And post #3!
I don’t think I’ve ever participated in The Darkroom picture prompt. Like Master Class Monday and Coldly Calculating, this prompt series comes from the brilliant minds behind Our Write Side.
For this prompt, I’ve decided to try moving Provisional Freedom forward a bit, even though I still have no idea what I’m doing with it.
I thought there was still a long way to go before we would stop again. Instead, we come to a door what feels like minutes after starting to walk again. We’re at the end of the tunnel, and while I still haven’t noticed an incline, I can feel we’re at the top of the mountain. My mother confirms this.
Unlike the rest of the cave, this door is made of old wood, with a latch so rusty, I can’t tell what its original color might have been. I’m almost afraid to touch it and that it’ll crumble under my finger tips. My mother doesn’t hesitate to open the door, her fingers coming away stained red after she undoes the latch. When the door opens, the cave is flooded with light from outside.
Following my mother through the door, I struggle to keep my eyes on her while trying not to be blinded by the light. When my eyes adjust, I’m met with the sight of the forest we came from in the distance an the bright blue sky above. A faint sense of vertigo tugs at my stomach, but I push it down, trying to focus on the grass beneath my feet. It’s something of a garden up here, quieter than I expected it to be considering the way the wind blows my hair every which way. I turn to look at the door, only to see it closing behind us before it melds itself into the rock wall. It disappears before I can react.
“Mom? The door is gone.”
“One time use per person. That’s the rule.” She seems unfazed by this, so I try not to panic. Does this mean we can’t get back down? What if we don’t get out?
Instead of voicing my worries, I ask, “So what now?”
“Now, you come with me.” This is a new voice, unfamiliar, but again my mother doesn’t react. It comes from somewhere behind her, and a moment later there’s a figure walking toward us, appearing out of the low clouds that shroud parts of the summit.
“Who are you?”
“You can call me Max.” They bow. A pair of warm, brass-colored eyes look up at me as they stand upright again. I know what they are before they tell me. I can feel it in their voice – and the outfit makes it about obvious.
“An angel? In purgatory? Why?” I look at my mother – how did she manage this?
“They’re your way out of here.” My mother answers, and it takes a moment for me to register her words.
“My way? Don’t you mean ours?”
“No – I was only sent to guide you this far. I can’t go with you.”
“I’ve been dead a long time, Paola. Don’t you remember?” It’s as if her words trigger a flood of memories. She died when I was five. How old am I now? I don’t remember, but I do remember her funeral, all the crying I did.
“Then…then how are you…?”
“We sent her to guide you out of purgatory… ” Max’s voice is soft as they speak. “And to take your place.”
“What?!” I step back, unwilling to get any closer to the angel.
“A soul can’t escape purgatory unless there’s another to replace it. And you’re needed on earth, Paola.” My mother closes the distance between us, cupping my cheek with one hand. She looks like she’s about to cry, but holds back.
My mother simply looks at me, her eyes sullen but attempting to smile. “You’re in a unique position – unprecedented. If you go back, you’ll have extraordinary abilities.”
“And we could really use someone with those abilities right now.” Max takes another step toward me, and this time I stand my ground.
“But I can’t just leave you here.” I look between my mother and Max, eyes hard on the latter. “There has to be something I can do to get her out.”
“She’ll go back to Heaven as soon as you return to purgatory and reclaim your place.” They return my hard glare with a soft look. It’s clear Max is apologetic, and doesn’t seem to like this situation any more than I do.
“You give me your word?”
I look at my mother again before pulling her into a hug. There’s nothing left for me to say and she doesn’t speak, either. Before I can change my mind or protest further, I force myself to walk to Max and take their outstretched hand.
Plot twist! Maybe I’ll have a cross-over. Hmm. I’m not sure where on the timeline this is, but Provisional Freedom and Secondhand Soul definitely exist in the same universe. Definitely didn’t see this coming when I started writing it.
As always, think happy thoughts!