This is an crossposting of the Worm fanfiction Speak with the Dead, originally posted on SpaceBattles, under the account name 'Ziel.'
The story ran from May 2014-May 2015, before being prematurely discontinued. It represents my first full length fanfiction. While ambitious, it suffered from a severe lack of planning and a number of other issues that come with a first time writing project.
Eventually, the issues piled up, and I found myself struggling to continue it. I had many, many ideas for where the story was to go, but the time and effort it would take to get there weren't worth it for a project I found myself less interested in the longer I worked on it.
Some of the OC characters here may make reappearances in future works, but I can't say where or when.
May She Know Peace Now
That was it? The totality of my existence summed up in five words. I'd bet money that Dad hadn't picked them. He hadn't picked Mom's inscription either. He'd been too torn up to choose.
I'd kept my distance from him after my death. Didn't want to see him grieve again, mostly. It was just too hard to deal with when I couldn't do anything. Couldn't talk to him, couldn't hug him, couldn't apologize for all the things I'd done wrong, couldn't- dammit.
I swung a kick at my headstone. My foot passed through ineffectually, and I went off-balance and toppled over onto my grave. My hand sank up to the wrist in the ground before I frantically pulled it away. I didn't know how this ghost thing worked, but getting too close to my grave seemed like a bad idea.
Instead, I rolled onto the grass beside it and sat. I hadn't expected it, but just being here, seeing my grave, was making it real to me. I'd forgotten, but the same thing had happened with Mom. It hadn't been real until I saw the grave, and known that it was really, truly over.
Part of me wanted to cry, to break down sobbing at what had become of my life, but I pushed it down. Now would be the right time though. To cry over having died at 15, in a fucking locker at fucking Winslow High, because my former best friend had gone off the deep end and decided that I was better as a punching bag than a friend.
The grave was looking fuzzy now, but I couldn't tell why. I focused instead on how I'd never told Dad about my problems, and how he'd never forgive himself for what happened to me. God, he was all alone now. How was he going to manage? We'd both fallen apart after Mom, but we'd at least had each other.
My throat felt tight, and my eyes burned. How could I even feel all of that if I was a ghost? Was this seriously it? I was stuck as a ghost and now what? Was I supposed to haunt my grave or something? F-fuck, what the hell kind of life was this?
"May She Know Peace Now." How could I?! How could I be happy when I'd fucked everything up so badly? Where was the justice that things turned out like this? How was any of this okay?
What about Dad? What about his peace?
The last time I'd been home, Dad had been wandering from room to room, looking lost. Like he didn't even know where he was anymore. He was alone now. Totally, utterly alone, surrounded by memories of the family he didn't have anymore.
For the first time in two years, I let the tears come.
I came to next to my grave, curled up in a ball on the grass. The sky was twilight, headed quickly for darkness now. I scrubbed my puffy, tear-stained face with my hands. What did it even matter? No one could see.
I dragged myself to my feet. I was tired, and my body ached from being curled up for so long. In the distance, I could see the last few graveyard visitors leaving.
I'd been sleeping in my bed at home. I couldn't touch the sheets or anything, but I could lay on it if I focused. But I couldn't do that now. It just didn't feel right to linger in my house like that now that I was… Dad was going to sell my bed eventually anyway. And all my things. And it'd be like I never existed but for this gravestone-
I cut off that train of thought before I started crying again. I was too tired to cry anymore. And with that, I walked aimlessly toward Brockton Bay. I skirted the other graves. It didn't feel right to trample across someone else's body. When I got to the iron railing that ringed the cemetery, I just walked through it and kept going.
I'd wished I was invisible sometimes. Mostly at school. But now that I actually was, it sucked. I was completely alone in the world. Like Dad. I couldn't think about that right now either. Anything but that.
No one looked at me as I walked through the streets. People went straight through me on the sidewalk. After some hesitation, I walked through a line of busy traffic. Literally through it. The cars felt like a strong breeze as they passed through me, but I was unharmed.
I had nowhere to go, so I kept walking even as it got dark. Most of the foot traffic disappeared, gradually replaced by Brockton's seedier elements.
The city seemed to come alive at night. Like it was more honest about what it was. Instead of tourists, we had white supremacist thugs and gang bangers. I stood and watched a group of men in Empire colors as they congregated around a fire barrel. It was only when I saw their breath in the air that realized that I wasn't cold. I knew it was cold, but I didn't feel cold.
I left them after a short time. They were mostly shooting the shit, and I didn't really want to hear what a bunch of Nazis talked about when they were together. I cut through an alley and ended up on a side street in the docks.
A tall girl in a jacket was walking her dogs down the block. None of them were leashed, but I was a ghost, so it didn't matter. I made to move by her, but the dogs all began snarling and barking at once.
They clustered around the girl, baring their fangs at… me? But they couldn't… One of them lunged, and I stumbled back in alarm. The dog passed through me like I wasn't there. It landed, turned, and then circled around, still staring at me.
"Brutus, heel!" The girl yelled. She snapped her fingers at the dog. She had the other two by their collars, and was holding them back from jumping at me. "Angelica, no!"
Could they smell me? Was that it? I darted away from the dogs, crossing the street as fast as I could. Brutus made to follow, but the girl whistled sharply and he returned to her side. I looked back from the other side of the street. The girl was standing there, still looking around, with the dogs circling her protectively.
I cut down a dark alley to get away. As much as I wanted someone to notice me, I didn't like the idea of getting mauled by dogs. The new alley was almost pitch black, and stank of old garbage. Up ahead I could see the end, illuminated by the dim bulb of a safety light. I sped up, wanting to be out of the alley and-
I bumped into someone and fell. I could tell I'd landed in a puddle, but my ghostliness actually came in handy for once, and I was perfectly dry. That was sort of- holy shit I just bumped into someone.
I scrambled around whoever I'd hit and headed for the light. It was only when I'd reached the circle of light that I looked back. I didn't see anyone. The alley was dark, but I should at least have been able to see a person there.
I kept staring. There was no one… but… there. I had to look carefully, but there was a shape in the darkness. Not a person, but almost the outline of someone.
"Hello?" I whispered.
Silence. And then slowly, the shape drifted forward. It wasn't much clearer as it walked into the light. It was so faint that it was barely visible. Less than a shadow. Little more than a distortion in the air. My heart was pounding, with fear or excitement I couldn't tell. Was this- could this be another ghost?
The shadow moved until it was right in front of me. It towered over me. And it was broad; it gave off an almost palpable aura of strength. It was hazy, but the shape of it seemed vaguely male. How did it- (he?) see me? Did I look like a shape to it?
I was still pondering what to do when it stretched out an arm. I drew back, but it continued undeterred. Inexorably, it reached for me. I had the briefest sensation of cold as its fingertip touched me, and then the shape was gone. It had vanished like it was never there.
"What the hell?"
I looked around the alley to see where it had gone. Nothing there. I headed for the end of the alley, trying to put the weird giant ghost behind me. I made it as far as the street when pressure suddenly welled inside me. I fell to my knees, feeling like I was about to burst. It didn't hurt, but it was overwhelming, like something was trying to escape from the very fabric of my body.
I managed to hold the pressure down for only a few moments. The instant I lost concentration, it poured out of me. I gasped; it felt like all my energy was draining out of me. Not strength, but vitality- like I was actually dying again. I grasped feebly at it, but it flowed on heedlessly.
I cried out as I felt my body going cold. Not again. Not like this. The cold crept up my neck and I knew that if it reached my head, I'd die for real. I pushed against the waves of cold with all I had. It wasn't an act of force, but of will. I demanded that my body hold on; that I not die. That I keep going.
I kept the cold at bay, but just barely. It ringed the middle of my neck like a noose. And I was getting weaker and weaker by the second. It was only a matter of time before I got too tired to fight back. A single tear rolled down my cheek as I strained to hold on just a little longer.
My strength faded, and the cold began moving inexorably upwards. Inch by inch, it sank into my body, chilling me to the core. Only an inch more- just a centimeter- a millimeter- a hairs breadth and-
A hand pressed against my shoulder. At once, I felt the flow of my life slow and then stop. Fingers of cold were pressing into my jaw, but they began receding as soon as the flow stopped. I was left shaking on the ground. It wasn't all just tiredness; I'd come that close to dying again.
My vision was blurry with fatigue, but as I huddled there, it began to clear. I could see now that there was someone kneeling in front of me; the person who had their hand on my shoulder.
It was long minutes before I was able to see the newcomer clearly. I'd managed to stop shaking too, but I still couldn't get up. It felt like I'd lost all the bones in my legs.
The stranger hadn't lifted their hand from my shoulder. Normally, I'd have found it intrusive, but I'd craved human contact since becoming a ghost. I anchored myself in the feeling. It made me feel more real; more substantial. Helped me forget just how close I'd just come.
Finally, I blinked, and my vision was back to normal. I surveyed my rescuer and knew instantly that it was the shape from the alley. I just knew it somehow. They felt the same. It didn't stop me from gaping. He was even more gigantic in the flesh. And… what the hell was he wearing?
A single blue eye looked at me through a slit in a metal helmet. I couldn't see any more of his face; it was all covered. Actually, his eye was the only bit of I could see of him. Every square inch was covered in armor. I wanted to call it medieval, but it wasn't. It felt different; too ornate, too unrealistic. Like it was an idealized version of what armor should look like.
He wore a sword on his hip. I did a double take at that. What kind of person carried a sword? It wasn't like his armor. The leather of the grip was well-worn, and the sheath was battered from use.
I stared at him for a while, trying to comprehend why there was a ghost knight in Brockton Bay. Our eyes met, and he moved. Slowly, he reached for me with his other hand. I drew back. He hesitated briefly as I flinched away, but then continued on anyway. I froze in shock as he raised his arms and… pulled me into a hug.
He could have crushed me like a bug, but the embrace was gentle, almost delicate. The care that he took in his movements convinced me that he wasn't going to hurt me. He'd even helped me earlier. And so, I tentatively patted him on the back.
"Th-thanks?" I said.
His voice whispered out through the gap in his helmet. It was barely a whisper, like he hadn't spoken in years.
"Rain… my… dear… Rain."