“Oh, the painting…” Phillip gasped, looking towards the tallest remaining wall, on which the painting hung down. And actually, down.
Peter stepped across the rubble, and his torchlight met the beam of Phillip’s.
As they watched with fear and curiosity, respectively, the painting slipped down from the wall and crashed down into the rubble; luckily the fall and the hard landing did not seem to destroy it any further. Phillip rushed across and cradled the gilded-framed image, not quite like one would a child, but rather like a man would hold the most precious thing to him. Even in the dull light it was clear that the paint had dried, cracked, and faded, peeling away in some places so that the wooden easel below showed through. The picture of the house and its gardens had become…nothing.
“It used to be so nice…” Phillip whispered, although Peter wasn’t sure whether he was talking about the drawing or his house and the life with it.
Slowly, having given the painting to Peter’s care, Phillip wandered over to the large tree in the centre of the broken room.
“And yet, she is still here,” he remarked, once again in his vague off-hand manner, even gesturing to himself. Peter half wondered if it was the tree that Phillip was addressing; for it was certainly not a conversation between the brothers.
Phillip placed his left palm flat onto the top of the tree’s gnarled trunk, and inhaled the cold, crisp air slowly, feeling all the life that flowed between him and the plant’s world. The hand ran up those twisted branches, as smooth as water against gravity, until it reached the pale pink christening gown. Phillip knew that he was meant to be here; he felt the positivity in his heart. At least his heart was full of feeling once more; it was a start…
“Yes, yet still is she alive,” he repeated in a voice fogged with awe, adding, “Peter, come here and feel this bark; it’s so warm, and soft in a way that only lichen-headed trees can be. Put your hands on the trunk now, please. Don’t worry, I’ll really try to make sure nothing bad happens to you; I just want to see…”
Although his brother’s quiet and smoky voice worried him, Peter, frowning, hung the paining back onto the remainder of the wall (where it stubbornly decided to slip crooked again), and hesitantly made his way over, through the dark, to the area where his brother stood.
“Are you sure about this, Phillip?”
Peter closed his eyes in the definite matter that was to say he was ready, and thrust his palms on to the centre of the tree.
No flash of lightning, no head-reeling time-turning, no rush of any image into Peter’s mind. The only rush that occurred was that of heated blood to his cheeks.
“There’s nothing,” he announced, feeling stupid.
“No… Nothing at all?” Phillip trembled.
“Nothing. Perhaps, I just have a one-off talent. Not even wise Richards, the one person I know whom I think is the most connected with paranormal events, could evoke a response from the spirits.”
”Maybe…” Phillip remarked, “But hold in your mind the fact that this is no (and excuse the possible pun) ‘normal’ paranormal. I don’t think it’s up to the spirits any longer.”
Then he dropped his voice to a whisper, his eyes darting around the ruins furtively.
“Maybe she’s not here anymore. Aidelle could have wandered off.”
Peter was alarmed. It was one thing to credit the love of a human being on the appearance of an image of her, begging to be reunited as Phillip had wanted it that instant, but it was quite another to believe to know where said image would appear next. Peter hated himself for thinking it, but he himself was starting to doubt, even through his beliefs and knowledge of psychic activities, that there ever was a rift in time, that held Aidelle’s ‘ghost’; there might have be a projected image once, left to fight off scavengers of war, but how did that one glimpse of a clouded figure mean a future for his brother and his fiancée again? What gave Phillip the authority to lead them round on this chase, searching for any lost clue to Aidelle’s fidelity?