Chapter 2

Three-Oh-Three floated in the shadows as her modest flock of Ghosts scanned the ruins. For centuries, they had combed through the long-dried spatter of a fallen world, each hoping to find their prize. She always watched, knowing she would never find what she needed… just as surely as they knew they would.

A joyous chime pierced the air, and the little Ghost's mood sank. It wasn't a sound she heard often, but she recognized the melody that heralded the shrinking of her group. El gestured across the tumbledown intersection, where Trill chirped hollow advice to a fawn-wobbly Guardian as the others watched on. Three-Oh-Three turned away and grumbled. She supposed she could just ignore them.

If they let her.

"Three!" Peris bobbed, practically bouncing on her. "Three, Trill's found her Guardian! Come congratulate her!"

Anger flared, white hot. "Congratulate?! Are you—You know what? Fine." Three-Oh-Three swiveled back toward the impromptu celebration and raised her voice. "Hey, Trill! Congrats on abandoning us all!"


"What? I'm so HAPPY for her! I'm not resentful at all about our fanatical devotion to dead Humans, the species who couldn't even stop the Darkness the first time around!"

"Three, this isn't the time!"

"When is the time, Peris? When are we going to start asking questions? Why did we just arbitrarily decide to dedicate ourselves to these squishy creatures forever? They aren't fit to hold the Light!"

"Three… can't you at least be happy for us?" Trill's voice was soft.

Three didn't respond.

"This is the way we form a bigger family and serve a larger purpose. That's what it's all about. But maybe… if after all this time, you still can't share that with us…" El paused. She'd often come so close to saying this, but always backed down before. "Then maybe you shouldn't search with us."

Three floated, letting the ultimatum settle. "Fine."

There was nothing more to be said after that. One by one, the rest drifted away, resuming their work.

El hesitated for a moment. "Goodbye, Three," she whispered. "I do hope you find your family."

Three-Oh-Three turned away to look up toward the night sky. The twinkling stars stared back like a million judging eyes.

But she knew then, gazing at those quiet spaces between them… they were her family.