Welcome to the Crossroads, May I Cut Out Your Heart?
I feel like a truck hit me. –Shhh…Shhh…-
It is so cold.
Why is it so dark? –Splash…Drip…Drip…-
Ah. My eyes are closed.
Where am I? –Shhh…Shhh…-
I looked around my surroundings. The room seemed to be made out of concrete, and was rather sparce. There was no exit. I was on an operating table, with a fox standing on two legs sharpening a knife on the table right beside my body.
A thought flashed through my head:
I am on the table.
I was on the table, seemingly asleep. With a fox, who was brandishing a knife!
"If my body is on the table then what am I?" I thought. I looked down and just saw a semi-transparent body in a hospital gown.
“Oh, you’re awake,” said the fox, who did not bother to turn around. At least look at me before you talk to me… “Are you ready for the procedure?”
What procedure? I didn’t remember signing up for that, and it didn’t seem like I could leave. Not to mention my body was already on the table.
“Uh, excuse me, but what is going on? I don’t remember where this is or why I am here,” I asked the fox. “Also, I don’t think I would like you proceeding with this operation.”
“This is where we prepare you for your wedding, the Crossroads. We need to mummify your body and you must-" Seems like I didn’t have a choice.
“-give your heart to Inari-sama,” it replied. “If your heart is pure, it will be consumed and you’ll live the rest of your…Death in peace.”
What. The. Hell? Okay, it’s one thing to say that I’m dead. It was kind of obvious, but… I was sure it had its mythologies messed up.
“Excuse me….What's your name?”
“You can call me Ms. Fox.”
“Okay, Ms. Fox,” I started. “I don’t know what exactly you’re saying, but from what I do happen to know, it seems like you got Egyptian mythology mixed up in Japanese mythology.”
She turned towards me and spoke, “Oh, yes. Your human cultures’ misconceptions… This world you might end up living in is an amalgamation of each “separate” human belief system. Each culture has only seen one aspect of our world. Some areas are dominated by “gods”, “God”, “spirits”, and/or a wide variety of other beings. Many, like me, indulge ourselves in a mixture of different ideologies. After all, this is the Afterlife; we already know how life ends. We all exist how we want.”
“Okay, so if this is the Afterlife, and I’m already dead and here, why is my body over there? Shouldn’t I be buried in the ground in the human world?”
“Normally yes, but you’re…Special. Inari-sama wanted a taste-” I shuddered.
“-of your body before determining whether or not you are worthy of being her spouse.”
“But I’m a girl…” I said. “Wouldn’t that be…”
She sighed at me.
“Oh, humans and their silly arguments over who should be allowed to marry. Why would you think it matters whether or not you are the same gender? Inari-sama has no need to reproduce; this marriage isn’t even one of love. She has merely taken interest in you and if you pass her examination, wants provide you with the necessary requirements to join our world.”
“But isn’t marriage sacred?” I asked.
“Aren’t you forgetting about how marriages work in your world? The reasons for marriages exist in the same way as those in your world. Some marriages are based on love, but many others can be used to ease tension and so much more. If you have reservations, know this:
Universal Rule #26: Those of the Afterlife can be married to anyone for any reason; however, both parties must be conscious of their actions. In addition, marriage by force is not allowed.
*While not law, it is common knowledge (in the Afterlife) that marriages for economic, political, or social gain are not socially considered a “true” marriage unless love comes into fruition.
“Please, for your own sake, accept this premarital test. Even those in the Afterlife do not know what happens to those who do not enter the Crossroads. I suppose it is the "true" death.”
“…” I don’t know how to reply. I could abandon this unknown world, effectively giving up a new life, and possibly disappear, or marry a fox goddess who has taken interesting in me and wants to eat my heart.
Several minutes passed, and Ms. Fox went back to sharpening her knife. Even more time passed, and Ms. Fox stopped sharpening her knife, placed it on the table, and turned back to look at me. She looked at me like she was going to say something, but then I broke the silence.
“I’ll take on the proposal. A second chance at life in a new land sounds better than a possible future in eternal nothingness.”
Ms. Fox smiled, “I am the daughter of Clotho, she who decides who lives or dies, and my title is The Shepherdess.”
Ms. Fox picked up the knife, and looked at my body, and then back at me again.
“And you’re absolutely sure?” she asked.
“No. but I’m willing to take this second chance.” She nods.
“You might want to turn away for a bit. I’ll tell you when I’m done. By the way, what is your name?” she asked.
“Celia…Celia…” I can’t remember my last name. Actually, I don’t remember anything about myself other than that, but I still remember information that had nothing to do with my life.
Ms. Fox looks at me sadly.
“I know how you feel, Celia. You can’t remember anything about yourself, can you? Don’t worry about it, Celia. It’ll be fine. You’ll be taking on the clan’s name if Inari-sama accepts you. And you can make new memories”
“What if she doesn’t? What if she realizes she made a mistake?”
Ms. Fox ignores my question.
“I will proceed with the operation now.”