The first thing Ainsley did the next day was call Chelsey, Morne and Richard. They made plans to meet up at a park a couple of blocks away from their houses.
Ainsley had tossed restlessly the night before trying to come up with a plan on how to broach the subject that her friend was a ghost wasn’t an easy task. “Hey guys, Mike’s not completely dead, in fact he visited me just last night.” She had tried out loud to herself before groaning in dismay.
Her friends and family knew she had an aptitude for corporeal magic. For most this meant a magic practitioner could heal wounds or ease the illnesses of others. A lot of nurses and paramedics were corporeal mages. However, there were some who were able to go beyond the living and touch the other side. Ainsley had enough affinity to see that spirits were there, but not much else.
She also didn’t want anyone to know she was could get in touch with the dead. It was seriously taboo. Ainsley’s parents had warned her time and time again to tell them if she started hearing voices or seeing weird disturbances in the air.
Regardless, despite her parents’ warnings, she knew she had to go.
During her walk to the park Ainsley noticed the streets were practically deserted. The mid-morning sun shone brightly, the birds sang and a warm summer haze rose from the concrete sidewalks. Yet still people were understandably reticent to leave their homes.
Ainsley cut through an alley that led to the edge of the park where they agreed to meet up. She caught sight of some bikes piled near one of towers at the wooden playpark that was showing its age. Several tall wooden towers were connected together by wooden slat bridges that were beginning to show signs of decay. Metal slides descended from each tower already radiating scorching heat from the morning sun.
Ainsley approached the bridge with the bikes when a shrill voice called out from one of the towers “Who goes there!?”. Three sets of eyes peered suspiciously through one of the tower windows. “What beast dares to tread on our lands!?” Richard screeched.
“Aren’t we a little old for this?” Ainsley grumbled.
“You need to say the response! We need to know its you!” Richard hollered back.
Ainsley sighed loudly before sarcastically responding “I am a beast of five heads, ten arms bound by the blood compact…”. Ainsley recounted the password that Morne had introduced them during a tabletop adventure that they all roleplayed for months on end. They decided to come up with the monster’s code to make sure that they’d know if one of them happened to be turned into a monster.
“Accepted” Morne pushed Richard out of the way and motioned for her to climb up the ladder.
“Were you followed by anyone?” Ainsley asked as she tried to avoid splinters from the wooden rungs.
“I’m pretty sure nobody is really going out. Did you see anyone else coming here?” responded Morne.
“No.” replied Ainsley.
“Us neither. So, tell us what this is about.” Said Morne
“Sure, but first let’s make sure no one is here.”
Ainsley recounted the events that happened the night before after scanning the park to make sure the coast was clear.
“So, you actually spoke with Mike last night? That’s so cool. Was he mad?” Chelsey whispered loudly.
“SHHHHH” She put a finger to Chelsey’s lips. “No, he didn’t seem like he was all there. He said some weird shit and kept on staring off somewhere. He seemed to come back near the end. I obviously couldn’t talk to him after he disappeared.” Ainsley responded.
Richard paled visibly “Hey, wait, it’s bad you can talk to the dead. We’re not supposed to do that.” He blurted out.
“I know that Richard” she said emphasizing his name. “But I can’t control that. I’ve always been able to sense the dead, I’ve just never been able to talk to them, that’s new. But you’ve known me since kindergarden and I’m the same person now that I was last week when it wasn’t like that.”
Richard opened his mouth but shut it quickly with a silencing stare from Morne. Instead, he frowned and crossed his arms looking frustrated.
“So will you guys help me out?” asked Ainsley.
Morne looked to Chelsey, then Richard and answered for the three “Sure.”
“Then let me tell you what he said.” Replied Ainsley.
The three fell into silence after Ainsley recited the cryptic directions Mike had given her.
“So, what the hell does ‘the place where they violated the forest mean’!?” said Morne as he scratched his ear.
Ainsley shrugged as she thought about it. “I think it’s the old logging sites North of the town. I’ve never actually been to the area. My parents always told me to stay away. Something about an accident there.”
Chelsey perked up “Oh yeah. My dad told me about that when he said he worked for a logging company. He said workers started hearing some weird sort of music the further they got into the forest. I think they started to find a whole bunch of bones at their work sites and it freaked them out. I hear they got so freaked out that the cops got involved. Dad changed jobs after that because he said it was too creepy.”
“Damn, that is creepy. See Ainsley, dead things are bad.” Richard piped in. During Chelsey’s recollection Richard had slowly moved away from Ainsley to the other side of the room. He seemed to think she wouldn’t notice.
“Shut up dick, you don’t need to be here if you can’t handle thinking for yourself!” shot back Ainsley.
Richard looked hurt and confused. “Wait..no sorry… it’s just.. nevermind”
Ainsley knew it was Richard’s parents talking through him. His parents had no tolerance for any sort of life influencing magic. Their beliefs wouldn’t even allow them to have medical procedures like bones being mended or life-threatening wounds be healed magically. They said it wasn’t natural. Ainsley wasn’t even sure if Richard told his parents that he hung out with her. It didn’t matter though, if Richard was going to be an ass he could fuck off.
“This weekend we’ll meet up at the turnoff past the old mill. There should be some roads that will lead us to where we need to go. Make sure you bring your wands.” Said Ainsley. “Sound good?”
The others nodded in agreement before heading home to prepare.