Toran: Gateway to the Other Side

Chapter 3

Eli rose partially out of his chair. Before him, the Mission Control computers indicated all things were operating normally. But that couldn’t be. Clearly, the program had a glitch. The emergency lights painted the cool nitrogen fog in bloody hues adding to the surreal scene.

Wearing her favorite dress suit, his dead mother stood between him and the portal in the center of his laboratory. Hell, her back was even reflected in the Toran’s mirrored surface. The drones fluttered like ravens around her before crashing to the floor.

Maybe he was hallucinating. He glanced to his left.

Ms. Onomi raised her cell phone, recording the event for posterity. Her eyes were owl-like behind her oversized glasses. “It’s amazing.”

Eli shook his head then glanced to his right.

Godmother Strattor stood straight. Even her black veil ceased swishing. “Do you know what this means?”

“I failed.” He was supposed to open a wormhole to another planet, a new place for humans to settle. Instead…instead, he’d gotten this—what sane, rational person believed in ghosts? His skin burned with embarrassment. Maybe the whole ghost thing was because of his neighbor and her phantom husband. Too bad, that didn’t explain why the others could see his mother.

The AC clicked on, and the frigid draft fluttered the papers on his desk. The nitrogen dewars spat a cold mist that swirled around the gateway’s base. 

“Failed? No, my dear boy. This is the greatest discovery of all time.” Godmother latched onto his arm. Her fingernails dug deep into his flesh.

Tossing the drone’s remote control onto the desk, Eli squinted at his godmother. Had the fire that nearly killed her snuffed out her good sense? This wasn’t a great discovery but a hoax. A fuck-up beyond belief trick. It had been years since his parents died. Unlike his widowed neighbor, he wasn’t desperate to believe the dead would come back to visit him.

Godmother shook his arm. “Your mother looks young. No fresh scars. No limp. It’s like the accident never happened.”

Eli glanced at his mother. His brain rejected the evidence of his eyes. She had died. He had buried her.

“Come and give your mother a hug, Elias.” Mother fiddled with the brooch pinned to her collar before throwing her arms open. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen you. Since I held you in my arms.”

 He shook her words from his ears. It just wasn’t possible. 

“She doesn’t even need a cane.” Godmother pulled him to his feet and dragged him out from behind the safety screen in front of the computers. “In death, all of her injuries are gone.”

Eli blinked, resetting his brain. He understood why Godmother wanted to believe that. She’d take comfort in no longer carrying the burden of her burns. But his mother… His heart beat wildly. Could it be? 

“Elias Branch, you get your butt over here and hug your mother.” The apparition stomped the sensible shoe that matched her gray pants suit. 

He shuffled forward. What the hell was going on? This wasn’t right. “Ghosts aren’t real.”

“I am not a ghost.” His mother stomped her foot again—a hard knock on the floor. “Ghost can’t do this. And I am as real as you, thanks to your doorway.”

Eli flinched at the echo of his mother’s anger. “No. There has to be another explanation.”

He pinched his forearm and winced at the rocket of pain. Clearly, he was awake, but he was damned if he knew what that explanation was.

“Another explanation?” His mother pursed her lips in disgust. “If you don’t believe your own mother, what do you need?”

Eli raised his hand as he approached the apparition. Evidence. He needed proof, like his fingers moving through her.

Her fingers closed around his, warm and soft.

Exactly like he remembered. Maybe too much like he remembered. It should’ve been different, shouldn’t it? “Aren’t you supposed to be cold?”

“My silly boy.” Mother smiled at him then fiddled with the brooch again. It dropped to the ground. “I keep telling you. I’m not a ghost. You brought me back from the other side.”

“The other side of what?” They weren’t a religious family. In fact, they’d often scoffed at the low-brows who gushed over orbs and EVPs.

“The other side of life. I am so proud of you.” His mother tilted her head as a sign of disappointment in her slow-witted son. 

He hated when she did that. Eli bent to pick up the brooch. She loved the clunky Victorian holdover. He swept his thumb over the gaudy swirls of gold and dots of rubies. Guess the other side hadn’t repaired the clasp. His fingers closed around it. Damn, it felt as real as her hand. He shrink-wrapped the thought. “You’re not real.” 

A siren wailed. Red lights strobed the room. He glanced over his shoulder.

Ms. Onomi and Godmother stared at the bank of Mission Control monitors. 

Eli whipped around, fisting the brooch. The filigree bit into the tips of his fingers, cutting the flesh, but the pain helped him concentrate. “What did you touch?”

The portal couldn’t be unstable. If it became unstable, then the people in transit would die. Death. Ghosts. He shut down the thought before it could go any further. 

Ms. Onomi raised her right arm with the cell phone clutched in her hand. “I didn’t touch anything.”

Godmother gripped her cane tighter but said nothing. 

He took a step toward Mission Control. He had to find the source of the problem. He didn’t believe in ghosts, but this was his mother. He needed to find out what the issue was and fix it before she disappeared again and he couldn’t ask her more questions.

“I don’t feel quite the thing,” his mother spoke.

Eli stopped and exhaled a long sigh. If it had been anyone else than his mother… He turned around.

She froze as if she were a buffering video. Then she faded, showing the ribs of the circular portal behind her. “Elias!”

Ms. Onomi gasped.

Behind his mother, the portal’s surface rippled like a puddle of disturbed water, then shrank to a single point and twinkled out. He stepped toward his mother and reached for her.

She disappeared. 

Eli slashed the empty space with his closed hand. Static electricity crackled across his skin.

“She’s gone.” Godmother rasped. 

“Where did she go?” Ms. Onomi whispered. Her attention fixed on Godmother before jumping to him.

Eli licked his dry lips, tasted the bitterness of an untruth, and strode toward the computers. “I don’t believe in ghosts.”

“You saw her.” Godmother raised her cane and pointed at the portal.

Metal ground as the ribs of the sphere returned to their regular place. He didn’t know what he saw. But he did know dead was dead. He clamped his lips together instead of contradicting her. 

“My dear boy, if she wasn’t real, then why do you still have her brooch?”

Eli uncurled his fist. The brooch shimmered in his palm—a drop of blood wept from the cut on the pad of his finger. The wound and jewelry looked real, felt real. 

Godmother’s veils swished. “Let me see it. We both know what it looks like.”

Good idea. Another set of eyes may help, maybe even stop Godmother from believing such nonsense. Two steps from Mission Control, his palm tingled. The brooch faded in and out like a dying light. He paused.

Godmother stepped forward and grabbed his hand, raising it. The brooch disappeared. “It’s gone.”

Eli closed his fist. The sliced flesh was the only reminder of the encounter.

Ms. Onomi’s cell chimed. Holding it to her ear, she glanced at him before her attention shifted to Godmother. “The car is here, and we have a meeting with the lawyers.”

 Godmother nodded before cupping his cheek with her gloved hand. “You did an amazing thing today. You may not see it, but I do. Millions will find relief in your discovery.”

Eli nodded. He did something, but what?

Leaning on her personal assistant, Godmother limped across the floor.  

He waited until the door closed behind them before sitting down at Mission Control. He set his fingertips on the keyboard. Tiny drops of blood smeared the keys as he typed. There had to be an explanation, and he needed to find it before Godmother told anyone what happened today.

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About Linda Andrews

Linda Andrews lives with her husband and three children in Phoenix, Arizona. When she announced to her family that her paranormal romance was to be published, her sister pronounce: "What else would she write? She’s never been normal." All kidding aside, writing has become a surprising passion. So just how did a scientist start to write paranormal romances? What other option is there when you’re married to romantic man and live in a haunted house? If you’ve enjoyed her stories or want to share your own paranormal experience feel free to email the author at www.lindaandrews.net She’d love to hear from you.
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