CHAPTER 02: YOU KNOW WHO I AM
CHAPTER 03: LIKE OLD MEDIAEVAL CAVES
A dark corridor lay in front of Luna Walker.
She began to wonder if this was one of her imaginative hallucinations.
Even as she was curious, she found herself shivering. And it was not from the cold atmosphere in the corridor, either.
Finding ghosts and helping them cross over was one thing.
Finding corridors that weren’t supposed to exist? Well, to say that Luna could hardly believe her eyes would be the understatement of the year. She wondered if she was still sleeping on her bed and all this was only a figment of her imagination. She wished she would wake up very soon…
“Francis?” she called softly.
The ghost turned to her. “Yes?”
“Pinch me real hard, please.”
Francis was taken aback and he stared at her. “What?!” he hissed.
“Just do it. Touch me.”
The ghost slowly raised an arm and touched hers.
“Now, pinch.” He did. “Ouch!” she yelped and then closed her mouth, before she called yell louder. Already, the corridor began to echo her voice. “Th-thank you, F-Francis. I know now that I’m not dreaming.”
“Oh, that’s why. You could’ve simply asked me.”
Luna didn’t bother to tell him it wouldn’t have worked. Instead, she looked on, anticipating something to appear as though out of a fog.
The clicking sound began again and now, it was more prominent. She positioned herself in a manner that, on the first of danger, she would bolt out and call for help.
“Wait, wait… I think I know who this belongs to.”
She turned around at the ghost’s whispered voice.
“Who?” she asked in the same tone. “You know who, Francis?”
The ghost nodded. “It belongs to her.” He indicated with a slight turn of his head forward.
When Luna turned back to the corridor, blobs of light appeared here and there, making her squint. She realised that they were some sort of lamps on the walls…
‘Like old medieval caves,’ she thought.
She took a deep breath and recalled what her grandmother used to say, “The only way to overcome fear is to challenge it.” The grip on her shoulder increased in pressure; not much, but enough to reassure her.
‘I’m not alone. I can do this.’
Luna began preparations to step into the corridor. She took several deep breaths, till she was calm enough. When she was ready and lifted one leg to step forward, a shadow fell across the end of the corridor.
She blinked; the form was rather distorted and unfathomable.
She waited, eyes and ears cocked and feet ready to bolt in the opposite direction.
The shadow drew nearer and nearer.
Time seemed to slow down…
The next moment, the shadow grew so big that Luna felt engulfed in it. She pressed herself up against Francis, her breath becoming ragged.
She gulped and looked up. Pictures of all the horror movies that she had ever watched raced through her mind.
A giant black figure loomed in front of her…
“Just state your business.”
Francis wasn’t about to allow his human friend to be alone. She was obviously scared and had a right to be.
“Ah, that voice,” a familiar voice tilted back to them. “Haven’t I heard it before?”
“Yes, it is, my spirit friend.”
“I thought you weren’t going to come back here. That you couldn’t find the one you wanted.”
“Oh, that’s true. But you know what? I was going after the wrong person. The right one had been under my very nose.”
By now, the figure had was closer, so it was easier to see her ghostly figure. Luna realised that she didn’t glow like Francis did; she was taller than the average Indian, what looked like a rose in one hand and a staff in another. It was the staff that had been making the clicking sound he and Luna had been hearing, he realised.
The woman didn’t have much colour to her.
“Wrong person? Didn’t you just need a vessel to kill your enemy?” he asked.
“A vessel, eh? I see. Then again, you’re an actual ghost. Dead. I need a vessel? Well.” She paused, her gaze lifting to somewhere to the side. “I wish it would be as easy as killing my enemy. In tales, they tell us that killing the person who cursed will reverse his curses. But I’m afraid this one I have is so bad, it wouldn’t work that way.” She took another step forward. “I need him alive.”
“How do you know?” Francis’s hand mechanically slid over Luna’s chest protectively, ready to bolt at a moment’s notice.
“Ah, how touching.” No doubt she’d noticed his affinity for the mortal girl. “I assure you, though, you have no reason to fear me. I only come seeking help.”
“Hey!” Below him, Luna tried to wriggle out of his grasp. “She needs help, just like every ghost! Why would we deny her?” She turned to the stranger. “Of course, we’d like to –”
“Shut up, Luna!” Francis’s voice thundered across the corridor, silencing her. He could hear her gulp, which calmed him down. ‘Shit, I didn’t mean it like that.’ He cleared his throat. “Sorry,” he whispered to her, before raising his voice again, “At least this time, tell me your name and state your business. Clearly. I’m not amused by puzzles.”
The woman shrugged. “You already know my name; it’s the real one. Arabella Archer. I was a witch when I was still… Well, when I had a body.”
“Why don’t you have one now?” Luna’s innocent voice spoke up. “What’s wrong?”
Francis watched as Arabella’s sour face softened as she turned her gaze to the young girl.
“Ah, you’re such a dear, aren’t you? So innocent. Why don’t I have a body now? Well, rest assured, I was removed from it and left to wander around, almost powerless.” She glanced at her staff. “Luckily for me, he left behind my most precious items.”
Luna wiggled out of Francis’s grasp and stepped forward.
“Careful, Walker,” he warned.
“It’s okay, Francis, not everyone is a threat.” She gave Arabella a nice smile; she was confident that Arabella was being truthful. “You’re not actually dead, are you? ‘Removed from it’ doesn’t always imply killed, right?”
An amused smile graced Arabella’s lips as she turned her gaze to meet the ghost’s. “I must say, for a product of the 21st century, she’s rather clever!”
“Well, I do notice things.” Luna pouted.
“No, child, I didn’t mean that. It’s just that your boyfriend told me you’d be interested in helping me.”
“Oh? And why was that?” She glanced at him.
“Well, for one, you’re too young. Not old enough. And secondly,” she deliberately glanced at Francis, “because he is protective of you.”
This didn’t seem to faze Luna. “Yea, I mean, I see ghosts all the time. I try to help them. Some are violent.”
“Ah, I see. Well, it’s always good to have a bodyguard.”
“So, what’s the verdict?” Francis asked.
“About your infatuation with her?” Somehow, despite being a spirit, Arabella’s eyes twinkled.
“No. About your revenge. Or whatever you’re after.”
Arabella sighed, suddenly looking tired. “I’m afraid your girl’s the one to do it. She’s always been fated to.” Her eyes bore into Luna’s. “I can see it – your spirit has been reincarnated. That means, the time has come!”
Luna felt chilled to the bone.
“Come with me to my garden,” said the woman. “We can discuss there.”
She gulped, glancing at Francis, who was staring suspiciously at Arabella.
Luna felt something was off—some pieces in the puzzle were definitely missing. Nonetheless, she nodded. “Lead the way.”
Arabella gave a nod and turned back the way she came. The girl took a step forward to follow, but Francis blocked her path, stared intensely into her blue eyes.
“Are you sure about this?” he asked in a low voice.
Arabella heard and paused. She didn’t turn around; she could imagine what was going on. ‘A young mortal and a ghost who lived long before her. Honestly, I expected far more from that bastard! Then again, he did worsen things for himself and that little cousin of his.’
Luna gazed back into his dark transparent eyes and nodded. “Yes, I am. I know no harm shall come to me.”
“Well, even if it does…”
She gave a grim smile. “You don’t have to.”
The path Arabella led—well, it was just a single one, really, like a tunnel—emerged into a vast space – a garden, really.
Luna gasped as she breathed fresh air into her nostrils, felt the blow of the cool summer-like wind from the trees, making her shiver in delight!
“I didn’t know my balcony could be so beautiful!” she laughed, dancing around in the grass, twirling, waving her hands in the air.
Francis watched her, but mostly, he watched Arabella, to see what she would do next.
To his benefit or otherwise, she was staring at him, too, but with a smirk on her face. “I stay true to my word, see. I’m not a fool, unlike you.”
He grunted. “That was a long time ago and I’ve grown since. You think she” – he tilted his head ever so slightly towards the young girl –“can put an end to all this suffering? Bring our loved ones back?”
Arabella was beginning to nod her head and stopped at his last question. She stared intently at him. “End him, she will, I’d waged on that any day,” she replied cautiously. “But will that reverse the curses?”
“That’s right, you were sure that wouldn’t happen.”
Her expression didn’t waver. “I would like that it did. It is a powerful curse, you know, and the man himself is even more so. Or the other way around. I suspect that the curse might be broken if he was defeated by someone powerful enough…”
“And you think she is?!” he hissed. “She doesn’t even have a hold on her powers yet! – how do you suppose –”
“My friends and I can teach her.”
“Your friends?” Francis looked around. Sure enough, at a distance, stood a group of wizards and witches like Arabella herself.
“We can train her, but she mustn’t begin yet,” Arabella went on. “She isn’t ready.”
“No, that’s for regular magicians. She, on the other hand, is the reincarnation of Typhi the Brave, if you remember your lessons.”
Francis froze. “That cannot be –”
“And yet, he doesn’t see the resemblance.”
He looked back to where Luna was running along the grass, back and forth, waving at him on occasion. As he stared at her, he began to see what the old witch was trying to tell him: A spark of red flickered around the girl from time to time.
“A Walker has been born, seventeen years ago,” he gasped. “A Walker…”
“Typhi was the first of them her lot. Her family is an ancient one, but she is the only one who inherited the powers of Typhi the Brave, if not directly reincarnated.”
Francis nodded thoughtfully.
A few minutes later, Luna rushed back to him and took his hands in her hers. “This garden is wonderful!” she exclaimed. “I love it!” She turned to Arabella. “Will I find this every time I open the door, Ms Archer?”
“No, I’m afraid not,” replied the witch with a pleasant smile. “It keeps shifting, comes and goes as it pleases. In fact, I’m surprised that after all this time, it has finally decided to reveal itself to you.”
Luna’s joy faded a little. “What… do you mean?”
“Well, do you know about the Walker, Miss Walker?”
Now, Luna’s face was completely devoid of expression. She nodded. “Yes, I do. I have happened to learn about the history of my family. Aren’t they descendants of Typhi the Brave, the first Walker?”
“Yes. She was a Nightwalker. Alongside her, two more joined—an Earthwalker and a Netherwalker. They arrived when the world was in danger of extinction, several centuries ago, and helped destroy the threat.”
“Wasn’t that the Huntress? That’s what called herself, didn’t she?”
“Yes, she did, Miss Walker –”
“Please, call me Luna. Meredith is fine, too.”
Arabella tilted her head slightly to her left. “And you can call me Arabella. Bella for short, as my friends did.” She cast a glance towards where they stood, but the girl’s eyes were only on her. “Luna, do you know that you have magical powers?”
The girl nodded. “Indeed. I haven’t tried to control them, though, because my brothers told me I’m not yet ready.”
“Wise brothers you have. Indeed you’re not. But something has changed in the atmosphere and I believe that evil has arisen from its nest again. Nobody in this world is safe. Particularly, you.”
Luna swallowed, but didn’t allow her fear to show. “I understand. So, what do I do?”
“Nothing. For now. Just know that when you think hard, you’ll know where to find me and my friends.”
It was now that Luna turned to see the little group of witches and wizards staring in their direction. “I understand,” she repeated.
“Good. I suppose your family will be back by now. You should go.”
And before she knew it, Luna was back in her room, right where they started, the balcony door shut. Beside her was Francis, just as disoriented as her.
She took hold of the knob and twisted it; the door opened, but she could only see the night sky and the balcony just like she used to before that evening. Darkness had fallen sometime ago.
Luna closed the door and locked it. She lifted her left arm to note the time.
It was almost seven o’clock.
Luna was quite relieved to see her parents and her brothers once again that day and filled them in on what she had experienced all the time they had left her.
Simon was the most concerned of them all. “I hope you’re not hurt or anything,” he said.
She smiled as she shook her head. “Nope! I’m all fine, thanks to Francis!”
“Yes, he’s resourceful and dependable, all right. So, this woman thinks you’re, like, some part of a prophecy?”
“A prophecy, huh? Intriguing! Yes, something like that!”
“Destiny…” mused Daniel. “Aren’t we here because of it, in the first place?”
They all turned to him.
“You know, he’s right,” said Mr Walker. “When your mother and I got married, we were quite sure we’d have to come here, since we were now associated with magic—your mother’s family already was and me by marrying her.” He exchanged a glance with his wife. “This house happened to be empty and so, we bought it. Now that I see it your way, Daniel, it was a miracle this suddenly emptied out. Wasn’t it still occupied even five years ago, Helen?”
Helen Walker, the mother of the house, nodded. “That’s right, I heard it was, when I was first looking for accommodations in St Augustina. In fact, this is the only house unoccupied to-day.”
Shortly after dinner, the Walker family was all weary from their long day, and so they retired to their rooms.
Luna couldn’t sleep easily, mostly because she had already caught two naps in the afternoon and didn’t feel as tired. The clock on her desk showed that it was half-past-nine, not the usual time for anybody in the family to go to sleep.
A sudden thought occurred to her and she sat bolt upright in bed. ‘Oh, that’s right! I-’
“Not able to sleep?”
She looked up to see the ghost of Francis Hill on the floor near the balcony door that was now bolted shut. She hadn’t opened it since she had first visited Arabella’s garden, for the fear of losing the place again.
“No…” she mused. “Well, yes. I slept for so long in the day, I’m not really that sleepy.”
“I see.” Francis stared at her neutrally. He hardly ever showed his emotions, which was just as well, since she was a major freak-outer; so, a rock like him kept her near the metaphorical shore. “And now, you have an idea.”
She nodded, a smile growing on her lips. “It’s not too late in the night. I can call Cee and tell her what happened to-day.” She paused, her eyes widening at another thought. “It’s… all right to share with her, isn’t it?”
He shrugged. “Your friends know how to keep a secret.”
“Ah, that’s right—you’ve met them.”
“Go ahead. You need a friend at times like this.”
Luna stared at him a little longer as his words went round and round in her head. She couldn’t help a form of connection she felt to him, as if she was destined to have met him, just like her family was destined to move to this particular house from their old home in Weatherbone Rocks, in the plateau, all the way in the southeast. She didn’t understand what sort of a connection it was, since apparently, it wasn’t unique: There was another person in that town she felt the same way about.
At last, she shook the thought out of her head and out on her glasses. She scanned her room for her phone. She located it on her desk and threw her bedcovers off to pick it up and fall back into her bed.
She unlocked her phone and scrolled through the contacts, until she found the one she was looking for. She tapped on it, put it to her ear, and waited until the dial-tone stopped and her best friend’s voice came through:
“Hello?” Cecelia Adams had some sort of a strange accent—not European, not East Asian, but not quite Indian, either. No wonder, since she had been to a lot of places due to her father’s job as a member of the Council of the Mages.
“Hey Cee!” said Luna cheerfully into the phone. “How are you to-day?”
“I’m doing great! What about you?”
“Ahh… that’s what I called to tell you about…” And she proceeded to fill her best friend in about the events in her house.
Francis observed her quietly from where he sat. He hadn’t moved a muscle; being a ghost, staying motionless came easily for him, especially because he didn’t have to breathe like mortals had to. He noted her facial expressions going from excitement to scared to joy and delight… He couldn’t have enough of that funny pitched voice of hers that was neither too loud nor too low. He had been observing her every movement and listening to every word she uttered in his presence, and had to be enraptured by her. It was like, every time she spoke or moved, she took his arm and led him on some sort of a dance that he never saw or heard about. And she wasn’t even aware of this… wasn’t aware of how his ghostly heart beat to the tune of her voice, his non-existent brain trying to remember every detail about her…
Suddenly, he straightened ramrod and twitched his ears, much like a cat that heard a noise. By the way Luna kept talking, it was obvious she hadn’t sensed anything.
He closed his eyes and listened carefully.
Click, click, click!
He smiled. ‘Oh Bella.’ He relaxed and opened his eyes again, to catch Luna’s questioning gaze on him.
He shook his head and smiled. She relaxed, too, and turned away on her bed, as she continued to speak to her best friend.
CHAPTER 04: ONE LAST TIME