Tommy had been left in the dark again, figuratively if not literally. After meeting and talking to Sam, she’d gained some hope things might change, but here she was, still waiting. If only she could work out how to manipulate things so she could turn on the tv or something, anything to alleviate the tedium.
It was all very strange, this being dead thing. How was it that she still felt so much like herself? She still had her memories and all the feelings which went with that, she missed her friends and even school. If there was this much to her after she’d died, there had to be more in general. It couldn’t just be waiting and floating and unable to connect with anyone or anything. Except Sam, that jerk. How cruel to give her hope like that and then disappear. Maybe the trio had gone off to shoot some footage and something had happened? What a nightmare this was shaping up to be. The door opened suddenly and Tommy sat up, expecting? Hoping? To see Sam. Her disappointment when it was just Georgie and Jeff made her feel heavy enough to sink through the bed.
Except, wait, she was sinking through the bed! What fresh hell was this? In that moment, the tv flashed on, the light flickering around the room, throwing everything into glaring relief. Georgie didn’t even notice, spraying the rag in her hand with cleaner and wiping down the bureau and television, which was off. So if the light wasn’t coming from the tv…
Tommy pulled herself up and fought her way to standing. The sinking feeling had shifted into more of a pull, the light in her periphery constant and brighter now. It pulsed, wavering a bit before getting stronger. It was so bright she felt compelled to shield her eyes, and glanced at Georgie to acknowledge that yes, it was only visible to Tommy.
“Oh my fuck, is this the light? Like, the light? As in, go to the light Carol-Ann? What do I do?”
Her decision was made when the sensation of being pulled grew stronger. Any consideration she had to move away from the light was immaterial as it grew all around her until the features of the room started to blur and fade. It didn’t hurt so much as create a feeling of erasure, as though she would cease to be after all was said and done. But she didn’t feel ready, suspecting that being assimilated or whatever this was was not the same as forgetting. Tommy let out a scream and the last thing she saw was Georgie standing in the middle of the room, her head tilted as though she wasn’t sure if she heard something or not.
When she opened her eyes, she thought she must have gone back in time. She was in an old fashioned looking diner, shiny with new paint and brightly coloured seats. Casting her eyes about she realized it was the Busmeat café, but closer to its original iteration. Seeing it fresh and new made it painfully evident how run down it would become in the future.
She was seated in a booth at the far end of the restaurant, near the bathroom. Sitting across from her was Sam, holding a rock and shining a flashlight in her eyes. She blinked rapidly, wondering what the hell was happening.
“What the fuck?”
“It worked!” Sam yelled, and three figures popped up from behind the counter. One was Herb, which made no sense in this gleaming diner of the past. Another was Cassie, which made even less sense. Her hair was longer and her face looked older. Maybe she had been propelled into the future? And the third was Casey, with the biggest, goofiest grin on his face.
“Seriously, what the hell is going on? Am I still dead?”
Sam was looking at Herb and Alex, delighted to see them staring directly at where Tommy was sitting. Alex took a tentative step forward, one hand reaching toward her friend. Tommy started to move through the table, but banged her hand on the underside.
“Ouch! I mean, it didn’t hurt, but I can’t…” she lifted her hand and rested it on the table top. Raising her eyes to meet Sam’s, she tested the solidity of the surface by smacking it a couple of times. “What did you do? I can touch things? People too?” She stood and moved toward Alex, who had come around to the restaurant side of the counter. For a moment the girls just looked at each other, suddenly shy. But then they fell into each other’s arms, Tommy laughing and Alex crying, overwhelmed for the moment. Casey came and stood next to Sam.
“That’s amazing, Sam! Can you do that for me too?”
“I suppose so. Honestly, I didn’t know it was possible. I had an inkling after I was able to pull the napkin through, but I never thought…there is something really unusual about this place. The fact that we can connect and draw ghosts out of their realm and into ours…I mean, now that I’ve worked out how not to do it. Hopefully, anyhow.” Alex stopped hugging Tommy long enough to fix Sam with a glare.
“Yeah, you’d better not make another mistake like that.”
Tommy was confused.
“A mistake like what?”
15 minutes earlier
Sam lit the candle and held up the hagstone. Casey, Herb, and Alex gathered around, their excitement palpable. Sam tried to sound confident.
“When mum taught me to do this, she told me to light the candle and then look at it through the stone until my focus softens and the flame loses any definitive shape.”
“Like one of those weird pictures where you cross your eyes and see the hidden sailboat?”
“Um, I’m going to say not exactly?” Sam turned to Alex and Herb, who looked confused. “Casey just asked if it was like one of those magic 3d pictures.” Alex rolled her eyes in the direction she hoped Casey was standing. Sam continued.
“Though I don’t cross my eyes, it does feel a bit like when you look through binoculars, except there are two circles with different images in each and you have to make them become one. Since I’ve got one eye closed to look through the stone, I imagine her being visible via the eye that’s closed. I concentrate on that until it feels like she’s there, and when I open the other eye, she is. But I’ve never tried it with anyone but her. Fingers crossed it works.”
Sam held the hagstone in front of the candle flame and closed one eye, focusing on the glow and the memory of Tommy. There was a familiar feeling of discomfort, which was encouraging, but a strange sensation of intense cold followed, which was not. Chalking it up to the probability that it would feel different to pull someone new into the realm of tangibility, Sam took a deep breath and exhaled while opening the other eye.
Somewhere along the way, a terrible mistake had been made.
Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash