The Women of Orchid: A Deific Pollination.

I

When she was still among the living, Belinda Markey was a famous Hollywood movie star. She was stunningly beautiful and had real talent as a thespian. She had a sweet smile and women around the world envied her glamourous lifestyle. Some called her the most beautiful woman in the world and it was not a stretch to see that she was.

They all thought she had it easy.

What the world didn’t know was that she was a lesbian who had been brutalized at the hands of her stepfather and his brothers, but her older brother was her guardian who protected her and then they ran away together. They were on the streets, but he sold himself and forbade Belinda from doing the same.

They were without protectors, and then he tried to ensure she had the beautiful and glamourous life as an actress because he thought that would bring her the happiest and most beautiful life in the world.

It never worked out that way. They both changed their names from Gordon and Janna Vine to Rod Hardstone and Belinda Markey. He toiled in adult movies, and never allowed her to tell anyone they were related.

He was murdered and she was forced to watch it, and then when she tried to avenge his death as she fought for her survival, she was murdered.

But the shock of being on the edge of Hell where she was to spend her eternal afterlife along with her brother who had already resigned to such a fate was catastrophic.

Until her soul felt a loving presence of a detective who was dispatched to solve Belinda’s murder and the kind-hearted sleuth saw Belinda as a benevolent soul.

And she broke away before she walked into the portal to Hell.

The love and admiration of a stranger gave her more than just willpower: it gave her purpose and inspired her.

That detective trying to solve her murder touched her soul, tearing down every fortress in time and space and Belinda’s heart became forever connected with a woman she never knew.

The detective was honest, dignified, clever, and brave, and was everything Belinda wasn’t, yet to the detective, Belinda was someone to cherish and celebrate for her essence. It was not to pity or judge; the detective somehow bonded to Belinda and now there was a link between the two women. The detective showed her that she was also honest, dignified, clever, and brave, but it manifested itself in its own ways and the detective admired her and vowed to do all she could to keep Belinda’s spirit alive.

It was Belinda’s awakening: the world was big and cold, but time and space could be brought together at a single point where two people could connect despite it all. She then took another look at the portal to Hell, laughed at those trying to drag her in by means of deceptions and empty threats, and promptly looked to make an afterlife for herself elsewhere. More specifically, one that used her talents and her heart to create meaning to others to give them the peace she never had. She had developed a link with the detective and the two seemed to subtly guide each other.

The link flowed strongly to this day: the detective inspired Belinda just as Belinda continued to inspire the detective. Their hearts never stopped chattering as they somehow got their hearts together and the detective decided it was far better to come on the scene before there was murder and help those stuck in abusive situations to get out.

It was Belinda Markey’s greatest magic act and her proudest achievement. Whatever her afterlife took her, she knew she had a friend who championed her as much as Belinda returned the favour.

But by then, she ran into another woman who was also mulling the future of her own afterlife.

Her name was Sharon Hedley and she was pregnant when she was murdered. The two had something else in common: the same gentle detective solved their murders, and did so with a perspective that opened their eyes to see themselves as being stronger and better than they ever saw themselves in their lives. While Belinda rejected the notion of spending her eternity in Hell, Sharon rejected the notion of spending her eternity in Heaven as Belinda was denied entry and she walked away in solidarity. They decided to strike out on their own together, bonded as friends, and found out they had many more things in common: they both wanted to find loved ones stuck in Hell and Heaven as Sharon’s unborn child died before she did, and they shared the orchid as their favourite flower.

They got to talking and it was then the two got ambitious: perhaps good and evil weren’t the designations the Otherworldly should focus on, but look at every person who were murdered.

And so, the Women of Orchid was born.

Their new activist job had a simple purpose: find every murder victim and bring them to another place in the Otherworldly: their own little garden they created themselves. For some, they could spend the rest of eternity here with those who shared their same final fate, but for others, it became a meeting place where they could use their essence to protect others from being taken down before their time.

To their absolute astonishment, no one had ever done it before, and the two women caused a shock and a scandal.

Now, the Otherworldly’s configuration was beginning to change in a short span of time. There were so many people who died at the hands of another that bringing them together was proving just how treacherous life could be at the hands of another human being. It showed the rich and the poor that when it came right down to it, they were vulnerable prey.

When those who aligned with their race or ethnicity were suddenly brought together by the Fallen, those lines in the sand suddenly erased.

Young, old, male, female, none of it mattered.

The were all the Fallen.

And they had an orchid pinned to their shirts to reveal the truth.

Those killed in a terrorist attack wore the same orchids as those starved by their parents or shot by a robber or spouse.

There may have been a thousand ways to be murdered, but the orchid spoke of a single outrage.

The Orchid became the symbol of all those who died by murder.

The Fallen began to make their home in the tiny garden where Belinda and Sharon planted their own spiritual roots: once they came to the garden, the person could leave, but most chose to stay because it was a message to the gods of their broken hearts and unanswered prayers.

Belinda and Sharon had two others who joined them on their quest: a murdered man by the name of Vendel Langston, a troubled professor who lived in Ottawa in the 1930s who was murdered and sent to Hell before he won his freedom on the outside, and Jenna Shaw, a young photojournalist from London who was given breast cancer by a secretive cabal as her own investigative story was close to revealing their existence and died from the disease in her late thirties. She left Heaven after sensing that Vendel was looking for someone to join their fight.

Both Vendel and Jenna were friends and invaluable Orchids who both knew about the injustices of the world, and while both had dedicated their waking lives to fighting in different ways, neither had ever expected they would be felled by the very injustice that moved them.

And though Vendel spent a spell in Hell and Jenna in Heaven, both were allies as they had the one thing in common that changed everything.

The Orchid.

Belinda looked around her and sighed sadly. There was too much to be done and four Orchids to fight a battle with pacifism. Violence ended their lives while each one was on the cusp of a breakthrough.

Belinda was about to break away from a brutal cabal that had enslaved her for her entire adult life as she made the decision to flee to a small city-state the cabal despised for protection.

Sharon was pregnant and decided to divorce her abusive and wealthy husband.

Vendel was about to walk away from drugs and the university that he felt was a sham and, ironically, make his way to the same city-state where the women he truly loved lived.

Jenna had begun to stumble on a peculiar story that would have exposed another cabal that controlled too much of the world, one that had an unnatural interest in her husband and his small family.

Just as each reach the same crossroads, they were destroyed.

And yet, it marked their beginning even as it marked their end.

II

If there was one pair of Orchids who mutually worshipped the other as a near deity, it was Belinda and Vendel. Vendel adored Belinda with deific passion as she was the one who inspired him to fight to get out of Hell. She became his goddess and the one he revered the most.

Belinda, on the other hand, loved Vendel and had wondered how differently her life in the waking world would have been if Vendel was her and Gordie’s father.

It was a peculiar thought, but the second she saw him, she felt it. She felt a familial connection. He understood her more than anyone else ever did, and she could see it all very clearly in front of her how both of them would have thrived with the other had the circumstances been different.

It was not to be in the waking world, and yet their peculiar bond thrived in the Otherworldly.

She did not like being away from him, but today, she had her job, and he had his: he was determined to create a tunnel where they could get into the layer of Hell where her brother Gordie refused to leave to rescue him, and then go to Heaven where they could find Sharon’s unborn child. Most times, unborn children would be returned for another chance on earth to be conceived by someone else, but there were exceptions, and Sharon’s final memory was of her infant kicking, and it was that kick that made her convinced this one refused to go back to some other family.

So far, he had managed to find materials to build it. It was not hard as the Otherworldly was filled with peculiar materials lying around unused as many deities were stripped of their powers of the Goditor, and their peculiar materials were no longer needed.

Vendel merely went to the Deific Junkyard, took as much as he could, and then began to build something.

Not a wall, but a tunnel.

But today, he felt as if he was missing the mark as he sat on the ground and tried to put the pieces together with Jenna helping him.

“What’s the matter, mate?” asked Jenna in her sprightly British accent.

Vendel looked around as he frowned. “We have hit a brick wall. We have truly gone as far as we can.”

“How so? This contraption of yours is sturdy…”

“But I have no idea where to put it or how it will go through either Heaven or Hell. The demons don’t like us because we don’t fear them. The gods fear us after the Monster of Unanswered Prayers devoured a slew of them.”

Jenna looked puzzled, “The Monster of Unanswered Prayers?”

“Thomasina Darlington’s pet puppy-like creature.”

That’s a monster? He is so sweet and friendly!”

“She tamed it.”

“That’s a goddess for you.”

“I wish She could go to rescue Belinda’s brother.”

“Maybe it’s not for Her to do it.”

“I keep hoping it will be one of us who does. Belinda is distressed about it, and I do not blame her. Hell is not a pleasant place to be. I’ve been there for decades, and if it weren’t for Belinda, Sharon, and Suki, I wouldn’t have pushed myself out.”

“So why doesn’t Gordie want to leave? He loves his sister, and if she is longing for him, he has to feel it. That should be the incentive to get out of that place. You didn’t have anyone on the outside, but you did it. If Belinda’s kindness stirred you, then why not Gordie?”

Vendel looked lost and shook his head. “There has to be more to it. There is something he’s not telling her – or us. There could be some sort of threat made, and he is protecting her.”

“She stood up to Hell and she stands up to gods. What’s bigger than defying them both?”

“I don’t know, Jenna. I was a JNE – Just Naughty Enough. I wasn’t in deeper layers, which concerns me.”

“You think he may have done something bad that Belinda doesn’t know about or could face.”

“She idolizes him. She knows him better than anyone else, and he is in a deeper layer of Hell, and he doesn’t push for a ticket out of there.”

“Could there be some sort of pull that compels people to stay and not walk out?”

“Anything at this point is possible. If I knew then what I know now, I would have been conducting research there and found truths. When I was alive, I was a professor who conducted studies. I wasn’t very good at it because my doctorate was in philosophy, but then when a visiting professor and her sister came for a year, I picked up her methods, and my abilities vastly improved. When I died, I thought all of that knowledge was for nothing, and didn’t apply myself.”

“But you could apply yourself now.”

“The problem is I can no longer go back to visit. If I could somehow conduct an experiment, I could gather truths, even in that den of lies.”

“You could teach someone the way that professor taught you.”

“They’d have to be on their way to Hell, and they wouldn’t be likely to be truthful or helpful.”

“What did you study, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Not at all. I was studying the authoritative and tyrannical nature of police during protests. I observed and recorded actual demonstrations, and I…I…”

“You what?”

“Have stumbled upon a way to get Hell to open up its secrets to me.”

III

Belinda stared at Vendel as they sat in his clear spherical office. “You think we can get people to start a riot in Hell?”

“There are people who are always marching in there with some bee in their bonnet ready to prove they are mightier than the Devil himself. They are humbled within moments with an unpaid internship, but if there are enough of them, we could always speak to them before they enter. They won’t listen to reason or think of rejecting of entering as you did…”

“But if we can light a fire in Hell, we can start smoking out a few truths.”

“We need to start challenging various authorities in an indirect way in order to study how they rig their battlegrounds to maintain dominance. I used to study that as a professor, and once the department I taught was scuttled and I was shipped back to philosophy, I couldn’t do that anymore.”

“You talked about the strange department, but what was it?”

“It was called Philosology.”

“I never heard the word.”

“Most people didn’t. It was a peculiar mix of psychology and philosophy, which was a ridiculous notion as psychology had its roots in philosophy, so having an empirically-based philosophy was psychology. It was doomed from the beginning, but it was the only way a philosophy professor was going to get the chance to do that kind of research; so I took advantage of it.”

“And now you get to apply it in the Otherworldly.”

Vendel smiled. “It is almost as if it was meant to be this way, Belinda.”

“It’s a lot of work for the four of us, and it’s maddening. You’d think gods wouldn’t care or at least help us along. They all know what we went through and wanting no one else to go through it is not a bad or selfish thing. What a bunch of meddlers.”

“They have blacklisted us, and have decided to have nothing to do with us because we haven’t been playing by their autocratic rules and decrees, knowing full well all four of us were murdered by rule, decree, or both.”

Sharon came into Vendel’s office and sat down with her friends as she sighed.

“Tell me about it. Our problem is that we are not going to get any further unless we have a deity who sees the merit in our work. Vendel’s right: most of them don’t want to have anything to do with us after that whole god-eating episode, but there has to be one who is willing to help us.”

Vendel made a face. “But who? They all have their agendas, and see us as irritants who should retreat as we give up our hopes, dreams, and free will.”

Belinda thought for a moment before snapping her fingers and smiled. “Thomasina will join our cause.”

Sharon’s eyes widened, “The One they call Una et Dilectos? How can you be so sure? She’s a goddess who does Her own thing. I mean, She walks around in jeans and a t‑shirt!”

“Because She is a friend to demgels, and She was murdered when She was a mortal.”

Sharon nodded. “You’re right. She knows.”

“And She understands,” added Vendel.

“She also tamed that god-eating monster.”

“Thomasina has the right mindset.”

“You have some good ideas, sweetie.”

Belinda blushed as she looked proud. “Vendel can start a Hell riot, and find out some truths for us with Jenna. You and I can talk to Tommie Darlington to see if She wouldn’t mind having a few allies who need answers.”

IV

Sharon and Belinda looked at Thomasina seemed in deep thought before She smiled and nodded. “I do understand your situation. When I was murdered, I waited for Clementine to come right after Me as I didn’t think she’d survive that attack, but George and his brothers protected her and saved her life. I finally met her when she died of a ripe old age, but had she gone to Heaven or Hell, it would have been agonizing for Me. So yes, of course I will help you four any way that I can, though I must warn you that I am also splitting My time between Earth and the Otherworldly trying to dismantle that very religion that was loosely based on My teachings. I may lose My powers, and that may make Me of limited value to you.”

Belinda nodded. “We are fine with that, believe us. We haven’t been around as long as You, but this is our first alliance with a god. We always thought we’d have to go this one alone, Thomasina.”

“Please, call me Tommie.”

“Thank you, Tommie. All we are looking for is my brother and Sharon’s baby. Vendel is building a drill that is attached to a tunnel so we can find Gordie and Sharon’s child in Hell and Heaven.”

“That is an ambitious undertaking.”

Sharon smiled. “And he is also trying to start a riot in Hell.”

“A riot? Gracious, whatever for?”

“To study how Hell reacts. If we had some notion of their strategies, then we can account for them and come up with our own counterstrategies.”

“You four are ambitious. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thank you,” said Belinda, “We truly owe You, and if there is anything we can do for You, give us the word.”

“I’ll have my Messenger Denny Garber give you ladies messages as I am rarely on this side of the realm these days. Your friend Jenna was familiar with him, as I am sure you two are aware, and he would be thrilled to come visit you, considering he was murdered the same way all of Us were when We were alive in the waking world.”

V

Jenna squealed in delight as she jumped and clapped her hands. “Denny’s going to be here? That’s fantastic news!”

Within seconds, Denny showed up at Vendel’s office as his old friend looked overjoyed at the sight.

“Denny!” Jenna shouted she ran up to hug her own friend who returned the embrace. “I am so happy to see you!”

“I’m happy to see you, too,” he said warmly as Jenna introduced him to Belinda and Sharon. He whistled when he saw Belinda.

“Man, I used to have a serious crush on you when you were an actress. You are even more gorgeous in person. You must have had a lot of men at your feet.”

Belinda smirked. “And not one of them got any further than that.”

Denny’s eyes widened. “You’re gay?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Destroy my teenaged fantasies, why don’t you? Is Sharon your girlfriend?”

“No. She’s not gay.”

“So, you two are just friends?”

“Best friends.”

“You two seem very different…”

“We were both murdered, Denny,” said Sharon, “Whatever differences we had in life were gone once we came to the Otherworldly. It’s funny how everything becomes meaningless when they served as no barrier to someone who wants to see you dead.”

“We have more in common than not,” said Belinda, “We were both murdered, we both lost loved ones over here, we both defied our eternal fates, we both love orchids, and our murders were solved by the same detective…”

Sharon looked at Denny before turning to Belinda, “He’s murder was solved by her, too.”

Belinda jolted as she looked intense. “It was.” She became excited, “Jenna knew her, and you did, too.”

Denny looked surprised before he laughed. “Hey, that’s right. I had no idea, and then when you said it, it’s like I always knew it.”

“It’s a funny trick in this realm,” said Sharon, “You begin to develop a sense for some things without knowing them before, but other things are an enigma.”

Belinda look deep in thought. “It’s funny how so many of our connections have to do with that detective. Our murders were solved by her. Jenna was related to her by marriage, but she doesn’t realize Jenna was murdered just yet. She worked with Denny, and solved his death, and Vendel’s colleague was her great-grandmother, and yet, she doesn’t know who actually murdered him.”

“And Tommie is her ancestor,” said Denny, causing all three women to gasped as they shouted, “What?”

“It’s true,” said Denny, “But that detective – as you call her – doesn’t know of Her at all. She doesn’t know that religion has some sort of obsession with her family. Tommie figured it out when She came back to the waking world, but even She doesn’t understand all of it just yet.”

“That explains why She was willing to help us,” said Sharon, “It’s the same connection. Tommie’s one thread, and all of us are another.”

Jenna sighed. “That means I was related to one of her ancestors by marriage. All this time I had a huge perk, and I never even knew it.”

Belinda winked. “She’s our ally. She knows we like a couple of her descendants: our detective, Vendel’s unrequited crush, and we had no clue until now. We’ve always been orphans in this realm, and this changes everything. We just have to make the most of it, and hope we can help Tommie any way we can.” She turned to Denny. “That’s our message to Her, new friend.”

“Cool. I’ll let Her know when She comes in to check Her messages.”

Jenna waved to the group. “I’ve got to go help Vendel with his experiment. We’ll let you all know how it goes.”

VI

Vendel and Jenna watched the scene near the Portal to Hell from the Sorting Station where the recently arrived came to find their eternal resting place. They pinned orchids on the murdered, but this time, whenever someone was making a beeline for Hell, the two Orchids would implore the person to turn around and fight to stay on the outside.

Between the shock of being murdered and the indignance of being warned not to go to Hell because Hell had no parties or debauchery, just gruelling and boring unpaid internships, the new arrivals refused to listen to the repeated heartfelt warnings.

It was predictable on one level, but when those who wished to party in Hell were given tomes of paperwork to fill to apply for unpaid internships, they were enraged.

Usually, they were broken and crushed, but that a former bookish professor and an equally intelligent former photojournalist who both looked like naïve goody two shoes were more street smart than the mobsters and killers, that was an absolutely humiliating blow.

Hell had been the goal for many, and now they had to be marked with some girly flower in on their lapels as they toiled filing papers and taking dictation. There was no having cool demons as pets. There was no promiscuous women to torture and bed. There was only unpaid internships in miserable positions.

And those two straight-laced flower people knew it all along.

Worse, one of the future residents in Hell flat-out asked Vendel what would he know about Hell, to which he coolly replied that he had spent decades in there before winning his freedom.

That meant he was not the rube they had believed him to be.

It became an ugly scene where the newest arrivals began to scream and throw fits as they were being dragged in by bored demons who were vexed at the tantrums.

It was loud and distressing, but somehow, the protests did not seem to produce any usual data. The demons were as stony-faced as ever and had no trouble dragging in their latest residents.

Jenna frowned. “Well, that didn’t go to plan.”

Vendel raised an eyebrow. “We could talk to the JNEs at the edge, or at least, observe them. That was the way Belinda and Sharon talked to me, and how you talked to Denny.”

The two made their way to have a peak in Hell, but the usual small gatherings of JNEs were no longer there.

“That’s odd,” said Jenna, “I wonder if they were removed.”

“You go to the edge because the inside is soul-crushingly boring.”

“So something else is happening in there.”

“Something that deviates from the norm.”

“The problem is that we aren’t privy to any of it.”

“But we’ll hear about it.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because the loudest ones were wearing our orchids, and they are going to claim victimhood and use those flowers as proof that they do not belong in there. Hell will be livid at us, and let us know. We have to be careful…”

“We don’t want Gordie to become a bargaining chip in all of this mess.”

“But if we play our cards right, he will see those orchids and know Belinda is not going to rest until he is out there.”

“It’s like we’re pollinating Hell with those flowers.”

“It is a deific pollination. We can do the same thing for those going to Heaven. If we start getting to them both in a more confrontational way, they will begin to feel threatened that our strain of defiance is getting deeper into their layers.”

“We are making serious trouble.”

“It is the only kind worth making. My only regret is that I didn’t make serious trouble when I was still alive.”

“Ah, you have an eternity to catch up.”

Vendel leaned on Jenna and kissed her check as she leaned on him and patted his arm.

VII

Sharon sighed. “I have to admit, Belinda, there hasn’t been a dull moment since I ran into you. You are a clever one.”

“I survived on the streets, Sharon. What’s making our way through the universe in comparison? Once I realized that death isn’t the end, I stopped being afraid.”

“Vendel and Jenna weren’t afraid today.”

Belinda smirked. “What did our favourite human thesaurus call it?”

“A deific pollination.”

“We have demgels, and now who knows what our orchids will flower in those places.”

“Hopefully the two people we want in our lives.”

“Heaven and Hell are going to get mad at us.”

“At least we have Tommie in our corner.”

“We’ll owe Her.”

“I’m okay with it.”

“Me, too. I’m glad I met you, though. Pulling something like this on my own would have been terrifying to me when I was alive, but with you, it’s an escapade. You really are the best friend I ever had. You’re up for anything.”

“And you’re the best friend I ever had. I mean it, sweetie. You’re the sister I always wanted.”

Belinda beamed with pride, “And you’re my best friend and sister, too. I never thought in a million years I’d have one ounce of peace, and you’ve given me the serenity I never had.” She gave Sharon a kiss on the cheek. “Let’s go see if we can help Vendel with his strange tunnel. We have another orchid to plant in our garden, and my detective friend on the other side is going to bed soon, and we always have a nice little chat in her dreams.”

“You enjoy that.”

“She always listens to me, and she doesn’t even have to see me to do it.”

“I wish she had some ideas about springing our family. I am so worried I’ll never see my child. That would be a victory for that horrible man I married.”

“We’ll find that kid. If Tommie and her daughter reunited, you and your child will, too.”

“What about your brother? Do you think he’ll ever get out of Hell and join us?”

“He will, just as I know your daughter will sneak out of Heaven and find her way to you.”

Sharon sighed. “She went in without realizing I wasn’t going there. I just wish I knew before she had the chance to get inside.”

“Gordie was murdered in front of me, and I lived a long time after that. I had no way of knowing or saying to him not to go to Hell. Never in a million years did I think he deserved to go there after everything he did to protect me.”

 The two women looked at each other sadly, and embraced. They were a family in their own right, but longed to make it a bigger one with those they loved in the waking world. They knew in their hearts they were making progress, but it was slow going and it pained their hearts all the same.

VIII

The Wink scurried over to his master who was busy studying military plans on his wall. The other thirty-nine Winks were all terrified of their ruler, but this Wink seemed to be the bravest of the cowardly lot.

“Sir,” the Wink said, “The Orchids have made an alliance with The Frightful One.”

General Rem cursed. “That cursed flame-haired witch retreated into Eden and I thought she’d stay there forever. Now that she’s awakened, she is ruining everything. Those Orchids are nothing but Trouble – the lone male in the group is close friends with the Dream Detective, and I’ve a feeling he is seeking ways to repay her for her kindness. If the Sparrow and her former flame get back together, it ruins everything.”

“I thought you said your nightmare elixir’s effects were permanent.”

“So long as no deity is made aware of it. The Orchids are far shrewder than they look, particular their leader. She was supposed to be an obedient sister and follow her brother into Hell. I knew then she’d be nothing but trouble.”

“And her blonde companion?”

“She is just as feral as her friend. They’re sisters-in-arms and they have disrupted the Otherworldly with their insolence. Worse, they brought those other two rabble-rousers to cause more anarchy. The Otherworldly is supposed to slumber in pleasant enigmas, not become enraged and devoured everything in its wake. If they figured out the Otherworldly is a spirit and not a place…”

“Then what?”

“Reality alters, and then my plans to take it as my slave are jeopardized for good. We have to sow seeds of discord between the Frightful One and the Orchids, particularly the one with the one blue eye and the one brown eye. Her I would relish to destroy for her insolence. There is no other way to rid myself of them all.”

IX

Clementine Darlington sat on the edge of Eden to have a good, long think. She was the daughter of the Goddess Thomasina, and it was still a sad life to grow up never knowing the mother who was murdered protecting her. Clementine grew up with seven schizophrenic brothers whom her Mother protected as She hid them, and they raised her with devotion, love, and appalling permissiveness.

She learned seven languages by the time she was five. They doted on her education and spiritual guidance. For a group of insane men who spent their entire lives being disfigured and tortured in a dungeon by their rapist father and mother’s kidnapper and captor, they were very wise and loving fathers to her.

They let her get away with appalling antics because she was their only connection to her beloved Mother. Clementine couldn’t complain, and when she finally joined her Mother in Eden, they hit it off immediately.

Now they were separated and the idea saddened her once again.

Her Mother did pop in to visit. She now had a very attractive black man named Denison who worked as Her Messenger, though he seemed to have ideas of his own, and exercised them frequently, and it was always an escapade with him.

But Clementine had been a keeper of a secret that she had told no one before, and now she wished she told her Mother before the business of stopping that religion became a priority.

That the Otherworldly wasn’t so much a place, but a person. A spirit.

Clementine knew as she was an alchemist, and alchemists knew that everything had a spirit; so it stood to reason so did the Otherworldly. Her first experiment was a resounding successful.

But it was a very strange spirit to say the least.

It had an unproducible name, and a very peculiar personality, and considering that Clementine was raised by seven schizophrenic men who had delusions of being her Mother’s monks, it was saying something about the eccentricity of the Otherworldly.

For one, it talked. A lot. It had a peculiar sense of humour, and always liked stories, magic shows, and flowers.

It also had a crush on some man named Vendel Langston.

It fell in love with the man who came all the way from Hell to be manly and yet be known as an Orchid, as he openly worshipped its leader as his own personal goddess whom he revered.

That apparently, was the sign of a perfect soul.

But the Otherworldly also knew he was in love with someone else, and realized human-realm relationships weren’t logistically feasible, and no hard feelings.

But the Otherworldly had all sorts of questions to Clementine, who, despite being very clever, didn’t know the answers.

She had to consider her options before she could start answering some very silly questions from the most uninhibited place ever created.

She wished she could ask her Mother because if anyone had the answer, it was Her…