Arianna stared apprehensively at the surface of the mirror in the tiny storeroom behind the bar, lips pursed and hands clenched into fists. Worry lines creased into her pale forehead as she fixated upon the glass. Her tarry miasma had pooled around her feet, and was quavering. If Sharon held her breath, she could hear it whispering frantically.
“I still don’t get what I’m supposed to do,” Ari said timidly.
“Sugar,” Sharon answered, “I don’t either. I tried to tell you that earlier.”
The furrows in Ari’s brow deepened.
“I don’t–I only have pieces.”
“If the rest of them would just shut the fuck up, I could hear!”
She raised her right palm towards the mirror, flaring her fingers wide. The viscous substance at her feet shuddered, and all at once, her face broke open like a summer storm with epiphany. Tendrils the color of rotted blood churned around her feet and stretched delicately in the direction of the mirror.
“They’re close!” Ari shouted. “Oh, I know where they are, I think. They’re. They-”
“Just be quiet a minute, homie. Let me concentrate.”
She was indeed concentrating as hard as she could, but she was a dead sixteen-year-old with a babyface. It was hilarious to look at. Sharon smirked into her lighter as she lit a smoke. She hadn’t even exhaled her first drag before everything happened at once. The mirror darkened from silvery gray to black almost instantaneously. Tendrils burst out from its edges to consume the wall like decaying ivy. Sharon didn’t have to strain to hear the whispering anymore, there was a cacophony of it, now-countless voices urgently beckoning from the depths of the substance. There was a wind blowing out from the gaping pit before them, a hot wind that stank of old incense.
“I found them!” Ari shouted triumphantly. “I found them! Come on. We’ve got to-”
Ari grabbed Sharon’s hand in her icy one, and strode purposefully in the direction of what Sharon now understood was a portal.
“Hold the fuckin’ phone, kiddo!” Sharon blurted, yanking her hand away and stepping back. Her bootheel slid in the slime and she almost fell ass over teakettle, but she managed to steady herself before she could go down. “Motherfucker,” she grumbled in annoyance, and pulled on her smoke. “Listen. Ari? We don’t know what’s in there. We could go in there and for all we know there’s a bigass panther waiting to claw us to ribbons.”
Ari’s face had crumpled with disappointment, but upon hearing that, she smirked.
“A panther, huh?”
“I don’t fucking know, shit! My point is-”
“I know what your point is, but you’re wrong. I know what this is. It’s the same thing that woman brought me through.”
“Right before you fucking died, Arianna. Remember that part?”
“Yeah,” Ari agreed. “But–but it’s gonna take us to that place I was at before I came here. We’ll be able to go through it to get to them. I know it. I just know it. What other choice have we got?”
Sharon squeezed her eyes shut.
“I don’t want to go in there, kid,” she said, flatly. “I don’t have a reason. Let’s talk?”
“Such a friggin’ Virgo thing to say,” Ari muttered.
“Taurus,” Sharon corrected.
“Whatever. All you earth signs are all the same, all you do is take care of houseplants and complain.”
“Sugar, please don’t lecture me about astronomy. All my friends were potsmoking hippie deadbeats, okay, I involuntarily learned everything about that shit before you were a glimmer in your mama’s eye.”
Ari snorted. “My mom’s a bitch.”
“Can we please stay on topic, here? You need to tell me what the hell just happened. How did you do that?”
“Ugh, you can be such a lame.”
Ari stepped out of the closet to the bar area, produced a glass, and scooped it full of ice. She ruminated over the soda gun for a minute before filling it all the way up with Coke. The portal on the other side of the storage room door stared at them like a lidless eye. Sharon sidled around Ari and shut the door. That was a little better. She grabbed the vodka bottle and started on her own drink.
“I won’t tell anyone if you wanna give that a little kick,” she said, gesturing to Ari’s soda. “I’m pretty sure that dead girls don’t gotta be 21 to drink.”
“Vodka and Coke is disgusting. And besides, I just want a Coke.”
The door was closed, but Ari was staring at it.
“They–it—talks. It’s like all these people trying to talk over each other all at once, except all of them are whispering. If I listen really hard, I can hear a word here and there. His name is Lucian. Her name is Lori. I hear my name and your name sometimes, too, but it’s mostly him. There’s other stuff, too. Street names, places, dates. Some of it isn’t in English, either. But whenever I can make something out, I can see it, too, and if I think about what I heard, I can see it a little more clearly. So anyways, they’re on Division Street somewhere. I recognize the area. And I know it’ll bring us there, if we go through.”
Sharon remembered something upon hearing that. Something about earthbound…remnants? But nothing else tugged her memory, and she could not elaborate. She kept her mouth shut, which was a good thing, because Ari wasn’t done talking.
“Something about this isn’t right. I don’t know why, but there’s a time limit, here.”
“So you go,” Sharon decided, taking a careful sip of her drink.
Ari frowned. “Alone?”
“Yes. What’s the worst that can happen? You die?” she snorted.
“I’m touched over the concern for my wellbeing, here.”
“Listen, kid. I’ve been around the block a few times. I kind of know what’s going on here. And what’s going on is that you need to be wherever this place is. Me, not so much. But you’ve got to be there.”
Ari’s soda made thick slurping sounds as she sucked the last of it up through her straw.
“I’m scared to go by myself,” she said, after what felt like a long time.
“Well,” said Sharon, swirling her fingernail around the dregs of her own drink, “don’t be.”
Ari stared. And then she laughed.
“I thought that when you die, there’s a big, holy light. And then there’s either the place that burns the soles of your feet for eternity or the giant sausage pizza with extra cheese in the sky.”
“That’s absolutely disgusting,” Sharon remarked, drily. “If you’re going to order sausage on your pizza, at least add olives and garlic.”
Ari twirled a strand of her hair around two fingers and gazed emptily into the portal.
“I just. I wasn’t expecting this, you know? I was just trying to finish my shift.”
Sharon swallowed a large gulp of her drink to mask the pang of sorrow she felt upon hearing that. Me too, kiddo, she thought, staring at Ari’s young, pretty, dead face.
“You’ve got to go,” she told her.
“What will you do?”
“I’m going to have a chat with the boss-man. He’s got some things to answer to.”Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in