“Am I dead?” asked Katie.
“I like to think of it as ‘body impaired’.” Randy replied.
The explosion was frozen, with its heart only a short distance from where they were standing now. The initial blast had destroyed their physical forms, but all of the key players were still here and still struggling on a spirit level. Aubrey, Max and Stewart clung to a fighting Sentry as the slow wave of energy dissolved everything as it crept along.
“So we can leave?” Katie asked. The balance of power had shifted when their bodies were destroyed. Although Sentry was still strong and struggling the three on top of him were able to hold him in place. It would all be over in a few minutes. ‘Although it’s not really minutes. More like billionths of a second in normal time.’ Katie thought.
Randy nodded in answer to her question, “And we should leave too.” He was looking into the heart of the storm, which was an all devouring storm, obliterating anything it came into contact with.
“What about them, Randy?”
“They get to die heroes.”
“I thought that was our job?”
Randy laughed. Although Katie could hear him, she couldn’t hear the others, they were animated, but quiet. The whole world was quiet, a noiseless shadow of itself.
“Randy, I don’t think I want to go.”
Randy took her hand and looked into Katie’s eyes.
“I don’t think I can take anymore right now. I think…I think I am going to stay.” Katie stepped towards Sentry.
Shrugging, Randy mirrored her movement. “I understand. I’m a little tired too.”
Katie embraced him, he returned her affection and they both turned back to the spirit bodies on the floor. Examining them Katie said, “I think I can get in on his legs. Can you help out on his head?”
“I love you Kim Tonya Tucker.”
“I love you Randal Justin Stevens.”
When they latched onto Sentry’s form, the yelling of the four people became a torrent of sound.
Stewart’s voice rose above that of the others, “...throw this fucking asshole into that goddamn hole!”
“I can make you gods!” Sentry yelled.
“We’re already dead, you stupid son of a bitch!” Stewart retorted.
Randy, shouldered Stewart out of the way, breaking her grip. She gave him a baneful stare as she tried to get back into position.
Randy looked her in the eyes and said, “Go.”
“I got this. Get out of here.” Katie told Max. Aubrey looked on and started to loosen her grip on the thrashing Sentry. “Sorry honey, or should I say mommy?” Katie said in a sickly sweet voice, “This is a three person job. It looks like you get to come with me on this last trip.”
“Fucking figures.” Aubrey looked on at Max, whom Stewart was trying her best to drag away, “Just go, Max.”
Max and Stewart fled.
It was a bright night in Iowa. Bill’s wife Tricia was woken to the sounds of young voices talking. ‘Those kids! Don’t they know its…two a.m.? Good God what are they doing up so late?’ Tricia climbed wearily out of bed to investigate what the kids were up to. She checked the bedrooms and with growing alarm realized some of the kids were missing, Nick and Jessica, Max’s kids. She was about to wake Claire to help her track down the missing children when the sound of voices caught her ear again through the open window near the back of the house.
Quietly Tricia eased herself passed the dogs, who were alertly watching the back door but strangely silent, and into the back yard. The two kids were standing in the full moonlight, not too far from where Bill and John had put up the solar collector. She moved forward to collect the kids, but at the last second held her tongue and just moved forward into the dark shadow of the house to hear what they were saying.
Both children were crying, not sobbing, but in the moonlight Tricia could see their tear stained faces clearly. Nick was bare-chested and Jessica was in a long, thin night gown, both kids were standing in the field barefoot and sporting the mussed hair that only sleep produces.
“Why dad?” pleaded Nick.
If anyone answered Tricia didn’t hear it.
“We don’t want you to go!” put in Jessica, imploring the thin air.
“I don’t care about that. I don’t care about everyone else, I just want you!” Nick said again, punctuating his short speech with a sob at the end.
Tricia still couldn’t see anything in the empty field, out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of movement. Turning she barely stifled a gasp as she saw, Stewart, that cop who came with Max, standing right next to her. Only she wasn’t all there, Tricia could see through the vinyl siding through the other woman’s body. Stewart was watching the drama unfold in the field as well.
“You know this isn’t a dream.” Stewart said offhandedly, “He is really there and I am really here.”
Tricia didn’t trust herself to talk, fearing that even starting to say anything would result in a scream.
“I thought you were religious? Isn’t this covered by the ‘holy spirit’ clause?”
Tricia shook her head.
“No? How about we are just good old fashioned ghosts? Does that work?” not waiting for an answer, Stewart continued, “We lost our bodies, you could say we died. Tonight. In Florida. We aren’t coming back.”
“Bill?” Tricia asked, finally finding her voice.
“Last I saw he was fine, the old man was carrying him to safety, but Max and I didn’t quite make it out on time.” Stewart jerked a thumb in Max’s direction, “He wanted to see his kids. I came to see you. We’ve got to be going after this.”
“To let you know we aren’t coming back. To let you know your Bill is as much of a hero as we are. To ask you to look after Max’s kids and to prove to you that we were really here.”
“I-I, well I think I might still think this is a dream.”
Stewart leaned in close, “No, you won’t. His kids are going to be worked up over this, you’ll all be awake for a while, I predict. I told him this would happen, but you know Max.”
Tricia laughed a little.
“You sounded just like his wife.”
“I’m not sure if that makes me feel good or bad.”
“Good. It should make you feel good. She was a good woman and had her hands full with him. Just like I do with Bill. Is Bill…is Bill really okay?”
“Yeah, this is about that proof I was talking about. Bill got shot in the stomach in Doctor Sentry’s clinic. You know it before it becomes public knowledge. When you hear it, you’ll know you weren’t dreaming.”
“Oh my God! Shot in the stomach!” Tricia’s hands rose to her mouth, she felt nauseas.
“He’s fine. Tricia, he, well, he’s a different man now. How different I can’t say, but he’ll live through the bullet and I think he’ll make it back here, if anyone is bullheaded enough to do it, he is.”
“Now you sound like me.”
“Max! We should go. I don’t think you are making it any better.” Stewart called out. The kids didn’t turn or acknowledge her in the slightest.
Stewart seemed to listen to a reply that Tricia could not hear and then nodded.
“What did he say?” Tricia asked Stewart.
“He’s telling them we have to go, that we did the right thing and sometimes the right thing requires a sacrifice. One day they will understand. He’s saying that you are their new mother now and Bill is their new father…” Stewart’s voice trailed off.
Tricia watched as both children crawled up into seemingly thin air to be held there embracing something she couldn’t see.
“Why can’t I see him?”
Stewart shrugged, “Heck if I know. He isn’t here for you maybe.”
“Then why can I see you?”
“Because I am?” snorted Stewart, “We’ve got to go Tricia, we won’t be back. I feel thin, pulled out and worn, like an old set of shoes. It’s all I can do just to be here now.”
“Take us with you!” cried Nick in a moment of desperation.
Stewart shook her head and turned away from the scene, “I can’t watch this, bad enough that I have to listen to it. Consider yourself lucky that you don’t hear Max. Tricia, take care of the kids. I know I don’t even have to ask, but I am anyway. You know, I think I could have been your friend.”
“Of course! I don’t…I, Stewart! What’s happening?” Tricia pointed at the children. A white light was forming between them.
Stewart turned back to the scene and yelled out, “Max! What are you doing?”
The light went off like a flash and both kids were dumped on the ground in a crying heap. For a moment Tricia thought she saw Max, a thin pale outline a few steps away from the kids, his arms were held wide towards his children. Stewart rushed to his side and both of them flared briefly before fading from sight. The cries of the kids brought her eyes away from where the figures had disappeared and she rushed to them.
They were a mess, sobbing from the experience with their father and bloody from falling into a thistle patch on the ground when he dumped them.
“Nick, Jessica, c’mon, let’s get you inside.”
“Our dad was here!” Nick said, sobbing. “And he left. And he wo-wouldn’t takes us with him!”
“It’s okay Nick. I know. I know everything. You’ll be okay. C’mon, let’s go in.”