Norah walked solemnly toward the girl who had collapsed. She knelt beside the girl, and looked into her ashen eyes. The girl turned her head and met Norah's gaze. She was still alive, but most likely wouldn't be for long. Norah looked up to Mike, who stood over her. Taking a moment just to feel her power tingling throughout her body, Norah commented, "We could heal her."
"No," Mike replied. He wasn't being cold; he answered the only way he could. He and Norah had fought against this girl, and they had won. Now, they had to deal with the consequences of what they'd done, and the girl had to die. "She's in pain," Mike commented. "We could end it all now."
"No," Norah answered. Nature would take its course.
Mike knelt, and Norah held the girl's hand. The girl gazed at Norah, then took hold of Norah's right arm. Norah recognized the gesture as a sign of friendship, and didn't pull away. "You're safe," she whispered. "You don't need to be afraid, Mike and I will be here for you. You don't have to be alone."
Alone. Lisa's family had died alone, and all the people Lisa had murdered had really been alone, too. They'd all been victims, separated from the people they'd loved. The boy Lisa had allowed to live was alone now. He and Lisa were the only people living who had witnessed what had happened, and Lisa would be gone soon enough. She wouldn't be alone, though. The two were with her, and most importantly, they understood her.
Lisa looked to the girl who knelt beside her. Suddenly, Lisa realized how important it was that she relate all that had happened to the girl and the boy. They understood the nature of their magic powers, and they were the only people who could understand what she'd done. They needed to learn what Lisa had discovered too late.
She took a deep breath to begin to speak, but she only made gargling noises. The girl clutched one of Lisa's hands all the harder, and the boy dropped to his knees to better hear Lisa struggle to speak. She took another deep breath, then, once again, attempted to articulate.
"I'm . . . . not . . . . alone," she began. The girl only leaned forward, sympathy in her eyes. Lisa repeated the words more clearly. "I'm not alone." She gasped for another breath. "I'm with you. For so long, I've been alone. My family was gone. They went away, to experience death without me, and they left me here all alone. Now, I'm not alone anymore. I can make their journey."
The boy and the girl didn't argue. They knew that Lisa spoke not out of desperation or grief, but because she knew the truth. Death was not something to be feared or abhorred. She was simply moving on to a new life.
"I was afraid," she said, fighting to get the words out before she lost her breath forever. "When my family left, I was afraid to feel, and so I made myself not feel. I was even afraid to fear, and I made others fear for me. I sent others to Death before me, and I shouldn't have done it, but you have to understand that nothing is as I perceived it."
Now, the girl made the mistake of speaking. First, she made a shushing noise, then she sighed, "Listen, you don't need to do this. We understand, and we're not going to judge you. Don't trouble yourself."
"You don't understand!" Lisa hissed in response. "I need to tell you. I sought out people, and I killed them. My actions were evil, not because Death is unpleasant, but because my place is not to judge. I sent them on their journey, and I never had any right to decide who should die and who shouldn't. I killed them when they were away from their families and those they loved. I killed them when they were alone."
Then, with great difficulty, Lisa recounted what she'd done. With each word she said, she needed to gasp for breath, and she felt increasing guilt as her story unfolded, but Lisa described all that had happened to her, beginning with the death of her family, and describing in detail how she'd murdered all her victims.
It was the hardest, most important thing she'd ever done.
At any other time, Mike would probably have been horrified by what the girl described to him. She mixed the mundane with the terrible, describing beautiful details of the sun's light or the tiny flowers she found growing in a warehouse with disconcerting details of how she'd murdered her many victims. Mike would never have imagined she'd had so many if she'd never told him.
When she was finished relating her story, however, Mike looked at her not with disgust, but with pity. She'd done wrong, and she'd known it was wrong when she'd done it, but Mike didn't blame the girl for her actions. Her story was tragic, most of all because Mike couldn't place the blame on anyone.
He wished he could find the people who had murdered the girl's family, but he knew that he couldn't hold them accountable for the girl's actions. She'd made the choice to react as she had, but Mike couldn't believe she was guilty for those she had killed. All that had happened had been an epic mistake.
With every word the girl recounted, her struggles simply to believe were more apparent. She didn't have much time left, but to Mike's astonishment, a change came over her even as she spoke.
The dead gray color of her face had been replaced by a faint but almost healthy glow. It wasn't much, and she still looked dead, but Mike felt hope when he saw the change that had come over the girl. She was better.
Her story finished, Lisa closed her eyes a final time. Strangely, she felt warm, and comfortable, as if she'd finally been granted permission to sleep in a soft, warm bed. Lisa drifted into her final sleep, and let go. She drifted away.
Before Norah's eyes, the girl's body crumpled away to nothing but ashes. Her fingers remained stained gray while Norah rose to her feet. Already, a warm breeze carried away the evidence of the dead girl. For some reason, as Norah turned away to face Mike, she felt certain that come spring, this place would be filled with life.
When Mike reached the car, Mr. Bernett was awake, and shaking his head as if he was attempting to clear his vision. Suddenly, Mike knew that Mr. Bernett had a slight concussion. Norah appeared at Mike's side, and in the blink of an eye, they cleared Mr. Bernett's mind. Mike hadn't been certain he could do it until the girl had died, but now Mike felt as if he could move mountains.
"What happened?" Mr. Bernett asked, looking from Norah's grim face to Mike's. Perhaps the answer was apparent, or maybe he picked up the answer from his or Norah's mind. However, he knew, Mr. Bernett bowed his head and said, "You had to kill her. I'm sorry."
"You don't need to be sorry," Norah replied. "Death is nothing to mourn."
"It's not even an end, really," Mike said, finishing Norah's thought. "It's just a new part of life we don't understand."
Mr. Bernett looked up in amazement. "How did you know?" he asked. "I've barely begun to teach you. How could you discover the last lesson on your own, when so many fail to understand it when they are told?"