This is a continuation of Cordria's oneshot, which can be found on her account as chapter 81 of 'Nova Shots'. The first chapter of this story is Cordria's original work, and I'll continue in chapter 2.
It didn't hurt nearly as much as she was expecting.
Maddie stared at her fingers, covered in blood, then down to the hole on her chest. Right over her heart. There was a strange silence in her ears. Her heart wasn't beating. Maybe someone was screaming.
Danny? Her eyes came up, the world already fading away, looking for her son. Body rapidly going numb and limp, she collapsed.
Darkness claimed her. Cold hands seemed to grab her shoulders and tug her towards her afterlife, pull her soul though a doorway ripped into Heaven, and drop her onto a bed of clouds.
Then there was the nothingness of death.
Forever passed. Or maybe just seconds. Then there was something again. Sensation. A pressure on her back. A coldness lancing through her soul. And the strange quiet of not having a heartbeat.
Somehow her eyes opened. Green. Fuzzy. Empty.
Her hand moved, coming up to press against her face. To rub at her eyes. She could feel her skin, warm and pliable. She could smell her perfume, just a little. Something was wrong. Very wrong.
Slowly she sat up. It hurt, the same deep kind of ache that the elderly get used to and live with the rest of their days. She reached up with white fingers to touch the hole in her shirt, to run her fingers over the dried blood crusting the light blue fabric. Again – pain. But not the sharp agony of a wound. Her hands undid a few of the buttons, fingers clumsy, and peered down at her chest.
Brown, dried blood was smeared everywhere. But through the crusty blood, she could see a green spot where the bullet had entered her chest. Spidery veins trailed away from it, snaking across her pale chest like a web. Her fingers poked and prodded. The web was cold; her skin was warm.
Suddenly becoming aware of her surroundings, she looked up. The world was green and upside down. Doorways floated overhead and bits of rock rose into the sky like balloons. And crouched nearby, face trapped in a strange expression, was the ghost she should have been expecting. He'd been plaguing her for over a year, after all.
"How are you feeling?"
She let her shirt fall closed, bringing her hand up to run through her hair. It was strange, feeling her skin move slightly and the firmness of bones underneath. She didn't think ghosts had that kind of internal structure. She had been expecting something different, although she wasn't sure what.
"Maddie? Do you remember what happened?"
Dragging her focus back to the ghost, she blinked at him. "Why are you here?"
Phantom started down at his hands. "I… wanted to make sure you were alright," he muttered.
She stared at him, startled. The ghost was a powerful creature and – from all her records – confident and cocky. The creature crouched a half-dozen feet away looked shy and broken. It was such a complete 180 change, that she shook her head in confusion. "Why?"
"I…" The ghost broke off with a dismal shrug, looking away. "It's complicated." Then he winced.
Letting her eyes drift away from the ghost – she quietly checked herself, she'd have to stop referring to him that way now that she was dead as well – she gazed down at her fingers. She moved her fingers around, watching the interplay of muscle and bone and skin. It looked so real. She was already rewriting a lot of her theories about ghosts in her head.
"Do you remember what happened?" Phantom pressed. He scooted a bit closer, his green eyes wide and earnest.
"I was at the bank," she murmured, still more interested in her hands than the ghost before her. She reached over and picked up a rock, tossing it up and down a few times. "And there was a bank robber…" she trailed off, the rock falling to the ground as she remembered. "My son. Danny." Her eyes jerked up, caught on Phantom's. "My son! What happened to Danny!?"
The ghost waved his hand placating. "He's fine, I promise. You remember? You got shot?"
Her hand touched the greenish hole through her chest. "Yeah," she whispered. Her mind was still full of images of her son. What he would have to deal with, having watched his mother die. Danny was a strong boy, but she knew how sensitive he was on the inside. This would destroy him. The world started to blur with tears as she thought about it. She wanted desperately to go to him, to find a way out of this world of green and doors and find him… but she was dead. Ghosts shouldn't be in the human world. She knew that deep down in her heart.
"It went through your heart," Phantom said softly.
The ghost hesitated. He shifted, looking flustered. "See, I pulled you into the ghost zone after you got shot. Your heart was gone. Blasted into a hundred pieces. You were dying."
She was still and quiet. Her gaze went back down to her hands. To her wedding ring. A pang of hurt went through her at the loss of her best friend, but she just stared at the wedding band. Why was it still on her hand? Hadn't she died and left it behind?
"Maddie," the ghost said, his voice starting and stopping a few times. "See... I… You… It wasn't your time to die. You weren't supposed to, in the bank."
"So?" She listened to her breath in her lungs. To the gurgle of her stomach. To the solid warmth of the gold ring. And a sickening, terrible sensation landed in her chest. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.
"I didn't want you to die." Phantom sounded like he was near tears. His hands were moving, clenching, almost like he wanted to reach out and grab her. "So I brought you here."
She looked at him. Stared into his eyes that were red-rimmed and raw. His face was a mask of pain and fear. She didn't ask any questions, she just waited, her mind lost and empty of thought.
"And I made you a heart," he whispered.
Her warm, human fingers came up to press at the cold hole in her chest. A cold spike driven through her soul. She shivered.
"You're still alive," he told her, his voice desperate for her to believe. "You have a ghost heart moving your blood around. Keeping you alive." He crept forwards another few inches. "Maddie… you're not dead."
I'm not dead. The thought curled through her mind like a slow and steady breeze. It chased away everything else until she was surrounded by nothing but the silence of her nonexistent heartbeat.
"Say something," came a whisper.
She couldn't find anything to say.
Her eyes blinked. She watched a door drift past. "You gave me a heart," she said slowly, almost as if she didn't understand what the words meant.
"Yeah," the ghost said. He slid forwards a few more inches. It wouldn't take long before he would be sitting in her lap. There was something desperate and broken in his green eyes.
"A ghost heart."
"Ghost energy seems to make human tissue grow faster," he said after a moment. "Your own heart will grow back if you give it time."
"Time," she repeated dully.
"Yeah. You'll have to stay in the ghost zone, but it's not so bad in here." Phantom's voice was cajoling and pleading, almost like a child trying to explain why he should be allowed to have just one more cookie before supper. "You just have to wait."
She stared at her surroundings, trying her best to grasp everything. She was alive – in a way. Her heart was some creation out of ectoplasm. Her movements were restricted to the ghost world. No doubt just one step into the human world and her heart would disintegrate, not having enough energy to survive without the environment of the ghost world.
"There's places you can live. I'll bring you food, and water…"
This was wrong. Her fingers pressed at her chest, desperate for the feel of a pulse under her skin. A voice in the back of her head was screaming that this wasn't right. This wasn'tnatural. Something like this – a creature that was part alive and part dead, a human body with a ghost heart – shouldn't exist. Couldn't exist.
The feeling pervaded every nerve in her body. It ran up and down her arms like spiders, crawled around her spine like caterpillars, and stung her legs like a hive of hornets. It was instinct, buried so deep that she didn't even comprehend why it was. Just that it was.
She shouldn't exist. This wasn't right.
"Maddie?!" Perhaps the ghost saw something in her face, in her eyes. His voice had ratcheted up a few notches.
"This is wrong," she whispered. "You shouldn't have done this."
It wasn't that she wanted to die. Far from it. The thought of seeing her children again, her husband, sent rainbows of happiness through her mind. This was her chance to survive and she was, if nothing else, a survivor. A thin rope thrown to her through impossible happenstances and she was more than happy to grab a hold on it. She hated the thought of dying.
But she shouldn't be alive. It was wrong in so many different ways. Feelings welled up inside of her, feelings she didn't understand or agree with. Thoughts of death. A horrible and unwanted drive to finish dying, like she was supposed to.
It was the natural order of things. To be born, to live, to die. This part-ghost thing wasn't part of the order. Wasn't part of nature. It shouldn't exist. It needed to stop existing – and she knew it on such an instinctive level that she hated it, but knew she couldn't fight it. This thing that she was, this not-quite-human, was dangerous. Against the laws of nature. Something that could break the universe.
She couldn't be allowed to exist.
"No, no, it's okay," Phantom whispered. He'd gotten close enough to pick up her hand, to squeeze her fingers as if to reassure himself that she was still there.
"No, it's not." How could she contemplate killing herself? Her hands shook as she pulled them free of the ghost's grasp. Why should she want to die? What terrible thing was this inside of her, pushing her towards death? Never once in her life had she thought of suicide, only now it pulsed through her every thought, driven by instincts she didn't know she had.
She didn't want to die. Yet she knew, in her soul, that she would kill herself. She had to. Such a thing as her couldn't exist in the world.
"Yeah, it is," the ghost was saying. "See, I'm part human too. And part ghost. I'm like you, kind of. And it's okay." He touched her arm, her shoulder, her leg. Butterfly touches.
She stared at him. The dark thing inside of her, reaching out with demanding claws and fangs to demand her death, stopped in its tracks. "What?" she breathed.
The ghost touched her hand again. She didn't move to pull it away. "I almost died, over a year ago. But I didn't. I'm a ghost and a human." His voice hadn't left the pleading, childish tones.
She shuddered. The thing inside of her arched backwards away from the ghost. The part-ghost. The thing sitting before her, casually breaking all the laws of the universe. Unnatural. Not right. It made her chest twist and clench.
Her head started to shake. It refused to stop moving back and forth.
"It's okay," the ghost said again. He smiled at her, a strange half-smile that clashed with this red-rimmed eyes and the tear streaks on his face. "I'm going to take you somewhere safe, okay? And I'll tell you all about how I ended up like this. You'll be fine, you'll see."
She gazed at him, broken and lost, still numbly shaking her head.
"Come on." He got to his feet and reached out a hand for her to grab. To pull her to her feet.
She didn't know what else to do. The thing inside of her demanded her death. Her mind and soul wanted herself to live. And an unnatural creature was offering her a safe place to think. Slowly, she reached out her hand. Her body shivered when it touched the wrongness of the half-ghost's hand.
The ghost smiled – a real smile.
"You'll be fine," he said again as he pulled her to her feet. "I promise."
She wasn't so sure.