The Life of Death
Death is fickle. One minute you’re at its doorstep waiting for an invite in, the next you’re the one answering the door. But which side of the door is most desirable? The only way to find out is to be a death. This role provides a second chance at life. A chance to exist without worries; without hardship. But nothing comes free of these. This is a contract that traps you between life and death and enslaves you to hunger. The need for souls is everlasting, each eroding away the psyche. But what becomes of you? What should happen when a death comes knocking on the door? Who invites death inside?
My fingers grappled with the inside of Chad’s mouth. The tips cut into his gums, the soft pink flesh spewing with the inky liquid. His tongue danced across my hands, violently lathering them in his sticky saliva. All the while his black eyes never broke contact with my own. We were locked, mind and body, two souls in a clash for dominance.
Chad swiped with a right hook, his fist en route to my face. With a flick of my wrist, I tossed him out of reach, his punch narrowly missing the edge of my nose. My fingers were stained in his black blood, the steam released from the liquid's exposure to air reflecting the morning sun. It cast a warm hue over the bleak atmosphere of the alley. For a brief moment, the sounds of distant traffic, the wind blowing through the buildings, and the hum of far away voices all fell silent with anticipation.
“You’re fast...and strong. A scary combo, but poorly executed.” I adjusted my stance, balancing on the tips of my toes. I swung my arms behind me with my knees bent.
Time to go on the offensive.
In one nimble motion, I propelled forward like a slingshot. My leap shattered the concrete below my toes into rubble. In an instant the noise returned, the wind bellowing in my ears as I flew towards him. I gripped for his hair, gathering a large chunk of his blonde bristles. With a forceful yank I slammed Chad’s face into the ground, bits and pieces of both his skin and the concrete erupting in every direction. Black ink sprayed all over, flecks misting my red shoes. His feet twitched, his body in shock at the swift take down. Satisfied, I eased off.
Perfect, guess I have to add new shoes to the next shopping list.
Chad’s arm shot out, his fingers lacing around my ankle.
The pain was instant, the sight of my toes pointing behind me was worse. I lost my balance and crumbled to the ground. The alley became a blurred canvas. Colors of the brick buildings and trash littered about, smearing in and out of focus like a kaleidoscope.
Crap, I underestimated him!
Ungracefully, Chad stumbled to his feet. His face was nothing more than a black pit, smoke rising steadily from his wound. A screech emitted from his face in a failed attempt to communicate. He slowly lugged his body, each footstep echoing in my ears. The distance between him and Ava closed. Her eyes opened wide, staring into the dark abyss of Chad’s face. She clutched her backpack close like a makeshift piece of armor unfit to protect her from a human, let alone a death.
Just have to twist it back into place. It’ll heal.
I extended my hand, desperately reaching for my ankle. My whole body shook from the effort, every muscle straining to perform this one simple task. My red shoe, now stained black with Chad’s blood, shifted in and out of focus.
Just a little more and I’ll reach it. Just another inch!
Beads of sweat dripped from my chin, dampening the collar of my shirt. My breath was hoarse, the agony constricting my chest as if wrapped in a straightjacket. The closer Chad sauntered over to Ava, the more pieces of him slowly returned. His jaw and teeth reassembled themselves along the lower half of his face like a jigsaw. A sneer grew along his lips, his tongue stabbing at the air, guiding him to his desired soul.
“Ava...give it. Give me your soul. Don’t you want a part of you to live within me forever?” Chad’s speech was slurred, his deformed face struggling to form proper words. He outstretched his hand, slowly tracing a finger across Ava’s trembling arm.
“Can’t you tell when a girl isn’t interested?” I clenched my fingers around Chad’s arm, halting his advances up her shoulder. My breath was short, the pain from my ankle still radiating up my leg. I was wounded, but not gutless. There was still a fight to finish and I was going to have the final strike.
“You! First, I will erase you. Yes! With you gone Ava’s soul will be cleansed and ready for me to consume!” Chad swung with his free fist, connecting with the side of my face. Unmoved, I held my gaze, deadlocked with his slowly reconstructing eye.
It only took one twist with my wrist and his arm was in brambles. Small fragments of white and black exploded in a flurry of bone, skin, and blood. The howl of a wounded wolf filled the air, silenced by the crash of Chad’s body into the nearest wall.
“Need some help?” I offered Ava my hand, still stained with Chad’s essence. She stayed frozen for a moment, her eyes sporadically shifting from me to Chad’s twitching remains. She shook her head, as if to fend off the gore and batted my hand away.
“I can get up myself thank you!” She rose, wobbly, but with her own style of grace. Dirt and blood stained her white shirt, a spec of black directly over the sunflower stitched into it.
“You look like hell.”
Ava shot me a dejected look, buffing out her cheeks, red with embarrassment.
“Well, so do you. But...thank you.” She replied, her eyes shifting to avert mine.
It was small, but a smile tugged at the corner of her lips as she brushed dust from my hair. Her touch was gentle, each brush of her hand delicate as if caressing a child.
“I’m not done!” Chad’s strained voice came from the rubble.
He was swift, his body right behind me in an instant. His breathing was labored, his body barely held together by the inky darkness clinging to his appendages. I winced as I attempted to counter his attack, the twisting motion to my ankle slowing my reaction. Ava shoved me out of the way, her shoulder colliding into my chest. As I fell to the ground, she spun like a top, slamming her backpack against Chad’s head.
The impact was strong enough to knock him to the ground. Before he could recover, I wrapped my arms around his neck and head. My legs entangled themselves with his waist, preventing his escape. In a desperate attempt to flee he convulsed his body, clawing at my face, digging his nails in as deep as he could. Blood ran down my cheeks, darkening Chad’s fingers black.
With a satisfying snap, the flailing ceased. Wisps of black fumes and mist evaporated from Chad’s corpse. Within seconds all remnants of him were gone, whisked away within the smoke. The pressure in my chest released and I drew my first breath in what felt like minutes.
“Is he… y’know... dead?” Ava took a seat on the ground beside me. I lay there, unmoving, too tired to even sit up.
“Yeah. He’s gone.”
I took a few more deep breaths. Every fiber of my being was depleted of energy. I felt as if I would sink into the ground, my body heavy enough to even fall below the hard concrete. For a new recruit Chad was fairly impressive. His level of speed and power usually took a few years of collecting souls to acquire. Only thing that made sense is that he consumed an unnatural amount of soul energy within the year since his death. Sending enough souls to the Underworld, feeding on each bit by bit would amplify his power. It would explain his insanity.
“Quick question. What do you possibly have in that backpack for it to be strong enough to knock him off his feet?”
“Oh. Just some notebooks, a binder, and this!” Gleefully, as if sporting a trophy, she revealed a brick. She smiled, as if she were proud she came prepared.
“Why the hell do you have a brick in there?” I coughed, slowly easing into a sitting position with Ava.
“I’m a young girl with a long walk home after school. My grandma wouldn’t let me leave the house without this thing.” She buried the brick back into her bag, her weapon firmly secured.
“You’re something else.” We stayed put for a few minutes to regain our strength. Within a short time my breathing became less labored and the pain radiating from my ankle subsided.
“Good as new that quickly?” Ava asked, her expression a mix of astonishment and envy.
“We heal pretty fast. Though,” I stood, dusting off my pants, “I'm going to need to consume a soul or two to fully regain my strength.”
I helped Ava to her feet, addressing the cuts and bruises that peppered her body. Most didn’t need any attention, the gash on her arm however was still leaking small streams of blood. I tore off a piece of her left sleeve, fashioning it into a makeshift bandage.
“You had to use my sleeve? Is chivalry dead?”
“Your arm is cut. Your shirt needed to be used as a bandage.”
“You’re quite the gentleman.” The sarcasm was deeply embedded in her response. I waved my hand dismissively.
“So...why was Chad like that? His obsession with me, and wanting to hurt me, that wasn’t like him.” Ava glanced down to her feet, shuffling them awkwardly.
“It’s the life we live. The more souls we consume, the closer we come to insanity. Each soul embeds in us a small fragment of themselves, but this shrouds our own memories and emotions. Even his small crush towards you could turn into something twisted once his memories became corrupted. In short, he was not the Chad you knew. None of us are who we once were.”
“And who were you once?”
“Nothing special.” I dismissed the question. There was no need for her to know.
I searched the alley for my things. My bike was intact. Scratched, but intact. My satchel had been emptied of its contents during the confusion of the battle but was undamaged. I straddled my bike and awaited Ava to take her seat on the handlebars. It was rocky at first, my range of motion still limited from the fight, but we eventually reached a normal human speed at least.
“So, where are we headed?” Ava asked over her shoulder. The breeze caused her hazelnut hair to flutter in the wind, strands licking at my forehead like strings.
“Arcaya Square. There’s someone I want to see and plenty of available souls to consume.”
We rode forward, the sky a light shade of blue. The air was fresh, sweet scents of citrus tickling my nose. We merged back onto the main road, biking right past Arcaya Academy. Ava screamed with excitement as we picked up speed, my legs growing stronger with each cycle. The fog in my head began to clear, my vision sharpening with my mind. The battle was behind us, but the fight was only beginning.