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CODEX Part 4: Among the Living

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Zoe Lestrade is ready to move forward and explore her humanity while forgetting all the pain and sorrow she has experienced in the past. “What is death? Many may say nothing comes after the soul has left the body. It is nothingness afterwards or it can be so much more than Earth can give. But how can we know when no one has ever returned from the dead to tell us?” The professor asked, walking around the classroom. “The Bible!” A student stated firmly but the teacher didn’t seem pleased with the answer. “Does the Bible give any detail about the afterlife? No. It only states there is a Heaven for those who have done well and Hell for those who have done bad. But how can you distinguish genuine good from genuine bad? What makes a human good or bad?” The professor continued.

Fantasy / Horror
Roxana Chirila
Age Rating:

Let the Light Back In

“What is death? Many may say nothing comes after the soul has left the body. It is nothingness afterwards or it can be so much more than Earth can give. But how can we know when no one has ever returned from the dead to tell us?” The professor asked, walking around the classroom.

“The Bible!” A student stated firmly but the teacher didn’t seem pleased with the answer.

“Does the Bible give any detail about the afterlife? No. It only states there is a Heaven for those who have done well and Hell for those who have done bad. But how can you distinguish genuine good from genuine bad? What makes a human good or bad?” The professor continued.

There were many students with hands raised, ready to answer to what sounded like a simple question.

However, the professor already had his eyes set on a particular student; a woman who enrolled in his class yet never actively participated to it. She would always choose the seat in the far back next to the door and never say a word or take notes. Instead, she would watch and listen with a knowing glint in her eyes.

“Lestrade, what do you think?” He asked her, his green eyes narrowing at the woman who was too far for him to see clearly.

“Circumstances,” She answered in her thick British accent.

The classroom was silent after such a vague answer. Professor Fauggerdy chuckled and grabbed the remote off his desk before turning on the projector. The artistic yet gruesome painting appeared on the wall and the students whispered to each other about it.

Zoe was in the back, having no interest whatsoever in the painting but more into Fauggerdy’s interpretation of it.

“This painting represents the moment we separated as individuals. The Confusion of Tongues by Gustave Doré. Doré based his Tower of Babel on the minaret of the Great Mosque of Samarra, in present day Iraq. The minaret is 52 m high and has a spiraling cone. On the foreground: the people of the world, punished by the Confusion of the Tongues for their disobedience to God. Languages and cultures have been changing throughout history due to contact between communities and the changes to living conditions. Many of the languages spoken by humans and the cultures they were living in disappeared in the last few centuries leaving only about 6,500 languages. However, due to globalization and technological innovation in the last decades the rate of change and endangerment of languages and cultures increased so extremely that about one language is dying every week. Since 96% of the languages are spoken by only 3% of people, language extinction is mainly affecting those areas where many languages are spoken by only a few people.” The professor explained slowly.

He pressed the button on his remote and the painting separated into four portions. Zoe raised an eyebrow and leaned forward.

“Prepare yourselves because we will begin a more in depth study of this painting,” As the professor announced that, his students took out their pens and notebooks prepared to write down every word that sounded legit in the lesson.

Standing there, watching the professor explain to his students about God and his punishment for his own creation made her remember in what condition she arrived in New York.

The darkness engulfed her heart and made it as cold as a stone; the fight she has been through for a few years against herself seemed to have made the process faster. But Zoe wasn’t a demon, even if there were many opinions that would say otherwise. She was a human that could feel pain and love and anger and more than anything, sorrow.

Waiting at the airport for her flight to America, she stopped as far away as possible from the others. One man and one woman were sitting a few seats from her and both were immersed into their phones which could easily leave Zoe to cry if she wanted to. She wasn’t, not anymore and only because the pain was still so constant that it was consuming her whole.

“You’re leaving everything to an angst demon and a reckless boy.”

That voice was one she wanted to forget in time. He wasn’t helping; he never really helped her anyway.

“I don’t need it anymore. I don’t need you either.” She mumbled, leaning on her knees fidgeting.

Mehrdir sighed, watching her with soft eyes as if she were the most innocent human in the room.
Her soul was barely hanging on to the hope that her anchor was happy now. It was a pitiful sight and he could feel the urge to wrap his arms around her and comfort her but he couldn’t.


She shook her head quickly, stopping him from saying something annoying.

“You have already done enough. I am not a child, Mehrdir. I know what I have to do now and you are not part of my future life.”

Her cold tone sent chills down his spine, both of anger and sorrow. She was giving up on him, something that he never considered yet was happening. It hurt him deeply, not only his pride. He was being left behind by the one he was ready to vanish for.

“I’m sorry.”

Zoe couldn’t help but chuckle bemusedly. It made him feel pathetic, especially because the way his voice sounded was so sad and broken.

“I have been waiting so long for a genuine apology. Here it is, at long last.” She started, raising her head so she could look him straight in the eye. “At long last, you are the one in pain. You are the one caught in a flood of regrets and doubts. The one whose existence is a burden even for yourself.” She spoke so clearly, her eyes changing for a second into what Lucifer created.

Mehrdir averted his gaze, preferring to look down at her hands than into those eyes. He noticed that she covered the endless knot with a piece of white cloth and looked aside. She was the definition of a trip to Hell and back and it was horrible.

Flight 340 to New York, the gate has opened. Please come to the check point.

Zoe sighed and got up, grabbing her purse before walking past the demon without a single glance behind. Mehrdir’s face broke into what he was feeling at the moment: hurt. For the first time in so long, Mehrdir was hurt.

Landing in New York, her back felt like she slept in a bathtub and head was still dizzy. It was just as bad as when she went to Japan but she was alone this time. Remembering Ezekiel, she decided to shrug those memories before she’d start crying in the middle of the airport surrounded by people thinking she was a bit deranged. No. She had to look forward to a new future, a new life where the supernatural was completely ignored.

She had to recognize that it wasn’t as easy as she hoped. Zoe was in a city that had more dead than living and it was overwhelming, even for her. As soon as she stepped outside the airport, her marks stung and it grew so painful that she was bleeding for the whole ride in the cab. Her apartment was shabby next to the one in London but it was empty, which she was grateful for.

“Here, the keys.” The owner started, dropping two shabby keys in her palm. He saw the cloth and raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything about it, “The rules are simple, as I told you on the phone. You were lucky to get your hands on it so fast. This is not a very nice neighborhood but if you keep your head low, they won’t mess with you. Ah and ignore the screams if you hear any.
You never know what’s going on behind these closed doors.”

Any other rich kid would had run in the second the owner opened his mouth and the thick scent of cigarettes filled her nostrils. Zoe didn’t. She was content that she found a place to rent for a few months, until she was ready to actually move on and have a real job.

The first nights were horrible and not because screams and gunshots were louder than she expected. It was the nightmares. They were horrible and she’d have to relive the pain of being marked by Lucifer. Her blood boiling inside her veins so much that it felt like they were going to burst, her heart rate getting so slow that someone could have suspected she died and the swirl of memories from back when she was a child up to the moment Abaddon took over her body and killed Ezekiel. Those were heart wrenching moments that she wanted to lock somewhere deep in her mind, never to be unlocked again.

But the nightmares continued the next month and the next and half a year passed before she finally applied for a job.

“What is it that makes you want to work with us?” The short blonde asked in a very professional tone.

Zoe was a presentable woman but the few past months were pushing her towards the edge of her patience. She was going through a change of personality since her soul has been damaged so it was hard to keep calm when someone was addressing her like that.

“I have a degree in psychology and worked as an intern in a hospital before.” She tried to sound as nice as possible.

The blonde hummed and sifted through her CV.

“It says here that you didn’t complete the internship because of personal problems.”

Zoe pulled her legs together, feeling a raw sensation down her spine.

“Can I know what these problems were about?” The blonde asked.

“No. They were obviously personal, in case your company doesn’t understand that word; it means it shouldn’t concern you.”

The next moment she was out the door, grasping her CV tightly. She hurried into the nearest bathroom and locked herself into a stool. The growl that came out of her mouth was not human, her eyes became black and a bright yellow dot liquefied in the middle, taking the shape of a normal orb. She felt half of her chin falling and a new sense of freedom came into her mouth. But what was worse than everything was the serpent shifting on her back, making her grasp onto the door.

Closing her eyes, she saw the dark red eyes of Lucifer, angrily shouting at her yet she couldn’t hear a word. That was absolute madness because Lucifer was lost in the abyss and he needed someone as powerful as Beelzebub or Belial to break a corridor towards him. No one was that stupid to try without the needed knowledge.

An hour. Zoe spent an hour in that stool in order to calm down the lust for blood and carnal. She was being perverted by the serpent, thrown into a world of constant unhappiness for bright and lively and desire for what was supposed to be undesirable.

When she walked outside into the crowd of people, she felt better, hidden from the curious eyes of passing spirits. It was obvious Zoe was like a dot of color in the blank city of New York, being the only one with a moving tattoo on her back and palm. Even worse were the sudden memories of Hell that she’d have in the most uncommon situations, like during job-hunting or when children would bump into her.

Demons in New York were hard to notice. They were using common vessels and weren’t as indiscreet in their endeavors as before. Having no vanity ruler was definitely taking a tool on Hell and the ranks. She wasn’t sure what Beelzebub did, if he reformed any of the old rules but demons were more careful and liable.

Passing a brand store, she took a glimpse at the jewels displayed on the window when she noticed a man getting out of the store, dressed normally yet hiding his face as if he didn’t want to be recognized. Zoe scoffed, knowing now that the more normal you look, the more anonymous you are. A few minutes later, she barely moved her eyes off the beautiful necklace when someone else barged out of the store, this time, bleeding from his side and screaming for help.

“He stabbed me! Please call for help! He has them!” the middle-aged man cried out but people wouldn’t glance twice.

He looked to his right before he turned to his left, where Zoe was. She was visibly interested in what was happening around her so the man decided she’d listen to him, even if he will die.

The middle-aged man ran and grabbed her coat, holding onto it as if his life depended on it. With teary eyes of a man about to die, he whispered.

“The Russians have the copy. Tell Detective Roberts! The Big White is hidden where he knows best.” He mumbled before falling down at her feet, bleeding profoundly. A hospital was not needed because he already lost too much blood, but he was not crazy. He wasn’t speaking gibberish but being very detailed and clear.

When the police arrived, a few people entered the scene yet none seemed fit to be a detective.

“Miss, I’ll have to ask you a few questions.”

The voice was not deep but not light either; it was actually pretty husky, of a man that’s been smoking for most of his life yet decided to quit recently. When Zoe turned in order to see the owner of the voice, she was startled to see a man not much older than she was, having a candy in his mouth. She tilted her head to the side, her eyes never moving off that candy.

“Is there something wrong?” He asked, raising an eyebrow, already knowing what she was staring at.

Zoe sighed and decided she shouldn’t retort a detective. She shook her head and waited for him to ask whatever he wanted to know.

“Was there a message he left?” The detective went straight to the core of the problem.

“Are you detective Roberts?” Zoe asked, her eyes widening a bit when he nodded, “It seems the Russians have stolen a copy of the Big White. But you should know where it’s hidden.”

Detective Alexander Roberts that was his name, still is since no matter how much trouble he gets in, he always comes out of it alive. They met on that fateful day and on many more afterwards. The Big White was a huge diamond that was supposed to be gifted to the Queen of England during a banquet. They found it in approximately a week and a half and thanks to the days spent there and documents she had to sign as a witness, she learned that the precinct was searching for a profiler.

Another six months and granted to her new way of interfering with detective Roberts’ cases, she actually took the job. For the first time in her life, everything seemed to matter and her degree finally paid off. The nightmares didn’t completely stop but she was getting there slowly. Another colleague from the precinct told her that she seemed so interested in the gore that she should just go to the university and learn occultism. Zoe actually did it and ended up in Professor Fauggerdy’s class.

“I hope I am not boring you, Lestrade!” Fauggerdy’s voice was incredibly loud.

She blinked a few times before she realized he was right next to her, screaming into her ear. The class started to laugh when Fauggerdy’s voice rose above the others once again.

“I want a ten pages essay about what you believe this painting means. I hope you won’t copy just anything from the internet like last time, Smithers!” The professor changed the victim, the boy blushing heavily as everyone else turned to look at him. “Dismissed!”

“You’re day dreaming in every class, I can’t believe that’s possible.”

Tall, masculine body, incredibly smart and blond yet his breathy voice was messing his whole appearance; that was Stefan.

“I’m not here to learn anything new.” Zoe spoke, grabbing her backpack and getting into the hall,
“Actually, I’m not sure what Professor Fauggerdy says it’s true.”

“Of course it’s not. Everyone has an opinion and they usually differ. That’s how the world of occultism works. That’s the main reason cults exist.” Stefan answered keeping up with Zoe’s hurried pace.

It wasn’t her intention to walk so fast but more of a reflex. If she would stay with him for too long, something might happen that she may not be able to control or stop.

“You know, I heard Professor Fauggerdy’s actually part of some cult.” Stefan started, smiling boyishly at the older woman.

Zoe rolled her eyes, not thinking twice about what her colleague spoke about.

“I know. It’s called Christianity. You wouldn’t believe how many people are in it. Amazing! And they even have laws they abide on!” She said, sarcasm dripping on every word.

Stefan stared at the brunette with amazement, having not met someone so sarcastic and venomous before; at least not when the subject was religion.

Actually, ever since she started university, Stefan was sure that Zoe had barely been mentally and spiritually present in the classroom. Her blue eyes would always stare at one point in space and just enter a world that only she could see. He would have said she was daydreaming about normal stuff, like men or job issues but she wasn’t. Stefan could see it in the way those eyes seemed to look empty yet at the same time, filled with guilt and sorrow. Zoe must have gone through incredible pain to have such a mix of emotions swirl through her orbs.

“Ah! Right! Have you done your assignment for tomorrow?” Stefan asked, remembering his own worries.

Zoe stopped and faced him with a blank expression. It was enough to make him understand that she wasn’t even sure she heard a word from the lesson the assignment was for.

“You know, if only you’d give clear answers then everyone would be nicer to you.” He started mumbling once they started to walk once again.

“I thought people have been avoiding me because of my job.” She answered, not really perturbed by her lack of friends.

“True. But you’re not sociable either. You know Zoe, if you won’t tell them something, they will come up with their own stories.” Stefan advised, genuinely concerned for the one that would give him to copy the homework.

Zoe chuckled and stopped on the front stairs, leading towards the world that had more mist in the air than pollution.

“I didn’t know universities in New York have the same rules as in a news station.” She joked, visibly amused by everything coming out Stefan’s mouth.

The boy sighed and placed one hand on her shoulder, making her flinch.

“It’s just as bad if not even worse.” He gave her a few words of wisdom and retracted his hand.

Zoe seemed to be still tense as she spun around and left the campus as soon as possible.

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