“Everything is energy.”
Damen’s dark eyes focus on mine, urging me to listen, really listen this time. “Everything around us—” His arm sweeps before him, tracing a fading horizon that’ll soon fade to black. “Everything in this seemingly solid universe of ours isn’t solid at all—it’s energy—pure vibrating energy. And while our perception may convince us that things are either solid or liquid or gaseous—on the quantum level it’s all just particles within particles—it’s all just energy.”
I press my lips together and nod, his voice overpowered by the one in my head urging: Tell him! Tell him now! Quit stalling, and just get it over with! Hurry, before he starts talking again!
But I don’t. I don’t say a word. I just wait for him to continue so I can delay even further.
“Raise your hand.” He nods, palm out, moving toward mine. Lifting my arm slowly, cautiously, determined to avoid any and all physical contact when he says, “Now tell me, what do you see?”
I squint, unsure what he’s after, then shrugging I say, “Well, I see pale skin, long fingers, a freckle or two, nails in serious need of a manicure …”
“Exactly.” He smiles, as though I just passed the world’s easiest test. “But if you could see it as it really is, you wouldn’t see that at all. Instead you’d see a swarm of molecules containing protons, neutrons, electrons, and quarks. And within those tiny quarks, down to the most minuscule point, you’d see nothing but pure vibrating energy moving at a speed slow enough that it appears solid and dense, and yet quickly enough that it can’t be observed for what it truly is.”
I narrow my eyes, not sure I believe it. Never mind the fact that he’s been studying this stuff for hundreds of years.
“Seriously, Ever. Nothing is separate.” He leans toward me, fully warmed up to his subject now. “Everything is one. Items that appear dense, like you and I, and this sand that we’re sitting on, are really just a mass of energy vibrating slowly enough to seem solid, while things like ghosts and spirits vibrate so quickly they’re nearly impossible for most humans to see.”
“I see Riley,” I say, eager to remind him of all the time I used to spend with my ghostly sister. “Or at least I used to, you know, before she crossed the bridge and moved on.”
“And that’s exactly why you can’t see her anymore.” He nods. “Her vibration is moving too fast. Though there are those who can see past all of that.”
I gaze at the ocean before us, the swells rolling in, one after another. Endless, unceasing, immortal—like us.
“Now raise your hand again and bring it so close to mine we just nearly touch.”
I hesitate, filling my palm with sand, unwilling to do it. Unlike him, I know the price, the dire consequences the slightest skin-on-skin contact can bring. Which is why I’ve been avoiding his touch since last Friday. But when I peer at him again, his palm out, waiting for mine, I take a deep breath and lift my hand too—gasping when he draws so close the space that divides is razor thin.
“Feel that?” He smiles. “That tingle and heat? That’s our energy connecting.” He moves his hand back and forth, manipulating the push and pull of the energy force field between us.
“But if we’re all connected like you say, then why doesn’t it all feel the same?” I whisper, drawn by the undeniable magnetic stream that links us, causing the most wonderful warmth to course through my body.
“We are all connected, all of us made of the same vibrating source. But while some energy leaves you cold and some leaves you lukewarm, the one that you’re destined for? It feels just like this.”
I close my eyes and turn, allowing the tears to stream down my cheeks, no longer able to keep them in check. Knowing I’m barred from the feel of his skin, the touch of his lips, the solid warm comfort of his body on mine. This electric energy field that trembles between us is the closest I’ll get, thanks to the horrible decision I made.
“Science is just now catching up with what metaphysicians and the great spiritual teachers have known for centuries. Everything is energy. Everything is one.”
I can hear the smile in his voice as he draws closer, eager to entwine his fingers with mine. But I move away quickly, catching his eye just long enough to see the look of hurt that crosses his face—the same look he’s been giving me since I made him drink the antidote that returned him to life. Wondering why I’m acting so quiet, so distant, so remote—refusing to touch him when just a few weeks before I couldn’t get enough. Incorrectly assuming it’s because of his hurtful behavior—his flirting with Stacia, his cruelty toward me—when the truth is, it has nothing to do with that. He was under Roman’s spell, the entire school was. It wasn’t his fault.
What he doesn’t know is that while the antidote returned him to life, the moment I added my blood to the mix it also ensured we could never be together.
For all of eternity.
“Ever?” he whispers, voice deep and sincere. But I can’t look at him. Can’t touch him. And I certainly can’t utter the words he deserves to hear:
I messed up—I’m so sorry—Roman tricked me, and I was desperate and dumb enough to fall for his ploy—And now there’s no hope for us because if you kiss me, if we exchange our DNA—you’ll die—
I can’t do it. I’m the worst kind of coward. I’m pathetic and weak. And there’s just no way I can find it within me.
“Ever, please, what is it?” he asks, alarmed by my tears. “You’ve been like this for days. Is it me? Is it something I’ve done? Because you know I don’t remember much of what happened, and the memories that are starting to surface, well, you must know by now that wasn’t the real me. I would never intentionally hurt you. I’d never harm you in any way.”
I hug myself tightly, scrunching my shoulders and bowing my head. Wishing I could make myself smaller, so small he could no longer see me. Knowing his words are true, that he’s incapable of hurting me, only I could do something so hurtful, so rash, so ridiculously impulsive. Only I could be stupid enough to fall for Roman’s bait. So eager to prove myself as Damen’s one true love—wanting to be the only one who could save him—and now look at the mess that I’ve made.
He moves toward me, sliding his arm around me, grasping my waist and pulling me near. But I can’t risk the closeness, my tears are lethal now, and must be kept far from his skin.
I scramble to my feet and run toward the ocean, curling my toes at its edge and allowing the cold white froth to splash onto my shins. Wishing I could dive under its vastness and be carried by the tide. Anything to avoid saying the words—anything to avoid telling my one true love, my eternal partner, my soul mate for the last four hundred years, that while he may have given me eternity—I’ve brought us our end.
I remain like that, silent and still. Waiting for the sun to sink until I finally turn to face him. Taking in his dark shadowy outline, nearly indistinguishable from the night, and speaking past the sting in my throat when I mumble, “Damen … baby … there’s something I need to tell you.”
Excerpted from Shadowland by Alyson Noël.
Copyright © 2009 by Alyson Noël.
Published in September 2010 by St. Martin’s Griffin.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.