When loved ones die, people say never-never again will they see that person; he or she is lost forever, has simply ceased to exist except in memory. Some of us believe otherwise-that the soul lives on without the body. But our beliefs are based on faith and not hard evidence, and sometimes we still slip into doubt. After Wolfwood's death, Milly found herself saying never again would she hold or kiss him, or look into his eyes. I found myself thinking never again would he fight by my side. We told each other he had gone to Paradise, and was better off, yet sometimes all we thought he was doing was decaying in a grave.
But one should never say never.
One night I took a trip back to Orleans, a place I had visited before I met Wolfwood. As I did last time, I had my ride stop on the outskirts of town. I prefer walking through the graveyard and paying my respects to those many dead, though I knew not a one of them.
The night was cold and windy. I missed my old red coat. My new denim one only reached my waist.
Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a human figure. I turned my head. There was nothing but the crosses marking the graves.
I continued my march. This time I felt a human presence. The risen hairs on the back of my neck told me somebody was behind me.
I whirled around. The figure was transparent. My gun hand went right through him. He just smiled. "Hey, Vash." It was Wolfwood.
Wolfwood's ghost. So my first reaction was to scream at the top of my lungs and run around the graveyard like a chicken with its head cut off.
I tripped over one of the crosses, taking it down with me. Sorry that I had violated someone's grave that way, I tried to calm myself and place the cross upright.
"What's wrong, Vash?" Wolfwood asked. "It's just me."
I backed away while still sitting on the ground. "B-but you're dead! I buried you myself!"
"Your point being?"
"You're not even buried here-you're buried at Tonim Town!"
"What, am I chained to my grave?"
I stood up on wobbly legs. "What are you doing here?"
"I just want to talk with you-that's all. That's not so scary, is it? Especially for someone as fearless as you."
I smiled sheepishly. "Fearless, yeah!" There's one thing about facing natural danger, quite another about facing the unearthly. A ghost is scary even if it's the ghost of a good friend.
"Relax-it's not like this is the first time I've talked with you since my untimely death."
I recalled how he had guided me during my fight with Knives. "Yeah, you saved my life."
He looked pretty much as he did when I had last seen him, when he had been wearing dark slacks, a jacket, and a partially unbuttoned white shirt. Now, however, the jacket and slacks were white as well. I recalled some verse somewhere about blood washing garments white. I'm not sure why, but I began to feel at ease.
"So, how ya doin'?" he asked casually. The years since his departure seemed to melt away.
"Great. Life's been peaceful. I married Meryl and we have a daughter, Angeline-"
He grinned. "Nice name!"
"Yeah, I thought you'd like it. You have a son, you know."
"Yeah, I know. I not only watch you, but I watch him and Milly. As good as it is where I live now, sometimes I wish I could talk to them face to face."
"Well, you're talking to me now!"
"Vash, you're extra-perceptive. And even then I still can only rarely communicate with you." He was silent for a moment, then continued, "That's what I wanted to talk to you about. Now don't think it's not great just seeing you in itself, but I need you to pass something along to Milly."
"What is it?"
"If she wants to get married again, she should go ahead. I don't expect her to be celibate for life on my account."
"Okay, I'll tell her." I waited a second before inquiring, "Can I ask you one thing?"
"What was it like for you?"
He looked at me quizzically.
"You know, dying," I clarified.
"Oh! I didn't know what you were getting at. It was..well, I was spilling my heart out on the church floor, then a brief moment of semi-consciousness, then I 'woke up' and found people I had known who had died. Like Ramona, this girl I lost at the orphanage. Oh, and before I forget-I've met your friend Rem."
My heart beat excitedly. "You know Rem?"
"Yeah, she's a nice girl. She's always looking out for you, too."
I sighed happily, thinking of her in a peaceful paradise. "Ah, Rem. Rem Saverem." I turned back to Wolfwood. "Nicholas D. Wolfwood," I said fondly.
"Vash the Stampede," he said in return. "I love you, buddy."
"Hunh?" That seemed like an odd thing for him to bring up.
He explained his outward display of affection by saying, while pointing skyward, "Hey, we're not hung up in Heaven, you know? See ya."
He was starting to fade. "Wait!" I grabbed him-well, tried to-there was nothing solid to grasp. In a second, he had disappeared.
I stood staring at the spot where I had last seen him. "Love you, too," I said quietly, then turned and resumed my march into town.
When I returned to my town, I told Milly about my encounter and what Wolfwood had said. We were in the town square, which was practically empty, except for her, Nicholas, Jr. and myself. "If you see Nicholas again," Milly requested of me. "Thank him and tell him I will always love him."
With a lifespan as long as I have, I've seen lots of people come and go. Two that I'll never forget are Rem and Wolfwood, although they were in my life only briefly. A hundred years have not come between me and the memory of Rem. I still see her clearly, though I have no physical picture to refer to. Wolfwood-sometimes I'm not sure why he means so much to me. I know we always tried to right wrongs, and fought by each other's side. Meryl tells me we were cut from the same cloth. I think it's that he was more like a brother to me than my real twin had been in a century.
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