“Gina, welcome home!” John said, nicely. He sometimes got home before I did, but it wasn’t very often. “What kept you? You’re normally home much earlier.”
“Oh, I…I walked home,” I said, trying to keep my voice calm and light, closing the door quickly behind me.
“Oh,” said John, frowning slightly. “You didn’t have a fight with Ria, did you?”
“N-no,” I stammered. “No, no, I just um…I just felt like walking today, I guess.”
“Hm,” said John, blinking. “Alright then. How’s your hand?”
“Oh, fine!” I said, moving slowly toward my room in the hopes that he’d see I couldn’t talk long. “Just fine. Doesn’t hurt any more or anything.”
“Oh good,” John said, smiling. “So, did you have a good day?”
“Um yeah. I did. Just a little…unexpected…” I gave a fake little laugh and kept taking steps towards my room, desperate to end the conversation.
“Um, sorry John, I’ve just got a bunch of homework I’ve gotta do and…”
“Oh, okay, I won’t keep you,” John said, barely noticing my attempted retreat. “Do you need some help?”
“No, it’s pretty easy,” I said, still trying to keep my voice calm without him noticing anything. “There’s just a lot of it. I’ll talk to you later!”
“Okay, call me if you need anything.”
I just nodded and hurried into my room. I love my stepfather, but I really didn’t need him seeing me talking to ghosts as I was about to do. When I got to my room, I went over to my window and looked down by the front door.
I could still see her, but barely. Just a faint silhouette of black, curly hair only just visible in the afternoon sunlight. I opened my window wide, lowered my arm down, and beckoned with my fingers upward. As I watched, the silhouette rose upward, coming closer and closer, until it reached my window and flew inside like a light breeze.
Ghost Corrine turned to face me. Unlike when I saw Aaron, she looked the same as she did back in the school. Nearly transparent but perfectly defined, she was relatively the same as her normal self, except in ghost form.
“Thanks,” she said. “Things are different when I’m like this. Things look weird and kinda scary. I thought I’d gotten used to it ages ago but…now that I can’t get…get back…” her voice trailed off.
“Um, don’t worry about it,” I told her. “How are you feeling? Do you feel weak or anything like that?”
“No,” her voice was small. “I feel normal…well, as normal as I can be like this. I just…I wanna go home.” She looked close to tears again. “Why!? Why did this happen? How did that thing…how did that thing take over me like that? Why can’t I get back into my own body?”
“I don’t know,” I said, helplessly. “I’m kinda new at this whole…psychic thing. I don’t have any of the answers.”
“But you said there was someone at your house that might know,” Corrine reminded me.
“Yeah, I just…” I glanced around my room. “I don’t know where to find him.”
“Here I am.”
Both Ghost Corrine and I jumped at that. The ghost boy, Aaron, had come back. This time through my wall, on the opposite end of which was the bathroom. He glanced at Corrine, and then turned to me.
“I heard you come in. Sorry I didn’t show up right away. Your dad has the newest edition of Wired Magazine in there and I was reading.”
“You read Wired?” I asked, angry as I tried to calm myself down from the state of cardiac arrest that Aaron’s sudden appearance nearly put me in.
“Not until I got here,” he answered, waving around my room, though indicating my house. “It’s pretty cool. I thought I saw something about some guy recreating the Millennium Falcon in there so…”
“Um, excuse me?” Corrine said, timidly.
“Oh, sorry,” said Aaron, turning toward her. “So, let me guess. You can’t get back into your body, can you?”
“How…how did you know?”
“I’ve been keeping and eye on this place,” Aaron said to her. “I saw shadows lurking around that boded ill for this place, so I came to make sure nothing bad happened.”
“Shadows?” I asked.
“Inhuman Entities,” said Aaron. “Those things I was telling you about. Wherever they show up, bad stuff happens.”
“Entities? You mean…you think that’s what’s got my body?” Corrine asked, sounding alarmed.
“I don’t think,” said Aaron, seriously. “I know.”
Corrine gasped. “I want it out! I wanna get rid of it! I want my body back!”
“I’ll bet you do,” said Aaron. “You should always be careful with things like that. Leaving your body leaves you vulnerable to attacks from the entities. How long have you been doing this, anyway?”
“I…I don’t know. Maybe…maybe a couple years or so.”
“Well, that explains it. You brought a lot of attention to yourself. The Entity has probably been watching you for awhile now, waiting for the chance to pounce!”
“Wait a minute!” I cried, feeling lost. “Back things up for the living person here! Corrine, you can see Aaron?”
“Um, yeah, kind of,” said Corrine. “Does he look like a white mist to you too?”
“No,” I said, startled. “I see a person.”
“That’s because you’re a normal clairvoyant,” said Aaron, calmly. “You’re a living person who has insight into the Shadow Life. That’s where I am. Living the Shadow Life as a ghost, because I died. Make sense?”
“No,” I admitted. “But keep going anyway.”
“Now, what you are,” Aaron said, turning to Corrine. “You’re a rare type of clairvoyant who can only see the outlines of ghosts by entering the Shadow Life prior to death, by leaving your body.”
“But I’m still alive, right?” Corrine asked, fearfully.
“Yeah,” said Aaron. “What you are, right now, is a type of ghost called a Doppelganger.”
“Doppelganger?” Corrine and I said at once. Then I added, ““You mean the kind that if you meet, you'll die?! That kind of Doppelganger?”
That got me a glare from Aaron. “What kind of lousy, urban legend crap is that? I just told you that it was the kind of ghost that Corrine is now! It’s haunting known as Bilocation. You can be in both the Living world and the Non-living world by turning your spirit into a Doppelganger and leaving your still-alive body behind.”
Nobody said anything for a little while until finally I had to ask, “How do you know all this stuff?!”
“You die and hang around for twenty years and see what you learn,” said Aaron, smartly.
“So um, um, how do I get my body back?” Corrine asked, timidly.
“We gotta get the Entity out somehow,” Aaron said his voice very serious all of a sudden. “It’s not going to be easy. In fact, it’s frighteningly difficult.”
“That’s encouraging,” I said, heavily. “Well, what do we have to do?”
“Entities are powerful beings of the Shadow Life,” Aaron said. “Like I told you before, they weren't alive, so they're jealous of the living, who get to experience everything. They hate the living and so do their best to destroy them. But they’re not exactly human themselves, although they appear to have human emotions. But there are a lot of things that, having never been alive, they can’t experience.”
“The living have bodies,” said Aaron, with a shrug. “Something that they’ve never had before. It gives them power to affect the Realm of the Living in way they can’t here in the shadow life.”
“The windows yesterday,” I said, quietly. “It…it broke the windows. It cut me,” I showed him my bandaged hand. “And others got it too. One boy even got shards embedded in his palms. Come to think of it…all those things have been centered around Cameron.”
“Hm,” said Aaron. “I’m betting that guy’s got an easy life. Entities don’t take well to living souls who have it easy. They like to take over the weak and overpower the strong. Kinda like Robin Hood, only super evil.”
“This can’t be!” Corrine wailed. “I want my body back! I want my body back!”
“You can still get it back,” said Aaron. “But not alone. Gina has to help you.”
“Why me!?” I cried, startled.
“Because you’re a clair…”
“I’m tired of hearing that!” I said, exasperated. “What does any of this have to do with me?”
“Because you’re one of the only people who can tell the living from the dead,” said Aaron, hotly. It was the first time I’d seen anything resembling anger coming from him. He looked suddenly more solid and the room got about five degrees colder. “So, are you saying you don’t want to help Corrine? Fine! Go on and pretend this isn’t happening. Go back to living in the dark. But you’ll be the only one who knows why bad things keep happening, why people are getting hurt and, believe it or not, you do have the power to stop it! If we just leave things as they are know, that Entity inside Corrine’s body will only get stronger and stronger. It’ll feed off the power from her body until it can start to do real damage. People will suffer its wrath, just for being alive! And Corrine will be blamed for all of it. In the end, once it’s exhausted her body’s power completely, it’ll leave and Corrine’s spirit will be able to reenter just in time to die in prison, sentenced with everything from assault to murder. Now, answer me honestly, do you really want that?”
I was so taken aback by all this; I couldn’t answer for a few minutes. I glanced at Ghost Corrine and saw that, if she still had a body, she’d be crying. Her leaving her body so many times had brought about a consequence more terrifying than she’d ever imagined. She was doomed to watch from afar as a monster controlled her living body, committing horrible acts, only letting her in when it was way too late to fix anything.
I didn’t really know her. I barely even met her, but I felt so sorry for her at that moment and wanted to help so badly, I couldn’t just ignore it. If I could help, I would. If there was any help that I could give her, I’d do it. It was my obligation. Aaron was right. I was the only one, at least in my school, who could see her like this. I was the only one who could help her.
“Sorry,” I mumbled. “You’re right, I…I’m sorry.”
“But, how can I help?” I asked. “This stuff is too new to me. How am I gonna get that Entity out of Corrine’s body?”
“You can force it out by concentrating your power onto it and drive it out through sheer force of will,” Aaron explained.
“My power?” I asked, confused. “What power?”
“The strength of your soul,” said Aaron. “Living people can overpower the dead. Anyone can do it but clairvoyants are supposed to be extra good at it. You have to focus the energy of your soul, direct it at the entity, and if it is powerful enough, you can drive it out. You can replenish the power of your soul through the regular eating and sleeping, and running out of it can make you pass out. But if you’re full of energy and have your wits about you, you can overpower the entity or whatever it is you’re dealing with and drive it out. If you look at it that way, it’s pretty much exorcism.”
“Exorcism?” I said, feeling my stomach squirm in rejection at the idea.
“Exorcism?!” said Ghost Corrine. Then she let out a little shriek! “So is my body gonna get all grey and ugly and my head turn all the way around and vomit pea soup!?”
“You clearly watch too much horror movies,” said Aaron, tonelessly.
“But I thought…I thought…you know… like…only priests could do that kind of stuff,” I said. I suddenly got a terrible image of myself in a nun outfit, holding up a rosary shouting “In the name of God, release this body!”
“You can do it too,” Aaron said.
“But I’m not Catholic!”
“You don’t have to be!”
“But won’t I need a cross or holy water or…”
“No, those things are just objects used to channel your energy,” Aaron said, sounding a little exasperated. “The cross to a priest is a symbol of their faith. It’s their Faith that powers their spirits, that makes them stronger. If you have faith in anything, believe in anything that you know is stronger than the entities, it’ll work every time. What people don’t know is that the living are always, always, stronger than the dead.”
I gulped. I never had any kind of religion or faith in my life and so I was already sure that whatever I tried wouldn’t work. But then I turned my attention back to Corrine’s spirit, floating helpless and alone, lost and scared. I didn’t want to fight any kind of evil spirit, I really didn’t. It was scary and confusing, but I just had to try. If I didn’t try, Corrine may never get her body back, people will keep getting hurt, and I would know it was my fault.I took off my dad’s charm bracelet and stuck it in my pocket. I was gonna need all the luck I could get with this one.