Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
Publisher’s Note: This story is a sequel to the previously-featured tale, Walburton Park. The author encourages you to read the first installment in the series to better understand the events of this one. You can find the first part here.
Yvangela raised herself slowly from her bed, still covered in heavy blankets, after a sudden, excruciating pain in her head disturbed her from her deep sleep.
She knew exactly what this meant.
She flicked on her light. The bright glow flooded her room instantly, overwhelming her wide pupils; the throbbing pain in her head just above her right ear intensified for a few seconds, before soothing again when her eyes adjusted to the light. She flicked open the small box on her bedside locker, and started searching through the numerous keys she owned.
She ran her fingers through the box; the ringing of clashing brass mingling with the high-pitched drumming of brass on wood. When she couldn’t find it, she grabbed her glasses from the windowsill in her room, and dumped all the keys onto her bed. She separated all the gold keys from the silver keys, and observed the latter pile for what she needed.
The sharp pain suddenly became blinding for a brief moment, and then a flashback flickered in her mind. She remembered now.
She walked over to the mannequin chest on the stand in the corner of the room, with the silver key glimmering from the light right between the two milk-white biceps, and she reached out and let the cold chain around its neck slither onto her fingers. She rubbed the tip of her thumb around the bow of the key, feeling the anguish of the hundred faces that were carefully crafted into it. After that, she slid her thumb across the thousands of tiny points on the blade. The blades were sharper than swords, but her thumb bled only a painless thin tendril. She smiled.
The hundred faces drank her blood as she pulled opened her wardrobe, and she almost instantly spotted the small chest sitting in the shadowed corner. The pain on the side of her head dulled slightly as she swept her left hand across the left wall of the smooth, brown-wooded chest. Again she rubbed the anguished faces, only this time it was on the lid of the box, with her whole hand, and there were at least a thousand of them.
She carried the box from her wardrobe to her bed, keeping the key pressed between her baby finger and the chest. She pressed her bleeding thumb into the keyhole, and etched over to flick the light back off. Further relief found her throbbing head as she was surrounded in peaceful darkness once again. She etched back to the bed, crawling like a crab, and grabbed the key with her left hand. She kept her bleeding thumb pressed into the keyhole, from where she could now feel the irritation of a low-power suctioning.
Slowly, she slid the key into the keyhole, gradually taking her thumb away as the ice-cold brass slid against her soft, pale skin. She stretched out her entire left hand until it was strained, and sprawled it out on the lid of the box. The key turned easily as usual, and was followed by the sound of a little metal click, echoing in the small empty box like it was a long, empty hallway.
Yvangela opened the box.
Gazing into the black, empty chest, the pain on the side of Yvangela’s head worsened once more. The pain then spread to her temple and through the back of her head, and continued through her forehead and up her vertex, like sharp, twisting roots of a tree growing expeditiously into the wrinkles of her brain. She had tried her very best to keep still, but after all the times she had gone through this ritual, she had continuously failed to do so, because she was unaware that she kept slowly swaying her head from side-to-side trying to keep herself from collapsing.
Sweat bulged from every pore on Yvangela’s forehead and slowly trickled down her face, like the blood of Jesus Christ, with the crown of thorns on his head. Her throat became desert dry, and a queasy ball started heating up in the pit of her stomach. She could feel the room swirl around her, and she felt like a small speck of dust uncontrollably, but slowly, drifting through a wide void. With her last ounce of remaining strength, she managed to control her inevitable loss of consciousness by sitting on the bed.
Sweat still dripped from her forehead like a waterfall and gathered in her hair like a mop. She felt like she was fully-clothed in a sauna. She lay down, and her eyes gently rolled into the back of her head, before her whole body suddenly erupted into a violent seizure. Flailing about uncontrollably, now unaware of her concerning state, Yvangela’s sickness faded away and her pain began to numb. Her whole body soothingly flew through a colorless, endless tunnel. Her only sense was touch.
Sometimes the portal to the other world felt like morphine to her.
* * * * * *
He could have been curled up in that fetal position for hours, days, weeks, or even months.
It could have been any length of time. It could have been any length of time, but Curtis just didn’t care. With his head buried in his palms, all that surrounded him was black. That was perfect. A blank canvas. Sometimes he would see those floating patches of colors. Those were even better. He could turn them into anything he wanted, and do whatever he pleased with whatever he had turned them into. He could imagine anything he wanted to, he could travel to any place he wanted to go, and be friends with whomever he pleased to be friends with.
If happiness would ever find him again, this was the only place it would search.
Curtis thought of it as a bubble. Everything outside of the bubble was simply hell, as far as he was concerned. Curtis was certain of this. Back home, he thought that being stuck in the same town for years with no escape in near-sight was soul-crushing, but this he could not even bear witness to
It was time for a change of scenery.
Curtis removed his buried head out from his palms, and looked around him. Expectedly, he winced at the sight that nothing had changed at all. Not even a little bit. He looked around again. The weather hadn’t even changed. He wasn’t hungry, thirsty, and he had physically felt the exact same way as he had the day he had become trapped here. If it even was the same day. If the weather could stay the same for hours upon hours on end, who knows what sort of bungled time-pattern this place had. Curtis slowly got to feet, his legs shaking like hanging, drying clothes fluttering in a strong breeze. A recurring thought plagued him as he straightened his stance.
He looked around at the redbrick houses, standing only a few feet away from the tall, mossy, grey concrete wall which marked the end of the street he had just turned away from.
Anxiety swept over Curtis. Old habits returned anew, and his eyes about rapidly, glancing around so as to not glimpse at the same thing twice. Curtis controlled himself, and staggered unusually quickly toward the nearest redbrick house to his left. He stumbled between the silver Toyota Yaris, and the well-kept, healthy front-garden. Curtis gazed through the sitting room window, still desolate like all the other houses on this street.
Curtis placed his hand on the cold, plastic door-handle, and to what was like the first bit of glimmering happiness that he had ever felt in his whole miserable life, it was unlocked.
He entered the house.
* * * * * *
The first thing Yvangela did when she had arrived into the other world was trace the lines of her scar where her throbbing pain had awoken her. This was the life she had chosen, and whenever a being had accidentally ventured from their world to the other, it was her duty to fix that. This was her responsibility, her calling in life. Just like it had been for her mother, and her mother, and her mother, and her mother, and so on.
This world was parallel to her world. Everything and everyone co-existed. In both worlds, people did the exact same things, events followed their exact chronology, and it all happened on the exact same time-scale.
The only difference between the two worlds was with the spirits of the deceased. They populated both worlds, but it was only in this world that you could actually see them. Each spirit was individually microscopic, but they traveled in hoards of thousands, millions, and even billions. There were four select different colors, none of which technically existed back in her world, each representing a different density of spirits in one given place. The only color that existed in both worlds was black, and that was only used here to identify the outlines of physical entities.
Yvangela took her first steps through the floating groups of spirits, watching the black outlines of grass and leaves sway in the brisk breeze. She looked over to the pond, the black outlines of ripples floating peacefully towards the black-outlined shore of long grass and chickweeds. Yvangela continued walking until she was on the footpath, the black outlines of people walking straight past her, blissfully unaware of her presence. The color representing the thickest density of spirits buzzed around their outlines. Immediately, something amiss had caught her eye.
A color. A color from her universe which shouldn’t exist here. A color that wasn’t black.
Yvangela looked directly towards a housing estate, and immediately spotted juxtaposition. Without her glasses, she couldn’t see what it was, but it was grey. Definitely grey. Yvangela walked across the road, the black outline of a car driving right through her like she was air. Yvangela got closer, and whatever it was, jerked its head up and looked straight at her. She was taken aback. Nothing had ever noticed her before. She took one step closer, and squinted her eyes.
She approached with caution, noticing three deep, pulsating cuts on the dog’s lower back. Different colors of spirit-density rose quickly from each wound like thin, wispy smoke, quickly transforming into different-density colors, and evaporating into larger groups of colors into the air. The dog continued to pant and stare at her, as she kneeled down and placed her hand gently on the top of his head. She focused all her energy on the dog and on her hand, and felt the heat quickly gather in her fingertips.
Thousands. Thousands of thoughts swarmed right into her head, like tiny flies swarming above cut grass on a hot spring dusk. She tried to tabulate the thousands of trafficking thoughts. “The dog’s name is Sylvester. His owner Curtis was looking around Walburton Park when he accidentally transitioned into the other world and became lost. The dog was tied to the tree while the malignant spirits approached and attacked Sylvester. He escaped, and he is the only existing entity that can see me in this world. Curtis called Sylvester ‘Silver’ for short. Sylvester doesn’t know where Curtis has gone. Sylvester doesn’t know who or what attacked him. Sylvester doesn’t know who I am.”
Yvangela took her hand away, closing her eyes tightly as the throbbing pain returned to her scar once more. Yvangela looked at the dog again, who was now sitting down, but still looking up at her and panting.
Yvangela smiled at him, as he continued panting. She whistled at Sylvester, and to her joy, he followed her into Walburton Park.
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