“I’ll never get a chance to meet my granddaughter.”
“That might be for the best.”
I nodded at that, a sinking feeling in my heart.
“I should have listened to you,” I admitted softly.
“Yes. But what is done is done. I can only guide you, I can’t make your choices for you. You made the decisions which you thought were best at the time, and I don’t blame you for doing so. And you shouldn’t blame yourself, either. Perry and Ada-”
“Ada?” My head snapped up.
He gave me a wry smile. “Yes, I had said grandchildren. Perry and Ada will have to make their own choices in life too and it’ll be up to them to handle the cards they have been dealt. There’s not much you can do or say to change that.”
I mulled it over. There seemed to be a loophole somewhere in what he was saying. I could do anything I wanted in the Thin Veil, including watching over people. What more could I do. Could I actually use it like a mode of transportation?
Jakob watched me carefully and I was afraid he was reading my thoughts. If he had though, he gave me no indication of it.
“Would you like to see her, Pippa?”
I nodded eagerly.
He put his hands together. “Very well, just do as you once did before. But instead of creating a portal, create a window and concentrate on that image of Perry you have in your mind.”
“But the picture I saw is a few years old now.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
I did as he said and concentrated hard on a window, willing myself to see a young toddler, one with giant stone blue eyes and long black hair, on the other side of it. I kept this rate of thought and power going until I felt more pressure inside my skull and before I gave into the pain and blinked, the air parted like the Red Sea and a glassy window was in place. On the other side of it, the real side of real life, was Perry. Now she was at least six years old, a little round thing but still so very beautiful. She had a type of beauty that was unique from her mother’s and Ludie’s and I cherished that I could look at her without feeling guilt or shame.
Perry was sitting in her room, surrounded by toys and reading a picture book filled with dragons. She chewed at her fingernails, more out of an anxious, excited gesture than one of worry. She was so young and so innocent and I knew it would be hard for me to stay away.
“Can I always come in here and do this?” I whispered even though I knew Perry couldn’t hear me…she couldn’t, could she?
The girl in the image shivered a little but that was it.
Jakob said, “You can…but…”
“But what?” I was afraid to take my eyes off of her.
“Time outside the Veil doesn’t stand still. You are not in your room at the hospital right now. If a nurse were to come in, you would see them but they would not see you. You must never give people reason to suspect the veil exists. Even though most wouldn’t believe it, it would be dangerous if the knowledge got into the wrong hands. It’s dangerous for you too. Not only would you cause attention to yourself but every time you visit, you will bring a different…disability back with you.”
I managed to look at him, only for a second, only to see how serious his pale grey face was.
“I’m not following…seeing ghosts? How can it get any worse for me?” I asked bitterly. “You’ve seen where I am. What I’ve become!”
“Things can always get worse,” he said. “I just know that a normal human body is not meant to continuously visit this world. One time might be enough to increase telekinesis or telepathy. It might be enough to create more energy within yourself, or attract others from the Veil. Or it might start to ravage your body and your mind, leaving you a little bit weaker. Maybe a lot weaker.”
I forgot about watching Perry for a moment. “You’re saying when I go back to my world, I may be in rougher shape than I already am?”
“It is possible. Pippa, I can only warn you.”
“Yes. And you have and I thank you.”
My attention went back to Perry who was now scribbling into a coloring book, her tongue sticking out of her mouth in concentration.
“I will be leaving you now,” he said.
“Where are you going?”
“I’ll be around. I have other people to help, you know.”
He started walking to the door.
“Wait,” I called out after him. He stopped and looked at me from over his shoulder. “I met a boy…”
“Declan,” he said. He saw the wonder on my face. “As I said, I have been watching you.”
“What is to become of him?”
He shrugged. “I do not know.”
“But is he going to have a guide too, someone to look after him?”
“Not everyone gets someone like me. Your power has never been latent. Perry and Declan’s is and will most likely remain that way.”
“People make their own choices,” he replied rather ominously. “Declan is closed off to our world. Perry is just a young girl. Neither possess the power that you have, therefore neither of them would warrant it.”
“But how do you know that? What if their gifts develop and they end up just like me?”
“Just try and worry about yourself, Pippa,” he said. He smiled, waved then opened the door to the hallway and stepped out.
I was alone in the Veil version of my room, grey and stale-smelling. But I wasn’t alone was I? No, I could see young Perry through the window in a lavender haze. I could see her. But was that all? Could I make her see me?
We all make poor choices from time to time and I believe they shape who we are. The Lord knows I have made so many in my long life. Standing in that hazy, dull room, in a world parallel to the one I was born in, I made a decision that I would regret ever since. It was a selfish decision that I masked as selfless one. I wanted to reach out to Perry to warn her of the difficulties to come, to let her know that I would be there for her, no matter what. And that was the truth. But the larger part, the selfish part, was that I didn’t want to be alone anymore and I wanted her to know who her grandmother was, to love me like I loved her mother.
So, I concentrated, made the window into a door, reached into Perry’s room and pulled her into the Otherside.
The shock of it working knocked me backward onto the floor, but sure enough there was little Perry beside me, her blue eyes grey. I wasn’t sure how to make it look like she was in the Thin Veil version of her room and from her confused and frightened face, I knew she had no idea where she was.
“Mom!” she wailed, looking around her frantically, her long hair whipping past her. I quickly put both my hands on her shoulders, careful not to scare her any further.
“Perry, don’t be afraid, it’s me, it’s your grandmother, Pippa,” I told her in hushed, soothing tones. “I’m your grandmother, Perry.”
It didn’t matter what I said, Perry struggled to get out of my grasp and then the tears began to spill down her round cheeks.
I really had not thought any of it through. Just what was I hoping to do with a six-year old girl? Did I think she would have a notion of where she was or, more importantly, who I was?
I bit my lip and looked at the portal I had just pulled her out of. I could still make out her room there, although it was fading and getting hard to see. The thought of never returning her to her family made my heart skip a beat.
“Perry!” I said to her. “I’m sorry, do you want to go home?”
She looked at me and nodded through the tears.
“Ok darling,” I told her and reached for her with my hand. “Don’t be afraid of me. I’ll take you back. You’ll go back to your room OK? You’ll go back and it will be like none of this ever happened.”
I didn’t know if I had the ability to control someone’s mind like that, to erase memories. It’s obvious that Perry never remembered the incident, even with her therapy sessions and regression. Either it had worked or Perry naturally blocked the traumatic event out of her head.
Perry wiped her tears on the sleeve of her plaid dress and gingerly put her hand in my outstretched one. My skin looked so papery thin and faded with dark grey smudges of age spots. By contrast, hers was as smooth as cream. I grasped it tightly and looked at her little face, thinking it would not only be the first time I saw her but the last. A tear spilled out of my own eye, which seemed to calm Perry down.
“Why are you crying?” she asked. The concern in her face was genuine and graceful.
“Because I love you and I have to give you back,” I said, choking on the words. For the first time I felt the blood of myself in another. It felt like I had known Perry for all her life.
Then, she did the sweetest, most wonderful thing. She took a few small steps toward me and wrapped her arms around my neck.
“If you don’t cry, I won’t cry,” she whispered into my hair. I was so shocked at her affection that I couldn’t move my lips at first.
“It’s a deal,” I said breathlessly. I squeezed her back and then composed myself. “Let’s put you back where you belong.”
So, with a gentle nudge I pushed Perry through the portal and back into her room. She stumbled a bit, falling to the softly carpeted floor but she seemed OK. I couldn’t bear to watch anymore so I closed my eyes until the portal faded and its place was the one back into my room.
I stepped through, succumbed to the horrible pressure, and everything went black.
I woke up days later in the medical ward. Apparently the nurse had found me passed out the next morning and completely unconscious. However, even when I came to, nothing was the same. Jakob was right once more. I was so far gone that there was no hope for me. My body was weakened, my mind was gone further than it had ever gone before and I saw demons everywhere I looked. Everywhere. Even in my reflection. I started acting out again, attacking nurses and other patients, until they had to put me on the strongest drugs they had.
It’s how I spent the next five years of my life. The last five years of my life. I don’t remember any of it, except for brief flashes until the end. It skips around like an old roll of film. I see myself laughing alone. I see myself dressed up in drapes and funny clothes, and putting outlandish makeup on myself and on others. The nurses indulged me with that, letting me relive my times in the theatre, so long as I took my medication and did what I was told like a good girl.
There was no hope for me. No respite. Memories of my other life, of Karl and Ingrid, of Declan and Perry, of Sweden, even of Ludie…they all faded and became inconsequential in my haze. There was no way out but death.
One night, I smuggled some of the makeup back to my room. I took my chair and as quietly as I could I crunched an eye pencil sharpener underneath its heavy leg. The sharpener shattered, spitting out the shiny puzzle piece I lusted over.
I picked up the tiny danger between my shaking fingers, and before I could give it any more thought, I sliced it up both my wrists.
I felt no pain – not physically. The blood ran a shiny dark red down my failing arms and I marveled at it with an eerie sense of detachment. It felt peaceful.
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