I don't know what was told when the body was being prepared. Accident from filming? Mugging? I didn't care. I didn't want to know. None of us attended the funeral. The logical reasoning was because it was too public, and there was, now more than ever, a constant threat of demons finding us. But even if that weren't true, I still wouldn't have gone. I couldn't face Genevieve or young Thomas. She lost the love of her life and he lost his father. He was too young to even understand. He would grow up without a single memory of his father.
The following week back at the house was eerie. I would walk around, expecting to see him towering over me at any moment, walking around the corner. Making me a sandwich. Playing in the snow that began to fall the next day. That would never happen again.
I tried to stay up in the bedroom most of the time for this reason. If I didn't move, then I wouldn't expect to see him everywhere. With the door shut and jackets stuffed into every opening of the door, I wouldn't have to expect to hear his laugh or his infrequent phone calls to Gen.
Jensen had broken a finger or two smashing in Beelzebub's skull, so he wore splints on them for a few weeks. His knuckles were bruised up pretty bad so Erin had to help him lift or open things a lot.
Jim had a concussion and spent the next few days laying down for most of the time. Occasionally he would make food for all of us. Simple things – mac and cheese, sandwiches, spaghetti.
I felt a little bad for Erin – she had to sleep in Jared's room now. I could only expect how awkward that must feel. Not to mention wondering how to interact with us all. She was brand new to his whole thing like how I was a few months ago, but none of us were in the proper mental state to really get her up to speed or become close friends.
The house was quiet. All the time. Everyone was afraid to talk, to break the strange silence that settled over everything. But I think most of all, everyone was afraid to speak to me and we all knew why. It was my fault. Jared had died, all because of me. If I hadn't gotten into the car crash so long ago, my soul wouldn't be at the price it was now. And even further back thirteen generations ago. "Fuck Up" was written over my entire family line.
I thought I knew what pain was. I thought I felt it when I crashed. I thought I felt it when Erin was taken. I thought I felt it when I believed Jensen was dead. But this…. there were no words for it. Heartbreak doesn't begin to cover it. This was more like feeling like my heart had been punched out of my chest, run over by a semi-truck, and eaten by a wild pack of wolves. I could feel my entire body crumbling away. I wished I was dead, but that would only make things worse. So instead, I was stuck in a cycle of self-loathing. I wished I could have been anyone else. Anyone. I would even trade places with Rachel in a second.
I hadn't seen Rachel, or really any other ghosts, since the attack. Occasionally I would think I saw one out of the corner of my eye, but they were never there when I looked.
Every night Jensen would come into the bedroom and sleep with me. Every night I would cry to myself silently, trying not to disturb him. Did he hurt as much as I did? I never saw him cry. Maybe he was trying to hold it together as much as I was, but I was tearing at the seams. He would hold me as he fell asleep, but I could never sleep. Images flashed before my eyelids, and they terrified me. All of his blood, soaking into every crevice of my being. Drowning, gasping for air in it. My fault, my fault, my fault, my mind would tell me ceaselessly. I could only sleep in small increments.
I could only wonder what the funeral must have been like. Larger than life, just like he was, I guessed. I could just see Thomas running around with his grandparents chasing after him as friends tried to console Genevieve. It hurt to even imagine him, pale, plastic-looking face lying in a coffin, dressed in a suit with his hands crossed over his abdomen. I knew that under his white shirt, over his left pectoral, was a hole the size of my thumb that had drained the life out of him.
Every now and then I would wonder where all the ghosts, especially Rachel, were. Maybe something happened during the attack that changed something. Maybe I couldn't see them anymore. Was that so bad? Besides Jared, I felt a twinge of guilt towards Rachel. I skipped to conclusions back there too easily. She hadn't shown anything but kindness and loyalty to me. Why would I have thought she had anything to do with it all? Stupid, stupid.
I kept hoping I'd see Jared as one of them – as a ghost. But the longer it was that I didn't see any of them, not even Rachel, the less hope there was.
Everything hurt. Everything throbbed, mentally and physically. I woke up from my short naps with throbbing headaches. Jensen told me I cried in my sleep. I lied and said I had nightmares. But that wasn't true. I didn't dream – everything was just black, like inside that iron box. Time just passed, nothing happened. I didn't know why I cried, but I did. No – I knew why.
A throb began in my stomach, right about where Richard's knife went in. I knew it wasn't infected or reopened or whatnot. It was just a psychological pain. My stomach constantly felt like it was dropping – perpetual guilt.
A week went by quickly – too quickly. I didn't know how. I watched the sun rise and set, and then the moon doing just the same. Day after day, night after night. All I did was lay in bed, occasionally eat small bites of whatever Jensen or Jim made – I never quite tasted it – and then just after sunset, Jensen would come in, pull me tight to him, and fall asleep.
"You have to come out," Jensen told me exactly seven days after the attack. I counted them. "At some point."
I had barely spoken besides the occasional "thank you" whenever food was brought in.
"I know." My voice cracked from disuse. I did know, but I didn't want to. I wanted to stay in this solitary confinement. I deserved this – I needed to be punished. Jared's death was my fault. I needed to pay. It wasn't fair to Jared. If I left, became the person I was before this terror happened again, I felt as if I would be betraying Jared in some way. "I will soon. Promise."
It was early morning. The sun was still rising. Jensen's arm around my waist hugged me closer. He sighed as if about to fall asleep again.
I wanted to ask him why he didn't hate me, or why Jim didn't hate me. I know what he'd say, though.
"It's not your fault."
Directly, it wasn't. I wasn't the one with the gun. I didn't pull the trigger. I did everything I could to stop the blood. But it was my family, my bloodline, my soul that put us all in that situation.
We both fell asleep again. Later when I woke up, I think that was the first time I woke up all that week that I woke up feeling well-rested. The sun was high up. I had never slept more than an hour at a time, and now it was almost midday.
I stretched for a moment, taking advantage of the empty space beside me. When I got up, I went straight to the bathroom. I showered for a long time. I couldn't remember the last time I felt so clean. I changed into a fresh pair of jeans – a real change compared to the sweats I'd been wearing – and a grey, long-sleeved shirt. The house's heating was minimal. Really all we relied on were several space heaters, battery operated. When I stepped out of the bedroom, I immediately matched eyes with Erin.
A small smile spread across her face as she said, "You're awake!" I smirked in response. "Jensen said he'd left you still asleep. He didn't want to wake you."
I ran a hand through my hair. "I slept great, actually."
Her smile grew gentler. "Good, I'm glad."
An awkward moment passed before I said, "Hey can we… can we talk?"
She shut the door to Jared's – no, her – room. "Um, yeah. Sure."
"Can we go outside? I could use the fresh air."
She looked almost relieved at this offer. I didn't know whether it was because she felt trapped in here like I so often did earlier when I first arrived, or because I actually wanted to go outside for the first time in a long time.
We walked down the stairs. I could see the stares of Jim and Jensen boring holes in me as we pulled on our jackets. Opening the screen door, we walked out to the porch and sat on the steps. I really hoped the guys weren't listening in.
"How are you?" I asked after a moment of looking around. Leaves littered the ground, and Jim's lonesome black car sat down a ways. I tried not to think of them loading Jared's body into it to deliver it to the hospital, where we all know he'd be pronounced dead.
Erin gawked. "How am I?" She shook her head. "I should be asking you that, Andy."
I rubbed my eyes. I didn't want to talk about it, any of it, but this was all new to her. I could only imagine how terrifying it all must be.
"I'm still trying to figure it all out," I eventually said.
Erin looked ahead. "Yeah, me too."
"I'm sorry for dragging you into all of this, Erin. I would take it all back if I could."
Her hand was suddenly on my arm. "None of this is your fault, alright? I had been worried sick about you when I found out you hadn't come back after the convention. I'm just glad you're okay."
"The second we found out the demons were moving in on you, we went to your place and… there was so much blood, Erin." I shook my head. Blood. Death. Jared. "I thought the worst."
She chuckled. "You don't think I'd go down without a fight, do you? No, I nicked one of the guys pretty bad. I wanted to kill him when I saw he'd gotten blood on that blanket you got for me, back during fall break."
A small smile broke out on my lips. "Damn him."
A silence settled around us and I just looked out across the field on the other side of the road. Tall, uncut, unkempt grass swayed in the cold breeze. The shhh of the stalks hitting each other was soothing, almost lulling me back to sleep.
"So," Erin said, breaking the silence, "demons are real? What else is?"
I sighed and looked over at her. "Ghosts."
I wanted to laugh at her incredulousness. "Yeah, that's how we knew they were after you."
I could see her mind turning. "So, what, this place is haunted?!" She turned back to the house, inspecting it.
I chuckled. "No, no, it's not haunted. I can… well, I can see them. Or could. They're gone now." Still trying to figure that out.
Her eyes dragged from the house to me. "You can see them?!"
I explained the whole car crash/soul splitting thing to her. I tried to keep out the part of the family lineage. One thing at a time.
"Whoa," she gasped at the end. A moment later she said, "I've always wondered how that whole thing works. So, heaven is real? And so his hell?"
Here it goes.
"So are angels."
"Angels?" She truly looked like she would pass out from shock.
"Look, if this is too much we can–"
She shook her head furiously. "No, no. It's just… whoa. Angels?" I shrugged, not sure what to tell her. "Okay, so that's why they wanted you? The demons, I mean. For the whole soul-thing?"
I sucked in a breath. "Sort of. There's… something else. I didn't even know until… until a week ago. You were still unconscious when he came in and told me. Apparently, in some older version of the Bible, there was a prophecy, and it was about me." I told her what Beelzebub told me and watched as her face went unchanging. I couldn't tell if she was going into shock or that these things just stopped fazing her.
When I was finished, she took a moment, let out a breath, and blinked rapidly. "Okay. Um. Wow. So you're like… famous in this war, then?"
I snorted. "You could say that, but really I'd give anything not to be."
Another silence fell, but I was okay with that. I didn't realize how much I missed being around Erin. This was the most I'd talked in a whole week, and I couldn't have been happier that I was sharing it with her. For a brief moment, I had forgotten about Jared. The entire week he'd been plaguing me, but now I felt like I could finally crack a smile – or at least a small one. I finally felt a piece of me fit back into place. I felt like a puzzle: I was all put together, but when Jared died everything just kind of shattered. Sitting here, talking to Erin, I felt like the pieces were finally starting to come back together. Slowly, but it was happening.
"I wish you could have met Jared," I muttered, wringing my cold fingers together.
Silently, she whispered, "Me too."
My eyes began to sting with tears. "He was… he was so kind, so gentle. He was always on my side, you know?" I told her the whole event with Sheri, and how we ran off to confront Richard, how he risked his life for mine. "Jensen – he was always the rational one. Jared was just happy to be around people, I think." I fingered the leather necklace with the charm that prevented me from being possessed. "He always has – had – your back." I wiped underneath my eyes. "I miss him. And the world will never know how bravely he died."
"I don't regret…" His last words.
"No," said Erin, "but we will. And I think that counts for something."
I nodded slowly. "It's just… his poor wife. And son!" Energy built up inside of me and I stood up, not feeling so cold anymore. "It all just makes me so mad." I kicked around the leaves on the ground, but that didn't really relieve me at all.
"I know. And it should!" Erin stood as well, her arms crossed over her chest. "Use that anger to do something."
I spun around to her. "Do what?! I can't fight back – I'd lose and that can't happen."
She wrapped her arms around me. "We'll figure something out."
When it happened, I almost didn't catch on. I thought it was normal, but it took me a moment to realize: no, it wasn't normal. Everything had changed. I wished it didn't. I wish it – the outcome of the prior week – hadn't changed anything. But it did.
The following day after Erin and I talked everything out, Jim and Jensen accepted me wholeheartedly back into the groove of things, sandwiches and all. It was a particularly cold day. All the space heaters were on but I don't think they did much unless you were pressed up right beside them, and even then it only warmed up that small part of your body.
"Remind me why we can't just stay in a hotel?" asked Erin, bundled up in about four layers of things.
"It's just not safe," said Jim, scarf half-muffling his voice.
Jensen placed a sandwich in front of me. Erin was already biting into hers.
"It's not all that safe here, either," she said through bites. "We'll all die of frostbite at this rate."
I still flinched at the D word but no one seemed to notice.
I eyed my sandwich and told the guys, "We need to switch it up. Turkey and cheese is really getting nauseating."
"I don't think it's bad," said a familiar voice behind me. At first, I didn't process that it shouldn't be possible.
"It's been months and it is bad–" I stopped myself. No, that's impossible. That voice… I dropped my sandwich and spun around in my chair.
"Andy?" called Jensen.
I gasped. There he was, towering in the room, plaid shirt and long hair. Aside from the blood splotch on his chest and his translucent-ness, I would have thought he was real, that he was alive.
"Jared," I whispered. I wanted to hug him. Was I hallucinating? Was this all a dream?
Jared smiled. "It's good to see you again, Andy."
A tear fell onto my lap. "You're here? You're really here?"
After so long of believing I couldn't see them anymore, none of this felt real.
"Jared's here?" asked Jensen behind me.
I spun back around to face everyone. "I-I think so." I turned back to him, half afraid he had disappeared and I really was just hallucinating. But there he was, still standing in front of me. "Tell me this is real."
"I'm here," Jared said, still smiling. "It's me. It's real."
I blinked quickly, still unable to believe he was really here. "Where have you been? I thought… I thought I'd lost my ability."
Jared took a step closer into the room. "Rachel thought it best that I let you mourn first. Plus I wanted to see my family, my funeral. Everyone's dream, right?" He cracked a half-hearted laugh.
"Rachel? You've been with Rachel?" I asked. Luckily, everyone behind me stayed quiet. I'd tell them everything later.
Jared nodded. "She's actually been pretty good to me. Weird, huh? She's been really understanding. But I couldn't wait to see you all again. I had to come back."
"Where is she now?"
As if on cue, she appeared next to Jared. "Hey, Andy." Shockingly, her bruises looked partially healed and she looked a bit more… real. I'd seen that before in Sheri. I thought it was odd then, but I think I began to understand it. She was beginning to move on.
I let out a sigh of relief when I saw her. "Oh, thank God. I thought I couldn't see you guys anymore. I didn't know if something Beelzebub did 'fixed' me or whatever."
"No," said Rachel, "I thought the only way for Jared to move on was for you to move on, with your mourning. I've kept an eye on you, and you looked better. But he's still here. He didn't move on so…" She shrugged.
My heart dropped. "So now we need to find a way."
Jared shrugged. "I don't mind being here, Andy. I know it's not me that's keeping me tied here. I have a theory that it's not the person themselves that keeps them here. It's that other people have to do something for them to move on. I just need to find who that person is and figure out how to help them."
"But if it's not me then…"
"I don't know," Jared muttered. "Like I said, it's just a theory. Sheri only moved on when her husband came to peace. Maybe it's Genevieve but we'd actually been in talks of a divorce when I died."
I gaped for a second but pulled myself together. "And Thomas is too young," I muttered, picturing the little toddler running around at the funeral, being blissfully ignorant of the occasion.
I turned to the other three and told them everything. They also couldn't think of anything. It wasn't us holding him back. As much as we loved him, we wanted him to move on and find peace. There weren't many other people in Jared's life – being a celebrity (which I often forgot about now) – was kept mostly private. He didn't have many friends or family left anymore, nor did they really need him. So there was no reason he would need them to move on.
"Maybe it has to do with the whole mission we were on, before all of this? My soul and whatnot," I offered.
Jared shrugged. "Maybe, but I could be here forever until we figure what to do."
"Well," I said, sucking in a breath, "Let's get thinking."
We all talked it through for the rest of the day, and deep into the night. Nothing was solid, though, or it was outright dangerous. Jensen even offered to summon Beelzebub to question him, but I refused. There was no way I would allow anyone else near him, after what he did to Jared. Plus there was no guarantee he'd even tell the truth. There was one very obvious option no one suggested, and that was the angel option. Now I knew the real truth why Jensen fought so hard against them, aside from his previous fiancée. Or maybe since I was the thirteenth generation, I couldn't even be one anymore. I didn't know. I was too afraid to ask. There was no way to really get answers anyways. I didn't even know if my dream from a few weeks ago was real. Did I really dream that angels were talking to me? That same warm, bright light was in the warehouse a week ago. That couldn't be a coincidence, could it?
The moon was almost gone by the time everyone went to bed. Jensen, as always, curled into me.
"Jensen?" I asked.
"Mmm?" He was already falling asleep, despite the fact we had just crawled into the bed.
I rolled over to face him. His eyes were closed, and I could see his high cheekbones and sharp jawline from the fading moonlight. "When you came back into the warehouse to save us all – there were angels there, weren't there?"
"Yes," he said eventually. He opened his eyes then, connecting them with mine. Their beauty always caught me off-guard, almost making me gasp.
"How?" I asked.
He sighed. "I don't want to talk about this." He closed his eyes, luscious green orbs disappearing. I thought back to the warehouse where I thought I'd never see them again. I quickly blinked the memories away.
"Well, I do!" I whisper-yelled. "You owe me this. Stop hiding things from me, Jensen!" I said, referring back to the thirteenth generation prophecy. "I can't take it anymore."
He sighed again. "Andy–"
"Damn it, Jensen!" I shot up in bed, releasing the warm body heat we had collected. Goosebumps prickled my arms. "Just tell me!"
He took a moment to collect himself. He sat up as well on the bed and couldn't meet my eyes. "Look it… it was an angel, okay?"
I stopped. "An angel?" I blinked. "You hate them."
He slowly nodded, eyes flicking around the room. "I ran out of the warehouse and when I realized you weren't in the car anymore, one appeared to me. Without saying anything to me, they grabbed my arm and we were suddenly back in the house."
"What house? This house?"
He nodded. "They said they had been watching me, but when I went into the warehouse, they couldn't see me anymore. They couldn't see you because of the whole prophecy thing – apparently, it masked you from all of them except Aamon, that angel that can see the future. But they could see me. They told me to gather your things – they would gather others to save you and everyone else. Your personal things would help them trace you, in case they had taken you somewhere besides the warehouse."
I sat there silently, still in shock that they wanted to save me. It was off because of what Beelzebub had said about my entire family line being killed off by angels.
"Save me?" I gasped. "Are you sure?" I had told Jensen about the murdering off of my family.
He nodded. "I know. But I believed them then. What other option did I have?"
"And so it took them three days to gather them all up?" I asked him incredulously.
"Time moves differently to them," he told me. "They're immortal. One day to us feels like an hour to them."
"And you just… sat around here, doing nothing?"
His face hardened. "What other choice did I have?! The car was back at the warehouse – I had no way to get back to any of you."
They saved him, my mind told me, recalling the story of the demon not able to get Jensen when he ran out of the warehouse. But that didn't change the fact that they were part of the breed that murdered both of my parents.
He continued, "When they came back, they told me the fight had begun. I grabbed my gun, reloaded now, and they brought me back to the warehouse. Right in the middle of everything I tried getting to the iron room in the middle but he got there before I did." He shook his head. "I did everything I could, Andy, I promise."
I nodded and lay back down in bed, wanting to forget the whole ordeal. I turned my back to him and curled up. Jensen didn't move, staring down at me.
"Where are they now?" I asked. "They angels, I mean. Are they still… watching you? Whoever saved you from the warehouse."
There was a moment, and then he also went back down into the bed, his arm slipping around me as usual. He sighed as he did and said, "I don't know."
"Okay," I said, closing my eyes. After a while, I heard his heavy breathing, signaling he was asleep. I stayed still for a while longer, just to make sure. I shifted away and his hand slipped away. I froze, to make sure his breathing remained the same. It did. So, slowly and quietly, I climbed out of the bed. I pulled the first sweatshirt I saw over my head – I saw it was Jensen's by the size after the fact – as cold shivers ran over my body. I tiptoed out of the bedroom, and Jensen remained asleep.
I managed to make it down the stairs, slip on my boots and jacket, before Jared appeared next to me, almost making me scream.
"Where are you going?" he asked after I jumped.
"Jesus, Jared," I breathed, grabbing my chest. My heartfelt ready to pop. "I know that you don't really make noise anymore, but you can't just sneak up on me like that!"
He cracked a meek smile. "Sorry. I'm still getting used to… all this."
I nodded. "I know." It was weird, having him here but… not having him here. To everyone else, I was talking to air. I was the lucky one in this situation, but I did not feel that way.
"Why are you leaving? It's almost dawn – you should be sleeping." He eyed my clothing oddly.
"It's none of your business, Jared."
"Au contraire, Andy. You're kind of important to me right now – I can't have you walking off into the woods all alone in the middle of the night. Who knows what could happen? If you can't sleep, just sit down and we can talk."
I shook my head. "It's not that. I won't be alone." It slipped out before I could stop it, but I said it and I couldn't take it back.
"You won't? Whom else are you going with?"
There was no one around, so I knew I couldn't very well lie to him. Everyone was asleep. It was just he and I.
"Can we talk outside?" I asked. "I don't want to risk waking anyone up."
Without even waiting for a reply, I wedged open the door and quickly slipped through the crack, so as to not let any cold air into the already-freezing house. I shut it gently and turned around. Jared was already there, waiting.
"What's going on, Andy?" he asked suspiciously.
"Okay, look – I can't just sit around and wait for everyone to decide my fate for me. I've heard rumors and prophecies that I don't know are even true! Thirteenth generation or not, I have control over myself – not the angels, not the demons, not even you guys. I know you want what's best, but for once I want to take things into my own hands."
Jared listened intently to all of this, without saying a word. If I had any doubts as to whether or not this was truly him and not some trick of my brain, they were washed away with this. He had always listened to me and took everything I said into account. He was the best friend anyone could have. He was the epitome of the word.
Jared's face still looked confused as he tried to piece together the puzzle I was weaving. "And so you're…?"
I took a deep breath, preparing for his reaction to what I was about to say next. "And so I'm confronting the people who started this whole ordeal. The angels."
His eyes widened. He seemed too shocked to even form coherent words. I was sure that if he had a physical body, he would begin pacing along the floorboards of the patio. I wrapped my arms around myself as the cold began to sink into me and through all of my layers of clothing.
"You've got to be kidding me," he finally said.
"Afraid not, buddy."
"Andy!" he exclaimed. I was about to tell him to quiet down before remembering I was the only one who could hear him.
"Save it, okay? I'm not doing anything drastic. I just… I need to face them and see what's true and what's not. I know they have been watching over Jensen. Maybe I can contact them, somehow." I ran a hand through my hair. I really did not want to do this, but I had no other options. I needed answers, and this was the only way to get them.
Even though he was only a ghost, I walked around Jared and bounded down the steps of the patio. I headed around the house, towards the back where it was up against the woods. I thought maybe the trees and distance would be best to keep any noise from entering the house. Plus it kept me from being out in the open, where anyone could see me. Anti-possession necklace or not, I didn't want to risk anything. I could feel Jared trailing behind me. Whether he was on board with this or not, I couldn't tell. But I knew he would support me, even if he couldn't do anything to save me if something went wrong.
After I had walked a ways into the dense woods, while still keeping the house in sight, I stopped just before a small stream that was beginning to freeze in the coldness of the night. I had to be careful not to slip on any frost on the moss underneath my feet.
I sighed and turned my head up to the sky, not really sure how to do any of this.
"Do you have a clue as to how I'm supposed to… contact them?" I asked Jared.
"None. We never had to. I know Jensen tried but nothing came of it."
I kept my face turned up to the sky, as it slowly began to get lighter. Exhaustion had kicked in before I even left the safety of the bed with Jensen. I knew I would regret it if I didn't try, though, so here I was. I had to do this quickly before everyone began to wake up.
I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath, preparing to pray. This was a kind of prayer, right?
"Whoever is up there," I whispered, "I call you."
This is ridiculous.
I peeked open my eye and glanced around me. Nothing but the dim glow of Jared beside me. I let out a sigh and turned to him. He shrugged.
This time I forced my voice to be stronger, harder. "Angels," I called, "I know you're there. I know you're watching Jensen. We need to talk."
It took a couple moments, but the area around me went from freezing cold to the warmth of the sun in summer in seconds. Light filled my eyes and I had to shut them and turn my face away or else be blinded. Just as soon as it came, it faded and the air went back to frigid.
I turned upright again and almost fell down when there was suddenly someone there before me, someone aside from Jared. A small gasp escaped his ghostly lips, probably in shock of seeing her after all these years. That was how I knew it was her.
"Caitlin?" Jared gasped.
She had short, ginger hair, just above her shoulders. Her pale, olive skin was dappled with freckles, and she looked absolutely, perfectly angelic. Which, I guess, made sense. She was a few inches taller than me and was wearing a long, white gown which looked more like a robe but still showed her feminine frame.
"Andrea," she said, her voice tinkling like little tiny bells. I could easily tell how Jensen had fallen in love with her. She was beautiful. No, beyond beautiful. There wasn't even a word to describe her. "It's so nice to meet you."