Stormy Llewellyn, a woman of unconventional views, believes that our passage through this world is intended to toughen us for the next life. She says that our honesty, integrity, courage, and determined resistance to evil are evaluated at the end of our days here, and that if we come up to muster, we will be conscripted into an army of souls engaged in some great mission in the next world. Those who fail the test simply fail to exist.
In short, Stormy sees this life as boot camp. She calls the next life “service.”
Stormy and I are more than friends. We believe that we are soul mates.
For one thing, we have a card from a carnival fortune-telling machine that promises YOU ARE DESTINED TO BE TOGETHER FOREVER. I begin my day by reading those seven words. Each night, I read them again, sometimes more than once.
We also have matching birthmarks.
Cards and birthmarks aside, I love her intensely. I would throw myself off a high cliff for her if she asked me to jump. I would, of course, need to understand the reasoning behind her request.
Fortunately for me, Stormy is not the kind of person to ask such a thing lightly. She expects nothing of others that she herself would not do. In treacherous currents, she is kept steady by a moral anchor the size of a ship.
She once brooded for an entire day about whether to keep fifty cents that she found in the change-return slot of a pay phone. At last she mailed it to the telephone company.
In addition to the lingering spirits of the dead, I see one other kind of supernatural entity. I call them bodachs.
They are ink-black, fluid in shape, with no more substance than shadows. Soundless, as big as an average man, they frequently slink like cats, low to the ground.
In the folklore of the British Isles, a bodach is a vile beast that slithers down chimneys at night and carries off children who misbehave. Rather like Inland Revenue agents.
What I see are neither bodachs nor tax collectors. They carry away neither misbehaving children nor adult miscreants. But I have seen them enter houses by chimneys–by keyholes, chinks in window frames, as protean as smoke–and I have no better name for them.
Their infrequent appearance is always reason for alarm. These creatures seem to be spiritual vampires with knowledge of the future. They are drawn to places where violence or fiery catastrophe is destined to erupt, as if they feed on human suffering.
A single bodach signals impending violence that may be either near and probable or remote and less certain. If they appear in twos and threes, the danger is more immediate.
In my experience, when they appear in packs, the pending danger has become imminent peril, and the deaths of many people are days or hours away.
I don’t think they know that I can see them, too. If they did know, I believe that they would show me less mercy than mad mullahs show their victims when in a mood to behead and dismember.
Excerpted from ODD THOMAS Copyright 2003, FOREVER ODD Copyright 2005, and BROTHER ODD Copyright 2006, all by Dean Koontz. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.