(Book 13 in the Dresden Files series)
A novel by Jim Butcher
To Air, for introducing me to Mab by onion-colored light
As always, there are too many people to thank and only a little bit of space to thank them in. This time around, I must especially thank my editor, Anne, for putting up with my delays in writing. I’m sure I gave her, along with several of the folks trying to schedule things at Penguin, headaches. My agent, Jenn, was invaluable in getting everything straightened out, as well as in helping me through the bumpy bits, and I owe her my thanks, as well. I would apologize to you all abjectly if I were sure it would never happen again. Seems sort of insincere to do it otherwise, all things considered, so I’ll just thank you for your patience and understanding.
To the inhabitants of the Beta Asylum, many more thanks than usual are owed, especially for everyone who sacrificed so much of their time and focus in the last few weeks before the revised deadline. Your feedback, support, and advice were particularly invaluable.
To my dear patrons, the readers, I can only thank you for your patience, after leaving the last novel the way I did, then making everyone wait another three months past the usual delay while I made sure this book was ready to go. Enjoy! (And, technically, guys,
Changes did NOT end in a cliff-hanger. Seriously.)
And to Shannon, who had to live with me during this more-franticthan-usual period of insanity: I’m almost certain I’ll be sane again at some point in the reasonably near future. I’ll try to make it up to you.
Ife is hard.
So many things must align in order to create life. It has to happen in a place that supports life, something approximately as rare as hen’s teeth, from the perspective of the universe. Parents, in whatever form, have to come together
for it to begin. From conception to birth, any number of hazards can end a life. And that’s to say nothing of all the attention and energy required to care for a new life until it is old enough to look after itself.
Life is full of toil, sacrifice, and pain, and from the time we stop growing, we know that we’ve begun dying. We watch helplessly as year by year, our bodies age and fail, while our survival instincts compel us to keep on going – which means living with the terrifying knowledge that ultimately death is inescapable. It takes enormous effort to create and maintain a life, and the process is full of pitfalls and unexpected complications.
A life, by comparison, is simple. Easy, even. It can be done with a relatively minor effort, a single microbe, a sharp edge, a heavy weight. . . or a few ounces of lead.
So difficult to bring about. So easy to destroy.
You’d think we would hold life in greater value than we do.
I died in the water.
I don’t know if I bled to death from the gunshot wound or drowned. For being the ultimate terror of the human experience, once it’s over, the details of your death are unimportant. It isn’t scary anymore. You know that tunnel with the light at the end of it that people report in near-death experiences? Been there, done that.
Granted, I never heard of anyone rushing toward the light and suddenly hearing the howling blare of a train’s horn.
I became dimly aware that I could feel my feet beneath me, standing on what seemed to be a set of tracks. I knew because I could feel the approaching train making them shake and buzz against the bottoms of my feet. My heart sped up, too.