Rituals and celebrations had never been important to Julia, but two years had passed since Jason’s death. From the time they met, they had spent every winter solstice together, and this year, Julia wanted to remember that tradition.
For the first time since that night, she was back in the artificial space where the mana worm had attacked. Nine concentric rings of candles surrounded her as she sat thinking about her friend.
There were no stars above, so she had no real sense of the passage of time. At some point, she noticed a translucent image of Jason sitting on the ground facing her.
“Tonight’s the solstice?”
“Are . . . are you real?”
He gave her one of his mischievous smiles. “Does it matter?”
“Yes. I’d like to know if I’ve started hallucinating.”
“If you think I’m real, then I am. If you don’t, then this is just wishful thinking.”
“Death hasn’t changed you.”
His smile got a little bigger. “No, I don’t suppose it has.”
He sounded like Jason. Spoke like Jason. Yet Julia found it difficult to believe; she didn’t want to open the door to disappointment. Still, maybe he was right; maybe it didn’t matter if he was really Jason. This night was about remembering him, and it didn’t much matter if this was just her mind trying to recreate him.
“So how is it? Being dead, I mean.”
“Boring. But time flows differently, so I don’t think it has been boring for long.”
“No great revelations? No insight into the great mysteries of the universe?”
“Sadly, no. Of course, if I did have any such insight, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to share it. Anyway, enough about all things I can’t talk about. What’s been going on with you?”
“Well, Rebecca was possessed.”
“Yes. Everyone helped to save her. Except Thomas. As soon as she left the house, he gave up on her.”
“But she’s okay now?”
“Yes. It’s quite a story.”
“We have all night.”
For the next several hours, Julia recounted Rebecca’s story as completely as she could. Throughout the telling, Jason listened without interruption. Only when she finished did he speak again.
“It sounds as though you are feeling more a part of the house.”
“I suppose so.”
“That’s good.” Jason looked up, though Julia couldn’t see anything herself. “Night is nearly over. I have to leave now.”
“Can I see you again sometime?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“I miss you.”
“I know. I miss you, too.” With that Jason faded away.