Tian Anjing did not make a sound as his body hit the ground hard, the darkness quickly eating him up. A shadow on the balcony of the hotel watched as people screamed and rushed to the scene, hands on phones desperately calling for an ambulance as his body lay in the snow, the red blood leaking from his body like a halo to emphasise his serenity. A pale and lithe man cocooned in the snowy wonderland like a winter fairy, even in death; utterly beautiful. The crowd made way for the ambulance who shouted orders for the onlookers to back away.
Flashes of cameras lit up the street, the man captured at his last moment eternalized in the photographs. These pictures were posted online for the world to see, much to the dismay of many who thought it disrespectful to the late Tian Anjing. However, they had to admit, he was beautiful, the late Oscar Award-Winning Actor Tian Anjing. At 36 years of age, one could say that Tian Anjing was at the prime of his life and his career, winning award after award with his brilliant acting. Needless to say, he had his fair share of critics and rivals who did not like him solely based on this fact. He was beloved and revered by many, so his death caused a great commotion worldwide. The memorial was televised for the people who could not attend. Some dedicated fans created tribute compilations and music videos with clips from his movies, TV shows and interviews to commemorate their idol, hoping their earnest wishes for his safe passage into the afterlife could be broadcasted to him directly.
Years passed, and the world seemed to mostly forget Tian Anjing, despite all his good deeds, talented acting and boundless charisma that should, by any right, make him unforgettable. Human memory, it is a curious thing; the need to be remembered, that is even more so. His soul wandered aimlessly in the space between the Mortal Realm and the Afterlife, hungering for the need to be remembered, to have purpose. It was instinctual at this point as the moment he died, he became an empty soul without consciousness or, ironically enough; memory itself, the very thing he thirsted for in his soul.
Tian Anjing’s soul wandered for centuries, slowly building up spiritual strength through his repeated exposure to the enlarging population of people over the years. This gradual accumulation of spiritual strength siphoned from the people of Earth filled the void within his soul, his memories slowly coming back in flashes that occurred as dreams, confusing him immensely until one day; he remembered everything. The dull look on Tian Anjing’s face became less pronounced and then changed into a lax expression, calm like a ripple-less lake. Tian Anjing close his eyes to process all of the scattered information. He remembered everything. From his childhood in the backwater orphanage run by the guileless church goers, the first time he entered the city and was promptly scouted by a big entertainment label interested in debuting him as an idol, to falling in love with his manager and then being betrayed by that same manager who threw him off his balcony during a verbal altercation and finally, death. He remembered.
Tian Anjing opened his eyes and was shocked. He was floating in empty space when he came to his senses before but now he was in a what appeared to be an office. He was seated on an old couch facing a desk, a large throne like chair tucked into the table. The office was rather sleek with steel and glass finishing, the furniture a deep chocolate brown, if not a bit dated. The only things out of place was the large gold gilded throne behind the modern desk and the large roll of parchment, feather pen and ink plot splayed out on said desk. Tian Anjing blinked once in confusion before calming down. He didn’t know what kind of situation this is but considering he was already dead, not much could phase him at this point. Settling back into the couch to get comfortable, Tian Anjing decided to wait and see what happens next, surely he was here for a reason. He didn’t have to wait long as the sound of a door opening up behind him grabbed his attention mere moments later. He didn’t turn around, he just continued to sit languidly on the couch. The sound of the throne moving had him looking up as he heard no footsteps approaching the desk.
A middle-aged man in a black two-piece suit sat on the throne with a red handkerchief dabbing his sweaty, balding head. Adjusting the half- moon glasses on his nose that highlighted the sharp phoenix eyes underneath. The man cleared his throat and glanced down at the roll of parchment. The parchment unrolled itself to reveal its blank contents. Slowly, words and pictographs appeared, as if bleeding through the parchment. The parchment now featured what could only be described as words in an undecipherable language next to a large picture of Tian Anjing’s face. Judging by the picture and the spacing between the phrases, he guesses that it’s information about him when he was alive, set out much like a work resume. At least, that’s what he assumed.
“Hello Mr. Tian, I am your Death Procter, here to judge you for your life after death. Here is my business card”. The man bowed 45 degrees with both hands cupping a white business card for Tian Anjing’s inspection. The card featured a bunch of numbers in the top right-hand corner and a strange logo of a skull surrounded by a crescent underneath that looked like a guillotine on a bed of two intersecting blades. The card had a bunch of symbols he presumed were the Procter’s name and rank, but it was in no way legible for him to read. He turned the card over with a brow raised in question. Tian Anjing pocketed the business card for later examination.
“Thank you, Mr...Procter. I suppose I should ask what comes next” Tian Anjing said as he looked up to find the Death Procter once again on the throne, but this time, there was no noise. Tian Anjing sat back down on the couch and waited for an explanation. “Good. Mr. Tian, you must understand that you died an unidentified death. By that, we mean, we don’t know how or why you died or how it even escaped our surveillance in the first place. For now, we have no right to judge your soul but since you’ve awakened your spiritual force and have regained your consciousness, that has put us in a difficult situation” the Procter admitted sheepishly.
He was quiet for a while before responding. “I gather that there a few issues here. One, you suspect that someone within your company, or whatever this is, has interfered with my life and caused a premature death for me and erased their meddling. Two, this spiritual force must have some danger level if you have immediately removed me from the empty space I was occupying the minute I regained consciousness. And lastly, you have no plans for me to be judged at the moment, but I suspect you have a temporary space”.
Crossing his arms, Tian Anjing sat back and observed the Procter quietly. The Procter gnashed his teeth before shrugging his shoulders, “Ah, ah, Mr. Tian, your reputation proceeds you. You are right on all three accounts. Yes, we suspect internal interference within our organisation. We judge souls to allow them to be appropriately sorted for the Afterlife. We don’t take lives, just judge them on their accumulated deeds and reputation, reincarnating some and eternally damning others. You could say your final verdict isn’t just based on your good deeds or bad deeds but mostly on your reputation and how long people remember you after death” the Procter explained, stirring a teaspoon in a tea cup that he didn’t notice. A cube of sugar dropped into the tea and dissolved in the tea, mysteriously changing the colour from wheat brown to mauve and finally settling on fuchsia. Tian Anjing raised a brow as this strange concoction floated towards his folded hands. Sipping it, it tasted of chamomile and roses. Delicious. The Procter paused throughout this process and took a sip of tea he had made himself.
“The longer you’re remembered, the more you’re likely to be reincarnated; regardless of good or bad deeds. As for the issue with your spiritual energy; or spirit force as we call it, being awakened and your memories returning, that’s due to long time exposure to living humans. Humans contain spirit force, think of it as life and vitality; a piece of your soul that makes you, you. As you die, that spirit force disappears and everything that makes you, you, disappears with it too. Ergo, your consciousness and memories. So, when you’re absorbing the spirit force ejected by people, you’re filling the empty container, so to speak.” The Procter finished explaining.
“But I must say, impressive deduction but this also puts my mind at ease with what I’m going to do next. Follow me” the Procter stood up and glided to the door.