THE FINAL STRETCH
Lydia fought the urge to look back, even though it was all she wanted to do to make sure that whatever was left of Caleb wasn’t getting disintegrated somehow. After everything they had been through in the Middle, he had become a friend and although she knew he may never be the same Caleb, she couldn’t shake the care she felt for him. And she couldn’t shake the care he still felt for her and Aiden, even as a lost soul. She was surprised at even herself for the love she had felt in death, even aside from Aiden. It was at
that moment, more than any other, that she wanted to make it last for eternity.
When they made it to the side of the mountain they barely stopped before they began their descent. They practically flipped over the side, like some sort of parkour group, and step by dodgy step, almost slipping here and there, they climbed down. Lucky for them, there were no lost souls in sight.
The rush of success flooded over her as her hands and feet led her down the side of the mountain and she became enthralled in herself. She began thinking about her life on earth and what she would be giving up if she were to be born again, but Aiden snapped her out of it.
“We’re almost at the bottom Lydia, don’t stop now.”
She realized that as her mind wandered, her body froze, but Aiden’s voice brought her back to reality and she began stepping down again. When they made it to the bottom, the fog was so thick they could barely see their own hands in front of them. They wondered how it had thickened so much since they were at the top climbing down, but didn’t have time to thoroughly process any of it. No time to think. “Where is it? Where’s the arch?” Lydia screamed.
“This way!” Aiden yelled back, unsure if he was going in the right direction or not. He was running based on pure feeling.
They hustled through the fog and it began to
lift and that’s when they saw the glow of the arch in the distance.
“Aiden wait,” Lydia stopped and put her hand on his arm.
“Wait? What do you mean? Lydia this is it, we have to go now!”
“Just one second. Let me look at you. This is what you want. You’re sure? If what Dexter and Quincy said is true, what if the higher power makes us stay and do the same thing as they are doing? What if we have to destroy souls like Caleb and ruin soulmates’ quests for eternal love? Can you exist like that, truly?”
“We won’t exist like that Lydia. If we make it through that arch we’re going to get to the bottom of who the higher power is and things are going to be different. We’re different Lydia. Quincy and Valentine said it themselves. We can change things, Lydia, come on!”
Lydia stood there taking in all of what Aiden was saying. Were they different? Could they changes things? If they could, it would be incredibly difficult and if they couldn’t, she wasn’t sure if it was worth the sacrifice, having to destroy other souls and soulmates for all of eternity just to be with Aiden. She found him once. She could find him again. And then they could live in a way that didn’t involve the destruction of anything.
All these questions, all these if’s or maybe’s swirled inside her mind so heavily, she began to feel a dizziness she never felt before. Another surge hit her like a pile of bricks and sent her
in the air, and then face down into the ground. She realized she didn’t have time for reflection. It was now or never, and she decided that she had to at least try to change things. What’s another life without her soulmate? Why not her? She may not have been special on earth, but in the Middle, she was. She was a fighter, a warrior. And in the Middle, warriors didn’t give up. Or at least that’s what she whispered to herself as she swayed her own mind’s decision.
Aiden picked up her hand and she wobbled as they ran towards the arch. They got closer and closer and as they did, it grew blindingly bright. They reached the front of the arch and it became more bright and more beautiful than anything Lydia had ever seen before.
It shone like a God. Lydia couldn’t think of any other word to describe the vision of it. Godly. Saintly. Purity. The true marker of love, the thing that made the universe go round.
“Don’t do it, Lydia. You’ll regret it.” Valentine’s voice came from behind them. He had a look of disdain on his face and was alone. “Trust me, you don’t want this.”
Lydia looked at Valentine’s face. It was the first time she believed his sincerity. She looked back at Aiden. She had little to no time at all to decide which fate she wanted, and she found it odd that she got to decide her fate at all. Fate, by definition, was the controlling force that decided everything, for all souls. And in that moment, she was in control. She was in
control and she had never been more unsure. It wasn’t decision A or decision B, nor was the decision black and white. There were so many shades of gray and so little time to delve in and make a pro and cons list—something she would have marveled at being able to do while alive—that she couldn’t possibly be sure which, if either, was the right decision to make. Be with Aiden forever and risk selling her soul to dark control of the higher power or let him go and risk losing him for only God knew how long. Or risk losing him forever. She forgot about that part. She almost wished she had time to pray to a God, whether the God she believed in on earth, or any other, for the right answer because he or she would be the only one to know which way to go. They would be insightful and wise and clear up any doubts about either position so rightfully that whatever she chose would be easy. But in that moment, there was no decision maker, no God to help her. It was just her, Valentine, Aiden and that arch. That breathtaking arch.
She thought back to when she was alive, to her 16th birthday specifically. Her father had taken her out to choose her very first car, the car she would eventually die in, and she had the pick of the lot. She made it down to two choices. One, a cherry red Audi RS5, a delightful coupe that pakced speed with sport and she just knew she’d look good driving it. The other, the more sensible Pearl White Volkswagen Jetta. It didn’t speak to her, though, the way the Audi
did. She weighed the options and with her dad’s voice in her head saying, “I know you love the red one sweetie, but the white one will be safer,” she almost didn’t even think about it. Audi it was, and it was that exact Audi that led her to that exact decision she was faced with in front of that arch. Well, the Audi and her lack of consequential thinking. Had she assumed that her actions would lead to this, she was almost certain she would have taken a different road, chosen a different car, called a cab even that unfaithful night of her death. It wasn’t just her life she ended, it was Aiden’s too, and there they were, both faced with the decision that only she was unsure of. She felt that after everything they had gone through to get there, all the hoops they had to jump through and secrets they had to keep. She thought back to when she had put Aiden in the position to make this decision, before it became all too real. And she thought about how selfish it would be of her to deny him of what he wanted most, after she convinced him it was the right thing to do. He wanted her. Just her. Forever. That was all. No matter what else came with that. And when she reached the end of this thought, she realized the truth about what she wanted. Him. Just him.
She took one last look at Valentine’s sincerely concerned face, grabbed Aiden’s hand and as she felt another surge rising in her chest, leapt towards the arch.