Some said that she was predisposed to an affinity for the dead because her own mother had died shortly after birthing her. Others thought it had to do with the museum her grandfather started, filled with dead things. Some said it was her name. For her part, Tourmaline, a name for the color of night, didn’t believe any of it. She’d been too young when her mother died for her to remember her, and the museum burned down before she was even born. Still, her affinity for those who’ve passed beyond the pale couldn’t be denied. Nor would she want to disavow those she considered her closest friends.
The salt encrusted skull rattled around in the trunk of his car. Too fast. Can’t slow down. He pressed on stepping harder on the gas pedal. Time wasn’t just of the essence, in this case, time was indeed everything.
She’d met her demise on a stormy night after boating all day. Too far out to beat the sudden squalls, she struggled for hours against the waves and wind only to succumb as her dinghy crashed into the reef a mere dozen feet from shore. Now, on the eve of Resurrection Day, her spirit sought to reanimate the old bones once more. That is, if he could return her skull to the exact location where she died.
The experiments have all been successful. From the earliest trials with the fly, through the lower mammals: mouse, dog, up to chimpanzee, the evidence is clear: unchanged, normal. I have learned all I can without placing a human in the warp chamber. Only with that leap of faith can we move forward with a true warp drive and claim our place in the universe. How can the beaurocrats not see how important this is? Why to they insist on blocking me? The protests are nothing, small words from small minds. If they won’t let me experiment on a willing participant, they can do nothing to prevent me from experimenting on myself.
He entered the chamber, engaged the magnetic levitation to counter the effects of gravity, powered up the warp field, and felt nothing. At first. The light in the room shifted, bit by bit, toward the red, bringing a smile to his lips.
Normal. All of the sensors indicated he and the warp chamber were within expected limits. The temperature felt like it was rising, but the thermometer readings had not changed. Curious, there was no indication that any of the previous subjects were affected in the way they interpreted their environment.
The red-shift continued, drenching the room in a dark blood-color, and he began to sweat. Enough. I’ve proved it works. As he reached for the controls, he encountered a stony surface, a stalagmite rising from the floor in place of the console. Small wavers at the corner of his vision blossomed into flame and smoke. The clean scientific interior of the warp chamber had been replaced with a scene from the inferno.
What is happening to me? He rubbed his eyes, shook his head to clear his thoughts. When he opened his eyes, a giant fly buzzed as it hovered in front of him. “What is going on?” he said.
“Welcome to Hell,” buzzed the fly. “What did you expect when you escaped the confines of your universe? This is what lies beyond the pale.”
“No, this is not possible. The mouse, the dog, even the chimp all came through this unchanged, no sign of insanity. You are not real!” He pushed away at the apparition, but the fly batted his hands away.
“This is truly what separates man from the rest of the kingdom: the animals live and die, but you have fate and judgment awaiting you.” The fly buzzed closer, it’s proboscis jutting in and out, tasting the face of the man, thrusting into his mouth, drowning out his screams.
Step by step, the wet sand is smooth from the night’s tide, his bare heels sinking deep as he walks, step by step, even as the small waves of the receding tide seek to erase his traces, dragging the grains of sand out to sea, just as the waves erased her traces, step by step, as she crossed over from the realm of the dry land to that of the sea, leaving him on the shore, unable to follow, suspended in that place between both realms, a place where he can balance with each step by step.
There exists, in his list of draft posts, a particular item of curiosity. At first glance it appears to be a blank post, untitled and unpublished, as if it had been created by accident and left there, an unnecessary appendage of no value. But to those who knew home best knew there must more to it. He’d never leave an accidental post in the queue for so long. Eventually his freakish desire for order would compel him to delete the post or make use of it and actually write something with it. As it turns out, that’s precisely what he did. He wrote something. He wrote something very private, and then he paused, long enough for the editor to automatically save his work as a draft. Once saved, he erased everything and waited again until the post was saved a second time. Checking the revision history revealed his hidden post, another attempt at asking for forgiveness for something even he couldn’t bring himself to put into words. Still, they all suspected, and the presence of the letter, hidden from view, only cemented the conviction in their hearts and minds of his guilt.