Chapter One - The Slap of Restoration

Chapter 1

The Slap of Restoration

When she watched the pale, black-haired boy walk in with an alarmed expression, all she saw was trouble, and just when she was about to close shop, too.

Vie tried to scurry behind a shelf, as if he would just leave if he couldn’t find her, but his eyes shot to her before she could make it to the shelf.

“Are you Vie?” he asked.

“Yes,” she answered. She hoped he would pick up on the resistance in her voice and take the hint that she didn’t want to be involved in whatever crazy thing she felt confident he would say.

No hints were taken. “Great! I’m Sam. I need you to perform a resting, like right now.”

The urgency in his voice threw her off. Her mouth did the talking before her mind could catch up. “You have to make an appointment. You can’t just come in here and tell me to do something like this stat!”

Vie’s face turned red with frustration and embarrassment. The only reason she required an appointment before performing any medium services was because she needed time to do research, time to build herself up to put on an act. Her ability to see ghosts started fading when she was ten years old and it disappeared altogether when she was fifteen. No matter how hard she tried, no matter what she did, these days she was a sham through and through.

When she opened Vie’s Mystical Gateway a year ago, she did so with the hopes that being surrounded by mystical items and spiritual customers would help bring her medium abilities back. Being a medium was all she’d ever dreamed of her entire life, all she’d studied and looked forward to. Opening the shop was her last-ditch effort to convince both herself and her parents that she could find some way to make a living doing what she loved.

She loved her shop. She’d worked hard to make it happen, and it was something she could proudly call her own, but every day, bit by bit, she felt more and more like her dreams were fading away just like her abilities had, and soon she would become the type of adult she always feared she’d become—the type that settles because their dreams have died, if they ever had any dreams at all.

“I didn’t have time to make an appointment. Look, this is an emergency. My mom is furious, and—”

Sam abruptly turned his attention to a spot just to the left of Vie, and even though Vie hadn’t been sure at first if she believed anything the boy was saying, she instinctively turned to the direction where he was looking. She frantically looked back and forth, but she saw nothing, felt nothing.

“Can you just listen to me?” Sam said. “It’s not like I want to do this because I don’t love you and Dad.”

Then, row by row, gems, books, spellcasting materials, everything and anything in sight, started flying to the ground or against the walls.

“Mom, stop!” the boy screamed, his voice drowned out by all the noise.  

With each item that fell to the ground or hit the wall, Vie’s future, her hard work, flashed before her. Tears stung her eyes. She couldn’t tell if it was from rage or sadness, but there was one thing she knew for sure. A ghost was destroying her shop, and she couldn’t even see the damn thing! That realization was the last straw.

Vie rushed forward in the direction she figured the ghost had to be based on the items flying across the shop and, like a linebacker, threw her shoulder into something that definitely felt like a solid body. Vie’s shoulder throbbed.

Sam flinched when Vie made impact with his mom. He started to move in the direction Vie assumed his mom was in, but he paused mid-step. Vie felt a hard slap across her face, so hard that her face flew in the opposite direction from the impact. If this were a cartoon skit, she would be seeing stars. Now both her cheek and her shoulder were throbbing, and she could feel a headache charging up, readying for a full takeover.

She shook her head in an effort to reorient herself, eyes closed, and slowly rested her hand against her warm, bruised cheek. Faintly, Vie heard a third voice in the room. It was a woman’s voice. With each word, the voice grew stronger until it sounded as present, as there, as Vie’s own voice.

“Sam, I’m so sorry,” the voice said. “Gosh, I don’t think I’ve ever been this out of control before. I feel really bad.”

Stunned, convinced she’d been hit so hard that she was just imagining she could hear the ghost, Vie’s eyes shot open. There, standing right in front of her with an apologetic look on her face as she talked to Sam, was a middle-aged Asian woman who looked to be about the same age as Vie’s own mom. She was wearing a bright, colorful sun dress. Her short, black hair rested atop her shoulders.

Sam groaned. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll figure out how to fix this. Where’s Dad?”

Vie closed her eyes and opened them again. The woman was still there. She could still see and hear her!

His mom looked down at her fingers, which she nervously fidgeted with. “You know, ever since the argument last night, I’ve just been so angry…I’m not sure where he is. I think he’s been hiding out, waiting for the storm to pass. Hey Gene, it’s okay to come out now.”

An entire scene was unfolding right in front of Vie, and as irksome as it was that she had been all but forgotten even though they were talking in her partly destroyed shop after they destroyed it, she was in such a giddy state of shock that she momentarily didn’t mind.  

Next to the woman, a man appeared suddenly. No one was surprised, except for Vie, who screamed and then quickly covered her mouth when all eyes turned to her.

“I-I-I can see you,” she said, pointing to the woman. Her voice quivered with excitement she could barely contain. Then she pointed to the man, her finger shaking. “And you.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” the dad said. “We see you, too.”

Sam rolled his eyes and said to his mom, “See, I told you she was the real deal. She can see you both just fine. You destroyed her shop for no reason!”

Vie wanted to cry happy tears. This was the first time anyone but her own parents had called her the real deal since she was a child, the first time she’d felt like the real deal since she was a child.

“I didn’t mean to destroy her shop, and I’m glad she’s not just swindling you for money, but we’re still really hurt that you came here.”

Gene grabbed her hand. “I want to be where my family is, and if Yumi wants to be here with you, Sam, then I’m staying by her side.”

“I’m so sorry, but I know I’m doing the right thing,” Sam said.

Both Gene and Yumi started fading, the colors of their clothes and eyes dulling. Terrified she was losing the ability to see ghosts all over again, Vie’s muscles started to tense.

Yumi turned to Vie, anger radiating from her body language and tone of voice. “Don’t you dare try to make us leave our son.”

Then Yumi and Gene were gone. Vie, unfazed by Yumi’s demands, relaxed and chastised herself. Mentors at spiritual retreats had taught her years ago that spirits, no matter how potent, have a hard time staying in the living realm for extended periods of time.

The bell above the front door rung. Sam and Vie turned to the door. The sheer spectacle of what the customer was about to walk in on rushed through Vie’s mind. Not only was her shop destroyed, but her cheek was noticeably bruised.

Two steps in, and he did a double take. He looked at the shelves on the floor, then at the boy, then at her.

“We’re closed,” Vie blurted. She felt like a pitiful demon of the night seconds away from bursting into flames.

“Ummm…Do you want me to call the cops or something?” he said.

Sam fervently shook his head. “It’s not what it looks like!”

“No, no, I’m fine,” Vie said. “No police, please.”

“…Okay,” the man said. He left, gently closing the door behind him as though he were afraid if he closed the door too hard, Vie’s Mystical Gateway would crash to the ground.

Vie rushed to the door and locked it. She wanted to scream, but she couldn’t bring herself to do so with a teenage boy standing silently behind her, watching her intently to see what she’d do next. She still felt a shred of pride and self-preservation. Instead, she took in a few deep breaths.

“I’m so sorry about your shop and about my parents’ hostility,” Sam said. “Let me help you clean up.”

Sam really did look sorry, but Vie knew no one was as sorry as she was about the damage. Though Vie was mildly furious, more than anything she felt grateful and fulfilled. She was finally getting the chance to actually be a medium. The road ahead was uncertain, and that was just the way she liked it.

 “After we’re done cleaning, we can talk about putting your parents to rest. You help me at the shop here and there, and I won’t charge for the damage or the resting.”

Sam put out his hand. “Deal! Thank you, seriously.”

* * *

One hour later, the sun beginning to set, Vie and Sam sat at her desk in the back room of Vie’s Mystical Gateway.

“All right, so let’s talk. What was the argument about that made you want to come here, other than your parents not wanting to be rested?”  

“I live with my grandmother and yesterday, I snuck out to go to a party. I went to the kitchen to get a drink, and at the worst possible moment my parents appeared and saw it. My mom flipped the cup out of my hand and knocked over the bowl of drinks in the process. I tried to clean up but the party host thought I was really drunk and kicked me out. It was so embarrassing! And on the way back home my parents and I got into an argument. I just wanted to try it! I wasn’t going to get drunk or anything, but they got so mad, like it’s not normal that I wanted to try alcohol.”

“How old are you?”

“Fifteen,” Sam answered. “I just started high school.”

Memories of being a freshman in high school flooded Vie’s brain. She had been so hyper focused on becoming a medium and getting into a good university near a great mystical community that she rarely partied or dated, but she had a small group of friends she often hung out with after school and on the weekends.

There had been more than a few drunken sleepovers and bad decisions, but looking back on it now, she felt like she’d learned from those experiences and that they had stopped her from going wild when she went away to college. She couldn’t imagine how stressful and irritating her teenage life would’ve been if her parents were always looking over her shoulder during all her big firsts.  

“It’s getting late and I know you probably have to leave soon, but can you give me more background info?”  

Sam sighed and slumped into his chair. “Mom and dad think I’m being immature, that I asked for the resting just because of the argument last night about drinking, but that’s not it. It’s not that simple. I’ve been thinking about this for months. Every day since I was five years old, my parents have been by my side as spirits. They appear for a couple hours during the day and then disappear. For years, it was great. I love my parents and felt lucky to be able to see them after their death, but these last few years have been rough on all of us.

“Now, it’s stressful not knowing when they’re going to pop in and out of my life to tell me that they don’t think I’m studying enough, or that I’m too young to date, or that they don’t trust one of my friends. And it’s not just stressful for me. It’s hard for them. This never happened the first few years they appeared when I was a kid, but now when either my dad or mom get really sad or angry, they become violent. They can’t control themselves when they get like that, and it seems like me just doing normal things for my age gets the scary ghost thing going. Honestly, what scares me most is that they’re going to snap one day and hurt someone.

“They’ve been here for years, and I know for a while it will be sad not to have them by my side anymore, but I think it’s time for them to be put to rest. I told them yesterday after the argument, and then mom flipped out in a rage and dad got angry at me. They won’t even consider it! So that’s the situation, and that’s why I really need your help and so do my parents even though they don’t think so.”  

He was spot on with his fears. Just in the short time she’d been around his parents, Vie could tell they were close to becoming poltergeists, and powerful ones at that. Most ghosts are harmless. Often, their time stuck in the living realm is short and peaceful, but sometimes a ghost becomes violent, aimless, and territorial and gains the ability to physically interact with those in the living realm. It would be much harder to put them to rest if they turned into poltergeists.

“I completely understand. We’ll need to put them to rest before they get any angrier. There are many ways to help them rest, but it will be much easier if they agree with it. Sometimes getting to the bottom of why a ghost is stuck here is all that’s needed. They feel like they need to be here, and if they can accept that they don’t need to be here, that could be enough.”

“I already tried to tell them they need to be rested and you know how that turned out!”

“You tried it after an argument, in the heat of the moment, and then instead of trying to talk to them about it you went straight to me. Of course it didn’t work. Your mom seems the angriest about it. Maybe you can try with your dad first? And set it up in a way where you really make it clear that you’re worried about them, too.”

“I really don’t want to, but I’ll try again. What if it doesn’t work?”

“It’ll be dangerous, but we can tether them to the living realm and tag team an intervention.”


Just seconds after showing Sam out, the serious expression she’d somehow managed to keep throughout their conversation immediately melted away. She squealed with joy.

“Okay Vie,” she said to herself, trying—but mostly failing—to gain her composure. “Just chill out. Don’t make this weird.”

But who was she kidding? Not herself, that’s for damn sure. Every cell in her body wanted nothing more than to make this as weird as possible. After all the frustrating years she spent dreaming of the day she’d be able to see ghosts again, fighting not to lose hope, she deserved to be as dramatic and embarrassingly happy as she wanted.

A big, dumb, painful smile shot across her face as she dialed her dad’s phone number. The smile remained even when he picked up on the second ring.

“Hey!” he answered.

“Dad, I have the best news!”

His jovial laughter only fueled her excitement. Sometimes she felt like a kid all over again when talking to her dad. He was her first best friend, the one person who trusted her from the start and always believed in her, no matter how crazy her interests.

“Breathe, breathe. What’s this best news?”

“I—Well, today, I—”

And yet, she couldn’t tell him. A thought whispered its way throughout her mind and extinguished the bright flame of her confidence. What if it was a fluke? What if she could only see Sam’s parents today? She needed to find a surefire way to prove that her abilities were actually back.

“Um, you okay?” he replied. Vie could practically see his furrowed eyebrows as if he was standing right across from her. “Is this a code word moment?”

“No, I’m fine, for real. But I just realized I gotta do something first before I tell you.”

“All right, well, you know what I’m going to say. If you’re going to do something stupid—”

“Be smart about it. Jeez, Dad, aren’t I always?”

“Is that a trick question?”

Vie smiled. “I’ll be safe, promise. It’s not even that dangerous. More of a scouting thing, you know? I’ll tell you all about it when I’m done.”

“Call if you need anything. Whatever it is, I’m happy for you. It’s been a long time since you’ve sounded this happy.”

“Will do. Bye, Dad. Tell Mom I said hi!”

“I will, whenever she gets back from the…uh…gosh, I can never keep up with her schedule. I swear she’s the busiest woman alive. Anyway, talk to you later.”

Completely on autopilot, she finished the remaining tasks for closing up shop and then drove the few blocks to her apartment. For hours, far past her normal bedtime, she went through her plan over and over.

The plan was simple enough. She’d go to the most potent ghost hot spot she’d ever been to—the dilapidated mansion she went to with all her friends where her abilities completely died when she was fifteen years old—and test her abilities there. With any luck, this time it would be less soul shatteringly humiliating.

She was too afraid to give her mind room for any other thoughts—namely, if this did turn out to be yet another embarrassing fluke, she would have to genuinely consider taking her mother’s advice and putting her dreams of being a medium behind her to do something else with her life.

That scared her far more than any ghost she’d ever countered.