Prompt: “Death awaits us all” they said, but Death itself didn’t even bother to show up when you died. You have been wandering around ever since, visiting every corner of the Afterlife and finding out there’s a wide variety of places apart from Heaven and Hell.
In the vast, floating city of Nexus, I wait in line behind a hovering creature with eight wings and too many eyes. Narrow, snaking alleys cut through giant crystal and stone towers. Colors wink inside them, as though ascending stairwells or swimming up waterfalls. The sky’s split down the middle: silky twilight and burning sunrise.
Being this close to the wing-eye creature makes my head hurt, but I need to figure out where to find Death. The Psychopomp is my last chance. I’ve been to Heaven and Hell, Limbo, Valhalla, Hades, the Garden of the Gods, Pacha, Araf, Valley of Hinnom, Bulu, and so many more I can’t remember; I’ve spoken to seemingly to every deity and godly lackey in existence past, present, and future, yet I’m still empty-handed and unsure what’s left to visit.
NEXT thunders in my head and the line moves forward.
A riderless seven-legged kaleidoscopic horse with a mane of bubbling tar whinnies. It feels like Death’s avoiding me but is that possible? It’s always been understood in the Living World that Death is meant to guide to the Beyond, lead wayward souls and all that… But I simply fell asleep one night and woke up in a foggy aether, and after wading through the thick air for what felt like forever, I finally found a portal to Limbo.
That’s where this mess began.
Something chortles from the back, a meaty crunch ground to dust. Ahead, past Wing-Eye, a gray titan hunches, her knuckles rest on the ground next to her sagging breasts. In front of her, a swirling abyss talks to the Psychopomp, who were all here to see.
It seems stupid to want to find Death. I’ve asked myself the same question many times, but I must know why he wasn’t there, why was I abandoned after passing on? Is there a larger purpose to my time in the Beyond? Am I special? Does he have a vendetta against me? Am I not supposed to be here at all? All these questions and more only he can answer, apparently. No one is any other Realm had actual answers, all vague sayings and guesswork meant to sound philosophical or possess some deep meaning… It was all bullshit.
The abyss implodes and vanishes in a wisp of iridescent smoke. The titan leans forward and down to the Psychopomp’s station. Long-winged things fly overhead, black against the light, ghostly pale against the dark. I want to learn more about these places, these beings, all these things never spoken about in the Waking World. We had religion but it was written by many people throughout time, never from the After, and they play no role here. They’re a joke. It’s as though if the creatures here wrote a book about the Waking World. Sounds odd, right?
After the titan, Wing-Eye’s up. It’s short-lived, and Wing-Eye flaps its glorious wings and darts into the sky.
“Where would you like to be ushered to?” It hissed through its skeleton beak.
“I’m looking for Death. Do you know where he is?”
“Which Death do you speak of, specifically?” Embers smolder deep within its oval, empty eyes. “Many claim that title.”
“He looks sort of like you: a skeleton, big scythe, wears a black cloak.”
“Ah, yes, Death, the Guide of Gaia. Why do you seek him?”
“It’s…” I say. “Personal, sort of. I’d just like to speak to him, one-on-one.”
Psychopomp’s enormous black wings flapped idly.
Then: “He’s in his Realm, one inaccessible to wayward souls,” it said. “Only those granted access can cross his threshold.”
“Well, how do I do that?”
“You may bear a mark on your soul, one that’s ever-lasting.” It continues. “Scarred, you will barred from contacting to those you hold dear in the Waking World. They will never feel your presence, hear your whispers, know your existence continues on once deceased.”
I almost laugh. There’s no one waiting for me there. I was alone and the only people who loved me passed on ages ago. “That’s fine.”
Psychopomp nods and raises its scythe. Cerulean flames ignite the blade, casting crimson light over me. I close my eyes and feel the burning weapon slice down my chest. “And thus, it’s done.”
Opening my eyes, I find a rippling black scar running from my shoulder to my hip. Look up. “So how do I get there?”
It raps the bottom of its scythe on the floor, and an opening tears beneath me and I plummet.
Before I’m cast into another Realm, one last NEXT booms in my skull.
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