by Amber Kizer
Dying Animals have always come to Meridian. The older she got, the bigger the animals got. She sees her parents’ disgust, but they try to hide it from her. Her little brother, Sammy, is completely normal and doesn’t treat Meridian any different than anyone else. At school, she is teased and adults are afraid.
The morning of her sixteenth birthday, Meridian wakes up for school. Her parents have something to tell her, but say that it can wait until after school. She goes through a normal day of school, being shunned and feeling ill. When she gets off the bus to go home, an SUV comes around the street corner and slams into a mustang full of kids. Meridian is in pain and her dad drags her to his car and starts driving. He says she is an angel-being called a Fenestra and has to go to her great-aunt to learn how to use her abilities. The only instructions she is given is to avoid the dying. He shoves her in a cab, and the driver says the bad guys are after her, which means she is one of the good ones.
Gabe, the taxi driver, takes Meridian to the bus stop. He tells her to be careful. She is really confused, but all he can tell her is that she helps people get to heaven. She finds a letter from her mom, apologizing for not telling her sooner or being able to take the trip to Great-Aunt Merry’s with her. She gives some insight to what is going on and says the Creators will keep her safe. There are directions to Auntie’s house, and instructions not to come home because it will be empty. She has some time to kill before her bus leaves, but nothing to do. She helps a hispanic woman, d ..., who doesn’t have enough money for a ticket. The trip takes an entire day, but Meridian finally arrives in Revelation, Colorado, unsure of where to go in the snow storm.
Meridian starts out at the bus station. When an old man starts staring and reaching for her, she has to leave until an ambulance takes him away. She goes back to the station to wait and a woman approaches her. She thanks her for helping out her mother with the language barrier and getting her ticket. She pays her back the money and gives her her card in case she ever needs help (it reads: Dr. Portalso-Marquez). Señora Portalso keeps saying “beautiful light” in reference to Meridian. A man approaches her a few hours later and offers a ride. She gives him the address and he takes her as far as he can. She gives him money (when he refuses, she says it is a gift for his daughter) and he gives her his phone number in case she ever needs anything.
While making her way down the driveway, Meridian hears a wolf howling. She abandons her bags and starts running. She hears two people talking about the tires being slashed. meridian makes it to them and gets their attention before she passes out.
Meridian wakes up in an unfamiliar bed. Auntie introduces her to Tens (a tall, lanky boy) and Custos (female wolf). After being teased by Tens and comforted by Custos, Auntie talks until Meridian falls back asleep. When she wakes back up, it is night. Custos comes to join her and Meridian is ready to get up and venture through the large house.
Making her way through the house, Meridian finds Auntie and Tens in the kitchen. They feed her and then she starts asking questions.
Auntie explains that Fenestras were created by the Creator because the angels that help people get to heaven couldn’t handle the entire population. The other side, the Aternocti, are from the Destroyer. If there isn’t a Fenestra or Aternocti present when someone dies, they are reincarnated. The Aternocti tried to kill her (the car crash) by making a soul pass through her before she is ready. Auntie says that she must learn to do her duty or she will die. All of a sudden, Auntie gets tired and Tens fusses over her.
Tens gives Meridian a quick tour of the house. She asks how he knew about the car crash. He explains that he has dreams and feelings about things before they happen. He gives her the chore of cleaning the kitchen while he goes off to do other things. The next morning (Christmas), Meridian finds Tens in the kitchen. She is overly mean to him and apologizes, knowing she isn’t usually so defensive. He understands and tells her what he has been worried about. There is a cult group disguised as a church that tries to get everyone to their way of thinking. They have also been receiving calls with no one on the other end. Tens thinks Aternocti know where they are. Auntie comes back from the store and has something to show Meridian.
Auntie has Meridian picture herself in a room with a window. She leaves to go to her dying friend and has Meridian practice with Tens. He brings her baby rabbits whose mother died. She tries to save them with milk and an eye dropper, but they won’t eat. They pass through her and afterwards, she gets sick. Tens gives her a few minutes before he says she needs to do the same with the chickens he is going to kill for Custos’ dinner.
The phone rings continually and Meridian eventually answers. There is someone on the line, saying they know where she is. Auntie comes home and continues explaining how the cult-church thinks Auntie and Meridian bring death. The sheriff arrives to ask if they have seen the neighbor girl, Celia, that got lost while out with her brother. Meridian and Tens go out to look. Meridian finds her with a bear trap crushing her foot.
Tens finds the two girls and helps get the trap off of Celia’s foot. He starts carrying her to the nearest populated place while Meridian urges him to go faster. They see lights and Tens hands Celia to Meridian while he goes for help. Celia tries to reassure Meridian that it will be okay. When Tens comes back, he takes Celia to the group of people and tells Meridian to get away. She tries, but Celia is dying. He tells her to open the window. Meridian feels like her leg is broken and goes to vomit blood. Reverend Perimo preaches bible verses at her, but is friendly when Tens returns. Tens borrows a snow mobile to take her home. He carries her inside when the arrive.
Tens and Auntie help Meridian. She realizes that being around her aunt makes it easier because her window is always open. Auntie explains that the souls will take the easier path. Meridian should have died when Celia forced her way through. She asks about ghosts and Auntie confirms their existence, telling her not to go looking for them. Before retiring for the night, Auntie gives her a journal that has been passed down through Fenestras. Tens tells Meridian that Auntie is dying. She can’t sleep with that new knowledge and starts reading the journals. She is overwhelmed by her task.
While Meridian is looking at a wall full of old pictures, Auntie comes in and tells some of her own history. She explains that the Aternocti and Nazis worked together in World War II. She was a nurse and Charles, her late husband, helped her with her Fenestra duties. He died when she was not around, so she can’t be positive if he was recycled or passed on. She goes on to tell about her mother dying while giving birth to her sister. Auntie was only six and couldn’t handle it. She says they are going to see Winnie, her friend that died.
Auntie and Meridian go to Winnie’s wake at her house. Auntie has Meridian study the body so that she can understand death better. Back at the house, Auntie explains that she quilts to release the memories of the souls that pass through her. Meridian will have to find her own way of coping. They both sense the Aternocti. Auntie grabs a shotgun as Custos growls at the door. Tens returns through the back and didn’t see anyone. He checks out front and finds a flaming arrow in the door and a dead cat on the porch. he sends Auntie to rest, knowing she doesn’t have much time (Fenestras live to 106, if they are not killed or converted to Aternocti). Meridian asks if they should get her medical help, but Tens explains that there isn’t much of a point to it.
Meridian wakes up to see Tens outside, leaving with a large pack on his back. She decides to take a both, but it doesn’t calm her down as she expected. She decides to cut her hair since her mom always made her leave it long. On her quest to find scissors, she ends up finding letters from a man named Tyee about sending their little prophet, Tens, to Auntie as a young boy. He mentions that Tens and Meridian’s lives are somehow tied together.
Excited about her new hair cut, Meridian goes to find someone to show it to. She finds Tens in the kitchen and when he finally notices, he is not impressed. Auntie comes in and senses the tension between them. She compliments Meridian’s hair and points out Tens’ attitude. She explains that he is her protector, which is even rarer than a Fenestra. He can sense her moods and feelings. She wants to start over with him, but he gets mad when she admits she was snooping around and read Aunties old letters.
Auntie suggests they go get pizza, and they end up at the only parlor in town. The owner tells her that they sold the business and are leaving because of the church. When families start coming in after bible study, they all stare at Meridian and whisper about Auntie. As they get ready to leave, two tires have been slashed. Tens tells Meridian about the horrors of the church as they change the tires. Perimo runs the entire town and crated crazy laws. When babies started having issues during birth because of those laws, people started calling Auntie for help. Seven babies died in October and the town blames her. Perimo blames her and the deads’ lack of faith.
Meridian wakes up from the outraged yells of Auntie reading the paper. She joins her aunt and Tens in the kitchen and reads over the religious articles. They are targeting Auntie and saying Meridian killed Celia. Auntie says they are going to church, against Meridian and Tens’ better judgement.
Everyone puts on their “Sunday best” and Tens drives them into town. Auntie tries to talk to people at the church, but they mostly just brush her off. When Tens returns from parking the car, he walks them in. The monstrosity of a church is so large it makes Meridian feel insignificant.
People keep staring at them throughout the service. Perimo offers individual blessings, but their row is skipped. Auntie points that out and Perimo comes to them. He talks to her about the Almighty and she responds about the Creator. He thinks the devil has her heart and she thinks he is the devil. He allows them to stay, but Tens rushes them out. Back home, Auntie receives a call that her husband’s best friend, Jasper, is dying. She is going to take Meridian with her to see him.
At Jasper’s house, his clairvoyant daughter, Sarah, is waiting for them. Auntie tells Meridian that she will help Jasper pass through and coaches her along the way. he makes it through and Meridian is overwhelmed by how much she wants to join him.
Meridian almost made it through by herself, but Auntie had to shut the window for her. Sarah is grateful that her father went peacefully. Meridian drives them home and Auntie goes to rest while Meridian makes tea. Tens comes home and they talk in the kitchen about his past. His grandfather taught him what he needed to know and told him to go to Aunties if he were ever in trouble. He made his way there after sneaking out of an abusive foster home, dreaming of his grandfather along the way. When he arrived two years later, he started dreaming of Meridian. Auntie comes in, obviously not doing well. There is a thump and animal whimpering at the door. Tens grabs the shotgun.
Custos was shot with an arrow in her shoulder. They get her inside and Auntie talks them through patching her up. Tens goes to the kitchen and Auntie asks Meridian about her feelings for him. Meridian isn’t sure. When Tens returns, Auntie tells him a little about how she met his grandfather in the army. She starts to tell them something that seems important about holy locations, but is too sick to continue. Tens takes her to bed and she makes Meridian promise not to let her die in a hospital. she assures them that she has days left before she falls asleep with Tens watching over her.
Meridian sleeps on the couch watching over Custos and has nightmares. The next morning, Auntie and Tens come into the kitchen while Meridian is making breakfast. They decide to go to the hot springs. Auntie tells Meridian about how everything is cyclical. They drive back home, which is bright with something horrible.
The yard has a flaming arrow, the front window is smashed, and there is graffiti of the Aternocti’s ancient language. Tens and Meridian do their best to get everything as fixed up as they can before Auntie sends him off with a huge pack. She distracts Meridian with cooking and tells her she will have to go out and find more Fenestras so they don’t die out. Tens returns and Meridian smells smoke. They rush upstairs to find an open door and Custos with a pipe.
Meridian thinks that Charles is in the house waiting for Auntie. They are interrupted by perimo knocking at the door. Meridian answers with Tens right behind her. Perimo says he is there to pray with Auntie, but when Tens goes to check on her, he starts to threaten Meridian. She slams the door on him. She spends the next few hours reading the journal, trying to figure out how to help Charles. She finds out that she has to invite him to pass, but Tens is reluctant because it is dangerous. She calls to Charles and he goes through the window, trying to take her with him. Tens helps hold her back and Charles lets go when he realizes what is happening. He gives her the message of one-three-four to give to Auntie before Meridian slams the window shut. Tens holds her until she falls asleep.
Meridian wakes up early in the morning, still in Tens’ arms. The house starts to shake and there are explosions. A train was derailed and Auntie knows there were passengers. Meridian knows she has to go. With some last minute advice, she and Tens go to the wreckage. They are separated almost immediately and Perimo approaches Meridian. She has to shove him away before she can go help the dying. A woman grabs on and is too fearful of death to let go.
The lady is able to pass and Meridian is able to help more people, dying and survivors. Perimo seems to be blessing those as they die and meridian wonders if he is murdering them. Eventually, a firefighter carries her out because she refuses to leave people behind, but the tankers are about to explode. She passes out and dreams about a sea turtle from her childhood telling her secrets. Tens wakes her up and takes her home.
It is New Years Eve when Meridian wakes up again. Tens has been watching over her. Auntie is still alive for now.
Tens moved Auntie to the attic where she wants to die. Meridian gives her the message from Charles. She worries that she won’t be able to resist going with Auntie. Tens tells her he loves her and she says it back in Charles’ coded message. Auntie is there with her and gives her last bit of advice. They say goodbye and she passes through. Meridian realizes her aunt was waiting until she had a reason to stay. Wolves start howling and Tens tells her they are leaving right then.
Tens finds the secret passageway in the wall and they head down as people come busting into the house that is now on fire. They arrive in the old icebox in the basement. They are a distance from the house and make their way further. They use the cover of trees and Meridian can see the church members that are searching for them. Some have a darkness to them (Aternocti). They make their way through the woods with Custos and arrive at the Cave Tens has been preparing for them.
Tens gives her a tour of the cave. They change, eat, and go to sleep cuddled together. Meridian wakes up first and decides to let Tens sleep. When she checks on him, he has a fever and tells her the light is too bright. She is afraid that he means her light that calls to dying people. Custos paws at her bag and she pulls out contact info for the doctor and cab driver, Josiah, from the beginning of her adventure. Perimo finds them and knows Tens is dying. Meridian sends Custos for help. Perimo explains that he has framed Meridian for the train wreck and wants something from her. He shows her a picture she has never seen of her family.
Perimo wants Meridian to join his side. He poisoned Tens at the train wreck and has been watching her family. He says that if Tens dies, so will she. If she switches sides, he will save them all. She asks how to become Aternocti and he tells her she will take his gun, pull the trigger, and he will bring her back. She agrees and asks for the gun.
Meridian takes the gun and shoots Perimo in the stomach. He laughs it off, knowing it won’t end his eternal life. She realizes that she has lost and asks to let her help Tens pass before she turns. They are in her room together and she explains what is going on. She says goodbye. Josiah appears and reveals that he is a Sangre (angels that guard Fenestras). He destroys Perimo with his light and goes to help her family. The next thing she knows is that Dr. Portalso-Marquez is there, lead by Senora’s dream and Custos. She diagnoses Tens with Rocky Mountain spotted fever and gives him medication. She tells her that he will be fine and warns that they are now fugitives. Tens wakes up after they leave.
Meridian and Tens leave the cave behind and go to the remains of the house to say goodbye to Auntie. Sarah arrives and offers them her grandfather’s truck and that days paper, as he instructed her in a dream. They find an article about a girl and her cat being angels of death in Indiana. They decide to start there. Meridian writes her first entry in the family journal.