THE WORLD GOES ON
Lydia’s sister was beautiful. Her hair was a darkish blonde, the type of blonde that could only be natural. She wasn’t tall nor short, but a good average height—and slender—like a runway model. She was walking on a beach, holding onto the hand of a handsome man. ‘A real Ken and Barbie’ Lydia thought to herself as she watched her sister and the strange man she had never met stroll along in love. She listened in on their conversation.
“But we couldn’t do that, not now anyway. It’s just not a good time for me to get away. It’s still too soon.” Quinn told her nameless boyfriend. She looked down at the water away from him. “My parents need me right now.”
“Quinny, come on. I know it’s hard but it’s always going to be hard. You can’t stay around here forever waiting for yourself to feel better. You have a life to live, too, you know,” said the man, not very compassionately Lydia thought. Her sister was still in grieving and here he is trying to get her to go on a holiday.
“Soon, Ben. I promise.” And then they
continued walking in silence as the sun set and the sky dimmed into beautiful hues of purple and orange.
Ben and Lydia had never met, but she remembered her sister calling her late one night after what she thought was their first date.
“Oh my god, Lydia, he’s perfect!” She squealed with excitement. “He’s just the epitome of what I’m looking for in a man. I can’t wait for you to meet him!”
Lydia couldn’t remember their entire conversation but she could remember saying something like, “Don’t rush the meet with the family Q-bee, we have all the time in the world!” The memory made her laugh out loud and she almost lost the image of her baby sister dancing in the sand.
Lydia watched, and watched, and wanted so much to comfort her sister, to be the big sister Quinn needed in a time like that. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t do anything but stare from a place far away from earth, though she was not quite sure how far. Lydia was almost sad that Quinn was still in a state of grief—almost. At least she hadn’t been forgotten, at least not at that point, and for some reason that was one of her biggest fears since she had realized that she had died and remembered the life she left behind. She shook the selfishness out of her mind, and tried to think of a way to give her sister a sign that it was okay to move on, but she just couldn’t break her
concentration long enough to do so. She didn’t want to stop watching, not yet. Quinn and Ben started playfully running along the beach in their bare feet, letting the tide catch them as they ran away from its push towards land. It would have been the perfect romantic comedy montage, the stage in which they are falling deeply in love before the eyes of the audience. Lydia stared for a while longer and decided that maybe it was time for her to check on her parents. She closed her eyes and thought hard.
When she opened her eyes, she saw it—her childhood home, with both her graying parents sitting on the swing chair on their front deck. They just sat there, staring out and she saw how devastated they both must have been. Her father’s eyes, once so full of life and joy, now stared emotionless and puffy, as if he had been crying so long any feelings he possessed were released from his body along with the tears. Her mother sat directly beside him with the same look on her face and her hand on his, also staring out into the yard as if they were waiting for something. They rocked slowly back and forth. Back and forth. They weren’t saying anything. They just rocked. Emotionless.
‘It’s all my fault,’ Lydia thought to herself, wishing she could shed some tears of her own.
“It’s all my fault!” She stepped back from the well, almost in shock, and couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to escape. She had to get out of there. Her world wasn’t dead, not like she was.
Just dead enough to breath without passion and feel without happiness. Her death rocked her family, and it was all her fault.
She managed to compose herself long enough to get back to reality. She was dead. Her family was devastated. And she couldn’t do a thing about it. She watched as the guys stared into the well, watching their family no doubt. She wondered if they, too, were seeing things that made them sad. Quincy’s still smile, the one she had seen when they first started staring, was still plastered across his face. Aiden had a look of joyful content on his face and Caleb, well he just looked pissed. She just stood back and watched as they finished their journeys back to earth. She couldn’t look anymore. She wanted to see her family, but after the state she left them in, it wasn’t doing any good. Caleb broke first.
“Jeeze, that was quick! I was the It-star and now all of a sudden, it’s this new guy. I don’t even know who he is, but he was just speaking about me, my death! Like he had some sort of impact on the way people missed me. I can’t believe it!” Caleb was horrified at what he left behind.
“Stupid Hollywood. Even in death you’re not safe from the brutal hands of Hollywood trend changing. I thought I was going to be remembered, revered even! But nope! One sad song and they’ve already replaced me. Well, screw them,” He said in a bratty tone. “I guess I’m better off dead.”
Lydia felt awful about what Caleb had seen so she tried to cheer him up. “Oh, don’t be so negative Caleb. They don’t know what they’re missing. You are irreplaceable my friend!”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“You are! We wouldn’t trade you for anyone, isn’t that right guys?”
Aiden and Quincy both finished at the same time, coming into the conversation just quickly enough to agree with Lydia but slow enough to not know what they were agreeing to.
“That’s right!” Aiden said.
“You should have been watching your family, friends, that type of thing!” Lydia said, hands on his shoulders.
“I didn’t have a family. I was an only child, been on my own since I was about 14. My mother died when I was just a boy and my father, well, he was better when he wasn’t around. And friends, well,” He laughed under his breath. “I don’t even know what the word means.”
Lydia couldn’t have felt any worse for him—Aiden, too. He died, without having anyone left to truly mourn him. What a tragedy.
‘No wonder he was always so hot and cold with them.’ Lydia thought to herself.
Even after death, he was still afraid to rely on anyone’s affections. It was never something he could do, because everyone he’d ever loved left. It made Lydia understand more and more about why he was the way he was.
“You do now,” Aiden said, giving him an
affirming pat on the back.
“We’re your friends. And even if we don’t make it through all of this, our souls will forever be intertwined. It’s that simple, and that complicated.”
He smiled at Caleb and Caleb smiled back. Lydia wished she could cheer people up like Aiden, and she was impressed with him yet again.
As they walked out of the casemate, Lydia whispered to Aiden, “I’m so glad you’re my soul mate.”
“Ditto,” he said.
She thought it was adorable, him quoting Ghost, the Patrick Swayze movie where he is killed and then his ghost tries to protect the love of his life, Demi Moore. It was almost fitting. She just smiled stupidly at him as they exited the casemate and re-entered the living room.
They weren’t in the casemate very long but when they entered the living room they were shocked at what they saw. Souls filled the couches and chairs, and were even standing around, like they all usually had, before the higher ups had decided the mansion was designed specifically to hold Lydia and her friends there. In fact, the living room was fuller than she had ever seen it. It was downright packed, if she were being honest.
“What... is... going... on...?” She said slowly to no one in particular.
“Looks like the higher ups bought your little
plan,” Quincy said slyly. “Mustn’t talk about it just yet, though. Could be a trick after all. I don’t know any of em personally but child, they are seriously adept at controlling things.”
“Right, good call.” Aiden darted his eyes from one side of the room to the other, and then back again several times. For a second, he looked like some kind of bird on ecstasy and it was all Lydia could do to keep herself from laughing at him. He was focused more so not on the people but on the absence of one particular person, or soul. Valentine. He was nowhere to be seen so obviously, these souls were introduced to the mansion at some point between the time they went into the casemate and the time they arrived back at the living room. “We were only in there for, what, an hour?”
“I couldn’t tell you that, son. But I do know this; it wasn’t enough time for this to occur without some sort of assisted push. This is all for us.”
“Great,” Caleb said sarcastically. “Why is everything about us? Maybe they should just let us be! You hear that, let us be!” He was raging at the roof now, yelling at the higher ups without really knowing where they were. The unidentified souls just stared at him in confusion until looking back at whatever task they were each doing—some reading, some chatting, others trying to get a quick nap in for some reason.
“Caleb, what is your problem? Don’t test them
like that. They aren’t messing around,” Lydia said in shock at his outburst. It was crazy, even for Caleb and all his semi-arrogance.
“It doesn’t matter Lydia, I’m not going anywhere but back to earth to live out another stupid life with stupid people and then I’ll be back here in another chunk of time to do it all over again.”
“You are really positive, you know that? Look at all these souls. One of them could be your soul mate and your chance at our plan and here you are attracting attention to yourself. From the higher ups, no less. We need you for this plan Caleb.”
“No, you don’t.” He sulked.
“Yes, my friend. We do. Now, let’s go find that soulmate of yours.”
“And how do you suppose we do that?” He was not convinced, and Lydia could tell, so she scrambled to think of a good plan to get acquainted with all these people.
“A party!” She exclaimed. “Let’s organize a party. There’s no rules that says we can’t do that. Even if it’s in the the confines of the mansion. It’ll probably even help us look like we’re trying to get on board with staying here until we’re sent back.”
“Lydia, sweetheart, you are brilliant!” Aiden picked her in an embrace she felt to the very core of her being and in that moment, she felt truly appreciated.
“What are we going to do at a party up here? We don’t have any party favours, and even if
we did, it’s not like we could even take them! This here, what we’re doing, is as good a party as you’ll be able to plan.” He motioned around him with his arms pulling focus to the fact that pretty much all the souls back in the mansion were in the living room, and would be for a while. “What else could we possibly do at a party?”
“Don’t you worry about that. Leave it to me and it’ll be the best party you’ve ever been too.” Lydia tried to sound convincing but even she wasn’t sure what plan she could execute to throw a rager for a bunch of dead people. After all, what could they do?
“Alright, Lydia. You do your worst and we’ll see how it goes.” He wasn’t converted, but he had nothing else to do so he figured getting on board was his only option.
“Okay. So, let’s go and plan this thing. Quincy can help us figure out what we can and cannot do up here and what ‘party favours’ as Caleb likes to call them will be available and Lydia you and Caleb can handle the rest—since it was your idea and all.”
Lydia just smiled at Aiden and said to Caleb, “Let’s go partner. We’ve got a shindig to plan.”