Months have passed since I found out only master chefs can make Ambrosia. I am a better cook since then, but I’m still no closer to successfully making the dish.
The problem is that I am not a real chef, and honestly, I don’t know what exactly it takes to be considered a “master”. Also, even if I do achieve master status, I still don’t know the recipe for combining Life Fruit and Death Fish to make Ambrosia. I know that I can experiment and hope to stumble upon the correct combination, but it would take so much more time than I feel like I have.
I watch leaves fall outside my kitchen window and it feels like each one is a tick on an invisible clock counting down. William keeps saying he’s fine with staying a ghost. I don’t know if I believe him. It feels like he’s giving up, and that worries me.
So today I took a break from cooking another exotic dish and headed out to get the mail. Normally, I rarely bothered to do this. Tiffany usually picked it up after she got off work, but I happened to be watching as the mailman opened our box and deposited the various letters and bills we might have. I saw him stuff a particularly large package inside.
It was a mysterious white package with my name on it. Oddly, it had no address, return or otherwise, just my name. I stood there looking at the elegant-looking letters that spelled out “Charlotte Fields”. I felt the package and shook it a little. It didn’t feel like a bomb or anything particularly dangerous.
Actually it felt like a book.
“So this is it?” Tiffany thumbed through the pages of the old recipe book that someone had anonymously sent me.
“I think so,” I said, fluffing my pillow and stretching out beside her. “I haven’t really had a chance to look through it all, but I think this might have the recipe for Ambrosia.”
“Who do you think sent it to you?” She closed the book and turned it over so she could examine the cover. It was bound in soft leather, and it was old enough that it had seen better days. The binding was cracked and the leather was worn along the spine and edges.
“I have no idea,” I shrugged. “Maybe it was that vampire chef I told you about, but I can’t think of why she’d do it. I mean, I told you I thought she was mocking me. She didn’t seem to believe that I would ever be able to make Ambrosia.”
“Well someone seems to think you’ll be able to do it.”
I took the book from Tiffany and opened it. It had no table of contents, so I’d have to thumb through every recipe. “That’s the problem,” I said, thoughtfully. “Someone thinks I can do it and wants to help me. But who would be interested enough to do that?”
“I don’t know? Maybe another ghost like William?”
“As far as I know, William is unique. Homer says he’s never encountered another ghost like William.”
Tiffany shrugged. “Well, someone is helping you out. Are you going to let it bother you so much that you don’t learn the recipe?”
I shook my head. “No. I can’t stop now. We’re just so close! But I can’t help worrying about it. William has been warned to be careful what he wishes for. What if we’re doing the wrong thing?”
In the end, I had to know the recipe for making Ambrosia. I had to follow through on the quest to bring William back from the dead. I figured that I would learn the recipe, make it, and test it. Once I determined that it would be successful, then William would have to make the ultimate decision whether or not he really wanted to try it.
Having a new baby in our household could have easily distracted me from my quest to bring my brother back from death. Eve and I were fussy parents, constantly holding and playing with Peter or making sure that we took the best care of him.
The thing is, having Peter just reminded me of how precious life really is. I saw my son and just knew that I couldn’t deny my brother the same opportunity to experience bringing a new life into the world. But first, I would have to restore his old life.
Charlotte had learned a lot about Ambrosia. She discovered that in order to make it, you had to be a master chef. Of the two of us, Charlotte was closer to that skill level. I could make a mean grilled cheese, but I had not inherited our grandmother Rachel’s skill with cooking.
While Charlotte was endeavoring to gain the skill for making Ambrosia, I decided that my best contribution would be getting as many Death Fish and Life Fruits as she would need to experiment with the recipe—if she ever found the recipe.
When I wasn’t at home helping my wife with my son, I was out in the cemetery fishing or I was turning my dad’s old garden into a Life Fruit farm (as much as I could considering how few seeds the plant dropped!)
I was working, too, but now that Charlotte and I were so close to our goal, most of my enthusiasm for my job was waning. It was harder and harder for me to help other ghosts move on to an afterlife when I couldn’t do the same for my brother.
As I was riding home from a job one night, I made a pretty momentous decision—I was going to quit working for S.E.E. The more I thought about it, the better I felt about my choice. It was as if the stars in the sky got brighter and a weight lifted off of my chest.
I would quit. I could stay home with my family. And, I could focus my energy on helping Charlotte do whatever she needed me to do so that she could make Ambrosia successfully and bring William back.
Eve was still up when I got home. I was so excited to see her and tell her what I had decided. But, I got a bit distracted. Instead of telling her my big news, I grabbed her and planted one on her.
At first she was surprised, but then she melted into me and everything I was thinking of saying just sort of evaporated. All I could think about was my wife and how wonderful she felt in my arms and how good she tasted as I kissed her.
Eventually I managed to pull away from her delectable mouth. But instead of making my big announcement, I scooped her up in my arms.
“Homer!” she squeaked, and then started to giggle as I carried her upstairs to our room. “Must have been a good night,” she whispered in my ear.
“It was,” I agreed, but not telling her why. Instead I just threw her down on our bed and pounced on her.
After, when I was again thinking of more than just my wife and her luscious body, I told Eve what I had decided that night.
“Are you sure, Homer?” she asked as we lay together on the bed. I nodded. I took her hand and pulled her closer to me.
“I don’t need to work there anymore,” I said. “I would rather be here with you and Peter. I would rather putter in the garden or fish behind the house.”
“But won’t they be upset that you’re quitting? I thought S.E.E. was a little archaic about that since it’s so top-secret and hush, hush.”
I squeezed her hand reassuringly. “It will be fine. I will have to sign another non-disclosure agreement is all.”
“Ok,” Even finally agreed. “It will be sort of nice having you around all the time. Maybe I should quit my job, too, and write full-time.”
“Do you really want to do that?” I asked. “If you did, you could, you know. I mean, it’s not like we need the money. My parents left us the house and dad had tons of money he inherited from his grandfather.”
Eve smiled. “No, I still like my job,” she said. “Maybe someday if I have a book or two published, then I’ll change my mind.”
As I had told my wife, leaving S.E.E. wasn’t difficult. I did have to agree not to speak of my former job. I also had to relinquish my Ghostinator 2000. Now William was my only connection to my old job except for the occasional ghost sighting I still had at the cemetery when I was fishing.
William hadn’t been as easy to convince that I was making the right decision as Eve was.
“It’s Charlotte who is doing all the work right now, Homer. What are you going to do if you aren’t working? It’s not like you can run scientific tests or cook well enough to make a decent pancake let alone Ambrosia!”
“I know,” I told my brother, “but I am getting tired to working at S.E.E. I hate having to work nights. I want to be home with Peter.”
“That’s just an excuse and you know it. You’ll still be out at night. You told me yourself you’ll still be fishing for Death Fish.”
I nodded. I tried explaining to William, again, that my heart just wasn’t in my job. “Don’t you ever want to do something else?” I asked.
William shrugged. “Sure. I always saw myself as a professional athlete. But what else can I do? I’m a ghost. Ghosts don’t have normal jobs.”
“Exactly! And that’s why I’m quitting. I’ll be able to contribute more toward your cure this way. Charlotte is doing all the work in the lab and kitchen, but I am much better at fishing and gardening.”
One fall night I came home from the cemetery to find my mailbox hanging open. Normally, I wouldn’t even have looked at the mailbox. Eve always took care of the mail. But it was odd to see it just handing open, so I went over to close it.
Inside I found a mysterious white package. It had my name written on it in an elegant sort of script. “Odd,” I thought as I felt the package, shaking it to see if it ticked or rattled.
It felt like a book which made me even more intrigued.
“You say this was just in our mailbox?” Eve asked as she thumbed through the old recipe book that had been left for us.
“Yes. I think it might have the recipe for Ambrosia!”
Eve nodded absently. “It might. It looks really old.”
“I should call Charlotte and tell her. Maybe someone is trying to help us out!”
“Why would someone be trying to help you make Ambrosia? Who even knows that you and your sister are doing this?”
I shrugged, too excited that we might be closer to curing William to think about the mystery of who sent the book to us.
“Does it even matter? Charlotte is going to be thrilled! I know she’s frustrated.”
“Homer. Think for a second. Why would someone want you to succeed at what you are trying to do? What would be in it for them?”
Again I shrugged. I pulled my phone out of my pocket. “Maybe they know someone like William, too. Maybe they want to use the Ambrosia, too.” I hit send and waited for my sister to pick up.
“Hey, Char. It’s Homer. I think I may have found the recipe for Ambrosia!”
I told Charlotte about the book I’d found in my mailbox and she told me that she’d received one, too. While I hadn’t really paid attention to Eve’s earlier misgivings, when I found out that Charlotte also got a book with the recipe, I began to wonder if maybe Eve was right.
Charlotte came over and the two of us discussed it while I raked leaves out of the garden beds.
“Should we really be concerned over this?” Charlotte asked. “I mean, who cares if someone else wants us to make Ambrosia. We just have to worry about William, right?”
I nodded, but I still had doubts. “What if Ambrosia does more than what the stories say?”
“Like what?” Charlotte asked. “Do you think if we’re successful everyone will start resurrecting their dead loved ones?”
“But why? And so what?”
I shrugged. “Zombie apocalypse?” I muttered.
“What?!” Charlotte started to laugh. “I can’t believe you just said that. I know that bringing someone back from the dead seems crazy and supernatural, but we’ve tested it and it should work. It’s a huge leap to go from a scientific possibility to a science fiction monster hypothesis.”
“How far away is science fiction from science fact?” I asked, using words that Charlotte herself had once uttered.
“Too far,” Charlotte scoffed. “I might believe in ghosts, and I know vampires are real, but I flat out refuse to think that zombies are even a possibility!”
“But nothing! And anyway, who would want to make zombies anyway? I mean, really?Zombie apocalypse! How ridiculous.”
Just then William floated up to us. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea,” he said.
“Are you kidding?” Charlotte demanded. “William, surely you don’t believe that someone has a nefarious plot to use the Ambrosia to make an army of zombies to bring about the end of the world!”
“No…” William hesitated. He’d been acting more and more unsure lately. I didn’t know what was bothering him. Zombie threat aside, we were so close to our end goals.
“What if it doesn’t work?” William finally asked. “I mean, what if you do all the test, figure out that it should work, but then when we try it on me, it doesn’t?”
“William,” Charlotte said, taking a deep breath. Her tone changed from annoyance to reassurance. “I promise that I will do everything I can to ensure it will work. We won’t try anything on you that we can’t predict the outcome for. I swear.”
“But science isn’t perfect!” William argued. “It’s just theory and hypothesis until you’ve tested it over and over. Where are you going to find ghosts like me to do all these tests you swear you’re going to do before I try the stuff?”
That question caught Charlotte off guard. She knew that there weren’t other ghosts like William…at least not that we knew about. “I’ll run simulations,” Charlotte said. “So many simulations that the outcome will be practically ensured!”
“There is always a margin for error,” William said, then turned and floated away from us, disappearing entirely a few feet away.
“I hate it when he does that,” I muttered.
“So you think you’ve figured it out,” William said, sitting down next to me on my sofa. He’d been working out, as usual, when I’d come in from my lab and told him my news.
“Yes. All of the tests and simulations are coming back with similar results.”
“All of the tests indicate that it does.”
I looked at my brother who didn’t sound as excited as I thought he might. “Ok?” I asked.
William nodded and appeared to gulp. “Ok. You think it works, I guess it must.”
“Does that mean you are going to try it?” He gave another nod, but didn’t answer.
“Something’s wrong,” I told Tiffany later.
“You said that the recipe works,” she said and I nodded. “You said that the Life Fruit plant and the Death Fish really do make Ambrosia. All of your tests show that it should do what the legends say?”
I nodded again. “Every result shows positive indications that the Ambrosia really can bring something back from the dead.”
“So what could be wrong?”
“It’s William. He doesn’t seem like he wants to try it.”
“Oh. Have you asked him why?”
That night I prepared the Ambrosia using the freshest of the fish and Life Fruit that Homer had provided for me. I sat the plate right on the counter and called to William.
“So that’s it?” William asked me, looking at the relatively ordinary dish (if you ignored the faint glow caused by the fruit).
“And you’re sure this will work?”
“As sure as I can be. All of my test indicate a 99% success rate.”
“And the other 1%?”
“You know there is always a margin of error. I am sure of this, though,” I promised. “I wouldn’t do anything I wasn’t positive would work.”
“Ok,” William said again. I was getting tired of that word. “Shouldn’t we wait for Homer?”
I told William that Homer was on his way. I had called him just as I put the Ambrosia into the oven. I expected him to walk in any second.
I was right. Almost as soon as William asked if Homer was coming, I heard his motorcycle pull up into my drive way. A few seconds later, he opened my front door.
“Has he tried it yet?”
“No,” William said. “It’s right there. I was waiting on you.”
“Ok,” Homer said. “Go ahead, then.”
“Are you sure this is what you want?” William asked us. “I mean, what if it doesn’t work? Are you two prepared for that?”
Again, I assured William it would work. If I didn’t know how scared he was, I would have started getting a complex about his lack of faith in my abilities.
“Do you have my IDs ready?” William asked Homer, who nodded. I wasn’t sure how Homer had done it, but he had obtained false documentation for William so that William would exist as a living person once the ambrosia worked.
“It was easier than I thought it would be,” Homer said. “I have a friend, who contacted another friend who works in Bridgeport. I don’t know all the particulars, but some government dude in Bridgeport got all the paperwork. It looks legit. If I didn’t know it was false, I would believe every single word.”
“Ok,” William said again. He sat down on the farthest stool and pulled the plate of Ambrosia to him. “Here goes nothing.”
William ate as Homer and I made idle conversation. William told us not to stare at him while he chewed. “It’s disconcerting,” he said.
I have no idea what Homer and I talked about. The weather? My nephew, Peter? Eve, who was pregnant again, this time with a girl Homer hoped?
“I’m finished,” William finally said. Homer and I both looked at him, sharply.
“Is it working?” Homer asked, nervous. “Can you feel it?”
“It’s not instant,” I warned. “All of my tests took a few minutes. Give it a sec.”
We waited for what seemed like hours, but was really only the few seconds I had told my brothers to wait. Then I could see a sort of glow emanating from William’s skin. Homer noticed it too, and then so did William. He looked up at me, shocked, and tried to talk, but couldn’t seem to form words.
He made noises that sounded like he was choking and Homer looked at me in alarm.
“What’s happening?” Homer demanded. “It’s ok,” I assured him and William. “He’s just changing,” I said in a voice that I hoped sounded confident. I was never more aware of the 1% possibility that this whole thing would fail.
Then I could see the glow changing from the ghostly blue William had been to a multi-colored rainbow. It got really bright for a second or two, forcing Homer and I to shield our eyes. When we looked again, we both gasped.
“William!” I said in soft disbelief. My brother stood there looking exactly like I had always pictured him. He was the same age as me, his skin tone exactly like mine. His eyes were brown like Homer’s, though, and his hair had always been a dark chocolate brown.
“It worked,” Homer gasped. He reached out to clasp William on the shoulder in brotherly congratulations. But then William made another inarticulate sound.
As we stood there, Homer and I, in shock, William began to convulse. Rainbow sparkles coated his skin, his eyes rolled into the back of his head, and his body distorted in grotesque ways.
“What’s happening?!” Homer demanded of me, rushing over to move William away from the stools so that he wouldn’t hurt himself.
“I don’t know!” I said frantically, clearing a space for my brother. “This never happened in the lab!”
“Charlotte, we have to stop this!”
“I can’t!” I said, sobbing. “I don’t know what’s going on. There’s nothing we can do!”
The two of us held William and tried to keep him safe as his body convulsed and morphed, looking like a disgusting human taffy. We were both crying, trying to sooth William. At one point, William managed to scream and I screamed with him. I began to pray. I wanted it to all be over. I wished that I had never thought I could do something so outside of normal as bring someone back from the dead!
But then William started to settle. Homer and I calmed, too, and I noticed something incredible.
“Homer, look!” I pointed at William, whom Homer had cradled in his arms. Homer, always more emotional than I was, was still crying over William’s now still form. He hadn’t looked at our brother since the convulsions had ceased.
William appeared to be sleeping. What Homer hadn’t noticed was that William was alive, he just wasn’t in the same shape as he had first appeared when the Ambrosia started to work.
“Char…what…happened?” Homer choked out, laying William back against the floor and sitting back to stare down at him.
“I’m not sure,” I hesitated. “I think…”
“He’s just a boy.”
“Yes. I think he regressed back to the age he was when he died.”
Just then William stirred. “Wha…what happened?” he asked in a pre-pubescent high voice, looking at both me and Homer. “D..did it work?”
“I feel strange,” William said, he sat up and rubbed at his hair. It took a minute, but eventually William also noted the changes in himself.
“What happened?!” I don’t know how he did it, but William pushed himself up and ran to the bedroom where I had a full-length mirror.
We didn’t follow William into the bedroom. Eventually he came out again and just looked at us both.
“What are we going to do now?” He asked in his little-boy voice. Homer and I looked at him over his head. This was something neither of us had planned for.
Author’s note: THIS IS NOT THE LAST CHAPTER!
I just figured I’d have to say that. I know I indicated I thought this was the end. It’s not. I have more to tell in this story. I thought about adding it all here, but I’m at 3800 words, and I think I have another 3800 to go. There are still some mysteries to solve about William and the Ambrosia. I want to get to all of the answers and to show how this all resolves. Unfortunately, that means another update which means it’s going to be another couple of weeks. Sorry. But I hope you liked how this chapter turned out.