Raven - Part Three
Corbie clicked his beak. "What's so funny, now?" asked Saliya. Corbie gave out a few chirpish croaks. "Of course I don't look anything like a raven, but people appreciate symbolism. They say ravens are the heralds of the netherworld. Isn't that what I'm doing now?"
Corbie cocked his head and studied Saliya with much curiosity. He warbled in a guttural tone. "Oh, you're always teasing me," complained Saliya with a pout. "You weren't sent to be my guide, you were sent to be my tormentor." Corbie cawed and clicked his beak. "What are you talking about? I do have a sense of humor."
Saliya walked over to the desk. She picked up a picture frame. In the photograph were three people smiling out at her. Her mother, her father, and her sister all believed she was dead. Idly, she wondered how Dr. Goethe was going to explain the absence of a body when it came time to bury her.
"I guess, I'll never be able to see them," she said absently. It was starting to sink in that her new existence meant that she could not connect in any way to her old life. Corbie crowed sternly. "I...I just want to see them. One last time. At a safe distance. That would be alright, wouldn't it? It would give me closure, I think."
Corbie shook his head and ruffled his throat feathers. Meanwhile, Saliya took the photograph and put it in the bag with her other items. Lastly, she sat at the desk and powered up her computer. "I think it might be best if I took my laptop with me. I may be a walking undead ghostchaser, but I still need to do research like any other person. First, though, I want to transfer all my files from my desktop to my laptop." Saliya busied herself with transferring her data using an Ethernet connection between both computers. It took a while to transfer so much information, and Saliya occupied the time by searching through other places for anything she might need. In the end, all she really took were her financial papers, the photo of her family, a good luck charm from her grandmother, and the laptop stowed away into it's own carry bag.
Before leaving the room, Saliya wrote out a check. Then, she shouldered the two bags and walked back into the living room. The mood of the ladies had changed since she had been there last. Saliya's roommate looked particularly spooked. Saliya reached out and presented the check to her. "Here, this is a check for next month's rent. I'd advise you to cash it today. Tomorrow, I'm closing out all my accounts."
With a shaky hand, Madeline took the check from Saliya. "What's wrong with you?" asked Saliya.
"Y...you're mother just called me on my cell," said Madeline weakly. "She said that your funeral would be this Friday. I wanted to tell her that you were alright. That you were right here. But, she sounded so certain that you were dead."
Saliya took a deep breath. "I am dead." She took her roommates' hand. The girl's eye went wide as she felt the ice cold flesh. "Madeline, you must forget that you ever saw me here today." She turned towards Madeline's friends who involuntarily took a step backwards. "That goes for you two as well. None of you has ever seen me. Understand?" Just then Corbie cawed very loudly. The girls screamed and ducked their heads, covering them with their arms as if the raven were attacking them. Corbie had never left Saliya's shoulder, but the menace he put forth through his eyes was almost physical.
Saliya turned and headed for the door. After she opened it, she stopped and looked back. "You know, Maddie," Saliya said with a small smile, "you really aren't that bad a person when all is said and done. Try to be nicer to people in the future." With that, she tossed her keys into the living room and exited the apartment, shutting the door behind her. The three women looked down at the small ring of keys on the floor. No one dared to go near them.
* * *
It was a bright, sunny day at the Blessed Acres Cemetery. Rather contrary to Saliya's mood. She stood at a distance watching the rather large party of mourners surrounding the modest looking casket. Saliya's father's face was grim. She had always seen the man look upon her with laughter in his eyes. That laughter was gone. Her mother wept bitterly and openly and leaned on her husband for the strength she seemed to lack. The thing that truly hurt her heart was seeing her sister. She was stoic and expressionless. Yet behind the tearless eyes blazed an anger. Saliya didn't understand why her sister was angry, but she knew that it was an alien emotion that rested upon her. Saliya had always remembered her as a cheerful, happy-go-lucky child. She took her disposition from her father, whereas Saliya was more practical minded like her mother.
As the priest gave the final blessing and sprinkled holy water over the casket, the mourners each filed by to say their final good-byes. Saliya was touched at the large turnout. There were friends there that she hadn't seen in a long time. Most of her immediate family was there, and quite a few relatives that she had never even met before were in attendance. As each person passed, they laid a rose atop the casket.
Eventually, the party of mourners had dispersed. No doubt to attend the traditional repast, where everyone gets to eat their fill of food and talk about the times when Saliya was among them. Once everyone had left, Saliya walked over to the urn filled with long stemmed roses and selected one. She carefully placed it on the casket.
"Did you know the deceased?"
Saliya whirled about in a start. There standing behind her was a priest.
"I'm sorry, my daughter," said the priest with a smile. "I didn't mean to frighten you. In fact, I'm surprised that you can see and hear me."
Saliya took a closer look at the priest. She could make out the chairs that her family had occupied during the service through his legs. "You're a ghost?"
The spectral priest shrugged. "I suppose I am. I've been watching over this cemetery for nearly fifty years."
Saliya blinked. "You've been wandering about for fifty years? Why haven't you been guided onward?"
Again, the priest shrugged. "Maybe I was needed here?"
"Or maybe I was," mused Saliya. "I am Raven. It is my job to help you find your way."
The priest beamed a smile at her. "Truly? That is most welcome news. I have grown quite weary of late."
Saliya nodded to Corbie, who cawed and fluttered up into the air. He didn't pick up the priestly shade as he had the ghost at the hospital. Instead, he led the priest to a mausoleum that was nearby. The raven roosted upon a statue of a saint. It cawed at the priest.
"He wants you to open the door, Father," said Saliya.
The priest looked uncertain. He had never been able to move things on the material plane before. Why should now be any different. Still, he was willing to try. As he grasped the handle on the heavy door, the priest seemed to become more solid while the rest of the world seemed to become more ethereal. The priest pulled the door open and brilliant, yellow light spewed forth from the mausoleum's interior. The light was warm and inviting.
"Blessed be," whispered the priest. He entered into the mausoleum, and the door shut itself behind him. With the spell broken, the cemetery regained its solid physical presence.
"Wow," said Saliya, but that was all she could say. She couldn't describe what she had seen inside the mausoleum. Only that it was a place that she wanted to go to some day. Out of curiosity, Saliya opened the mausoleum door. Yet, instead of the warm, inviting light like before, she saw the dark and dusty interior of the mausoleum. She could just make out the crypts which held the remains of the family that had built the mausoleum. Saliya closed the door once more. Corbie fluttered down from the statue and rested on Saliya's shoulder. He nuzzled her ear affectionately.
"I guess, that's what I gave up when I was chosen to help other pass on," sighed Saliya.
Corbie cawed gently in her ear. "You think so?" asked Saliya. She looked back at the mausoleum door and smiled. "Yes, someday, I will cross over, too."
The two headed back to Saliya's apartment. She had found a place that didn't mind pets and didn't ask a lot of questions about its occupants. It wasn't exactly the most friendly neighborhood, but then, people tended to leave her alone. They could sense that she was no one to be trifled with. Saliya had created new bank accounts for herself under the name Raven Dark. It wasn't an original name, but it served its purpose.
Raven sat at a small desk in her dining room. She was typing away on her laptop while Corbie observed from the back of the chair. "In order to find those who need guiding to the next plane, I have to find them," said Raven to Corbie. "I mean, I can't just go blundering about hoping to run into ghosts." Corbie ducked his head and cawed. "Do? I'm going to have other people find the ghosts for me." Corbie flapped his wings vigorously and cawed in alarm. "Don't get so excited," said Raven. "I'm talking about all those people who see or experience ghosts. If I advertise that I can remove ghosts from places where people believe them to be, then people will call me to have those ghosts removed."
Corbie seemed sullen for a moment. Then, he croaked out a few calls. "I know this isn't what you expected," sighed Raven, "but this is who I am and the time I live in...well, lived in. Technology is the best way to communicate with people. That's why I'm designing this Web site."
Corbie leaned forward and studied the laptop's liquid crystal display. He cawed. "Well, that's kind of the beauty of this thing. Anybody who doesn't have a ghost problem will think it's a joke. Yet, a person who has serious ghost trouble will no doubt be interested in contacting us." Corbie nodded judiciously and cawed softly. "Thanks. I think it's rather clever myself."
After a few more keystrokes, Raven was finally able to complete her new Web site. "There!" she cried triumphantly. "We are officially live. It will be some time before anyone contacts us, but I've already added our domain name to a number of popular search engines. We should get a response in about a week or so."
However, much to Raven's disappointment, no one had written or called after a month. Raven decided that she needed to take up getting small part time jobs to help maintain her finances. Even though she saved a lot of money not buying food because she required no sustenance, she still had to pay for the upkeep of the apartment and keeping the new Web site running.Part Four