I, Joseph, take you Elizabeth…
…to be my lawful wedded wife…
…to have and to hold from this day forward…
…for better, for worse…
…for richer, for poorer…
…in sickness, in health…
…to love, honor, and cherish…
…til death do us part.
Til death do us part. The words seemed to mock him now. When he made his vows, pledging anyplace anytime, for her, he would always fight, Joseph didn’t expect to lose his wife in six months. There had to be some sort of mistake. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end. This wasn’t what was supposed to be. Joseph couldn’t believe his stupidity. He practically accused Lizzie of an affair, even though she assured him time and time again she was with him. When they recovered her phone, Joseph saw the last person she called was not Don, or some unknown male name, but Riley.
Idiot! And then he went and kissed another woman, a practical stranger because of a moment of weakness? A matter of confusion? How could be ever clear his conscience? What must have gone through Lizzie’s head in her final moments? Pain beyond belief? Paralyzing fear? Staggering betrayal? How could be ever clear his conscience? He lost the love of his life… and his unborn child and he could never forgive himself.
He hadn’t found time to plan a memorial. He couldn’t bring himself to call her family. Riley and Annie agreed to call everyone for him as he walked around in a daze, awash with grief. What do you even do after someone dies? Joseph spent a half hour S’moogling the topic before growing too disgusted and depressed to continue. How could a person’s life boil down to doling out insurance benefits and notifying next of kin, employers, and friends? Joseph didn’t want to decide between coffins or cremation or whether to serve chicken or pork at the funeral lunch or if he wanted a wreath of flowers or a simple bouquet. Lizzie was so much more than that. She mattered so much more than that.
What have I done?
Joseph found an intriguing sidebar in his search. Something about experimental procedures. No guarantees. Highly dangerous. Possible revival from the dead. It was worth looking into, he figured. There were many mysteries of the universe that people just didn’t understand yet. He never really believed in ghosts but now anything was possible. He needed to believe it was possible. He wanted Lizzie back, and not just because she was his wife. He was her husband. At this point, he was willing to go to hell and back if it meant he could be with her again. Why did I have to be so possessive? Why was I so jealous? It was all utter nonsense.
After learning that high-ranking vampires had the ability to revive the dead, Joseph hopped in his truck and drove through the night to Hidden Hollow. He wasn’t sure how he was going to make it in the door since he didn’t know any vampires personally, but he was willing to try anything. He was willing to pay any price. Anything to bring Lizzie back. I killed her, he wept uncontrollably in the garden behind Tara Terrano’s home. A mere few months before, Joseph and Lizzie spent an unexpected honeymoon in the Hollow, happy and deeply in love. Now all hope felt lost. It’s my fault. I should be dead instead of her.
The day seemed too bright, the birds too chipper, the trees to green. A few trees stretched dead branches to scrape the sky, but even they had buds of green erupting from the bark. Joseph sank to the bench in despair. The world went on.The sun still shone. The birds still sang. The trees still grew. The bugs still buzzed. The universe didn’t answer his plaintive cries for mercy, for peace, for relief.
Joseph wasn’t sure if he was confused or just insane for doubting Lizzie’s faithfulness, for letting that lady in neon to kiss him. It was like someone pulled out his brain and had a field day with his internal organs. Nothing made sense. Everything was inside out. His world was upside down and everyone else’s was right side up. Well, maybe that wasn’t entirely true.
He had silenced his phone an hour ago after it kept ringing continuously. First, Eddie and Essie, his in-laws. Then Nora and Lee simultaneously. Then Sammy. Then Eddie again. Then Julian. Then a handful of friends. Then his boss. He hadn’t called in and he would probably be fired if he didn’t. Typically missing work for any reason stressed him out, but today he didn’t care. Then Essie again. Riley. Cathy. Sugar. John. Then the cycle started all over. He couldn’t deal with their probing questions. He couldn’t handle their condolences. He didn’t deserve condolences or platitudes or kindness. He killed Lizzie… they just didn’t know it yet.
“I won’t ask how you are doing,” Tara said, joining him on the bench. “I hated that question when my husband and daughter passed.”
“You had a child?” Joseph sniffed.
“Yes, a little girl. She was…” Tara smiled sadly. “…a rosebud about to bloom when she died.”
Joseph frowned. “How can you say that?”
“Say what?” Tara asked.
“Di…” he couldn’t even bring himself to finish the word. “It’s… so… final…” he shuddered.
“It’s the cycle of life. First there’s life, then there’s death. My people understand this even more than other Sims. Our length of life is often much shorter,” Tara explained. “Everything dies. We must accept this in order to truly appreciate life.”
“Like not take things…or people for granted?” Joseph inquired, swiping at tears forming at his eyes.
“You were granted a gift, Joseph,” Tara said softly. “However brief, it was beautiful what you and Lizzie had.”
“But I plumming ruined it!” Joseph exclaimed, and Tara gasped at his punctuated string of curse words. “I plumming killed her… Tara… I killed her!”
Joseph felt hot anger coursing through his veins as he struggled to control his emotions. His heart bounced all over the place like a pinball in a machine.
“Anger is normal to feel, Joseph,” Tara said. “You shouldn’t feel ashamed…blaming yourself is natural too.”
“I don’t…want… I didn’t want… I don’t know…” Joseph dropped his head. “I feel like I’ve lost everything. I…” he interlocked his fingers behind his head and breathed heavily. “I came here to try and get it back. To make things right. I heard there was a way… to bring back the de…” he still couldn’t say the word aloud. “Lizzie,” he swallowed hard.
Tara exhaled and laid her hands outward. “Do you feel that?”
He grimaced as the air seemed perfectly stagnant. The birds had stopped chirping and he couldn’t hear any bugs bustling about anymore. Tara laid her hands out, palms up, and closed her eyes as she tilted her head slightly upward.
“Love,” she replied, her voice barely above a whisper.
Joseph frowned. He could hear a catch in her tone and if he wasn’t mistaken, an infant smile formed at the edges of her mouth. As an aura of white light formed around her, Tara opened her eyes wide and made tiny fists with her green hands.
“Close your eyes,” she ordered gently.
“Why?” he did as he was told, but still felt the need to ask questions.
“I can feel her. I can feel Lizzie.”
“What?” his eyes fluttered open.
“Yes,” Tara lifted her hand and laid it on top of Joseph’s. “But this is good news. It means she’s close by.”
“Elizabeth?” Joseph called out. “Lizzie? If you can hear me, I’m so sorry.”
“Shh,” Tara urged. “Close your eyes and listen… do you hear her? She forgives you, Joseph…she releases you.”
Joseph choked back a sob. “She is? She can? Wait…” he narrowed his eyes. “How can you know? How can you hear her? I can’t hear a thing.”
Joseph didn’t understand it, but his heart felt lighter, as if a weight had been lifted. Tara explained that many Plantae were healers with a deep connection to the earth. She could connect with Lizzie if the soul still had corporeal roots. Tara could sense Lizzie, and even if he couldn’t feel her presence, somehow Joseph knew his love was still there.
When he opened his eyes, Tara was still glowing, but she was no longer smiling.
“I lost her,” she sighed. “It’s very fragile. The tendrils are fresh, but the roots are floating.”
“I don’t…” Joseph shook his head, misunderstanding.
“…um…” Tara scratched her leafy hair. “Think of a hydroponic garden. There are roots floating every which way in the water, but are not tethered to the ground anymore.
“You’re saying she’s in limbo?”
“Yes, The soul is a very delicate thing. In all normality, the soul passes to the next life. That’s what our ancestors have done for millennia, but… do you know the stories of how the PlantSims came to be?”
“The aliens… they experimented on my ancestors. We were never supposed to be, but we are. The aliens… they are necromancers. They can res the dead. They keep Sims in the in-between for experiments mostly,” she made a face. “Not all dead go there. Just the ones the Xenosi capture. Or the Titanav.”
“So it’s not fairy tales?” Joseph said.
“Oh no. Titanav is real. On the planet of Titanav rules what you would call the Reaper. They are known also as Kr’v… that is what they call themselves. The Xenosi and their genetic friends, the Orbix and the Reapers… they can hold the dead and bring them back to life. We cannot ask them though. They are inaccessible.”
“You can’t bring her back?” his eyes widened with sadness.
She laid a hand across her heart. “My people can feel them because we were born from roots, but you…” she laid her other hand on his shoulder. “…would need to train.”
“Are you saying I can feel her? Touch her?” Joseph inquired.
“Not exactly. But the in-between is not far from here,” she added. “PlantSims can sense spirits, but we cannot revive them. But there is an alternative…and Joseph… it is dangerous…” she touched his forehead. “You have darkness here. And that is why you are not at peace. That is why you were tormented by false thoughts of betrayal.”
“What are you saying?”
“I have only seen this kind of dark aura caused by one thing. Mind manipulation. By a vampire.”
Tara just told Joseph that his mind had been poisoned by a vampire. How could this be? He grabbed the sides of his head in instinctive shock.
“Do something, Tara,” he begged.
She shook her head. “Only a pyre can lift a curse.”
“But I don’t feel it in my head,” Joseph protested.
“It’s pretty high level magic.”
“But I have clarity… now… I haven’t doubted Lizzie, or wondered if she was telling the truth or not. I know she is.”
Tara frowned. “In some cases, I’ve heard very trong emotions can break through a pyre’s mind blocks. Like grief…”
“Or love,” Joseph replied, excitedly. “Tara? Tell me what I need to do to bring Lizzie back. You said there’s a way.”
“I can feel her… so she’s strongly tethered… to this place,” Tara began tentatively. “It’s possible…” she plucked a leaf from her arm. “…a pyre could resurrect her. I may know a friendly pyre who will help us figure this out, but the cost could be high, Joseph. Are you willing to pay?”
“Anything. I have to… make this right.”
Author Notes: Thanks for reading. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Xenosi (aliens which Tara speaks of), Orbix, and Titanav/Kr’v/Grim Reaper, you can read more on my other blog. Essentially, the Xenosi have long been believed to be the cause of supernaturals, creating them out of genetic experimentation for some unknown purpose, though possibly to prolong their own lives. It would make sense that they would “play” with death. Ghosts are a weird phenomenon in the Sims games, and in my Simworld, not much is known about them. This is the first time anyone has offered an explanation for them. Ghosts exist because the Xenosi (or Reapers/Kr’v) harvest the spirits, trapping them in limbo (or the in-between, as Tara calls it). I’ll continue more Friday on the subject. This chapter featured LegacySims2017’s Joseph and game generated townie, Tara Terrano.