The darkness had become familiar. It shouldn’t have surprised me, since I’d been here – wherever or whatever here was – for, like, so long. The fact that I was feeling comfy with the darkness only now said a lot about how I felt in general about this place... if this void I was floating in could even be called a place.
I’d decided to simply call it the void, seeing as there was no ground, no ceiling, no walls, no air, no actual plain that could give me a hint as to what the hell this void was. Nothing was here except me, although even I wasn’t exactly tangible myself. See, while my thoughts were intact and I knew I was human, or at least had been a human once, I had no body, no hands or legs or even a head. All I had was eyes, or at least some sort of a sight sense, because I could see the darkness, watch it encompass me entirely for eternity, probably.
Since I was always the look-on-the-bright-side-of-life type of woman, I wasn’t all too upset with my situation. For instance, I wasn’t completely alone. While I was disembodied, a soul wandering around, I believed, there were others like me. I brushed against other souls, even talked to some lengthly. But there was one thing that differentiated me from them; while we were all able to somehow speak to each other, using some sort of mouth in our disfigured soul, they didn’t remember a thing from the life they had, didn’t even know exactly what they were or why they were here in the void.
I, on the other hand, remembered everything. I remembered my name – Claire – and I remembered my past, my family, my life up until the moment I was shot in a public massacre at my hometown of Amarillo, Texas. One moment I was watching a madman’s face shooting everywhere, people screaming in the background, and the next I was here, hearing nothing, and alone.
It took me some time to understand I was dead, or even to come to terms with it. At first I was sad and angry. Then I mourned myself. And finally, I moved on. Because, seriously, what else could I do? I was stuck in this place for eternity. I had to forgive in order to keep existing, or whatever it was I was doing.
Before my death, I’d never thought deeply about what came after an individual’s life come to an end. As I’d already mentioned, I was a glass-half-full kind of person, so questions such as this weren’t really of any interest to me. But now, that I was in the void, I couldn’t help but ponder it. Was it the true version of Hell? Heaven it couldn’t be, because heaven should’ve been bright and have lovely greenery and flowers, right? Or maybe it was neither, simply a space to put in all the souls of the insignificant people. Because, as much as I hate to admit, I had been insignificant when I was alive. I’d never done anything bad. I’d never stood out in school. I’d always obeyed the rules. I’d been a good kid. I’d been on my way to achieve a glorious career as the secretary of an accountant company. Then I’d died when I went to grab a cup of coffee from Starbucks.
Insignificant. Invisible. That’s who I was. But I’d never looked at it like that when I lived that life. I always thought myself lucky, that a girl without real talents found a way to have at least some aim in life. I’d never wanted anything more, anything glamorous. I’d just wanted to live my life to the fullest of my abilities – of what I believed was the extent of those limited abilities.
Now I knew differently. Maybe it was because of this dark void that my view on life change. Maybe it was because I was dead that I realized that I’d never been alive before, that I’d let myself disregard my life so completely that I’d refused to live a little. Well, it was too late now. I was dead. Life was only a faraway dream. I was just a soul roaming in a realm of nothingness and darkness among other souls.
Okay, enough with the grimness. I needed to find some soul to talk to, because that way my thoughts wouldn’t wander to the dark places they so easily could in this void. So I gathered my spiritual self and floated through the darkness.
It took me some time before I brushed against another soul. “Hey there,” I said immediately, afraid to let this soul go.
The soul hesitantly paused next to me. It sounded cautious when it responded with a soft, “Hey.”
Its cautiousness didn’t mean it was unfriendly. I held on to that and introduced myself. “I’m Claire.”
Thankfully, the soul decided to stick around for now. “Chloe,” it – she – said. “It’s been a while since someone tried to speak t me.”
“Well, I’m always glad to meet new people,” I said cheerily now that Chloe was humoring me with a chit-chat. “It’s getting really lonely really quick in here. Anyway,” I changed the subject quickly, “why did you name yourself Chloe?” After all, it couldn’t be her actual human name. Many of the souls I’d encountered renamed themselves since they couldn’t remember anything. I’d already grown accustomed to the fact I was different.
Chloe didn’t speak for a couple of minutes. I would’ve thought she was trying to ignore me had she not suddenly said, “My true name is Chloe. The name from when I was actually alive.”
To say I was startled would be an understatement. “Alive?” I repeated, just to make sure I didn’t hallucinate when she said that. Because I’d met thousands of souls in the void, and none of the, had any idea that they had actually had life once.
“Yeah,” Chloe murmured, “what, you don’t know anything?”
Her voice held a scoffing undertone that pricked at me a little. I didn’t like haughtiness both when I’d been alive and now that I was dead. I believed all people were equal, and no one should feel like they’re better than the others. Still, while her tone irked me, I’d only spoken with a few words. I couldn’t judge her just yet. “Actually, I do,” I said quietly, “I know we’re in the afterlife void... or whatever this place really is. I remember my entire life up until the point I died. I’m surprised you know about all this too, though,” I sighed. “I’ve met many people here, and no one knew what they were doing here. That you do is a refreshing change.”
“Well, since I haven’t really spent time talking to others much like you did, I wouldn’t know,” she said, again with that scoff that stroke a nerve. “I find the... people here very boring. You’re the first one who actually makes me want to talk.” She sounded slightly surprised about that last notion.
I guess I should’ve been flattered that I was interesting enough for her, but I wasn’t. Something about Chloe rubbed me the wrong way the longer we chatted. I couldn’t put my figurative finger on what, exactly, was the reason for that nagging feeling, and it annoyed me a little. I wasn’t one to judge a person – soul or not – so quickly, and I surely wasn’t the type of woman who got irritated about slight things regarding another person. So to say I was feeling a little lost with myself at that moment would sum it all up in the best way.
Shaking my figurative head, I said chirpily, “Let’s keep on talking, then. It’s a great pastime.”
She snorted. I didn’t know souls could snort before. “We have an eternity,” she said flatly, “even if we talk now, we’ll still have an endless existence to fill in.”
My dislike toward Chloe deepened. There was nothing more depressing than pessimism, and she had plenty. I’d always made sure to stay away from people like here when I was alive, because they were a seriously party-pooper and always made me feel like my place in the world was only temporary and very meaningless. Of course, it didn’t mean they’d been wrong – but seriously, what was the point in life if not thinking about life itself? No one alive should even ponder the aspect of death, since it only brought gloom. So what if everyone dies in the end? So what if there’s an end to life? What people needed to do was keep on living and focus on the now.
“Eternity is a really long time, I agree,” I said, trying to still sound cheery even though I was anything but, thanks to her, “but you can still have fun throughout it. Talking to other people, like we’re doing now. Maybe try to roam this place and find an exit, even if there isn’t one. Find a purpose. And so on.”
“You don’t understand where you are, then,” she said, annoyed, “there isn’t any purpose to be found here. This place was meant to be a gathering of all the people no one in the stupid afterlife wanted. We’re just leftovers. Unimportant. Disposable.”
For the life of me I couldn’t get over the fact she was so goddamn Emo. I was about to give her a severe talking to, at least to try and give her some hope so it wouldn’t be such a pain chatting with her, when sudden silence fell on the void. There wasn’t much sound in here at the first place, but there was always a fainted buzz of the other souls, or just a natural buzz because no place could be so quiet. But now... now there was no sound at all. No buzz, no nothing.
Chloe realized that too and kept her mouth shut. It felt like we should wait, so we waited silently for whatever it was that caused this silence. Since I came here, I’d never encountered something like that. And I’d been here for a while now. I would’ve known if there was a patrol or something like that. Chloe, too, was as surprised as I was, judging by her stillness.
I was beginning to lose patience when all of a sudden, up above, light appeared. I’m not kidding; there was actually light in this black void. It looked like someone pried open the sky of this place and through the tear white light entered. It didn’t feel like anything, not hot or cold, just a sheer brightness that threatened to blind me.
Then a male voice echoed through the void. A voice that said one name.
“Chloe... Chloe Danes...”
Chloe gasped. “That’s me,” she whispered, shocked. “This... this thing is calling me...”
A sudden, clear thought passed through my mind. It was gone before I grasped it, though, but I could still remember part of it, and that part told me that, whatever the light was, it was our only way out. It wouldn’t happen again anytime soon. “Come on, Chloe,” I said, nudging her. “Let’s go there.”
“Don’t leave me,” she whispered, suddenly terrified. She was no longer haughty and know-it-all when she was terrified. “Please, Claire, don’t leave me.”
“I’m right here,” I said, exhilaration thundering through me. “I won’t leave you. We’ll do this together.”
“O-Okay,” she mumbled.
Not letting her rethink the entire thing, I shot forward, grabbing her soul with mine, and, if I had to compare it to a human body, I guessed I was currently swimming toward the light with Chloe curled around me in sheer terror. I wasn’t afraid, though. Some part of me knew what was going on, that it was my ticket out of this place, and I was known for trusting my instincts.
A few moments later, we reached the light, and before neither of us could do anything, we were sucked into an unseen pipeline and then the light took over the both of us, and we fell into a kinder void.
But the void, this time, didn’t remain. I found myself opening my eyes, expecting to see the surrounding, heavy darkness that I’d already become familiar with, but instead I saw a different kind of darkness. I saw a sky. A night sky of midnight blue filled with shining, sparkling silver stars. I could even identify the patterns of the Big Bear, and recognized Sirius, the dog star.
There was a night sky above me. I could actually see it. And when I felt prickling all over my body, I found that I wasn’t a soul anymore. Oh no, I was something else entirely.
I had hands. I had legs. I had a head. I had a body. I wasn’t some spiritual figure anymore. No, I was alive. My heart was beating. I could feel it beating from beneath the skin of my chest. I was alive. I was completely alive.
But where was Chloe?
I’m right here, she said a moment after the question arose in my mind. I’m trapped. You’re in charge of this body.
And I knew at that moment that something went horribly wrong. Because no body should hold two souls within. That was wrong, completely wrong. It was unnatural. It was just wrong.
When a animalistic whimper echoed in my mind, I tensed, and felt Chloe’s wonder and anxiety. “It wasn’t me,” she whispered, “there’s someone... something else in here.”
Another yelp that couldn’t belong to a human echoed, and the realization dawned on me like a bucket of cold water. “It’s a wolf,” I whispered, shocked, “this body belongs to a werewolf. I’ve never been a werewolf before. I’d been a human!”
Chloe said nothing for a few moments. Then – “I was a werewolf. I recognize this wolf. She’s mine. She’s me. I have no idea how our soul split like that. It shouldn’t have happened. We’re one. We’re not meant to split apart!”
Something didn’t just go horribly wrong. It went catastrophically wrong. Because if the wolf belonged to Chloe, if it was Chloe, and I was here as well...
There were three diverted souls in one body, and I was somewhat chosen to hold the reins.
I wasn’t a dirty-mouthed woman, so when I curse, it actually means something. And right now, a curse was in order.
Because we were fucked.