Ella Dagnell took a deep breath and mentally reviewed her meager belongings she had packed for her trip. Her suitcase was filled with sturdy, joyless clothing which suited her purpose just fine, this along with her handy Oliver typewriter meant she was ready to leave her cozy apartment in bustling Chicago and go to the devastated town of Castle Gate, Utah.
“Dammit Ella, Why the hell ya’ doin’ this?” Daniel, her erstwhile boyfriend, whined at her.
Her hands paused briefly over her well worn folded clothing, “Daniel, Daniel I HAVE to. it’s...it’s for work. I-I have to.”
Ella tried to ignore Daniel’s continued complaints as she gathered up her courage. Her reddish brown hair was in tight little ringlets around her face, a style that wouldn’t last long where she was headed. She went to her sink and ran water over her hair, pulling the wet mess into a tight bun on top of her head.
“You shouldn’t be out in a man’s world, you sure as hell aren’t cut out for it! You should be staying here and marrying me like your parents want you to!” Daniel’s words stung, she knew she wasn’t the type to adventure out, but she had seen how confident flappers and the glamorous women who went in and out of speak-easies had seemed, and she wanted to be like them. She didn’t want to be the girl who baked cakes for the church raffle, she wanted to be Zelda Sayre.
For months Ella had been begging her boss at the local newspaper to give her a real story to cover, she had been covering ladies interest stories for the better part of a year and she felt that if she had to cover one more fluff piece about one of her neighbors baking a pie and winning a prize she would scream. Her persistence had been met with a patronizing dismissal until two days ago. The entire news room stood in stunned silence as her boss, John Radcliffe had read them the telegram, there was an explosion in a mine in Castle Gate, and there were no survivors. Perhaps Radcliffe figured offering the job to Ella would result in her turning it down and giving him some peace, or maybe all the men had turned it down before he approached her but Emma found herself assigned to the story with a train ticket leaving to Salt Lake City that evening.
The train station was bustling with the activity of work commuters in the evening, men going home to their families. The preliminary estimates of the mine disaster painted a grizzly and heart wrenching picture. Of the 171 men in the mine, 117 of them were married with children, those men would never be arriving somewhere again. The people rushing by her, oblivious to the heartache and misery of their fellow man overwhelmed Ella, she felt she could barely catch her breath as she boarded the train to Salt Lake City.
Ella tried to let her mind wander on the train ride, but there was something off about the woman sitting in front of her. Something about her eyes seemed off, Ella had made eye contact for a brief moment and felt as though two people were looking back at her.
“Excuse me miss,” the woman’s voice brought Ella out of her own head for a moment, “I was wondering if you are feeling well, you look as though someone has walked across your grave.”
Ella smiled weakly, “Yes, I’m fine, just a bit shaky from the travel is all. Trains make me nervous,” Ella hoped that the woman would buy her excuse and be done with her, but instead she handed her what at first glance appeared to be a book, but on second glance revealed to be a hidden flask.
“Don’t worry, it’s the good stuff,” the strange woman grinned and nodded to encourage her, “I can’t stand that coffin tarnish.”
Ella had never had liquor before and the burning warmth that spread through her was strangely comforting. She felt peaceful in spite of her destination and found herself growing drowsy. Soon she was drifting off to sleep, the sounds of the train fading off into the distance.
There was a screeching sound and then sudden movement, she awoke only long enough to register that something was wrong. She had time to breath in and shout. Everything was still, everything was silent and she was in pain.
Ella tried to move, the horrible wrenching sensation in her side stopped her from trying more. She tried to see what was going on but something was blocking her vision. Breathing was getting difficult. The air was thick and heavy, smoke and the smell of burning filled the air. There was something else there too, a smell like the air after a rain.
“Ella,” a voice in the darkness, almost a whisper.
She frantically looked around, “Wh-Who is there?”
“That's not important, you're hurt, you need my help,” it said.
“Well help me! Get me out of here!” she started to crawl toward the voice despite the pain.
“Stop moving, you'll hurt you self more.”
Her breath came in short painful bursts, “Who are you? Where are you?”
The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end as she felt something near her. Slight blue sparks occasionally flared but there was no one there, just the sense of something. The was a stack shock on her hand. “I am what your people call an Aurem. I was bonded with the woman in the car with you. She has died, I couldn't save her. I can save you, but you have to let me.”
“ Let you? What do you mean? If, if you can help me, then please help me!”
“ We will have to bond, to join. In order to help you we need to become one.”
“Bond?” Ella was close to passing out again. Her pain allowed her to feel every detain of it. Her whole left side was in extreme pain. Focus, she thought, what does he mean, “join” with me? She thought back on everything she knew of the Aurem. They arrived over a hundred years ago. Some people thought the Aurem were Angels or Demons. They needed a human body to live in. “You want to control me?”
“Not control, never control, you will still be you. You will also be me as well. We will be something new.” The blue sparks flashed more frequently as it spoke.
Tears and something thicker ran down her face. I don't want to die, she thought, I haven't lived, there is so much I want to do. She took a long painful breath, the muscles in her side screaming in protest. Her voice was hoarse, “OK I give you permission. Do it.”