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I tore my eyes away from the crimson stains. “Did you not take a potion?” I asked. “A light blue liquid administered by a witch. It separates a person from their body and turns them into a ghost.”

She looked at me as though I was crazy. “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about,” she said.

How could these people have become ghosts and not heard of the potion? From what Arron had told me, I’d gotten the impression that people who died normal deaths didn’t become ghosts. That was what the potion was designed for—detaching a person from their body, but still allowing them to remain in their previous existence without moving on to… whatever awaited after death.

I glanced around at the other ghosts again. They also looked blank at my mention of the potion. Maybe there was another way to become a ghost after all. Maybe Arron had not given me the full picture. Perhaps he had not even known it himself.

“Where have you all come from?” I asked, trying a different tack.

Lucinda was the first to reply. “From 1982. I died in a plane wreck.”

I raised a brow.

“The plane I was working on, chartered for Hawaii, crashed over the Pacific before we ever made it there,” she explained.

“And that’s how you became a ghost?”

Now it was the woman’s turn to quirk a brow. “Uh, yes.”

“But how?” I asked, more to myself than to her.

She shrugged. “How do I know? One minute I was being thrown about the plane and the next, the pain vanished and I became… this.” She eyed herself over.

I fixed my focus again on the other ghosts—particularly the section that did not appear to be from this century, or even the last.

“You didn’t all die in the same crash. Where are the rest of you from?”

Lucinda gestured toward a group of eight ghosts behind her—two children, five women, and one man. “They were on the plane with me. Passengers. As for the rest of these people, I’d never laid eyes on them in my life until arriving here on this island.”

An elderly man with an eyepatch over his right eye drifted toward me. He wore a beaver hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and black pants that stopped at his knees, beneath which were long brown stockings. “I died in a shipwreck, about two hundred years ago now. On a voyage from Japan to the Philippines.”

“I suspect you’ll find that most of these people here are from around the Pacific,” Lucinda murmured.

I was still trying to wrap my mind around how they could be ghosts—but one thing that was becoming amply clear was that they all appeared to have died in some kind of traumatic, sudden way. Perhaps being ripped from the world unexpectedly caused one to become a ghost? I could only speculate because these ghosts didn’t seem to have a clue as to the meaning behind their existence.

“And why are you all here on this island?”

“I suspect for the same reason that you are here,” the old one-eyed man said as he glanced over me from head to foot. “Did you not hear that heavenly tune? Is that not what beckoned you to this strange, dark island?”

“I was wandering somewhere near the coast of Hawaii,” Lucinda offered, her eyes growing distant with memory. “Not all that far from the plane wreck. Like the rest of us, I heard the melody calling to me across the waves. The most beautiful sound that I’d ever heard. I barely had a choice but to search for it. It was… like an angel calling me. I thought perhaps one had descended to finally end this half-life and coax me to heaven. I followed the tune for days. It disappeared sometimes and left me stranded in the middle of the ocean, but then it would start up again some hours later. Finally, I found this place. It is not heaven, but… it is somewhere I am meant to be. I cannot explain why, but as loud and shrill as the melody became on arrival… I do not want to be parted from it. I can’t bring myself to leave.”

“Where’s the tune coming from?” I demanded. “Who is playing it?”

“The man with the pipe,” one of the children of the air crash, to my right, squeaked.

My eyes shot toward her. “Man? Where?”

She raised a small hand and pointed toward the farmhouse.

The farmhouse. Leaving the crowd, I moved toward its front door. As I arrived outside of it, I caught the scraping of chairs against the floor. And then whispers that I couldn’t quite make out. I drifted through the old wooden door, and, appearing on the other side, the first thing that met my eyes was a long woodwind instrument propped up against the peeling wall near the door. Its body was thick and perhaps three feet in length. It was made of polished black wood, and it reminded me of a bassoon.

My gaze moved deeper into the farmhouse’s dank entrance room. The door to the living area was open, and from it glowed flickering candlelight. When I glided to the door and entered the sitting room, nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.

Jeramiah and the witch, Amaya, stood around two high wooden chairs.

Amaya wore a trailing maroon dress that covered her legs and arms and formed a turtleneck around her throat. Jeramiah was draped in a heavy black robe. The chairs they were gazing down at looked familiar. I could have sworn that they belonged to my mother and father—chairs they sat on during meetings in the Great Dome.

How did the two of them ever penetrate the boundary?

And what on earth are they doing here?

Chapter 14: Ben

I gaped at the couple as Jeramiah gripped the arm of one of the chairs. He turned it on its side and laid it down over the creaking floorboards.

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