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I followed Allie through the long, deserted hallways of my former high school. Normally the only time these halls were this empty was during the late hours of the night. No, I take that back. Even at night the security guards wandered the halls on occasion, provided they hadn't found some way to hack into a teacher's computer and watch some… well… adult entertainment. While class went on, office aides would wander the halls with passes, or students would beg to go to their locker to escape from a boring lecture. It was strange; the eerie, grayish light gave the hallway a completely new appearance.
"How do people endure this for years? I hardly want to spend another day here!" I whined, knowing that I had many more days ahead of me.
Allie laughed. "That, my friend, is part of the punishment. We played God, taking our lives before our time on earth was up. Since we decided we were more important than the higher powers, we got sent here. And now we have to endure our punishment for breaking that happy rule regarding the sanctity of human life. Look at it this way; at least we aren't burning in a pit of fire."
Allie had grown much more philosophical during her time in this holding realm. I would never have heard that sort of speech out of her on earth. Maybe April would have, but I wasn't Allie's best friend. I had been too busy following Sylvie around like a lost child to pay much attention.
Allie reached forward and opened the door to the rock climbing gym. It was pitch black inside, obviously the eerie gray light couldn't be self-sustained. The windows in the gym were non-existent, on earth it had been lit by actual electricity.
"Leave the door open. Maybe some of that light can come in and we can try and see. There's no electricity in this world."
I obeyed Allie's command, following her into the gym. The light from the doors had provided some visibility, but not very much. It was still fairly dark in the gym, and I could barely see. Allie went to open some more doors, and once she had opened all of them, the gym was much better lit than it had been.
"Sylvie? You in here? I brought Aimee!" Allie looked around the gym, checking in all possible places for Sylvie. "Sylv? I have Aimee, come on out!"
I knew with as much certainty as I knew I was dead that Sylvie was not in the gym. "Allie, she isn't in here. She left." Sylvie had evaded me once again, and I had no possible way of finding her. Why did she keep running? Had she really believed Elizabeth's lies? I couldn't believe she would listen to a spiteful girl over her best friend from earth. Although, I hadn't been there for her when she needed me most. I had let her die, and then I left her alone in this holding realm. I didn't die properly, and I left her to rot in this place for quite some time.
I had certainly followed her here. I was here now, and I wanted to see the girl who had completely changed my life. Now I wasn't so sure that the change had been for the best, either. Perhaps if I had never met Sylvie, I would be a completely different person. I would still be alive. I would be a junior in high school, most likely getting ready for the gymnastics season. I would be thinking about college, and hopefully getting scholarship offers. I certainly wouldn't be in this hell-like place, looking for a girl who obviously didn't want to find me.
"Where the hell could she have gone? Damn you, Sylvie. I told you to wait for us at the high school! Stupid, stupid, stupid." Allie kicked at one of the rock climbing walls, cursing Sylvie for leaving. "Does she have any idea how hard it will be to find her now? She could be anywhere!"
I sighed, bending to pick up a rope that lay at my feet. Why the actual physical objects had transferred to this realm were beyond me. Although, the realm did seem to be an exact replication of what my world on earth had been, without the people. I began butterfly coiling the rope out of pure nervousness, not knowing what else I could do. Sylvie had left us alone, and Allie was blowing up at Sylvie for leaving. Normally, in a tense situation on earth, I would have run for my blade. But in this place, there was no blade for my release. I would have to find a new way of coping and dealing with my emotions. At the current moment, coiling the rope seemed the best alternative.
"Well, now I don't know what we can do," Allie muttered. "I don't know where we want to go, and there isn't a whole lot of entertainment in this place. Sylvie kind of left us in a bad situation. She is the most familiar with this place, and I told her to wait. I know you wanted to see her too. I'm sorry for that, Aimee."
"Don't worry about that," I said quickly. I had finished coiling the rope, and I put it on the ground in front of me. I would have suggested we climb, but I realized there were no harnesses or any of the other equipment present. Without a carabiner and tuber climbing would be fairly pointless.
"So, what are we supposed to do then? Any suggestions?"
"We could just talk," I offered. "I haven't seen you in a ridiculously long time. I know we talked yesterday, but I'm sure we could find something to debate."
Allie glanced at me, and then shook her head. "I'm going to go look for Sylvie in a few other places. You stay here. I don't want to come back and find you gone. I'll be back as soon as I check the other areas. I'm not leaving the school, but there's some classrooms and stuff I need to check."
"Wait!" I yelled, as Allie turned to walk away. "Shouldn't I go look for her? After all, I was her best friend on earth. I think I would know where she would go if she was upset better than you would. I spent enough time with her." Not to mention watched her as she died, but that was besides the point.
Allie looked slightly offended. "Well, if you know her so well, how come we haven't found her yet?"
"I've been here longer than you have. I can navigate much better around this realm, and I spent more time in this school than you did. I know how to move quickly through here if I need. I'll be better at finding Sylvie. She's spent time with me here; she knows I'm dead and in this place. I don't know if she's aware you've arrived yet. Seeing you might be too much of a shock, and she could run away. She knows tricks you don't. She's perfected her movement in this realm, and she won't even tell me how she learned all these things. So stay here. I'm going to go find her, and I'll come back when I'm done." With a dismissive look, Allie turned and left the gym.
Once again, I found myself quite alone. It had to be one of this place's curses, as being alone seemed to be a permanent condition. In reality, being alone was a permanent condition, even on earth. I just hadn't noticed it as much until Sylvie had died.
I stared up at the high ropes course, remembering the first time Sylvie and I had completed it. We had been in Rock Climbing club, and I was thrilled to go up on the ropes course. As a gymnast, heights and falling didn't bother me. Being forty feet in the air was a thrill, and I looked forward to the high ropes course a great deal. Yet Sylvie, who spent little time in the air, was terrified. I'd had to hold her hand while she took her first steps onto the course, onto the balance beam. She almost refused to cross it, and I had to practically drag her along.
"I can't, Aimee! I'm going to fall and die, and then you'll be in trouble because you let me fall!" She had clung with one hand to her Y-Tails, and with her other hand she had mine tightly gripped.
"You're hooked into the course, Sylvie. You can't fall and hit the ground. Besides, I have you too. I wouldn't let you fall. It'd be too hard to break in a new best friend."
With those words, she decided to release her ropes, and followed me slowly across the beam. She grew more confident with each obstacle we crossed, until she didn't need my hand at all. I was proud of her. She had truly accomplished something that afternoon.
Yet I let her down in the end. I did let her fall. I let her fall, and I helped to set off the chain reaction that had ruined the lives of so many. I didn't deserve her trust.