The dark sky began to churn around a core of light. I grabbed Dank’s arm with both of my hands as if he was about to disappear. “What’s happening?” I asked over the sound of the wind roaring in the distance. Dank shook his head, with his eyes on Gee.
She glanced from him to me. “They’re going to take him.
Because of you, he will be considered as one of the least. He has fallen. He broke the rules.” Gee began to yell over the storm-like winds enclosing the clearing. I let go of Dank and walked forward, knowing I had to stop this and he wasn’t going to tell me how.
“What can I do?” I screamed at Gee.
She glanced behind me to Dank. “She isn’t like the other humans. It’s why you fell for her when no one else ever tempted you. Let her make this choice.”
“NO!” Dank yelled from behind me with a fierceness in his voice verging on panic. I ran toward Gee, afraid Dank would stop me.
“Tell me,” I demanded. She stared back at me as her glowing features seemed ever more otherworldly. The storm grew stronger. Her blond hair whipped wildly around her creating the appearance of the immortal she was.
“He can only be forgiven if you die. He is Death and he will have to accept your soul. I can only do what it takes to kill your body but in the end, until He is no more, Death has to take your soul.”
“NO! I WILL NOT TAKE IT! SHE IS A NEW SOUL! MY
WEAKNESS WILL NOT CONDEMN HER,” Dank roared from behind me as his arms pulled me away from Gee.
She ignored Dank’s protest and continued to watch me as the storm grew stronger. I had a power here that Dank wouldn’t admit and Gee was too frightened to tell me. She was trying to. The friend I thought I’d made at the mental house may truly be my friend after all. There was no wicked intent in her gaze like I’d seen in the other transporter’s eyes.
She was pleading with me silently. What was the choice? If Dank refused to take my soul then how could she kill me even if I walked right into her arms? Dank’s arms seemed to be fighting against a pull from the storm that wasn’t pulling at me or Gee. It was here for him. I glanced up at him and touched his anguished face so full of determination to save me that he was willing to be sucked into Hell.
“I love you,” I said, causing his face to contort in pain.
“I’m not a man so I do not have a heart that loves as a human does. I’m an immortal god that dwells with supreme power because I hold the keys to Death. But you are my existence. I am yours.” Hot tears streamed down my face as I stared into the face of someone who comprehended an emotion much stronger than my weak, feeble words of love.
His arm was ripped away from me by the storm-force wind and he stood like the god he was while a dark funnel formed around him. My heart pounded in my chest and I ran for Gee, knowing somehow there was something I could do. She could take me, I could see it in her eyes. There was a way for me to stop this. Gee watched me as I got closer to her and I noticed the hope flicker in her eyes.
“Help him! Do what you can but don’t let them take him, please,” I yelled over the roar behind me torn from the chest of Death. Gee nodded and glanced back over my shoulder.
“She made the sacrifice. It’s finished,” Gee announced with a loud, deep commanding tone. Her eyes came back to me as she touched her hand to my head.
The air around me ceased. No longer could I draw oxygen into my lungs. It took all my willpower not to try and gasp for air. If Dank saw me struggle I knew he would fight whatever force bound him to free me from Gee’s power. The cold, damp ground rose up to meet me and I lay limp as the sharp pain of suffocation burned my lungs. The storm around me faded away. I heard no more and felt no more. It was different than before. This time the pain eased away quickly and the darkness consumed me.
* * * *
The smell of coffee and bacon filled my senses as I inhaled a breath so blissfully sweet it woke me with a start. I sat up and glanced around my bedroom. I was in my bed. I swallowed and my throat constricted in pain. I touched my chest and felt tenderness, as if I’d been punched right over where my lungs rested inside me. It had all been real. Dazed, I stood up and walked over to the window to gaze out into the forest behind my house. Would it show proof of the hurricane-force winds that had swept through last night, fighting to take Dank? The trees stood just as they had when I’d walked into them last night. The leaves blew gently in the breeze. This was wrong. I’d given myself up for Death. Gee could have taken me. I had seen it in her eyes. Had Dank still possessed the power to stop it even with Hell pulling him away? I was alive and I was here in my house, breathing, when I’d asked to leave this body behind and cease my life on earth.
“No,” I whispered against the windowpane as tears trickled down my face. “I wanted to die. This existence you have given me is worth nothing with you gone. I can’t live with the fact you’re no longer…” A sob wracked my body and my legs gave way beneath me as I crumpled to the floor. I curled my body into a ball in an attempt to deal with the pain ripping through my chest. This wasn’t an existence I could live with. I’d been so sure that Gee had known a way to save him.
This, this life where Dank was condemned to Hell and I was allowed to continue on as if nothing had happened, would be my own personal Hell.
“Tell me, Peggy Ann, are you always this dramatic?” I jerked at the sound of Gee’s voice and lifted my swollen eyes to find her sitting on the edge of my bed. Her long, thin legs were crossed and she was studying me with the tilting of her head. “You’re a rather unique human,” she said with a smile.
Anger began rising inside me and I stood up and glared at her. She’d lied to me. She had made me think I could stop Dank’s fate.
“Woah, Peggy Ann, take the psycho look off your pretty face and breathe deeply.” She paused and smirked. “Now that you can breathe, that is.” I hated the smirk and the flippancy of her attitude after what had happened to Dank.
“You lied to me,” I hissed as I closed the distance between us.
Gee shook her head slowly. “No, I didn’t. Honestly, Pagan, stop with the advancing on me thing. It isn’t like you can hurt me. Quench the drama, sweetheart. I know you love him. Shit, I figure you have more intense feelings toward him than the measly love you humans so easily give. I mean, most humans wouldn’t throw their souls blindly away into an eternity they didn’t understand for the sake of saving Death.
It was rare indeed.”
“You could have tried harder to take me. He was being pulled away by a force stronger than him. You could have killed me! I walked right up to you and offered myself like a sacrifice.” I covered my mouth as a sob escaped and the steps of my mother echoed in the hallway. I froze, not sure what to do. My insides felt as if they had been ripped out of me. I didn’t have the strength anymore to cover up the pain I was feeling.
The bedroom door opened and Mom peered at my bed and smiled and then closed the door softly. I stood frozen and confused as to what I’d just witnessed. I swung my gaze back to Gee, who was still sitting on the edge of my bed.
Mom hadn’t been looking at her. Gee turned slightly and patted something with her hand smiling at me. My eyes moved from her to the place I’d vacated after waking up this morning and for the first time, I realized I was still in bed. I took a step closer and peered down at what appeared to be my sleeping body.
“I think an ‘I’m sorry’ would suffice at the moment. You know, for yelling at me and the awful hissing thing you did.
Kinda reminded me of the ones down there and, well, they freak me out.” I tore my eyes off my body and stared back at Gee who appeared utterly pleased. “I’m waiting on my apology. Speak, Peggy Ann, you know you can.” She puckered her lips and tilted her head from side to side.
“I’m dead?” I asked glancing back at my body. “I mean my body is dead?”
Gee gave a loud sigh. “Yeeeeeees, now let’s hear it: ‘I am sorry, Gee, for talking to you so ugly when you did what I asked you to.’ Come on, you can say it.” I shook my head and studied my body before walking over to the mirror. I looked the same in most ways except all my imperfections where gone. I was a perfect version of me.
“What? Why am I here? Does my mother not realize I’m dead? Where is Dank? Did they let him go? Are you going to transport me? Or am I a wandering soul? Where is Dank?” I felt hope for the first time since I’d woken up. I gazed back into the mirror and touched my face. My cheeks were soft and smooth where tears should have left them wet and tender.
Gee grinned. “It takes some getting use to, the whole being in a body for seventeen years and now you don’t have one. You forget and you think things are certain ways and they are not. Like the fact you were sobbing so intensely there on the floor with all your dramatic flair and you knew that your body produced tears so you felt them because you thought they would be there.” Gee shrugged and stood up.
“Where are you going? Are you taking me? Where is Dank?” I asked again and she held up her hands as if in defense.
“Okay, first of all, I didn’t get my apology and you still think you can start just demanding answers.”
“I’m sorry! Now where is Dank?”
Gee frowned. “That didn’t sound like you meant it.” I closed my eyes and realized that even with them closed I could still see. Weird. “Your eyes aren’t closing, Peggy Ann, you just think they are. I explained the way that works already so stop it. You look like you are doing the creepy stare thing souls do.
“Please, I’m sorry. Just tell me where Dank is,” I pleaded.
Gee smiled. “Okay, okay fine. The truth is I don’t exactly know.” She shrugged and walked past me.
“What do you mean?”
She turned back around and smiled at me. “It all is confusing. You let me kill your body but of course lover man wasn’t going to take your soul from your body. However, I knew, as did he, that if your soul was truly willing it could leave the body on its own. So, I left the swirling hurricane last night and brought your dead body back here. I knew when your soul came back around from the trauma of killing off your body that it would be the time of reckoning. I waited to see and, sure enough…” she paused and smirked.
“Honestly, I never doubted it. I could see your fierceness to save him. I knew it was your soul that was talking and I expected your soul to leave your body. It, of course, did and I should have immediately been able to take you and head on up.” She gnawed on her bottom lip and shrugged.
“What?” I asked with relief running through me at the thought that Dank was still Death and he was not burning in Hell.
“Ah, well I’m not real sure. I mean I like you and all but I’ve got a busy schedule and you have taken up quite a good deal of my time these past few weeks. Well, at least since Dank expelled Ky and I got stuck with the job of making sure Mr. Stubborn released your soul. Anyway, see the thing is I didn’t hang around and postpone our departure so I could chat with you and you could ask me a million questions. I, uh, well, your soul isn’t coming. It won’t leave or there is a force holding it.” She sighed and frowned at me.
“I don’t know what’s going on here. You’re a first on all accounts. Maybe Death does have to take your soul after all. I have no idea. My guess is that you had better go get back into that body of yours and live this life. I’m afraid Death hasn’t been given a reprieve for his rebellion. If you don’t go back to your body then you’re going to spend eternity as a wandering soul. I don’t have to tell you what a wandering soul is because we both know you already know. You see them all the time. Do you want to have their miserable existence?
Look, don’t let him have been given eternal damnation for nothing.” She walked over to where my body lay, lifeless. “If he has to burn in Hell for all eternity don’t let him have to do it knowing you’re a lost soul. He’ll know. They will make sure he knows. It’s all about the pain and torture down there.
What a little heat can’t do to him the knowledge that you gave up the promised eternity he fought so hard for you to keep is going to cause him pain like you will never comprehend.” She stared down at my body. “It’s your choice.
Get back in and live. Do it for him.” Then she was gone.
I stood over my body looking at it as hot tears ran down my face again although now I knew I only felt the memory of tears. I was a soul. I couldn’t cry. I touched my face and my body felt cold. The thought of returning to this body and existing while Dank no longer roamed the Earth because of me was unbearable. “You’re my reason for my existence, Dank. How can I live without you?” I whispered into the room and knew no matter what pain life would hold for me I couldn’t cause him any more pain. I would endure life so he wouldn’t have the guilt of my lost soul to torment him. He’d given up everything for me. I could sacrifice an eternity of sorrow, if that’s what it took to ease his suffering. I slipped back into bed and felt a warm tingling sensation run through me as I rejoined the body I’d left. My eyes opened and a sob escaped from my lips.
“Pagan, honey? You ever going to get up and come eat?” Mom was standing at my doorway smiling at me, completely unaware that her last visit into my room she’d seen an empty body.
“Yes, um, sorry. I guess being in my bed again caused me to oversleep.” She walked over to me and sat down beside me.
“It felt good to have you home last night. You can miss school today if you need a day to get adjusted.” I thought of staying home in my room and knew it would be too hard. I needed to get out and talk to people. I needed to see life and find a way to survive it. I wouldn’t be the cause of Dank’s pain. I’d live, for him.