AfterWorld Part 2
a Daughter of Isis Noveletter newly revised!
Missed the beginning? Start at Part 1
Enjoy part 2!
Sunlight shone through the open apartment windows. A sharp pain shot through ShyShy’s eyes, and she blinked to adjust them. The sun. She smiled.
The furniture took form around her. There was a couch and an armchair that faced a large box TV. Behind the armchair, shelves had been built into the wood-paneled walls. To her back, the fridge whispered its presence. ShyShy didn’t need to turn around to remind herself of the honey mustard-colored refrigerator, Formica counters, and printed linoleum floors. She knew. The bedroom door to her side was closed, but she could make out the faint rustle of movement. There wasn’t a front door, no way out of the 1960’s apartment.
She stood. Her clothes had remained in the AfterWorld, so the warm rays flowing through the window kissed her naked skin. A printed dress had been set out on the armchair. She’d arrived clothes-less before, the apartment had learned. She dropped her sketchbook on the coffee table and strode to the dress.
“I was hoping you would come today.” The young man spoke while she pulled the flowing frock over her now dry curls.
The frock draped over her form like a potato sack, a fashion she’d admired in OtherWorld magazines. The man crossed the apartment and plopped down on the couch with a wide grin on his face. Browline eyeglasses framed his dark eyes. He rested his elbows on his knees as the sun from the window glowed against his chestnut skin. ShyShy collapsed into the armchair and kicked her legs in front of her to soak up the rays as well.
“Oh man, I miss this,” she moaned.
The pull of the OtherWorld coaxed her like the Siren’s song. The men begged to be pulled into the AfterWorld while ShyShy yearned to fall back into the OtherWorld, to feel the real OtherWorld sun on her face, not this memory of one in a redwood tree.
“I almost made it to the sidewalk yesterday,” the man sitting across from her pulled her from the sunlight’s melody.
“I managed to unlatch the windows and climb out. Made it to the second floor, but then,” he sighed, “I was back in the pad. I blinked, and I was sitting on my couch again.”
ShyShy bit the inside of her cheek. Another failure, which hurt like all the others.
“I found the Siren, but I couldn’t get close enough to get a good enough look at the portal.” She explained, trying to stop the tears from flowing as she gestured to her drawing. “I don’t know if I could find her again, or another Siren, for that matter. I don’t know what else to do”
He exhaled slowly. With a frown, he picked up the sketch and studied it.
“Hmm?” His gaze remained on the paper.
Her voice cracked. She couldn’t finish the question. He raised his eyes to hers.
“I’m not giving up.” His jaw tightened, the muscles taut on the sides of his face. “There has to be a way back to the OtherWorld.”
She bit her lip and tapped her fingers against her thigh. “But you’re—”
“I know,” he interrupted. “If there isn’t a way back for me, then we’ll get you back. You’re not dead.”
She looked around the small apartment. It reminded her so much of the one she lived in with her actual mom, the human one back in the OtherWorld. The smells, the sounds, the sights. All of it home.
ShyShy dropped her head against the seat of the armchair and closed her eyes. If she couldn’t see the apartment before her, she might be able to convince herself she was home. She missed them all. Her actual mom, her dad, and her brothers. How much was her family hurting? They didn’t even know what happened to her. She barely understood what had happened. Her stomach quivered at the memory. She had just disappeared. How long until they just presumed her dead?
“Have you thought some more about my idea?” Silvio asked.
ShyShy opened one eye. Of course, she’d thought about it. It didn’t change how she felt.
“I don’t see another option,” he shrugged. “It would be worth a try, at least.”
“I’m not hurting Mother,” ShyShy closed her eye again, her eyebrows furrowed. “It’s not an option.”
“She won’t be hurt that bad,” Silvio said. “You said so yourself. It’s all the other creatures whisper about. The banshees connection to their death, it’s the closest we can get to the OtherWorld.”
ShyShy sat up. “And what do you suggest we do with that information? Sacrifice her?”
“No!” Silvio’s gaze dropped to his hands. “I think we’d just need a little blood.”
She scoffed and pushed herself to her feet. It wasn’t an option. She’d made that clear the last half a dozen times Silvio had brought it up. Mother took care of her, and the least ShyShy could do was not use her in some kind of archaic ritual. ShyShy should burn the occult books on Silvio’s bookshelf. That would show him. What would he do then while she was gone? Read his precious Isabel Allende, she supposed.
Her eyes drifted to the cross-stitched quote which hung on the wall across from her. She’d never heard of the author before, but she hadn’t been a big reader in the OtherWorld.
She loosened her fists at her side and read the quote again. With a deep breath, it gave her time to calm down:
Roots are not in landscape, or country, or people, they are inside you. -Isabel Allende.
What were the roots inside her? ShyShy understood the roots inside Silvio. The same ones that fixed this redwood in the dirt, had created this apartment, Silvio’s timber limbo. They grew from him, selfish roots. ShyShy scanned the room. There were no photos of his family. Silvio hadn’t been close to his parents. He didn’t have any siblings, like her. The shelves of trophies from tennis and bowling littered the wall space, all independent sports.
ShyShy never cared to join a sport, not that she had time. After being discovered in the choir, ShyShy never lived the life of a typical teenager. Not that she ever felt like a regular teenager that hung out with friends, complained about homework. It wasn’t her voice that set her apart from her peers, though.
She wasn’t normal.
Her eyes fell to the coffee table. Interpreting Lore sat open with The History of the Fantastic closed beneath it. He’d obviously been doing more research while she was gone, digging his own heels in on his plan to use Mother to open a portal. Possibly open a portal, ShyShy reminded herself. It was all guesswork. Neither of them had a clue about the powers they messed with.
That is what scared her more than anything, more than the similarities between her and Silvio, though those still simmered at the surface. She cringed at her selfish behavior in the OtherWorld. She’d thrown tantrums for not getting her way. Especially when her actual mom tried to stop her from performing, the performance that led to her record deal, her tour, her fame. Mom had been so afraid that someone would discover ShyShy’s abilities, but ShyShy just wanted to be a star. She didn’t care that she endangered her family, and she paid for that trapped in the AfterWorld. She’d been childish and naive. But ShyShy was a child, and Silvio was not.
She pressed her lips tight together and stormed to the kitchen. She couldn’t look at Silvio anymore, couldn’t see herself reflected in his eyes.
Instead, she flung open the cabinet doors and searched for the Goldfish crackers. Her stomach was filled with bugs and dirt, and she craved the OtherWorld snack. She felt around for the package, reaching up onto her tiptoes. Had Silvio eaten them all? He knew they were her favorite. Would the apartment replace them again, or were they gone forever?
In her desperate search, ShyShy’s hand knocked against a shoebox. It fell from the open cabinet, bounced on the counter, and then crashed onto the floor. The sharp sound of glass breaking crashed through the room and pictures spilled out from the compartment. Surveying what she had done, ShyShy groaned. Now she’d have to clean up this mess. She should just leave and let Silvio pick it up. Served him right.
Her eyes fell on a wooden frame. The glass had cracked down the middle, slicing Silvio’s smiling face in half. ShyShy frowned. It was Silvio. There was no mistaking his wide grin and large nose, but a different pair of glasses was sitting on his face. Thin wire instead of the browline glasses he wore now. The Silvio in the picture was much older. His hair was gray and wispy instead of black and wavy, and his skin was no longer smooth but hung from the bones on his face, wrinkled and sprinkled with spots of age. He smiled at the woman in his arms; she grinned into the camera, gray hair framing her round face, and freckles dotting her tanned skin.
ShyShy knelt to pick the picture up. She turned to Silvio, her mouth hanging open, her frown replaced with a look of sheer confusion.
“What is this?” She presented the framed picture.
“Uh…” Silvio scratched his cheek.
“This is you.” She jabbed her finger at his smiling face. “Why are you older?”
He cleared his throat. “Because I grew older. I grew older, and I died. That’s how life works.”
“So what’s all this.” ShyShy gestured to the apartment. “And you.” She waved a hand at his clothes, his hairstyle. Everything was familiar, just like her real home.
“I was a young man in the 60’s,” he said. “The best years of my life. I met my wife, started my career, had no children, and all freedom.” A grin crept onto his face, and he looked out the window. “I can’t imagine a better place to spend eternity than the apartment where I became a man.”
The photo slipped from ShyShy’s fingers. Was he a young man? In the picture, he’d grown old. How old? What did this mean?
“I’ve only been gone for a month,” she whispered.
Silvio shook his head. “I didn’t know how to tell you. Didn’t want you to find out this way. That’s why I hid the pictures.”
A whimper fell from ShyShy’s lips. Her knees trembled under her weight. How long had it been? She was too afraid to ask.
“I’m so sorry, Shyanne.” Silvio licked his lips, gaze flicking to his lap before staring back at her with wide sorrowful eyes. “It’s been over fifty years. I don’t know exactly how long I’ve been dead. Time moves differently here.”
She shook her head. No. Silvio was wrong. It couldn’t have been that long. Where would her mom be then? Dad? Brothers? How could the world have moved on without her?
A wail bounced off the wood-paneled walls of the apartment. Silvio and ShyShy looked to the ceiling in search of its source.
ShyShy gasped. She knew that wail. It was Mother.
Thank you for reading. Part 3 is available to see what happens next! Let me know what you think of ShyShy’s in the comments below, and don’t forget to like and share.