The Last Dream Keeper (The Witches of Echo Park #2)@Amber Benson

Eleanora

I am dead.

It’s strange to think those words and feel nothing. One spends an entire lifetime pushing the thought from one’s mind, pretending it doesn’t exist, and then suddenly it’s over: Your partner whirls you off the dance floor and you are no longer among the quick . . . Now the dead beckon you to their side of the ballroom.

Only I have chosen not to join them just yet. I stand in the middle, caught between this world and the next. We blood sisters, or witches, as society has deemed us, are allowed to make this choice upon our death. We can stay behind and become Dream Walkers, traversing the dreamlands without corporeal form, using our powers to help those we’ve loved during our lifetimes—though many of them will never see our invisible hand helping to guide their destinies.

One might think this means we are only “ghosts” who cannot affect the human world, but Dream Walkers are more than mere shades. Unlike the rest of humanity, we have magical powers that we carry with us to the other side—because magic transcends death, it seems.

What lies beyond the veil of human consciousness, you ask? What does one see when one is no longer blinded by mortal wants and needs?

That I cannot say.

For I still linger here, drifting between the Earth and the dreamlands—and I will stay this way, unaware of what lies beyond, until I cut the final tie, severing the connection that holds me here in self-imposed purgatory: my love for my granddaughter, Lyse, and my worry for her safety in these desperate times.

I stay because something terrible is coming; something that seeks to wash away our human world and install a new regime. They call themselves The Flood, but they are so much more than that . . . and their will shall be enacted across the land unless someone stands against them.

So I have chosen to throw in my lot with the living. Like Hessika, the coven master before me, I will remain a Dream Walker, and together we will help Lyse and her coven mates mount a defense against what is to come. Whether they know it or not, they will need all the help they can get.

For if they fail (no, they cannot fail), a darkness unlike any other will blanket the Earth, and all will be lost. The world as I have known it will cease to exist, and another kingdom will rise in its place.

A kingdom of horror that begins with the arrival of a bloodred moon.

Lyse

I dreamed that I murdered someone last night.

But was it a dream?

Lyse woke up on the floor in her underwear, blood from the reopened wound on her calf smeared across the rag rug she’d used as a bed. There were bruises all over her body (dreams did not leave bruises) and she was bone tired. The kind of tired that made your whole body ache.

She lay there on the floor, staring at the ceiling, too worn out to get up. The jangle of the landline screamed through Eleanora’s bungalow like a war cry. It was the impetus Lyse needed. With a sigh, she climbed to her feet and threw on a pair of flannel pajama pants, padding out of the bedroom.

She didn’t bother to clean the blood off the rag rug.

She took the call in the kitchen. It was a wrong number. Some kid from the L.A. Times wanting to renew Eleanora’s subscription. Lyse hung up on him. After that she was wide awake, her body thrumming like she’d swallowed a carafe of coffee. More than anything, she decided, she needed to clear her head. There were just too many questions she didn’t know the answers to, and she wanted them all to go away. Wanted the silence of sleep to fill her head again.

I want to disappear, Lyse thought, the weight of her guilt making her heart hurt. But I think I might’ve killed someone last night, and, if I have, I need to do the right thing and turn myself in. And if I’m wrong? If I’ve imagined it all? Then I need to confirm my insanity with my own eyes.

This was not something she relished doing, but it was necessary. She would go down to Echo Park Lake and look at the scene of her “dream” crime. Then, if fantasy proved to be reality, she would call the police.

She slapped a couple of Band-Aids on her calf and got dressed. Wearing sweats and her red