This is the third chapter of a multichapter story.
To read the first chapter, go here.
For the second, go here.
The rest of the week passed, then another, and they still had no leads on what was keeping her around the living. In contrast, Silas had already sent dozens of spirits on to their final resting place. She checked herself. Her body still felt pretty solid to her. Looks like she wasn’t going anywhere today either.
On the other side of the room, Silas pulled a large, rectangular bag out of his wardrobe. He set it flat on the ground and unzipped it to reveal…
She pressed herself against the window, but ended up half outside the building. “Is that a gun? Why do you have a gun?”
“Calm down. It’s for paintball.” He reached inside the bag for a gun magazine and angled it so that she could see the neon orange balls inside. “See? Can’t kill anyone with these. Except that guy… but let’s not talk about that.”
That last part wasn’t very convincing, but she did float back into the room. “Why do you have a gun in your room?”
“I play paintball once a fortnight,” Silas said as he checked his equipment. “It helps distract me from other people’s baggage. Dealing with dead people gets depressing after awhile.”
“So you’re saying I’m depressing?”
“Let’s not jump to conclusions.” Apparently finding no issue with the gun, he packed it back into the bag with all his other accessories and pulled the zip. He rose to his feet and hefted the bag onto one shoulder. “Coming?”
“Sure. Why not.”
They drove for an hour to Silas’ paintball club, then waited another half an hour for the latecomers to turn up. She had no problems with the delay. Invisible to everyone else, she explored the two paintball fields. She’d never seen so much junk in the same place before. When she pointed that out to Silas, his brow ceased in a frown.
“Have you played paintball before?” he asked, careful to keep his voice down so no one else heard him talking to himself.
“You should tr… watch. Yeah. Watch the game. You can even pretend you’re playing. Just don’t block my view. I don’t want to walk straight into an ambush. That has actually happened before.”
“Ok.” She would do her best to float in the most inconvenient place for him as possible.
Once the game actually started, she forgot about everything else. All her attention went to finding front row seats to exciting skirmishes and sneaky ambushes throughout the game. And if she did end up unintentionally leading Silas into his death three times in a row… Paintball death wasn’t permanent. He’d be back.
“Feel anything? More alive? Less alive?” Silas asked on the drive back.
“I don’t feel any different, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Later, after Silas came down from the adrenaline high he usually got after an intense game of paintball, he would apologise, but that was only after they reached his house. In between, she was forced to listen to Silas’ gush about how amazing paintball was and how could anyone not feel anything and what was wrong with her paintball was life.
He paused at that point to apologize for the comment because that was insensitive, then continued to list all the ways paintball saved the world.
She bit her hand to stop herself from laughing in his face. Goodbye cool problem solver, hello hardcore paintball number one fanboy.
Well, at least he had something he was passionate about. She had nothing. No goals, no dreams, nothing she would dedicate her life to. She’d breezed through life without becoming attached to anything, and at this rate, she could end up floating around as a spirit just because. At least she had company.
A few days later, they had an unusually slow afternoon free of any supernatural visits or pressing deadlines. She took over Silas’ laptop to watch a movie while Silas surfed the net on his desktop. A very relaxing day.
Until Silas jumped to his feet and sent his chair crashing to the ground.
“You.” Silas pointed at her. “Come here. That’s you, right?”
She floated over to find her face on his screen. Beside the picture was her brother’s post, asking for prayers as his sister continued into her third week of coma after drowning in the lake during their recent family trip.
“Ah? That’s it? You’re alive.”
She nodded. “That’s great.”
Silas narrowed his eyes at her.
“I’ve met dead people with more energy than you.” He grabbed his car keys. “Come on. It’s time to create a miracle.”
In the hospital, Zoey followed quietly as Silas pretended he couldn’t see her and every other spirit that haunted the corridors. A necessary move, because otherwise he’d not only get bogged down by spirits asking for help but get sent to the mental health wing if people caught him talking to the air. She also pretended she couldn’t see the other spirits, just in case… something Silas wasn’t very clear about when he talked about it in the car.
Playing the part of a well-wisher who was hopelessly lost, Silas found his way to Zoey’s room. There, they hit their first obstacle.
Sitting in a chair beside Zoey’s comatose body was her mum, who was reading a book while she rubbed circles with her thumb on Zoey’s arm. As touching as it was to know that her family hadn’t left her alone even after three weeks of non-response, it would be a lot easier if the room was empty as they tried to figure out how to return Zoey’s spirit to her body.
What would Silas do? She couldn’t really ask him, because there was a really disturbing-looking spirit at the corner of the room and she really didn’t want to draw the spirit’s attention to any of them.
Wait… She didn’t need him for this. Silas had already brought her this far, the rest of her recovery was up to her.
She phased through the window and made a beeline for her body. Her palm pressed against her bare forearm.
Well, that was disappointing. Maybe she was supposed to lie down in her body? Align her spiritual half with her physical half and all that. Weird, but worth a try.
She twisted in the air and sunk into her body. This time, she felt something, like she was caught in a loose web of cotton strands. Her mum’s thumb felt like a faint whisper against her skin. If she concentrated, she could feel more pressure and warmth, but she couldn’t hold on to the sensation for long before it slipped away.
This wasn’t working. Maybe… maybe she was supposed to be dead. Her body just hadn’t realised it yet.
She fell through the bed. When she tried to slip back into her body again, she phased right through, like walking through a hologram.
Not good. At this rate, she’d really become a wandering spirit. Time to backtrack. She wasn’t doing amazing earlier, but at least she could somewhat interact with her body. Things got worse after she… thought she was supposed to be dead. By that logic, if she thought she was supposed to be alive, would her body accept her spirit?
Was it really that easy?
She tried falling back into her body again. This time, she didn’t end up on the floor. Seriously? This was working? She thought about her family, about how everyone else would be sad if she died. Now she could feel her mum’s touch, and her own weight. After weeks of floating around as a weightless spirit, her body felt heavy. No. She had to get used to physical boundaries again. It was time to wake up.
She shifted, and her body shifted along with her. Next, darkness took over her vision as her vision synched with her closed physical eyes, followed almost immediately with red, the colour of light streaming through her closed eyelids. As the rest of her melted into place, she focused on her eyes. If she could open her eyes, that meant she actually made it back.
Her eyes were a lot stiffer than she remembered, but with effort and determination, she forced them open and was rewarded with the sight of the ceiling fading into view.
Then fatigue slammed into her, and her eyes closed as she slept for the first time in a long time.