Spring passed into summer. Just like the winter had been colder than previous winters, the current summer weather was far warmer than previous summers.
Despite the massive heat hanging over the town, Renard did not stay inside where it was cooler.
Instead, he hung out at the sports grounds, practising his moves. He had started with high school and by doing so, he was finally able to join the sports teams he had wanted to for ages.
“Nice shot,” Ingrid Klose complimented him and allowed her eyes to roam over his body in appreciation before throwing him a look.
Ingrid was the most popular girl in school, even if she did have a bit of a ‘loose’ reputation. She had made it quite clear that she really wouldn’t mind hooking up with Renard. Of course, she was only one of half a dozen girls eyeing him (the benefit of his increased physique thanks to joining the team), but Renard had to admit, she was…well, he wouldn’t exactly mind hooking up with her.
He threw her a wink, and couldn’t help but chuckle at her reaction. Sure, he knew she was only acting, but it was still fun to see her act all flustered.
“You wanna go to the beach?” he suggested. Ingrid threw him a coy smile.
“Sure,” she agreed eagerly.
As expected of such warm weather, the beach was crawling with people taking advantage of the sun and sea. It was Leisure Day, so people had the additional excuse to just laze around in the sun.
“Have you guys started thinking about your plans after school?” Rose asked the teens surrounding her. “I mean, we’re graduating pretty soon, so we should have an approximate idea by now, right? I want to go into journalism.”
“I’m planning on going into Law Enforcement,” Max admitted. Arienne tilted her head, considering the question. She lived for music, so her dream was to become a performer, but she was also realistic enough to realise it would probably never happen. She was going to try, nevertheless. She had already composed a couple of pieces and her piano instructor told her it had promise, so she was going to try.
“I’m going into music,” she informed the others.
Kirk Klose, Rose’s boyfriend, didn’t answer the question, his attention fixed somewhere else.
“Okay, gross,” Kirk said with disgust in his voice. “Nobody should have to be exposed to that sight.”
Curious, the rest of the group looked into the direction he was looking. Upon seeing the sight, Arienne immediately looked away, fully agreeing with Kirk.
“Plumbob, no,” she agreed wholeheartedly. “There’s something wrong with watching your brother suck face like that.”
Kirk grunted in agreement. “Or your sister, in my case,” he replied, still staring at the spectacle Renard and Ingrid was making. Ingrid was indeed his sister. Ingrid was also not one of Arienne’s favourite people, so she was pretty disgusted watching her brother make out with Ingrid of all people.
“So, are you actually dating that bimbo?” Arienne asked her brother later that day when they were back home again. Renard shrugged, his attention fixed more on the game he was playing than his sister's words. He might’ve become more active since starting high school, but he still enjoyed playing games on the gaming console.
“Who, Ingrid?” he asked distractedly. “Nah, we’re just having fun. There’s nothing serious going on between us.”
Arienne wrinkled her nose. She couldn’t understand how Renard could approach relationships so casually. She, at least, wanted a meaningful relationship, which she luckily had with Max.
“But why Ingrid of all people?” she asked. “She’s incredibly shallow.”
Renard shrugged again. “She’s pretty,” he replied, confirming in Arienne’s eyes that he was just as shallow as Ingrid was. “Besides, I told you, we’re just having fun. It’s not like I’m gonna marry her.”
The thought made Arienne shudder. She definitely didn’t want Ingrid as a sister-in-law.
Chantia, on the other hand, had different worries than wondering who her son was dating. After years of collecting spirits and waiting for Mia to complete her research, she and Mia were finally ready to start the physical trials of their attempts to reverse Damnation.
“So exactly how is this going to work?” Chantia asked curiously as she watched her sister make the last modifications to the machine they were going to use in the experiment. It didn’t look very complicated, but Mia had assured her that the complicated parts were just hidden from sight.
“It’s a bit difficult to explain,” Mia replied distractedly. “Through my studies, I’ve managed to successfully identify the energy patterns of several different emotions. This, “she patted her creation, “will read those energy patterns, intensify it and focus it on a central point, thus providing a spirit with the emotions it is lacking.” She pulled a shoulder up in a shrug. “It’s a lot more complicated than that, but that’s the general gist of the theory.” With that she pushed the last part in place, causing a click to be heard before the machine started up with a soft whirr.
“Will it hurt the spirits?” Chantia asked cautiously. She was all for trying to reverse Damnation, but she didn’t want to hurt the spirits either. She had worked too long in the field and tried too hard to get ghosts to move on without hurting them to feel comfortable doing anything that would hurt the spirits. Even just collecting them had been far too difficult to her.
“Theoretically, it shouldn’t,” Mia answered with a slight frown, “but I can’t guarantee it. Practice doesn’t always adhere to theory.”
For a while, the two women worked in silence. Chantia really didn’t understand exactly what Mia was doing, but she trusted her sister enough to follow her directions. Before long, the spirits were in place, the machine was active and the experiment was ready to proceed.
“Right then,” Mia stated, “let’s do this.” She pressed a button on the machine and the soft whirr the machine had given off previously became almost overwhelmingly loud. Chantia felt the hairs on the back of her arm rise as static energy build up around the spirits. With a loud crackle, the electric charge became visible and a strong wind started to fill the area around them.
Chantia squinted her eyes against the strong wind, barely managing to keep them open. A hazy figure formed in the wind and Chantia felt her heart leap in anticipation. The figure in front of them was a fully formed ghost; one that she had never met before.
“NO!!” The scream reverberated through the room as the ghost grabbed her head and started shaking it in denial. “No no no no no no no no no no no no no.” She gave a loud sob and started wailing. “No. No. No. Don’t kill. Come back. Go away. Give him back. You promised. Why are you happy? Die die die die die.”
Chantia and Mia stared at the ghost with eyes widened in shock. Of all the outcomes they had been anticipating, that had not been one of it.
In the chaos, neither woman noticed when the door opened. It was only when their guest spoke that they realised the danger.
Mia whipped her head around, turning frantic eyes to her daughter standing in the doorway.
“Melanie, get out!” she ordered frantically, but by turning her attention away from the ghost she made a grave mistake. The ghost lashed out at her and with a crumple she collapsed to the floor.
“Mia!” Chantia cried out. In between the chaos and the haze of worry that filled her, she managed to make it to the still crackling machine and with a loud thud she slammed her hand on the button and forced the machine to turn off. The ghost gave one last wail before she disappeared, leaving behind only a remnant. Chantia immediately turned her attention to her sister, but to her relief Mia was already sitting up, looking only slightly worse for wear.
“Are you okay?” Chantia asked anxiously. Mia took a shaky breath before she nodded.
“I think so, yes,” Mia replied shakily and turned her anger to her daughter still standing in the doorway in shock. “What were you thinking, Melanie?! I’ve told you not to bother me when I’m in my lab and the door is closed!”
Melanie bit her trembling lip and looked down. “I’m sorry,” she apologised with tears in her eyes. “Dominic said he’s hungry and Dad isn’t here…”
Mia closed her eyes and sighed, trying to regain her composure. “Just go to your room,” she ordered resignedly, an order Melanie obeyed instantly.
For several minutes there was silence in the room as both Mia and Chantia tried to wrap their heads around the events that had just happened. It was definitely not what either of them had expected.
“I don’t think we should continue with this,” Chantia finally announced, breaking the silence. “Reversing Damnation is all good and fine in theory, but it’s not worth putting our lives in danger.”
“Maybe you’re right,” Mia agreed reluctantly. “That shouldn’t have happened. I think…I think there are factors playing a role here that we don’t know about.”
For the first time in her life, Chantia wondered if they weren’t meddling with things that shouldn’t be meddled with. Maybe there were some things that were better left untouched.
“I think it’s a good idea to stop,” Charlotte agreed later that evening after Chantia had told her about everything. “There are things about Damnation – and death, really – that we don’t know about. Continuing with that line of questioning…someone will get hurt, sooner or later. You’re lucky that ghost attacked Mia and not you. If it had been you, you could’ve been seriously injured, seeing as you are tangible to ghosts.”
Chantia sighed uneasily. “I know,” she agreed quietly. “It’s just…” She trailed off, uncertain how to put her thoughts into words. How could she explain that her desire to reverse Damnation wasn’t her just being altruistic? How could she explain that it wasn’t about helping ghosts in general, but helping Charlotte in specific? She wasn’t oblivious. She had noticed that her friend had started the fall into Damnation a long time ago. She had just…never said anything; too irrationally afraid she’d lose her friend. But now…maybe it was time to let go of her fear. Maybe it was time to let her friend go.
“This is about you, Charlotte,” Chantia declared with a sigh. “I don’t want anything to happen to you. I know you’ve started the Fall, but I can’t help you because you don’t want to tell me why you’re lingering.”
For a long moment silence stretched out between them. Charlotte threw her head backwards in thought, staring at the vast night sky stretching out above them and the stars twinkling far in the distance. Chantia sneaked a look at the ghost. The ghostly girl had never changed, never aged. In all the years Chantia had known her, Charlotte had remained exactly the same, eternally stuck as a young child with age-old eyes.
“I haven’t told you,” Charlotte announced after a while, breaking the silence, “because there’s nothing you can do to help me. I’m trying to find someone, but it’s not a case of just ‘finding’ him. He jumped worlds, so I need to find out which world he jumped to first. I can only follow the trail during Full Moon, so my progress is slow.”
Chantia blinked at the answer, surprised by the complexity of the problem. Jumped worlds? How in the world was anybody supposed to find someone who had jumped worlds? If what Charlotte had told her so many years ago was true, then there was an infinite amount of worlds this mystery person of Charlotte could’ve ended up in. It seemed like a hopeless endeavour. The ghost was right: there wasn’t much Chantia could do to help. It left a pit in her stomach. Why was it that the one person she wanted to help the most of all, she was utterly unable to help?
“Why are you trying so hard to find him?” she asked in a whisper. “Who is he that he means so much to you?”
The corner of Charlotte’s mouth pulled up in a small almost bittersweet smile.
“My little brother, Leneo,” she replied. “When I was alive, I made the terrible mistake of taking him out to play on Full Moon and allowing myself to get distracted. By the time I remembered I was supposed to be looking after him, he was already gone. I continued searching for him for a very long time, but…” She huffed derisively, “…well, I never found him. It was only after I died and learned about magic that I found out he jumped worlds.” She smiled that same bittersweet smile again. “He…probably didn’t survive that night, but…I need to know what happened. I cannot rest until I do.”
Chantia frowned slightly. “But won’t you find him in the World of the Dead?” she asked. “Even if he did survive that night, it’s been a long time since then, right? Won’t he be dead by now in anyway?” she pointed out.
Charlotte’s response was a slight shrug. “Perhaps,” she replied, “but I don’t think I’ll find my answers there. Every time I consider going there to continue my search, something tells me it’s not the way to go. And of course, if I do go there and the answer isn’t there, I won’t be able to continue my search at all.”
Chantia didn’t have anything to say to that. What was there to say? Charlotte’s problem wasn’t as easily-fixed as Helen’s had been. It pained Chantia to think about it, but chances were high that her friend would never find her brother. And yet, Chantia knew Charlotte would continue to linger, eventually Falling completely.
There was nothing she could do to help her.
Bleh, this was an incredibly difficult chapter to write. It was one of those where you write it, delete everything, rewrite it, delete half of it again etc. It marks the beginning of the end of this generation though, so I wanted to be completely happy with it. There should be about three chapters left of this generation before Lyra takes over.
Chantia’s being a bit melodramatic, as there is a way she can help Charlotte, but that direction is not what’s in store for Charlotte, so I’m blatantly ignoring the possibility exists. :P
Anyway, so Mia’s children finally made an appearance. XD They probably won’t appear again, so here they are as adults: