Deep serenity passed, and I began to feel like a prisoner myself again. Panic, fear, anger. Now that I knew that I could get out, I had to do it again. I eventually suppressed those feelings again and learned how to leave my body whenever I felt like it.
But what do you do now? I went and saw my family first, which took a while because they'd moved to a new house, and I tried every damn thing I'd ever seen in any ghost movie to contact them. That stuff must only work for ghosts, because I made not the slightest progress in that regard. I was unable to be anything but a passive observer.
But observation has its uses. I knew that I'd been shot in the head, because they told me that after I came out of my first coma, but I didn't remember how or why. Not even my newfound ability to restore my memory gave me that knowledge. My family didn't talk about it, and it was only from eavesdropping on the doctors and nurses that I learned parts of the story until I had it all pasted together.
It had been burglars. My wife heard a noise, and then I distinctly heard breaking glass. She called the cops, and I ran downstairs. That sounded like me when I heard it, especially since the kids' bedrooms were on the ground floor. I must have been in too big a hurry to get my gun from the closet, but some time before they saw me I must have grabbed my wife's handgun from her purse on the kitchen table. My wife heard shouting, then gunshots. I was hit in the head with a twenty-two-caliber bullet, but apparently I never went down from that. I killed one coming into the kitchen from the garage, and he's the one who shot me. I was headed toward the kids' rooms when another burglar stabbed me with one of my own Ginsu steak knives in the back and then the throat, leaving the knife in my neck and picking up the gun I had dropped during our struggle.
At that point I went down and bled on the floor of the dining room for a while. The amazing part was that I got up, staggered up the stairs to where my wife had barricaded herself in the master bathroom with the phone and both the kids, who had run upstairs to our bedroom when the shooting started. He was banging on the bathroom door, cursing at them, trying to break it down. He fired a shot into it that grazed my wife's arm as she put her body over the kids, but that was his last bullet. I'd been a bit profligate in shooting up his partner, hitting that bastard four times and my Whirlpool refrigerator three times. Thanks to the Brady Bill, my wife's gun only had an eight round clip. In any case, I came in, shot in the head, stabbed, and still managed to kill him with my Ginsu steak knife, which incidentally never needs sharpening, before I collapsed again. It is a pity I can't remember any of that, because I always wanted to do something heroic.
So the cops came and cleaned up, and Dr. Shores did an amazing job in emergency surgery to even see me through the night. They told my wife it was likely I would die anyway. I was in a coma, and I'd lost enough blood that I might have brain damage. Some signs were encouraging, and others worrisome. I was moved from surgery to the ICU, and things looked pretty grim.
Then a false dawn. I came out of the coma long enough to talk to everyone and ask why I was in a hospital, but then I had complications and more emergency surgery because of a bullet fragment they'd missed the first night. They stabilized me, and I lived, but I never woke up or breathed on my own again.
It was especially hard on my wife. Even after I'd been in the coma for two years she couldn't let go. How could she? I wasn't dead. I'd come out of one coma already, after all, and my higher brain functions seemed okay. The doctors agreed that this coma was permanent, but they'd been wrong before. I knew her, and that's what she would be thinking.
So you might think that I'd spend the rest of my natural life wandering around, watching my family and looking after them. That was the plan, but it just doesn't work out. They were doing fine, but it was frustrating because when they did need help I couldn't give it to them. My daughter fell off her bike and broke her arm a block from the house. I stood there helplessly above her, unable to comfort or help in any way, tormented until a neighbor heard her crying and brought her home. Same thing with my son and a bully. I would get so frustrated and angry about my impotence that things would get hazy. I'd begin to break apart. I knew I was in grave danger if I lost my concentration so far from my body.
My wife was a different story. It was from her that I learned that in some small way I could communicate with her. She would stay up alone at night, after she put the kids to bed, flipping through our photo albums with a sad little smile on her face. Often she would drink wine from one of the set of four Waterford crystal wineglasses Uncle Bob had given us for our wedding. There was a night she set the wine glass down and I happened to absentmindedly touch it as I looked at the photos over her shoulder. The photos were of us in Cancun. That was a good time.
I noticed myself getting tired, which was very odd. When I looked away from the photos, I could see that the wineglass was glowing yellow where I touched it, and that it kept glowing after I pulled my hand back. When she went to bed, I stayed there, touching the crystal wineglass and thinking of her until it was as bright as the lights she'd forgotten to turn off.
Tired as I was, I stayed the whole night, waiting to see if she would notice the glow when she came down to clean up in the morning. This might finally be the way I could talk to her.
It turned out it was, though not in a way I expected. She walked right past it several times without seeing the glow apparently. When she finally did pick up the wineglass, her face turned sour and she burst into tears. It upset me so much that I went back to my body and skulked in the darkness for a while, thinking about what I'd done wrong. Why would my thoughts of her make her unhappy?
Maybe because they made me unhappy. I decided that after the initial burst of excitement, I'd actually been quite melancholy as I thought of her and all that we'd lost. Maybe that feeling had been transmitted to the crystal.
When I was strong again, I Traveled back to her new house and tried again. This time, focusing on memories of joy, I touched another wineglass. This time it glowed with a soothing neon blue. I left the other glasses alone until my hypothesis had a chance to be tested, and that took weeks. Another glass of wine happened to be poured into the blue neon glass when I happened to be there. She had the photo albums out again, but tonight she smiled and laughed as she drank. Maybe she was just in a better mood, or remembering some bad joke I'd cracked once upon a time, but I had a feeling it was the charge I'd given the crystal.
I went back and charged the rest of the crystal glasses with happy memories and positive feelings; all except the first one that stubbornly continued to glow yellow no matter what I did. I imagine she'll treasure those Waterford wineglasses until she dies, because they usually bring her such happy memories and thoughts of me. But she doesn't use them often, because sometimes (exactly 25 percent of the time, I would think) they make her sad.
This was a period of learning for me, and danger. I desperately wanted to find other things to put my feelings into, so that my family would know I was still with them. But other than the Waterford I discovered there wasn't much in the house that I could put my emotions inside. I could fondle a regular glass all I wanted without any supernatural effect. Mirrors made me uncomfortable, and that instinct proved true later. The first time I touched one, my hand disappeared into it and I didn't get it back. It hurt, and although my hand was back the next time I left my physical body for some Traveling, I didn't mess with any more mirrors. I found I could charge gemstones with feelings, but even very small ones took at a lot out of me for very little return. When I touched crystal, it felt sticky but safe. When I touched a diamond, I felt suction, like the gem wanted to pull me inside. Very disturbing.
I also began to notice that sometimes things had a glow that didn't come from me. At sunset, there was a thin glowing line along on the horizon between the sky and the ground. I looked harder for these lines, and I found that at night I could see them almost everywhere. Wherever two unlike things met, a thin glow separated them. Water and fire had glows of their own as well. It was trippy. I eventually discovered that I could use this glow. If I put my hands into the glow covering a wall, I usually could put myself on the other side just by thinking of it. It was a lot easier than walking down the long corridors out to get out of the hospital when I Traveled.
My wife had started dating again, and intellectually I was fine with it. I began having dates of my own. Little encounters where I would follow a woman home and watch her bathe or shower, and if I was lucky she would be naughty and I could watch.
At the same time, I was looking for someone that I could truly talk to. I tried visiting psychics, palm readers, and the like. Maybe an old school witch would have been helpful, but I couldn't find one. It takes a lot of effort to find that type of person when you can't leaf through a phone book or do a google search. You have to go door to door, basically. What the hell, though, right? Not like I didn't have the time.
I never did find a witch or a shaman or a priest that could help me. But there must be something to religion, because I discovered that there were some places that I could not go. Churches often had a glow that was stronger than normal, and it was a barrier that I couldn't break. It hurt my feelings. Why can't I go to church?
It didn't matter which church or temple or mosque, either. I either wasn't wanted or I was too early for my reservation. The discovery that holy places kept me out triggered a whole train of spiritual thought. I thought about being Dead and about Hell and above all about what the Big Cheese thought of me. Was He angry at me or was I just in some unique limbo? I never learned the answers, but I did come to some conclusions.
First, I decided to be Good. To that end, if I could find a way to Help people, I would. I also dedicated myself to studies and knowledge. I would live my life, such as it was, with purpose and to the best of my abilities.
To that end, I studied people. People on the street, people in their homes. When I got bored watching real people, I would go to the movies or watch videos for a while.
With study, emotion became clearer but speech became less so. I found thin glows even around people, colored primarily by their general nature but tinted by their emotions. With this sharper sensitivity I found crowds of people harder to tolerate. I could Travel for longer periods, and I could feel joy and lust and rage. I studied them all, trying to separate them into their proper forms so that I could be Good. My goal was to have no joy at the pain of another, no lewdness in my lust for the beautiful, and no desire for vengeance in my rage. It was my life's work.
But now the Goth intrigued me. Maybe here was a person that I could Help. I'd given her pendant an aura of confidence, because she needed it to help break her pattern. Perhaps I would visit her again and see how she was doing.
Back in her apartment, I nosed around. She had a beautiful Celtic cross on one wall that I hadn't noticed before, which was just as well. It was covered in beautiful spirals and interlace, patterns that I found to be very dangerous.
I think that I am becoming less bound by my humanity and more like a wild spirit. I feel drawn to things of three, like the streams that I had to stop and look at again before I could go up to Goth Girl's apartment. Certain shapes attract me as well; it takes willpower to ignore them. I love patterns now. I stare at interlace or spirals and I find myself being pulled toward them, wanting to get inside them and trace their routes myself. It has almost happened many times, and I suspect that to give in to that urge would be very dangerous for me.
People have patterns, little swirls and eddies that they learn and follow no matter what happens to them. It took me very little time to discover that my little Goth needed to break almost all of her patterns. Men who enforced their will with cruelty, like her father. That pattern had to go most of all, it held the other ones in place. The pity was that she knew almost all of this herself. She had great self-awareness, but it just made her that much sadder when she found herself back at the beginning of her circle. I was sad with her, but it gave me joy most of all. Finally, here was someone I could Help, and that would be Good.
She had a favorite pendant that she hardly ever took off. White crystal in a shaft about two inches long in a clever little clasp, unfortunately decorated with interlace, that she wore with a thin strap of black leather. It was the one I had touched the night I first saw her. Whenever she was still or took it off, I worked on it, imbuing it with confidence and joy. It was working, or so I thought. The crystal was so brilliant now, a soothing sapphire blue that filled any room.
I heard her discuss it with Crew Cut. Tonight was the night she would break up with Shithead once and for all. I won't describe him, save to say that he was just a concentrated strength version of all the others she'd ever been with. When he was in the room I could see her mistake his hatred for self confidence, and his vulgarity for love; just as she'd done her whole life after learning the pattern from her father. It gave me rage to see it, and not the Good kind of rage. I would have to work to rise above it.
Crew Cut offered to stay, but Goth Girl had confidence now. She would not need help. I was proud of my Goth. I stayed, though, in case I could Help in my own way.
Shithead must have known what was up, because as soon as he came in the door I could see that his aura was vile and much larger than normal. They talked, and then they fought, and I think he became afraid of her. He raged at her and hit all the triggers and insults he had used to control her before, but while her own beautiful aura faltered, it never collapsed.
Finally he was crying, on his knees in front of her. She looked at him with pity, and I thought to myself that this was a dangerous moment. It was, as she knelt with him and took his hands. They talked, or he talked and she listened, about love. Love? Hah! The next relationship would be the true pattern breaker, I thought, and I already had a plan in mind for afterward that involved a certain person that could--
Danger! I saw it coming before she did, and I moved quickly to try to charge her crystal with everything I had. He stood, as if to go, but I could see the sickening green corrupting his aura. He explained that he loved her, and that he couldn't let love, so special and so rare, leave his life. He unzipped his pants.
My fear for her clouded me, and it was very dangerous for me to stay now. He had a hand on her shoulder, keeping her on her knees, while he waved his small greasy cock at her face. Her hands flew up to fend him off, but he was too strong. Pulling her hair with one hand, he grabbed her lower lip with the other and pulled until her mouth opened with a shriek. Her yell was cut off suddenly and there was a muttered threat about how she would die if she bit him.
Her pumped away at her face, calling her vile names. Bitch mostly, although whore, slut, and stupid all made an appearance. He overpowered her fierce efforts to push him away, and eventually she submitted, her beautiful face scarred with tears and mascara runs and humiliation. I felt myself falling apart. I had nothing but despair and hopelessness in me. I had nothing to give her. I could not Help.
He finished, and looked down on her, telling her how much he loved her. He pulled her hair and tilted her head back, ordering her to swallow. She tried to spit it at him, but it went up and came back down on her face and he laughed. He let her go with a little shove and told her to get cleaned up and come to bed. He would be waiting.
On his way down the hall he stopped and turned back, looking at her with the sick satisfaction of a coward as she curled up and cried on the floor. He told her that she should call the police if she wanted him to go away, but that he'd never hit her. He'd just tell them that he called her another girl's name during sex, and that's why they were fighting.
He went back down the hall to the bedroom. She laid on the floor a long while, as I waited and felt myself dissolving. When she finally stood, she got cleaned up and then she went down the hall to bed.
I hurtled back to my physical body, the world fog shrouded around me and harder to move through with every minute. I barely existed by the time I got back to my hospital bed, and I fell into darkness so deep that I was sure that I never would come out again. I didn't care.
I slept, unconscious for the first time in years, and when I awoke I was right back where I started: In total darkness. But this time there was no panic, no fear, and no comprehension. My mind shied away from unpleasant thoughts, which is to say that every thought I might possibly have now. I had no thoughts, but I could feel them swimming around me in the dark deeps like black eels. What else could I do? I let myself sink further.
But even sinking was a thought, and soon my mind blocked that out. I was motionless, on the floor, and there was no light. Sensation returned. I could feel rough texture underneath me, and heat and liquid. I was cold, but the floor was hot. There was some dim light, but it would hurt my eyes if I opened them. I would stay on the floor until it warmed me up. Then I promise that I will get up.
Why did I have to get up, anyway?
The kids! My eyes flashed open into a memory long forbidden. The show is already in progress. A push off the floor, a stagger to the feet, and something pulling and cutting in my throat. I grope at my neck and tug on something I find. I stare down without understanding at the bloody knife. It's a Ginsu knife, like the ones we have. I know that it never needs sharpening, but I can't remember anything else about it.
I stagger toward the stairs, either at random or because of guidance from the Big Cheese, and then screams laid over a baseline of hoarse curses echo down to me. Devoid of strength and with sight closing fast, I propel myself up the stairs on nothing but willpower. A gunshot cracks in the bedroom now, and it makes me feral as I finish the stairs and fly down the short hallway to the noise. I give myself to rage. Good rage, with no desire to hurt, punish, or judge; just a flame within to stop that which is wicked.
It stops, and finally I can lay down on the floor and get warm. I drop to the merciful ground in a heap, but it's a trick. The floor isn't warm at all.
I remember everything now. For the last time I open my eyes and push myself up, this time out of my body. I look down on it for a minute, because I won't be coming back. I know what I must do now. I knew all along that I should be Good and that I wanted to Help. But I'd forgotten that sometimes to do Good, you must Sacrifice. I looked up at the clock. Just one hour had passed since I'd come back to my body in a shambles.
My body of light was fragile, even the mist from the fountain threatened to break it apart, but I made it to her room all right. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, naked, balanced on a needle's tip between her past, her present, and her future. She had not set her pendant aside, and I took this as a sign from the Big Cheese that my plan was approved.