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Chapter Four




I open my eyes and blink.  I am in the massage area, only there’s something strange about the world around me.  I push myself off the bed and notice that everything I see is like through a different place.  Almost a portal or other dimension.  

The area around me has a blue-green tint.  I look down at my hands.  I nearly shout with surprise.  I’m see through!  

“What’s going on?” I say, but it almost sounds like it echoes.  I notice my clothes are back on me.  Franky is gone.  She is absent from the room.  Wasn’t she right in front of me, though?  Before I… well, whatever happened?  

I walk toward the shelf where the flower used to be.  It’s absent as well.  “What was that flower?  What did it do?”  I lean upwards towards the flower’s old spot on the shelf, and notice the scent is faintly there.  I waft the smell and nearly cringe.  The smell seems sour, rotten almost.

“It reeks!” I quietly exclaim, waving a hand in front of my pinched nose.  The flower didn’t smell anything like this.  

“Well, excuuuuussse me,” a voice says.  I jump, nearly tripping over my own feet.  A small, radiant blue-green orb floats from behind the shelf.  Its light is bright, but not overwhelmingly blinding.  It’s almost… captivating.  

“W-What the heck?” I blurt.  The orb’s light pops in a sudden spark, then frenzies in a furious sparkly storm.  

“Hey!  What do you mean by that?  I swear, these new dead people never seem to understand that this is what happens when you DIE!” the orb shouts.  

“What?  I’m… dead?!” I ask.  

“Well, if you’re in this dimension, then yes, you must be.”

“Okay, let’s make this clear, little orb-thingy.  I’m.  Not.  Dead.  You hear me?”

“Yeah, but you’re obviously in denial, little girl.  Trust me.  I was in denial for 20 years, then I got used to it and accepted it.  I suggest you do the same, or else this after-life won’t be so cozy.”  

“You crazy little… look, I’m not dead.  There’s obviously been some mistake.  All I did was… smell this flower and I wound up here,” I explain.  The orb sparks in surprise.

“What?  You smelled the chrysalis?” the orb asks.  “Oh, dear, then this is a problem.  Why did you smell it?  Every person knows you don’t smell or touch the chrysalis!”  The orb dances in the air in a worried motion.  Its colors spark and brighten in an odd fashion, like a bulb was short-circuiting.  

“Hey,” I interrupt.  “Just what is the chrysalis?”  The orb slowly comes to a halt and rises up to my face.  Its colors flow in a hypnotic wave of green and blue.  Its sparks cease and it almost dulls.

“Listen, kid, I hate to be the bearer of bad news,” the orb says, “but… there’s no way for you to return to the human world.  You’re stuck here, in the spirit realm.”  It floats around my head once, twice, then stops again in front of me.  “You were lucky to have found a spirit like me, or else the Stealers would have taken your soul.  Trust me, there isn’t anything worse than that.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I say.  “What’s a… Stealer?”

“A Stealer?  Oh boy, you don’t want to get face-to-face with one of those uglies.  They wander the spirit realm looking for weak souls to grab and take to their little cauldron and gobble up.  Now, of course, it’s sort of how the food chain works around here, but ANYWAYS, it ain’t pretty.  They all ain’t.”

“How do you know… what they look like?”

“Believe me, I’ve had my times runnin’ from those creeps.  Once you see one, you can’t miss ‘em the next time.  They have dead, gray skin, their eyes are stitched closed, and their mouths are a dull pink.  Sharp teeth in there, whoo boy, are they sharp.  I’ve come close enough to tell you straight up.”

I inwardly flinch.  Somehow, there is almost a sense of familiarity dwelling inside me as I take in the orb’s description.  But I know that is not possible because I have never heard of the Stealers, nor have been in the spirit realm.  

“Say, kid,” the orb says, “I didn’t catch your name.”  

“Riff,” I say.  “Riff Foster.”  The orb floats upwards for a second, then descends again.  “And yours?”  

“Kid, don’t worry about it,” the orb explains.  It pauses.  “Well, since it would be improper, I’ll tell you.  The name’s Glass.  I know, really unfitting, but before I was a special kind of spirit here in this realm, I helped make glass.  Now, Riff, we need you to get back to the human world.  Since you smelled the chrysalis, this is going to be difficult.”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Well, the chrysalis is a rare specimen of flower that must never be found.  With a single human touch to any part of the plant, it will release a rare toxin not yet truly discovered by man called bleocarbine, but those who did find it shortened the name to bleach because of the pale color of the toxin.  It will also, in a way, bleach out your skin or completely melt it away like acid.  Now, the bleocarbine does not exist on the periodic table, if you didn’t notice.”

“Anyways...,” I mutter.  The orb fizzes.

“Alright, Miss Impatient, the point is, it’s very odd that humans were able to seize the chrysalis at all.  They must have had some kind of...”

In a sudden sound that was similar to a chain’s klink, Glass’s explanation ends.  It sparks and pulses with color, floating in a frenzy.  

“Kid, we need to go.  Now!” Glass says.  

“What?” I say.  “Why?”

Suddenly, the spirit realm version of the girl’s massage room door breaks open, revealing hideous figures that hovered in the air.  They had mysterious brown cloaks with hoods covering over their eyes.  Their lips were an ugly pink, chapped and cracked and covered in dry blood.  Sharp fangs hung out as they hissed.  It is then that I knew.  


“Run, Riff!” Glass yells.  I run into the dressing room, my only option of making a barrier between me and the Stealers.  I shut the door and hear the Stealers’ odd language of hisses and growls.  Glass appears, traveling right through the door.  

“You know, we don’t need to open doors in this realm!” Glass exclaims.  “Now follow me!”  Glass shoots forward, through the back wall.  I follow, and shudder at the foreign feeling of going through an object.  It is weird to see the inside of a wall, then suddenly be inside a different room.  

We are in another back room, looking identical to the one we were just currently in.  The candles from the real world glow a mystical green hue.  Their small flames flicker.  I reach out to the flame, but my hands goes through the fire.  I should’ve figured.  

“How is all of this possible?” I whisper to Glass.  Glass spins in a quick 360 and floats towards the wall.  

“This is no time for questions!” Glass replies.  “Hurry!”  It hurries towards the front door of the shop and flashes right through it.  I run after Glass just as I hear one of the walls cracking and a menacing hiss escapes the mouth of a Stealer.  I pick up the pace.  The orb brightens as we climb the wooden stairs of the cruise ship.  Blurs of figures pass us.  Humans from the world of the living, where I should be.

It’s almost as if they are stop motion figures, taking a step in each pause, as if posing for pictures.  Glass goes through one, the human stops and trembles.  Its shaking form is almost dizzying to watch.  I trail the orb and attempt to run past the figure, but end up going through its chest.  It cringes again.

“Riff, stay with me!  I know where we need to go to be safe!” Glass exclaims, its voice echoing into my ear drums.  I nod.  My rose colored hair flows behind me, sending particles of spirit dust into the realm’s air.  I found it odd how if you move quick enough, the particles float from your being like sand in a breeze.  

Chasing after Glass — and wondering just how in the world that orb was so quick — I run towards the back end of the boat.  More blurs stand nearby, but I don’t bother to pay much attention to them.  The orb flies towards the rail and pauses.  I jog up to Glass’s  side and stare at where it’s stopped.  

“There’s a hidden gate here.  Take a look,” Glass says.  I reach my finger out and touch something cold.  A wave in the realm bobs.  “It’s an invisibility spell.  I think a second level spell...,” Glass mumbles.  The orb floats towards where my finger touched and glows brightly, momentarily blinding me from sight.  “Alright.  That should take care of it.”

I open my eyes and find a dark gate before us.  It opens and a ghostly breeze blows through us.  “What is this?” I ask.  

“It’s a way to get you out of here, out of this realm,” explains Glass.  “Now hurry through, I’ll be right behind you.”  I walk onto the other side of the gate.  I turn and cannot see the side from which I just came through.  A ripple in the realm makes me blink, and Glass is there.  

“Hurry on,” Glass tells me.  I walk through the different land and check behind me a few times.  No Stealers behind us.  I sigh with relief.  A distant echo of a gong rings in my ears.  

“What’s that noise?” I ask.  Glass spins towards the source.  

“Follow me,” Glass says.  The orb floats towards the distance, I follow close behind.  I feel a calming breeze blow through my short locks of rose colored hair and I grow calm in this world of the dead.  Faint presence of grass shimmers under my feet, more like waves than solid ground.  Yellow and pink flowers sway along with the grass, and I find myself falling for its charming movements.  I clutch my shirt’s hem and fiddle with the edge of it.  

The pounding of a gong continues and if I squint, I can see moving figures.  Perhaps more Stealers?  Nonetheless, Glass and I continue forward.  Drums are beginning to join the harmony of the gong.  It’s a tribal-sounding tune that soothes the body and the mind, but also brings focus.  As we approach ever closer, there is a wave of a dull white and purple, at the bottom of the moving wave there is a line of purple.

It isn’t until we step towards a large red temple, where a large canopy of shade covers part of the stone steps that go towards the open, wooden slide doors.  There is the thud of feet against the dark wood floor, and I find myself hurrying towards the ajar slide door.  Glass enters quietly, not bothering to flow through the door and slips through the crack.  

I push the door open and find what must be at least twenty people, all wearing white and purple long sleeved shirts that have sleeves that open wide so that the hand takes very little space.  The shirt is almost robe-like with the way it’s made, mostly being an ivory color with a purple stripe going down the middle to the hem, an outline of the end of the sleeve and a single, thick line going upwards and stopping at the shoulder.  Their shorts are dark purple and most have clean, white medical tape around the bottom half of their legs.  Some have them around their ankles, some have them start at the bottom of the knee and end at the ankle.

I gasp at their swift movements.  The people -- mostly young guys near my age or older -- switch the position of their feet, legs, and arms at the signal of one bald man wearing the same uniform at the front of the room.  One boy near the back stops after hearing my gasp and gets punched in the side from the other on his right.  

“Halt!” the bald man orders.  The boys stop and bow to the man.  The one who was punched turns towards me, rubbing his rib cage.  It is then that I nearly lose my breath because of his beauty.  Light brown hair, dark blue eyes, and a broad, strong body that would probably have extravagant muscles.  

“Shane!” the older bald man yells, walking towards the end of the rows towards said punched boy.  The leader stops in front of Shane and holds his hands behind him, studying him as Shane looks him back in the eye.  The bald guy is relatively taller than this already tall teen, but Shane doesn’t seem to be afraid.  

“I’m sorry, Teacher Ricardo,” Shane replies calmly.  “But it appears we have company.”

“Preposterous!” Ricardo says.  “My student, I think you’re mistaken.  You know that it’s impossible for non-temple beings to enter our grounds without our permission.”

“But you see, Teacher,” Shane says, “they are right here, beside you, near the door.”  Teacher Ricardo turns sternly towards my direction and blinks.  He turns to Shane again.

“I see no visitor.  Have you done this in excuse to stop this lesson?” Ricardo asks.

“No, Teacher.”

“Then show me who stands beside the door!”  

Shane steps towards me and snaps his fingers in front of my eyes.  I blink, and then suddenly the whole room gasps.  

“You see?” Shane says, looking down at me.  “...She’s right here.”  Teacher Ricardo’s eyes widen and he fiercely walks to Shane’s side.  

“Young spirit, are you lost?” Ricardo asks.  His height is terribly intimidating.  He must be at least six foot and seven inches.  “It’s not too unusual for a newly passed spirit to find its way into our temple.  But here is not the place for you; you may be attracting those devils...”

“No,” I say quietly.  “I’m not lost.  I’m not dead!  I’m following someone-- I mean, something and it lead me here.”  Ricardo cracks his knuckles and studies me.  He shakes his hands out and places them in the pockets of the long shirt that all the boys wear.  My eyes hurriedly look for Glass’s shining form.  In the corner, near another door at the front of the room, glowing expectantly.  

“Glass!” I yell.  “Get over here!” The orb flickers in surprise.  Teacher Ricardo turns quickly on his bare feet, and in a flash, he’s right next to the orb.  Ricardo encloses the orb in his giant hands.  Glass’s blue-green light shines through the thin cracks between Ricardo’s fingers.

“Hey!  Let me out!” Glass says.  “I am a helpful spirit!  Let me go!”  Ricardo walks over towards me once again and hands me Glass.  I nearly drop Glass before safely holding the orb in my palms.

“Here is the spirit you’re following,” Ricardo says calmly, “but I ask that you now leave this place before you cause trouble to come around.”  

“No, wait,” I say.  “Please help us.  I’m not supposed to be here.  I mean, I’m not supposed to be in this realm.  I’m actually alive!  And if I can’t get you’re help, then those things are going to get me and eat my living soul!  If you don’t help me right now, then I’ll... I’ll...”

“Relax,” Ricardo says.  “I know who you are.  Word goes around quickly in this part of the realm.  You’re the human who smelled the scent of the chrysalis.  That is why you’re stuck here.  However, that doesn’t explain how you found our secret grounds.”

“I-- Well, you see, Glass found the gate and snuck through.  The Stealers were after us, we panicked, and I’m sorry for entering this place.  Please let us stay, though.  At least until I can figure out a way to get back home,” I say in a rush.  Ricardo places a hand on my shoulder and gives a smile.  

“Riff Foster,” he begins, “you must stay calm and know that we are like you.  We are human, but we travel to the spirit realm for our own reasons.  We know you will not harm us and we shall not harm you.  Please, allow one of us to escort you to a room.  We have plenty of space.  You may keep your friend with you, as well.”

Ricardo turns and snaps his fingers in the air.  All the boys in the training room bow and exit through the door at the front.  A young woman, perhaps at the age of twenty-five, suddenly appears.  Her hair is long and black with purple strands.  It ends at her waist and her bangs end at her eyebrows.  She wears the same uniform that the others are all displaying.  

“Yulla,” Ricardo speaks.  “I need you to take Riff to your quarters in the temple.  Allow her to stay near you for protection.”  

“Of course,” says Yulla, holding her hands in front of her and bowing.  “She’ll be no problem at all.”  Yulla stands straight and beckons me to follow with her finger.  Glass floats out of my hand and stops in front of my face.

“Listen,” Glass says, “I’m going to talk to this guy.  Make sure he’s not up to anything.  You just stay with that woman and get some rest.  Don’t worry, we’ll figure out a way for you to get back into the real world.”  

I nod to the sparkling orb and I walk after Yulla.  She opens the sliding door.  I pass her and she closes it behind us.  The floor is slightly cold but at the same time comforting.  It feels like home, in a way.  

“Please, follow me,” Yulla calmly says.  Her bare feet softly hit the wood floor and I hurry after her, attempting to be as silent as she is.  The day in the spirit realm gives its light through the open windows of the temple.  Inside there is no breeze, but it is oddly chilly.  I don’t shiver.  


X X X X 


Yulla opens the sliding door and reveals a bamboo-floored room that has a long, flat bed with a large pillow and a brown blanket readily placed.  A window

“We always have extra room in the temple,” Yulla says.  She steps to the side and allows me access to the temporary room.  I thank her and she slightly bows, exiting quietly after I turn to the window.  From the window’s view, I see the outside of the temple where there are crooked, twisting trees, flowers that decorate the grass red, pink, and yellow.  

I sigh and sit on the bed.  Like a switch, the realm outside turns dark.  It’s night in the spirit realm.  I lie on the flat bed and I only hope to go home before my soul is taken from my body.  A bitter chill creeps into my room.  This time, I shiver.  I climb under the sheets and force myself to sleep.






















Submitted: March 05, 2014

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