Her daughter’s face was young and alive, but her hazel eyes gave away her thoughts, glazed and somber. She had come on Halloween, both of their favorite holidays. Nancy’s daughter knew her fondness for all things that went bump in the night, no matter how much they scared the girl when she was young. Horror movies were so frequent in the tiny household that the young girl, never having seen the movies, began to learn when not to enter the room by identifying the music alone. As she grew older, she developed her own love for the spirit of Halloween. She loved wild fantasies found in her novels of the magical and supernatural, reveling in the impossibilities as opposed to Nancy’s delight in the thrills of a scare.
Beneath her long black coat and hat, the girl was still shivering. She held a single flower, a daisy, between her reddened hands. October wasn’t usually cold, but occasionally winter came early on Long Island. Nancy supposed the daisy was from her garden. She had always planted daisy’s outside the girl’s window since she was young, one of the few flowers that enjoyed the crispiness of the fall season.
The girl looked up when she stopped walking and her eyes and mouth opened wide at the sight of Nancy. Without saying a word, she hesitantly took a step forward and held out the flower to Nancy with her left hand. The two rings on her ring finger sparkled in the rays of the falling sun, reflecting the pink and orange sky.
Nancy reached out and grabbed the flower, shoulders falling as she grabbed it. She smiled, this time one that spread across her whole face and danced in her eyes. The young woman smiled back, the same one she had since she was a little girl.
Nancy opened her mouth to speak but something was moving in the distance through the trees. It was the Shadows. The sun determined that her time was limited as it was, but Nancy knew their presence meant even less time. She couldn’t bear to part from her daughter and back to her lonely hovel. The young woman continued to look at her, brows furrowed, unable to speak, but still out of confusion rather than fear. Her daughter couldn’t see the Shadows, Nancy realized, not yet anyway. She hung on for a second longer to absorb everything before moving back.
That instant was just enough for a shadow to sneak up behind the young woman and start to rise from the ground. It was small and not as imposing as Nancy expected, with rounded features and big yellow eyes. But one look into them and Nancy saw a flicker of pain and longing. Before she could blink, it grew larger and its eyes grew darker seemingly dancing with flames. The yellow was tainted with orange, it’s melancholy laced with anger, before turning red with hatred. Nancy knew she had to leave. Something grabbed at her ankle and she spun to find another lost soul, it’s big yellow eyes staring up at her, looking to steal away her foothold on Earth. Luke emerged from the grass and latched onto the Shadow, tearing and throwing the thing into the distance. He ran back towards the portal and gave Nancy a hard look.
Nancy pulled herself up straight and hurriedly started to descend the stairs through the grass. Though her time was limited, she couldn’t help but look back. A young man came up the girl and placed his arms around her waist. She was pointing at the headstone and speaking animatedly about something, their meeting, Nancy supposed. Their peace was more important than her selfish desires. Nancy’s face twisted in a pang as she turned her back.
Her whole body was through the window in the middle of staircase, except her hands, still holding the flower. She wanted to take the daisy with her, but the flower wouldn’t come back through the ground, it stayed put as though there was some sort of an invisible barrier. Yellow eyes peered through the other side of the window and reached out with sharp claws to grab her hands. She quickly pulled them back through, leaving the flower behind.
* * * *
A few days later, Nancy opened her door to find the same flower poking out through two cobblestones. A bee flew over to indulge in its fruits and she smiled at the faint sound of its buzzing. Everything she desired would come in time, she just needed the patience to weather the storm. This wasn’t the end of a road; it was the beginning. She smiled, recalling the gatekeeper’s remark. She had all the time in the world, this new world, to watch and wait.
* * * *
There is a town beneath the grass, bustling with plants, animals, and people, that reflects an empty and somber one above. Some people never make it to their town, and their souls continue to wonder, becoming lost to themselves. In this town are the remnants of many different lives, some whose stories are known 6 feet above, others whose have been forgotten 6 feet below. Though they have found their peace, they still long for their loved ones who walk among the living, some who have forgotten them and others who witness their presence, if only for a moment. As for Nancy, even as time went on her garden continued to grow. Her daughter visited often, leaving her letters of the life and love she experienced, until they could meet again.