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PART1: The Ghost and The Monster | Chapter 1

Mid Autumn, a year ago.

Late afternoon, the sky was misty, the sunlight diffused but heavy and everywhere, like bronze dust, as I sat down with my legs hanging freely on the edge of the ledge from the top of the highest tower I could ever find in this little bubble; The Bell Tower of The New Eden. 

From where I was, everything looked so small. So close yet so far. The scenery of mid-autumn was always the most beautiful of all. It was all perfect that it's almost so fake. Like one of those landscape paintings with a warm autumn palette that I would secretly see hanging in the high priest chamber,  or the old pages in the forbidden place in the temple’s library. But as I was staring at that golden, beautiful autumn's grass on the meadow, and those graceful, proud reddish-golden trees, all I could think was about suicide. 

It was not like I want to end my life, here and now. That was not the reason why I came here. I’m a wanted blessed child. A sacred vessel. Wanting to die  would be an act of blasphemy. Fated to be doomed. I came here to think. And this was the only place where people would finally leave me alone. Especially after what had happened to Sam.

Ever since I stopped seeing her around in The Daily Bread, where we used to work together. I didn’t even see her in the temple for the oracle where everybody in the New Eden was supposed to be.Everybody has been acting really weird and cautious around me. I could tell something was wrong. Like they were hiding something. Otherwise, why would they look so tense whenever I was around? 

And don’t even try to tell me it’s all just in my mind. Because I knew it wasn't. On one occasion, a noisy room full of adults grew quiet all together as soon as I entered, the hearing room in the temple it was. All eyes were on me. Their gaze felt so intense that it's almost suffocating. 

That day,  the High priest called me up to the altar and made me swear that I would tell the truth and truth only over the holy scripture. A sister then asked me several questions about Sam. And some of those questions were awfully weird and I didn’t even know how to answer. Like: has she ever done any inappropriate things to thee? Has she ever touched thee?

What kind of question was that? 

Like, of course she touched me. We were very close friends and have been together since I knew how to count to ten. Sam used to braid my hair, help me with the bread dough and sometimes she would clean my palm and my face. But the sister said it’s not what she meant.

“What then?” I asked, genuinely. even though I was told to not ask any questions. That’s not why I was there. The sister didn’t tell me what she meant, of course. They never do, everyone from the priesthood has a weird manner of speaking that you have to guess what it means. They don’t speak like humans, they are more like an old poetic scripture. 

Confusing.

She sighed heavily, then kept asking me question after question. Made it crystal clear that my sole purpose in that room was to provide them answers, not the other way around. 

Once they were done, I asked her where Sam was. but instead of giving me an answer I wanted, Sister Elis suggested I go home and take some day off because; “ye look tired, child,” she said, as she tucked my stray hair inside my black bonnet. I stared blankly at her then drew my eyebrows together.

Now, since a very young age, girls were taught to keep sweet and be absolutely obedient. Or you will be fated to be doomed. Burned in hell. girls ought to be submissive, or they will make you be. But I have been asking everybody where Sam was for about 2 weeks now, and no one knew where she was. The sisters may be the only ones who know where she was. 

"No, I'm not tired," I said. "Where is Sam? I need to see her."

The New Eden is a very small bubble, with less than two thousand inhabitants including women and children. And yet, I hadn't seen her since her wedding. Nobody has seen her or heard anything about her since then. She couldn’t just disappear.  

Something was dead wrong, and I could smell it. I was desperate to know where the hell she was. Sister Elise rested her hand on my shoulder, giving me one of her unsettling smiles. "Sam is where she needs to be. Ye ARE tired, Amber. Go to thy chamber," she said. That one wasn't a suggestion, her voice was heavy and every word was stressed; it was an order. “Sisters,” she called out  the other young sisters behind me.  “See her to her chamber,” she said. The next thing I know, two young sisters escorted me to my house, down the hills, 37 blocks from the temple, without supper.

And just two days ago, in the late afternoon, at supper, where I was busy handing bread to people over the counter, one of the highest sisters, Cecilia, on the high table clicked her silver cup, calling for attention.

And in a heartbeat, the noisy room grew quiet. 

"My beloved brother and sister in God," she said, in her pious performance tone, per usual, slow and hypnotizing. "I regret to inform you all, that one... of our beloved sisters, Samantha Geelen,” she paused, as the room held its breath, we haven’t heard anything from her for almost 2 months now. “--is no longer here with us," I froze.

NO WAY!

I don't really remember what happened  next, or what she said after that except the sound around me slowly turned into distorted noise then faded away as my heart stopped beating and the world turned dark. Only later, I learned that Samantha Geelen--, no, Sam--, my sweet Sam... had killed herself. 

"She committed suicide. That poor soul, and we fail to comfort her troubled mind," the sister said, with deep sorrow in her eyes. But I knew It can’t be a sucide, It must be a murder. Yes, Sam was a crazy girl, and she did a lot of crazy things, but--, killing herself? It doesn't sound quite like her.  

She is a fighter, not a quitter witch! 

Besides, The New Eden is the happiest place on the planet. Here we look out for each other and nobody goes hungry, bored or lonely. There's always food to eat, meaningful work to do, and your people who care and love you. Why would Sam want to kill herself when she got everything in life? It didn’t add up. 

That’s a madness! 

I really wanted to say that. I really did, but I have learned sometimes things are better left unsaid. And this one was one of it, Sam was found dead in a chamber in the temple. Even though I knew it was a murder, what could I do? Accusing someone in the temple as a murderer or murderess? 

HUH! I don’t have a death wish--, not yet.  

So let's all agree, she killed herself. They didn't tell me how she did it. But today in her funeral, the high mighty sister Cecilia told me that those maesters and nurses had done their best to save her, yet they couldn't.

"So it wasn't an immediate death?" I mumbled, couldn't take my eyes from her fresh grave. My eyes burned. "Did she suffer, Sister?" I asked with stones pressing my chest. Sister Cecilia stared at me for a long time, with sorrow in her eyes, and without a word, I knew the answer; yes. She suffered. By a lot probably.

"Ye are tired, Amber. Just go get some rest," sister Cecilia hissed.

It always amazes me how the sisters always know about everything; the good and the bad. God's heart content, the proper way to behave and live a full life. The solution to all the plague, famine, and war. The fix of capitalism-purgatory. And what you feel, even before you don’t. They always know.

"Go, my child, rest," She curled the corner of her lips to her solemn wrinkle eyes. And so, here I'm, on the ledge of The Bell Tower, staring blankly at the glimpse of the last light on the horizon. I knew I shouldn't be here right now. No woman should be lurking around after the dark. Even though the sisters are doing their best to keep us safe. Unspeakable things might happen to a girl when she is lurking alone after the dark. Darkness brings the worst out of men, it's known. 

And I would be in pretty much trouble if the sisters find out, they are very strict about keeping us girls safe, even if that means they have to break our flesh to keep us from sin, it's also known. 

But as I said, this was the only place where I can be alone on my own. Where people finally stop asking me, “are you okay?” when I was clearly not. Like; ‘O, for God’s sake, how do you even expect me to be okay? Can’t you see that  I’m so freaking tired of lying!’

Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but keep forcing a smile on my face to hold my tears back, then lied, “yes, I’m okay, Ma’am,” “I’m feeling better, sister, thank you,”  “nothing, Sir. I’m alright, just tired.”

Keep sweet. Huh?

But no, I’m not okay. 

That’s why I’m here with a sob break from my chest. I pulled my knee to my chest, then wrapped my arms around them, and that was when I started to cry. I became a sobbing mess of tears and broken hearts, with a bottomless hole inside my rib cage.

How could I not? When Sam and I first met--, there was something about her spirit that made me want her. Her boldness, rebellion, and I--, I just inevitably gravitated around her and grew another limb. It’s like she’s a part of my body, and now--, now she’s gone. I felt like I was losing a part of my body, like I have been mutilated and somehow still breathing to feel every single pain on my body. Right here, on my left chest.

“God, make it stop,” I hissed desperately in the middle of my sobs, “please God, if you hear me, if you do exist, make it stop, please just make it stop, please… please, please I beg you. Make. It. Stop.” 

I prayed and prayed, commanding the Mighty Lord to get rid  of the  unfamiliar pain in my chest. I didn’t care how, I just wanted HIM  to cure my pain and make it stop. But it didn't go away, so I groaned even stronger.  Because that’s what Sister Cecila taught me; ask and thee shall receive. So I begged, and begged, and begged. 

“Please take away all my pain, please make it stop.” 

Little did I know about the gravity of what I was actually asking for that time. All I knew, I was doing my best to stay sane in the only way I knew, spilling out all my emotions that have been buried inside me, before it consumed me even further, and nothing of me left.And when the pain didn’t go away, soon begging God turned into a Daring God. 

I punched the air in frustration and screamed out from the top of my lungs. 

“CURE ME, YOU **** ***** ** ****!” 

It’s the first time in my whole life, which was not a lot since I just turned 16, I ever let those nasty words slip through my lips though I heard it a lot from Sam. And she learned it from her wicked family. 

It felt good. But I regretted it immediately, for calling God in such a way just because He didn’t take away my pain. I knew I would be in so much trouble if someone heard me. But I’m not going to lie, nothing has ever made me feel so good before, like some stones just left my chest, and my suffocating braiser just opened loose. The pleasure outweighed the guilt I had, and so I screamed out some more. 

“You said that You are so strong and all. You said that you are so powerful. Why can’t you just do your trick and bring back Sam to me, You ****! I dare You *** ** *****!”

Funny, what people would do when nobody's watching. So they finally can stop being sweet, and just be themselves. Who they really are without worrying what people would think of them; insane, hysterical, possessed, dommed. Like screw people! But unfortunately for me, at the very moment I was busy expressing my true color by saying my mind out loud and committing the worst blasphemy a sixteen years old could. A low deep voice came right behind me. 

In an instance My stomach flipped, and I came to realize that I was not alone. There is someone behind me.

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