Gateway to Aethera | Wynonna Grimm Book 1

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Chapter 4

Sixteen Forty-nine silently muttered obscenities, as he hauled a large and heavy suitcase behind him. Somewhat cursing the day he decided to become a soul-retriever, he couldn’t help but feel sorry for himself. Still walking around in her body, he shot another resentful glare at the female spirit that walked alongside him with ease. He wanted nothing more than to just ditch the damn suitcase and dump the girl along with her corpse somewhere on the side of a road, despite knowing the consequences it would bring if someone were to chance upon her wandering spirit.

“I know I said that you could bring some of your personal effects with you, but did you really have to bring so much stuff?” he ground his teeth in bitterness, to which Wynonna turned around and simply arched an eyebrow at.

“I agreed to go along with your scheme to bring me back from the dead, but did you really expect me to move to some unknown place with bare hands? Also, who’s fault is it that I don’t have a body to carry my own suitcase with in the first place?” she fired back at him like a cannon, crossing her arms against her chest.

“Speaking of which, we’ve been walking for hours already. How long until we get there?” she complained grouchily. Having set off upon nightfall and walked for what seemed like miles upon miles through dark alleyways with no end, Wynonna couldn’t help but think that it was times like these when she wished she’d had enough money to be able to afford a car.

“We’re here,” Sixteen Forty-nine stopped abruptly before a rusted metal gate.

“Um, here where?” she shriveled her nose as she surveyed her surroundings, “Because all I see is a cemetery. “

Ignoring her words, Sixteen Forty-nine let go of the baggage he had been lugging around. Crouching low on the ground, he quickly scanned the area around the fence. Before Wynonna realized what it was that he was doing, the reaper had already grabbed the biggest stone he could find and had begun swinging it upon the iron lock that was chained through the metal bars of the gate. With one final blow, the chains attached to the lock broke and the lock itself rolled onto the ground with a soft thud.

“What are you doing?” Wynonna hissed in distress, “We already broke into a morgue today, and now you’re trying to break into a graveyard?

“Quiet down!” he glowered at her before grabbing the suitcase once more and pushing through the metal gates that gave way with a loud creak. Wynonna scurried behind him, despite the nerve-wracking atmosphere, wasting no time in following his lead.

Making their way through the various tombstones scattered around the cemetery, Sixteen Forty-nine headed towards the oldest mausoleum in the yard. It’s stone walls, having weathered throughout the many years that passed, only served to give it an eerie appearance in the eye of the beholder.

“Say, you’re not planning on breaking into there, too are you?” she frowned warily, “Isn’t there some kind of code in the grim reaper handbook that specifically states, ‘do not disturb the dead’?”

“Don’t be stupid. Even if there was such a thing, there’s no one else here besides us. Ergo, the only ghost around here is you. Also, how can a spirit be afraid of another spirit? You’d both be dead anyhow,” he berated her mercilessly.

“Well I never said I was scared,” she grumbled under her breath.

Instead of walking to the front entrance of the mausoleum as Wynonna had expected him to, Sixteen Forty-nine instead surprised her by walking around the building. Pushing aside the dense shrubbery that covered the left side of the building, he walked right up to the granite wall and he began to tap lightly on it as he ran his hands alongside the wall. After a few minutes, he finally found what he was looking for and tugged on a loose stone to reveal a hollow crevice. Sticking his arm inside and after digging around for a bit, he pulled out an old-fashioned metal key with a look of satisfaction.

“You have a key?” Wynonna turned to give him a strange look.

Then maybe it doesn’t really count as breaking and entering after all? she pondered in bewilderment.

Not responding once again, Sixteen Forty-nine placed the stone carefully back into place and resumed walking further downhill along the side of the building structure. They eventually reached a large metal door hidden deep amongst the various plants that covered the whole left side of the mausoleum.

“A side entrance, huh? How convenient,” she observed.

Inserting the key inside the keyhole, he turned it until it clicked. Pushing the door open and closing the door behind him after Wynonna entered, he then lit the flashlight he’d secured before having left Wynonna’s apartment. The pair continued to walk deeper into the Mausoleum until they reached a descending staircase.

“I’ve got to say, I was not expecting there to be a basement here. And not going to lie, but I am currently both deeply fascinated and slightly disconcerted at how no one has discovered this place yet. It’s not even all that well hidden,” she relayed to Sixteen Forty-nine, having somewhat gotten more comfortable with looking at her own face despite being fully aware that she was speaking to someone else―who just happened to be occupying her body.

“It’s hidden from the eyes of the living for the most part. There are several wards meant to keep humans away and those that are alive only see a stone wall where the entrance is located. But you’re dead now, so this doesn’t apply to you,” he answered the unspoken question.

“You know even though I know for a fact that you aren’t insulting me, for some reason I still feel slightly offended,” she input, only just now realizing that a part of her was starting to develop a bit of sensitivity to the term ‘dead’ and anything in relation to it.

Making their way down the staircase, Wynonna took notice of strange symbols that were engraved upon the stone walls but chose not to comment on it.

“Hey Sixteen Ninety-three-” she called out to the reaper.

“Forty-nine,” he corrected her calmly.

“When we get to that place, you’re taking me to, where do you suppose I’ll live from now on?” she decided to bring up the one question that had been bothering her for quite some time.

“Though not often, I do sometimes get soul retrieving assignments on the Otherside. During one of those trips, I happened to chance upon an old abandoned cottage. Since I ended up finishing my assignment early, I took the opportunity to take a break and ended up fixing up the cottage and resting there for a while. Even though it’s not much, it’s at an ideal location where you wouldn’t have to worry about running into any of the residents of the world. So for the time being, it’s good enough for you to be able to live there for a while without any worries until you’ve fully adjusted,” he clarified patiently.

As they reached the end of the staircase and continued down the hall, they finally reached the end of the road. Before them stood a large golden gate that extended all the way to the top of the high ceiling of a cavern. What was beyond the gate was obscured in darkness.

“This is it. The gate to the Otherside. The gateway to Aethera.”


“Mhmm,” he nodded, “The Otherside, otherwise known as the world of Aethera. And that right there is one of the few gates that are linked to it.”

“Um...Are you sure this is it?” she looked at him skeptically, “Considering where it’s located at, rather than the gateway to the Otherside, this thing looks a lot more like a gateway to hell to me.”

Looking at the large gate that lay before her once more, Wynonna couldn’t help but think that its appearance was rather underwhelming. This hadn’t been exactly how she imagined that they would be traveling to the Otherside. For some reason, in her mind she had somewhat been expecting to travel via some magical form of teleportation.

Scratching her head in disillusionment, she thought to herself that technically speaking they kind of were going to teleport after all― although maybe just not in the way that she had pictured it.

“Quit messing around,” Sixteen Forty-nine scolded her, almost as if he’d sensed the direction her train of thought was headed in, “Are you coming or not?”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m coming,” she responded sheepishly.

Making a strange symbol with his hands, Sixteen Forty-nine waited a few seconds before pushing open the gate. Once they crossed over it and trudging onward, the stone walls began to disappear the more they walked on. Instead the ceiling seemed to curve out and the stone floor was replaced by dirt and rocks.

Moss lined the edges of the floor and the sound of bird calling could be heard from the distance.

“Where are we?” Wynonna exclaimed in wonder.

“A cave. This specific gate is connected to an underground cave in Aethera, off the coast of the empire of Rymioera.

“Well then shall we get down to business?”

“Wait what? Right now?” she was jolted out of her daze.

“If not now, when? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have to continue walking around in a corpse and on top of that, having to carry around your junk for you,” he kicked at the suitcase to make his point.

Without a warning, the dead body’s spine arched backwards, and its eyes rolled to the back of its head, shuddering once before Wynonna’s body collapsed on the ground. Sixteen Forty-nine’s real form began to take form in a cloud of smoke instantly, before Wynonna’s very own eyes.

“Okay, I’m feeling mildly disturbed right now,” Wynonna recoiled in horror, finding it hard not to be traumatized by the sight of her own body contorting in ways she knew it wasn’t supposed to.

The reaper simply gave her a flat look as he stretched out his limbs.

“Alright hurry up and lay down on top of your body,” he ordered, ready to get this over with and get a move on already.

“What? That’s it? I just lay down on top of my body and it’s done?” she looked at him in disbelief.

“If it were that simple then you’d already be alive and kicking. Just hurry up and do as I say,” he retorted, straightening out his clothes before rolling up the sleeves on his cloak.

Wynonna gave him a dubious look but nevertheless she did what she was told. Laying down on top of her body, her soul passed right through it, but Wynonna stayed as she was.

Sixteen Forty-nine sighed in resignation as he gave in to his fate. Now all that was left, was to seal the deal. With this, he would be screwing himself a thousand times over if anyone were to ever find out what he’d done. Walking over to the dead body lying before him, he extended his hands outward and grabbed onto the broken chains that materialized in his hands.

Feeling out the air a bit, he closed his eyes and began to manipulate the particles surrounding them. When he managed to completely filter out the unnecessary particles polluting the aether around them, he then reached out, lightly pulling small tendrils of it towards him with his bare hands as though he were tugging on a rope. Gathering it all up in his hands, he rolled the aether up into a long cord.

Now holding one long line of aether in one hand, he began to weave it through each and every one of the broken chains of Wynonna’s soul, winding the chains several times around her body. He continued working his way back and forth with the cord for what felt like an eternity. At some point throughout this process, Wynonna’s chest had begun to gently rise and fall, an indication that her heart had indeed begun to beat once more.

When he was finally satisfied with the outcome, Sixteen Forty-nine flicked Wynonna’s forehead hard― with two fingers for good measure― just to verify that his hard work hadn’t been all for naught.

“Ow! What the hell?” she seethed, glaring at him as she rubbed at her forehead, freezing up immediately as realization hit her.

“That hurt...” she slowly tested the words out, still unsure of herself for a moment. Wynonna patted her body down a few times making sure that everything was in order and even sniffed herself just to make sure that she could actually smell.

“Yeah nope, I’m alive alright,” she crumpled her nose in disgust at the scent of the dead body stench that permeated her body. However her displeasure was curbed by the satisfaction of knowing that all of her wounds had disappeared as if they’d never been there.

“You’re welcome for that, by the way,” he scoffed at the ingrate before him.

“If you’re done feeling yourself up, can we leave now?” he urged her to get up, impatiently. Looking up at him another thought suddenly crossed Wynonna’s mind.

“Hey Sixteen Ninety-three-”

“Forty-nine,” he corrected her once again, irritation flashing across his features.

“How come I can still see you?” she continued, having only just noticed that she could still see him even though she was now clearly alive.

“I only bonded your chains together with aether, so they are technically still broken. Though I can reveal myself to humans should I choose to, I’m currently still concealing myself right now, so my guess is that it’s a minor side effect of having died once already. It’ll probably go away on its own once your chains have been fully restored over time... or it might never resolve itself. Who knows? But my advice to you is that if you ever happen to chance upon another reaper or a wandering spirit, look the other way.”

“Another spirit? But don’t all spirits go directly to the spirit realm after their deaths?”

“No. There are some spirits that refuse to pass on over to the spirit realm. These spirits become wandering spirits. Nothing good ever comes with associating with them which is why you should heed my words when I tell you to turn a blind eye to them if you ever run into one, Miss Grimm. They’re nothing but bad news,” he reiterated, emphasizing his words so that she understood the importance of what he was trying to convey to her.

After agreeing to his request, to never associate with another spirit nor even so much as look at one, they finally left the cave and made their way into the outside world. As they emerged from the depths of a narrow gorge, the sun’s rays shone down upon them from between the dark clouds. Only then did Wynonna notice the sudden temperature drop after having crossed over to the Otherside. Looking up at the sky, a flock of migratory birds shredded through the sky in a uniform formation.

“It’s daylight here. Also the season’s changed,” she tested carefully.

“Mm,” he agreed, “It’s the beginning of winter. There’s also quite a bit of a time difference from here to Salem.”

“How far are we from the cottage?”

“Not far. A couple of hours by foot.”

Hours?” she looked at him with a pained expression as though he’d just kicked her puppy.

Yes, hours,” he repeated, “We’re going to have to take the long way seeing as how with your current appearance it’ll be best to take cover near the trees to avoid running into anyone and attracting unnecessary attention. Which is why we need to get moving if we’re to make it before nightfall.”

Giving him one last aggrieved look, she followed after him, nonetheless.

Climbing up a rocky slope, they made their way out of the gourd. As they reached a higher ground level, Wynonna was able to fully see the vast land that lay before them.

Definitely not in Salem anymore, she lamented as she looked out into the distance at the endless land that stretched out before them. Suddenly thinking back to the life she was forced to leave behind― as crappy as it had been― Wynnona lamented having to leave behind everything she had ever built for herself through blood, sweat, and tears. Not only that but she wasn’t even able to say goodbye to the one person who had taken her under their wing during the lowest point in her life and treated her as one of their own.

Wynnona didn’t even want to imagine how Old Man Jenson would take the news of her demise when he found out she had passed away so suddenly. He was both the parental figure she’d always wished for and the best friend she’d never had but now it seemed like she was never going to be able to see him again in this lifetime. The thought of never again having someone constantly nagging at her for her own good and losing the only confidant she’d ever trusted, had her forcing down the lump that had formed in her throat.

After an eternity of dragging her sore feet across frozen woodlands and being forced to have to take periodic breaks that only slowed down their pace even more, a part of Wynonna was starting to wish she’d stayed dead. At the very least in her spirit form, she would have been incapable of feeling the exhausting she was feeling right now. Not only was she beyond tired but her hands had even begun to turn stiff from the cold that permeated her bones.

“Hey Sixteen Ninety-three-”

Forty-nine!” he snapped at her impatiently for what seemed to be the hundredth time already.

“Are you sure we’re going the right way?” Her teeth chattered as she questioned him wearily, releasing her luggage for a moment before rubbing her frozen hands together to get some friction going. Everywhere she looked, were barren trees and large frigid areas of mud puddles. The water had soaked through her footwear and her toes felt as though they were on the verge of falling off.

“Yes, and before you ask, we’re almost there if that’s any consolation, so please stop asking me the same questions over and over again,” he huffed in annoyance.

The sun had begun to set and with it the shadows thickened inside the dark forest, the air having dropped several degrees more in temperature― much to Wynonna’s chagrin, as she’d initially believed that the temperature really couldn’t get any colder than what it already was.

The fallen leaves crunched beneath their feet as they continued their journey and made their way into a small clearing. As her eyes finally graced the cottage they had sought after for so long, Wynonna felt a sense of relief wash over her that quickly morphed into utter displeasure when she noticed the state the small house was in.

“Oi! I thought you said you fixed this place up?” she glared at Sixteen Forty-nine in accusation, feeling somewhat cheated. It wasn’t like she had expected much to begin with since the cottage had been abandoned in the first place, but this couldn’t even be considered a fixer upper much less livable. If anything, the place looked a lot more like a crack house than an actual cottage.

The door to the main entrance was literally hanging off its hinges and the fence surrounding the porch was a complete bust as half of its wooden pieces were either broken or missing. Not to mention that one of the windows had been completely shattered.

“In my defense, it has been quite a while since I was last here. I wouldn’t be surprised if bandits broke in and ransacked the place,” he observed thoughtfully.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Wynonna groaned out loud as she took in the mess before her.

“Nothing to be done about it now. We’ll work on fixing it up tomorrow. For now, we should settle in. It’ll be dark soon.”

Marching forward, the floorboards creaked as they made their way over the threshold into the old house.

“This ought to be fun to clean up,” Sixteen Forty-nine whistled out loud in wonder at the sight of the mess that cluttered the floor.

Stepping over the broken pieces of furniture that were scattered throughout the main sitting room, Wynonna set her suitcase down and proceeded to explore her new home. She tried her best to think optimistically, in a miserable attempt to make the most out of her situation. If she ignored the overall appearance of the house, it really wasn’t all that bad when it came down to it. At the very least she’d have a roof over her head and wouldn’t have to worry about living out in the wild.

Whilst Wynonna preoccupied herself with opening door after door, Sixteen Forty-nine took the time to analyze his surroundings. An unpleasant feeling crept inside him as he had a sudden moment of clarity. Despite outward appearances, there was nothing missing from the house. Other than the fact that the place looked as though it had been broken into, all the items that had been there when he left were still present.

“Miss Grimm-” he called out cautiously to grab her attention, but it was already too late.

A loud crash could be heard coming from the other room.

Wynonna was in a complete state of panic. Lost in her own thoughts, she overlooked the possibility of there being another presence in the room, and as a result was completely caught off guard when she was tackled from behind.

A large hand covered her mouth, muffling her screams as she was dragged out of the house through the side entrance.

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