At once she recognized his shadow and sped towards him like a roadster on the Autobahn. She could not wait to feel his chest against hers, his strong arms around her waist. His light was sparking a euphoria in her that had been lost for what seemed like ages. She could not contain herself.
“Edgar,” she breathed, but no sound came out. Curious, she thought. He turned nonetheless and in recognizing her began to approach.
They were crossing a bucolic meadow, he from the north, she from the south. They had each made fun of scenes like this at the cinema, but here, now, they both felt the magnetic pull of the other tugging at their hearts—though oddly, neither could feel their heart beating. Alas, love was a mystery in this world, too.
She ached for his touch but when she reached his body and melted into abrupt cold air instead, she tumbled. Round and round she went. With each rotation she found herself getting angrier. How could he? Why would he? I’m going to let him have a piece of my …
“Alyce! My darling!” he interrupted, standing before her when she stopped rolling and was lying on her back staring at the sky—which looked like dirty water in a bathtub and had large orange fish-like creatures floating about. She shook her head.
“Oh Edgar,” she blushed, hurrying to straighten her skirt over her polka dotted underwear. “I’ve missed you so.” Again no sound came out. But he nodded in understanding anyhow. She reached up to grab hold of his extended hands and when she failed to find them, let out a silent sigh. She hoisted herself up, and demanded Edgar to explain what was going on.
He was wearing his mixed-plaid suit and striped tie. It was stained and wrinkled, but still he looked dashing. “I have only one explanation. And that is that we are not alive.”
“That’s nonsense. I can see you and I can hear you—albeit in my head only. We are mostly alive.”
“One would think so, but if we were alive I wouldn’t be able to do this.” He slid up next to her, flashed his charming smile that revealed his dimpled cheeks, and then waltzed right into her. Her body became increasingly frigid and she felt utterly violated. She moved away and he followed. She swatted at him and he swatted back, but these hits were not physical, even though she swayed with the air with each try.
“Stop,” she begged. And he did. He bent down and plucked a tall grass from the ground and stuck it in his mouth. She watched as he chewed on it, noting that the blade was sticking out the back of his head. She turned away.
“We must do something. We can’t stay here in this field forever.”
Edgar pondered this. “Do you think we’ve been dead forever?”
Alyce didn’t know.
“I need you to think, Alyce, even though I know how much you hate to do it. We must think about how this happened.”
“Why does it even matter Edgar?” As usual she had given up even before she had started.
“I remember the roadster.” Edgar gleamed.
Alyce wrinkled her brow. Her head seemed so hollow. She willed herself to explore what was left of her memory. She felt a rush of reversal-of-time energy, saw a dozen people gathered around a fire—friends? An infant in a bassinet—and then caught a fleeting whiff of Belgium beer, a car, and a loud crash followed by sirens. She grimaced and went to grab his elbow and nearly fell over again. “I remember a party, driving fast, and rain. Lots of rain.”
“You were driving.”
“Oh no, you were.”
“I don’t drink and drive.”
“And I don’t either.”
They both lingered on the memory.
“I wish I could remember just a little of what it was like,” she said.
“I don’t care to remember it.”
“Not even a little?”
“Not even a little.”
“But I would like for us to be able to touch each other again.” She was really thinking of how delicious his kisses were—better than the finest German chocolate, better than the best Champagne. His lips were a respite for her, an escape from the daily drudgery of her life, and now, she wanted them to save her from the monotony of being dead.
Edgar turned to his beloved. His blue eyes still magnificent and clear. “I wish for that with all my being. To have found you once again is a tortuous gift if I cannot feel your supple body intertwined with mine; if I cannot taste your soft, sweet lips. Mon dieu! Without that pleasure I only feel great pain.” He brought his hand up to his forehead and turned his head up towards the heavens … where he too caught sight of the swimming fish-like creatures.
“Oh you are so romantic Edgar!”
“What are those,” he asked.
“Tell me more, please,” she begged.
Edgar regained his senses and began to detail what he loved about her physique until something in the distance caught their attention. They walked towards it and when they came closer they saw it was a giant traffic light that was blinking red. Beyond the traffic light was a wall of darkness.
“How odd that there is a traffic light at the edge of a meadow.”
The light flickered, and then turned a bright green. In the darkness appeared a pearl-colored door. They heard the faint whistle of their names from behind it.
“Let’s go,” Edgar said.
“No. The warning.”
“Warning?” he asked.
“Yes, the warning at the beginning. Don’t go on green.”
“But we always go on green.”
“I don’t remember that.”
“You never paid attention in class.”
“Well, it never mattered did it. I still got the prize.”
She raised her eyebrows. Another flicker of a memory passed through her hollow head: Edgar on bended knee after graduation holding a pretty blue Tiffany’s box and a dazzling diamond ring inside. She felt herself float at the wistful thought. There was a tug on her ankle.
She looked down. “How did you do that?”
“How did you stop me from floating if you can’t touch me.”
“I just thought of pulling you down and it happened.”
“Come on Prinzessin. Let’s go. Perhaps beyond our wish will be granted.”
Alyce blinked her Margaret Keane brown eyes at the sound of her nickname in her native German language. He remembered! She recalled the never ending loneliness of the last while. How she had wandered across empty and vast meadows in a fuzzy haze, never sleeping, never waking, but searching for that love she had lost. Now that she had found him, she wanted more. She wanted to touch him again as she had when she walked the earth. She would follow him anywhere at even the most tenuous promise or hope for that possibility.
They moved towards the enormous door that creaked open. A force pulled them inside. Together they began traversing down a long, ridiculously bright tunnel laced with the oscillating web of time that twisted around them in a kaleidoscope of earthly memories. During their decent, she swore that she could feel him holding her hand. But of course, it was merely a tease. She would have to wait for the real thing.
“Come to me unrelated needy spirit that flies in the air, in the place between this world and the next. Come to me and I will grant your wish,” Kyria Caracus was reciting a spell from “The Greek Magical Papyri”. “Under certain conditions of course,” she added. Around the crystal ball that glowed before her were several items: a peacock feather, a rabbit’s foot, a pig’s snout, a sachet of spices, and seven lighted hand made aromatic candles with ancient wording inscribed on each. This was the thirteenth day of attempting the spell. It had worked on the third day when she had conjured up a needy spirit, but she had immediately rejected it. She was horrified to once again see her elderly mother’s wrinkled and frowning face before her, speaking to her in harsh, demanding tones. No, that would not do, she would not be subjected to the old bat’s wish to return to the living to tell her what to do.
“Back to oblivion Mama!” she had said.
“You wouldn’t dare! I will haunt you!”
“Like Hell you will—in fact that’s where I’m sending you!”
Her mother’s screams tortured her for the night but with a snapdragon tucked under her pillow, by morning those screams were gone.
Kyria Caracus heard a knock on the door.
“Go away, Eva, I’m working.”
“I have your tea, Kyria.”
This would not do. It was already time for tea and she had yet to have one client come to visit. She would be out on the streets of Athens by the end of the month if she didn’t conjure up the spirit servant immediately. And then what would she do with that dreadful child Eva?
“Leave it by the door and go back to your room.”
The self-proclaimed oracle returned to her recitation. One by one the candles flickered and when the seventh candle went out, the crystal ball began to glow amaranth and vermillion.
“Come to me unrelated needy spirit who flies in the air …” She spoke rapidly, intensely to lure the spirit out of the crystal.
Inside the crystal ball, the energy swirled and twirled until the pressure built up so great that the ball exploded and Kyria Caracus and her wide girth fell backwards into her bookcase. Volumes of ancient Greek texts on the subjects of spirits and spells and healing potions toppled onto her head and shoulders.
“Ah … oh … eek … ouch!” she moaned until at last a long lost tale of long lost lovers reunited in the afterlife titled, “Love in the Afterlife,” fell onto her lap and opened to Chapter Seven, “Reunited and it Feels so … Strange.” She watched doe eyed as out of the page emerged a tall and lanky man wearing a horribly mismatched suit (Kyria Caracus read Italian Vogue) followed by a lithe young lady in a lovely chiffon dress.
The couple kept growing until their heads touched the eight-foot ceiling.
“Nevermind, I can fix that,” Kyria Caracus muttered as she regained her composure and found the Greek Magical Papyri and flipped through the pages until she found a shrinking spell.
She uttered a few nonsensical Greek words and the couple shrunk until they were only as tall as Kyria Caracus’s hefty chin. No need to have spirit servants be taller than their master, now is there?
A barrage of questions flew out of their mouths—actual sounds that reached her seconds after spoken (the delay most likely caused by the time and dimension travel).
Kyria Caracus put her hand up. “Skase.” When they didn’t quiet to her Greek command, she said, “Shut up.” Once she had their attention, she looked them up and down. I only asked for one, but the fates have brought me two. Even better, she thought. She cleared her throat and began, “Now, here are the rules. I have brought you here to help me. All the terms are written in this contract. Please read them over and discuss. Then when you’re ready, sign it.” A thick pile of enchanted papers floated in the air in front of them. She encouraged them to read it quickly as the enchantment was time sensitive.
Edgar and Alyce, both a bit dazed, stared at the papers until Alyce nudged Edgar—well not exactly nudged in the truest sense, because she still couldn’t touch him—and reminded him that he had been a lawyer.
“Right,” he nodded. He read the document, which in its entirety could be summed up like this: Kyria Caracus, aka, Caracus Consulting and Edgar and Alyce would enter into a binding (on the Earth dimension only) contract as spirit servants. The details of the position would include, in part, identifying, haunting, and recruiting prospective clients to said Caracus Consulting, so that Kyria Caracus’s monthly income was such that she wanted for nothing. There would be other “as needed” duties as well. In return, she would grant them one wish every quarter. The wish had limits though. They could not return to life per se, as that was impossible, but she could grant them, by way of example, the ability to be flesh and blood from sunset to sunrise (depending on the moon cycle of course). This was an at-will employment agreement and one or both of them could be sent back without notice.
Edgar had read enough. It was not a fair contract. But he didn’t really have any bargaining power. He turned to Alyce, who was tapping her foot beside him. He grabbed the pen and was about to sign when he stopped.
“What is it?” Kyria Caracus said, her voice dripping with irritation.
“We would like one thing added—a kiss as a signing bonus.”
Well, this was a first, Kyria Caracus thought. Long a bitter widower, Kyria Caracus had rejected all forms of romance other than her mass market paperback collection that she kept locked in her room and read between the hours of Midnight and sunrise. The thought of these two kissing both repulsed and intrigued her.
“Fine,” she agreed. “Now sign.”
“No, it needs to be written on the page.”
Kyria Caracus scolded herself for conjuring up such a stubborn spirit but found herself adding in the language he dictated to her.
With the contract signed by both parties, there was only one thing left to do before she could send Edgar and Alyce out to work. She once again flipped through the pages of her spell book. She instructed the hopeful spirits to move behind a four-paneled- velvet room divider that allowed her to change her outfits as needed. She had decided to keep her secret love of romance secret. From a small golden pouch, she sprinkled a pinch of rare stardust over the panels and recited a simple chant. It worked like a charm.
“Oh my,” Alyce sighed.
“Shh, don’t waste the time with talking,” Edgar said and drank from her lips and mouth as if he was dying of thirst and had just found an oasis in the desert.
Kyria Caracus tried to tune out the moans and checked her watch while humming to herself. Time was money. She would spend the seven minutes cleaning up her workspace in preparation for all the clients that soon would be visiting her. She felt her luck was changing.
Unknowingly, behind the panel on the ceiling was a peephole through a vent that allowed Eva to see Kyria Caracus at her desk when she had a client. From a series of blinks or hand gestures, Eva knew when to make noise, when to call out a name, when to dim the lights. Eva had been drawn to the room when Edgar and Alyce arrived and the bookcase had fallen. But she knew better than to barge in. From her vantage point she could see her guardian cleaning up, but she also could see the man and woman behind the panel. Her eyes were glued to them—who were they? Why were they dressed from the last decade? She was only eleven, but she had listened to enough of Kyria Caracus’s readings to know about love. When she looked at this couple, she felt the love between them. They were locked in a kiss, their bodies so close. She saw on the back of the man’s neck something unusual and leaned on the vent to get a better look. She strained her eyes and put all her weight on her arms and head. She almost saw it, but then didn’t. Did he really have the same mark as she? She tried to see it better but the lady’s hands kept going up and down his neck. And then, the vent became unstable, and before she could catch herself, she had fallen through it! There was a loud crash, ceiling bits fell here and there and excited voices echoed around the chamber. The next thing she knew she was lying in the arms of these two strangers who had caught her.
“Damn you Eva!” Kyria Caracus rushed to the girl just as the seven minutes were up and the spirits returned to being just that—apparitions who still had much to learn about how to appear and disappear, how to move and hold matter in this realm. Eva fell to the ground, and rolled to her belly, exposing the back of her neck and the heart shaped birth mark across it.
Invisible, Edgar and Alyce exchanged glances. Alyce began to shake.
“It can’t be.”
“Stranger things have happened.”
“Eva, clean up this mess and get back upstairs. I’ll deal with you later.”
A dutiful Eva obeyed.
“Edgar and Alyce, get to work.”
The hopeful couple nodded. Now was not the time for contemplation … for explanation or for chance reunions. There were plenty of opportunities yet to come for that.