“Tell me what happened,” I said to Jenny.
“You don’t want to fumble around some more?” she said very sweetly. Does wonders for the ego when your girlfriend describes the most passionate expression of your feelings as fumbling.
“No. But thank you. You woke up when you felt me dying...” I had the odd feeling she was trying to keep me distracted. What was she trying to hide? Silly questions, really. Probably a bunch of things. Must have been hard deciding what not to tell me first.
Jenny sighed. “I was attached to you when you died. And after you died. You’d think death would cut the connection between us.” She made scissors with her fingers and snipped the air. “But it didn’t. I could still feel you. Death isn’t a void, it’s a real, present thing. It has a shape and a texture. And it’s very cold.”
“Can we speed it up? I’m not a big fan of long descriptive passages. Dialogue and plot, please.”
She gave me a wry smile. “You know, this ability I have to feel what other people feel, it’s so intense with you that if I’d fallen for someone else, it would probably have killed me. A normal person’s emotion would be overwhelming. But with you, the signal is so low, I can handle it even when you boost it to max. Most of the time, anyway.” She leaned into me and nuzzled my neck.
I think she was saying I lacked basic human emotions. Fair comment. I was more concerned at her attempts to keep me off-topic.
“It makes it a lot easier to love you, you know, because you’re so numb inside.” I think she meant it as a compliment. Hard to tell. “The only person I could leave you for is someone even less connected to their emotions. So you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
Very reassuring. “I was dead,” I reminded her, “and you were upset, or something.”
“Yes. I was very upset.” She rested her head on my shoulder. “I was sinking into your darkness. It was very cold and painful. I could easily have just followed you.”
The ultimate clingy girlfriend move.
“But then I felt what was happening to Claire and Flossie. They were losing it. Flossie was so full of rage, it was like being caught in a hurricane. Claire was about to explode. And then there was Joshaya. I didn’t know who he was then, of course, just that he had this aura like white flame. Hate, that was all he was giving off.” Her hand on my chest closed into a small fist. “I didn’t know what to do. It was building and building around me. I knew I didn’t have long before all those different emotions slammed into each other.”
She paused. To collect her thoughts? To prepare a lie? “So what did you do, Jenny?”
She looked at me, a little guiltily. “I took them. All the emotions in the air. I took them inside of me.”
“Even Joshaya’s?” She nodded. “You took a god’s emotions? How did that feel?”
“It was a bit filling. I mean, I was emptier than normal because your death created this… vacuum inside me, so there was room. But it was like I was… I was…” She puffed out her cheeks.
He cheeks deflated instantly. “No,” she said firmly. “Not like I was constipated. Emotions don’t make you full of shit.”
I begged to differ, but there wasn’t time. “Okay, so you took their emotions. What happened?”
“Flossie and Claire calmed down. Joshaya ran away.”
“You scared him off?”
Jenny shrugged. “I took him by surprise. He wasn’t expecting me to do something like that. Without his hate… he lost his nerve, I guess.”
Some god he was. “And what about you? Didn’t you have any side effects?”
“Yes. I felt like I was about to explode.”
“Right, like you were constipated.”
“No! Not like that. I was dizzy and sweating—don’t say it!—and I tried to give them their emotions back, only Joshaya wasn’t there, which made it tricky. I reached out and we were all connected. All six of us. Well, all five of us were connected to each other, and I was connected to you.”
“Even to Dudley and Maurice? Weren’t they dead?”
“Yes, but I told you, death isn’t emotionless. It’s… its own thing. And that’s when I was able to see Maurice’s power.”
“See it? How were you able to see it?”
“Not really see it. More like I could feel it. Like it was leaking out of him. I could draw it out of him. And use it to convince the three of you that you weren’t dead.”
“You hijacked his power. Nice. Can you hijack mine?”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure I’d want to.”
“Okay, so you brought us back. I don’t remember that happening.”
“You were still unconscious. Maurice was the first one to come round.We explained what happened, he understood perfectly, and immediately died again.”
“Because knowing it’s an illusion stops it working.”
“Normally it wouldn’t matter—it’s his power, obviously he’ll know it isn’t real—but I’d used it on him. The illusion he was alive required him not to be aware it was an illusion. And when he died, you did, too. I kept trying to bring him back, but the moment he woke up, he remembered he was dead.”
“But you figured a way around it, obviously.”
“Yes. Claire went into his mind and made him forget.”
“She mind-wiped him?” Things were taking a dark turn. “She can do that?”
“Only to Maurice, because they’re so close. Although she’s been training hard, so who knows what she could do now…”
Great. My power to be untouchable was looking better all the time. Even though it was for a good reason, it was crossing a line.
“Good thing Maurice doesn’t know,” I said.
“Whose idea do you think it was?” said Jenny.
That did sound like the sort of thing Maurice would suggest. He was so upset at not having an ability like the rest of us, and he had this huge power that he'd hidden from himself. Psych.
“Okay, okay,” I said. “You got Maurice’s power working, but how did it affect me? I’m—”
“Untouchable. I know. But not to me. You and me, you know...” She made a circle with the fingers of one hand and poked it with the index finger of the other. I wasn’t sure how that indicated a supernatural link that allowed her to act as a conduit for magic. I also didn’t like the way she was looking at me. I’m not a machine, for God’s sake.
I slapped her hands down. “Okay, that’s good. We’ve established that you’re the biggest chink in my armour.”
“I hardly think it as a chink if it saved your life.”
“I’m still dead, aren’t I? Anyway, I get why you couldn’t tell us, but why did you leave us and fuck off?”
“It was only a temporary measure. We had to find Joshaya and get him to fix you properly.”
“And you didn’t want our help in this mission?”
“If we stayed there’d be no way we’d be able to keep the truth from you. And as soon as you knew, you’d be dead.”
I nodded, realising she was right. “Eventually I’d figure it out.”
“No. Eventually Maurice would figure it out. Like he did back there.”
“He isn’t smarter than me. I would have got there, eventually.”
Jenny didn’t say anything but the look on her face said she didn’t think so. I was tempted to give her what for, cheeky bint. Unfortunately, my what for tanks were still somewhat depleted.
“So you went off to hunt a god?”
“Claire had seen something when she’d been screaming at him to bring you back to life. Well, not you… she wanted him to bring Maurice back.”
Made sense why Joshaya ran away, now. Stripped of his emotions and being yelled at by Claire. I’m surprised he ever stopped.
“What did she see?”
“Another of the old gods who has the power to bring the dead back to life. Not like Rupert, really bring them back. His name is Aurum. The Golden God.”
“So, you went after Joshaya… and the villagers and the priestesses?”
“He sent them to capture us, which was what we wanted, so win-win.”
Yeah, a win for everyone except for us three schmucks who had no idea what was happening. “And you weren’t prisoners in his castle?”
“No. We were negotiating. He wanted the Pope stopped from raising any more corpses.”
“He wanted you to kill Rupert.” She nodded. “Why didn’t he just kill him himself. He’s a god.”
“He can’t, he made a promise. They used to be good friends, actually.”
“Joshaya and the Pope?”
“Yes. Joshaya helped him learn how to control dead people. He’s the god of death.”
“Of course he is. The god of death, who runs away from little girls.”
“We are quite powerful, for girls,” she said drily.
“And what about Arta? You knew he was Joshaya all along?” She nodded. “And you helped him trick us into thinking he was the Visitor we came to find?”
“We had to keep you busy. We thought it wouldn’t take that long to sort things out once we got to the Golden God. But then Rupert explained that the Golden God wasn’t the same god he used to be since he’d been brought back.”
“He’s an undead god.”
“Yes. It doesn’t really work for a god of life. He suffers from terrible mood swings, apparently.”
Even better. A bipolar god. At least that was something I was used to dealing with.
“And the plan is what? To beat him into doing what you want?” Sounded like the sort of plan they’d come up with.
“No, of course not. We might have to fight off a few of the other undead gods to get to him, though. So we can talk.”
It all sounded very straightforward and likely to succeed. Not. I should have learned to take a hint and legged it when I had the chance.
“I think I’ve got the general gist of it,” I said. “You were right, I do think you handled it entirely wrong and should have done every single part of it differently, but apart from that, good job.”
“I suppose you’re going to take over now?”
“Take over what? You haven’t even met this Golden God, yet. He might not be interested in bringing us back to life. Which brings up another question. I get why Maurice doesn’t know what’s going on, but I do. You’ve told me how his power works. I understand I’m really not alive. Why hasn’t that knowledge killed me?”
Jenny bit the inside of her cheek. “Because it doesn’t matter what you think. It only matters what I think. I refuse to let you go. As long as Maurice’s magic is working, and I’m connected to you, and I believe you’re alive, then you’re alive.”
“But you know better than anyone. You saw what happened with your own eyes. The fact is, I’m—”
“Evidence is overrated. I don’t care about facts. As long as there’s a chance, you’re going to stay here with me.”
Is that the most romantic statement ever, or the most terrifying?
“Thanks. I appreciate you keeping your hooks in me. I think.”
“What should we do next?” asked Jenny. She looked quite happy, like she’d got a weight off her shoulders.
“We? Nothing. Me? I’m going to leave my body and find this Golden God while I’m in my ghost-like ‘can’t be stabbed or eaten’ state, and see what’s up. You wait here.”
She didn’t look too enthused by my plan, but what was she going to do about it?
I sat on the bed with my back to the wall, and closed my eyes. I breathed slowly. I could feel her on the bed next to me.
I hadn’t been able to leave my body recently. Not knowing what was going on and what kind of fucked up situation the girls were in had made it hard to focus. But now I knew she was safe. And Jenny’s overly-attached behaviour was encouraging me to get some air.
I opened my eyes and I was hovering over my body. It was a relief to have a little space to myself.
“This is weird, isn’t it?” said Jenny.
I swivelled around to see her floating behind me.
“What are you doing here?”
She looked a bit offended at the less than warm reception. “I’m attached to you.”
I didn’t normally mind her tagging along, but she had become a little too attached of late. Going off on her own, experimenting with her powers and playing hero with the other girls had gone to her head a bit.
It wasn’t unusual for a girl to get a bit ahead of herself in these matters. You sleep with a guy a couple of times, save his life and have his back in every life-threatening situation you find yourselves in, and suddenly she thinks she has the right to ride shotgun on every trip. Taking a bloody liberty, was what it was.
“I think you should go back to your body,” I said.
“Why can’t I come with you?” she replied in the traditional whine of the neglected girlfriend.
“Well, you could have at least put your top back on before you stepped out.”
She was topless with her trousers around her ankles. It wasn’t the sort of first impression I wanted to make on my visit to the gods of old.
Hello, I’m Colin, and this is my slutty ghost girlfriend.
She looked down at herself and pulled up her pants. “Nobody can see us, can they?”
“Gods might be able to. Joshaya could move about when I was in this state.”
“But they’ve probably seen it all before. They wouldn’t be interested.”
“You need to read up on your Greek mythology. Go back. And don’t talk to any swans or bulls.”
“No. I’m coming with you.”
I could tell she wouldn’t stay behind voluntarily. “Okay. Come with me.” I grabbed her hand and re-entered my body.
We were in the dark.
“What are we doing here?” asked Jenny.
“That’s what I want to know,” said a small voice.
“Ah, good,” I said, “you’re here.”
My younger self emerged from the dark. And then stopped when he saw that Jenny was topless. He suddenly became very interested in the ground.
“Look, I need you to babysit.”
“Why?” said Jenny. “He—”
“I wasn’t talking to you, I was talking to him. Make sure she doesn’t leave here. It’s important. For my sanity.”
Younger me nodded. I think he was blushing.
“How can you do this?” said Jenny. “After everything I’ve done for you?”
“Did you do it so I’d pay you back?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then what are you talking about? This is nothing against you, but I need some room to breathe before you suffocate me with your desperate need for attention.”
She looked offended.
“No offence,” I added, to take the sting out. “I know what you’ve done for me, and I’m grateful, but this is your own fault.”
“You’re the one who insisted we have sex. Do you know what happens after a guy has sex? He thinks a lot clearer and he’s a lot harder to manipulate into doing what you want with the stupidity-tadpoles flushed out. You played yourself, babe.”
She stared at me, mouth hanging half-open.
“You,” I said to mini-me, “don’t let her leave until I get back. Watch her, she’s a crafty one.”
He peeked at her from under his fringe, and then quickly returned his gaze to the ground. He nodded.
“This is so unfair,” said Jenny. “We make a good team.”
“Yes. And when I need a team, you’ll be the first person I ask.”
“You owe me!”
“Word to the wise, get it in writing next time.” I left my body and headed off to deal with the undead gods who were far more powerful than me, and were likely to vaporise me on sight. A much less frightening prospect than dealing with my overly attached girlfriend.