The cool crisp wind softly caressed your pale olive skin as you awoke. Your vision remains blurred for the first few moments while opening your eyes to an unknown setting. You sit upright, leaving the majority of your body weight pressuring your elbows. As your vision comes to a focusing point you recognize the setting to be a farm. A very quiet, empty farm in the middle of nowhere revealing a large wheat field waiting to be reaped out in front of you.
You come to a stand, brushing off the debris from the ground to recover from your slovenly appearance. Confused about your current location, you check your surroundings to find any source of civilization. To your luck, you find a tall, dark Victorian styled house with small puffs of chimney smoke swirling in the air and a blooming garden peaking in the backyard. Everything was dimmed down to a grey shade, including what seemed to be flowers off in the distance lining the house.
You look down at your shoes, your beat up pants and your shirt to find them all intact with brighter colors. Your mind begins to stir with questions flooding to the brim, wanting the unknown answers to reveal themselves when you realize your curiosity is getting the best of you. You decide to be adventurous just this once as you shift your position and start towards the mysterious grey house.
Within moments you approach the creaky door steps, walking up to the tall, slender door you observe carefully at its detailed art. The smooth intricate door handle and the sharp indents around the frame nearly took the attention away from the chipped and worn out paint. The large Toscana doorknocker drew your attention with ease by intimidating yet luring you in further. The house in general was quite old, yet there was a beauty about it that left you in a trance.
A sudden loud creak from the floorboards caused you to snap back into reality. You push yourself forward to lift the door knocker but before you have yet the chance to grasp it, the door creaks open. Involuntarily, your heart rate quickens as you find no one on the other side to greet you or invite you in. You toss aside the idea of it being the wind after you yourself struggle to pushed the door open the rest of the way.
As you invite yourself in you are greeted with the warm welcoming scent of burning firewood and the sweet aroma of green mint leaf tea. You observe your surroundings while walking through the long and narrow hallway before deciding to follow the relaxing smell. The house seemed much larger from the inside and the hallway seemed never ending. There was still not much color to be seen in the house as you make a left turn into another maze of doors and hallways. You pause and give a puzzled expression while in deep thought. You question who would live here and why, seeing that there was no one that appeared to be currently living in the house.
As you continue walking down the endless maze of hallways and crooked towering doorways, you hear one of the doors from behind creek open ever so slightly. You turn your attention to the door behind you, looking over your shoulder seeing no one there. Out of curiosity you decide to investigate and approach the door with caution. You lightly graze your hand over the dark grey door handle, pushing against it with ease, wincing as the loud creaking grew while peeking in. As you peer around the wooden frame taking your first few steps inside the cozy dim lit room you notice a crackling fire in the center of two large, deep crimson rocking chairs. Still no one was to be seen. The smell of warm mint tea and burning embers warmed your cheeks, instantly welcoming you all the way inside. You close your heavy eyes letting out a relieved sigh. Seeing no one was present in the room you invite yourself to take a seat by the warm glowing fire. You sink in the warmth of the cushions, making yourself comfortable. Taking another look at the fire illuminating the room your eyes drift over to the small table holding up two teacups resting on tiny saucers and a small tea kettle in the middle of the display. You found yourself being tempted to take one and drown in it completely, but you decide against it finding it would be rude if someone was to return to it later and find it empty.
You nearly jump out of your skin at the loud impact the door had made with the wall, locking itself in the process. You sink even deeper into the couch as your senses switch to high alert. The fire cracks causing you to flinch in surprise. Taking in a deep breath you do a three sixty around the room once more to find yourself still alone in the room. You then dismiss the door slam to be a possible draft in the house and attempt to relax once more.
"I SEE YOU'RE MAKING YOURSELF AT HOME."
Your breathing stops as your heart jumps in your throat from the strangers deep hollow voice coming from behind you. A solid chill crawls up your spine as the dark figure glides past you to sit in the opposing chair crookedly facing you. You stay silent while frozen in fear. Staring at the large figure you realized they had to have been at least an intimidating two feet taller than yourself. Even sitting down the figure seemed to tower over you. They wore a long almost black tattered robe and kept the hood on perfectly secure to keep their face hidden well. The dark figure remained carefully seated across from you while observing your every move. You shakily sit up straight placing your sweaty palms in your lap feeling extremely vulnerable.
"ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF. MY NAME IS AZRAEL." His voice seemed to vibrate along the walls as he spoke. Carefully he lifted one of the saucers holding the teacup and reached out to offer if to you. You give a nervous smile before accepting his offer, taking the tea with shaky hands. Your eyes widen with shock as they linger from the intricate design of the teacup to the strangers hand. There was no flesh, nor muscle to be seen. Only bone. Nothing but a skeletal hand.
"I WAS EXPECTING COMPANY TODAY, SO I TOOK THE LIBERTY OF MAKING SOME TEA FOR THE TWO OF US. I ONLY FOUND IT PRUDENT THAT I SHOULD MAKE SOME FOR YOU TOO, SINCE YOU ARE MY FIRST GUEST IN QUITE A WHILE." He then picked up the second saucer and brought it to his broad chest, resting his elbows on the arms of his chair. He remained reserved, calm and collected while rocking in his chair. Very polite and sophisticated yet his intimidating appearance could be easy to resent at first sight.
Your mouth remains ajar as you observe and analyze the demonic figure in front of you. You thought twice about running away, remembering the door was locked and the fact that you didn't even know what this creature was capable of, nor did you know your way around its house.
"DO NOT FEAR ME. I HAVE NO REASON NOR DESIRE TO CAUSE YOU ANY HARM." His voice seemed to soft and relaxed. He let out a sigh while pensively watching the fire, twirling a tiny spoon in his untouched tea.
Your shoulders slowly fall as the tension in the room dies down and build up the courage to ask him why you were here, where you were and why you couldn't remember much of anything that had happened to you before.
The undead creature before you remained silent and unmoved making you uneasy. Moments passed as you waited patiently for any kind of response. Azrael finally retracted his gaze from the fire and locked his attention towards you while tilting his head ever so slightly.
"WOULD YOU CARE TO HEAR A STORY?"
You gave a confused look but once again curiosity gets the best of you and you give a slight nod in return.
"OH GOOD!" He seemed overjoyed at your response and carefully set his saucer back down on the small tray beside the kettle. He then leaned back to rock his rocking chair and began again.
"THERE ARE MANY DIMENSIONS, MANY REALMS AND MANY A UNIVERSE. WE'RE GOING TO REFRAIN FROM GOING INTO DETAIL AND GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF TIME. I ASSURE IT WILL NOT TAKE LONG TO EXPLAIN." Azrael cleared his throat before continuing as you get into a more comfortable position.
"IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS BUT ONE UNIVERSE THAT CONTAINED TWO VERY DIVERSE DIMENSIONS. THE FIRST WAS CALLED HEAVEN AND THE SECOND HELL. THESE TWO DIMENSIONS EXISTED BEFORE TIME WAS EVEN CREATED AND TIME WOULD NEVER TOUCH THEM. IN HELL, THERE WAS LIFE; THERE WERE THE LOWLY DEMONS AND SPECTERS, AND THE MOST EVIL BEING LUCIFER. IN HEAVEN, THERE EXISTED THE NOBLE ANGELS AND THE GREAT SPIRIT. EVENTUALLY, TIME WAS CREATED. A NEW DIMENSION CALLED 'OVA' WAS WOVEN AND FORCED TO ABIDE BY THE LAWS OF TIME. THROUGH THE FIRST MILLENNIA THE DIMENSION REMAINED VACANT. UNLIKE THE OTHER TWO DIMENSIONS, THIS ONE HAD NO LIFE, UNTIL MAN WAS CREATED. WHEN THESE BEINGS WERE FORMED, ONE FINAL DIMENSION WAS CREATED. THIS ONE WAS CALLED ARION. THIS DIMENSION HOUSED TWO GUARDIANS OF TIME. THE GUARDIAN OF THE BEGINNING KNOWN AS LIFE, AND THE GUARDIAN OF THE END KNOWN AS DEATH." Azrael looked back over towards you, noticing you staring at the kettle.
He glanced down at your empty cup, grabbing the kettle he carefully refilled it. He then asked while setting the kettle back down and placing his skeletal hands on his bony knees. "ARE YOU KEEPING UP?"
You nod and give a warm smile, feeling more comfortable in his presence.
"GOOD." He then quickly resumed his story.
"THROUGHT THE CENTURIES OF THIS REPEATING PROCESS, SOME OF THE SOULS HAD MANAGED TO BREAK LOSE FROM BOTH LIFE'S AND DEATH'S GRASP CAUSING DEATH TO FLOW THROUGH THE OVA MORE EASILY. THESE LOST SOULS TRAVELED TO THE OVA THROUGH THE UNOTH; THIS IS A PLACE WHERE EACH OF THE FOUR DIMENSIONS WERE CONNECTED. THIS WAS THE ONLY WAY TO TRAVEL TO EACH DIMENSION AND IT WAS CONSIDERED TO BE THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE. HOWEVER, NOT EVERYONE WAS PERMITTED TO TRAVEL THROUGH THE UNOTH. LIFE AND MAN COULDN'T ENTER THIS REALM BECAUSE OF THE LAW OF TIME. DEATH HOWEVER, COULD MANIPULATE TIME AND COULD TRAVEL THROUGH THIS REALM FLUENTLY. LIFE ENVIED THIS POWER AND DECIDED TO SET UP A TRAP FOR HIS BROTHER. WHEN DEATH AND THE LOST SOULS PASSED THROUGH THE UNOTH, LIFE TRAPPED HIS BROTHER AND ABSORBED HIS BROTHERS POWER BECOMING, BECOMING A NEW BEING OF LIFE AND DEATH. HE LEFT HIS BROTHERS REMAINED TO DETERIORATE AND DISSOLVE IN THE BLANK UNIVERSE. WHEN THE LOST SOULS SAW THEIR FORMER RULER VANISH THEY REFUSED TO FOLLOW LIFE'S ORDERS NOR DID THEY ABIDE BY THE RULES OF TIME." Azrael paused for a moment and hesitated for a moment, recollecting his thoughts. You stare at him eagerly awaiting for him to continue. You observe as he put a skeletal hand to his shadowed forehead.
"THIS FRUSTRATED LIFE IMMENSELY, FOR HE LOVED TO BE IN CONTROL OF EVERYTHING. SO HE TRAVELED THROUGH THE UNOTH, AND MET A DYING MAN. WHEN LIFE MET HIM, HE CONJURED UP A DEVIOUS PLAN AND CONVINCED THE MAN TO GIVE UP HIS MORTAL PHYSICAL BODY TO SERVE HIM AND BE FREE OF DEATH FOREVER. HOWEVER, THIS CAME WITH A COST THAT LIFE FORGOT TO MENTION. THE MAN WAS UNAWARE THAT HE WOULD BE FORCED TO CARRY OUT THE DUTIES OF DEATH AND NO LONGER LIVE A PURE LIFE. THE MAN WAS IN DESPERATE NEED OF HELP AND TOOK THE OPPORTUNITY TO BECOME IMMORTAL. HE SHOOK LIFE'S HAND AND IN THAT MOMENT, HIS SKIN BEGAN TO MELT, HIS MUSCLES BURNED AND FELL TO ASHE, HIS BLOOD BOILED AND EVAPORATED INTO THE AIR, THE ORGANS INSIDE OF HIS BODY BURST WITH SUCH POWER THAT WHAT WAS LEFT OF THE BODY HAD ROT AND DISINTEGRATED INTO FINE PIECES. THE LIFE WAS BEING PULLED OUT OF HIS BODY IN THE MOST HORRID MANOR. HE SCREAMED AND CRIED OUT IN PAIN WANTING SO MUCH FOR HIS LIFE TO END, BUT IT COULDN'T. HE DIED A THOUSAND TIMES AND EXPERIENCED THE DEATH THAT DEATH HIMSELF HAD TO EXPERIENCE BEFORE BEING ABSORBED BY HIS BROTHER, AND THEN EVERYTHING STOPPED." Azrael came to a stand and began pacing in front of his chair back and forth with a boney hand to his mouth. You set your empty teacup down on the tray and watch him anxiously. The story fascinates you and your ears are begging for the story to finish itself. Azrael the stops in his tracks and tilts his head towards you.
"ALL THE MAN HAD LEFT WAS HIS DECAYING SKELETON. ANYONE LOOKING AT THIS WOULD HAVE SAID IT WAS THE END OF THE POOR MAN, HOWEVER, LIFE THEN BENT OVER THE REMNANTS OF A ONCE HONORABLE MAN AND SAID "Awaken.", AND THE SKELETAL CREATURE ROSE." Azrael began pacing again as his voice seemed to grow louder as the story proceeded.
"WHEN CREATURE GOT BACK ON HIS FEET, SMOKEY SHADOWS, WHICH SPUN AROUND HIM LIKE SERPENTS COVERED HIS BODY UNTIL THEY FORMED A BLACK HOODED ROBE. THEN, LIFE HELD OUT HIS HAND AND MORE OF THESE SERPENT LIKE SHADOWS GATHERED AND FORMED THE DEATH BLADE, A TALL SCYTHE THAT WAS BLACK AS NIGHT, AND THE BLADE FORMED A CRESCENT MOON THAT WAS NEARLY HALF AS LONG AS THE STAFF FROM WHICH IT EXTENDED. LIFE LOOKED TO THE HOODED CREATURE WITH THE NEW GRIM APPEARANCE AND SAID IN A DEEP DARK BUT EXTREMELY TIRED VOICE "Take this scythe and cut down those whose time has run out," AND DISAPPEARED." Azrael then took a seat again with a sigh, threading his skeletal fingers together in his lap.
"THIS CREATURE BEGAN HIS DUTY SHORTLY AFTER HE HAS RECEIVED HIS ORDERS AND HE CARRIED IT OUT EXTREMELY WELL; HE BECAME FEARED AND GAINED A NEW NAME AS A RESULT, "The Grim Reaper". AS TIME WENT ON THE REAPER GREW VERY TIRED OF FOLLOWING ORDERS FROM LIFE AND FOUND IT UNFAIR THAT HE HAD BEEN TRICKED INTO DOING IT FOR SOUGHT OUT TO DESTROY LIFE AND FREE THOSE WHOM HE HAD TRICKED INTO SLAVERY SUCH AS HIMSELF. SO HE DECIDED TO BUILD AN ARMY OF LOST SOULS TO OVERPOWER LIFE AND TAKE OVER AS THE NEW RULER OF LIFE AND DEATH HIMSELF. HE VOWED TO DEVOTE HIS LIFE TO BALANCE THE UNIVERSE AND KEEP THE LAWS OF TIME MOVING FLUIDLY FOR ETERNITY." Azrael looks over at you curiously tilting his head.
"YOU ASKED WHERE YOU WERE AND WHY, CORRECT?" He straightened his back and looked at you intently with invisible eyes. You give a slight nod and timidly adjust yourself on the couch. Azrael nods back and leans back rocking the chair again.
"MY FRIEND, YOU ARE IN MY DOMAIN, NOW CONSIDERED TO BE THE DEATH REALM. YOU ARE HERE BECAUSE YOU ARE NO LONGER LIVING. YOU WERE YOUNG WHEN YOU PASSED ON TO THIS SIDE AND NOW YOU HAVE COME TO ME. YOU DO NOT REMEMBER MUCH DUE TO THE UNOTH RELM. VERY SELDOM DO I HAVE A LOST SOUL COME TO ME WITH A FULL RECOLLECTION OF THEIR PAST."
Your eyes widen at Azrael's words. You look down at your hands, your clothes, your shoes and see they are all still intact. You try closing your eyes and convince yourself that its some kind of dream and that you'll wake up and it will all disappear. Nothing happens. Panic starts setting in your chest as you realize who the person in the story was. Just as it clicks, Azrael comes to a stand and walks over to the corner of your chair.
"YES. I WAS THE CREATURE IN THE STORY." Azrael's voice seemed broken, low and deep, yet soft. You glance up at him, your once terrified expression morphs into a saddened one, almost feeling pity for the tall dark figure looming over you.
"YOU ARE ONE OF FEW THAT I HAVE CHOSEN TO COME VISIT ME. YOU HAVE A LOYAL LIGHT THAT I LOOK FOR IN ALL LOST SOULS AND I ASK OF YOU ONLY ONE THING. I WOULD BE EVER SO HONORED TO HAVE YOU HELP ME IN THIS QUEST. HOWEVER, I WARN YOU NOW, IF DO THEN YOU SHALL HAVE TO STAND WITH ME TILL THE END. EVEN IF THAT MEANS THE END OF OUR EXISTENCE. THAT IS ONLY IF YOU AGREE TO IT. IF NOT THEN I WILL SEND YOU BACK TO THE REALM OF UNOTH TO CARRY OUT YOUR DUTIES AS A LOST SOUL."
You realize how Death had offered this proposition to you and how he didn't seem forceful in any manner. You found this quite odd about such a powerful being. He was ruler of all lost souls yet he was inviting you in for tea and offering you a position in his army when, if he wished, he could easily force you into doing whatever he pleased. You found his offer reasonable and you agreed that what Life had done was cruel and unfair. Unfortunately for Azrael it was too late to change his fate.
"JOIN ME. HELP ME FREE THOSE LOST SOULS WHO HAVE BEEN ENSLAVED AS I HAVE." He encouraged, patiently waiting.
After a long moment of pondering your decision you turn away from the fire and lock your gaze back to a black hooded pit where Azrael's face should have been. He gently extended his long skeletal hand out to you. You look to his hand while slowly coming to a stand. You give a warm smile, nodding towards him with confidence, you decide to pay him back for his efforts towards the future of the lost souls and their freedom. He gains your trust and loyalty with ease and without anymore hesitation radiating through the air, you take a deep breath, and gladly shake his hand.