Purgatory

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What have I done

Astrada had just marked the site where the lizard man bounty hunter’s remains could be found and was making her way towards the city when she met Tauren and Dante on their way to find her. Dante’s relief on seeing her uninjured was palpable. He leapt from his horse, ran to her and pulled her into a full bear hug. To be sure, Astrada was a little taken aback by Dante’s reaction, but she immediately recognized that it was good to have friends.

Back at the Stade Arcanium, the bodies of the dead were assembled on the training field floor. The bodies, even those of the enemy, would be honoured with a brief ceremony before they decayed and fell to dust. The break down of the corpses of the living was rapid and complete in purgatory. Within a day or two they would be gone, leaving only a small pile ion grey ash behind. Here, Dante saw the consequences of his sword play for the first time. The body of the blue twin he had fought, if such a brief encounter could even be technically termed a fight, was stretched out with his head beside him. He had killed someone. That someone may have been a species other than human, but to Dante’s eyes, he was human. He was, fully sentient and Dante had ended his life with the slice of a sword.

Dante was despondent. This was way outside his experience. The training, an ordeal at first, became more enjoyable as his skills improved, but on the training field there might be cuts and bruises, but no-one died. The others tried to raise his spirits by reminding him that the man he killed would by now be reanimated somewhere in his own domain of purgatory. The remains were no longer his. “Then why are we honouring him?” wondered Dante.

“We honour all the living who have died,” explained Tauren, “some we might see again, but they will never be quite the same as they have passed over to a different stage of existence.”

This did little to boost Dante’s spirits as he recalled in great detail his swing of the sword cleaving head from body, the brief look of surprise in the blue twin’s eyes and the head sliding free of the body to fall to the floor. This and the fact that he had sent six warriors to their deaths troubled him deeply.

Tauren had told Dante that the next time he returned to earth, he would have complete recall of his time in purgatory and would be actively if inconspicuously seeking potential recruits to the cause. On seeing Dante’s reaction to his first kill, Tauren decided it was not the time for Dante to retain full knowledge when he returned to earth. Since the wise ones had informed him that no more bounty hunters were proceeding their way, Tauren sent Dante back as he always had, with no memory of his time in purgatory.

It was midday when Dante woke up in his bedroom back on earth. He felt totally washed out and a little sad and didn’t understand why. He needed to be active, so he decided to go back to work. On his arrival, friends and staff greeted him warmly, asking about his sick friend and the trip. For a moment Dante was non-plussed, then remembered that he had taken several days off and the story he had given as the excuse. He quickly concocted a tale to support his earlier story. He finished by telling them everything was fine, so he came home. The name of the mid-west city he gave was for a place small enough to be obscure to most so no one could easily trace his steps and find out he hadn’t gone there or known anyone who lived there.

While most of his fellow workers accepted the details of his fabricated story without question, Merilee and his closest friends saw something different. To them, Dante was clearly upset and depressed. Their explanation to themselves was that whoever Dante went to see, things hadn’t worked out well. Perhaps the ailment, whatever it was, was not improving. They offered to take him out after work and he agreed.

The evening was pleasant. Adam, Earl, and even Merilee did most of there talking. Dante responded with appropriate laughter, but they saw he was still distracted. “What’s wrong, Dante?” asked Merilee.

Although at the moment he didn’t know why, he blurted out, “How would you feel if you killed someone?”

Adam and Earl went silent as Merilee asked, “Dante, you didn’t kill anyone, did you?”

“No, but somehow I feel like I did. It’s really strange, and it bothers me. What really bothers me though is that it didn’t seem to trouble me very much, like it was the right thing to do. It feels almost real.”

“Dante, did something happen to you in Wichita, a car accident, or something.”

“Wichita,” thought Dante, “why did he tell them he had gone to Wichita?”

It was a place he had heard of in a cowboy movie or something similar when he was young, and he liked the name. He had told them he was going to look after a sick cousin in Wichita, but he knew he had never been to Wichita. In fact, none that he really thought about it, he had been away from work for nearly a week and had no memory of what he had done in all that time. Maybe he went to Wichita. Maybe he had a car accident, and he or someone he was with had killed someone. It was possible trauma had made him forget. The forgetting troubled him, but interestingly the other thought didn’t. Whatever had happened, he was not really unhappy about it. It was just the one vague thing concerning him, and it had something to do with killing and necessity. He wondered if soldiers felt this way. At least they knew why.

This all flashed through his mind in a split second. “Nothing happened in Wichita,” was all he could say. “It’s a lovely place, and the weather was nice. The Magnolias were in blossom around the courthouse.”

He didn’t know if any of it was true. He hadn’t checked the weather report there for the last week. He assumed there would be a courthouse, but knew absolutely nothing about Magnolias. He doubted Adam and Earl did either, and he was hoping Marilee wasn’t an expert on Magnolias, because they might not even grow there. Luckily, it turned out she wasn’t.

Over the next few days Dante’s bad feelings began to fade.

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