Lightning and Thunder: Part 4

Hey everyone!  Sorry it’s been several weeks since the last update!  With the end of the semester, a trip abroad, and the beginning of summer work, my time has been a little short!  But here’s finale to Lightning and Thunder, and stay tuned for more!

Continued:

        I press my back into the glass door to the conservatory, heartbeat harmonizing with the thunder outside.  The footsteps are gaining.  She’s coming.

        I can’t help but curse Finn in that moment.  The plan had relied on the conservatory.  That was like rule number one.

        After our encounter with the ghost earlier, Finn dashed off, back to Campestris for a ‘thing.’  Twenty minutes later, he ran back in through the big front doors of the mansions, soaking wet and holding something in his coat.  Then, he handed me the other ‘thing’ that rests in my pocket and sent me off after the ghost, to go ‘bring her to this conservatory.’

        That, of course, required me to walk about the house for two hours, memorizing room after room and turning off any lights or candles as I went.  I made up a song as a mnemonic device to remember the layout, whispering it and adding on each room I walked through.  Then, I saw her.

        She was in a small sitting room, looking exactly the same in the darkness.  Her wet, grey eyes stared out into the storm, looking for something long gone.  In the same way, she slowly turned to me, her captivating eyes locking with mine.  

        “Hey.”  My voice was shakier that I remembered it, bouncing out into the room.  “See this?”

        Pulling the thing Finn gave me out of my pocket, the small metal device began to sing a sweet hum.  It fit in the palm of my hand, and little red lights erupted all over it.  And when the ghost lady saw it, she followed.  At an alarming pace.  Part of me thought the thing was one of those EMP machines ghost hunters used, but Finn had shut that idea down real quick.

        “No,” he said while placing a metal plate down on the floor of the conservatory, “because this isn’t a ghost.”

        But he wouldn’t elaborate, and now I turn to face her in the seeping dark hallway.

        “Finn!” I shout, into the empty dark rooms surrounding me.  Before I blink, the ghost lady is leaning right over me, on me in a second.  Her mouth open, she screams yet again, long and drawn-out and horrified, right on me, yellow eyes pouring into mine.  Her hair seems to stand on end, encircling her face, but I cringe away from the sound.

        Acting on reflex, my sword hand yanks up, end first toward her face.  I yank back in surprise when I make contact, scraping across her face.  As she jerks backward, I stagger into the conservatory door.  Alright, not a ghost.

        Suddenly, the glass door I’m leaning on swings open, and I fall on my back, knocking my head on the cold tile.  But, I fell just in time, as the not-ghost flings herself over my head into the darkness of the conservatory.

        A flashlight beam in my face, I’m blinded for a second as Finn chuckles down at me.

        “Not bad.”

        Squinting my eyes, I find his face in the darkness and ask, “Why exactly was that how the plan had to go?”

        He rolls his eyes as I pull myself to my feet, picking out Rhett and Ethelred in the dark as well.  Then, I turn to see her outline on the metal plate, disappearing and reappearing with each strike of lightning outside.  Like a mime, she presses her hands to the edge of where the metal plate ends, trying to walk off of it, but she can’t.

        “Okay, so what is that?” I gesture at the metal square on the ground the not-ghost is apparently trapped on.   Finn shines his flashlight on it, making the bottom of the not-ghost’s dress disappear for a second.

         “That is exactly what it looks like.”  He pauses to look at the faces of each person in the room.

        “Oh boy, here comes the dramatic reveal.” I roll my eyes, and he scowls at me.  “Just get to it, man!”

        “It’s literally a plate of metal.” He says, in the most frank way possible.  “Borrowed it from the Repository for a minute.  See she is the interesting thing.”

        The lady stops trying to leave, choosing instead to stand rather solemnly, gazing at Finn as he speaks.  I can barely make out in the dark what looks like…tears, on her face.  Little pinpricks of clear water falling off her cheeks.

        “She’s a memory.” Finn says, walking slowly up to the lady.  “I’ve come across this before, in other generations.  I wasn’t lying when I said worlds are weird.  Sometimes, in ancient groups of people who create a space for their history, a common practice in the Planescape, the history can actually manifest almost physically.”

        I let that sink in for a second, but then, I say, “That makes literally no sense.”

        Somewhere off to the right, Rhett offers, “Sort of like a Tulpa?”

        “Yeah!” Finn gestures his flashlight in the vague direction of Rhett. I step forward as the Memory shifts her gaze onto me, and I slowly walk toward her.  “A Tulpa, a mythological creature in some Humanoid groups which originates through the belief of people, feeding off of that belief as energy.  Except our friend here feeds off of the stories of this place, created by the vast history and storytelling of the Penitrale people.  Took the form of the first image it saw, the painting in the hallway.”

        “Finn.” I say softly.  “She’s crying.”

        Silently, those tears keep falling off of her cheeks, dissipating somehow before they hit the metal.  Her yellow pooling eyes plead with mine for something I can’t understand.  She turns away, facing a window one more as the rain slips in streaks down the slick glass.

        A cough erupts in the back of the room, making me nearly jump out of my skin.  Ethelred stands in the doorway, his eyes pooling exactly like the Memory’s are.

        “She is crying because this is it.” He says.  “I told you that every year the townspeople send their builders to add another room.  Well, this year, they didn’t come.  There was no one to come.  She looks off to the east, to the town, looking for the builders.  But they’re not coming.”

        His voice breaks in the last sentence.  But he takes a minute, pulling out a small handkerchief and dabbing his eyes, and he continues.

        “There was a war.  Like any war, and like every war, unlike any war we’d seen.  Anyone still around packed up and moved away, or if they knew, left the dimension.  I…stayed.”

        “Why didn’t you say anything?” Finn’s voice was as soft as the thunder in the distance.

        “It wasn’t your concern.” He says with the simplicity of an old man.  “It was interdimensional.  No need to alert the outside.  That is, until I started seeing ghosts.”

        He gives half a chuckle, looking at the Memory sadly.  

        “But, of course,” he huffs, shuffling forward into the room, “now that I know what she is, there isn’t anything you can do.  Ironic, but true.”

        Finn says, “Actually, I think I know how to dissipate her.”

        The Memory, turning ever so slowly away from the window, looks deep into Ethelred’s eyes.  He stands with his toes on the edge of the metal plate, peering up at her face.

        “Don’t you dare, sir.” Ethelred doesn’t look away from her face.  “Don’t you dare.”

♦

        An hour later, I’m perched on the edge of a table our building on Campestris, a pack of ice laying on my left shoulder and a bowl of ice cream in my lap.

        “So, that’s it?” I ask, halfway through a bite of delicious chocolate.  “Dude’s just gonna live with the ghost memories of all his people now?”

        Finn shrugs and takes a bite from his own bowl.  He stands in front of me in the tiny side conference room, leaning against our fridge.  Rhett sits in the chair next to me, stabbing his ice cream with his spoon and gazing somewhere far past it.

        “I guess.” Finn says.  “I mean, she wasn’t hurting anything, so I couldn’t pull the wegferend card and force him to let us dissipate her.”

        “Right.” I laugh through a mouthful of chocolate syrup.  “Just casually living with ghosts.  The things you see in different dimensions.”

        Walking out of the room, Finn chuckles.  “Oh, don’t worry.”

        I scowl at him.  “Why do you say that?”

        After ducking out of the room, he calls back, “Home can be a lot weirder than you’d think.”

Thanks for reading! Be sure to share with your friends, and check back for more in the future!

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