The Reincarnation of Lydia Ashes

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9

DANGER IS AS DANGER DOES

As they walked down the hall, neither of them spoke a word. They took each step with conviction, and if anyone on the outside was looking in they would know that a mission was imminent. Lydia’s mind raced with thoughts of what she was getting herself—and Aiden—into. Even Dexter, who had been here for what seemed like forever, was scared of the valley. And that meant something. Her mind lit up with a whole new thought.

‘Where has Dexter been?’

She hadn’t seen him since that first night, after all. She had to push that curiosity to the back-

burner. She was still in the midst of a search mission for someone else.

They arrived at yet another door, and as Lydia went to turn the brass knob Aiden grabbed her arm.

“Are you sure it’s worth it?”

“I gotta find him, Aiden. It’s my fault he found out like that.”

“But he would have found out eventually anyway. He knew he was worse than the rest of his family because they’re already gone. Besides, he was always an asshole. To everybody. You can’t feel guilty for making the guy remember who he was.”

“That’s not the point.” She turned the knob slowly, opened the door and walked out. The door opened to right before the Valley of the Lost Souls began.

‘Incredible’, Lydia thought, realizing that no matter what door she opened she always ended up where she wanted to be. It was something about the middle she really appreciated, even in that moment of courageous idiocy.

“Alright Lydia, you ready for this?” Aiden’s face lacked the confidence Lydia would have liked.

“No, but if I wait until I’m ready I’ll never do it so I have to do it now. You don’t have to come with me, you know. It’s not safe.”

“Please. If I let you go alone, I’ll never see you again.”

And with that they started walking slowly into the Valley.

This was now the second time in the valley for

Lydia and this time around, the things that missed her attention during the first run through all of a sudden became front and centre.

The fog in the valley was thick and smelled rancid, like someone took a mixture of blood, bleach, and rotting corpses and coated it everywhere. The entire place was a greyish tone, not quite dark, not quite light. Just grey. It was eerie, and really changed the colour grey, for Lydia at least. They still hadn’t seen another soul and it made her feel relieved and impatient all at the same time. She wanted this to be an in and out mission, not a stake out. She didn’t want to be here, and neither did Aiden.

“Whoa, there. There’s a few,” Aiden whispered being shocked into a slight jump that he tried to cover up by pointing. He shouldn’t have pointed. They noticed.

“They saw us. What do we do, what do we do?” Lydia whispered back.

“Just don’t look at them and keep walking?”

Lydia wasn’t sure if Aiden was asking or telling, so she just nodded and went with it. The souls began to walk slower and slower towards them, and then began their own aimless walking again, as if they were stunned back into delirium. They began to use this technique as they got further into the valley. It was all they had, after all. There were no distinctions between north, south, east, or west. Lydia wondered to herself whether or not

they really were just risking getting lost themselves and almost decided to turn back when she saw him. “Bill!” she screamed, way too loud. She ran over to him and he just stared at her.

“Just let the valley keep me,” he whispered. He was clearly in bad shape, and Lydia wasn’t about to let someone spend eternity in here because she jogged a horrific memory. That seemed blasphemous, which really made no sense now that she thought about where she was and what she was waiting for. This was a horrible place, but it wasn’t hell.

“Um, no. I will not let the valley keep you,” Lydia said with a hint of sarcasm, as if the valley couldn’t possibly keep him, even though at this point she wasn’t sure. She had assumed that the bad souls wandered because they couldn’t leave due to some energy clause or something. Too much negative energy, you can’t get past the valley. Simple as that. But still, it’s not like she got a lot of answers from that Valentine.

‘Mr. Disappear-Without-Answers,’ she joked to herself as she half carried Bill towards the exit. Or at least in the direction she thought they came from.

“Here, let me take him.” Aiden said scooping up Bill and relieving Lydia of the heavy load. “Souls can be heavy.” He smiled.

Lydia looked at his smile and realized something. They were still in the valley and there were souls all around them. Hundreds of

grey, negative souls just closing in around the three of them in a sort of slow zombie mosh pit. “We’re trapped!”

“Here, this way, come with me! Bill, you gotta’ help me out here man, run!”

The three of them ran through the crowd, bony cold fingers scratching them as they dodged their way through the dead. The faster they got, the faster the souls got. It was as if they were advancing at the same rate and they couldn’t escape them.

“This is it, Aiden. I’m sorry!” Lydia shouted through tears as the hands closed in behind them and they had no idea where to run to next. They could be going in circles for all they knew, and they were losing the race.

“Here, run to me!” A man’s voice called out from behind them. “Hurry up!”

They ran towards the voice not caring about who it belonged to—because anybody at that point would have to better than what they were just up against.

“You’re almost here keep running!”

And then all of a sudden, a doorway appeared before them and they ran faster than ever. They flew through the door with impeccable speed, so much so that Lydia couldn’t stop and flung herself into the wall on the other side of the hallway. The door slammed shut.

“Now, just what do you three think you’re doing out there? Playing around? Testing evil, are we? You know it only gets boring here if you let it.”

It was Dexter Valentine, reappeared to save the day, which was clearly some sort of habit of his. At least as far as Lydia could see. In that moment, she sure was thankful for that Valentine.

“Well you see, our new friend Bill here had a bad memory that made him feel guilty for some on-earth actions of his and decided to get himself lost. Aiden and I went to save him.”

“Make sure you remember that it’s your fault I remembered it,” Bill said from behind them, slowly coming out of his daze.

“Right, yes. That’s mostly why we went to save him.” She laughed nervously. “My bad.”

“Well Ms. Ashes, that is very noble of you but that is not necessary here. If one wants to throw themselves into the valley, it’s there where they will stay.”

In that moment, Bill was gone. “What’d you do?” Lydia asked angrily, looking around frantically.

“I didn’t do anything. I’ve just been here long enough to know the rules here. And if you make the choice to put yourself in the valley for eternity, you deal with it for eternity.” Everything Dexter said was matter-of-fact and seemed to make so much sense without really answering any burning questions.

“Okay, so who decides then? Who just poofed Bill back to that horror land out there?” Lydia was getting really tired of this mystery mirage she was stuck in.

“I’m not sure what you mean, poofed, dear. I

must go now, exploring all the doors. That’s how I stumbled upon you guys. Ta-ta!” And then he was gone again.

“I really don’t like him.” Aiden said as they hunched to the floor, trying to figure out what just happened.

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