Chapter 07 - New Paths

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At the top of the lighthouse, the world seemed a different place. The wind had died, and the rain stopped after the clouds had drained the last of their lifeblood, revealing patches of starlit sky.

Jaylina saw no sign of the moon still hidden somewhere in those clouds. A glow in the east promised the sun would be up soon.

As she and Michael stood on the edge of the ancient tower overlooking the sea, the bright beacon behind them radiated with a warm luminosity that penetrated the soul more than its heat did the body.

Jaylina shook uncontrollably.

While she huddled in the failing darkness, Michael held her with all the patience he could muster. This night had been impossibly long. When she stopped shivering, he sat down and tended to his arm, waiting for her to sit down next to him. When she finally did, he spoke gently, in his soothing baritone, explaining what he thought she could absorb at that moment about the astral plane, the Underworld, the things that dwelt there.

It was a lot to take in. Much of it made no sense.

Jaylina listened for some time. She was beginning to fathom why he was here, why he had spirited her away from the cliffs. It had nothing to do with her salvation. Not really.

He wants to use you, she thought sadly, echoing the mist-woman's words from the night before. Just the same old pattern of her life repeating again. Then she spoke with an authority she did not feel.

"Michael, I'm not going back there."

"I need you there," answered Michael.

"I don't want to see that place again. Or see those...things again."

Michael looked into her eyes for a long moment. Hers wavered first.

"Jaylina, time is against us. My path takes me to the Underworld, but I can't find the path without you."

"I don't understand what that means. There is no 'Underworld.' It's a myth. A way for people to cope with death."

"After what little you have seen already, you still believe that? You don't see that all the myths throughout the history of humankind have come from someplace deeper than just our imaginations?"

Jaylina suddenly realized Michael didn't trust her. Maybe that was for the better. She didn't want any part of this.

"Real or not, why would you go there?"

Michael sighed. "There is someone who can tell the story better than I. Will you meet him?"

"Who?"

"A boy, actually. A very unusual boy."

"Where is he?"

"His body lies in a mental institution somewhen in the nineteenth century..."

"Somewhen?"

"Yes. His spirit..."

Jaylina blinked. "Let me guess; you talk to him on the other side?"

Michael nodded, a slight grin creasing his face. Jaylina sighed. She looked out at the stars. The jealous moon finally revealed itself from behind a fading patch of clouds, falling low in the west. Michael put up his umbrella though Jaylina no longer saw any sign of rain.

Why is this happening to me? thought Jaylina. Hadn't she endured enough for one lifetime? And now this.

I am terrified of going back to that place. That place where I am just a spirit, a life-force hunted by a race of shades that want to consume me. There I was just a victim, just prey.

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