Chapter 1: The Sacrifice Darkness. No matter how much I try to remember something else I always just remember darkness. That's all I go back to. Valeria was sitting on her usual bench.
She visited this park almost every day. It was a busy area in town, and she enjoyed seeing people come and go. What she enjoyed the most was watching the children play.
She always thought how lucky it would be if she had been able to go back to being a kid. They were resilient.
No matter what they went through, it always seemed easier to bounce back if you were a kid.
As she continued watching the children running around she looked at their smiling faces and heard their laughter, and a sense of calmness washed over her.
Almost. She came to the park whenever she felt the memories were feeling too heavy on her mind, and generally, sitting here and watching everyone pass by helped soothe her.
But that wasn't the case today. Valeria tried not to let the memories of what happened overcome her. She tried to focus on anything else.
The people walking down the street, the smiling dogs happily walking alongside their owners, how good the warm sun might have felt on her skin, but none of it worked.
Over the last few months, Valeria had gotten good at keeping the past at bay. She felt she had finally moved on and accepted her fate.
However, it seemed that lately the past was coming back with a vengeance. The memories aching on her body like an old wound that would never heal.
As she glanced around, she realized trying to fight what was happening was pointless.
The faces of all the children and all the passersby were starting to get foggy, their voices slowly fading away, until nothing was distinguishable.
She closed her eyes and took in the familiar sight.
She was clinging to Jude, his body seemingly lifeless on the floor. She could hear the loud sobs that escaped her, though at the time she didn't realize she was crying.
There were times she still felt it had all been a nightmare. She couldn't believe she was there, holding on to the body of the man she had loved so much.
Thinking of it now, it was as though she was remembering someone else's horror.
She could remember pleading for him as she grasped his shirt, "Please, don't take him from me. He didn't do it. I swear. He didn't. Please. Me. Take me instead."
And there it was. She had been so willing to give up her life for him. Why wouldn't she? She had loved him more than anything. She would have died a million deaths for him then.
She had been so sure back then that he would have been worth it. She believed with her whole heart that he was worth saving, worth more than her own life.
But she was wrong. She looked back now and decided that was the worst of it all. That the man she had loved, the person she had given her life for, had deceived her.
She learned then that no matter how much she loved him, and no matter what he was willing to do, he did not love her the same way. Maybe he never did.
She figured then that the pain from that realization was worse than dying.
She could have died those million deaths for him and more peacefully if she could have just been spared that kind of pain.
"Are you sure?" the Voice asked.
Valeria whispered, "What?" At the time she wasn't sure if she had really heard anything. Now it seemed like it should have been taking as a warning.
"Are you sure," the Voice repeated, "that you're willing to take his place?"
"Yes," she said without hesitating.
"And are you sure that he is innocent?"
"Completely," Valeria nodded.
"Very well," the Voice replied, "Let's ask him."
Suddenly she could see Jude's chest rising and falling. He opened his eyes slowly.
"Valy," he said softly, "What happened?"
The Voice answered, "She saved your life."
Jude looked at her, "You did?"
The Voice said, "She is willing to trade her life in order to prove your innocence. But I want to know... if you're willing to trade hers.
"What do you mean?"
Are you truly innocent? Are you willing to sacrifice the life of this woman who clearly loves you and have her give up her own life to save yours?
Even if it means she may take the consequences of your crime if you did commit it?"
Jude looked at her then, and without a second thought, he nodded, "Yes. I am."
Everything was quiet for a moment. Valeria sighed a breath of relief, so sure that the worst was behind them. But again she was wrong.
In a moment a beam of glaring, blinding white light appeared and she heard the Voice whisper, "You were not worthy of her sacrifice."
And that's when she was enveloped in darkness. Because no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't remember past that.
No matter how much she tried to think beyond that, all she could remember after that is darkness.
After that, the next memory Valeria had was waking up in her current state as a ghost. That had been about a year or so ago, according to her own estimations.
That was the thing about being a ghost; time was endless and because of that, there became a certain point in which it all runs together.
It was then, after what felt like hours sitting on the bench, that she decided it was time to go. She got up slowly and started walking in the directions of the stores nearby.
Now, Valeria hadn't lost ALL of her memories. She had some memories of the Before. It's just that now they were fuzzier.
She couldn't remember exact details, and there were some faces she could no longer put names to. But if there was one thing she remembered, it's that she enjoyed this particular area.
It was in a lot of her memories. It was the reason she decided to spend most of her time in the park. In her memories, whenever she was here, she always had a feeling of calmness.
She knew hadn't been much of a shopper Before, but she remembered she loved window shopping and looking through the nick-knacks at the thrift store and clothing stores along the path.
As she walked along glancing at the shops, she thought about her memory. She couldn't understand why she couldn't remember what exactly the committed crime was. All she could remember was Jude.
The man she loved who discarded her life. She made sure to remember him. In the early months, she had been obsessed with him - or rather obsessed with finding him.
She wanted to find him and to make him answer for what he did. She would spend hours, full days, sitting and trying to piece memories of him that could help her find him. But she never could.
She could only remember foggy details. What she remembered most was how often he had made her smile and laugh. That always seemed so cruel to her.
Like a constant reminder that the person who made her happiest ultimately brought her end. Eventually, it grew too unbearable to think of him so she simply stopped.
She stopped trying to look for him and started sitting at the park, started watching other people shop, started watching other people live.
She felt maybe this was her coming to terms with everything.
That she had accepted the fact her life was over, and that Jude would never answer her for what he did, and that just was going to be the way it was.
After all, she had always been told that sometimes life wasn't fair. But she was starting to wonder if maybe there was a part of her that still wanted to find him.
There had to be a reason the memories were starting up again.
She knew she deserved to find answers, but how? How was she going to be able to find Jude? She had tried for so long she didn't want to go through it again if it meant the same results.
She was lost in thought as a group of people started to cross the nearby intersection. She knew there was an office building on the other side and she assumed they must be getting off work.
She paid no mind to them and continued thinking as she heard someone say, "Excuse me, miss, but are you ok?"
She didn't answer them. After being dead for a year she was used to people having conversations around her. It was hard to ignore at first.
There were times, in the beginning, she'd turn her attention only to remember they couldn't possibly be talking to her. By now even that reflex had gone.
She started walking away when she heard the same person mutter under their breath, "Ok then, nice seeing you, too."
Valeria stopped cold. Did that person actually see her?
She turned around and noticed a man walking away.
"Excuse me," she called pacing to catch up to him, "Were you talking to me?"
He smiled softly at her, "I was," he nodded, "But maybe you didn't notice me. It's alright."
"You," Valeria said slowly, "You can see me?"
The man looked at her, "Of course I can see you."