(Note 2 – I split this chapter in half to make for shorter reading. This is the second half.)
After Jessica left, I had a quick dinner and then took a walk. Walking always helps me think things through and clear my mind. After that conversation with Jessica, I certainly needed to clear my mind. I had been avoiding School Street since the first time I ran into Mrs. Adams and so, as usual, I stayed out of the residential section and walked into the village. Main Street is always empty after 5 PM, so i had the village to myself.
I turned around. Izle was coming up behind me.
“How are you doing this evening?” I asked.
“Fine. Are you OK? I saw you go in the mill with that woman. Let me look at you.”
Izle squinted and slowly scanned me from head to toe. I had changed into jeans and a sweatshirt, but I could only think of Jessica’s once over when I first saw her that afternoon. Yet Izle was not flirting or being sexual at all. There was something else. It was like she was trying to see inside of me.
“Look at me,” she said. Her voice was forceful, unlike I’d ever heard it before.
I looked and her eyes grew big as she stared into mine. I had never noticed it, but her eyes were odd, almost purple in color, and had a strange fire. I turned away after a few seconds.
“Good, you’re OK. I was worried.”
“Worried? About what?”
“Why, Thomas of course.”
“Who are you? I see that you are Gill. I had to check. If you were Thomas, it is still early enough to bring Gill back. Maybe.”
“You’re talking about possession? Something like that?”
“I don’t like those terms, but yes. A spirit can inhabit a body. It can take it by force, which is always bad for the one forced out, or it can take it by a mutual agreement, like Jessica Wallace and Martha Goode.”
“What? Jessica Wallace, uhm, actually she’s Jessica Franks now, and Martha Goode? What are you talking about?”
Izle looked closely at me. Her purple eyes didn’t seem to blink enough.
“You really don’t know? There are few closer to her than you.”
I shook my head.
“Jessica and Martha made an agreement years ago. Part of Jessica lives up at the mansion and part of Martha lives in Jessica’s body. It’s how Martha gets her news about town, how she knows what’s going on. Sometimes you see her and she is all Jessica, and sometimes she is all Martha, but usually it’s a mix.”
“That’s just plain…”
“It is not crazy. Here is the thing to remember. The spirit can only take a body by force if the person’s guard is down. It is actually not good for either the spirit nor the person when that happens. There is a long time of adjustment and the spirit can be kicked out during this period. But once it is over, the original person is dead. How long? It can be weeks or months or even years. But if the person is weak, it could be days.”
“Doesn’t sound good. And then the spirit is just like that person?”
“Almost. There are always problems. How well can someone else act like you? Do your job? Particularly if your mind and body don’t want them there. A spirit will only do it if forced, for once that body is gone, so are they. If they can’t use the body to accomplish their goals, the reason they stayed on Earth instead of going to the Other Side, then it will never be accomplished. They will become a half-shade. They will stay here forever and relive their misery every day. Every day will seem like forever and there is no end to it. Ever. They will only take a body by force if they know they’ll win.”
“OK, so hopefully I’m safe.” Something about Izle always creeped me out. She talked spirits, about the dead, and about angles all of the time. But for some reason, this was worse than usual because I could almost understand her. I wanted to turn and run away.
“Be vigilant, particularly around that woman.” She hissed when she said “that woman”.
“She wanted to force her husband to have an agreement with Thomas. When her husband understood who Thomas really was, he refused. Thomas tried to take him anyway, so he had a heart attack and died.”
“OK. I’ll be careful. What is the agreement like?”
“An agreement is a temporary thing. The body’s original spirit is not harmed. It can take many forms and happen in many ways. The main idea, of course, is for the spirit to fulfill its purpose, but if it doesn’t, it won’t become a half-shade, but will return to its previous form. Of course there are levels of it, but any agreement is far better for both sides than a forced possession.”
“And you say Jessica is in agreement with Martha? It doesn’t make sense. What does she get from it?”
“I don’t know what Jessica Wallace gets. She does partially live up at the mansion, but part of her lives her life. Of course her life is very different from what it would have been. Martha made sure that she would be in a position so nobody would figure it out. That idiot, Nate Franks, will never know. He’s an insensitive and can’t see. You would have figured it out if you had married her. And if Jessica suddenly stopped acting like Jessica, then people would have noticed. I don’t know why people haven’t anyway, though, since she is like a puppet going through the motions or acting like Jessica while she clearly isn’t.”
“Uhm, yeah. Jessica does act odd, but she has since she was a teen. Uhm, yeah…”
“But you don’t believe me.”
“It is odd and I haven’t had time to wrap my head around it. But…”
“It isn’t odd. Her acting how she does is what’s odd, and it’s because she is Martha pretending to be Jessica.”
“How do you know these things?”
“The angels taught me.”
“And why did they choose you to teach?”
“Because I am one who lives in both worlds. We all do to a certain extent, or most of us do. I live on the Other Side much, much more than most. My opposite, Galvin, doesn’t at all, which is why Galvin is Galvin. You are much closer to me. You can see if you only open your eyes.”
“Of course. Why else do you think everyone is try to recruit you? Jessica might have been closer than you, which is why Martha was able to make an agreement so easily with her. That lady,” she spit the word ‘lady’, “might also be closer, but she works for evil. You are the balance point and will decide it all. And there are other players, both for good and ill.”
“And Nate, he’s…?”
“Nate, besides being an idiot, is an insensitive, like Galvin. Maybe not as much as Galvin, but he can’t fathom an Other Side, let alone see those on the Other Side. He was a perfect person for Jessica to use to hide Martha. Unfortunately for her, it meant that she had to hide herself as well.”
“So, what you are saying is…”
“No more. That is enough. I told you too much, far too much for now. You must learn to open your eyes and truly see before you learn more. The world of the Other Side is all around us, and you do have the ability. Use it.”
I was about to say something else when Izle turned and quickly walked away.
I turned back to my walk. On the corner, I saw two men. As I drew closer I recognized them as Mr. Adams and the black man I’d seen before.
“Ah, don’t listen to her,” Mr. Adams said. “She’s crazy.” He winked and they both started to laugh.
“Uhm, yeah, thanks for the advice,” I said, but there was no longer anyone there. I walked on but avoid the mill.
I don’t remember my dreams that night, but I know they were strange.