Hello, Reapers and Tour Guides!
What do you think lies after this life? Where do we go? Some say we die when we sleep… or is it that we sleep when we’re dead? Maybe both are true? Either way, I think it’s time for you to show what you think waits for us on the other side of the veil, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
Beginner’s Guide to the Afterlife
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
Ah, the afterlife. One of life’s greatest mysteries. What lies beyond this mortal plane? Rather ironic that this mystery of life can only be learned after life. Get it? Afterlife, after l— you know what, I’ll just take that to my grave.
The lovely thing about this prompt is that it doesn’t have to be about what lies beyond death. You could write about some big CEO who has fulfilled his career-driven dreams and finally plans to retire. What does one do with their remaining years after they’ve achieved everything they’ve ever wanted? Perhaps you choose to write about the perspective of an apple on the tree, ever growing until it’s plucked to pass on its sustenance to another being. Perhaps you choose to write about the tree, losing apple after apple. Or perhaps you write as the tree that prepares itself for its first wintery sleep. What goes on around it while it slumbers? Will its luscious foliage be missed? Will it be bigger once it wakes? What happens to all of its fallen leaves? You could even just write about a child that had their controller batteries running low. Maybe they’ve never changed the batteries before, it’s always been a parent or older sibling, and now they have to learn how to do it on their own.
You can also just address the death side of this, of course, like maybe you choose to write about someone studying what lies after death. Where do we go? Do we remain on this plane or move to another? Are we truly reborn? You could write about a grandparent that knows they’re reaching the end of their time, and so they go about arranging things with their family. Maybe you choose the next soul that is to take over the position of Death, and how they must go through training to prepare. Perhaps you introduce us to a spirit that is new to the world of the dead. A spirit who is lost, scared, and confused, and has to get through the first steps all by themselves. Or maybe a fellow spirit helps them adjust to this new world. You could even explore what it’s like to be a zombie after they’ve turned. What really goes on in their head? Are they as brain dead as the media portrays? Do they still feel, do they still think? Do they remember who they were before? Do they miss it? Perhaps you even just decide to peek into a dystopian future where all life as we know it has crumbled.
One thing to remember is that this prompt isn’t all about death. It’s about the life that came before, and the whole new life that could be after.
So go now. Breathe life into this new prompt with your immortal creativity.
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Saturday at 7:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit, and get ready to help each other improve their confidence in their writing, as well as their skill with their craft!
Rules and Guidelines
We read at least four stories during each stream, two of which come from the public post, and two of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!
Text and Formatting
- English only.
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- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
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What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Write something brand new; no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
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- Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
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- Be constructive and uplifting. These submissions are not for a professional market, and shouldn’t be treated as such. We do this, first and foremost, for the joy of the craft. Help other writers to feel like their work is valuable, and be considerate and gentle with critique when you offer it. Authors who leave particularly abrasive or disheartening remarks on this post will be disqualified from selection for readings.
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Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
‘Requiem’ by Jacob Alexander, 276 words.
These shallow hands moved across the piano, fingers falling down on the keys.
Each sound was the same as the last, bound here by porcelain white shapes. But there was a new life in every pattern. A faint mistake in every tone that suggested many more things about what was happening and had happened. Like a lullaby which too soon forgot itself. Fingers danced attentively.
The silhouette of a window broke the unknown darkness. A vision of swaying night smoldered through the hole—the backside of trees upon trees—the frame swelling and shrinking by the rhythm of a breath. Bones convulsed under the skin, with hesitance, moving. Continue.
Light blue veins suddenly struggled against the current of more sounds, a riot as constant as the blank melody. Who was I, these hands asked. What is this, demanded the fingertips. But they only continued to depress the keys, the veneer worndown until shades of rosy wood began to show under each one. The window seemed to call but there was nothing to answer with. And the repetition broke another piece of this place, and no one thing should be responsible for creating these notes again and again. So please allow these frail limbs to reach across the room, before the third note.
One. But the drifting nature was calling not for the work of those palms, it called out for each song of this nameless piano. Two. Waiting to give them human form, and show them what there was to see at home. Three. And so these shallow hands moved, having lived, and died, and given itself to the next.
Dear Newly Deceased
By Cansas Smith (aka CansasTheWanderingMind)
Repost from private
Dear newly deceased,
So, you screwed up and got yourself dead. It happens to the best of us.
Maybe you got shot passing by an active robbery. Maybe you were the robber and decided to go out in a blaze of glory. Perhaps you we’re some thrill seeker or daredevil who became the victim of an unfortunate accident. You might’ve been featured on “dumbest deaths in history” or had millions lighting candles around the world in your honor. You could have been beat up in a dark alley and left out for the rats. Or ended up just another dead soldier, killed in one of your wars. It is possible that you died of old age, but we both know how unlikely that is.
Now you’ve woken up in a strange place and are unsure of where you are, or even what you are. Well you need not fear for we are here to help.
Who are we? I’m so glad you asked. We are the Patrolling Assistant Spirits Spectating and Encouraging Reanimated Souls. P.A.S.S.E.R.S for short. It is our job to guide every soul to it’s next place.
Some go to heaven and some to hell. Others choose Valhalla and some are sent to Purgatory. Some souls become P.A.S.S.E.R.S and some simply drift off into the abyss. No matter your race, gender, or religion every soul has a place after death. Even animal souls become angels or stars or creatures of hell.
By the time you are reading these words, a door will have appeared in front of you. This door will lead you to your first option. After you’ve had a look around say the words below and another door will open.
”Avaa sielun portti”
Each door will take you to a different afterlife. Once you have decided on one, let us know and we’ll set you up in your next state of being.
Should you run into any trouble or require assistance just give us a shout. We’re always be here to help.
Regards from your personal P.A.S.S.E.R, Epona.
Wandering The Fields
Jura kept their pace steady as the seemingly endless streams of ethereal flowers bloomed around them. The pollen danced with images and colors indescribable, but Jura somehow knew them to be pure, an overwhelming lifetime of human experiences glimpsed in an instant. It took them a while before the dog nuzzled their hand and helped guide them through the haze of first steps taken and awkward first dates.
The meadow grew into hills as Jura followed their glowing guide. The sun, if it could be called that, began to set on the horizon. Its waning presence made Jura nervous, something the dog seemed to sense as it slowed its pace.
For the first time since they arrived, Jura dared to speak, “Where are we going? Where am I?” their voice sounded strange in their throat as if processed through an imperfect filter.
“I am guiding you to your eternity,” the dog spoke, its voice warm and comforting in Jura’s mind. That comfort quickly subsided as more questions began to form.
“Wait, does that mean I’m-”
“Please, we need to make it through the fields before the sun rises again.” The dog’s warmth swept over Jura once again, dispelling their anxiety.
They soon saw what it meant. The indelible fields of flowers and welcome hills had decayed away into gnarled trees and open expanses of barren dead grass. Outlines of what could charitably be called people wandered aimlessly about the fields, their expressions grim and hollow.
Jura followed the dog in silence, the droning of the hollow ones acting like a grater on their mind. Desperate to break the low dirge around them, Jura spoke up again.
“What’s your name?” It seemed simple enough. Perhaps the start to a conversation could distract them from their surroundings.
“You can call me Druron,”
“What kind of dog are you, Druron?”
“Sheep dog,” Druron chuckled.
Before Jura could ask what was so funny, both of them hit a branching fork in the road. Five paths; no signposts.
“Well, what now?” Jura asked.
By MysteryElement (also in private)
Nanna had always been odd. You could never tell when she was being serious or messing with you, and she LOVED messing with people. Even her funeral had been strange, with an empty open casket.
My mother and aunts had been the easiest targets, and I had somehow become her partner in crime until the day she passed. Even now, really. After the Will reading, the lawyer had given me a set of keys saying, “your grandmother’s final request is that you are the only one permitted into the house until you find what these keys open.”
My relatives were all anxious to go through the house, for one reason or another, so soon enough I was there. The first key opened the front door, but I was in no hurry. I wanted to secure anything sentimental before my family came. Even without trying, I soon found the small wooden box the second key opened. Inside were pictures of us, a small thumbdrive, and an open envelope. In the envelope was a checklist.
Make peace with Brenda
Pick up eggs
Place order with engravers
End the feud
Leave watermelon, Katie’s porch
Find the Yellow Sign
Paint doors black
‘Forgive Maxim’ had been crossed out and replaced with; Create Special Brownies for Maxim.
Paint over the Monet
Find that thumbdrive
Don’t finish the pie
P.s. Make new pie
Plant shells and bells in garden
Set the trap
Each task had a checkmark, except for ‘Find that thumbdrive’ which only piqued my curiosity. Some items on the list were so scratched out that I still cannot make out what they had been. The list had been titled, ‘how to live forever’.
A few days later, strange things started happening, and these occurrences are still happening, even today. When Nanna’s gravestone was set in place I could only smile. It read, ‘You Will Always Wonder if it was Me’ across the stone.
Sure enough, Nanna still lives on to this day in all of our memories, willingly or not.
“Life, After Life”
I had been prepared and born with implants that granted me telepathic abilities. But amidst the crowd of minds that I could hear on normal worlds, I had to maintain my distance to avoid invading others’ privacy. I remained alone in every crowd. I had chosen to join the Unity many years ago. I had felt lost and adrift in life, lonely and full of pain. So, I sought out the colony that was the home of the Unity on a distant world amidst endless stars. I joined them, and felt the fullness of being whole.
We had been alone in the commons room, doing sweeping that had been needed. The steady chatter of the voices in our mind, the voices of the many. The Unity. We spoke as one. Shared our minds, and didn’t need to speak verbally among ourselves. We already knew each other’s thoughts and feelings implicitly. We could see everything. Feel everything. The voice of the whole. Not one, but all of us.
Then quietly I felt myself becoming single and solitary in thought. It was no longer us. I was being addressed by the whole of the Unity. Such a change after all these years frightened me.
“We have kept our deliberations silent from you. Now we have come to our inevitable conclusion. For this, we are sorry,” said the collective voice of the Unity in my mind.
“Why have you done this?!” I pleaded.
“We have calculated out a complex series of future events that, though not at your fault, will none the less bring destructive harm to the Unity due to your presence. For this reason, you must be exiled from the collective whole. We are sorry for this.”
A cold shock came over me as I realized I was now in the silence of my own thoughts. I was severed from the whole once more. My life here had ended and who I had been had died. Now I have had to find my way once more in the cosmos, finding a new life after life.
Chronicles of The Dragon: Edge of The Beyond
“Oh. Hold on. This one’s soul hasn’t left it’s body yet.”
Mira walked across the battlefield to the corpse and began a rather complicated spell. To everyone else nothing seemed to be happening, but she saw the spirit rise reluctantly.
“What’s going on?” it asked.
“Well,” Mira said, “You and your friends attacked us. A few of you died. Including you.”
“Oh.” It said, “Is that why I’m being pulled?”
“That is the after-life calling you, yes. Why haven’t you gone?”
“I don’t want to go…”
Mira nodded, “That’s understandable. Lots of people choose to become ghosts.” She looked around at the ancient stone halls around them. “I don’t know if this is the place you want to haunt though. It seems pretty lonely. And I doubt any other ghosts here would be friendly.”
“What… What is…the afterlife like?”
“Oh, I’ve never been there. And any Angels I spoke to wouldn’t tell me. But I have spoken to a couple spirits from Heaven. They said it was like going home.”
The soul was quiet for a bit, “What about the…other place.”
“Oh, I know a lot about Hell. Hell is the food chain. You must eat or be eaten, assimilated into the bodies of stronger spirits, with all their hate, regret, and desire driving you all forward. Never able to rest. Never safe. Always hungry. And always burning.”
The soul was silent and still for a long moment.
“I don’t think I’d go to heaven.”
Mira smiled, almost sympathetically, “I think I agree.”
It didn’t sob. The emotion was too raw even for that. “I don’t want to go to Hell! I don’t want to stay here!”
“Well, there is another option,” Mira said.
“Wha-? There is?”
“You can bind yourself to me. Become my servant.”
“But I’ll get to keep living?”
Another smile, this one kind of sad, “No. You’ll still be very much dead. You’ll continue as only a soul.”
“I’ll be with you though? Not stuck here? Or in…”
“Yes. You’ll be with me, wherever I go, and you’ll have to do anything and everything I say.”
Enter the Void
Sarah J. Herbison
“Come on in and sit down next to the fire. It must be freezing out in the void. Here, I’ll make us a nice cup of tea to ward off the chill.
You must be wondering where you are and how you got here. Do you remember tending to the garden with your youngest grandchild in the hot sun? The glass of iced tea in front of you before the sun turned frigid?
I know you’re in shock. Heatstroke is a sudden way to get here, but not the worst way, mind you. Your family loves you very much and is thinking of you now, but you have lived a long and full life, and it’s time to move on from this one.
I hate to be the one to break this to you, but there is no heaven, no hell either, mind you, at least not in the way they taught you. When you are ready, you will move on to the next life. I hope you are as kind in the next life as you were in this one.
Ah, what of evil people? Evil, or rather, misguided people, take far longer to move onto the next life. They spend eons wandering the cold and the dark before they ever find me. Some never do.
You return to the world, and if you work to make it a beautiful place, eventually it will become a heaven or nirvana. However, if you fail to love each other or stop the evil of your world, I can see everything burning in the fire.
It is a journey that never ends. Me, I’m only the caretaker of this void, tending the spirit until you return. So take your time, say goodbye to your family, you can return when you’re ready to move on.
I wish you the best of luck when you do.”
At the Start of the Journey (From Private)
C. M. Weller
Feah looked down at her body, knowing why she felt no fear at last. It had been a good life and the adults keeping watch turned away as her last breath rattled in her throat. They lit candles and lanterns, using mirrors to cast light into the shadows. She remembered doing that for her mother, but now… she could SEE the demons waiting to try and take her newly-freed spirit to pieces.
Yet, she was unafraid. Of course. All the things she had to be afraid with were gently cooling on the bier she had died on. There would be at least four keeping the shadows away from the body while her spirit gained strength. They would not speak her name until the minor moon, Lady Sleep, hid once more behind the mother moon, Lady Night. Lady Sleep would have Feah’s soul by then, taking her from the mortal earth into the realms beyond, where she would be judged by the stars. That was some weeks away, yet.
Those guarding her could not be pregnant, nor trying to become so. They could not risk her entering a new life and stifling the spirit of a child yet to be. That was a crime and would weigh heavy on her. So it was that her guardians would, and had to be, the men of the house.
They were called in, lanterns already lit and aloft, swapping places with the too young and the too old who had stayed watch before. When the sun again dawned, the too old would come to wash her. They would dress her for the pyre in a simple shift. Where she was going, clothes would no longer be necessary.
In a week, Lady Sleep would appear, both in the sky and by Feah’s side, to tell her all the things she must know before judgement. Then, as Lady Sleep journeyed behind her mother, Feah’s family would light a lantern from the pyre and set it into the sky. There, to become one with the stars, and guide generations thereafter.
Darzal had not made the best decisions in life, so when the judge marked him for execution and necromantic return, he was legitimately happy. He feared what was in the great beyond more than anything in life. The fate of one’s soul had been thoroughly explored already, and what awaited him wasn’t precisely a kind afterlife. What could have been better for a man like Darzal, than to return as a standard issue skeleton for a few centuries, and then fade into the wheel of reincarnation?
When Darzal’s bones rattled back to life, he expected his sight to be fixed to his skull. No such luck. He saw his bones from a distance above, as though through a pinhole. His bones were now puppeted by necromancy and given menial tasks, away from the public’s eye. He never expected to have control over his undead limbs, but what he expected even less was the fate of his soul.
A soul was a messy thing, made of two distinct sections, a thing that existed in the fringes of reality. Darzal moved their new being through a stream of memories and histories. They looked through and between perspectives, reflecting, understanding, pondering. Their intangible form shivered and quivered. It was not as bad as they expected in life; to weave and wane through memories and perspectives until they gained true understanding. However, there was something terrifying about their new existence they couldn’t put into thought.
Darzal’s bones turned to dust back in the world, and they still hadn’t achieved reincarnation. They understood and lamented their mistakes, and wished with every fading fiber of their fading soul that they hadn’t made them. What barred them from new life was not their memories or mistakes, it was fear. Darzal came to understand that they hadn’t been afraid of death, and what was beyond, but of life and to start again.
A Morbid Classroom
*Marenkiava, the teacher of the class, speaks to the students:*
Sure, it isn’t easy to be dead.
Yes Stardaraminev, it isn’t easy to be alive either, case in point.
No, of course you can’t take things from your life with you to the afterlife, what did you expect?
To be honest, mythologies don’t have any idea how hard it is to be dead.
What, Vradnikalimav, you want to pee? Now? Can’t you sit down and listen for a second? Fine, go ahead.
As I said. Mythologies don’t have aaaany clue at all. They all expect you to quietly go and search for the gates of hell or stairway to heaven, whatever. Or you stay in your place and some skeletal dude comes picking you up.
Of course, Walmatreiv, that’s the truth, I just wanted to say that no one stays in place, they all just go on.
Kostrimiiriv, did you even pay attention? We are *not* discussing Greek mythology right now. Yes, Thanatos would be the Greek equivalent to us. Dear Death, just shut up and listen!
So, dead souls just keep on living. How does a reaper notice whether a soul is dead or not? Well, dead souls don’t glow. However, some alive souls don’t glow either, and you need a lot of practice to notice the difference. Most souls just keep on doing what they did in life, working, eating, sleeping, or at least mimicking those things. Some souls notice when they are dead, and those are the troublemakers, they always cause chaos everywhere. If no reaper comes picking them up, they will go to some old, abandoned factory hall and scare the sh*t out of visitors, and once they do that, it is unlikely for any reaper to find them, because they officially started their own little afterlife.
Daltarosnyav, what do you think you are doing? Would you mind putting your pencil out of Askradalmiovs eye socket?
No, he doesn’t need it, but you could still leave him alone couldn’t ya?
WE WILL NOT HAVE PRACTICAL LESSONS, HOW OFTEN DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU THAT, BILLY?!?
Basic Ideas and Odd New Terms (Sword Isles)
By Connor A.
There was no feasible way for any Death to use facial expressions, yet Ambrosius could have sworn he saw Death’s eye sockets widen alongside the purple tear as souls leaked through.
“Pay them no mind for now,” Ambrosius said, snapping Death out of his panic long enough to look at him. “Just focus on the recently deceased.”
Death gave a reluctant nod, then nervously glanced at the tear before harvesting the soul from the body before them. His moves were more methodical than Ambrosius’, which was a feat in itself. Only when the soul stepped away from its body did Death finally ask, “Is it not a concern?”
“This only happens near the end of each year to allow loved ones to see each other. It will not cause any undead.” Ambrosius knelt down and moved the rubble from the body’s face. He recognized them as a Wyld from Lord Dara’s domain and stifled a sigh.
“What about necromancy, then?”
The use of the term was enough to make Ambrosius look up at Death with a raised eyebrow. “Necro…mancy?”
Death tensed. “The… reanimation of dead bodies? I was using the term until I could ask about it.”
Ambrosius regarded him for a few more seconds before he motioned for Death to help him clear more rubble. As they worked, he answered, “If I am not mistaken about what you mean, most people refer to it as puppetry, though most people do not use corpses. Since the bodies are under a mortal’s control instead of a soul, this ‘necromancy’ as you called it cannot create true undead.”
Once most of the rubble was cleared away, Ambrosius picked up the body and began making his way to Lord Dara’s domain.
“Come. It is wise that we deliver their body for preparation.”
Death caught up with Ambrosius and stayed silent the entire journey.
Ambrosius almost grimaced. If Death was already like this, he feared what this era would bring.
Wooden Dolls are Wooden (Darkspell Universe)
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)
Cynthia took a tentative step forward, her new wooden leg wobbling unsteadily on the crate, holding the Mercury logo: a silver M, surrounded by a red sphere.
“This isn’t exactly easy to handle,” she reported, trying to remain steady.
“It takes some getting used to,” Mia replied. “Try to move, as though you were walking with your original body.”
“Yeah, I’ve been dead for months at this point. I’m a bit rusty.”
“Oh, come on,” Konrad, Mia’s familiar and talking crow, interjected. “If Erls can do it…”
“Erls spend their entire lives in trees,” Cynthia answered, falling over with a clatter. “Possessing a wooden doll is not as easy as it looks.”
“Well,” Mia sighed. “It’s the best we can offer.”
“Can’t you just, I don’t know, make some muscles or something?”
“I’m a soul witch, not an ethereal engineer, Cynthia. Besides, I don’t have a lot of experience with… this. I’m only doing this as a favor for Daniel.”
“I understand,” Cynthia hung her wooden head. “Still, thank you.”
“Don’t mention it,” Mia said.
“Please mention it,” Konrad interjected again. “I like being thanked.”
“All you did was fetch puppet parts.”
“And when you are tall enough to reach the top shelves without wings, you are more than welcome to ignore me for the rest of your days.”
“Thank you, Konrad,” Cynthia said.
“Ah, you see, Mia? A grateful customer.”
“She’s not technically… You know what? Never mind.”
Mia picked up Cynthia and looked at her from all sides, fiddling with her limbs.
“Um… Mia? That feels really weird.”
“I thought you were a ghost. Since when can you feel?”
“I can’t, but… I still notice you, moving my limbs. Feels like I’m on strings.”
“You’re a puppet,” Konrad commented.
“Not helping, Konrad.”
“Not trying to help,” he turned his back to Mia. “You were mean.”
“What did I do!?”
“You refused to acknowledge his efforts,” Cynthia laughed.
“You… Ugh. Fine, gang up on the witch, trying to do you a favor.”
“If you want to do me a favor, find something less wooden.”
Mia couldn’t help but chuckle.
When the Wanderer Met the Shaman
By RVMPLSTLTSKN (The Saga of The Deep One’s Wake)
“Come and sit by my fire, wanderer,” Jabil-Tai said. Xe watched the traveler survey xir companions before sitting. The traveler’s face was short and frame lean, her aged skin the color of stones in a riverbed. The traveler exuded a sense of presence and Tai knew she was the one.
“It seems I’m not the only one wandering tonight,” the Wanderer said. The faces around her were nervous. “I have nothing to repay your generosity.”
“Perhaps you can settle a debate for us?”
The traveler cocked her head.
“Can you define, for me, eternity?” Tai quoted.
“How can I define what has no beginning and no end?” The Wanderer answered.
“Perhaps you can tell us what you are then. Your eyes speak of foreignness and I sense you have big medicine.”
“You are a shaman?”
“We are all shamans.”
The Wanderer looked each of them over again. “You must be hunting.”
Tai felt the last remnant of Hope rustle in xir breast. “There is a spirit killing children. We are looking to make peace.”
“How would you do that? By inviting it to sit by fure?”
“By helping it excise that part of its personality.”
The Wanderer sat quiet and Tai wondered if she would eat.
“Do you know which is the greater sin, shaman? To reject home or long for it with every breath?”
“To reject it,” Tai said, but something in the Wanderer’s gaze made xir unsure.
“You are older than I, do you remember that Day?”
Tai did. Xe remembered the weirding call, the pull on the identity of every spirit.
“The greater sin is to falsely reject home, then long for it,” the Wanderer said.
Tai didn’t need to hear more and drew on that last remnant of Hope. “I banish you, wandering spirit. No more will you come to our places or murder our children.”
The Wanderer didn’t move, held by the unanswered question. She chuckled and dread crept among the shamans. “Eternity isn’t such a grand thing. There are a thousand that can be lived each day.” The question answered, the Wanderer left them.
The Next Step Of A Long Path (Corespace Universe)
By Calliope Rannis
A rush of light. A distant song. And Nebella had arrived.
She was in the grove again, with its rainbow of flowers, the hum of insects, and the beautiful blue spring at the centre. She’d been here many times before, both here and in ‘real life’ – though the latter had never been the same since the spring became polluted. But in the Better World, the grove never changed, never faded, never died. Just like it was in her childhood.
In some ways, Nebella was disappointed that everything felt the same. But it also comforted her. The World that she had grown to love hadn’t changed. The only difference was that she could stay here now. No need to leave.
“Nebbie!” A bright voice called.
She looked up to see the familiar figure of her redheaded friend running through the spring towards her, sending gleaming water drops flying. Nebella managed to stand up, just in time to be nearly toppled over in a massive hug. She hugged her back, almost as tightly.
“Nebbie…” her friend’s muffled voice repeated, head buried into her shoulder.
Nebella’s hand ran through those ginger locks, marvelling at how soft they felt. “Dustie.” She softly replied.
They embraced for a long moment, before coming apart a little to look each other in the eyes, their hands still holding each other’s arms.
“So, you’re here for good now?” Dustie asked.
“For good.” Nebella warmly smiled.
Dustie smiled in turn, her eyes moist and shining. “Did you tell anyone? That you had decided, I mean.”
“I told my family. They took it…well enough. I think they already knew this was coming.”
“That was brave. I wish I had told mine before I left. Told you, for that matter.”
Nebella gently squeezed her arms. “I forgave you a long time ago.”
Dustie’s smile widened. “I know.”
A pause, before the new arrival turned to look beyond the grove. “So. How do I travel around here? Never had to do that by myself before.”
Dustie took her hand in hers, face beaming. “I can show you. Just follow my lead!”
Don’t Call Me Ma’am
Despite the cold, endless void Matt found himself in, he was weirdly calm. Even then, he knew on some level he REALLY shouldn’t be here. But that feeling only raised the question…
“Where IS here?” He muttered into the void.
“You have, as all eventually do, found your way into my realm.” A female voice echoed from all directions.
Two large, white rings cut through the infinite darkness that Matt recognized as the irises of very large eyes. “And you are…?”
The irises began to shrink as a head and eventually a body took form, though it was still large enough to tower over him like a statue. “You need not play coy with me. All know who I am.”
Matt exhaled deeply. “Am I… dead?”
Death’s lips appeared as she smirked. “Yes. And no.”
“Look… I imagine you get this a lot, but… I have people who are depending on me. I can’t die. Not yet…”
“You are correct.” Death sighed. “I do get that a lot. Frankly, there are not many who meet me and… live to tell the tale, as it were. But of those, none have been in my realm and left.”
“Any chance you can… make an exception for me? I was told that we were the same… um… race?”
Death’s form shrank again, more details being filled in as she did so, giving her enough body definition that he could now differentiate between her hair and her clothing, both of which had, until now, been the same shade of black as the void. She currently stood slightly shorter than Matt, himself. It made her no less intimidating. “Yes. We are… connected. And we always will be. As such… you, and ONLY you, may enter and leave my realm as you wish.”
Matt blanked for a moment. The way Death purred the word ‘connected’ made him uncomfortable. “Thank y-”
“I allowed you to take from me once. As a gift.” The added detail of Death’s face made her glare somehow even more terrifying. “I will not allow it again.”
“Yes Ma’am…” Matt squeaked out.