Logan always takes the easy way out. After a night of drinking and driving he wakes up to find he has been involved in a senseless car accident and is dead. With the help of his guide, Wade, and the spirit of his grandmother, he realizes he has taken the wrong exit—he wasn't meant to die. His life had a purpose—to save his sister—but he took the easy way out and he failed. Now, before he can rest in peace, he has to try and save his sister from a future no child should face. He will only get one chance and he cannot afford to fail this time—for Amy’s sake and for his own.
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For Kory.“No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” —Aesop
Copyright © Laura Langston 2006All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproducedor transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,including photocopying, recording or by any information storageand retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permissionin writing from the publisher.Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in PublicationLangston, Laura, 1958-Exit point / Laura Langston.(Orca soundings)ISBN 1-55143-525-X (bound) ISBN 1-55143-505-5 (pbk.)I. Title. II. Series.PS8573.A5832E95 2006 jC813’.54 C2006-900407-2First published in the United States, 2006Library of Congress Control Number: 2006921007Summary: Sixteen-year-old Logan is dead, but herealizes he still has unfinished business.Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishingprograms provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canadathrough the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP), theCanada Council for the Arts, and the British Columbia Arts Council.Cover design: Lynn O’RourkeCover photography: Bigshot Media
Orca Book Publishers Orca Book PublishersPO Box 5626 Stn.B PO Box 468Victoria, BC Canada Custer, WA USAV8R 6S4 98240-0468
Printed and bound in Canada09 08 07 06 • 5 4 3 2 1
He says I died at the wrong time.
I’m not sure I’m dead to begin with.
I’m lying on a bed in a round, white room and I can’t move. There are people around me, dressed in gray robes. They hold me down. Not with their hands, but with something.
I stare up to where the ceiling is supposed to be. There is no ceiling, only sky. A pale, bleached-out sky vibrating with an eerie glow. Like a planetarium ceiling before the show starts. There are colors around me too. Moving colors. They quiver and ping and make a wind chime kind of music.
“I’m dreaming, right?”
No one answers out loud. Instead I hear his voice in my head and this is what he says: There are five exit points in any one life. Five points when a person can die and not mess with the Big Plan.
“You should have waited for exit point five.” Now he speaks into my ear. His breath is hot on my skin. “Instead you took an easier option. You took exit point two.”
If I had waited, I would have died on June 9, 2066, at the age of seventy-seven, by choking on a grape.
Instead I died October 28, 2004, in a car that crashed and exploded on Houser Way.
I was sixteen years old and afraid to face my future.
So I didn’t.
At least this is what he says.
Fear thuds in my chest. For a minute, I wonder if he’s right.
The robed ones take colors and put them into my body. Red gives me a jolt, like diving into a cold pool on a hot day. Green is what it feels like when you come out of the water and wrap yourself in a towel: comfortable and warm. Blue makes me sleepy. Sleeping is something I’m good at. I drift off.
It’s either a dream or I’m coming down. Except I haven’t touched a thing in almost two weeks. Except the beer. I had four cans of Bud before I took the keys to my dad’s car. And six more, that I remember, before Tom and I had the race. And that’s all that I do remember.
The nothing part scares me awake. I struggle to sit up. “Where am I? What’s going on?”
Hands hold me down. A wind touches my face; I can’t hear what the people around me say. Then I hear a voice I haven’t heard in three years. “Keep yer shirt on, Logan. You’ll know everything soon enough.”
“Gran?” I can’t move to turn my head, so Gran appears above me, but she doesn’t look sick or wrinkled. She looks way too young to be Gran, except the beady eyes are the same. And so is the large, bumpy nose.
“It’s me, Logan. Damn, your timing’s bad.” Frowning, she puffs on a cigarette. “I’ve got five hundred on Devil’s Pride in the seventh. You could have waited for the race to end before getting antsy.”
Gran fades in a buzz of gold light. Someone talks to her. I hear words, but they are all garbled and muffled like someone speaking under water.
If I were dead and in heaven, Gran wouldn’t be gambling. She wouldn’t be cranky. And she wouldn’t still be smoking cigarettes. Or maybe Gran went down instead of up. And I followed her.
Gran is back. Her frown is gone. She smiles. This is a dream all right. The only time Gran smiled was when she won at the track. Gran had been a cranky old bitch. Even before getting lung cancer.
“Excuse me, young man.” Her smile slips. “I was never a cranky old bitch. And this is no dream, Logan. You’re deader than a doornail.”
There’s more gold buzzing. Gran fades again, but she returns in three blinks. “Let me try that again. Taking your father’s car was a stupid move. Not to mention drinking all that beer and trying to impress Hannah by driving like a lunatic. You are dead, Logan. You are not going to wake up in your own bed, late, like you always do. You will never again rush out the door half-dressed. You will never again use your charm to get a good mark, avoid your chores or impress the girls.”
Gran turns, speaks to someone I can’t see. “He’s my grandson. I’ll speak to him however I want.” She turns back to me. “Face it. You took exit point two. You had written in your life contract that you’d hang on to exit point five. But the next two years of your life were gonna be tough. Tougher than anything you’d go through in the next sixty years. You thought it would be too hard, so you bailed. No surprise there, Logan. You always did take the easy way out.”
Seeing Gran makes me feel better. But not in the way you might think. The thing is, I don’t believe in life after death. I figure when you’re dead, you’re history. But Hannah—she’s my girlfriend—Hannah thinks that when we die, we’re met by the dead people who loved us the most. Remembering this makes me feel way better. Gran loved us, I guess, in her own way. But she loved the horses and herself more. She wouldn’t waste her time sitting on heaven’s welcoming committee.
“This is a dream, Gran. You don’t even look like you.”
Gran snorts. “You think I liked looking old?” When I don’t answer, she adds, “Being dead has its advantages. I don’t need Oil of Olay anymore, plus I can have all the cigarettes I want. And there’s a race going on somewhere every day.”
Yeah right. “If I was dead, I would have seen that white light everybody talks about.” Hannah had told me about that too.
“You cheated yourself by leaving early. In more ways than one,” Gran tells me. “Dying by grape would have been less violent. You would have lived long enough to learn what you were supposed to learn. Then when you died, you would have gotten the whole she-bang. The tunnel, the light, maybe even an angel or two.” She clucks her tongue. “Even I got an angel, Logan. All you got was a massive boom, heat that melted your brain and then nothing.”
Gran’s words jolt me. I remember. It wasn’t quite like that.
It was a boom, a flash, melting heat and then nothing.
“Holy crap.” I start to shake. “Am I really dead?”
I might be in heaven but all hell is breaking loose. The tinkling wind-chime sounds grow louder; there’s a flurry of movement. Gran fades into the milk-glow sky. “Wait,” she cries, “I’m not finished with my grandson yet. There’s something else I need to tell him.”
But the colors around me get stronger: zap, zap, zap. Hot, cold, sleepy. And the colors take Gran away.
My whole body shakes. My stomach heaves. “What’s going on?” My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; it’s hard to talk. “Where am I?” If I don’t sit up...if I don’t get something to drink...I’m gonna puke.
Suddenly, there is an extra-large pop in my hand and I am upright. I struggle to adjust my eyes, to figure out where I am.
This place is huge. Open to the sky, to the air. And there are beds. Lots and lots of beds. I peer into the haze. At least I think they’re beds. Before I can make sense of things, I see him sitting at the end of my bed. The guy who spoke to me earlier.
“Hello, Logan.” His eyes—one green, the other blue—study me carefully.
I’ve never met this guy before.
Yet I know him.
Tattoos crawl up his arms and meet below his neck. “I’m Wade.” He pushes frizzy brown hair back from his face, revealing two studs in his left ear.
Wade? To me he’s Snakeman. And I’ve been dreaming of him since I was four years old.
But I’ve never seen him in 3-D before. And I’ve never had him reach out and touch me like he does now.
This isn’t looking good.
Wade gestures to the pop. “Drink,” he says. “Your memorial service is about to start. You’re gonna need that to get through it.”
They put something in the pop.
That must be why I feel majorly stoned and blank in the head.
I sort of remember an accident. And being in a hospital talking to Wade. I remember him. But I can’t remember what we talked about. Or how I got from that round, white place to where I am now.
Now is a church in Kent, Washington. When I was little, we used to come here at Christmas. I remember that.
I sit beside Wade in the back pew. Organ music plays. Pale October sun shines through the stained glass windows. My school picture is up front, by the altar. It’s extra large, like they’ve blown it up or something. There are flowers all over the place and people too. I might know them, but I might not. It’s like my memory is on pause. Only bits and pieces are getting through.
“Why’s my picture up there?”
Wade doesn’t answer. Feeling stoned, I don’t ask a second time. I don’t even try to figure it out. It hurts to think. Besides, I don’t care. I don’t care about anything.
Until I see Mrs. Shields pushing a wheel-chair down the aisle.
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