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cortnikelli

Just a Ghost

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This story is not based on any games or characters involved, and is a work of fiction. Enjoy:)

 

Awake

 

My eyes opened, and I slammed them shut in fear of the pain the sudden light would bring. When I opened them slowly, I realized there was no light to fear. Only the darkness.

How did I end up in this darkness? I couldn't recall anything. I looked down at where my hands should be, and realized, I can see myself.

What is this place? What has happened to me? The bluish tint that took my skin frightened me. But it was the slight glow that absolutely terrified me.

Suddenly, I wasn't alone in the darkness. There was a glowing figure standing—floating?—beside me. It stretched out what appeared to be a hand, and gently touched my shoulder. It's bright glow began to dim, and I could finally make out what I was looking at.

A beautiful man was beside me, his hand upon my shoulder, his eyes and lips displaying a confident smile.

"Hello, Raphaella," the man said, his voice deep and smooth as velvet.

"Who—who are you?" I asked timidly. "And how do you know my name?"

He smiled again. "I go by many names, dear Raphaella, but you may call me Lionel."

"Lionel... Lionel, how do you know me?"

His smile vanished. "In due time, my dear. Now, do you know where you are?"

I shook my head. "I have no idea."

His smile returned. "This is my world, also known as Void. There isn't such a thing as time or place here. Only existing. I come here to relax and think."

I pondered this. "Then why am I here?"

Once again, his smile disappeared. "You mean, you haven't a clue as to why you are here?"

I shook my head.

He sighed. "Raphaella, you have died. That is the only possible way a mortal can come to this place."

Oddly, the initial shock wasn't great. It felt as if I had already known this fact subconsciously, and had been unwilling to accept it. I looked away from his beautiful face and attempted to observe this place known as Void.

"Do you know how I died?" I asked.

He looked down momentarily, and then met my eyes. "You were murdered," he said, his voice turning dark and cold.

I gasped. "By who? Why?"

His gaze saddened. "You were murdered by your boyfriend, Charles Kennedy, in a fit of rage."

My breath was coming faster and faster as I began to remember. The fight had began over a series of visits from a high school friend of mine. Charlie hadn't enjoyed the attention being given to me, and had decided to talk to me about it. He came over one night, and we had begun fighting. I had grown so upset with him, angered by his inability to deal with my having a male friend, and threatened to leave him for my friend. Weird, but I couldn't remember my friend's name.

Charlie had wrapped his hands around my throat at that point and began to squeeze. I remembered him screaming, "If I can't have you, nobody will!" And as the light began to fade from my vision, I remembered thinking, "He loved me, he loved me..."

I shook myself out of this depressing thought.

"Lionel, why can't I remember my friend's name? My friend, the one I was going to leave Charlie for?"

He sighed. "In due time. Now, about being dead..."

 

 

This was the first part of my new series. If you liked it, please leave a comment!(:

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Conscious

 

Void. The place I would call home for the time being. Empty of anything but myself, for Lionel had left this "place," as he called it, and returned to the world of the living.

Dead. I am dead. Killed by the man I had loved so much. How could I live—I know that I am no longer alive, but what else can I say?—with this knowledge? Can I possibly love another in this afterlife of sorts?

A flash to my right, and my new friend had returned.

"Come," he said. "I am going to teach you to travel between the planes."

My eyes bulged at this information. "You mean, I get to do that appearing and disappearing trick that you get to do?"

He chuckled at this. "Yes, Raphie, you'll get to do this."

I smiled. "You called me Raphie. How did you know that I liked that nick name?"

He tilted his head. "It seems to suit you," he said, not offering any genuine explanation. I decided to leave it be, unwilling to risk this new found friendship.

"So," I began, putting as much cheer and excitement into my voice as I could, "how do we do this?"

He looked around cautiously, then looked at me. He crooked a finger, as if telling me to come closer. When I was mere inches away from him, he leaned forward and whispered in my ear, "Just picture where you want to be, and you will be there."

I backed away. "That's it? No trick? Why couldn't I do this before?" I demanded.

He looked at me, a nervous smile upon his face. "You hadn't recovered any of your memories, remember? Where would you have gone then?"

My mouth fell open in a silent "Oh," and I smiled at him, embarrassed. "Okay. So, if I wanted to be back home, in my kitchen—"

And suddenly, I was there, with Lionel standing beside me. He had a bright smile upon his face.

I looked around at my surroundings, and saw my father at the table in the kitchen, his head in his hands, silent sobs wracking his body.

"Dad!" I cried out, and rushed over to his side. I attempted to rub his back soothingly with my hand, but it seemed spectral matter couldn't come into contact with corporeal matter, and my hand sailed right through his body.

"He can't hear me, either, can he?" I asked Lionel. He stood beside me, a solemn expression upon his face.

"I'm sorry, Raphie, but you are no longer amongst the living. You can no longer communicate with them," he said, sorrow lingering in his voice.

"Why are you sorry? What was your part in all of this?" I turned and peered directly into his eyes. "Who are you, Lionel?"

He smiled sadly, and then vanished into thin air, only a slight vapor showing that he had ever been there.

I walked over to where my father sat, and looked at the paper he held before him. Too soon, I realized it was no regular paper, but a memorial invitation. It read:

 

To the friends and family of Raphaella Michelle Stewart,

You are cordially invited to attend the memorial service of our beloved daughter, Raphie, who was found murdered in her bedroom.

Raphie was a beautiful young girl with her life ahead of her.

We wish for everyone to join together, and help us find the monster who took our sweet daughter away from us.

Please attend the memorial service in respects to our baby girl.

Thank you.

Sincerely, Marcus Daily Stewart and Rebecca Anne Stewart.

 

I choked back a sob and fell to my knees beside him, wishing I could tell him that I was here, that I was okay, but knowing he couldn't hear me.

I thought of darkness, and suddenly, I was back at what I considered my new home, Void. Lionel was nowhere to be seen.

With that not so comforting thought in mind, I allowed my unshed tears to spill from my eyes in what I thought would be a never ending torrent of misery.

When I felt a hand upon my back, one that felt so familiar, I collected myself, and took the hand he offered, calmly allowing him to lead me into another place.

When my surroundings again changed, I realized that I recognized them. From where, though, I couldn't tell.

"Why does this place look so familiar, Lionel?" I asked.

He sighed. "Raphie, this is my home," he replied, his voice on the verge of breaking. "And it seems familiar because you have been here many, many times before."

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Yay!!! New Story!! I haven't started yet but I'll surely read it later today.

 

PS: You should add your stories to the collegium if you haven't already so we can rate it :)

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Thinking

 

I whipped around to face Lionel. "What do you mean, I've been here before? Lots of places look familiar to different people! I may never have been here before in my li—" And then I realized. "I came here while I was alive, didn't I? Several times."

Lionel nodded. "We were very close while you were amongst the living."

I nodded, my head beginning to spin. "We were close..."

He grabbed my hand and held it against his chest. Absently, I noted that I could feel a heartbeat beneath his skin. His breathing sped as my hand lied against his chest, and I noticed a look in his eyes akin to... Hunger? Desire? Something wrapped in lust and dipped in passion...

But no man would simply look at a girl or woman this way at first sight, after barely knowing her. He must have had feelings for the woman for a very long time...

And then it hit me.

Lionel was the friend who I could not remember. The friend I was willing to leave my jealous, controlling boyfriend for. The man that I had fallen in love with before I was brutally murdered.

The man that kept all of this information from me as I stumbled around blindly.

I pulled my hand away. "You!"

He sighed. "Raphie, I—"

"Let me guess, you were going to tell me," I said sarcastically, easily cutting him off. "You were just trying to help me and take care of me. Well guess what, Lionel, I don't need your help! I don't need to be taken care of! I needed the man that I had fallen in love with, the man I was about to leave my boyfriend for."

And at his startled look—which I was not sure why I was given because he clearly knew all of this already—I thought of the furthest place from his house that I could, and suddenly found myself in an unfamiliar town—village?—where the inhabitants all possessed peculiar accents.

Scotland, I suddenly realized. The accents seemed familiar to me, as much as many of the buildings around me. I found myself drifting to my right, where an elderly woman stood, her hands trembling slightly. When she turned in my direction, her eyes widened, and I felt mine stretching in response. But then she smiled slightly, and I knew that she could tell I was dead.

She waved me over, and I quickly reached her side. "Hello, Raphaella."

"I—I'm sorry, but I do no remember much about my life. Could you tell me who you are?"

The old woman chuckled. "I am Gladys St. Claire. You originally visited our village several years ago with your parents."

I tried to remember, but I found myself shaking my head. "I'm sorry, but none of this brings up any memories. Could you be more specific?" I asked carefully, unsure what she may tell me.

She sighed. "Yes, child," she said, her voice exhibiting the graceful lilts of tone that came with her Scottish heritage. "When you came here, your parents brought you to see me. When you were alive, you had a very strong connection to the spiritual world, and you were perpetually haunted by different ghosts. They were worried because you had been having terrible nightmares and visions. I am a clairvoyant, and a medium of sorts. You came to see me, and I decided to teach you all I knew about the spiritual world. You stayed with me during every vacation period your school gave you, and each time, you left with more control over your abilities."

A memory was tugging at the edges of my mind, but I couldn't bring it forefront to examine it. "Please, keep going. I think I am on the verge of remembering."

Gladys nodded. "During the last year, your visits became less and less frequent. When I questioned you about it, you said someone special had entered your life, and you needed to spend your time with them, as well. Eventually, your visits came to an end, only a few months ago."

I tilted my head in confusion. "Did I at least offer some explanation or something? That seems awfully rude of me, to not visit anymore because of one person," I said.

She seemed to consider this carefully. "Yes, you did. You sent me a letter, claiming that your new boyfriend did not want you to continue visiting me, and had threatened to break up with you if you continued."

I gasped. "Charlie banned me from visiting you?"

She nodded. "Yes, although I'm not sure why he did," she said, "or why you listened to that boy. Especially because the terrible things happening to you had begun at about the same time you had met them."

I nodded. "That sounds about—wait. You just said them. Who else was there?" I asked.

She smiled slightly. "This other boy who came here once with you. He had expressed a large interest in the paranormal, and you two had bonded fast. He was a nice boy." She sighed. "It's a shame you are no longer living, my dear. What on Earth happened to you?" she asked.

I choked on a sob. "Charlie—Charlie killed me. He strangled me in a jealous rage. I was going to leave him for this guy I fell in love with."

Gladys nodded knowingly. "In any case, I am very sorry, my dear. You did not deserve to die so young."

I felt a spectral year escape my eye. "Thank you. I best be going, but thank you for enlightening me on my life," I said.

She nodded with a small smile. "Any time, my dear. And please, come visit me whenever you would like. I can be as helpful to the dead as I am to the living."

I smiled at her. "Oh, Gladys? Before I forget, what is the name of the guy that came with me here? And where exactly am I?"

She smiled at me. "Raphie, dear, you are in Sterling, Scotland, the greatest place on this planet to be! And the boy... I believe his name was Leonard? No, wait... His name was Lionel. Yes, that was it." She nodded, satisfied with her memory.

I grew cold. "Thank you Gladys. I will be leaving you now. I promise to visit."

And with that, I disappeared, leaving Sterling and Gladys behind, and finding myself in a room of stars and light.

"Where am I?" I asked the beautiful lights blinking around me.

"Welcome home, Raphaella," a deep voice echoed around me. "Welcome to Purgatory."

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Observing

 

I sat down where I stood, and found beneath me soft grass, softer than any I had ever come in contact with. I couldn't see anyone around me, but I knew that whoever had spoken to me could very well see me.

"Purgatory? As in the Purgatory?" I asked the voice.

A chuckle sounded from around me. "Yes, Raphie. The realm where spirits go when they haven't been accepted into either Heaven or Hell."

I shook my head. "Why? Why can I not move on?" I asked, noting that my voice took on a higher pitch.

The voice did not reply.

Alone in the darkness, I found that thinking was even easier here than it had been in Void. At least in Purgatory, there was grass and ground, a place to firmly place my feet and stand on my own. In Void, there had been absolutely nothing. If Lionel hadn't shown me how to get out, I may as well have been stuck there forever.

I looked up from the grass, which I noticed my hand was stroking fondly, and attempted to observe my surroundings. The sky wasn't the black I had believed it to be when I had first arrived, but a deep purplish hue with highlights of light purples and blues woven throughout it. Beside me, a small stream seemed to go on forever, the water cool to the touch, but comfortable nonetheless.

Large fir trees stood all around me, looming tall against the beautiful—night?—sky. Time seemed to have no meaning in this forest world called Purgatory.

Why would souls be afraid of this place? It's so peaceful and serene. You can be left alone to your thoughts, and never feel uncomfortable because this world is so beautiful.

And then I realized that there seemed to be no other people in sight.

Where were the people? Being left alone to one's thoughts may be appealing—from time to time. But never having another to share your thoughts with? Never being able to laugh at something another person has said? That wasn't peace. That was Hell.

"Am I actually in Hell?" I thought.

I stood from where I sat, and attempted to wander around. But it seemed that the further I walked, the further any other land features seemed to be. I felt like I was in a tragedy novel, trying as hard as I could to get away from what I couldn't escape from, and refusing to give up until the bitter end.

I started to jog, hoping that if I moved faster, I could escape. And then I found myself running. But it was to no avail.

"Raphaella. Sit, child. There is much you must learn," the voice echoed around me.

I looked up at the sky, surprised to see stars forming into the shape of a face.

"Why?! Why are you doing this to me?!" I screamed at the face.

It smiled sadly. "This is not your fault, young Raphie. Merely seventeen, and your entire life was taken forcibly away. Dear girl, do not fret. I will explain," the deep voice said, the mouth of the face in the sky moving in time with the words.

"How do I leave here?" I asked.

It sighed. "You can never truly leave, only depart for periods of time."

I growled—growled!—in frustration. "But why?! I was killed! I didn't kill anyone, I didn't do terrible things!"

Another sigh. "Let me explain," it said. I nodded impatiently. "You were killed unjustly. Your soul is not at peace, regardless of whether or not your mind is, which I know it isn't. In order to leave my world, my Purgatory, you must piece together your death and find a way to bring your killer to justice."

I shook my head. "The living cannot hear me. I cannot touch anything corporeal. How am I supposed to tell them who my killer is? How can I bring him to justice?" I asked, frustrated.

"That is for you to discover over time, Raphie. Now, please tell me how I can make your stay in my realm more comfortable..."

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I finally found it on HBT. Because I've been trying to search for it for a few days now and I couldn't find it anywhere (I had a Windows problem.)

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Learning

 

"Again," she said to me, watching as I worked with my corporeal form. As much effort as I was putting in to this exercise, I didn't notice any improvements in my capabilities.

Gladys merely stared at me as I attempted to catch the breath I knew I would ever again have. The voice of Purgatory had given me permission to visit her for a maximum of eight hours a day in order to work on developing my skills as a corporeal life form, or a ghost.

For the past several weeks, I had worked on simply turning my figure from its intangible form into one more solid. By doing this, I would eventually be able to interact with the solidified world around me. But for now, it wasn't working.

Just when I would begin to have an interaction with a solid item, I would feel immense joy, and the power I had built up would be obliterated. The harder I attempted to build up the power, the larger the after effects.

The last attempt had taken much of my energy to develop, and I found myself wondering if living in Purgatory would be that bad. I wouldn't need to bring Charlie to justice. I could simply sit in that comfortable, never changing place, and do whatever I wanted.

But then, I thought about my mother's smiling face, now replaced with empty eyes and a pale pallor, caused by the news of my death. I thought of my father, and how introverted he had become since he had received the news. I thought of how they were falling apart at the hands of my old boyfriend, and how he pretended to give them aid, and shed false tears when he was with them.

Suddenly, my anger increased ten fold.

"How dare he!" I exclaimed aloud. "He has taken everything from me! He took my life, my happiness, and my parents' happiness! I have nothing left!"

I stood there seething as I realized the severity of what he had done. He hadn't merely destroyed my life, but the lives of my loved ones, as well.

"Raphaella."

I turned to Gladys.

"You have the power. Now use it. Don't just touch that vase. Destroy it."

I grew hesitant. Then she said, "Think of what your parents felt at your funeral. Think of how they stood merely feet away from your killer, and have no idea he was responsible."

I felt a hot surge from inside of me, and I focused on the vase. I picked it up, several feet in the air, ad held it high above my head. Then I threw it to the ground at my feet and screamed.

I picked up the next vase and did the same thing. As I reached for the third vase, Gladys grabbed my transparent wrist and said, "No more. You have done very well. Just remember the anger that is fueling you now, and when the time comes, you will know to use it."

I smiled in pleasure as I realized I, a ghost, had managed to smash two vases, on my own.

Gladys smiled as she saw my own. "Now that we are on our way to success, we can focus on something else."

I cocked my head. "What else do I need to learn? I can TOUCH things now, Gladys!"

She simply smiled and nodded. "Yes, my dear. I am aware of that. Unfortunately, that's not all you need to know. And I can't teach you everything. You must discover many things on your own, or you will never achieve vindication, and your killer will never pay for what he has done to you and your loved ones."

I nodded in agreement. "Okay. Teach me, Gladys. Teach me all you know..."

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Undeath

 

Six months have passed since my training with Gladys began. I have undergone tests that no mortal has ever imagined possible! Picking up a vase and smashing it was nothing compared to what I could do now.

Within that first week, I learned to pick up small objects with ease, hardly expending the energy a ghost usually requires to interact with the living world.

Within a month, large objects became much easier, as well, although I will admit that I will never be able to lift a car. I didn't think that would ever be necessary, but Gladys said, "You would be surprised at the things you don't see to be necessary and end up saving your life." I couldn't help but smile wryly. "Gladys, I think it's a little late for me." She smiled sadly. "Yes, my dear, but it isn't too late for many others."

After four months, I had mastered walking through walls. You would think that, as a ghost, walking through walls would be the easiest thing to do! But, as Gladys explained to me, I remember being alive, and as I was alive, there wasn't any walking through walls. With that limitation in mind, I was unable to do the more experienced ghostly activities. She and I spend countless hours discussing what should be done. In the end, I merely decided to imagine the wall as nothing but light, and I managed to walk through it. Now, that effort isn't necessary because I know what I am capable of.

Lionel attempted to visit me and to write to me, but Gladys knew I wanted nothing to do with him. He hadn't necessarily lied to me, but omission is a form of lying, right?

Of course, I still loved him desperately. But my ego was wounded, and I felt betrayed in some way.

Questions floated around in my non-corporeal head day after day.

He knew I had died quickly enough. Why wasn't he able to save me? Could he have saved me if he had tried? What is he, really? Does he feel the same about me, even though I am now deceased?

And every time I remembered how I had died and who had killed me, I felt rage boiling in my veins, and I had to leave the room to break boulders in the forest.

Something I didn't know, ghosts are stronger than humans because we expend energy rather than physical strength. Lifting a large boulder was almost nothing to me.

Several boulders were broken each day, and the citizens of my town were curious as to what was causing the boulders to be broken so furiously. The other ghosts, however, laughed their heads off, finding my antics hilarious. I wasn't yet able to control my temper, and the broken boulders showed how frustrated I was with myself and those around me.

Yet day after day, I still practiced all I could do and continued to learn new tricks.

***

I woke up this morning, floating above my bed again. This had been happening very often lately, and I wasn't sure why.

I stood up, and went to the bathroom where I proceeded to shower. I may be dead, but I continued to care for my hygiene. Unlike other ghosts, showers actually reached me and left me feeling clean.

After brushing my teeth, which I could also do, I headed into the kitchen, where I found Gladys making pancakes and toast.

"Good morning! Do you mind if I help?" I asked her.

She chuckled. "Child, sometimes I forget you're dead, you act so alive!"

I smiled, although she couldn't see it. She was still facing the stove.

I started to walk over to where she was, but a throat was cleared from behind me. I whirled around, and found myself facing none other than Lionel.

I gasped and started backing away. "Gladys, why is Lionel here? Why are you here?"

He sighed heavily. "Gladys, you didn't tell her?"

I heard a light laugh from the kitchen. "Must have slipped my mind," she replied lightly.

I couldn't stop staring at Lionel. He was very tall, and his blonde hair seemed to have gotten a little longer around the collar. The ends curled slightly. His eyes were still that magnificent blue, and his smile was sardonic as ever.

"You haven't answered my question yet. Why are you here?"

He took a step closer, and I found myself struggling to toughen up and stay where I was. He kept moving closer. "Raphaella, I'm sorry..." His head lowered, and he looked miserable. "I wasn't sure when to tell you, and you discovered it at the wrong time. I wanted you to get to know me for who I am now rather than who I was in your memories."

"My memories? Lionel, I don't understand. You were a nice guy, my best friend, and we were getting closer..."

He chuckled sadly. "That's just it, though. I was the best friend trying to take you away from the guy you cared about."

I groaned in frustration. "Lionel, I was leaving him. I was leaving him for you! Don't you see that? I loved you, not him..."

I covered my face and tried to contain my sobs of frustration, but one slipped out. As soon as that noise escaped me, I moved to my room and curled up on my bed.

Not even a second later, Lionel was there with me, holding me against his broad chest as he stroked my hair gently, whispering into my hair, "My sweet Raphie... I do love you so..."

His lips were against my cheek, kissing away the tears running down my face.

I pulled away after the tears stopped coming. "Lionel... What are you? Why won't you tell me?"

He pulled me back to him. "Raphie... I'm not sure you would like the answer. Gladys has known for some time now, but—"

"Gladys knows!? And she hasn't told me!?"

He shushed me gently. "She has respected my desire to tell you myself. I just... I'm not sure if you would like the answer."

I sighed impatiently. "Please, Lionel. I'm already dead. It's not like the answer could kill me."

He chuckled wryly. "True."

"Well?" I asked again, impatience ringing in my voice.

"Raphie... I'm what they call a Death Dealer. I'm one of the spirits, demons, whatever we are, that collect deceased souls and bring them to their next destination. I was supposed to bring YOUR soul, actually... But I refused, because then I would never see you again."

I gasped. "Oh my God!"

He sighed. "See, I told you..."

I giggled. "That's it? No cool battle stories?"

He turned and stared at me oddly. "What do you mean, that's it!? I was essentially going to remove you from this world!"

I giggled again. "No, you were going to give me new life. And I thank you for that. But I am here now, and I am stronger than before. I am going to bring Charlie to justice."

He smiled, ruffling my hair. "That's my girl," he said, and kissed me on my cheek again.

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Gosh I missed your storyes. Thank you for updating!!!

 

It's getting really exciting, with Raph getting stronger and stronger:D

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The End's Beginning

 

His eyes met mine. He knew, of course he knew, that I was there. He couldn't see me, I had thought. He couldn't hear my voice as I cursed him from beyond the grave, yet from right beside him.

But he knew I was there.

"Raphaella. My first love..." He said. "Oh, how I've missed you since you woefully departed..."

My breath caught in my throat. He knew.

I didn't know what to do. I was far from invincible. If he could see me, chances are he could touch me. If he could touch me...

Could he truly destroy me? He did once before. Would he be able to again, now that I am no longer corporeal matter?

I took a step back. He chuckled and took a step forward. I froze. He saw me. He knew where I was, what I was. He would destroy me now that I was unable to get away. He knew I would be here. He knew why I would be here. He was prepared for me. And though I had thought I was prepared for him, I could easily tell that my preparation thus far had been in vain.

I turned and tried to run. He grabbed my arm and pulled me toward him. He pulled too hard and I ended up crashing into his chest. Hard. I felt the rebound hit me as I crashed onto the floor.

He chuckled. His eyes gleamed. He reached down and put his hand over my chest as if feeling for a heartbeat.

"Nothing to feel there, anymore. Not much of a difference from when you were alive." Another chuckle. "I wonder if you ever had a heart to begin with..."

"Stop..." I whispered. Tears ran down my face.

He stopped smiling for a second. "What did you say?"

I looked up at him. "Stop!" I yelled. I couldn't see anything. The tears that came from my eyes disappeared before they hit the floor, but they were still tangible to me.

He stood up and sighed. "I can't keep doing this, Raphie."

My tears stopped abruptly. "Oh, no..."

He sighed a little louder. "This was supposed to be a practice run for your encounter with Charlie. How are you supposed to face him if you cower in fear when you see him?" He took a step towards me. "Raphie, if you break down crying, he won't stop. He killed you once. He will not give you mercy this time."

"Lionel..." I said sadly.

He smiled a bit. "It's okay. We just need to keep working at it."

I tried smiling back, but I couldn't. I turned away, and more tears came.

"Release the spell. Please. I can't keep looking at you like this."

He coughed slightly and I heard a murmured apology. "It's gone."

I turned around and saw Lionel, not the Charlie look-alike he used a spell to cast on himself during our training sessions. This, too, was Gladys' idea.

I recalled her saying "If Lionel attacks you, you won't take him seriously. You see him as an ally, as a friend. If you can't see your attacker as an enemy, you will never learn to properly defend yourself against him."

She taught Lionel exactly what he needed to do to invoke the spell. She gave him the idea. I knew about it, of course. But I never would have imagined he would have actually gone along with the idea. So much for being "his girl."

As upset as I was, as soon as he dispelled the effects of the spell, I felt happy again. Lionel... He was someone I had loved in my past life...

He would probably get upset to know that he was someone I was growing to love in this life, too.

As your friendly neighborhood ghost, I couldn't go around causing too much trouble, so I definitely needed to keep the lid on this secret.

He walked over to me from where he stood and took my hand, helping me up from my relatively comfortable seat on the ground. He didn't release my hand as we walked toward the kitchen, where Gladys sat, tea cup in hand. The scent of Chamomile drifted throughout the room, calming my nerves and grounding me. Funny to say grounding because, as a ghost, I float sometimes, and I...

No, Raphie! Focus!

"Raphaela," Gladys' voice timbered throughout the room. "You have much work to do." Rarely did I ever see her this serious. "As you know, I have remained in contact with your parents over the years, and even more so in recent times." I nodded. My parents had even come out here to visit Gladys since the time of my death. Even though they were so close to me, they still couldn't see me. They couldn't tell I was there. It was heartbreaking. "Raphaella, according to your parents, the police have come very close to dropping the case of your murder."

I gasped. This was definitely news. If Charlie got away with his crime, I would be stuck in this state forever! I couldn't have that.

I steadied myself. "What do I need to do to ensure this case is not dropped?"

She nodded sagely. "You need to find evidence of Charlie's deed. Any evidence will do. A phone call you recorded. A piece of his clothing that may have torn when he fled the scene. Something that can convince the police there is more to this case than meets the eye." She sighed. "As you know, Charlie has been playing the part of the lost boyfriend, destroyed after seeing his one true love taken from him. And we know this to be false. If we can get the police to simply question whether or not he is putting on an act, that will keep the case open a little while longer while you keep practicing for your final encounter with your killer."

I took a deep breath in and nodded on a slow exhale. "I understand."

I took a seat next to Gladys. "Lionel, please take my hand." He sat next to me and took my hand. "Let's go." His eyes opened wide, and in the blink of an eye, we were in a tube of some kind. It wasn't small. More like infinitely large. It stretched in all directions for what could easily be light years. But it had a definite shape of a tube.

The colors I could see were purples, blues, whites, and mixtures moving as though they were a liquid. I couldn't identify the source of these colors, but they moved all around the tube. Throughout the tube, I saw what appeared to be framed pictures. I took a closer look at the one a mere ten feet away. I saw... Myself! There I was, sitting with a young boy who looked an awful lot like Lionel. We were laughing, and we were covered in paint. Looking more closely, I saw a faint trace of the glow he was surrounded with now. Even then, Lionel was a mythical being...

I walked further on, Lionel right beside me.

"Raphie..." I turned to face him. "These are your memories?"

I nodded. The awe I felt made me unable to speak, so I tugged his hand, and we headed in the direction of the next picture frame. This one showed me at a playground with two boys, one who appeared to be Lionel and one who appeared to be... Charlie?!

I gasped. I didn't recall having been friends with Charlie when I was younger.

"Raphie and Charlie. Those were the names of my two best friends growing up," Lionel said, a bit of nostalgia in his voice. "Charlie would follow Raphie everywhere she went, and Raphie would follow me. Of course, being the oldest there, I thought that meant I was the boss." He chuckled slightly.

We walked toward the next frame. It showed Lionel and Charlie being taken away by their respective parents.

"Of course, Charlie actually loved you at the time, and challenged me to a fight. I accepted, because the leader is never supposed to back down." He shook his head.

"But we weren't even ten years old! Why did this happen? Why can't I remember this?" I asked, my voice echoing into the purple abyss we were surrounded with.

He smiled sadly. "Well, you see, I happened to love you, too. And I was a year ahead of you two in school, so you naturally looked up to me and saw Charlie as your friend. I suppose he didn't fancy that. At such a young age, he already understood the friend-zone..."

I smacked his arm. "Be serious!"

He chuckled slightly, then sobered. "Sorry. Anyways, after this fight, Charlie's mother made him transfer schools. Seeing that her son was thrilled by the blood he had gotten on his hands, she worried he wouldn't continue to develop properly."

"B-blood?" I gasped.

"He did manage to hit me once, and it knocked one of my baby teeth out. It seems my swings hit him much worse, but that one hit was enough to cause his mom to fall into a severe hysteria."

I sighed. "What happened next?"

He grabbed my hand and led me toward the next frame. In it, I saw a teenage version of myself with Lionel in the hallways of our old middle school. We were laughing together, and we seemed very close.

"We continued to grow up together, you and I. We hung out every day after school, our families went camping together, and we continued to grow closer."

"I can imagine a 'but' coming up here."

He smiled sadly. He took my arm and we headed toward a frame all the way to the right side of the tube.

"Charlie suddenly transferred back when you were in our second year of high school, and I was in my third."

In the picture, I saw a shocked Lionel standing next to a a surprised looking me, and across from us stood Charlie, the one I remembered being in love with. He had a smirk on his face, and his arms were crossed over his chest.

"Charlie went out of his way to be alone with you, to try to separate you from me, and one day, you really did leave my side."

I turned to him slowly. "What do you mean?"

His eyes seemed so empty. "He told you that your friend and I started seeing each other behind your back. He said that I had never really cared for you because, even if you did love me, I had only gone and given myself to someone else."

I backed away, shaking my head. "No, I would never believe that. We were so close! Why would I..."

"That same friend and I decided to go shopping together for your birthday present one day. It was incredibly windy out, and even walking was a struggle. She ran out into the street because the present went flying, and when I saw a car approaching really fast, I jumped out and managed to pull her away in time. Charlie happened to be there at the time, and took a picture of what appeared to be a passionate embrace between the two of us." He smiled sadly. "You saw the picture just before we were going to head home together, and when I went to say hi, you covered your mouth and started crying. Then you ran away from me."

I shook my head again. "No..."

He nodded. "A few days later, I received word from one of your friends that you had told them all not to talk to you anymore, and that you and Charlie were now dating."

I dropped to my knees and gripped my head. I could hear what may have been blood rushing through my head. I could feel my breathing stop. My lungs didn't ache. My heart did, though.

"I... I did that..."

He didn't move a muscle. "Yes. You did."

"And then the guy I chose over you..."

"He killed you."

I heard a scream. The purple around me started going black. My chest ached now. A frame drifted before me. I saw my house. I saw the living room. I saw my couch. I saw myself. I saw my throat. I saw the bruises. I saw my mouth. I saw the blood. I saw my eyes. I saw the burst veins. I saw my corpse.

I saw my death.

I saw Charlie writing a note on my notepad, the one I always kept in my purse.

"82653740," I said aloud. I felt my consciousness leaving me. "82653740."

"Raphie!" I heard Lionel shout. "Raphie stay awake! Raphie!"

I was encompassed in darkness once again. Just like my first death. Hopefully I didn't completely disappear this time.

After all, we had finally found a clue.

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Thanks, guys! School and work have been overwhelming lately (Did I mention I got a job?) The story is starting to come to a close. I hope that the next few chapters make up for the time you all spent waiting!

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