CHAPTER ONE

Solid Light

Forever is a word that young people fear. Doing anything forever implies finality and commitment. Fifteen-year-old Rogan Kexsley first learned about forever when her father died. Death is forever. She had fought the reality of his death by seeing the world as if it were a sky full of sparkling snowflakes, each snowflake a different wonder to learn about, catch, and melt. Then, shake off the wetness and reach for another to see what it would bring. Catch. Melt. Repeat.

“Rogan!” her mom called. “Come in from the snow, honey! It’s time for dinner.”

It was snowing, lightly, against a late-afternoon, mostly clear sky. After getting off the bus, Rogan had hurried through their front gate and dropped everything. Her backpack still lay on the ground near the gate. She had been plucking snowflakes out of the air for the past hour. A childish act, maybe, but today it just felt right. The snow fell lazily.

Rogan reached her hand upward once more into the sky. She had on her favorite spring jacket, with a tiny embroidered horse outlined on the front near her right pocket. Her mom had added that for her. She secretly called the horse Georgia. Rogan’s shoulder-length brown hair was straight. The late-afternoon sun made it look chestnut-colored. She was growing out bangs that she thought were a good idea at first, until she had them and realized they made her look twenty years older.

Knowing her game needed to end, she squinted her eyes, searching for an extraordinarily big snowflake. With her hands and arms outstretched into the snowy air, she was ready to catch the big one and melt it.

She would remember the next moment for the rest of her life, because it was the start of everything changing for her. The light between the snowflakes took on a brilliant whiteness. To Rogan, the rays of light picked up speed, bouncing from flake to flake, totally uninhibited by gravity. The shimmering light reminded Rogan of a thousand butterflies fluttering among the snowflakes. Then, the many rays of light started to become one ray. The shape formed a line in the air like the stem of a single flower, growing downward through the sky until it was just out of reach of Rogan’s hand.

Rogan watched it wind together and grow toward her outstretched hands. When it was finally within reach, the stem of light was as thick and as long as her pointer finger. It was shaped like one long, slender stem. It reminded Rogan of a columnar crystal, slender and long with right angles forming the sides. These were her favorite crystals. The sight shocked her and she had to focus to stop from fainting, while her brain tried to process the sight before her.

Rogan rocked up on her tippy toes and reached for the shimmery wisp of light, to see if it felt cold and solid. Her fingers brushed it, causing it to spin upwards and get lost among several snowflakes. Rogan looked for it earnestly and finally saw it floating above her. She settled her feet, crunched her knees a little, and sprang up as high as her fifteen-year-old body would take her. Her hand was stretched upward intending to grab the light wisp out of the air. As if pulling a fairy from the sky, she caught it gently and pulled it toward her. Only it did not pull out of the sky. For a moment, she hung from it in the sky like an acrobat from a trapeze swing, or a basketball player hanging on the rim of the hoop after dunking the ball. She swung her feet back and forth. She could not feel the ground below her. Then, the light gave way and she fell to the ground with the beam of solid light held in the palm of her hand. She pulled her fingers closed.

She looked down at her closed hand and could not believe what had just happened. She stood there for a moment, looking at her hand. Then she looked up at the house, half expecting her mom to be standing there, or her little sister, Eva, with her mouth wide open, gaping at her like she was some kind of science experiment. Luckily, no one was there. Rogan sighed in relief and looked back at her hand with a mix of wonder and horror. She tried to feel the light inside her hand, but could not feel anything.

She hesitated to open it, thinking that maybe it had all been a hallucination. More the result of being tired after a long day, she thought. Yet it all felt so real.

“Well, here goes nothing,” Rogan said to herself. She no longer noticed the snow falling around her, landing on her shoulders, arms, and hair. Cautiously, she opened her fingers and gasped when she saw the small rod of light still in her palm. The shimmering of the light rod made her feel warm. It reminded her of lazy Saturday mornings out at their cabin on Abby Lake, when her mom would make pancakes and top them with homemade maple syrup from her dad’s sugar shack. She missed those times and missed her dad.

She tried to roll the light rod around in her palm, but it was stuck, such that it connected the base of her pointer finger and thumb, crossing her life, heart, and body lines. She did not want to touch it with her other hand, thinking it might spread like pinkeye. To try to move it, she slowly rolled her open hand to the side, her thumb pointing to the sky. The light rod did not move.

Rogan brought her hand flat again and a wave of dizziness hit her. Rogan’s knees buckled and she slumped down onto the ground, ending up seated with her legs out before her. Her whole body suddenly felt less real, less solid. She never took her eyes from her palm, which grew almost translucent-looking, like the hand of a ghost. Rogan watched as the rod of light melted into her palm and was gone. For a moment, she thought she saw a flash of a symbol, sort of reminding her of those suns crafty people hang on the walls of their personal greenhouses. Suns with swirling rays coming out from the smiling centers. Only the center of this was dark.

She could still make out the faint shimmer of the light rod just beyond the top layer of her palm. She ran her fingers over the place on her skin where the light rod had not melted, but rather moved into her skin. Her skin felt hot. A large snowflake tumbled lazily into her palm and melted instantly. Gone! She raised her hand into the air and could feel the warmth move from her palm and run down her arm like warm water. She immediately put her hand down, got up, and ran to the house. She clenched her wrist to keep the