The Reincarnation of Lydia Ashes

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22

TRUST NO ONE

Lydia, Erika, Aiden, and Caleb sat on the floor in the hallway trying to come to terms with what had happened. Aiden was still trying to figure out a way to tell the girls everything Quincy had told he and Caleb, but the moment wasn’t right. Especially since he could feel eyes on him.

“We gotta get up, let’s go to my room.” Aiden said in a managerial kind of way. They walked down the hall towards Aiden’s room when Lydia finally realized something wasn’t right.

“What’s going on Aiden?”

“Not here, Lydia. It’s not safe. Let’s just get to

my room and I’ll tell you everything.”

Lydia was frightened with his words, and not in the usual scared-but-excited kind of way she kept experiencing in the middle. She couldn’t even fathom what she was about to become privy too, and part of her didn’t want to. Nothing about the middle made her feel safe, and her idea of staying there forever seemed more and more ill-advised. They arrived at Aiden’s room and when they walked in, he made a paranoid glance down the hall like looking both ways before crossing the street, and shut the door.

“Okay, now will you tell me?”

“Yes. But you’re not going to like it.”

“Just spit it out!” Lydia face was flushed with anger. She didn’t understand his coyness on the subject. Whatever he knew affected them all and she wanted to know.

“Okay, relax.” His voice was low. “It would appear we have broken some sort of rules. We found the longest running resident of the middle and he told us everything. Quincy Peters was his name, and according to him we need to find our soul mates and then walk through some threshold and then we’ll be so powerful even the higher power can’t send us back. He also said we’re on our own with this. We can’t trust anyone here, not outside of us four anyway. And Valentine, well he’s not in charge. Not by a long shot. He’s a minion of sorts, just someone that is stuck here trying to keep us souls in line.”

“In line? What does that mean? What rules?” Lydia was so confused. What basement? The longest running soul? She thought only bad souls were meant to stay in the middle for a longer period of time. Why was it that the nice, trustworthy Quincy Peters was here so long?

“I’m not even quite sure. But I know that us four are different. Different than the other souls. Somehow, anyway. Remember when you said you wanted to stay here forever? Well it’s quite possible. We could be immortal, us four, if we really wanted to. Quincy said all we have to do is find our…”

His voice was cut short by the shaking of the walls around them. A memory was coming through.

“Not now!” Lydia whined.

She wasn’t in the mood for setbacks and having a memory come on was definitely going to hinder her ability to find out what was happening in the middle and what she could do to stop it. She had thought she remembered most of her life, all except her death, and she wasn’t even sure she was ready to remember that at all.

The walls continued their melt, peeling apart like a heaping hunk of wax being heated up with a welding torch. Caleb and Erika disappeared from Lydia’s sight and what was left was just her and Aiden. They were speeding down the east coast in a light blue Jetta. Must have been custom paint, Lydia thought briefly.

The sun was still setting, but the moon had become visible and huge hovering over the ocean waiting for its time to shine. Lydia and Aiden, in their human lives, had just finished celebrating an occasion of some sort. She wasn’t sure which but she noticed a congrats card on the dash. The ocean breeze through the half open windows mixed with the smell of Pinot Grigio and Whiskey filled the air with a sense of bubbly delight and sincere content. They had been drinking, and now they were cruising home unaware of the grave danger that lay ahead of them. Lydia could feel it, the love that existed between them and she wondered how she hadn’t had any other memories with him in them, nor did he with her. Their hands intertwined perfectly, as if made for one another’s, between the two front seats, their faces plastered with ear to ear smiles while they hummed along to the radio. And that song. The song Lydia woke up to—and Aiden too—echoed from the speakers of the car radio.

“What’s happening?” Lydia asked. “Why are we in the same memory?”

“I don’t know,” Aiden said with an emotionless face.

He looked back from Lydia and as he turned his face towards the road he saw it. A mini-van carrying what appeared to be a family directly in front of them. As if in slow motion, he saw three children in the back seat, kicking and yelling at each other as kids do. None of them

could have been any older than 8. Aiden began to feel a pit in his stomach so big it made him gulp for air. Then Lydia noticed it, too. The parents looking frazzled because their loud children chose not to cooperate. The newfound family, with no more than a decade of family existence under their belt. And that’s when she saw herself lose control of the wheel, caused by an alcohol induced slower reaction time to a squirrel in the road. The beam of headlights almost blinded the both of them, and as the mini-van made impact, time sped right up and fast-forwarded to the crash that killed them both.

When they managed to attain an independent thought, they realized that not only did they know each other, they were in love. In fact, from the handholding they must have been a couple. A real-life couple that had managed to die together and end up in the same part of the middle. That meant something, Lydia thought. It had to.

They opened their eyes and they were back in the room. Erika and Caleb stared blankly at them, the big question hanging on their lips.

“Aiden. I can’t believe it. We did know each other. And that song, oh my god, that song! That must have been our last memory! We died together!” Lydia exclaimed it as if the information was good news but Aiden couldn’t see the distinction. And then she realized something else.

“Did we… did we kill that family?”

“Wow.” He muttered. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen them, but I mean, that was bad.”

“No, we couldn’t have. We just couldn’t have. The cars didn’t hit, did they? We hit the barrier.

“I don’t know Lydia. But if we did, it’s our fault.”

The two sat in silence, all the while Caleb and Erika stood there afraid to speak at all.

Moments into the reticence, Aiden spoke again.

“So, does that mean… I think… maybe we’re soulmates? Lydia was taken aback by the way Aiden brushed off the other family in their memory but she knew why. There was nothing they could do to find out what had happened to them. They would never know. And his mind was on something else. The deep instant connection, the song they both remembered, and the reason he and Lydia felt so close right after they met. It all made sense. And as soon as they word soulmate left his lips, it clicked for him that if he and Lydia were in fact two parts of one soul, they could be more powerful than the others and didn’t have to go back to earth. They really could disappear in the middle and the higher power couldn’t do a thing about it.

“That makes so much sense! That’s why the higher power wanted to keep us contained and why Valentine wasn’t keen on us exploring. All of it makes so much sense.” He was talking to himself at that point, but he was ecstatic to realize that not only did he find her, he had

he had been with her the whole time.

“Wait just a minute here, you guys are soul mates? So, what, me and Erika are soul mates, too? That’s why were special?” Caleb asked.

“I’m not sure.” Aiden said smiling. “Quincy said we were all special in our own right, but he didn’t say we were the girls’ soul mates. But we’ve got to find out.”

“How do we do that,” Erika asked. Her voice was mousy, probably from her constant fear of the middle and the news she just received. Caleb could have been her soul mate, and although she liked him just fine, she thought she deserved better.

“Now follow me. And remember. Don’t trust anyone. Don’t tell anyone what we’re doing. Don’t even look at anyone if you can help it. We have to act and appear as normal as they are or Valentine and his higher power will find and stop us. You got it?”

Lydia, Erika, and Caleb all echoed, “Yes” together in unison and they made their way out of Aiden’s room and down the hall. When they reached the bottom of the stairs they saw all the basic souls hanging out as they always did and decided that blending in wasn’t an option. They had to be unseen altogether, and so they tiptoed across the foyer and out the front door. “Okay, where are we going,” Lydia asked.

“I’m not sure. Quincy said something about a threshold. I’m not even sure where to start to look, though.”

“A threshold. Hmm...” she thought long and hard. She could have sworn she saw something of a threshold on her way in to the mansion when she arrived, but it looked more like a wedding arch. The Valley of the Lost Souls. That’s where she remembered seeing it. “I think I know where to find one, but none of you are going to like it.”

She continued telling them that she had seen a threshold type thing in the Valley of the Lost Souls when she and Valentine made their way through on her first day there. She was met with reservations like, “are you crazy? We’ll get trapped out there, remember what happened to Bill?” But eventually they all agreed. It was the only way. And they were going to have to risk everything in order to optimize on their special power here in the middle. She convinced them with how wonderful it would be to be limitless and able to create their own worlds instead of being stuck in just one. Even if earth was beautiful, it wasn’t something that couldn’t be matched. Not with the universe at their disposal. When they finally agreed to check it out, they started walking down the steps, not making it very far before the front door swung open and Valentine stood before them.

“Hello all. How are you all doing on this fine day?”

“We’re good!” Lydia tried to sound convincing, but her response came out forced and unnatural.

“Very well. Where are you guys off to?” He asked quizzically.

“Oh, you know, just out for a walk.” Aiden sounded casual, convincing even, as if he’d been lying his way out of things for a living.

“Don’t stray too far, ladies and gentlemen. You know the rules, don’t you?”

“What rules—” But before Aiden could finish asking the question he already knew the answer to, Valentine cut him off.

“The ones Quincy told you about. Brave going down there by the way. Some souls never make it back up the stairs. Have a lovely afternoon” And with that he was gone.

“Man, how did he know about Quincy! Who told him?” Caleb was shocked and terrified, although he didn’t show it. Erika was back and he had to play the role of manly protector, after all.

“I don’t know, but we aren’t going to stay here to find out.”

The four began their journey towards the Valley of the Lost Souls, and as they walked in silence Lydia couldn’t help but think about what the repercussions of what they were about to do were going to be.

They could get stuck in the valley, or maybe sent to live in the basement Valentine and the boys were talking about… for all of eternity. They arrived at the edge of the mountain that overlooked the valley below it. It was so mesmerizing, the view of it all, inviting almost. As if it was some soft of trickery, designed to

lure the souls there to wonder until the end of time. Like it was some sort of entertainment source for something else entirely. Lydia stopped.

“Are we sure? Are we sure this is what were supposed to do?” She didn’t want to be the one to shut down their adventure, but she couldn’t help feeling that they should have come up with somewhat of a plan. More than what they had anyway. A plan wasn’t a plan without the proper execution, and she was sure that this wasn’t the way to freedom.

“No.” Erika said.

“I’m not sure, either.” Caleb said confidently. “But I would love to find out.”

“I have to find out.” Aiden said matter-of-factly.

“Okay. Let’s go.” Lydia motioned for the group to go first. She didn’t do it out of politeness, rather fear, but she wasn’t about to let them in on that. They scaled down the side of the mountain getting closer and closer to the bail of fog that lay beneath it.

“How are we going to find this thing, this threshold?” Caleb asked anyone who could answer.

“It was right at the bottom. That’s where I saw it.” Lydia said.

“And what happens if Caleb and I aren’t soul mates? We can’t go with you?”

Aiden frowned. “If you and Caleb aren’t soulmates, if I understood correctly, your souls could be disintegrated.” He tried to speak as comforting as he could muster, but it just

came out cold.

“WHAT! I don’t fricking think so, I’m not doing that then! There’s no guarantee Caleb and I are soul mates, not like you two.”

“There’s no guarantee we are either!” Lydia said, lying because she had thought that the memory of them dying together was fool proof evidence that they were.

“Oh, don’t even try. Caleb, I’m not walking through that thing with you!”

“Then don’t, I don’t care. I’ll find a new soul mate.”

“Dummy, soul mates are soul mates, you can’t just find a new one.”

“I can do what I want!”

“Stop it!” Aiden yelled. He had this fatherly way about him, which silenced the group all the while giving them all a deer-in-headlights look on their faces. They had almost reached the fog when Aiden shocked them with his sternness. “Nobody will walk through the threshold. Not yet. There’s gotta’ be a way to find out for sure and until then we can’t risk it. Let’s just go back.”

“Go back, what do you mean go back? How else are we supposed to find out?”

“I don’t know Lydia, but is it worth destroying two souls, forever?”

“No, I guess not,” Lydia said defeated. She felt cheated out of her power. She wanted it so bad, to be immortal, especially at that moment. And especially after remembering her average life and her horrible last act.

She didn’t want to be reborn so she could repeat the same some old years over and over again. She wanted to be powerful and in charge and strong for all of eternity. And she needed Aiden for that, or at least her soul mate, which she thought was him. She wasn’t sure if the hunger, the need she felt for the limitless power of eternal immortality meant something bad, but she didn’t care. She wanted it. More than anything. More than life itself. It was weird. At the top of the mountain she had been hesitant but the closer she got to the fog the more the hunger ached at her. She wasn’t even sure if it was her feeling that way or something else entirely, forcing her to want to enter the fog.

She got a hold of herself and said, “Okay, well let’s make our way back before anybody, especially Valentine, realizes where we were headed and throws us into that dungeon with that Quincy. If we’re going to do this right, we have to do it right.”

“Right,” Caleb said smiling. He had an excellent way of lightening the mood. Lydia smiled back at him and they made their way back to the mansion.

They got to the front door and before Aiden turned the handle, he made one last plea to the group. “What do we all remember?”

“Don’t trust anyone,” the three said in unison.

“Good. Now, let’s put our game faces on. We have to find out how to do this, and how to find out if we truly are soulmates without

letting anyone know were looking for answers. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be really tough. But if anyone can do it, it’s us.”

Lydia was amazed at how good he was at motivating people. Perhaps he was a motivational speaker in a past life, or a life coach. It didn’t much matter at that moment, but if he had managed to be so influential, she would never know. But it was memorizing watching him do his thing.

‘He has to be my soulmate,’ she thought.

She couldn’t remember being that enthralled with anyone, and now that she’d remembered everything, all the way up to her death, she was convinced. They could make it through the threshold. Erika and Caleb however, she was not as confident about. They had little to no connection, at least from what she saw. All they did was flirt. Flirting does not a soulmate make. And they were her friends, now and for as long as she could have them.

“Let’s find out how to do this, and if we must, find your guys’ soul mates, and we’ll make it. We have to,” she said trying to sound as confident as Aiden, but only managed to sound like an uncertain mother letting her child go away for the night for the first time. Erika and Caleb both looked convinced though, and that was enough for Lydia. Like she had said, they were going to do this, and they were going to do this right.

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