THE FIRST time Emery dies, it’s kind of a shock.

Well, not the dying part, since he doesn’t see that coming until after it’s all over anyway. Too preoccupied with the shockingly hot guy who’d just walked up to him and touched him on the arm—just walked up and touched him—and Emery just gapes into eyes that are bottomless electric green and thinks holy shit, wings, black and gleaming like raven feathers and sprouting right out of the guy’s back like they belong there.

And then a city bus plows him under.

Which also isn’t the surprising part because Emery’s life is a bit on the absurd side in the first place; of course his death would be a clichéd punch line.

So, since he’d kind of been crossing a busy street—who knew jaywalking was a real thing?—and then just standing in the middle of it, staring at a man he swears walked right out of his best wet dream ever, having been run over isn’t really all that surprising. Well, the wings were surprising. Because, you know—wings. But then again, wings—angels—Angel of Death—duh. So yeah, that’s not as surprising as it would have been to someone else either, at least in retrospect.

It’s actually the “retrospect” thing that gets him, the fact that there even is “retrospect,” because waking up after all of it—that’s the surprise.

And, since he’s Emery and his life is clichéd and absurd, he has to do the waking-up part in the city’s morgue in the dead of night like some kind of bad vampire B-movie plot. Except vampires probably don’t whack their heads on the inside of the refrigerated drawer or take about twelve endless hours—or three panicked minutes, whichever—to figure out how to unzip a body bag from the inside. And then another twelve endless hours—maybe four minutes this time; he’s a little hysterical—to try to understand where he is, what he’s doing here, and what happened. Also, figuring out how to get out of the refrigerated drawer would be nice, since it’s cold and also not meant to be opened from the inside.


He’s luckier than most—actually any—who might find themselves in this ludicrous situation, though, because Emery is a little bit magic—

God, Dad, they’re superpowers, okay?

Emery, turning your sister’s hair green and purple is not a superpower.

—and though it takes longer than it should for him to remember that not insignificant fact, and then longer still for him to calm down enough that he can concentrate and use it, he does eventually manage to open the drawer and climb out. Right into the morgue’s theater, complete with sheet-draped gurneys and shiny dissecting tools. Emery does not start crying for his mother.

It takes some courage, but Emery does eventually find enough of it to inspect his—meh, naked—self for pokey-out bones and horrible gaping wounds. Bus, after all. But even though he can see several smears of what must be his own blood in various places on his body, and he does have a bit of a headache that probably doesn’t count, he’s remarkably unmarred.

He’s surprised, and he’s not. He’s always healed quicker than he should. He’d broken his leg once and had to keep the cast on for four weeks longer than necessary, because his mother refused to take him to her clinic to get it off until the miraculous healing could believably be passed off as not miraculous at all. Emery had sulked all four weeks because he’d been thirteen and already a nerdy social pariah and waddling around on crutches and calling attention to himself—AKA: metaphorically spreading chum in the shark-infested waters of junior high school—had been as bad as implied by every John Hughes movie ever.

Still, none of that has prepared him for the fact that he has apparently been dead and is not any longer. It’s… disturbing. In a “yay, not dead!” sort of way. But still. Even though it’s him and he knows he’s not some kind of ghoul or something—he stops to feel his heartbeat and check that he’s breathing, just to be sure, and… okay, super, he’s apparently not Patient Zero of the zombie apocalypse.

And now he’s actually creeping himself out. The morgue probably isn’t helping.

Also—toe tag. Jesus.

He calls out one “Hello?” because he’s seen all the bad horror flicks, and it’s just what you do. You hear a noise coming from the creepy haunted house in the middle of the night on Halloween, and you go alone and unarmed to investigate while wearing six-inch pumps to make running away from the insert-scary-thing-here as difficult as possible. Thusly, you find yourself alone in a morgue after apparently having just been dead, and you call stupid attention to yourself and wake all the zombies so they can shuffle over and eat you while you inexplicably lose the ability to move faster than really slow dead people.

None of that actually happens. Which is lucky, because, among other things, Emery can’t tell which scenario would appall him more: the one where the dead people get up and eat him, or the one where he suddenly finds himself in six-inch pumps.

…Yeah, that’s probably something that doesn’t need to be in his head right now.

It is the dead of night, though, so maybe clichés aren’t all that bad, because this one at least lets Emery creep away from the remnants of his “death” without raising any alarms except the one that’s bleating steadily inside his own head.

See, other people would probably go wandering out into the hallways and find someone to help them. And then there’d be a big hubbub about how they probably hadn’t been dead at all, and the doctor who’d declared them so would have to have an inquiry, and lawsuits would fly and heads would roll and the not-actually-dead person would end up with a story in the news and a nice little nest egg, courtesy of the city. That won’t happen for Emery for several reasons:

1)  Obviously, he’s been declared dead, and knowing the way his life works, it’s most likely because he probably was. His life is kind of ludicrous—has he mentioned that? Also, it’s full of bizarre stuff other people only see in fantasy movies. Still, though, nothing like this has ever happened before. He’d had no idea until five minutes ago that the term “dead” does not apply to him, so he thinks maybe he needs to keep this newest twist to himself just as stingily as he’s kept his magi—superpowers. Damn it, Dad.

2)   He’s avoided hospitals and the authorities his whole short life for a reason. “Waking from the dead” will only be the tip of the iceberg if he lets them subject him to the batteries of tests that must surely follow someone who’d been dead one minute and not so much the next.

3)   His father’s voice is ringing in his ears, as it tends to do when Emery finds himself in absurd situations and apparently isn’t scared and embarrassed enough, and it keeps repeating They’ll take you away, Emmie—oh yeah, his dad calls him Emmie, because, clearly, naming him Emery wasn’t quite close enough to dangling raw steak in front of the noses of the junkyard dogs who masquerade as the high school football team—Emmie, the Dad-voice in his head says, you’ll be a goddamned lab rat and we’ll never see you again because once they have you, they’ll never let you go. And then his mother nodding along in doctorly conviction like she’s seen it all before. Because there’s nothing like a little parentally instilled unreasonable paranoia to warm your little boy heart with antiauthoritarian mistrust and a healthy fear of anyone with a clipboard.

4)   Oh crap, he has to call his parents.

5)   And, the last and most important reason Emery will not be wandering the halls of whatever hospital this is: he’s naked, and no way is he presenting himself to strangers without even a pair of boxers. They’ve probably seen enough already. Also, it’s cold, and… well. George Costanza kind of ruined the whole “shrinkage” thing for everyone.

Transporting is not something with which Emery has ever felt confident. He’d seen a movie once wherein the whiney, entitled, bratty “hero”—who’d also played a whiney, entitled, bratty pre-Darth Vader, and hadn’t that just sucked all respect for the name “Skywalker” out of Emery’s geeky preteen heart—the bratty “hero” could just sort of picture a place in his head and flip there with cool whooshing sound effects and a few CGI ripples.

Totally not how it works.

It’s more like slipping right into the vastness of the cosmos, then finding the needle of where he wants to be inside the infinite haystacks of time and space—like, all the space—and then just sort of… shifting his molecules into the available gaps. And if whatever entity that gives him his superpowers isn’t being particularly dickish that day, he won’t end up a moaning smear of formless matter like that guy who had an unfortunate encounter with a transporter beam in that crappy Star Trek movie.

Emery sighs and looks down at his naked self.

“Well,” he says and squares his shoulders. “I suppose waking up dead could’ve been worse. At least I’m not a White Walker.” He shudders. Nobody looks good in exposed tendons.

And with that happy thought, Emery shuts his eyes and wills himself back to his dorm.