The Dark and Shadowy Places

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From The Ashes

Most people think you only live once, and when you die, that’s the end of it. There’s no second chances. But that’s not true. At least not for me. I’ve died more times than I can remember. And each time, at first I don’t remember. But then it comes back to me, my life before. And always, I remember how I die, even when I really would rather not. I remember it as if it’s happening all over again. No matter how gruesome and horrible.

But that’s the fate of my family, the Phoenixes. We die and then live again. Over and over. You’ve heard of the legend of the Phoenix, right? Pretty much everyone has. It’s usually about some bird made of fire that burns up into a pile of ash and then is reborn again from the ashes. I don’t know where the bird thing came from, but we’re the real Phoenix. What the bird legend is based on. Maybe because the idea of people dying and then living again, immortal, is too bizarre to comprehend, so they use a bird instead. For some reason people can use the idea of a bird rising from the ashes as a moral of sorts, a reminder to live life to the fullest, or some other bullshit.

I don’t know if I’d say I was lucky to make it past my 16th birthday or not. You see, in my family, if you happen to somehow die before your 16th birthday, for whatever reason the Phoenix gene (that’s what I call it anyway) doesn’t come into effect. If you die before you’re 16th, that’s it, you’re gone, just like everyone else on the planet does when they shuffle off this mortal coil. But those of us who are lucky enough, if you can call it that, to get to 16, then you’ve crossed over the threshold to invincibility. Actually, scratch that. We’re not invincible. We do die. It’s just…we come back. We’re reincarnated, or whatever, however you want to explain it. I don’t understand the physics of it all, I just know it happens.

When I wake up after a death, at first I don’t remember who I am. But my family are usually there to remind me. To let me know that I’m okay, even though I might remember what happened to me, and allay my fears that I should be on the cold metal slab of a morgue drawer instead of lying in bed awake and wondering what the hell is going on.

It takes a little while to get used to a new face and body, though. You see, when we die, sometimes our bodies are too damaged to continue to live in them, so we have to find someone else to live in, to become, with all our thoughts and memories intact. We move right in, and the people are never any the wiser. We just become them. The only thing is, sometimes it’s difficult for my family to find out who I am now. Usually they have to ask around the hospital, or morgue or cemetery, whoever has been in close contact with me before I died. Because that’s who we usually jump to next.

There’s a code word. Well, a phrase really, that our family asks people to find out where we are, and who we are now. Even if I can’t fully remember who I am right away, for some reason this phrase is hard-wired into our brains, and if my family asks me I immediately know the answer which is weird when I don’t know what’s happening.

I stare at my new face in the mirror, and take in my long brown hair, large blue eyes, and thin, slightly crooked nose. “Where do you find a Phoenix feather?” I ask my new reflection the secret question to get the correct the answer to the riddle.

“If you find a pile of ash, a single tear of genuine sadness will turn it into a feather,” my reflection says back to me.

If it’s one of our family, that’s how we answer. If you’re not a Phoenix, you just look at us who ask that question as if we’re crazy people. I never said we weren’t. Never-ending living and dying kind of does something to you. I don’t think people are meant to be like us. We’re a flaw. We’re a mutation, and I don’t wish it on anyone. Okay, sure, you might think it would be great to live forever, but really it’s more depressing than anything. You see the same things over and over again. People against each other in everything. Always warring, trying to take things they feel entitled to, to be the best, the most powerful, the wealthiest. Everyone is always wanting more than what they already have. They are never content for some reason. You’d think things would have changed throughout the centuries, but in all the ways that actually matter, nothing has. People are still vile, evil, spiteful, hate filled creatures. Trust me, I’ve seen it for at least half a century. Yes, there are good people of course. If there wasn’t, we wouldn’t be around anymore. But the dark is blotting out the light more than the light is outshining the dark.

Maybe if people were like us, the Phoenixes, they would actually realize the importance of life and not take so much for granted. But somehow, even though humans live their lives so fleeting, they can never see the big picture, not really, and so they don’t really live. I think I’ve only figured this out because I’ve been given the chance to try again. And again, and again. I guess repeating life has that one advantage. But after awhile, it gets tiring, to be honest. But this is my life, and I’m doomed to repeat it.

Maybe one day someone will read this and actually do something, actually take my words to heart and live life like they should.

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