The Life of Death
“Shut up, I don’t need you!” I screamed at the voice in my head. I couldn’t lose control so easily, not with Ava bleeding out on the ground. My head refused to stop throbbing as Reggie inched closer, taking his steps cautiously.
C’mon just a little fun, whaddaya say? I’ll kill that kid for you.
“You aren’t killing anybody!”
I wrapped my hand around Reggie’s wrist as he attempted to stab me, thrusting him to the ground in one fluid motion. I kicked the knife out of reach, restraining his skinny arms to his chest. It was easy to keep him there, his height advantage doing little with his back on the ground. The light flickered over his terrified expression, the strobe effect only worsening my headache.
“Erik, check on Ava!” I shouted. He had his back pressed against the musty looking wall. He wouldn’t move. His body was shaking as his eyes, wide with terror, refused to break away from Reggie.
“Why? Why would Reg-”
“Erik! Snap out of it! Ava needs your help so hurry.” This seemed to work. Erik peeled himself off the wall and stumbled over to Ava.
“What do I do?” Erik stood over Ava, his face pale as he looked at the blood slowly leaking out from under Ava.
She was lying on her stomach, her face turned away from me. She was still taking in raspy breaths, showing signs of life. She made no movements, no efforts to show she was conscious.
“Grab the knife and cut off my pant legs. You’ll have to ball them up and press them against her wound. They’re thick sweats so they’ll do good to soak it up. And use this to tie them to her.” I quickly pulled the drawstring out of my pants, careful not to give Reggie any openings to fight back. Luckily, I was stronger than him, one arm being enough to still hold him down for a short time.
The pool of blood crept closer, the edges slowly encasing the toes of my shoes. I felt Erik rip through the fabric of my sweats, first the right and then the left. He’d found his urgency, swiftly tying the fabric to Ava. He did well applying pressure, the blood flow slowing tremendously.
“Now you are going to tell me what’s going on Reggie!” I drew my face closer to his, glaring at him in anger.
“She’s insane Milo; I had no choice! She was going to kill Amber, me, and even my mother if I didn’t obey. I swear!” His expression was pained, a watery layer forming over his eyes.
“I just wanted the voices to stop. She said she would help, but she lied!” He was anguished as he sought out absolution. I refused to give it to him so easily.
I slammed my fist into his cheek, not once, but twice. The satisfying thud from my knuckles connecting rewarded me little satisfaction. A bruise didn’t take long to form, the red welt swelling the entire side of his face.
“You’re an idiot to ever trust her.” My voice fell as Reggie whimpered.
“Hey Milo, you should come look at this.” Erik said.
“I can’t really get up here. What is it?” I turned my head, catching a glimpse of the terror in Erik’s expression.
“It’s her blood. Some of it’s coming out with streaks of black.”
I froze, that statement sinking in like an anchor. I couldn’t form a solid idea on what to do, my dismay increasing with every breath. There was only one thing I knew for certain. We needed to get out of here before things got worse.
“I’ll carry Ava. Erik, think you can keep Reggie restrained? We need to leave, but he’s the only way we’ll still find Amber once Ava’s safe.”
“Why would I run? I have nowhere left to go. You guys hate me and Aoki will just want to kill me.” Reggie drowned himself in his own self-loathing, squirming in discomfort. It wasn’t from my hold, but from his own hatred in himself.
“Erik come on, let's make the switch fast.” Erik rushed over taking my position on top of Reggie. He made no attempts at escape, the motivation nonexistent in his face as he lay there, empty inside.
I hoisted Ava into my arms, doing my best to move carefully. There were indeed streaks of black in her blood, just like that of a death. I didn’t know what it meant, but it couldn’t be good. I turned to exit the building, but was interrupted by the screech of nails against glass.
One talon scratched the door, leaving a large crack streaked throughout the glass. A head peeked inside, revealing the one massive eye that sat in the middle of its face. It twitched in circles, scanning the hallway closely. A long tongue lashed out of the bottom of its face like an anteater, flicking at the air as if tasting our scent. There were no ears or nose on its pasty white skin, the oversized eye and tongue its only distinguishing features.
“Why’s there a random person looking in here?” Erik asked.
“Y-you really can’t s-s-see it?” Reggie replied, smelling thickly of fear.
“Erik, that’s not a human. You are going to want to get ready to run.” I stiffened my muscles, preparing to flee. If only I had regained more energy after the battle this morning, maybe I could’ve pulled off an escape with dark passage. In my current state though, my abilities were limited. Another interruption from the inner voice in my head didn’t offer a solution.
Y’know I could take care of that for you, easy.
“Who are you talking to?” Erik asked, looking at me confused.
“It’s nothing. Just start running.”
The crypt realized it couldn’t fit through the small opening the door provided, lapping at the frame with its tongue in aggravation. That’s when the glass shattered, the crypt stabbing its talon through. We knew we needed to run, but our legs weren’t receiving the message our brains screamed. It strode in on all fours, its elbows pointed above its shoulders like a bat’s wings. There was no webbing for flight, just two arms, twice the length of its legs.
“Erik. Reggie. Run.” I whispered to them. It was probably better Erik couldn’t see the crypt’s true form, the veil of the Underworld blocking his vision. Knowing him he’d cower in a corner. They both sprinted down the hall, but the crypt paid them no mind, its reason for coming clear.
“So you want her? I guess the scent of her blood is just too irresistible for you. If you want her, try to keep up.” I bolted after Erik and Reggie, an angry wail coming from the entrance.
I looked back to see the crypt speeding after me, its tongue skidding against the walls as it ran. It was faster than I expected, making it difficult to keep Ava’s body still. If she was going to survive, I needed to figure out a way to close her wound without the crypt catching us.
The problem was that it was nearly impossible. The hallway was a straight shot, not a single twist or turn to lose our pursuer with. Erik and Reggie pushed open the door to the staircase only a few feet ahead of me. I needed to separate from them soon before they became collateral. For now though, I had no other option but to follow them up the staircase.
“You guys get out on the second floor! It’s after us, so I’ll keep going up.” Erik nodded in understanding, pushing Reggie through the door on the second story.
I continued to ascend, taking the stairs two at a time. Pieces of the wall around the door at the bottom of the staircase crumbled away as the crypt forced its way in. Chunks of the poorly constructed doorway fell on its back, but it paid them no mind. Ava was all it cared about now.
I had a lead over the crypt, its massive frame making it difficult to chase after me in such a narrow space. The railing accompanying the stairs became bent out of shape as the crypt pushed against the iron to slug forward. There was an ear-splitting screech of frustration as it struggled to even climb a single floor. I was at the fifth story now, only halfway to the top floor. The scent of death still filled the air, the decomposing soul of the crypt only making it harder to smell Aoki’s location. Attempting to avoid two monsters while carrying a dying human didn’t give me much hope for survival.
The roof provided the best chance. Aoki was unlikely to be there as it would be more beneficial to hide out in one of the apartments. It would also give the crypt a lot of ground to cover before catching us. If I could just figure out a way to help Ava, then we might have a shot of getting out of here.
Sunlight stung my eyes as I exited onto the roof. The sound of the crypt became muffled as I closed the door behind me, allowing my nerves to calm. I had time to find a solution, the crypt barely any further than the first floor.
Ava’s breath was shallow, her blood beginning to soak through to my tee. My arms were already stained a dark red from the mixing of colors in the liquid. I set her down gently, continuing to apply as much pressure to her wound as I could without worsening her condition. Her eyes remained shut, her glasses reflecting the sunlight into my face as I looked her over.
“I’ve got to close you up.” I muttered to myself, desperately racking through my memories for any information that could be beneficial. If I’d known I’d be one day trying to save a person’s life I would have spent my years in death learning more about medicine. Instead, I had aimlessly spent it hopping around from high school to high school. What an idiotic choice.
It’s not too hard to suture a wound close. C’mon it’s easy to manipulate darkness into stitches.
I closed my eyes, entering the recesses of my mind, finally fed up with all these interruptions. I came to the mirror once again. My reflection was there waiting, with his demented smile and black-eyed stare. I couldn’t see our surroundings, the only light being the blue hue emitting from the mirror.
“So, you showed up? Don’t expect me to help out with your girlfriend dying out there. You should just be glad I’m not interested in consuming her soul. She’s only half a death and I prefer souls fully altered into us.” My reflection crossed his arms in defiance, turning away from me in mock disgust.
“You are going to help me.” I hardened my voice, sounding as strong as I could. He shot me a glare, the hatred in his eyes putting a pressure on my shoulders so great I struggled to keep my composure.
“All I want is to feast on the crypt. After that I want the other death in this building as a dessert. I don’t care what happens to her, or the rest of them for that matter.”
“You aren’t taking control of me again. I can’t trust you not to hurt my friends in your wake.” He hesitated for a moment, fiddling with his fingernails in a display of boredom.
“You’re right, they’re in the way. I’d give them a max of five minutes once I’m in control before they die.” His nonchalant attitude was getting me nowhere. I needed a new angle to work from.
“Who exactly are you?”
“You have to ask? I guess it has been a while, hasn’t it? It’s annoyingly hard to keep track of time here.” He avoided an answer, instead holding my gaze for the first time. His tongue lashed out menacingly from in between his pointed teeth.
“Answer the question!”
“Someone’s getting frustrated.” He sneered, obviously enjoying my anger.
He burst into laughter, pointing a sharp fingernail at me. I couldn’t say a thing, the words sticking to the inside of my throat as if it were coated in glue.
“Your face, it’s hilarious! You look so baffled. You really don’t remember anything? I guess it worked then. Too bad for you, it looks like over time the procedure has started to fail.” He continued his goading laugh, wrapping his arms around his stomach as he hunched over in amusement.
“I don’t care about all that! Just tell me how to save Ava!” I ignored his efforts to rattle me, the situation outside too dire to stay here for more answers.
He raised an eyebrow at me. It moved in the same way mine did when I was contemplating my options. He was silent for some time, intensively increasing the anxiety building in my chest. The crypt had to be close to the roof by now.
“Let’s make a deal. I’ll let you try to handle the power I have to save the girl and to even fight the crypt. You just have to do one thing for me.”
“I’m listening.” Even as I said it I knew I would have to accept his conditions. His sneer grew larger, displaying more excitement than cunning. He knew his offer would be one I couldn’t refuse.
“Eat the crypt’s soul. Once you get past the smell it’s very delicious.”
The words stayed jumbled in my mouth once again. I’d never heard of a death eating a crypt before, the implication enough to make me shudder in fear. I struggled handling a human's soul at times. A crypt’s soul, as distorted as it was, would be uncharted territory.
“Do we have a deal?”
I nodded my head in acceptance of my fate.
“Come closer.” He poked a finger through the mirror, the glass rippling from his movement.
“Looks like this is all you can get until you remember me. A shame, but it should be enough. Come, take it already and get out of here so I can have that soul!”
I grabbed his finger, the flesh instantly dissolving into a thick, black liquid within my hand. It crept across my skin like drops of dew, collecting over my pointer finger, turning it dark. An intense pressure hit me in the chest and I was thrust back to reality, the sun bathing me in its warmth.
Ava still clung to life, her chest only barely moving by this point. The crypt still hadn’t made it to the roof, but I could hear it’s screams closing in. I removed Ava’s makeshift bandages; the blood completely soaked through the dismembered pant legs.
“Okay he said I can make stitches, didn’t he?” I brought my finger closer to Ava’s wound, envisioning the darkness cloaking my finger into a thread and needle. The tip came to a sharp point, ready for the surgery.
My hand shook, forcing me to steady it by clasping my left hand around my wrist. I held on so tight I started to lose feeling in the extremity. The darkness lashed out without warning, diving directly into the opening in Ava’s abdomen. I strained to corral it, heaving from the strength my one finger possessed. I focused it back to a point and slowly the darkness listened, gracefully stitching Ava’s skin back together.
In no time the wound was closed and I gently rolled her onto her stomach to do the same to her back. The job was already complete, the darkness seeping out from within her and sewing her exit wound together on its own accord.
I was left with no time to be amazed. A rumble stirred behind me, the crypt bursting out of the stairway covered in rubble and stained by the rusty railings. Immense negativity brewed from where it stood, its eye twitching in what I could only imagine was anger. Guess it must’ve been pretty pissed over the climb I made it take to reach Ava.
I left her side, readying myself for the confrontation. The crypt surged forward, barreling at full speed with full range of motion again. I didn’t think, allowing my body to run on instincts. My finger guided me, raising my hand to point directly at the crypt. Nothing happened at first, the wind rushing over the rooftop as the monster charged forward.
Any deal one makes with Death has a severe price. It wouldn’t be equivalent for someone to escape its clutches easily. Instead, the consequence of alluding death increases with each occurrence and will inevitably end with Death’s victory. It comes down to how much punishment you can take. The greater your resolve to survive, the greater your chances at escaping death, yet again. However, everyone has a limit.
The crypt’s eye was only an inch away from my fingertip, its tongue wrapping around my forearm like a snake. A flash of black struck, followed by a clap of thunder. The bolt impaled the crypt through its eye, halting its actions. Its cries of anger were silenced, nothing in the area making a sound until its flesh began to dissolve away. A black wisp, no larger than a coin fluttered about in dismay among the fading body.
Grab it before it dissolves too!
As if obeying the command in my head, my cursed finger plucked the distorted soul out of the air. Without a second thought, I felt the soul touch my tongue, my body going through the motions. It was sweet, tasting like it was coated in honey as it slid down my throat. The sensation was so blissful I could only think of how delicious it tasted as my arm slowly began to crumble away, the darkness around my finger sending cracks up my forearm.
Maybe now you’ll start to remember Milo Lethe, who you truly are.
The muddy tasting cloth wrapped around my mouth was uncomfortable, but the rope rubbing the skin of my wrists was much worse. I was going to kill Reggie if I ever got out of this.
“Quit struggling darling. You aren’t going to untie those knots.” She spoke in that condescending tone again, like I was an insect under her shoe.
I hated it. I hated her. Reggie had called her Aoki, but I refused to mentally refer to her that way. I’d been calling her Miss Manic in my head for the past hour as I watched the secondhand tick by on the clock hanging above Reggie’s desk. I didn’t try to yell at her, my last efforts only leaving my throat sore. I shot her daggers instead.
“Such a beautiful face.” Miss Manic said, caressing my chin in her hand. I tried to pull away, but she refused to loosen her grip.
“I’m surprised Milo hasn’t shown you as much attention as the other girl. She smells better, but you are so much prettier. I wish you didn’t have to die, you’re just my type.” She gently placed her lips against my cheek before settling back in her chair. I swear I was going to rip all the hair off her head and stuff it down her throat right after I killed Reggie. This duo was going to get the full fury of Amber Eleazar’s wrath, and it was not going to be pretty.
“I’m sorry, you just simply know too much. It’s not time for you to die just yet though. Won’t it be so much more fun to wait until everyone else arrives? I’ll leave you for last so you can watch everyone else die first!” She sniffed the air, the corners of her lips curling with elation.“Smells like Reggie is out in the hallway right now and he’s got company. The fun is about to start!”