FIND AND SEEK
Once Sean the Great and Terrible helped Lydia with her plan to find Aiden and the gang, they decided it would be best for him to go back to his lair in the basement while she continued on alone.
“It’s not safe,” was all he would say to Lydia when she asked why he couldn’t help.
She was starting to realize that almost nothing was safe. She wondered to herself how life itself could be less dangerous than living as an immortal soul. She had no blood to spill, no heart to stop, and yet she couldn’t remember fearing the end of her existence in life as much as she feared simply existing in the middle. It reminded her of one of the summers she had spent with Aiden when they were alive.
They decided to road trip across the country, just the two of them, in the hopes of finding passion and fun on the corner of every turn. They found a dirt road off the side of a rural
highway they were driving and decided—for better or for worse—that they were going to find out what was on the end of that road. Lydia herself had to do the convincing, because Aiden was always the more rational one. The one that weighed all the options before going ahead with any decision. She was courageous with her fickle attempts at excitement. She wondered where that bravery went.
When they arrived at the end of the dirt road, there was nothing but a rundown house surrounded by forested area that seemed to stretch beyond it for miles. She stopped the car, took out the keys and headed for the front door of the abandoned shack.
“Lydia wait! You don’t know what’s in there. Or how stable it is, you can’t just explore everything you know!”
“Oh, you’re just trying to stifle my fun.” She ignored living Aiden’s pleas to take her time and barreled through the front door of the house as if what was on the other side of the door was pulling her in. Inside, dust lined the old 70’s furniture in a thick blanket and plates of food were left decaying on the kitchen table. Newspapers with bold headlines laid pinned onto the walls in the living room and they were all focused on one thing. Aliens. When the coast was called clear by Lydia out to Aiden, he shuffled in slowly. “Isn’t this a trip?” She said smiling. “We have found the epitome of crazy frozen in time! This is so cool.”
“Are you sure no one’s here?”
“Look around! No one’s been here for quite some time.” Lydia was stomping around the house like she owned the place. “Let’s go look upstairs.”
“No! Why, we’ve seen enough.” Aiden was scared, and Lydia mocked him as she creaked up the stairs alone.
She reached the landing at the top, and made her way into the corridor that separated three bedrooms and a bathroom. The sheet of dust kept up all throughout the house and as Lydia glanced into one of the bedrooms, a sneeze caught her off guard.
“Are you okay?” Aiden called from the bottom of the stairs.
“Oh, be real, it was just a sneeze. Come on…”
Before she managed to spit out the rest of her sentence, she saw something she was sure she would never forget.
A family of four. At least that’s what the dressed skeletal remains appeared to be. The clothing on their backs depicted a mother, father, son, and daughter still fully equipped with tin foil hats. They were long dead. She walked over slowly, ignoring Aiden’s calls from downstairs. She grabbed the shoulder of the smallest child and as her hand gripped, the entire body of bones crumbled before her causing her to leap back, falling onto her butt. Aiden rushed up the stairs like Prince Valiant, rescuing her from whatever he tried to warn her about. She never listened, and he knew it. But he never complained when he had to get
out of the mess she threw herself into. He grabbed her arm, pulling at her as they both ran down the stairs and out the front door to her car. She put the keys in the ignition and sped away without saying a word. She was oddly calm, but it Aiden’s calls and rescue attempt had jacked her up. She wasn’t scared at all. The family of alien lovers who had died so many years ago intrigued her. She wished she were there alone so she could have taken the time to figure out what happened to them, but Aiden wouldn’t have that and she knew it. Even then, in the presence of death and uncertainty, she wasn’t as scared as she had been walking through the basement of her middle mansion trying to find the soul mate she’d always known.
She ventured the dark hallways, being careful not to touch anything. She knew that reaching out into the darkness only upped her chances of finding something she wanted no part of. When she came to the end of a corridor, she noticed the first light she’d seen in a while, flickering gently in the distance. She stopped in her tracks. She was standing opposite a literal light at the end of a tunnel, but it didn’t give her hope. It made her uneasy. She shuffled from foot to foot, chewing on her nails not knowing why.
She took one step forward.
And then another.
She was careful as she had ever possibly been not to make any noise.
She took another step.
The closer she got the brighter the light shone. She took three more steps and as her vision adjusted she could make out a clearing, lit by one fiercely glowing lantern. In that clearing she saw four souls, sitting back to back in a circle.
It was Aiden. And Caleb and Erika, and Quincy too, she’d assumed.
“Aiden!” She cried.
They all looked up at her. Aiden looked terrified, but she couldn’t stop running towards them.
“Lydia, don’t! You have to stop!” But she didn’t stop. She just kept running towards them. When she reached Aiden, she grabbed him in an awkward embrace. His hands were tied behind his back.
“What are you doing, we have to go!” She struggled at the knots trying to free his hands, and realized that she was being stared at. Every corridor now, even the one she had just exited from, was lit up with nothing but a pair of eyes. And every set of peepers was on her and her friends.
“What… is... Aiden?” She looked at him puzzled, slowing her struggle at the ropes, but still trying to unlock him.
“Too late, hurry up now. Untie us! Hurry up, Lydia!”
She got Aiden’s hands free, and he began untying the others as she worked on Caleb’s.
They were all unconscious.
Caleb opened his eyes forcefully, as if his eyelids were being weighed down by cement. “What’s… happening….” He could barely speak and Lydia knew something terrible had happened while she was out not finding answers with the monster.
“It doesn’t matter, we have to get you out of here.”
She spoke to Caleb with a motherly tone as she pulled at the ties. His hands were now free, and thanks to Aiden, he wasn’t the only one with free limbs. Aiden picked up Erika, who was still unconscious, and grabbed Quincy by the arm pulling him up. The five of them slowly huddled in the centre, watching the faceless eyes stare at them from behind the orange glow.
“What do we do,” Lydia whispered.
“We have to make a break for it. Where did you come from?”
“It’s a long story, Aiden and now’s not the time.”
“That’s not what I mean Lydia, I mean which hallway.”
“There, that one.”
“Okay, on the count of three, we run for it. And we keep running, okay? Until I say stop. Okay?” Aiden’s voice was powerful now, like an army squadron leader preparing his troops for escape from enemy territory.
Without thinking, Lydia whispered out, “One, two, three, Run!” and they began darting towards the hallway.
The eyes didn’t move with them, and as they ran through the entrance way to the corridor they ran directly through them, as if they were nothing but a hologram. They kept running as fast as they possibly could in the condition they were in. It felt as if they had been running for an eternity when they finally saw it. The staircase leading back up to the mansion. “There!” Lydia squealed and they booked it even harder towards their salvation. When they reached the staircase, they bolted up so quickly Lydia was positive her feet had left the floor and she was flying up the stairs rather than running up them. They made it to the top, and Aiden set Erika down on one of the couches in the library. They all sat as Aiden found the book and shut the door behind them. Before any of them could say anything, they noticed him standing in the doorway looking in. Valentine.
“Fun adventure?” That was all he said, but for some reason Lydia expected he knew exactly how their little adventure had went.
“It was something, that’s for sure!” Aiden chimed in trying to act as nonchalant as possible.
“Something. Yes. Quincy, it’s just lovely to see you gracing us with your presence. I thought you were confined to the basement.”
“You don’t know everything Valentine. Not by a long shot.”
“Are you sure about that?” Valentine smiled a coy smile, which made Lydia look at him as
she did that very first day she was in the middle. His nice smile, handsome face, it was all so inviting. She wondered if it was supposed to be that way. He was the first contact she made, and it wasn’t a coincidence either—even if Valentine had originally said it was. He wasn’t to be trusted. He was like the lead singer of a local rock band that everybody wanted a piece of. Pleasant to look at and listen to, but get mixed up with the likes of him and wind up hurt, alone, confused and unable to look at someone like him the same way again.
“Can we help you with something? I mean, is there a reason you are here for us?”
“No, no. Just checking in. I heard you had ventured to the basement, so I had decided that I better check to make sure you made it back. I didn’t realize you’d be bringing an extra soul with you.”
He stared down Quincy.
“I wasn’t aware you were allowed to leave that basement Mr. Peters.”
“I’m not?” He asked questioningly, although he already knew the answer. “Better report me, I guess.”
“No need. I’m sure whatever your planning will be foiled soon enough.”
“We don’t have any plans,” Lydia said trying to sound convincing, but it only came off as a sort of question. “I mean, we just wanted to bring him up here for some time to hangout. He’s a friend.”
“A friend. Hmm.” Valentine stood there staring for what felt like an awkwardly long time. “Well you guys play safe now. And be aware, that you are not above the law, so to speak. You will obey what you’ve been asked?”
“You didn’t ask anything of us Valentine. You keep just telling us what not to do when you find us doing it!” Caleb spoke with force for the first time, and when he did so he cringed with what looked like pain. Lydia was astonished. She had no idea a soul could feel pain.
“Well, that’s my system. And it works for me. So, like I said ladies and gentlemen. Play safe. I’ll see you soon.” He walked off without waiting for a response.
“Screw that guy,” Erika muddled under her breath making it known that she was conscious again. It was the first time she had ever spoke in such a way that made her seem as much like an adult as anyone else there. Lydia laughed and sat down next to her, holding her in a half hug until she managed to sit upright.
“Well beautiful,” Caleb started, “It’s all about the execution.” He was trying to speak in code but the only one who really got it was Quincy, so he laughed alone causing the others to look at him in confusion.
“Get it, execution? Like the plan? Come on, you guys.”
Still confused, the group stood up and made their way upstairs.
After the day they had, even they needed some rest.
“We’re going to regroup after some R&R,” Aiden said. “I think we’ve earned it.”
“I think you’ve never been more right.” Lydia said smiling as she helped Erika up the stairs and to her room. “Caleb, you and Quincy stay with Erika and Aiden and I will come for you when we’re ready.”
“Ay, ay captain!” He gave her a mock salute and they all parted ways. “Manyana!”
Aiden and Lydia made their way to her bedroom and fell to the bed together. They lay there in silence for a few moments when Lydia finally asked, “What happened back there?”
Aiden went on to explain to Lydia that he had no idea. It was as if in a flash, he was tied up in the corridor next to all his afterlife friends. He had no idea how it had happened, who had put them there, or even why it was just him, Caleb, Erika, and Quincy. He couldn’t explain why he felt pain around his wrists where the ropes were tied, nor could he explain the blackout he’d experienced. There wasn’t an answer. To any of it. The eyes that kept them from trying to escape were menacing, yes, but when they ran through them they were non-existent. There was so much about their world that was ungraspable, and Lydia was sure that when it came to most of it, she would never understand just how it worked or why it worked that way. She wasn’t happy with that realization, either.
There was so much mystery and intrigue with very little validity. Everything was there, but nothing was real. Everything was real, but nothing was there. She also toyed with the theory that maybe they weren’t meant to understand any of it, but she wasn’t all that thrilled with the idea. Answers were always the end point, the destination and reasoning for the very trip. The meaning of life, the secrets of the universe—all of it plagued the minds of so many humans, and even more souls, and yet not one has found the answer.
She decided not to tell Aiden about her monster friend. It would only bring up more questions, so she decided to keep that her own little secret. She couldn’t help but wonder if their plan was the right one. She and Aiden had found each other before and they were strong enough to do it again. The world wasn’t that big a place after all, not after she had seen the middle. She didn’t want to lose him again, that was for sure, and since Sean the Great and Terrible had told her about his Kelly, she wasn’t sure she could risk the same fate. She wanted him now and forever, and as she drifted off to sleep she could hear Aiden whispering, “I love you, soul mate.”
“I love you too, soul mate,” she whispered back before the darkness took her over.