourteen years old, a troubled girl who had been cut adrift on the turbulent seas of life. Her earliest memories were of that life, of her gradual retreat into a world of fantasy in order to escape the painful reality into which she had been born. And yet....had there not always been another life beneath and beyond the first, an alternate reality struggling to break through, yet ever remaining at the edges of her awareness? And even now she could not go there. It was all so dreadfully...dreadful, sending shivers down her spine. Her only thought at the moment was to get back to the Manor, to warm the numbness that had sunk into her by the flames of that roaring fire.
I longed more than anything to return to the Manor, to bask in the warmth and comfort of the fire. I was so very, very cold and I simply could not think straight. But when I looked back the way we had come, I was shocked to discover that the Manor was no longer there, only that endless stretch of desolate landscape as far as the eye could see.