We arrived at the entrance to the Spirit World in no time at all… that’s partly because the Spirit World is literally all around you. The other reason is because Benjamin and I were late. Tardiness was never acceptable. Luckily my Boss was a merciful Man. And those who had Veil assignments were exceptionally patient people. “The Veil” is our nickname for the separation between the living and the dead. In order to get through the veil to the Spirit World you have to be accompanied by one of us. They have a key that will unlock the gate. In order to find one of us on veil assignment, however, you have to go to a central location. It’s called “The Room.” My Boss loves order. So imagine a giant white room. There is no furniture in this room. There aren’t really any walls in this room, not that you can tell, just white tiles for miles and misty clouds for a ceiling. Then fill this room with about a gazillion dead people in a variety of outfits. Cut that number by 75%, and you’ll have about how many Workers there are to assist with the crossing. That’s The Room.
It’s the original melting pot.
Amazingly, even with the innumerable masses that are always present, the noise doesn’t get much louder than a soft hum. I don’t know how He did it, but He did. The effect is very calming and peaceful. Even the most resistant spirits seem to slowly wind down from their previously distressed state. I have come to be very grateful for this room. And when I arrived with Benjamin, I knew I would once again send a letter of thanks to my Boss for the brilliance of its design.
Benjamin, however, gave the powers of this room a run for its money. He hadn’t had two seconds to process the news that he and his wife were expecting, so I’m not really surprised by his outrage.
“What does that mean, ‘your baby’?” he yelled in my ear. I shouldn’t have held him so close to me, I swear his mouth was right in my eardrum. “That can’t be my baby! How can that be my baby?”
I sighed. My professional patience was coming to an end. If he had just followed protocol and said goodbye without touching her, this wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have seen the baby’s Essence, and he wouldn’t have made us late, which means I wouldn’t be scanning The Room like crazy looking for a disposed veil worker. My sass was going to rear its ugly head soon. It was one of my greatest weaknesses and I frequently got written up for it.
“I wasn’t briefed on your personal life, so I can’t really explain anything to you except the fact that we’ve got to find you a veil worker ASAP.”
“You act like this is some death factory and you just stamped my TOD on my forehead as I floated by on the conveyer belt!” he sassed back at me.
Grr. “If it only it were that simple.”
“Oh, so now I’m bothering you! I’m sorry, did you just find out you have a possible fetus with your genes out there in the world?”
Count to ten, Lina, count to ten. One… two… three…
“I feel like I’ve been very calm and compliant throughout this whole processes, which is more than I can say about you,” he continued, pushing every one of my patience buttons. “You’ve been evasive, bossy, and outright mean!”
Screw it, those patience things never work for me.
I turned away from my search for a veil worker and faced my ward. “I’m sorry this has turned into an unpleasant experience for you, but I have done the best I can.” That was my last ditch effort at keeping my sassy personality in reign.
“You can’t explain why my wife is pregnant?” His tone implied a deep incompetence on my part.
I was done.
“Well, Benji, when a mommy and a daddy really love each other, they want to share that love--”
“Don’t call me Benji. My name is Benjamin.” He shook his head slightly, like a little kid trying to fight off sleep. His shoulders lowered from their stress filled position of around his ears down to their normal place below his neck. His eyes still held a spark of fight in him, but… yes, it was starting to happen. The calming effect of The Room was working. I wouldn’t lose my cool.
“I’m sorry. Benjamin. All I can tell you is what you would learn in an 8th grade sex ed class. You did the deed, you made a baby.” My comment seemed to have no effect on him. The spark in his eyes was replaced by deep, but calm, confusion.
“That’s not possible…” he muttered.
“Sometimes birth control doesn’t work, home-boy,” I informed him. “The best way to avoid getting pregnant is to not have sex.”
He shook his head again, but not to shake fatigue—to show misunderstanding. His gaze was glued to the white marble tiles of The Room. Something was definitely not clicking in his head.
“But… just trust me. This isn’t possible.” He was so insistent, and the fight was leaving so quickly, that I decided to play along and agree.
“Okay. I don’t know how it happened. And maybe I was wrong in thinking it was a baby,” I said calmly, lying through my teeth. I know it was a baby. The pure Essence of a newly conceived person is distinctive and I’d had enough pregnant teen cases that I knew that glow well. No amount of post-demise conviction will persuade me otherwise. I was picking my battles though, and this one wasn’t worth the fight. He was getting more and more at ease, however stubborn he was on this point.
“I wish someone would explain it to me…” he said, his voice trailing off. At this point I was certain he was calm enough to resume my search. I quickly spotted an old friend, Mark, who was on veil duty. I caught his attention and hailed him like a cab.
“Benjamin, this is Mark. Mark is going to help you get through to what many call ‘the other side.’ He’s your new best friend.” I put my arm around his shoulders and turned him to face Mark. He was still preoccupied, and Mark noticed. He did the best he could to console Benjamin about his loss.
“Yeah, yeah…” Benjamin replied distractedly. However upset he was, he had once again become compliant, and followed Mark willingly to the Veil. As soon as they were twenty feet away, I let out a breath of relief.
That was a roller coaster…
After working one more case, I went home to my home in Yosemite. It was a remote location, and since commute wasn’t really an issue, it suited us well. We were tired of being in big cities; well, I was anyway. Hall could live anywhere, he was such a chameleon. He had the ability to hide his true self and blend in when necessary. I only semi possessed that skill which rendered me a little more than useless for surveillance cases. That’s okay. I wasn’t a big fan of surveillance. Hall, however, thrived on them. He loved the opportunity to put on a new character and slip around unnoticed. It was a sport for him. Ugh. I found it to be a hassle. That’s why I don’t get surveillance cases unless the ward is specifically for me, or my Boss has run out of other options. Hooray. Anyway, Hall had let me choose the lease for the next few years and accepted the compromise of Yosemite. We lived close enough to the Fresno/ Madera area that neither of us received too many international assignments; the Central Valley will keep you hoppin’!
The first thing I did every night upon my return from work was to promptly drop my coat on the floor. I then proceeded to toss my purse on top of it and kick my shoes off my feet. I love shoes. They hate my feet, however. It’s a sick twisted relationship shoes and I have. After all that, I liked to have a tall drink of cold water. I imagined the liquid flushing my system of the day’s stress. But, like I mentioned earlier, I tend to keep my thoughts on my tougher cases. Luckily today I only had one Death assignment and two Interventions, all of which went fairly easily. Interventions had the tendency to go very badly, but these two were easy enough; get the one girl to start taking school seriously, and inform the man that if he touched his wife again there would be hell to pay. The abusive husband was after my “tryst” with Benjamin, so I was in no mood to play subtle. I got right in his grill and informed him of all the nasty horrible things that happen to wife beaters and I promised to personally afflict him with each one if I ever saw him go near his wife again. He then promptly signed the divorce papers I put in front of his face then promised to be ready for our next meeting in a week’s time. Good. My abrasive personality did have its advantages.
Still distracted by my final case, I didn’t notice the presence in my home until I stepped into my bedroom. It wasn’t like I felt like someone was there. Something was just… amiss. I visually checked everything out from my spot in the doorway: the curtains were closed, my bed was unmade (as usual), and the bathroom door was half open, just how I left it. I took a step forward to glance into my closet, but… rien. Nada. Nothin’. The feeling didn’t leave me, so I stepped into my closet and started rifling through my clothes. Actually, “clothes” is an optimistic word. I am the kind of person that tries on fifty outfits every morning, discarding the rejects onto my bed. Then, instead of hanging them back up when I got home from work, I shoved them to other side of the bed. Once the pile got large enough, I took care of it. I pushed them onto the floor. So by saying I was rifling through my clothes is nearly a lie; I was rifling through my hangers with sparse items randomly placed.
Huh. Anyway. It was while I shuffled through my closet that I focused in on the presence: it was right behind me. I felt the spirit grow stronger every second. I wasn’t afraid of a spirit; I’m just cautious. That being said, you should know I took about a minute of fake “searching” for my PJ’s (which are NEVER in my closet, what a laugh) before I turned to face my invader. When I finally did, I was overcome by surprise.
See what I meant about work following me home?
“How in the WORLD did you get here?” I yelled at him. He wasn’t my ward, I assessed immediately, so I had no obligation to treat him with professionalism. He flinched at the sheer volume my voice reached with no effort.
“They gave me your address…” he replied matter almost apologetically.
“WhatEVER! I don’t buy that for a second!” Anger rushed from my gut all the way to my face in less than three seconds. “How did you get out of The Room? Mark is MORE than reliable!” I hoped my frustration masked my confusion. I had no idea how Benjamin got away from the veil and to my room. Sure, spirits could travel anywhere anytime, no address necessary. But to leave The Room required a different power.
“I don’t know… I told someone at the counter that I needed your help with something before I, erm, crossed over. And they gave me a type of hall pass thingy,” was his pathetic response. Upon informing me of this unlikely story, he waved a yellow slip of paper in front of my face. I snatched my hand out to grab it. Unfortunately I was so caught off guard by all this that I only tore a corner off. Benjamin saw my failure and smiled slightly, which of course ticked me off even more. I grabbed for the slip again, but this time I succeeded in taking it from him. I scanned the note and sighed.
“I’ve heard about these,” I announced. “But I’ve never actually seen one.”
“What does it mean?”
I looked up, confused for a second. Then I remembered: the note was written in The Original Tongue. Benjamin doesn’t know that language.
“It means your crossing has been temporarily delayed.”
He perked up.
“I’m not dead anymore?”
“I said ‘crossing,’ not ‘passing.’ Two different things.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Passing is death. You have passed out of this life. Sucks for you, but that’s that.” I folded up the pass and slipped it between my belt and the back of my skirt for safe keeping. You better believe Headquarters was getting a nasty phone call from me. I wanted the evidence to refer two when I got ahold of Iam. “Crossing,” I resumed, “is when your spirit goes from limbo into the spirit world. You haven’t crossed. You were supposed to do that in The Room.”
“So… what do I have to do to cross?” he wondered aloud. I sighed. He obviously couldn’t read the memo, but I figured he’d know how he got permission to defer.
“It only says that YOU have a special job to do before you can. Do you have any idea what that might be?” I was exasperated and showed it through my “I’m not really in the mood stance,” aka, hands on hips and eyebrows raised in frustration. His gaze fell to the ground as I’m sure he reflected on what this job could be. Suddenly he looked up at me, making the most intense eye contact of the day.
“Yes. I know exactly what needs to be done.”
“Really?” I was surprised. “What?”
He hesitated, looking to the left for a brief second. Then, like a dog afraid to ask for the table scraps he really wants, he dragged his eyes to meet mine.
“I need to find her a new husband.”