Chapter Two

9 a.m. the next morning

Zac sat up in bed, drawing in an old sketchbook; drawing Starlight. He wasn't very good at it, but it still looked like her. Isaac had already gone down to scourge for food in the kitchen, and Taylor lay asleep on the lower bunk. Zac looked up when he heard a whooshing noise, and Taylor stirred. The closet door slammed open and Starlight burst into the room, singing at the top of her lungs, off-key and completely flat.
"Just call me angel, of the morning, baaaaaaaaby..."
Taylor fell out of bed and hit the floor with a loud thump.
"AAAAAAAHHHHH! What the hell are you doing?!!?!?"
Zac started chuckling softly to himself, finding his brother's reaction to Starlight's performance the funniest thing he'd seen in a long time. Starlight, wearing a long black skirt with a slit up the side and long-sleeved silver top, sat down on Taylor's bed and giggled.
"Oh, just proving that my dreams of ever being a back-up singer for Hanson are pretty much science fiction," she answered. She shimmered slightly, but looked solid. Taylor reached out and touched her wrist, hoping to feel a pulse. He hadn't felt one the day before, but he still prayed he would now.
"How come we can touch, hear, and see you, but no one else can?" Taylor gazed at her curiously, demanding an answer but not being too harsh getting one. Starlight sighed.
"Because I'm dead, Tay. I was killed in a car crash. And there are only three ways of ever becoming alive again." Her eyes suddenly filled with tears, and Zac punched Taylor in the ribs for upsetting her.
"What's that?" Zac looked up, above her head. No halo. Damn.
"Well, I either totally piss off my mistress and have her kick me out, which means Saint Beelzebub himself has dibs on me later, I prove myself worthy of life again and my mistress gives me an honourable second chance, or I have sex with a mortal. And all three are pretty out of the question right now." She sniffled, and both Taylor and Zac reached out to brush away separate tears. She smiled through the pain and said quietly,
"Gee...I feel loved. If only you two had been around when Jeff got drunk..."
Zac blushed.
" you have wings? A halo?"
She laughed softly to herself.
"Zac, that's only for those religious freaks who declare I'm the omen of the coming apocalypse." Still, she closed her eyes briefly and a faint shimmer of light appeared above her head. It was 24-karat gold ring. She squinched her eyes shut, concentrating hard. With a big pop and a cloud of feathers, fluffy white wings appeared on her back.
"There, I'm a sterotype. Happy, Zac?" Her tone held sarcasm, but she smiled warmly. He reached out and ran his finger over one of the feathers, attracting a cloud of silver dust that looked like the dust she'd made her entrance in the night before. Starlight shivered and blinked, and the wings were gone. Only the faint silver ring remained floating above her head, sparkling and showing itself off for the world to see.
"Why are you here, anyway?" Taylor reached out to touch the halo, but his hand passed through it. She poked him between his eyes.
"Because you two are in trouble. You're headed straight for my dear friend Lucifer Mafisto if you don't be careful," she answered. Taylor looked confused. "The skaters," Starlight started. "That was the first bad choice. Your new friends, Tay. Then it was the smoking...a pack a day. And want to go tripping on LSD. I tried it... the first high was the best. Then it got scary. You're making bad choices, Tay. I don't want you to end up like Jeff...scaring the president's daughter while she's undressing."
Zac looked relieved, smiling a little and looking innocent. Starlight turned to him.
"And YOU," she declared, pointing at him, "You are the most kamikazi person I have ever laid eyes upon. First the Tylenol overdose that nearly gave your mother a heart attack, then the 'car accident'...and the razor last night! Life isn't a right! It's a privilege! I'd like to be back here for good!"
Zac blushed.
"Sorry," he whispered. Starlight shook her head.
"No apologies," she muttered, and grabbed his hand. "I wanna show you something. Close your eyes."
Zac closed his eyes, and Starlight seemed to be ripped away from him. He opened his eyes to look for her, and found himself looking at the room...much later. Taylor was sprawled on his bed, pale and sick looking, and Isaac was throwing Zac's things in boxes and putting them in the closet.
"It was pretty stupid," Taylor remarked. Zac looked at him. He was older, probably about nineteen. His hair hung in greasy strings, he was wheezing slightly, and his eyes were dull and clouded. It was a horrible sight, to see his big brother like that. Isaac looked up sharply.
"You're no better," he replied. "You're just doing it the slow painful way."
Zac was becoming very scared, and wanted to leave quickly. Taylor had to have the last word though, and spoke up,
"Yeah...but in front of those girls? You think he could have put the bullet through the back of his head in private..."
It was too much for poor Zac. He burst into tears and squeezed his eyes shut, hoping to get rid of the awful picture. Somewhere in the back of his head Zac was ashamed to be crying at thirteen, but it was such a frightening notion... he didn't want to die so soon. He'd never touch a hand razor again. He'd rather have horrible migraines for the rest of his life than look at Tylenol again. And he'd take the bus for the rest of his life. He felt Starlight's hand again, and opened his tear-filled eyes. When he saw Taylor, the normal, sixteen-year-old Taylor, he began to cry harder and wrapped his arms around his brother's neck.
"Hey, it's okay, Zac. I'm right here...I'm not going anywhere."
Zac buried his face in Taylor's shoulder and sobbed, terrified beyond belief. Starlight's face fell, and she paled. The halo dimmed slowly until it went out completely, and her figure began to shimmer at the edges, though she would disappear at any given moment. Taylor looked at her.
"What's wrong?"
"Didn't you see it too? You were in it," she said softly. He nodded.
"I saw it, from my eyes," he said. Starlight trembled.
"I hate making people cry," she whispered. "It makes me feel so awful...I'm so sorry, Zac..." she dimmed at a steady rate until she was nothing more than a shadow, then disappeared altogether, leaving Taylor alone to hold Zac until he stopped crying...which looked like it was going to take a while.

"We're the same people we were five minutes ago when nobody cared."

- Taylor Hanson Thanks Loz

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