Everfound

Read Everfound for Free Online

Book: Read Everfound for Free Online
Authors: Neal Shusterman
transformed. They were all too awed to do anything but whisper and reach out to touch her, feeling the smooth fabric of her green satin gown. When she was forced back into the living world, her tight Victorian velvet dress had quickly been ruined by a mere week of living on the street. She had shed it, replacing it with this gown of emerald satin. Now she looked less like a governess, and more like a goddess—a fallen goddess, waiting for her moment to rise.
    That moment would come, but Milos feared it wouldn’t come soon enough.
    Things had not gone well in the two months since he had brought Mary home. Just ten miles out of Little Rock, Arkansas, the ghost tracks had come to an end, and they had to backtrack, finding another set of rails that could carry them, and then another, then another—a constant series of false starts and dead ends. It was like navigating a maze, and finding alternate routes would take days. Even when they had forward momentum, they always moved at a snail’s pace, for fear that the tracks would unexpectedly end.
    And then the desertions began.
    Those who were loyal to Mary were loyal to the end—but others who feared the prospect of a dying/rising goddess, or simply distrusted Milos, were quick to run off. At last count they were losing a half dozen kids a day. Mary’s kids numbered close to a thousand when they started. He had no idea how many there were now. He was afraid to take a census.
    “You’ll be lucky if you have any left at all by the time Mary wakes up,” Jill was quick to tell him. Milos did not want to face the prospect of explaining to Mary why he could not hold on to her children, and “protect them from themselves,” as she would put it.
    This is why Milos allowed the reaping expeditions. If there were a good number of sleeping souls, it might make up for all the ones they had lost. And sleeping souls can’t run away.
    “Everyone wants to know where we’re going,” Speedo had told him. “Did Mary tell you where she was leading us before you . . . uh . . . ‘made her cross’?”
    “Of course she told me!”
    “Well, it might make us all feel a little bit better if you told us.”
    “That,” said Milos, “is between Mary and me.”
    With all the starts and stops, backtracking and zigzagging, their journey was taking months. During that time, Mary’s kids all fell into new routines . . . yet even in their routines there was a sense of impatience—as if they were all reluctantly passing the time until something happened—until Milos actually DID something that brought them closer to their unknown destination. More and more he felt like a leader in name only.
    Now, as he knelt alone in the caboose, he looked through the glass to Mary’s closed eyelids, trying to remember what her eyes looked like. Soft and inviting, while at the same time keen and calculating. It was an intoxicating combination.
    “I have tried, Mary,” he said, in barely more than a whisper. “I have tried to lead your children and to bring even more into Everlost, just as you had asked . . . but there is only so much that I can do.” He found that he had forced his hands together, clasping his knuckles in something resembling prayer. “We face so many obstacles. And now this church . . .” He looked to the date she would awaken, written on the largest pane of glass. It was still more than six months away.
    “I’m not sure I can do this without you, Mary,” he pleaded. “Please, please wake up soon. . . .”
    For an instant, he thought he saw a twitch of her cheek. But it was just a trick of the light sifting through the crystalline coffin.
    Late that afternoon, Milos gathered all of Mary’s children in a clearing just beside the train, then he climbed up on top of the caboose, and told them his plan. “We will build a bypass around the church,” Milos told them. “But to do it, we’ll need to find loose railroad tracks that have crossed into Everlost.”
    Speedo jumped at the

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