Find out what Yara, from INTRINSICAL, is doing this Halloween!
A thin, light fog surrounds us as we cross the cemetery, creating the perfect ambience for October thirty first. The smell of flowers and moist earth—with a trace of decay and mold —envelope us as we make our trek across the expanse of grass, around a large, stone weeping angel.
“Let’s stop here,” Cherie suggests.
My grandma studies the landscape, her gaze concentrating on a large tree with sweeping branches before nodding.
I spread out the woolen blanket I took from Vovó’s closet and then set up a lounge chair for my grandma. As we settle onto the blanket, Cherie pulls out her snacks, a mix of candies from home and her favorites from here in Brazil.
The temperature drops, raising the hair on the back of my neck and sending goose pimples across my arms. Ghosts are near, watching us. They vary in age from a small toddler with brown curls and big dark eyes, to a stooped man with a long grey beard. Their clothes represent over five hundred years of different styles. They congregate at their final resting spots, which is part of the reason we're here.
In California some of my friends, Cherie especially, thought hanging out in a cemetery on Halloween sounded cool. But tonight our visit to this haunted location has nothing to do with Halloween or Brazil’s Saci. I’m here to honor my Waker heritage. Vovó brought me and my friend Cherie to a large cemetery near our home to witness what she calls the ação de abrir, the opening. Usually I steer clear of graveyards as carefully as I avoid hospitals, because they're so overrun with spirits needing help. In large groups, ghosts can become aggressive as they vie for attention and help, a special concern for me with my unique ‘gift’ of being able to be physically touched by them. They could hurt me. They have. A lot.
Tonight, though, the ghosts are silent, waiting for the stroke of midnight, when the golden light of eternity opens, giving those trapped here a second chance to cross over. It will last only a minute, but Vovó assures me it will be long enough.
Cherie flew in especially for the event, even though she can’t see ghosts. I’m glad to see she's put back on some of the weight she lost after Steve broke up with her last year. Her smile is big again, but her eyes don’t light up when she speaks the way they used to.
Cherie nudges me with her shoulder. “You know this is my second visit to Brazil since you moved here and you still haven’t come home. Two years is a long time to stay away.”
“I can’t believe it’s been two years since we graduated.” A twinge of guilt pinches my heart. “You know I wanted to visit, but I’ve been so busy with school I haven’t been able to get away.”
“Well, that’s what happens when you enroll in an accelerated program and try to earn two degrees at once.”
“I know. With that and Vovó’s training, I’ve barely had any time for Brent.”
Cherie bites her bottom lip, her forehead wrinkling and her eyes softening with concern. I prepare for the question before she asks. “Any progress on the Brent-cure front?”
I drop my gaze to the green and yellow blanket. “No.”
She puts her arm around me. “You will.”
“I hope so.” I take a steadying breath. “I’m sorry I wasn't there when everything happened last year.”
Cherie holds up her hand. “Let’s not talk about that right now. I’m okay.”
“Sorry, you’re right. No sad subjects tonight.”
Vovó smiles. “Tonight is about celebration and happiness.”
Cherie hands me a baggie of skittles with the green one picked out. She knows I don't like them, so she keeps those for herself. Before my brother Kevin died he used to eat the green ones for me, now Cherie and Brent do.
Vovó sits up straight. “It’s happening.”
Without Vovó’s warning, the sudden light would have blinded me. Even behind closed lids the beams dance across my vision and leave spots of color behind. Slowly, I open my eyes putting my hand up to shade them. It’s still too bright and I have to look away.
The spirits, so still till now, begin to react. Some put their heads down, other turn their back on the light, and a few others freeze, staring into the light with desperate longing on their faces. Only fifteen or so inch toward the light, smiles on their faces, arms outstretched.
My insides warm and my eyes fill with tears at their joy.
“Yara,” a voice calls. I don’t so much hear it with my ears as feel it with my soul. It’s a male voice, one I haven’t heard in years, not since the night he died.
Vovó hears it too, reverently whispering his name before I can. “Kevin.”
When he died, he was dating Cherie and she leaps to her feet at the same time I do. Cherie can’t see ghosts but she’s had practice listening to my one-sided conversations. She grabs my hand.
“Yara,” he calls again.
I untangle my hand from Cherie’s and move closer to the light, almost stumbling over headstones and grave markers in my haste. It never even occurred to me he might visit tonight. He never has before.
“Stop!” Kevin orders when I reach the edge of the other side. Without thinking of anything beyond seeing my brother again I almost threw myself into the light. I stop short, teetering, almost falling forward but Vovó’s weathered arms pull me back.
“I’ve got you,” she says in her soothing voice. I can feel her heart beating against my back.
Despite the intensity of the light, I can see Kevin’s beloved face. He grins and points at the Skittles bag clutched in my hand. “Still don’t like the green ones, huh?”
I nod. “I’ve missed you.” I force my hands to stay by my side when my heart yearns to throw my arms around him. “We’ve all missed you so much.”
He glances from me and Vovó to Cherie. The look of love on his face as his gaze touches on Cherie makes my insides melt. It seems like it takes all of his willpower to look away from her.
“I’ve missed all of you too.” He shakes his head and then winks at me. “Unlike some people, when I died, I stayed that way.”
I can see him easier now. At first I think my eyes have adjusted, but then the colors shift and I see it isn't that—the minute is almost over and the opening is beginning to disappear. The light is shrinking, fading. He’s going to leave.
“Yara!” Kevin’s eyes open wide. “I came here to tell you how to help Brent. You have to . . .”
The rest of his sentence vanishes as a last burst of color explodes in the air. My body trembles. My brother's unexpected return coupled with his unfinished message have me gasping for breath, my head reeling. I spin around and grab Vovó’s arms. “Did you hear what he was trying to say?”
Tears slide from beneath Vovó’s glasses and she nods her head. My grandma embraces me, hugging me while she tells Cherie what Kevin had tried to tell us. Cherie wipes tears from her face and sniffles, but in her true, eternally optimistic form says, “But don’t you see. It means there is a way to cure him.”
I nod and wipe away the wet from my cheeks. I want to agree with Cherie but all I can think is, even though we now know for certain a cure exists, we still have no idea where to find it.
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