Chapter 2: A Visit from Death
Spencer, I would like you to meet to the headmaster of Hunter Academy: Death. Those words kept repeating in my head as I continued to stare at the man seated at the head of my dining table. Death, as in the Grim Reaper? He gazed at me from across the room, inspecting me from head to toe. I knew exactly what he was seeing. A short, slim redhead with freckles covering every inch of her pale skin, and long lashes over deep brown eyes. Not exactly Miss. America.
What was he doing here? What did Death want with me?
Finally after a long time of awkward silence, he spoke. His voice was very deep, with the slightest hint of a sinister edge to it. It was very sexy. I looked at my mom. If she wasn’t so frightened, she probably would have swooned.
“Spencer Mason.” he said. “What a unique name. Perfect for a beautiful young lady such as yourself.”
“T-thank you.” I stammered. Beautiful. Me? Maybe he’s nearsighted.
He got up from the chair he sat at and sauntered towards me, looking like a predator stalking its prey. I gulped in fear, but remained where I stood. He was standing in front of me, looking very tall and scary as he looked down at me with a calculating expression.
“Interesting.” he muttered. I couldn’t help but feel a bit self-conscious.
Finally my mother spoke, her voice wavering in fear. “What is it that you wanted? Spencer is not in trouble is she?”
Death looked away from me and at my mother, who flinched at the intensity of his stare. He seemed to smile at my mother’s reaction. He must like inflicting fear on others. “Jordan Grey, a boy that will be attending Hunter Academy this year, told me about her and I have to say I was completely intrigued.”
“Really?” So this was Jordan’s way of “helping” me get to Hallowville – by sending Death to my house to take me there? How odd. “What did he tell you?”
“He told me that you could do all five elements. And you’re only half-Reaper. The fact that you can do that is amazing.”
“So you’re not here to punish anyone, are you?” my mother asked wearily. I frowned in bemusement. What did she mean by that? Did Death normally go around punishing people for no good reason? Or was my mother just being paranoid as usual?
Death laughed. “No, my dear. I just wanted to see Spencer for myself. If she really is who I think she is and her father—“he stopped, his face taking on a rueful expression. I didn’t like that.
“What about my father?” I didn’t like the way he kept avoiding me and my mother’s eyes.
He sighed quietly. “No one has seen him in years. Everybody assumes that, well…” he trailed off awkwardly.
“That he’s dead.” my mom said finishing his sentence. A tear fell down mom’s face as this news sank in. Me, I didn’t know what to think. I never knew him, but the news still hurt.
Death – I always assumed would be dark and cold – and in a way he was. But as my mother started to cry, I was surprised to see Death wrap an arm around her, doing his best to comfort her.
“I’m terribly sorry.” he said, before removing his arm.
Mom wiped the tears from her face, her eyes puffy and red. She smiled sheepishly at me. “I’m okay, sweetheart.”
I didn’t reply. My mother was far from fine. I was starting to wonder if going to Hunter Academy was such a good idea. Could I leave my mother behind just after finding out that it’s possible my father is dead? What if she needs me?
“Now about your powers.” Death said, mildly.
I looked at him wearily. “What about them?”
“Well, I was wondering if you could show me. Don’t get me wrong,” he said swiftly as I looked at him in disbelief. Did he not believe Jordan? “It’s just being headmaster I have to see for myself. I can’t just take a student’s word for it, but I do believe that you are gifted. Even now I can sense the power emanating from you.”
“And if I do…”
“Then you and your mother will come with me to Hallowville. We’re having an orientation of sorts for the first years. We will be having a ceremony that will involve sorting students into groups – ice, fire, earth, air, and water.”
“What group will I possibly be in? Seeing as I can do all five.”
“Whatever you specialized in first will be the group you’re assigned too.”
“Oh.” Well, that was a major duh! I felt stupid for even asking that question.
“Now,” he said all business like. “Show me.”
I didn’t take my eyes off him as I summoned my power. Suddenly it became chaotic in the room. The fireplace was blazing; the sink was overflowing with water. A variety of flowers seemed to sprout from the linoleum, surrounding me. The air was windy and a bit frosty. My mom seemed to shiver, her breath coming out in puffs as her teeth chattered. Then, in just a blink of an eye, everything was back to normal as my magic came to a halt.
Death seemed to smile.
“That was impressive.”
“Did I pass?” I asked.
“Oh, I would say you did,” he said still wearing that beautiful smile. “Start packing, ladies. We’re going to Hallowville.”
I was finished getting packed before mom. She seemed to take her time, but I wondered if it was because her mind was elsewhere. Maybe she was still thinking about dad. I went back downstairs, with my suit case in hand, and waited for my mother in the living room.
I saw Death in there, looking at some of my old school pictures that were arranged neatly on top of mom’s bookshelf. They were so embarrassing – I wish he would stop looking at them. He seemed to sense I was there and turned around to look me. Death smiled menacingly.
“Mom might take a while,” I said just to break the awkward silence. “I think she has a lot on her mind. Probably thinking about dad.”
“I understand. I am deeply sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your mother.”
“It’s okay.” Suddenly I was curious. “If your death…then wouldn’t you know if he was dead or not?”
“That,” he said. “Is a good question. Yes, I am death or the human version of him anyway. I take souls where they are destined to go when it is time to die. Now, every now and again, I have others collect souls for me, especially when I’m busy at the Academy.”
I didn’t even know what to say to that – so I just waited patiently for him to continue.
“I don’t know if your father is dead. If he is – none of my servants have told me. But my dear,” He shook his head wistfully. “Your father, in our world, would probably be better off that way.”
I was appalled at what he said that I literally couldn’t speak for several minutes. When I finally found my voice, it sounded more like a sob.
“Because,” he said grimly. “Your father committed a crime in our world that was unforgivable. I truly don’t think it was completely his fault, but he knew he shouldn’t have let it happen. Of course, if it hadn’t been for him—“
“Who’s him? And what did my father do that was unforgivable?”
Death sighed, looking tired all of sudden. “We should talk about this another time—“
“No. You brought it up. What did my father and this man do?”
“You won’t like it.” He said. There was a look in his eyes that made me believe that he was telling the truth. Suddenly I felt unsure if I really wanted to know. “You can’t tell your mother. It will break her heart. Honestly I shouldn’t be telling you this either, but if you are the chosen one then I guess you have the right to know—”
“Wait, wait, wait,” I said, cutting him off. I was confused. “What do you mean I’m the ‘chosen one?’”
“You are the one who will stand against him. The one everyone in Eden – that’s our world – fears. You will be the only one brave enough to fight him.”
“I think you’ve got the wrong girl. I’m far from brave.” I said, obstinately.
“And I think we do. You and he are the only ones who can control all five elements.” He stopped, while considering something. “Well, so can Mr. Hans, who will be your Elemental Magic teacher at Hunter Academy, but that’s beside the point.”
“Okay, but that doesn’t make me the chosen one.”
“Yes it does.” Death said. “There is a legend that said only a girl who is gifted would be able to stop him. You see nobody – not even an army of Reapers – could take him down. Even I couldn’t defeat him and he was nearly the reason for my demise.” He stroked the left side of face, where his scar was.
“He did that to you?” I asked, horrified.
“Yes.” he answered. He dropped his hand, his face filled with shame. “It’s embarrassing to admit, but even I feared him.”
“But your death – you shouldn’t be afraid of anything.”
“Well, you haven’t met him. And when you do – you’ll never forget him.”
“But who is he? And what did him and my father do that was so unforgivable.”
“Nobody says his name. It’s considered bad luck – but if you insist. His name was Azazel Torchwood. He was a demon hunter just like the others of our kind. He could control all the elements, but his strongest was fire. He and your father were best friends. They were even N’Sync to each other.”
“What does that mean?” I asked. “N’Sync?”
“It is a bond between two demon hunters. It’s so strong that sometimes you or your partner can get sucked inside each other’s minds if one is feeling strong emotions. It is very useful if one is kidnapped and needs rescuing.”
“But why would my father be bond to someone like that? Didn’t he know?”
Death shook his head morosely. “I don’t think anyone did. He was arrogant at times and could be disrespectful, but no one, not even I foresaw the darkness that was growing in his heart.”
“So what did they do?” I was feeling conflicted. Part of me wanted to know while the other part didn’t. I was scared of Death’s answer.
“Well,” he hesitated. “It started with summoning a demon. In our world the only time you should ever summon a demon is if you need answers to a problem when slaying other demons. They’ll tell you anything you need to know as long as you present them with jewelry or anything that is beautiful.
“So your father and…Azazel,” he winced. “Summoned a demon. Now I believe that your father had been naïve through the whole thing. I truly believe that he did not know of his friend’s intentions. I think your father – in a way – was innocent. What he did was so unforgivable that I shudder at the thought of it.”
“What did he do?” I whispered. I don’t know why, but I felt cold all of sudden. If Death was disturbed by what Azazel did then it must have been pretty bad.
Death took a deep breath before continuing in a menacing voice. I felt a chill go down my spine. “He let a demon possess him. Now, it may not sound that bad to you, but in our world, it is very wrong. Our magic is life. It was given to the hunters for the common good, by the father of all hunters – Durin Reaper, who was also my father. Can you imagine a demon taking over a hunter’s body and using that magic that is supposed to be good, while having it used for horrible deeds instead? And especially one that could control all five! Spencer, you couldn’t possibly understand how terrible it was.”
“So if Azazel was possessed,” Death gave me a look when I said his name, but I pretended to ignore it. “Then I guess he had no control over his body or his actions.”
“That’s not entirely true.” Death said. “He still had control – it’s just once he let that demon in there – there was no more compassion. He even killed his wife, whom he loved very much by the way, in vengeance because she left him. He would have killed his son too if it hadn’t been for your father.”
I did a double take at that. “My father—”
“He was the only one who could stop him. No one knows how or why. It’s always been question on my mind. How could a regular Reaper take down someone who was possessed and could control all the elements? It’s a mystery.”
“So my father was the only one who could take down, Azazel.” I said smugly. Go dad!
“Please don’t say his name,” he said shuddering. “But yes – that is correct. Of course, your father still had a hard time keeping him down. In the end, he escaped and no one has heard or seen from him since.” His deep voice went lower as he whispered, making it sound more sinister then before. “But I know that he’s still out there – waiting for the right moment to reveal himself to the people of Eden.”
His words made me tremble, but I tried to ignore it for I was still confused about one thing. “So if he was the only one who summoned that demon, then why was my father blamed?”
“Everyone blamed your father because they believed he could have stopped him. And when he didn’t they had him arrested. When he escaped and went home for refuge, his family didn’t want anything to do with him. They disowned him and from then on he wandered on his own. As a fugitive in our world and a stranger in yours.”
I shook my head in disbelief. “He shouldn’t have been blamed for that stuff. That wasn’t right.”
“I completely agree.” he said. He looked behind me then, his red eyes softening for the person behind me. “Hello Carrie.”
I turned around and saw my mom standing in the doorway with her suit case. She looked tired and her eyes looked swollen from all the crying. “Sorry it took so long.” mom said. “My mind was elsewhere.” I thought as much.
“That’s fine. Spencer and I were just talking. Isn’t that right?” he said, looking directly at me with piercing, red eyes.
I nodded, while trying to shake away the fear I felt from our conversation. “Yeah. That’s right.”
It was silent for a bit until Death clapped his hands, making my mother and I jump. “So are we ready to go?”
Neither one of us replied as Death left the living room, heading towards the front door, while leaving it wide open as an invitation to follow him. I grabbed my suit case and stayed close to mom as we followed Death into the night.
I don’t know what I was expecting a portal to look like, but it certainly wasn’t this. We were standing out in the middle of the road, shivering as the wind picked up, looking at the man-hole that was centered in the middle of the road. Lucky for us it was late and nobody was driving by to see us standing there.
“You know,” I said after several minutes of irritating silence. “This hole leads to the sewers. I hope you know that.”
“Oh, I know.” he said, blank-faced. I bit my tongue to keep from screaming. “But it’s also a portal. It can take you anywhere in our world.”
“Exactly how many places are in Eden?” mom asked. “The way my husband talked – he made it sound like it was humongous place.”
“It is.” Death said. I was fascinated by this information, but didn’t ask any more questions. I was ready to get a move on. “Now all you have to do is say ‘Hallowville’ and it will take you straight there. Speak very clearly alright. We wouldn’t want you to end up somewhere else. Eden can be a peaceful place, but if you end up in places that are demon territories then you’re in trouble – seeing as neither of you have any training.”
I closed my eyes and tried to count to ten. Dear God – what have I got myself into?
“On the count of three – you will jump. Alright, Spencer?” Death said to me as I eyed the hole uncertainly.
“Ummm…” Suddenly I felt sick.
“Maybe I should go first.” my mom said to Death. “I don’t mind.”
Death shrugged and pulled me back as mom crouched to the ground, with her suit case in hand, getting ready to jump.
I listened as Death slowly counted to three, holding my breath until mom yelled, “Hallowville!” and jumped. I saw a bright light emanate from the man-hole and knew that it had worked. I sighed in relieve. Now let’s just hope she there it there okay.
“Your turn, Spencer.” Death said as he ushered me forward.
I stumbled a little before taking a deep, calming breath as I crouched next to the hole. I wriggled my nose in disgust as the smell came drifting from the sewers. If he doesn’t hurry I’m going to throw up. I clutched my suit case nervously. When Death counted to three I shouted “Hallowville!” and jumped.
I didn’t have time to scream. By the time I opened my eyes, I was there, my body sprawled out on the cold, hard ground. I looked around, feeling uncertain. It was completely dark out, but I knew I wasn’t in Arkansas anymore.
“Spencer,” said a familiar voice. I looked up and saw my mom, staring down at me with concern. “Are you alright?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I answered. “The fall wasn’t as bad like I thought it would be.”
I slowly got to my feet, looking around myself again at the little buildings that surrounded us. It definitely wasn’t like our world. The road was completely made of gray cobblestone and the buildings looked more like cottages and huts. I examined one of the cottages, which was white with pink trimming. Even the shingles were pink. I read the sign and saw that it was Hallowville’s Bakery. I didn’t see a single car in this town and wondered how they traveled. Surely not on foot.
“Yeah,” mom said dryly as we continued to look around ourselves. “This place is definitely different.”
“Compared to your world, it is.” We turned around at the same time and saw Death staring at us. I hadn’t even noticed that he was there. He was so quiet. He cocked his head to the side. “Come. I will show you to the inn you will be staying at.”
His words made me feel giddy as I grabbed my stuff and walked beside mom as we followed Death through the dark and sleepy town of Hallowville.