TAYLOR: Middle/Below is rated “PG” and contains mild threat, and mild language.
JAKE: Ooh, so I’ll have to watch my f-bombs.
TAYLOR: Yes, you will.
JAKE: It’s all Monica’s fault really.
TAYLOR: Okay. This is where we usually say something funny, so go ahead.
JAKE: Something funny.
JAKE: Well, this is different. It’s all foggy and hazy, sort of like that alternate Ostium place where that crone thing took me. I gotta admit, I was real excited at first. I even thought I’d made it back to Ostium, or at least that alternate version, which at least put me in the Ostium ballpark and from there I could work my way back to the Ostium Network. But less than thirty seconds later I can tell this definitely isn’t any version of Ostium, but something completely new.
Because a ghost has just materialized out of the ether right in front of me . . . and he’s talking to me.
GIL: Hello. Are you okay?
JAKE: I . . . Think so. How about yourself?
GIL: No too bad, considering I’m a ghost.
JAKE: Yeah, I noticed that. And you’re also admitting it. So I can’t claim I’m having a mental episode or something?
GIL: No, not really. When you’re in the Below, ghosts are pretty much a guarantee. Also, you sound like you’re from America?
JAKE: Yeah. I am. And now I’m in the . . . Below you said?
GIL: Yes. Normally, people like you are in the Middle. But now you appear to be in the Below, which isn’t right.
JAKE: People like me?
GIL: Yes. Not ghosts, like me.
JAKE: Ahh, I see . . . Sort of. I think. I’m Jake by the way. So am I the first . . . Er . . . Living being to be in the Below?
GIL: Oh, hi Jake, I’m Gil. Actually we prefer the term “corporeal entity,” while us ghosts are “incorporeal entities.” [Can switch out these terms to more exact ones]. And no, you’re not the first; actually we have your types down here all the time.
JAKE: All the time? So it’s no biggie me being in the Below?
GIL: Oh no, it’s very dangerous. You could easily be killed by just about anything.
JAKE: Even . . . By you?
GIL: Oh, I don’t know. No one’s ever asked me to kill them before. I expect I could. If I really tried.
JAKE: Well, let’s not find out. Okay?
JAKE: So what should I do not to get killed in the Below?
GIL: Stay out of trouble.
JAKE: And how do I do that exactly?
GIL: I’m not really sure. But I do know someone who can help. His name’s Taylor.
JAKE: Is he a ghost too?
GIL: Oh no. He’s from the Middle. Like you.
JAKE: Oh yeah. That would be good. Can you get him . . . Here?
GIL: Sure. Be back in a bit.
And before my very eyes, Gil discorporates and I’m all alone. It’s then I take in more details of where I am. There’s a disconcerting quiet about the place. A coldness that feels like it’s starting to sink into my very bones. It’s probably not going to be long before I start shivering. It’s not exactly dark here – like the other Ostium – but definitely on the dingy side, like you’re in a lighted room with some strong sunglasses on and you just want to take them off so you can see better. And as I’m looking around in the distance, I think I’m starting to see movement. Wisps of white making themselves known . . . To me no doubt.
I sure hope this Taylor guy shows up soon.
TAYLOR: You know, I really like toast.
TAYLOR: No, you can’t have any.
[GIL SUDDENLY APPEARING]
GIL: Taylor! Taylor! You need to go to the Below!
TAYLOR: Hi Gil. You know, I really wish you’d knock or something, instead of just surprising me all the time. What if I was naked?
GIL: I’m a ghost, remember? Can’t touch anything. Can’t knock on any doors or walls. Anyway, why would you be naked?
TAYLOR: I believe you said something about my needing to go to the Below?
GIL: Oh, yes. There’s a guy down there. One of you mortals. An American.
TAYLOR: A Yank? What’s he doing down there?
GIL: I don’t know. He sounds pretty scared actually. I said you could help and that made him a bit happier.
TAYLOR: Let me get my bag.
JAKE: I’ve moved into the shadows, under the overhang of an old building. Through windows I can see lots of boxy shapes. I think this place might’ve once been an arcade of some sort. But I’m pretty hidden here and it’s intentional. Those wisps of white I mentioned earlier turned into a bunch of class-five free-roaming vapors. They didn’t see me; at least I don’t think they did.
They’re still hovering around now, a little bit closer, but still far enough away that my heart-rate’s only going double the usual rate.
And then a door opens nearby and I almost jump out of my skin. It’s a tall, thin guy who looks really pale. Oh, and that ghost I saw earlier. Gil. Hopefully this is Taylor.
TAYLOR: Gil, go see if you can do something about your friends over there.
GIL: They’re not my friends. I’ve never met them in my life.
TAYLOR: You know what I mean. Go deal with them, please.
GIL: Alright. If I can.
TAYLOR: Hi, I’m Taylor. And you are?
JAKE: Jake. And really glad to see you. Gil said this is the . . . Below?
TAYLOR: Yes. And we need to get you back to the Middle.
JAKE: The Middle? So like the land of the living? Middle . . . Earth if you will?
TAYLOR: That’s actually pretty funny. I might start using that. Do you mind if I do?
JAKE: Be my guest. So if there’s a Middle and a Below, is there an Above?
JAKE: What’s that place like?
TAYLOR: I don’t know. I only deal with the Middle and the Below and making sure the right people and beings are where they’re supposed to be.
JAKE: Wow, so kind of a superpower? Cool. So do you magic them from the Below to the Middle and vice-versa?
TAYLOR: Not exactly. Usually I use doors.
JAKE: Oh really. I’m very familiar with that process. It’s how I ended up here from my time.
TAYLOR: Your . . . Time?
JAKE: Yeah, I’m kind of a time-traveler. Started at a place called Ostium and each door there takes me to a different place in time. Only now I’m trying to get back there. And so far . . .
TAYLOR: No luck?
JAKE: No. I keep ending up in all these different worlds and meeting some incredible people, like yourself, but my goal is still to get back there.
TAYLOR: Okay, Jake. I could question everything you just said, but it looks like it’s been a very long day for you and I’d rather get back to my toast. So I’ll help you.
JAKE: Thank you. I really appreciate it.
GIL: I got rid of them for you.
TAYLOR: Thank you Gil. We’re about to send Jake on his way.
GIL: Leaving so soon?
JAKE: Yeah, I’m ready to get out of this . . . Unfriendly place.
GIL: Hey, this is my home.
JAKE: Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean any insult . . .
GIL: I’m only kidding. It is my home, but the Below is no place for those who don’t belong here.
TAYLOR: Alright, let’s get a move on them.
JAKE: Actually, I’ve got one last favor to ask: I need a little memento from the Below. Each world I’ve visited I’ve brought something from back with me. Not exactly sure why yet, but I have a feeling it’s going to be important.
TAYLOR: I’ve got just the thing.
[Looking in bag]
TAYLOR: Here you go.
JAKE: A yo-yo?
GIL: Another one? How many of those do you have?
TAYLOR: Lots. You never know when you’re going to need one.
JAKE: This is perfect. Thank you, Taylor. Thanks Gil. For all your help. I’m ready now.
[Door opening sound]
TAYLOR: After you Jake. Go on through.
[Door closing sound]
JAKE: Where am I now? Is that a cat?
JAKE: Oh hi, I’m Jake.
JAKE: Good to meet you. I’m actually trying to find my way out.
JAKE: Yeah, I guess I can try the door I just came through. Wait! Do you . . .
JAKE: You know about traveling through doors, like I do?
JAKE: You know about Ostium?
JAKE: That’s incredible. Well, I really need to get going.
JAKE: No, you coming with me would not be a good idea.
JAKE: Thanks for understanding.
JAKE: It was a pleasure meeting you too. Maybe we’ll meet again in another life . . . Behind another door?
[Door opening, then closing]