The Chrome Borne by Mercedes Lackey

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He looks like he’s seen a . . .

Well, he turned very pale.

“I can’t see . . . I never noticed that before. That’s where I died, and I can’t see it at all.” Ross looked visibly shaken, and began walking towards the overpass.

Would he be able to see it? Should Tannim even encour­age him to try? But he seemed ready. “The trick is to look past it, and bring your field of focus into it. Concentrate on seeing the road past it, then pull back until it appears; the more you want it, the sooner it will come.”

Tannim watched him walk up to the place where he’d died, and stop.

“Ross . . .” he said softly, “you don’t have to do this, if it’s making you uncomfortable, at least not right away. There are ghosts in this world who haven’t been able to come to grips with their own deaths for centuries. It’s not easy.”

“How th’ hell would you know?” Ross snapped, and then immediately looked embarrassed.

“I’ve helped almost a hundred move on to their next destination,” Tannim said. “Not always willingly, but . . . it’s for the better.”

Ross faced him, skepticism warring with a touch of awe. “You’re not—an angel, are you?”

“Me?” Tannim laughed. More often, he was mistaken for something else entirely. “Not hardly. Not even close. I’m just a man who can tell you a thing or two about magic, about dying, and what comes after it. Angels live far cleaner lives, and have cleaner consciences.”

“There are angels, then? And Heaven?” Ross pulled a long drag on his cigarette.

“I guess.” Tannim shrugged. “Hell, I don’t know what your definition of Heaven is, so I can’t say. But I will tell you that not everyone who dies waltzes through the ‘Pearly Gates’ of their choice; they still have things to do. A lot of ’em love this world, and don’t want to leave. They don’t have to, at least, not right away.”

“They don’t?” Canfield looked surprised—and bemused.

“Nope. Not if they still have things to do, things on their minds.” Tannim leaned up against the Mustang. “Most move on to whatever suits them, pretty much right off. But some, it takes a while to find out what it is they want. You’re probably that way. It’s a whole different ball game when you’re dead; conflicts that were big guns when you were alive don’t count for much. You meet all kinds of people from all times. Plenty to talk about. Hell, the drone of sports talk at Candlestick Park from a hundred thousand dead fans is enough to put you over the edge!”

“Uh huh.” Ross pulled the butt from his mouth. “So I’m gonna be this way for a while?”

“Yeah, probably.” He looked up at the clear night sky for a moment. “Since you didn’t—go on, when you really understood what had happened to you. I guess you must have some things to do. The way you are—it’s kind of a way to live again, with your senses enhanced and a new way of looking at things. Kind of gives you a second chance.”

“I guess it isn’t all bad,” Ross observed after a moment of thought. “Guy could do a lot, see a lot, like this. Things he never got a chance to.”

Tannim nodded. “There’s a big tradeoff to it; if there’s something you need to take care of, that tie will hold you to a place. Even without that, there’s ties to your family. Most ghosts build up a sort of ‘monitoring’ of their families and loved ones, so they know what they are doing, and can be there to lend support from beyond if they can, while they’re still ghosts. Native Americans in particular have a strong tie with their ancestors, and their spirits fill everything around them. If I were you, I’d travel a bit and reconcile your feelings about everyone you’ve ever loved or hated. Then visit your gravesite. After that, it’s up to you whether to stay or to move on.”

“Well, ain’t this a helluva turn. Life after death is just as big a pain in the ass as living.” Ross planted his hands on his hips, and stared towards the bridge. “I can kinda see it now, Tannim. And I can see . . . my ’Cuda. Holy shit . . . I really did buy it good.” Ross shuddered, and swore again. “Damn. I loved that car.”

Tannim nodded. “Yeah, I can relate. I’ve lost a couple of good ones myself . . . Thank it for its services and ­offer it its own afterlife. Even cars can develop spirits, believe me. Honor everything you knew, Ross, then you’ll be happy again.”

Ross looked down at his feet. “I . . . I loved her too, more than the car, more . . .” he said, and Tannim didn’t have to ask to know who he was talking about. “I cried like a goddamn baby every time I couldn’t tell her how I felt. It was easier to drink the booze than to find the words. And I chased after her drunk . . . hell, I didn’t even know what road she was on. I couldn’t even get dying right. . . .”

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