Julia looked up at the clock. Finally it was almost 2:30, she hadn’t been sure the day would ever end. It had started with a social studies test and then each subject after that was worse. Lunch had been sloppy joe, yuck. It was also raining so they’d had to have recess in the gym.
“Hey Julia, seen any ghosts recently?” They always taunted her when they could find her, and stuck inside, there had been no where to hide. She’d tried to ignore them. Sometimes she wished James were here. That would show them. But he couldn’t leave the house.
Finally the bell rang and Julia was up, backpack in hand, and halfway to her cubby while the teacher tried to shout final instructions over the sudden clamor. She had her jacket on and was out the door before anyone could corner her.
The library was just two blocks away. Julia loved the library. Not only did all the bullies stay away, but because her mom worked here there were often cookies or snacks in the librarian’s break room she could snack one. Most people weren’t allowed back there.
She dropped her backpack off in her mom’s office and headed upstairs. She’d long sense grown bored of the children’s books, but she waved at her mom who was reading aloud to the preschool class that came every Tuesday. Most of the books upstairs were for adults and honestly, they were pretty boring. But she had decided to look at every book in the library just in case there was something interesting.
Recently she’d been in the history section and those books often had really interesting pictures. She could spend hours imagining that she was inside those pictures, exploring ruins and castles until her mom found her and it was time to go home. She found the spot she’d left out and pulled out a book.
Encyclopedia of Gods. It was a heavy book and Julia was glad it was on the bottom shelf. The book was old and dusty. It had great promise. She brought it over to a chair and sat down.
Her mom found her still there two hours later.
“Julia? Time to go.”
“Can I check this out?”
“That’s an old book,” her mom frowned. “Where’d you find it?”
“Over there,” she pointed. “Can I check it out?”
“Sure. I bet it hasn’t been checked out in years.”
“Here,” Julia said opening the book to a place where she’d marked. She set the bookmark aside.
I came closer and looked down to where she pointed. The book was one of those old, heavy books. With a thick leather cover, half falling apart and yellowing pages.
“That’s what you saw in the darkness, right?” She was pointing at the large picture in the center of the page. Above the picture was the words: Grim Reaper, below was a longer description.
“Clad in black smoke,” Julia read aloud, “the Grim Reaper comes when people are near death and collects their souls. The soul appears as a purplish light. Once the soul is taken, only the body remains. Sometimes people can plead with the Grim Reaper to spare their loved ones, but this is rare. See Also: Death Flowers.”
She looked up at me, “That’s him, right?”
The voice was clear in my head, but the figure. I thought it might be similar, but I wasn’t sure. Those were my oldest memories. Before anything else. Before James. I still didn’t really believe that I was James, but Julia had no doubts at all. About me being James or about this being who I met in the Darkness. Her next words proved that.
“James. This is it!” she said. “If the Grim Reaper lives in the Darkness you can go there and ask him.”
I kind of regretted telling Julia so much about the Darkness and the door in the other version of this room. The door that lead to the darkness. I really didn’t want to go there again.
“We don’t know if he lives there,” I said. But we both knew it was the most likely scenario.
“It’s the only way to know for sure,” Julia persisted.
It would be nice to know for sure if I was James’s ghost. And if I was, did that make me James or something else. And why was I here? “O-Okay,” I agreed and Julia’s smile was my reward. She looked at me with wide eyes, expectantly.
“Not right now,” I protested. I wanted more time to prepare. “It’s not the right time of night.”
Julia nodded. We heard her father calling that it was bedtime, so after she quickly brushed her teeth and changed into her pajamas she returned and scrambled into bed. She held the book open on her lap. I sat down next to her and looked as well. It was a fascinating book.
“Where did you find this book?”
“At the library. It’s ‘An Encyclopedia of Gods.’ I don’t think anyone even knew it was there. But it’s filled with really interesting people.” She flipped through the pages, pausing to read out their names. “Santa Claus, The Social Bunny, The Obsessed Fan, The Tragic Clown. I can’t tell if he looks funny, scary, or sad.”
“Are they real?”
Julia shrugged. “Maybe. I mean, the Grim Reaper is real since you saw him. Maybe the others are real too.” She yawned.
It was late so I said goodnight and faded back to my room. The door stood where it always did, but it seemed larger, darker, than normal. Would I be able to find anyone in the darkness that lay beyond? Should I do this? But then, if I didn’t I would never learn anything.
I took a deep breath and opened the door. The darkness was how I remember it, dark and numb and featureless. Behind me the door stood even more solid. I could feel it pulling be back. I looked around. Julia had talked me into this, but now that I was here, I didn’t know what to do.
“H-Hello?” I called out. My voice was tiny and the darkness swallowed it up immediately.
“Hello, um, Mr. Grim Reaper?” I tried again louder, but as before my voice disappeared within seconds.
“Anyone?!” I shouted with all my might.
Was that an echo or a response? I turned in circles and tried to hear where the sound had come from.
That way, I decided and started walking.
* Library Exterior is by Pronterus: Wooden Hovel
* Small Castle dollhouse by plasticbox
* Sadly the replacement bed didn’t work, so we’re still using the mysterious bed cc for Julia.
* Challenge details: CitizenErased14’s Ambrosia Challenge.