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Chapter 19 - The Grand Bridges

"This has to be fairly quick or else you'll lose contact with your physical body. Stay close." Aqua gestured for him to step beside her but swallowed up by panic at those words, Jayden barely paid her any attention.

"Hell, Aqua!" He touched down his chest to make sure the rest of him was still alive. "A warning would've been deeply appreciated."

"Oh please," she rolled her eyes, "at least be grateful I asked you first."

"You didn't even wait for the answer!" As his complaint passed his lips, his gaze finally stopped checking down his own body and slowly traveled up. "Woah..."

The sky stood tall and stretched wide like a dome atop their heads. An invisible split went down its middle, separating two endless bridges that faded into misty air the longer they extended further away.

The left side had flames as its only source of light, its sky overcrowded by dusty clouds that burst with sparks of red lightning every few seconds. The road seemed to be a tough one. Boulders stacked up, blocking the path to the unknown, breaking down and tumbling to pieces with each strike of flames upon them. Even the bridge itself appeared to be worn out, the ongoing fires occupying it, and burning beneath it, eating away at the cement, granting a possibility of it crumbling apart.

"Hm. Hell isn't as bad as I thought," he said, turning to get a good look of the other side. "That's... disappointing."

The sky looming over the right bridge was as clear as day, rays of sunlight streaming down like curtains of golden silk, lighting up the way. Other than that, it remained strictly empty, void of any obstacles. Nothing but the perfectly constructed road and the soft rippling of rivers flowing underneath.

Aqua laughed out loud, shaking her head. "Heaven and hell are beyond the bridges. These are just the roads you take to reach them."

"You're telling me, if I go to hell, I'll walk all the way on..." He glanced at the blazing boulders, "... that?"

She nodded.

"What happens if I just... not listen and walk through heaven instead?"

"You humans really love trouble."

"No, actually, the only reason we go through trouble is to have peace."

She didn't understand what he meant and she made a mental note to ask him of it later. Right now, she had to be quick to ensure his safety. "Listen... and look. The bridge to heaven is smooth as silk. If you were destined to it, you'll be blessed enough to walk it. While on it, you revisit all the good memories as the bad ones get wiped away, one by one. Slowly, you'll forget everything, and right as you reach heaven, you're a brand new soul. Cleansed of all sins and all memories to begin anew."

"You know, as appealing as that sounds, Hell is really catching my attention."

"Of course." She rolled her eyes. Humans. "Hell... You walk the bridge with your feet bound. Each step like you're walking on scorching nails, as if the fires are not enough. Every good thing you experienced on Earth is extracted from the mind, while all bad remains. And in short—"

"You don't come to the best part and say 'in short.' I'm hooked." He leaned in closer, not wanting to miss a single detail.

"Okay, okay." She giggled. "By the last steps, just like the way to Heaven, you forget everything. But that's only after tormenting thoughts and a tough road. Specifically one where all you feel is regret. I'm gonna tell you something..." Aqua contemplated whether or not she should mention it to him, and deciding to do so, she looked away and fixated her gaze on the bridges.

"Most of the time, the people who had the easiest road in waking life, have the toughest one in the afterlife. And the ones who walked the toughest road in life, are blessed enough to walk the bridge to Heaven. It's an odd concept but... That's just most of the time..." she whispered the last sentence to herself, a slight note of shame in her voice.

She knew deep down there was no way for her to be able to walk Heaven's path. Even if all she'd seen during her waking life has been nothing but unfortune.

Aqua glanced down at her wrist.

Seeing her blackened veins, which served as evidence of how little she had left, she couldn't help but dread walking down to Hell. She was far past redeeming herself. And even if, Igujin would deny her efforts with the greatest pleasure.

It's true she had the time of the world yet she took it all for granted. Now, time to her, was no more than a delicate butterfly. A butterfly which she's desperately running after to cut off its wings just so it would slow down and last a while longer.

"Let's go back." She pulled her sleeves down further.

"Too soon?"

"Let me take you back." Was all she said before she took one last wistful glance at the Grand Bridges, rather a certain one. As she knew it'd be the one she'd soon walk on.

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