THE SOUL TO TAKE

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

*

Anna tried to keep from getting depressed. As long as she stayed away from Sin, it helped her cope. Usually she was able to go only a day or two without seeing him, and then she would have to check up on him. It was always easy to find him when he had GPS on his phone, and she had an app on her phone that could locate his. So as long as he had his phone on him then she could find him.

At this moment, it had only been a day since she had last seen him, and she was trying her hardest not to go search for him. She had been collecting as many souls as she could to keep her mind off of Sin, but it wasn't enough. She kept replaying every moment they had had together just to tell herself it had been real; it also made her feel better.

Anna had taken up a new hobby; she had now sunk so low as to stalk Mike. She could bear that somewhat, if Sin wasn't around, and every now and then she was able to hear bits of information that regarded Sin. She had it bad for that man, though she was beginning to wonder if she had chosen the wrong guy. Mike had a pretty active umm love life. Despite the shape his apartment was still in.

That was where she was now, Mike’s apartment. She was hovering above a chair at the kitchen table waiting for Mike to return to his home. He had bleached the blood out his carpets and off of his walls, and had repaired the door. He still had holes in his walls however, and plastic covered the broken windows in his living room. She felt bad for him.

She was hoping that when Mike came home he would be alone. Anna so didn't need any love making going on, but yet she knew she wouldn't leave even if it happened. Being near Mike was the closest she could feel to being near Sin without her heart feeling like it was breaking into millions of tiny pieces.

Anna glanced at the clock behind her; Mike should be here anytime now.

*

Mike shooed the last drunk customer out of the club. He left instructions for the cleaning staff on the counter of the bar, and then he locked up. His club wasn't all that huge just yet; he could get away with having only a few bartenders working for him. Though he mostly had them stock the bar while he handled the customers, he still gave them the tips he earned. To Mike it wasn't about the money, it was interacting with the customers.

He pulled on the doors to make sure the club was locked up tight, and then he pocketed his keys. He took out his cell and dialed Sin's number. He wanted to make sure that Sin had gotten home safely. As the phone rang on his end, he heard an echo ring not too far from where he was standing. Mike walked toward the source of the ringing; his phone was still up to his ear. He had just turned down the alley when Sin's voice mail kicked on.

“Hey man, it's me. I just wanted to make sure you had gotten home safely.” Mike walked further down the ally towards a dark silhouette laying on the ground.

“I know you got a lot on your plate, but one of these days you are going to need to be honest with me about what really happened at m.....” Mike trailed off as he reached the body.

“OH MY GOD NOOOOOOO! HELP, SOMEBODY HELP ME!” Mike shouted.

The phone slid from his hand and landed on the concrete, it shattered upon impact. Mike dropped to the ground and checked Sin's body for a pulse. Not only was there no pulse, Sin's body was ice cold. Mike's hands shook as he lifted Sin's head up and sat it on his lap. He rocked back and forth shouting for help.

Someone must have heard him because soon there was a crowd of people standing around him and Sin.

“What happened?” Someone whispered.

“I don't know. Is that guy dead?” Someone else whispered.

On and on the whispers went, until a police officer was pulling Mike away from Sin's body. The ambulance had also arrived, while two other officers were telling people to step back. The area around Sin was being taped off, and his body was loaded up in a body bag. Two ambulance guys hauled Sin's body into the back of the ambulance on a stretcher, then the sirens blared as the ambulance rushed to the hospital.

The officer who had pulled Mike away was placing him in the back of the cop car. The cop drove Mike down to the station and placed him in an interrogation room. Mike was too deep in shock to notice that the officer had left the room. Mike kept replaying the image of Sin's dead body over and over again in his head.

He had just talked to Sin in his club no more than five hours ago. How could Sin have died in between the time he had talked to him, and the time he had closed up the bar? How could no one see the body? Who would kill such a good guy?

Mike had all these questions and more running through his head. When two police officers came into the room and interrogated him with the same exact questions, he had no answers for them. With nothing to hold him for, they eventually let him go.

Anna heard a key in the door. She was still sitting at the kitchen table and had been going out of her mind, waiting for Mike to come home. She had expected to hear girlish giggles or something along those lines since he had been out late. Instead Mike walked through the door alone, and judging from his appearance, something bad had to have happened.

Please. Please. Please. Don't let whatever it is, involve Sin. Anna silently prayed. She stayed rooted on her chair and kept on praying.

Mike's eyes were bloodshot. He had broke down at the station and cried. Now he was all out of tears and there was only one thing left to do. He shut the door, and walked across his living room, to the few steps it took to get to the kitchen, and pulled open his fridge. The contents of the fridge could have been considered pitiful. All he had in the fridge was two cases of beer, some left over lasagna, and a jug of spoiled milk. He pulled out the two cases of beer, and packed them to the kitchen table. Setting the beers down on the table, he pulled a chair back and plopped down.

Anna tried to will herself mortal so Mike could see her, but alas it was useless. She stayed transparent, and Mike stayed ignorant to her presence.

Popping the tab on his first beer, he drained it within seconds of opening it. He repeated the process with the other five beers. Mike continued on with the other six pack from the fridge, while he chain smoked a pack of cigarettes. Pushing his chair back, he unsteadily crossed the room to pick up a photo frame from his end table. Mike cradled the frame to his chest and stumbled back to his chair.

He clumsily sat down again, and snuffed out a fully smoked cigarette. Pulling another one out of the pack, he tried to maneuver the lighter in his hand. After a few failed attempts he managed to get the cigarette lit and took a long drag. The smoke filled his lungs as he inhaled, and left as he exhaled. It had a semi calming effect on him, but it wasn't enough. Between his grief and intoxicated mind, he was talking to the photo like it was the actual person.

“Whys diid yooous haaves to leeeave meee maaan,” Mike slurred.

The photo was one of Sin and Mike, taken a few years ago. They had their arms around each other and were grinning like fools. It was back when Mike's ex was still around. She had taken the photo of them. That day had been a good one for all three of them. Mike, Sin, and Mike's ex, had all gone on a fishing trip. Sin had gotten irritated that he hadn't caught any fish, and that the only one who had was Mike. After a lot of joking around, Sin had lightened up enough that he and Mike started to wrestle around. By the time the photo was taken, Sin was in a good mood and so was Mike.

*

Anna looked at Mike in concern. She knew he was drunk, but it hadn't dawned on her just yet as to the reason he was yelling at a photo. Anna floated up enough that she could see who was in the photo and that was all it took. She put the pieces together and knew; Sin was gone.

Anna fled from Mike's apartment. She had to find Sin. There was no way she would accept the fact that Sin had died. He couldn't have. His soul was no longer marked. And she would have known if he had been put back into her soul book. It would have alerted her the minute he was rewritten back into the pages of marked souls.

She zoomed back to her old hotel room. As far as the staff knew, she was still checking out the room. Anna only kept the room because she wasn't able to carry anything expect her soul book with her. It was starting to get harder for her to touch solid objects now, but she was praying that she would still be able too. She hadn't exactly tried to touch anything solid, in at least a couple of days.

Anna phased through the doors, and walls of the hotel. She passed through the door to her room, and hovered above her cell phone. Anna reached down to open the phone but her hand went right through it.

No! Not now!

It didn't matter how many times she attempted to touch the phone, the end result was still the same; She wasn't able to touch solid objects anymore.

Anna pulled at her hair in frustration. Okay, no big deal. There are other ways to find him... She would just have to figure them out.

Her soul book was out of the question. It could only tell her about marked souls, and since Sin was no longer a marked soul, it couldn't help her. Then again, if he were indeed dead-- no it still wouldn't help her. If Sin was truly dead, there was one person who would be able to give her the information she needed. But, she quickly realized, she wouldn't need to ask because she all ready knew where Sin would be.

She racked her brain to find some other alternative to finding out if Sin had really died. She was running on some hope that Mike had been misinformed about Sin. Maybe someone had gotten their wires crossed and it wasn't her Sin that had been killed. Or maybe Sin was just hurt! Why didn't she think about that? If Sin was hurt she knew exactly where he would be. He may not be a full-fledged mortal, but he would still go to the hospital if he got hurt. Right? It was worth a shot.

Lucky for Anna, she found Sin in the first hospital she came too. Problem was he wasn't in any of the rooms. She ended up finding him in the cold storage of the hospital. She couldn't explain it, but his empty vessel called to her soul. And while she ignored the call for as long as possible she finally gave up and followed the pull. It led her down the dark hallways of the deserted end of the hospital, down to the basement where the recent dead bodies were held.

Anna passed by the rows and rows of silver doors and stopped in front of one particular door. She pressed her transparent body through the silver door, and floated above Sin's body. Ghost tears flowed freely down her cheeks, but they never dropped on the body of her lover. How could it be that she saved him only to have lost him? But that was exactly what had happened. Sin was in the underworld, and it was possible -since he had lived a mortal life- that the scales would have tipped in his favor. If that was the case, then he was indeed lost to her.

The only way to know for sure was to go to the underworld. She needed Kyrain for her to do that.

Anna gave Sin's mortal body one last mournful look and then left the hospital as swiftly as she had come. Outside of the hospital she was able to teleport as close to Kyrain's mortal home as possible. She got as far as the sidewalk to his house. Advancing, she paused at the door.

Kyrain's home was enchanted. It and everything in it were the only things in the mortal realm that she could actually touch when she wasn't mortal. She tried the doorknob and it turned in her hand.

Anna's feet touched the hard wood floor of Kyrain's house as she walked quietly inside. She searched the entire house. Kyrain wasn't there. She could have searched the basement but she doubted he would have been there either.

With Sin dead and Kyrain missing there was only one conclusion that she could draw; Kyrain had taken Sin's soul and was hiding out in the underworld.

Anna had no way to travel to the underworld without Kyrain...or did she? Sira had the power to teleport to and from the underworld. If Anna could call on her, maybe she would be gracious enough to help out. It was a big stretch but one that wasn't totally out of the question. Anna knew of only one way to contact someone from the underworld. And while it seemed a bit ridiculous, she was thinking it might just work.

“SIRA! I need your help.” Anna sent a telepathic call to the demon.

*

Sira heard the call almost immediately. While she would normally ignore anyone else, she knew Anna would not call to her unless it was a dire emergency. Anna would only call if Sin was in trouble. In that case, Sira wouldn't hesitate to go to him.

Sira had an inkling something was wrong; the underworld had been far too quite lately. Kyrain had yet to call upon her to see if she had done what he had asked. So Sira wasted no time teleporting from the underworld to where Anna was.

Her teleportation landed her on a sidewalk in front of Kyrain's house. Anna was pacing up and down the sidewalk and had yet to realize Sira was watching her.

“You called?” Sira asked.

Anna stopped dead in her tracks. She hadn't expected Sira to come to her. If anything, she only hoped for a telepathic reply. .

She turned around so she was facing the demon. Sira was staring at Anna, with her unnerving gold eyes; she had one hand on her hip and looked menacing.

“Sin is dead,” Anna informed her.

Sira narrowed her eyes at Anna.

“How is that possible? I thought you saved him so he would not die,” Sira said, accusingly.

“I did. I believe Kyrain took him, even though he was no longer a marked soul,” Anna said.

“Wouldn't that cause some sort of unbalance in the underworld?” Sira asked.

“I don't know. Have you noticed anything strange?” Anna asked.

Sira nodded. “It has been quite, but other than that there has not been a major change. I guess it's just frowned upon to take an unmarked soul,” Sira shrugged.

“No, there has to be a reason that every soul collector is advised to only take marked souls. But that’s not important. I could give rat's butt about what is or isn't going to happen to the underworld. All I care about is finding Sin. I know he is in trouble, but I just don't know the extent.”

“Then the question is what do you need me to do?” Sira asked.

“I need you to take me to the underworld,” Anna stated.

Sira grinned. She liked this girl. Anna was straightforward; she didn't beat around the bush. It was a quality Sira admired. She couldn't ask for a better-suited mate for her nephew than Anna. She would do more than just help Anna get to the underworld; she would help her find Sin.

“Take my hand,” Sira ordered.

Anna placed her hand in Sira's outstretched one.

One second they were standing on the sidewalk in the mortal realm, the next they were in the heart of the underworld.

The heart of the underworld consisted of one giant maze. It was where every immortal appeared when teleporting into the underworld. Sira didn't know if the same rule applied to the soul collectors, but to her and everyone like her, it did. The heart of the underworld wasn't to be taken lightly; the paths were ever changing, and one could never tell which direction was safe, and which would lead to some impending doom. But Sira never had to worry about ending up somewhere she didn't want to be; whenever she ended up in the heart, her family’s scent always guided her.

The only time she had ever deviated from her cave when traveling the maze was when her nephew and his idiotic brother had been born. And even that day she had nothing to worry about because Hades had made sure she was protected. This time there would be no protection spell to guide her; she and Anna were literally, on their own.

“I've never seen this part of the underworld before...” Anna said, gawking at the huge walls that surrounded them.

“You wouldn't have if Kyrain was the only transportation you had to the underworld. It is my understanding that all immortals come here when they teleport, or maybe it's just me and my clan; I’m not sure,” Sira said.

“Is that what Kyrain and Shiva are? Immortals?” Anna asked.

Sira didn't answer Anna right away. It was a question she wasn't sure she knew the answer to.

“I suppose they could be considered immortal. Though, I think if you were to categorize them, they would be in the demigod section. While that would make them immortal, it would make them higher up than immortal. Make sense?”

“I guess. What about regular soul collectors, would they be considered immortal?” Anna asked, curiously.

“You really do not know much about your world do you?” Sira asked bewildered.

“Not really,” Anna admitted.

“Ugh. Yes. Soul collectors are considered immortal. Let me give you a crash course of your world...from a demons perspective. Every soul is immortal. Only mortals have souls…”

“Wait, if only mortals have souls then what does that make Sin, Kyrain, Shiva, and you?” Anna interrupted.

Sira gave Anna an impatient huff. Smoke rolled out of her nostrils. She took a deep calming breath before continuing.

“To answer your question; I am a demon and I don't have a soul. If I die then I'm dead. I won't pass go and I won't collect a hundred-”

“Wait a minute. How do you know about monopoly?” Anna asked, interrupting Sira once more.

“I'm a demon. I'm not stupid. I do spend time in the mortal realm after all, and if you don't shut up then I am going to devour your fragile soul. And trust me I won't need barbecue sauce to stomach the taste. I find soul collectors especially tasty.” Sira gave Anna a hungry stare.

Anna put her index finger and thumbs together. She made a motion of zipping her lips, and then locking them. She even exaggerated the motion by throwing away an invisible key.

“As I was saying, demons don't have souls. Persephone wasn't a goddess like every mortal is led to believe; she was mortal.

It is true that her father Zeus and her mother Demeter were gods. I guess Persephone's mortality was a birth defect, and maybe that is why Zeus didn't say anything when Hades whisked her away to the underworld. It is also true that Hades had to share Persephone with her mother for one half of the year.”

“Anyway, because Persephone was mortal the only reason she was able to survive in the underworld without aging was because of Hades. When she mated with my brother Eric that same day she had also mated with Hades.

As you know, Sin and Kyrain was the product of that act. While Sin was fathered by my brother, Kyrain was fathered by Hades. But since they shared the same womb, at the same time, it made them fraternal twins.”

“Hades’ blood runs through Kyrain's veins and that makes him half god. The other half of him is mortal. But since he was born in the underworld it also made him immortal.”

“It wasn't until Persephone pushed Kyrain through the tunnel of return, did he become truly half mortal. As soon as he took his first breath on the mortal plane, he was given a soul.”

“The same rule applied to Sin. While Sin had been born here in the underworld he wasn't born with a soul. His demon half was stronger than his mortal mother’s blood. He was more demon than he was human. But as he took that first breath on the mortal plane, he too was granted a soul. Just because he died doesn’t mean that soul is taken from him. Both he and Kyrain had been reborn.”

“Their blood lines got even more tainted and complicated as soon as they went through the tunnel and were reborn on the mortal plane. They will still retain who they were but they won't be just the product of Persephone, and Hades - or Persephone, and Eric. They are now the product of four different parents,” Sira explained.

Anna was having a real hard time wrapping her head around it all. Sira was really confusing her but she wasn't about to voice that confusion. She stayed silent and listened as Sira continued her crash course.

“To explain Shiva is much simpler. Shiva is immortal. While she did come from Persephone's womb, she was born in the underworld. Hades blood runs in her veins, and since she has yet to step foot in the mortal realm, she doesn’t have a soul. Shiva is the only one who knows how to get rid of a god, and she isn't likely to share that bit of information any time soon. Any questions?” Sira asked sweetly.

Anna shook her head. She did have loads of questions, but she wasn't fond of being eaten, and she was pretty sure that voicing those questions would end just like that.

“Good. Now back to what I was originally saying. Only mortals have souls. The newbie souls, the ones that have yet to be judged, are the lowest ranking souls. In between the lowest ranking souls and the highest ranking souls, are soul collectors that work for the ferry man. I know you must have seen those souls in the lake while you waited on the island. Above them are the souls that have already been judged, and serve as servants to the higher up immortals. As I had said, soul collectors are the highest rank you can get-without being a demigod.”

“Then you have your standard minions. Minions are not to be confused with us demons. Minions are mindless, boring, creatures that only exist to serve the ruler of the underworld. They vary in shape, size, and species. You will know when you cross one, because they lack a certain characteristic: Personality.”

“Above minions are your lower demons. They are usually easy to spot since all they can think about is filling their bellies. Again, these demons vary in appearance. The higher up demons are my clan, the assassin demons, guard demons, and war demons.”

“The only other thing you should know are the levels of the underworld. You went through the first level when you died, consisting of: ferry, bridge, and judgment.”

“The second level is where we are now. And the third level is the hive. In the hive you will find all of the minions, demons, and servant souls I mentioned before. But in the center of that hive is our ruler. I'm pretty dang sure that Sin will be somewhere in the hive with Kyrain, and possibly even Shiva,” Sira gravelly said.

Sin pushed on the walls in hopes of finding an escape route. He was beyond furious at being killed, and then caged. He didn't have to guess as to who killed him, he already knew. When, not if, he got out of his cage, his brother would be in for a rude awakening.

The cage wasn't so small that he couldn’t stand up fully. He was surrounded by four walls and, he guessed, one high ceiling. There was no light in his prison, and the only way he was able to sense his surroundings was by touch alone.

Sin hadn't quite got in touch with his demon half; those abilities were still locked away. Boy did he wish he knew how to bring them on. His body may become a human torch again, but the light from the fire would give him a big advantage.

He placed his back against a wall and slid down so he was sitting on the hard floor. His thoughts drifted to Anna. He wandered what she was doing, and if she had found out about his death. Sin figured that by now she would have to know. He hoped she wouldn't blame herself or come looking for him.

*

Sin drew his knees up to his chest, locked his arms around his legs, and laid his head down on his knees. Since he had yet to figure a way out, it was best if he saved his strength. He closed his eyes and tried to think like his abductor. If Sin had just killed a mortal, and locked their soul away, then he would let his victim stew for a while. Just long enough that his victim would be tortured by the dark scenarios running through his/her mind. And then he would appear, and taunt his victim.

If that was anything to go on, and Sin was sure that was the case, then he would wait. He wouldn't focus on what could be, but instead he would focus on what will be. When Kyrain would think Sin's guard is down, will be the time Sin will strike. Sin smiled to himself. He wasn't beaten yet. Kyrain would get his just when he least expected it.


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