CL Gaber | @CLGaber
School for the Recently Departed (Ascenders #1)
Who Died Young Go On the Epic Adventure of an After-Lifetime
was living her teenage life in suburban Chicago…and the next minute, she was
in a strange place and in a brand new school with absolutely no homework, no
rules, and no consequences.
middle realm where teenagers have one thing in common: They were
the morning announcement at their high schools because they died young.
zone where life hasn’t changed very much. In fact, this special teen
limbo looks a lot like life in a quaint Michigan town complete with jocks,
popular girls and cliques. “There are even cheerleaders in
death,” Walker observes. It’s not a coincidence that the
music teacher is a guy named Kurt who “used to have this band.” The
drama teacher, Heath, is crush worthy because back in his life, he starred in
some superhero movie.
can’t die twice.
formed until you’re 24.
that hillside. But falling in love is the most dangerous thing you can do
…because no one knows how long you’ll stay in this realm or what’s next.
tragic car accident. “Is this hell or is this high school?” she asks.
with tat-covered, bad boy Daniel Reid who is about to break the
only sacred rule of this place. He’s looking for a portal to return
back to the living realm.
strangely never arrived at The Academy. Bobby is an Earth Bound
Spirit, stuck at a plane crash site that took both of their
lives as their rich father piloted his private jet nose-first into a cornfield
on Christmas Eve.
transporting a young child with them? Can their love survive the fragmented
evil parts of themselves that are now hunting them down as they try to find a
way back to the middle?
young—there are no rules except one.
briefly revisited her earthly life
eternal. Longing for her rebel love interest, Daniel Reid, Walker
finds an ally in Cass, whose attraction to her is as alive as he is. “Life
is short,” he tells her. “I’m banking on eternity. With you.”
realm-jumping journey takes Walker and Daniel back to life again when they
search for something buried in history. They team with students from
several other schools in the middle realm including a place for
teens born with oddities. It’s home to the Claires . . . beautiful,
ruthless, and quite dead seventeen-year-old quads who each have a
different clairvoyant gift.
an afterlife-time—or will she find herself on the downside of eternity?
it was absolutely dark, I felt like the world had faded to inky black. I
have any idea where we were walking, but knew I had to get home before my
became frantic and called the cops, which would be mortifying in a new town.
long have your parents been gone?” I asked, sliding along and breathing
while thinking that maybe his mother and father had a time-share in
Palm Springs during this time of the year and had just snuck away for the
even dumped the kids on him for a week.
have they been gone?” Daniel pondered out loud. His laugh was
sarcastic; it was vicious. “They’ve been gone years, months, and days. Who
them? I certainly don’t.”
he was kidding. Parents didn’t take vacations from their four children
It was called child abandonment and there were laws. Wait, maybe his parents
in jail for breaking the law. Embezzlers? Ponzi scheme? My
journalistic mind was
overdrive. “So, it’s just the four of you kids in the house? For years. Home
a little laugh. “Obviously, that was a bad joke.”
It’s just us four—we’re a family. Intact. For the most part,” said the
Beckham look-a-like with the short dark hair and steel gray eyes, quickly
again. He really didn’t want to get into it now.
I thought. Now this was really getting
interesting. I knew he was the
type, and his choice of words was deliberate.
question would have to wait.
seemed like an instant, my back foot caught on a large fallen tree branch
forward with all my body weight. Crashing hard onto my hands and knees, I
but I wasn’t in any real pain. Before I could stand up, I slipped again until
slammed against the surface of the thickly iced-over pond. The cracking sound
thunder. Then, in what felt like a sickening surge of broken glass and rushing
ground suddenly ceased to exist. I didn’t have time to scream as I dropped into
lifeless, icy chill of wintery water.
for the first slap of bitter freeze, instantly calling up some stupid fact
science class at Kennedy High where we learned that Titanic survivors described
the freezing ocean water as thousands of tiny knives stabbing every inch of
excruciating pain, but there was none. There was just numbness as I
the earliest stages of being converted to ice.
was only natural and I fought hard as my hands flailed through the
trying to keep my head above the murky freeze, but it was pointless. The water
that night and my thrashing almost made a game out of its impending conquest.
a second or two of my desperate survival dance for the lake to swallow me
must have heard the crack and he stopped in place. Slowly, he turned
I struggled to pop up again, but by putting up a fight I only succeeded in
worse. As my body was being carried under the heavy sheet of ice in an
dance, I could see Daniel above, the soles of his black boots carefully
my route as he calmly watched me drown.
it was fascinating to watch him ever so gradually shuffle along as my
desperately reached from under my new icy roof for the bottom of his boots. The
that separated us was about five solid inches of deadly winter soup. By the
found me in an even darker spot where the lake mingled with several dead,
trees, all he could see from under the thick coating was my face looking up at
frozen in horror. He saw my pouty mouth almost kissing the ice and frantically
say one word to him.
down murky green water, ingesting long tentacles of lifeless leaves and
clumps of sludge-dirt, and it all slid easily into my lungs while he just
I maneuvered away from the spot by the trees, which made it worse
now I was pinned under even thicker ice, my milky-white face pressed up
eight to ten inches of immovable crystals.
Daniel walked to where I was wildly waving my arms underneath the
When I looked up now, he was a hazy dark blur that made me suddenly dizzy.
when I shut my eyes to wait for the inevitable.
didn’t black out. Long minutes passed, my eyes sprung open, and I
to push upward again as the water became midnight black. For some reason I
alive, but I still couldn’t free myself from this wintry prison.
raced. How much time had passed? How much time could pass before I
be brain-dead? How much time before I died?
still stood above the ground and calmly watched me struggle. “To hell
this,” he finally said, loud enough for me to hear him under the ice. Was he
struggling and just accept that I lost?
another endless minute passed, he shook his head and, though apparently
himself, said even louder, “Okay, enough . . . but you need to know.”
a thinner spot of ice, he made a small hole and then pummeled it
bigger passage with those clomping boots. Reaching down into the crack, he
a strong hand and a tat-covered, muscular arm. Somehow through the dark
saw human fingers moving and grabbed them like they were my only lifelines,
exactly what they were to me.
took was one big hoist and I was in his arms, pressed body-to-body up
him, soaking wet, freezing cold, and mad as hell.
right hand, that had absolutely no feeling in it, I slapped him squarely
jaw as hard as possible. When he didn’t budge much, I slapped him again,
my hand tired, but it didn’t hurt. When I attempted to punch his face, he
hand in a firm way that signaled we weren’t going another nine rounds.
there, tiger,” he said with a smirk that made those soft eyes twinkle. “I
you’re a fan of the Rocky movies.”
you bastard . . . why . . . you didn’t even try to save me,” I sputtered,
wasn’t really coughing and certainly my brain was perfectly fine. For a split
to five backward. Again, it was amazing that my mind was still functioning.
water was cold enough to save me. Is that how it worked?
you. You were just standing there! Watching! Watching me die!” I
shoving him again. This time, I took him by surprise and he landed butt-first
stood up, lurched forward, and grabbed both of my arms, holding me
his rock-hard chest until I stopped struggling and gave up the idea of trying
block off. He held me tightly like he was protecting me from some danger
what just happened. Tears formed in my eyes and I began to touch my arms
tested my breathing, which was perfectly normal. He still refused to let go.
puffs of my breath filled the dark sky and I watched them evaporate slowly like
clouds. Then I looked up.
aren’t I dead?” I said in an anguished voice.
took a deep breath, carefully released me, and then answered slowly.
baby, you can’t die twice,” he said.
“ASCENDERS: High School of the Recently Departed” (Book One) and a
ASCENDER: SKYPUNCH (Book Two). C.L. is also the co-author of JEX MALONE.
A-listers for the New York Times wire and several other publications. Daniel
Day-Lewis and Bruce Springsteen are two of her favorites! C.L. lives in Nevada
with her husband Ron, daughter Sabrina and two unruly dogs.