Vinnie had tried to talk him out of it, but Sam had eaten the shape. Whatever it was, that strange peudo-lifeform from the other side which he had killed, Sam instinctually decided he could eat it. And that he should.
Sam had dug his hand into the vague mass and pulled it out holding a clump of its “meat” for lack of a more fitting term. The nine-year old had shovelled the clump into his face. Then he had followed it with another handful. And another. Minutes later the thing was gone and the boy’s face and hands were smeared with a mess that would be invisible to most living beings, but was clear to Vinnie.
Afterward Sam had wandered back to the stream to drink and wash himself.
Vinnie didn’t talk to Sam about the shape. Sam didn’t seem to care what it was or where it had come from. But the ghost was bemused. He’d been dead for a lot longer than he’d been alive and, in that time, he thought he’d gotten a pretty good idea about how things were supposed to fit together between the world of the living and that beyond it. This boy seemed to contradict what he thought he knew.
Though Sam didn’t care about the origin of the shape, a change had occurred in him. He wasn’t afraid any more. He would wander further from his car, and even slept outside of it when the weather permitted. When they would take trips to the lake, Sam still avoided the cabins, but wasn’t scared of them either.
“I’m going to get my revenge,” he said to Vinnie one day.
“When the winter is over, I’m going to go into town and find the people that killed my family.” He was just stating a fact. He and Vinnie had been walking returning to the car in silence before this.
“What will you do if you find them?” Vinnie asked.
“I’ll kill them all,” Sam said.
They were silent until they reached the car. Vinnie said “Why wait until the winter is over?”
Sam said “I’ve got to train first.”
Though Vinnie didn’t like the idea of Sam looking for revenge, he didn’t say it. The boy, he thought, should get back into town. He can’t live in the woods forever. The sooner the better, probably. But vengeance wasn’t a good path for a child.
After Sam had made the announcement, Vinnie spent the night hovering above the car and worrying.
The next day, his worry lessened. Sam’s idea of training apparently consisted of climbing trees, then jumping off while shouting “Hah!” and making what he considered to be karate poses. This became Sam’s morning routine and Vinnie, glad to see the boy still acting like a child, did notice progress over time. After a few weeks Sam could scale a tree in seconds and he could jump from the tops without a problem. “Hah!”
To further distract him, Vinnie invented a game. He would float around and Sam would throw rocks at him. If the rock passed through Vinnie’s non-corporeal form, he won that round. If Vinnie avoided it, he won. Progress was made here as well. Soon Sam was “hitting” Vinnie more often than not from further and further away.
It all seemed childish enough though that Vinnie soon forgot about what Sam had said.
They saw another shape thing. This one was larger than the first, but as grey and vague as the other. Still they could both still see it. It was high above. Among the clouds. Sam was again filled with dread by the sight of it, but ignored that.
“Get its attention,” he said to the ghost.
“Fly up there and draw it down here.”
“Why? That thing could hurt you.”
“It won’t. I’m going to hurt it.”
Vinnie intended to refuse, but the thing seemingly noticed them. At any rate, it had started in their direction and picked up speed.
“I don’t think you should do this,” Vinnie said.
“I’m going to eat it,” Sam replied, as if that were a counter-point.
It was over in seconds. The shape dropped toward the child like a bomb, but the child leapt directly at it. But Sam had miscalculated. Suddenly he couldn’t see. He couldn’t move. He had jumped right into the thing. He was stuck. It was fogging his mind. It was digesting his mind. Had there been a human viewer they would have seen the boy floating above the ground, writhing.
Vinnie swished himself through the shape repeatedly, trying to prevent it with something better to eat. He broadcast thoughts at it that could be translated “Look at me! Over here! Let that thing go! Eat me!” but the shape ignored the ghost.
Then it burst. Sam had leveraged himself against the shape and stretched it beyond its capacity with purely physical brute force. Sam gasped as though he’d been underwater, then looked at the bits of vague material that floated around him. He laughed hard, then ate well.
Sam’s tenth birthday passed unnoticed and uncelebrated.
When it snowed, Sam spent a whole day in the car. His clothes were straps and rags that did nothing to shelter him. Condensation on the windows was frozen. Snow piled up and soon light couldn’t get in.
Sam lay in the back seat looking at the ceiling. Vinnie, after watching the snowfall for some time passed through the window and floated above the driver’s seat, looking back.
“Are you cold?” he aked.
“No,” said Sam. “I think my powers make me cold-proof.”
Vinnie knew exactly what he was talking about, but this was the first time Sam had been open about it. “Your powers?”
“My super powers. I don’t know all of them yet, but I’m pretty sure I’m cold proof.”
Vinnie couldn’t tell the temperature of the living world, but he had seen the snow and could hear the wind. But Sam wasn’t even shivering. “I think you’re right.”
“I wonder what other powers I have. I’m strong and I can jump really good.”
“And you’re very fast and agile.”
“What’s a jile?”
“Agile. It means you move good.”
Vinnie hesitated, then said “I think you might be partially outside of the world of the living.”
Sam sat up and looked at the ghost. Vinnie continued. “Well, you can see and hear me, first of all. And you can see those shapes too. Most people can’t. But what’s really different is that you can touch the shapes. You can physically touch something that is outside your state of existence. It isn’t normal. I’ve never seen anything like it.
“I saw a guy once, years ago, who seemed to be able to see ghosts. He was one of those ‘psychics’ who people pay to talk to dead relatives. I know there are a lot of people who fake it, but when this guy looked at me, it felt like he legitimately saw me. But I wasn’t related to any of those people, so I never talked to him.
“But you’re different. You don’t just see the other side. You can touch it. I think, in order to survive that contact with esoteric things, your body has to be tougher than a normal living thing. So now you’re between the worlds and equipped for both. You can see the unseen and touch the untouchable.”
“I can’t touch you.”
“Well, I’m dead. That means I’m as far from your plane of existence as I can get. But those shapes are in a realm beyond yours, but not dead. It’s a realm where thought energy is stronger than physicality. But you are totally able to punch those things. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The conversation ended there. Soon Sam was asleep. Vinnie floated there, wondering where a ghost could go to learn more about how the world worked.
Originally posted on AbwatwaX on Wednesday, February 1, 2012