• Chapter 2

    Dear Hope,
    If you have received this letter, then I have passed on to the other realm. I'm sure that you have many questions regarding the nature of this letter but I'm afraid that I cannot address them all. I will, however, try to use this letter as a medium to your introduction into the real world.

    We as humans live in a world surrounded by fundamental powers that drive everything from motor vehicles to human emotions. These "Spirits", as we call them, are beings far beyond our imagination and control. They take many different shapes and faces but are usually unnoticeable by the average human. Whether this is by choice or pure ignorance is unknown.

    I am one of very few people on this Earth who was blessed to have "The Sight." It is the ability to perceive that which we almost always ignore, to see things lurking in dark places, and to avoid the things which would cause us most harm. This ability is not one to be taken lightly, as it also warps the users view of the world at large. You begin to think differently, feel differently, say and do things that you wouldn't normally say or do. It is a powerful gift indeed.

    "The Sight" was begun when Pandora first opened the box given her by the gods eons ago. She unknowingly unleashed many spirits upon this realm with the power of her curiosity. Some of the spirits were good but most of them were very malevolent spirits that aimed to torture and make difficult the lives of people. The spirit Elpis, the last in the box, used her power to grant a few mortals this special gift. It is my belief that this gift was granted in order to give us a chance against the evils that Pandora had wrought upon mankind.

    "The Sight" is a special gift in that it can be transferred to one blood relative of the next generation thus preserving it and the power that comes with it. I know that you will probably not believe a word of this but do not fear, proof shall be had soon enough.

    This power should always be used with the greatest discretion. It is a power that upsets the balance of what our civilization is built on and thus as I have stated is not something that should be taken lightly or regarded with only fleeting thought. Remember that in sight there is belief, and in belief there is control.

    You may ask, my dear niece, why all of these details about such a fantastical gift are being relayed to you. Well, it is my Will, that upon your completion of this letter, "The Sight" will be passed on to my blood relative, Hope Genevieve Ryan.

    Your Aunt Sophia Williams

    "I knew it," I breathed with a small sigh of relief, "the old bag was a loon." I looked at Cash sitting patiently in her chair.
    "Don't say that!" She made a deep frown, pushing out her lips, "what does it say?"
    I eyed the letter once more, skimming through it quickly, "Its just some banter about my poor crazy aunt's superstitions." I dropped down onto the floor (as there were no more chairs). My built up anxiety had only ended in utter disappointment. The letter explained nothing, it meant nothing. It looked as if Aunt Sophie put a lot of work into it, but for what? To drive me as mad as her? Cash could only stare at me sadly. I guessed that she had caught the hint. This time she took it and fell silent.
    That was when it caught my eye. The flitting. Something diminutive in size buzzed around the room silently. It made no noise, but my eyes could see it easily. Its movements were erratic yet graceful. It seemed as if it was apart of this world and apart from it at the same time, like a person superimposed over an image. It buzzed for a few seconds more before alighting on Cash's shoulder. An elongated beak, small twitching wings, and a soft feathery body, it was a hummingbird. The strangest thing though, was that it's body was a light pink while the head and wing tips were dark ash.
    I looked at Cash who was now staring at me very hard, "what are you looking at?" came her voice.
    "What do you mean?" I said, distracted by the small bird again.
    "Well, you started looking around the room as if you were following something, and now you're staring at me like I'm the ghost of Christmas past...are you alright Hope?" she asked, slightly tilting her head.
    "Don't you feel it?" was all I could say, "On your shoulder, don't you feel the bird sitting there?" The hummingbird looked directly at me and tilted its head along with Cash's. "Its looking straight at me." I couldn't help but be bewildered, these types of birds just didn't exist in the middle of the city, it was impossible, and I'm sure I would have seen it fly into the apartment.
    "Hope, I really have no idea what you're talking about," Cash said examining her shoulder. She dusted it off lightly and pulled her suit jacket at the shoulder, she really didn't see the bird sitting right there.
    This must be some kind of game, I thought, Cash is trying to trick me with this weird bird, but where did she get it from? When did she pick it up? And why does its body match her clothing? I shook my head and stared at the ground in disbelief, was I going crazy?
    "Hope, I um, think I'm going to head out now," she said with a guilty look, "I think you should rest up you look kind of pale." She gathered her purse and stood up slowly, "I'll see you tomorrow, but if I don't I'll just tell the guys at work that you're ill alright?" I nodded forebodingly, "If you need anything you have my cell number!" She gave a slight smile and turned toward the door, "Oh and Hope, please don't be afraid to call, I really want to help you through...whatever this is. When you're ready to talk just let me know." She left the apartment promptly and the strange bird flitted right after her.
    I could only sit on the floor bewildered. Cash sounded serious, she really couldn't sense the hummingbird at all, and the fact that it matched her clothes was eerie. I picked up Aunt Sophie's letter and read through it again before going to sleep. Maybe Aunt Crazy wasn't as crazy as I thought...

    * * *

    The alarm clock betrayed me again and my eyelids slowly fluttered open. They focused then unfocused, then focused again. It was like every other morning and my body was too tired to move. I grunted and forced my eyes open only to see a strange looking obese child sitting on my stomach. It looked like an accumulation of black smoke that formed the shape of a fat kid eating an ice cream cone also made of the same smokey material. The kid looked down at me and giggled. He wasn't heavy, in fact, I couldn't feel him at all, but it was as if he was holding me down. My body was too tired to get up and this kid was probably the reason. I remembered Aunt Sophie's letter. If she was right, and spirits came in many shapes, then could this smoke-kid be a spirit? I decided that the only rational thing to do would be not to panic and handle this situation how I would if it were a real kid.
    "Hey! Fat a**!" I yelled at the black swirling mass, "Get the hell off of me!" and just like that the fat kid began to cry, his form wavered and dispersed like smoke dissipating into the air until he was completely gone, his scream lingered for a few seconds before fading into silence. I immediately felt the laziness in my body lift and I bolted upright in bed. I felt as energetic as ever, the sleepiness had gone completely away. I went to the mirror and checked myself. This time though, I looked a little disheveled, the bags were there, the eyes, the hair, but I still felt a little weirded out by that fat kid. So many questions raced through my head. Did that mean that the fat kid was gone forever? Is that fat kid the reason why people can't get up in the morning? And if you curse at fat kids do you really feel better afterwards? I couldn't help myself with the last one...I needed a break from all of this strangeness.
    I got ready to head out to the office, and then debated whether or not work was a good idea. After Cash's strange bird, and the fat kid, who knew what else would be waiting outside of my apartment? Who knew what else would find its way in? I really thought about just relaxing at home and taking it easy, Cash did say she would cover for me and I wanted to ponder things a little more. Then I opened my refrigerator, it protested the idea of playing hooky. I stared in at the orange juice and crackers...work it was.
    By the time I got to the bus stop a purple cat had offered me five dollars, a woman tripped over a snake made of smoke, and a man who obviously had a bad cold had smoke in the shape of a dog latched to his butt by the teeth, of course, he didn't notice it. I concluded then, sitting in silence, that the spirits made of smoke were the bad ones, and the ones that had color were the good ones (unless that cat was trying to trick me). That meant that Cash's hummingbird was a good spirit, and it made sense because she wasn't harmed when it flitted about her.
    "Oh!" she always knew when she wasn't needed, "I see you've made it today! I hope you're feeling well," Cash smiled widely at me and took a seat on the bench.
    Today, her skirt suit was a dark olive and the hem of her jacket and skirt was gold. She also wore golden buttons on the jacket and her shoes were the same dark olive color with golden heels. Her gold hoop earrings twinkled in the morning sun and to make things worse the small pendant she wore was shaped like a cat's butt. The hummingbird sat on Cash's shoulder again, but this time, it was dark olive and the feathers on its head and wings were golden. I blinked and then stared again in disbelief. I knew that by now, I shouldn't have been surprised by this. I mean, what were the odds of a hummingbird that was ash and pink in the first place? So it always matched her clothes. I wondered what it meant as the bus pulled around the corner and the three of us got on.
    "What do you mean by that?" she said quietly as the bus turned the first corner, "you can SEE spirits? I knew you should have stayed home today, you must not be well." Cash turned forward in her seat and placed her hands in her lap. She had always been a bit frivolous but never nonsensical. I sighed heavily, she needed proof. I looked right across the aisle to a man in business attire on his cell phone and the "thing" that sat on him.
    "Do you see that man there?" I said tipping my head in his direction, "I can see the shape of a naked woman sitting on his lap, that could mean that his current phone conversation has something to do with sex, listen in."
    Cash leaned a little toward the man and snapped back in place not even a second later. She stared at me wide eyed and mouthed 'you're right'. She straightened out again and stared forward, eyes still wide. I took this opportunity of silence to think over everything. Not-so-crazy Aunt Sophie had given me the ability to see (and interact with?) spirits. But that still left so many questions, firstly, why were there so many? The list was impossibly long, and would only grow as the day went on.
    I couldn't help but continue to ponder as we walked into the Fria building. It was not surprising that the interior was crawling with spirits. Smokey ones and colorful ones hovering over people, walking around the building, floating aimlessly. I'm sure that they were all doing something or other. As soon as I entered the door, though, they all turned and looked at me. All of the spirits stopped hovering, stopped moving, stopped floating, and focused on me. I could feel the weight of their eyes, I mean I knew that I didn't wash this particular pants suit since last week but were spirits really such fashion police? All of this was getting too intense for me. I covered my face and power walked to the elevator, if they started following me, I would start cursing again. It obviously had some effect, and it made me feel good too.
    Our office on the fifth floor was empty except for Benny George. Benny was the kind of guy who didn't know how to sleep, and if he did, no one knew when he did it. He was always in the office, including after hours and was constantly ticking away at the computer. Benny reminded me of an owl in the way that he would c**k his head every now and again before continuing to tick away. He was a tall man, very skinny, dark-skinned and always wore wire-rimmed glasses.
    Benny was also the go-to-guy, whenever I couldn't finish my work for some reason or another I would simply give Benny a buzz and he would finish it before I could even hang up the phone. He was extremely efficient and the only reason he hadn't been promoted yet was because he was needed on the work floor to do all of the finances, taxes and electronic categorizing of the cases that we worked with in the office. In a way I kind of felt sorry for him, in the other, he kept the business running, so it couldn't be avoided.
    I also felt kind of sorry for him for another reason, he was surrounded by spirits. I saw an over-sized bright blue ant lying on his lap, its antennae were typing along with his fingers, hitting the same keys that he was, it was quite a sight. Behind him was a smoke blurb in the shape of a coyote, and it looked like it was sleeping. On the floor, however, was another fat kid, but this one was a little girl with pigtails and she had a lollipop. The fat girl was sitting under the desk crying instead of sitting on him like her relative was to me this morning. She balled and balled but didn't dissipate like mine did. I thought about swearing at the spirits but just laughed out loud instead.
    "So hows the work going Benny?" I said after I had calmed down and sat down at my desk. Cash had already gone off to her office on the far side of the floor.
    "Its so-so," he said, not blinking from his computer screen, "I'm getting kind of tired though," The little fat girl stopped crying and looked up at Benny expectantly. The ant would not have it though, it looked as if it pinched Benny's leg. He stopped ticking and scratched it unconsciously, "but I have a lot of work to do, no time for sleeping." The fat girl went back to crying and I could only laugh again.
    "Benny, do you see or feel anything around you?" I said raising an eyebrow, I stacked my two cases in the "working on" folder on my desk and rested my head on on my hand.
    "Um, no, why does Kitty think its my birthday again? He brushed off his head nonchalantly. Cash, the poor fool, had always had a crush on Benny, since she was hired. From her first day she flagrantly tripped over her own feet in front of him and dropped pens by him only for him to reach down (while still typing with one hand) and toss it back to her. Last week, she thought is was his birthday and bought a cake to work only to trip again and have it land in his hair.
    "I swear that cake was nasty, I had to take two baths," He said before going back to ticking. I decided that I should get back to my own work as well.
    I opened the first folder and began ticking of my own. Beginning with the first case, if I started now, I could probably have it ready for Flanagan tomorrow, the second one would have to wait until next week.
    That was when the devil walked in. The elevator doors opened to reveal the disgustingly over payed Michael Flanagan. He looked like a bomb with a really short fuse. He wore a tight black suit that looked like it was going to explode and barely fit over his rotund figure. His shoes also looked too small, and his behemoth feet were ready to burst out and get some air at any time. His small always red face was ready to explode, like he was holding his breath. He disgusted me quite frankly, but he signed my checks too, what a conundrum.
    "Ryan!" He snapped as soon as he saw me, "I want both of those cases on my desk by tonight!"
    I rolled my eyes so hard that I thought they would stick that way, "Mr. Flanagan these are long cases and I can't guarantee that they'll both be done by tonight, I thought that if I focused on this one I could finish it by tomorrow and then..."
    "You WILL finish them by tonight, or you will pack up your desk." Flanagan shuffled into his office and closed the door. I gave him the finger through his office window (which he unfortunately didn't see) and continued my work. I knew that Flanagan would never fire me; I had worked here for a year already, but there was a chance he wasn't bluffing. I looked at the two folders and sighed heavily when a thought crossed my mind. I looked up at Benny, but before I could even speak, he did.
    "Already finished the second one, I'm e-mailing it to you now," he said, still focused on his screen, "just finish the one you're already working on." I slumped into the back of my chair with a heavy sigh of relief, Benny truly was a life saver.
    "Thanks Benny, I owe you one." I got back to work and then another thought crossed my mind. But this one, Benny probably wouldn't be able to beat me to. I looked down at the crying fat pig-tailed girl and 'psst' at her. She looked at me and wobbled around Benny's chair to my side. I bent down and whispered to her.
    "Hi there," she stopped crying looked up before slowly waving her lollipop at me. "I have a favor to ask of you," she nodded solemnly, I guess the smokey ones weren't all bad. "That big man in that office there," I said, pointing to Flanagan, "is really very tired, in fact he desperately needs some sleep, do you think you could help me?" Her smokey eyes lit up and she nodded energetically before stopping and staring at me quizzically.
    "But what about Benny?" her voice was really gritty and deep and sounded like stones being ground together. "He hasn't slept in 3 days and its my job to make sure he sleeps." She looked up at me again.
    "Well," I said, kind of excited to be conversing with a spirit, "Benny has lots of work to do and I'm guessing that as long as that large ant is there, he won't be going to sleep. Think of this as an extra job for now, do you think you can do it for me?" The little fat girl looked a little reluctant but nodded her head slowly and giggled.
    The smokey fat girl walked through Flanagan's office door and sat right on his lap, I bet she was giggling the entire time. In a matter of seconds the hippo was asleep.
    "Would you look at that," Benny said, "Flanagan's asleep," he stopped ticking and peered through the office window. And what a sight it was, he was leaned back in his chair snoring so loud that I could hear it through the soundproof walls of his office. A small drop of spit hung from his open mouth.
    "And Benny, how do you feel?" I said staring at him again and smiling.
    "I feel really good, I think I can finish all of the papers for next next month too!" A small geekish gleam found his eye and he went back to typing, even more vigorously than before.
    I looked back through the office window and the fat girl blew me a kiss from Flanagan's lap. I winked at her and went back to work, I did have to finish this by tonight after all