Alexander panicked. Chloe could almost feel his guilt on top of her own. There was no way she could console him. She couldn’t even console herself.
“I should have been the one who picked her up. A wimp like Alexander couldn’t handle the task.” Mouse grunted angrily. “This is probably the first time he’s seen out of the inside of a book.”
“Shut up.” Alexander hissed. Mouse’s words hit him like daggers. In most situations he could brush them off, but this was different. “If you weren’t an idiot who ran outside in the first place none of this would have happened!” He shot back.
“Don’t fight, that won’t bring Elizabeth back.” Chloe’s words fell on deaf ears. Mouse jumped forward tackling Alexander to the ground and began hitting him with a barrage of punches. Alexander defended surprisingly well suggesting he was more physically fit than Mouse first assumed. He thrust his body upwards pushing Mouse off and disengaged. Mouse was quick though, he pushed Alexander against the mirrored wall holding him there.
Chloe tried jumping in to pull Mouse away, but he was too strong. He pushed her away forcing her to slam to the opposite wall. Her back was still aching from falling out of the booth earlier. She fell to the ground, not from the pain, but from despair. Elizabeth was gone, and while they barely knew each other, she still grieved.
“I hate this place.” Chloe’s voice was angry. Tears welled in her eyes as she stood quickly to her feet glaring darkly at the boys who were still fighting their pain away. “I’m leaving.” She screamed at them. Mouse and Alexander froze in place, but she didn’t care anymore. She began walking down the long hallway to the other end of the car. The door looked miles away, the trek would take all night, but she was done playing in this fake world.
Neither Mouse nor Alexander tried to stop her. Instead they looked at each other in silent understanding, bruised and bleeding from their confrontation. They walked behind her, keeping their distance from each other at least as much as the tight hallway would allow. The three walked in silence.
Chloe’s stomps turned to soft steps as her rage slowly subsided. She felt pathetic. All she wanted to do was to curl up in her bed and sleep. Her body ached from their ‘adventures’ so far. She was sick of it. Only a few tears escaped her eyes. Once things became bad she ran away, just like always. Now she led Alexander and Mouse deeper into the place the angel forbid her from treading. She was leading with her emotions, playing a dangerous game.
“Woah.” Mouse exclaimed suddenly. “Look!” He turned towards the mirror pointing at his reflection. The reflection pointed back wearing a similar excited expression.
“Yes, it’s you, a bit narcissistic aren’t you?” Alexander mocked.
“It’s my sister. Look, she’s opening her presents on her birthday. I remember that. Look at all the little ankle biters running around. She’s pretty popular” Mouse smiled. It was clear he was witnessing something the others couldn’t see. “I went to the shop to pick up her gift. They were out of stock when I first tried to get it so I had to buy it last minute.”
“We don’t see any of that Mouse.” Chloe’s first thought was that he was losing his mind, but given how strange things were she believed him. She just hoped this wasn’t a trap like the eye, something that would lead them to a fate worse than death.
“I realize that now.” Mouse replied. His encounter with the eye helped him understand strange things better. Regardless, he didn’t look away. He continued describing his trip to the store.
“I walked outside with the box. It was heavy. Wait, it’s those greasers. They jumped me! They’re upset cause I beat them when we were racing for pinks.” Mouse’s excited expression slowly turned to one of horror. “I tried to fight them off but there were too many of them.” His hands fell to his lower chest as he held it carefully. “They stabbed me with a switchblade. I remember now. They pulled me into the back alley and left me in a pool of my own blood.”
He pulled his hands away. Chloe expected to see blood, but thankfully the wound from his past didn’t reappear.
“What happened next?” Chloe asked. She already knew the answer though.
“It was so hard to stay awake. I tried to drag myself to get help, but there was no one around.” Mouse sobbed lightly. “Then I woke up here.”
The moment those words left his lips he was gone. He disappeared in an instant. There was no special effect, no smoke or translucent fading, he was just there one moment and gone the next.
“Mouse?” Chloe and Alexander called out at the same time. Alexander looked to the mirrors, his expression turning to serious.
“I see.” He spoke seriously. “Satori was in trouble. I ran to save her but the dagger was the same as the mage hunter’s sword. I didn’t realize that until it was too late. He stabbed me and I passed out. Then I woke up here.”
“Alexander!” Chloe reached for him, but just like Mouse he too disappeared. Chloe was alone.
“No.” She shook her head and fell to the ground in tears. The mystery was solved. They were dead. Alexander and Mouse had both been murdered. She knew if she looked into the mirror she would witness her own death as well. Then she too would fade away into the afterlife or from existence entirely.
There was no use crying. She opened her teary eyes and gazed into the mirror. She saw herself on her bed, just like the others she too would witness her final moments. She moved closer to the mirror, crawling along the floor. She pressed her hand slowly against the cold glass. She looked so peaceful in her sleep. She remembered now.
Chloe had been texting her friend Tayla before falling asleep. Tayla got into trouble at school because of her. She did her best to apologize, but Tayla wasn’t angry. It felt so stupid now, so negligible. As she watched herself sleep she kept expecting something horrible to happen: The house to set on fire, a monster breaking her house, the sentient returning and wiping out all of humanity. What caused her death?
“You don’t belong here.” The witch’s words echoed in her head. She understood now. She hadn’t died, not like the others. She was still alive.
“You see it now.” Chloe heard a voice from next to her. She looked up, wiping her tears away. The Angelic Entity from before appeared in the hallway as quickly as the others had disappeared. He wore the same stern expression as before. His aura began to calm her, but she was so emotional it was having a hard time.
“The others died, I didn’t. This is the afterlife?” Chloe asked.
“No.” The entity shook his head. “Allow me to explain everything.” Chloe sat there like a child not bothering to stand allowing his presence to comfort her.
“Death is a traumatic experience for humans. You are such powerful creatures, more so when you are free from your physical bodies. It’s not uncommon for humans not to accept their transition to what you call the afterlife.”
“As I mentioned before, you are powerful creatures, powerful enough to create your own worlds. This world is one such world, created by Elizabeth after being killed by her father.”
“What?” Chloe blurted out suddenly.
“Please, there isn’t much time.” He interrupted with a teacher like voice. “Humans create worlds like this to escape the inevitability of death. Usually humans come to terms with their fate in time. In cases like these, they create safeguards to avoid the truth. You disrupted the safeguard, allowing Elizabeth to reach here and reclaim her memories. She now understands what happened to her.”
“Safeguards. The witch was a safeguard created by Elizabeth?” Chloe asked. The entity simply nodded.
“I cannot see what this world has manifested as. I see only Elizabeth’s energy swirling in a protected barrier, a barrier that is failing.”
“So now that Elizabeth has reclaimed her memories she will pass on, or has she passed on already like the others?” Chloe asked. It was difficult to understand this, and she felt like she was annoying. Thankfully whatever this being was didn’t show too much emotion.
“If only that were the case. Elizabeth may understand her situation now, but she has no desire to journey to the afterlife. She’s an old soul, lived hundreds of lives, and has grown stronger each time. It is with this power that she is able to create a world like this and maintain it even subconsciously when she knew nothing. Now that she’s aware she can shield herself even further.”
“The original plan was to extract her carefully, to not allow her to receive her memories. However that plan has failed, as she has entered this area with you and the others. Now you all recall your past lives and because this is her world, she’s only become empowered by the past.” The entity explained.
“Extract her?” Chloe thought from a moment. The being outside, the eye, the claws. It wanted to eat their souls. “Are you working with that monster?”
“No!” For the first time the angelic entity showed a human emotion. He was not fond of the accusation. “I work to bring lost souls to where they belong, where they can become nourished in our creator’s light and return when the time is right.”
“Wait, you’re talking about god? So you really are an angel?” Chloe interrupted. The idea of something as archaic as the Christian beliefs being real was unbelievable. While people of her time accepted there was an afterlife, it was practically confirmed by science, the idea that it was anything like any of the old religions was laughable. While some theories suggested the existence of a ‘god’ there wasn’t enough information to prove one way or the other. Just that when a person died their aura lived on, what happened to it no one knew.
“I’ve not heard those terms, but from my understanding humans have given their creator and his creations many names. We do not have the opportunity to discuss this matter in depth. That ‘monster’ you call is an amalgamation of lost souls, a collection of those we’ve lost. It is after Elizabeth, as she is very powerful, and it will get to her eventually. This is why I need your help. You need to tell Elizabeth that it’s okay to pass on, to accept her fate.”
“You want me to convince her to die?” Chloe asked.
“It’s why you’re here, in a way. Elizabeth didn’t want to be alone, so her world began to open up allowing more souls to enter. It started with dreamers, like the ones you encountered shortly before my appearance. Because you woke them up I was able to locate you in Elizabeth’s cocoon of energy. They’re very loud.”
“Yeah, I remember.” Chloe shuddered. The ghosts from before were dreamers.
“If it relieves you, I’ll have you know you startled several humans from their slumbers when you woke them.” The Angelic Entity attempted a joke. Chloe wasn’t sure whether to laugh or not.
“As Elizabeth’s desperation for companionship grew she began to draw in other lost souls, like the others you’ve seen.”
“From all different time periods.” Chloe added on.
“This place exists beyond time. I’d explain it to you how that works, but I don’t understand it either.” It seemed the more time Chloe spent with this entity the more humanized it seemed. Maybe they weren’t so different after all.
“Finally she drew you in, someone who doesn’t belong here. She somehow pulled your soul out from a dream and trapped you here with the other lost souls. You are the companion she had been seeking. A sisterly figure, something she longed for in life but never had.”
The train shook wildly. The Angelic Figure stood its ground like a statue, but Chloe began to slide along the floor from wall to wall. Something was happening.
“It’s time. I will be expelled and you will be brought to her. I am sorry I could not help you-” Before he could finish his statement he disappeared from view. Chloe found herself swirling in a sea of endless color. The physical world around had faded. There was no longer a train. She understood now what the Angelic Entity witnessed. There never was a train, it was all an illusion. The colors shifted as the illusion began to change and alter. Elizabeth was creating a new world, only now she was fully aware of her own powers. Now she could shape the world however she wanted and Chloe would be nothing but a player in her game, her simulation.