“Ugh, you are the most annoying human I have ever met. Marie-Antoinette was more tolerable than you,” Marie grumbled, brushing dirt off her dress.
“How many humans have you even met? 4?” I scoffed, crossing my arms over my chest.
“Very funny, I’ve met a number of humans from my time as a harp player.”
“So, how are we exactly supposed to help these ghosts?” Marie asked, gesturing in front of her.
“Well, if it’s contagious, there should be a cure,” I responded, looking over our selection of patients.
There was an old man with glasses, and loose overalls covering his loose skin.
There was a girl, about 8 years old, that had her hair in two pigtails and a bright pink dress.
A couple were standing together, looking around in awe as if Eiffel Towers had been thrown into the Underworld and had red paint splattered all over them.
Many people, old and young, big and small, were standing there, oblivious to absolutely everything.
We had to help them.
“How are we supposed to know what the cure is?” Marie asked no one in particular.
“I don’t know, maybe the ghosts know?”
Marie nodded and straightened out her clothes and organized her hair.
“Really Marie? You have to get yourself ready for ghosts?” I asked incredulously.
She just shrugged and walked towards one of the ghosts.
That particular ghost was wearing a business suit and had curly hair, a gold necklace and was drooling.
That last detail threw off the vibe, didn’t it?
She leaned towards him, cupping her “ear” with her hands.
“Under cliff, directions from Griffin,” the ghost said, and crashed into the ground, his face planted in the Underworldian soil.
“Um, okay, thanks I guess?” Marie responded, slowly backing away from the ghost.
“Very smooth Marie, very smooth,” I said, rolling my eyes.
She scowled at me and asked, “‘Under cliff, directions from Griffin.’ The bird Griffin, or someone named Griffin?”
“Marie, how am I supposed to know?”
“I don’t know, just asking.”
Marie started chanting, “Under cliff, directions from Griffin. Under cliff, directions from Griffin. Under cliff, directions fro-”
“Could you stop? That’s so annoying,” I interrupted.
“I’m just trying to help,” Marie protested but stopped.
“What cliff are we talking about here?”
“I don’t know. Maybe if we wander around a bit, we’ll find it?” Marie said, looking around at our surroundings.
Marie led the way, walking in a vague direction away from the ghosts, “airport” and the palace of Hades. She strutted forward with false confidence, and I looked to the ground.
It was a rusted red, the colour of a machine once it had gone old. Little pebbles dotted the surface, running away from my feet as I trudged across like a giant. A few cracks littered the floor here and there, little blemishes across the otherwise smooth floor.
I walked forward with no thoughts running around in my head, I just walked and looked at the ground, observing what I saw.
And then I saw air.
A hand grabbed my shirt from behind and pulled me up, saving me from a thousands-of-feet drop off a cliff.
“What were you thinking?” Marie yelled at me, my head hanging in shame. “Don’t you have eyes? Or do you just take pleasure in walking off cliffs?”
“Sorry, I was just not paying attention. Also, I try not to walk off cliffs when I can,” I responded, shooting her a smirk.
Marie replied with a glare.
“So, how should we get across this?” I asked, peering down the cliff.
The cliff was red, the same colour as the ground, dropping a heaping 1600 meters to the bottom. The rock on the sides held no mercy, having sharp jagged edges and giant chunks occasionally falling. At the bottom was a chokingly thin river that looked like a neck was getting squeezed by the surrounding rocks.
“Hmm,” Marie said, stroking her non-existent beard.
“. . .”
“I could weave!”
“What?” I asked.
“You don’t know what weaving is?” Marie asked incredulously.
“No, I know what weaving is, but didn’t only olden-day people weave?”
Marie sighed. “I was an “olden- day person” when I was alive. I wove when my fingers were tired from practicing my harp, and I made really stylish clothing too.”
I doubted what “really stylish clothing” actually meant, but I let it slide.
“Okay, well, what are you gonna weave with?” I asked.
“You know my harp?”
“I can melt it, and then use the light to weave a bridge to the side!”
“How exactly will you melt your harp?” I asked, confused.
“With a candle obviously. You modern-day people don’t know what candles are? Gosh, get out more,” Marie said, and rummaged around in her dress, finally pulling out a three-wick candle.
“I know what cand-” I started, but gave up because she wasn’t listening anymore.
Marie brought out a lighter and lit the three wicks, the flames flickering like ballerina dancers. Her harp appeared out of nowhere, as usual, and held the candle underneath. The flames licked the harp like a dog lapping up water. The harp slowly melted, collecting next to Marie like a stack of string. After everything had melted, Marie blew out the candle and pocketed it.
“What?” Marie asked me, while she gathered up the “string”.
“Nothing,” I said, staring intently at what she was doing.
“I like to weave without someone staring at me murderously, thank you very much,” Marie said.
“Oh right, sorry,” I said, backing up but still staring at her.
Marie just ignored me and started weaving a bridge.
She took the two ends of the “string” and braided them together, slowly working her way down the giant stack. After about 1 hour of weaving, half of the bridge was finished.
Marie started packing her things away.
“Wait! Aren’t you only halfway done?”
“Well, I think it’s enough right? What could go wrong?”
I raised my eyebrow skeptically.
“Everything could go wrong Marie! We could fall and plummet to our deaths. We could crack our heads on the rock, also leading to death. We could-”
“Ah, it will be fine,” Marie encouraged and grinned, trying to convince me.
“Okay. Anyways, how are you gonna get the bridge to the other side?” I asked.
“You can help me throw it.”
“Marie Elizabeth-Cléry,- fine.”
Marie smiled for successfully persuading me to throw a bridge to the other side of a cliff.
She threw the “string” to me and I caught it, the material heavy in my arms.
It was as heavy as a duvet cover but looked just like gold. Little threads wove in and out of the cloth bridge, shining when the light hit it. It felt super smooth like snake scales, the texture similar.
“Are ya gonna throw or not?”
Marie held one end of the bridge and I held the other, swinging it back and forth like a giant pendulum. It rocked higher and higher until Marie nodded at me and we let go, releasing the top end of the bridge.
It glided to the other side and landed with a thump.
“Yay, the rocks worked!” Marie exclaimed.
“I put rocks inside the seam so it would be heavy, and so it doesn’t fall off the cliff,” Marie responded.
“Oh okay. Do we go across now?” I asked, getting a bit nervous.
“What else are we gonna do? Look at it?” Marie asked.
“Can you go first? I’m a bit nervous.”
“Okay, I’m a ghost after all. I can’t get killed again,” Marie said arrogantly and placed her foot on the edge of the bridge.
She tentatively took another step.
“. . .”
Marie walked faster and faster until she got to the middle of the bridge.
“Come on! I’ll help you across!” She hollered.
I nodded, looking at my feet to start moving.
I took a step forward, bracing for impact, but nothing happened.
I took another step.
Must be stable, I thought, since Marie got across with no problem, so I took a third step.
And then we fell.
The bridge gave way, folding underneath us as we fell toward our deaths.
“See? I told you it was too short!” I yelled to Marie.
“Well, I was getting tired!”
Great excuse Marie, great excuse.
The red floor rose up to meet my face until a brown object smashed into us.
It was furry with golden and brown fur, speckled with some white. Marie looked at me, also thoroughly confused.
“What is this?” She asked me.
“I don’t know, a bird?” I replied, shrugging.
“I’m right here y’know.”
Marie and I jumped up, surprised at the unexpected voice. I was right! We were being carried by a bird, a griffin to be exact. It had a white head with orange eyes and a glossy black beak.
And it talked.
“Can you guys hear me? I’m not that good with my people skills, sorry,” the griffin said, burying its head in its wings.
“Oh no, we can hear you. We just never met a talking griffin before! I’ve met a beheaded ghost that couldn't talk, and when I taught it, it was so happy that blood was splattering everywhere and-”
I silenced Marie with a disapproving glare.
“Um, it’s nice to meet you too?” the griffin said. “What are your names?”
“Oh I’m Marie, and what’s your name again?” Marie asked.
I realized I never told Marie my name, but I had to now.
“I’m . . . Claire.”
Was that my real name? Maybe, maybe not.
“And she’s Claire. What’s your name?” Marie asked curiously.
“Oh, you can call me Griffin.”
“Okay Griffin, where are we going?” I asked.
We were zipping through the canyon with cliffs on each side, looking down on us menacingly.
“I’m taking you to my home because I have a message that I think is for you,” Griffin said, slowing down to duck into a cave.
Griffin landed and bent down to let us off. The cave was a light pink colour and the furniture was made of black obsidian. It was pretty big too, about 7 meters across. Shelves hang around with food and scrolls, some of them having thick layers of dust on top.
“Here is the thing I wanted to show you. It’s a prophecy, and if it’s not for a human and ghost in the Underworld trying to cross a cliff, I don’t know what else it might be for.”
Griffin pulled a thick scroll from a high shelf and handed it to me.
“My mom gave it to me when I was small, she said it was very important, so I kept it for all these years.”
I brushed off the dust and opened the scroll.
It was a pale yellow with some dirt smeared across the sides. The edges were ripped, as if the paper were torn from a bigger piece of the puzzle. In fancy cursive ink, it read:
A duo cursed by a twist of fate
The undead fueled by an evil hate
Two must appease those who haunt them
Or the world will become evil's true gem
With the water from which is birthed all peril
The hair of the gods and the teeth of the devil
A mixture of love, hate and destiny
only then will their lives be free
To obtain what they seek
They must pry from the beak
the silver-gray octopod skin
May win and destroy from within
The red of the immortal charmer
Will prove the weakest of armour
The fate and the clock
The tick and the tock
The two may rise and rise they shall
The two shall rise above them all
I handed the scroll to Marie, and once she read it, she looked up at me and Griffin.
“Where did you get this from?” Marie asked.
“My mother gave it to me when I was small,” Griffin repeated, looking under her claws for dirt.
“Well, this ‘duo’ sounds like us, Claire,” Marie remarked.
“And the ‘undead’ sound like the ghosts,” I observed.
Griffin nodded along and said,” This prophecy looks like it’s about you.”
We all nodded this time.
“So what do we do now?”