Evelyn smiled softly to herself as she emerged from the darkness of her grave and glanced at the empty yard around her.
She tilted her head back and looked up at the stars above. Another clear night. The girl thought happily. Her conversation with Lucas the night before had lifted her spirits considerably, and she found herself feeling more optimistic than ever about their chances of finding the final ingredient. We’re so close…
Evelyn passed through the thick hedge and began floating happily across the backyard toward where the Dionaea Taurus stood. The thought of finding the final ingredient had reminded her that she needed to check up on the plant, as she did every night while she waited for Lucas to join her. Evelyn remembered how excited she’d been the night before, when she’d thought she saw the thing actually move. Maybe next time, the ghost thought to herself as she drew closer to the plant, it won’t be a false alarm…
It took all the willpower Evelyn could muster to stifle her scream.
The Dionaea Taurus had been replaced with an empty, lifeless shell. Its bright green stalk and roots had shriveled and paled to an unpleasant gray, and atop it sat a hollow, cracked skull. Its empty eye sockets stared blankly ahead as its large and once-fearsome mouth hung open, gaping and lifeless.
Oh my God… What happened?! The ghost stared at the shriveled husk, horrorstruck.
We missed it. She realized. It was finally ready, and we missed it. And now… Now, it was too late.
“Evelyn!” She almost jumped at the sound of Lucas’ voice, muffled by the thick glass of the back door.
The girl turned around and saw him in the distance, beckoning eagerly for her to approach. “Ev, I did it! I did it!” His voice sounded almost strained, but extremely excited as he cried out to her.
She drifted forward curiously and passed easily through the glass to stand before him. “What are you talking about?” Evelyn asked him, both terrified and excited to learn the answer. Could he mean what I think he means…?
“The Ambrosia.” He breathed. “The cure. I made it. After all these years… I finally made it.” Lucas sounded almost like he couldn’t quite believe it himself. His voice was barely above a whisper as he spoke.
“What?!” Evelyn hadn’t needed to breathe in over eighty years. But in that moment, she found that she couldn’t.
Lucas nodded slowly. It was almost like he was in a daze. “This morning… I went outside to check on the plant.” He explained. “And it was ready.”
Evelyn couldn’t help it. She let out a loud squeal of delight and was unable to hold back several waves of joyous giggles. “This is unbelievable! Oh my God…” She barely managed to choke out the words as she was overwhelmed by the deepest and purest feeling of joy she’d ever experienced.
It didn’t feel real. It couldn’t be real. If Evelyn were still able to have them, she would have believed the whole thing was nothing more than a dream. He did it. He actually did it.
Lucas simply nodded. “I know.” He said softly. “I can’t believe it… How many years have we been waiting for this, huh?” The old man smiled crookedly at her for a moment. “Come on, I’ll show you!”
He began leading her toward the kitchen. His back slumped slightly as he walked, and his pace was a bit slower than usual. Lucas paused to wipe a few beads of sweat from his brow.
“Are you okay?” Evelyn asked nervously.
Lucas nodded. “I’m fine.” He assured her. “Just exhausted… I’ve been working all day.” He explained kindly. “You’ve read the recipe, remember?”
The ghost nodded in understanding, recalling the book’s complex instructions. The Ambrosia took many hours to make, and needed to be prepared under the strictest temperature conditions. He’s been slaving away in the kitchen for hours… She thought guiltily. For me.
But then again, he’d really been slaving away for much longer than that, hadn’t he? Evelyn felt a rush of love and gratitude mingle with her guilt at the thought.
“Here it is.” Lucas said softly. “It looks just like the book said it would, doesn’t it?”
Though Evelyn had not felt hunger for decades, there seemed to be something particularly unappetizing about this unusual dish. It appeared to be a soft and sponge-like cake, with large gray chunks dotted throughout. It sat on a bed of a sticky, burgundy-colored sauce, and the entire thing sparkled with a bright and other-worldly glow.
It looked absolutely disgusting. And Evelyn had never wanted to eat something so badly in her entire existence.
Evelyn was overcome. She pulled Lucas close to her, and held him for a long time. “I love you.” The ghost whispered. “I don’t think you’ll ever understand just how much I do. But this is the greatest thing anyone has ever done for me, Lucas. And you’re the greatest person I’ve ever met… I don’t know how I can ever thank you for this.”
“You don’t have to.” Lucas replied warmly. “Just… live an amazing life. Do everything you’ve always dreamed of, okay?” He paused. “That’s all the repayment I need.”
He pulled away from her then, and gingerly lifted the large plate from the counter, as though it took a great effort to do so. Evelyn followed as he led her back into the dining room.
The next time he holds me like that, Evelyn realized giddily, I’ll really feel it…
Lucas placed the dish on the heavy glass table, then turned back to face her. His large green eyes looked deeply into hers, with an expression that Evelyn found difficult to describe. For a moment, she thought she caught the sparkle of tears glistening there.
He reached out, gently taking both of her hands in his. “Are you ready?”
“Lucas,” Evelyn almost laughed. “You’re shaking.”
The old man’s smile widened. “I’m just so excited.” He explained. “Aren’t you?”
“Of course.” She smiled. She’d never been more excited for anything else in her entire existence.
Lucas glanced down at her transparent hands, still cupped gently in his own. He let out a soft sigh, and for a moment, it looked like he was going to speak. But the old man said nothing, then gently lowered his hands at last.
“I guess this is it…” Evelyn floated toward one of the heavy dining room chairs, taking a seat and looking down at the Ambrosia once more.
The ghost lifted the silver fork from the table beside it, taking great care not to let it fall through her fingers. Picking up objects had always been a challenge for her. But soon… It won’t be anymore. Evelyn thought gleefully as she broke off the first tiny chunk of the Ambrosia and lifted it to her lips.
She wasn’t quite sure what she was expecting.
Before they knew about the Aqua Vitae, when it was just the flower and the fish, Evelyn had attempted to eat many dishes that Lucas had prepared for her. And every time, it was the same. The food would pass through her lips and fall back onto the plate. Or the table. Or through her lap and onto the chair below. It was amusing, and embarrassing, and sad, all at once.
But this was different.
The food went into her mouth – and stayed there. And, for the first time in eighty-three years, Evelyn could feel it. How could such a tiny morsel of food weigh so much? It took all of her willpower not to spit it back out onto the plate.
What do I do now? She wondered desperately, trying to remember how to chew.
The ghost moved her jaw up and down awkwardly and felt the squishy bite of Ambrosia break down into a soft, wet wad. Then, with great difficulty, Evelyn swallowed.
“That was awful.” She shuddered, lowering her hands into her lap.
Evelyn turned and looked over her shoulder to where Lucas stood. “Just keep going.” He said gently. “You can do this, Ev. You have to eat all of it, okay?”
The ghost sighed. “Okay. I’ll try.” She turned back toward the plate, took a deep breath, and lifted her fork yet again.
After the next few bites, things got easier as Evelyn adjusted to the bizarre sensation of actually feeling something again.
But then something else happened – She started to taste it.
The girl groaned miserably. Shortly after her death, Evelyn had found herself missing food terribly. But now, she could not imagine why. This is so weird... Words like ‘sweet’ or ‘salty’ or ‘bitter’ had lost all meaning to her long ago. All she knew was that whatever this stuff was, it was awful.
And a few minutes later, after she’d struggled through the whole thing, Evelyn felt awful.
Her head was spinning, and her body… it was tingling. She hovered gently from the chair as the bizarre sensation continued to spread through her entire form. Evelyn stared down at herself, speechless as something strange and wonderful began to overtake her.
It started in her fingertips. The girl watched in amazement as her transparent hands slowly turned opaque before her eyes, lightening to a soft, pale beige under the bright lights above.
Then, very slowly, it traveled up her arms, down through her torso, and into her legs.
Evelyn let out a cry of alarm as she crashed down several inches from where she’d been hovering just moments before. Her feet slammed against the hardwood floor and she stumbled forward, her legs buckling under the sudden weight of her body.
She slumped forward for a few moments, disoriented. But then, as Evelyn looked down at the floor below her, she realized something. I’m standing… The girl straightened herself slowly, marveling at the sensation of the shoes on her feet and the hard, flat floor below her.
Evelyn adjusted her stance somewhat shakily, struggling to keep her balance, when she felt something soft tickle gently against the back of her neck. The girl turned her head from side to side uncertainly, reaching back to look for the source of the strange sensation. Then she realized that it was nothing more than the hair on her head.
She ran her fingers through the soft brown locks, relishing at being able to feel the silky hair against her skin.
This is really happening… Evelyn’s heart began to race in excitement at the thought, and it was then that she became fully aware of the steady thumping within her chest. Its tempo quickened even more then, and the feeling was almost frightening. She let out a slow, deep breath as she tried to calm herself, and savored the refreshing sensation of the air entering and leaving her lungs.
Evelyn lifted a pale white hand and placed it against her chest, feeling the steady rise and fall with every breath she took.
A sudden stinging sensation in the corner of her eyes shocked her for a moment – then she realized that they were tears. Actual, physical tears. Evelyn did her best to blink them away, and found herself delighted once again by something as simple as merely opening and closing her eyes.
It was overwhelming. It was terrifying. And it was amazing.
Everything was new. It was exciting. It was horribly unpleasant and uncomfortable too, of course… But it was incredible.
Because what mattered was not how she was feeling… But the mere fact that she was feeling anything at all.
After more than eight decades, Evelyn was breathing. She was standing. She was feeling.
She was alive.