Happy Halloween! Here’s a piece of the novel:
Diane just wanted to make things better. That’s why she invited Berry to the cemetery. Struggling Berry. Miserable Berry. Berry who was too soft for her still hard posthuman life. And unlucky, too.
But it was a sunny October day, 67 degrees. This kind of weather was unusual in the Pisgah rain forest. It was weird for the vampires to be out in the brilliant autumn day. They wore their extreme sunglasses and their big brimmed hats. They were careful about the sun, just as humans, too, ought to be in these days of diminished ozone.
They hiked from one of the little-used pull-offs on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There were no signs. The road was one of the hundreds of abandoned mountain roads that had been hillbilly havens, little scratch farms with old apple trees, twisted and hardly baring anymore. Diane led the way and Berry huffed beside her. Diane said, “Here’s the turn, such an odd little path, don’t you think?”
“I’m lost,” said Berry.
“It’s okay. Sometimes it’s the best thing,” Diane replied, smiling with her very white teeth. She didn’t bother to tuck her fangs.
The historic graves were off yet another branch of the baroque system of footways, forking and forking again. They wandered quietly through the overgrown headstones, touching the names, feeling the worn granite or sandstone. “Not much marble up here,” said Berry.
“No, they weren’t that kind of people. Let’s sit,” Diane suggested. They sat on stones of a family. Diane chose Mable and Berry, Bartholomew. “I bet they called him Bart,” she mused. Then she startled and stood abruptly. “I just felt Mable.” Berry said. Diane smiled, mischief in her eyes. “Are you communicated with the dead, Berry?”
“I don’t know. Am I?” asked Berry and sniffed the air.
“Yes, you probably are. Nothing like connecting with the spirit world. Speaking of which, I talked to my mother just yesterday. I interrupted her bridge game on the other side.”
“Ghosts play bridge?”
“Yes. You can open a door to that world and walk right in, if you like. The place is too big for humans—gives them vertigo—but not for you and me.”
“It might be too big for me,” said Berry. She picked a dandelion, its head seedy-white and ready to blow. She puffed it into the air between them. The flying seeds danced in the weirdly warm breeze. “I may not be ready to do the door opening thing.”
“Hey, if you can read human minds, you can open a door between worlds. Respect the dead and you can do anything you like. You don’t have to be afraid. Play with them. They like it.” As she said this, Diane snapped her fingers and made sparks among the drifting seeds. Then she continued: “Humans are afraid of ghosts. But playing in the spirit world is as natural as playing with your grandchildren. Spirits can be charming and naughty and smart. Spirit-play. It’s something you learn by doing.” Berry tore the dandelion stem into little bits between thumb and finger, dropping the pieces in the long grass that lay down under the falling leaves.
“I don’t want to run into my father, that’s all.”
“Every woman has father issues. Don’t feel bad.”