Chapter 1 - Before The Fall
I’ve always wondered what I would have been like in a completely different era, or if anyone else existed during that time who was just like me. Wouldn’t it be crazy if everyone’s soul got recycled as they died, and they were reborn each time as a different person or even an animal? But then, no new souls could be created, right? The Earth would eventually be over-crowded. So, then, maybe a lot of people are actually just NPCs (non-playable characters). Those without souls... would just die, disappear. It sure seems like a possibility that some people don’t have souls, considering the ruthless things done by criminals and those in high places who abuse their power. It’s obvious that all humans have free-will, even if we were created by an almighty god. Theoretically, God has left us to fend for ourselves. Perhaps because we were a disappointment, or because we showed promise. Either way, I’m afraid for whatever reason, the world will never live without evil.
My mornings always seem to begin with a senseless, inner monologue. Though I relate to a lone wolf in a cage, I’m waiting for a voice to answer--to fill the gaps in between my bombard of indirect questions--for a voice to validate my theories.
I’m still laying in bed when I should be looking for a dead end job. “Shina! You’ve got your high school diploma now, you need to get a job right away!” my dad nags daily. “Shina! Why don’t you go to college and make a nice living for yourself? The sooner the better!” my mom insists.
Sorry, ma’, I have a feeling that it’s pointless. Still, I rise up like a machine, no inclination, just an automatic motion. I put my feet down, let them peruse the microscopic swirls that make up the carpet, and drag them to the bathroom. As I run the faucet, the sound of a little waterfall running is pretty soothing, until I start thinking about the water bill. I notice I have the tendency to not make eye contact with myself, to not particularly care for my own presence. I do so this one time, and stare at myself blankly through the mirror. The bottom half of my hair is freshly dyed cherry-red, while the top half is bleach blonde. I look like an angel cake dipped in a vibrant, fruity syrup, but I’ve gone stale. My septum piercing is small and holographic, and the studs that are pinned in my cheeks are supposed to shine in sunlight. Too bad I hardly go outside.
After I go change into one of my more pleasant outfits, I make my way towards the front door. Sure, it’s Summer, so I probably shouldn’t be wearing a long-sleeved shirt that happens to be black, but I have some comfy shorts on… I hope that’s enough.
Both of my parents are at work, and I wish I didn’t have to be here when they get home. They say I’m always welcome but, I know they want me gone. I’d be better off on my own anyway, hell, I wish I could leave for good, right now. Maybe when I do, I’ll finally feel in control of my own life.
The Sun hits me quick with a warmth I never asked for, and blinds me for pretty much the rest of the morning. Walking down the streets I hear the people, I know they’re there, but... I don’t see them. I would wonder if that makes me heartless, but if someone introduces themselves to me, I can’t look away. I want people to be happy, even if in the end, they don't matter. It might as well be a curse.
Some kind of glimmer sparks in the corner of my eye. Turning my head curiously sideways, my lips part for a gasp that stays caught in my throat.
Ah! That woman, is she... she’s--being attacked! Is anyone else seeing this?!
My eyes dart here and there frantically, on every square of the sidewalk, on every face that gives the tell of a bystander. It looks like some people are calling the cops, but no one in traffic can be bothered. Shit! She’s being dragged into that alleyway!
My bones feel like they’re on fire. I’m so terrified I feel stuck in stone... but I have to move! C’mon, Shina. Do something for once! You have nothing to lose! I’ll run. I’ll run so fast that cars’ horns and their screeching brakes will whisk past me.
I willingly sprint with the luck of my ankle just skimming under the bumper of a blurry SUV. An orchestra of whining tires and angry honks crescendos around me, and everything in this moment is so clear, yet so frightening. I seem to catch the assailant off-guard with my impulsiveness. I find myself clutching the collar of his grimey, cotton shirt in my fist as if I could squeeze the life out of him that way. At the same time, my free hand carefully ushers the poor lady away with a pressure placed upon the stiff part of her upper chest. I’ve got him! My knee aches to hurl itself upwards and scoldingly slam into this guy’s groin. But--
I suddenly feel cold, shocked, immobile. What is this pain? Looking down, my perception starts to vibrate and lines twist and pull toward the center, an ominous vignette closing in around it. Whose voice was that? I feel myself falling. Did it work? Did it…?
☘︎︎ ☘︎︎ ☘︎
What’s that beeping sound? An alarm? But I thought I already woke up this morning… Where am I? There are those lights that pass by when cars are outside. A storm. It’s kind of peaceful. A furious boom followed by an instinctive jump and an exclamation changes my mind. I’m starting to feel a bit petrified. This… doesn’t even look like my room, then again, it’s not quite light enough to decide. A setting like this almost makes me want to say, “Hello?” like in those cliché horror movies, though that seems counterproductive if I value my sanity.
This next flash of lightning is so close, and so bright! My face reels back as the dramatic back of my hand slaps against my squinted eyes.
After several seconds have dissolved my concept of time and I can now brace my surroundings… Where did all this light come from? The lightning? But it won’t go away, everything is white now: the walls, the window, and the bed I must have been laying on has been absorbed. This is so strange, too strange, but it’s so real. It feels more tangible than my life.
An echo is whispering my name. It’s a deep and distorted sound, like something dredged up from hell! No… no way! Ugh, this-- this is more unsettling than I can stand! I... I just wanna get out!
“I.. have... a job.. for... you..”
I feel like I should be screaming, but my blood is only rushing to my invisible feet in silence. I’m stuck, and I’m freezing, and there’s this really terrible feeling I can’t shake. No.. n-no... this isn’t happening, this isn’t--
“Shina? Shina? Honey, wake up!”
Mom... I begin to see her when my eyes peel open and I realize I’m sweating terribly. I’m shaking like a weak, elderly mutt too. “What the hell?” I mutter, and look over myself. There’s a... stab wound in the lower side of my abdomen. Now it’s starting to hurt, and I wish I could forget it was there again. I feel a tug and a squeeze in the palm of my hand and a faint, familiar voice I seem to be ignoring. Stabbed, huh? I should be repulsed by this sensation, but I have to admit that it’s somewhat exhilarating. Besides, they’ve probably got me hopped up on painkillers to dumb it down.
Blinking a few times, I start to remember… “That bastard!” My chest puffs up like a bonfire splashed with lighter fluid as I straighten my back.
“S-Sweetie, don’t talk like that.” My mother puts on a nervous grin along with her loving façade.
Her grip gets tighter as this messily dressed character bursts into the hospital room with the bang of a door slamming behind him... Him? My visitor appears to be a man with enviously smooth features and a somewhat lopsided wig that reminds me of--
“Are you... the woman my daughter tried to save?” Mom inquires.
“Oh, I’m not really a woman, but yes, she did save me!” This mystery damsel in distress is starting to get a bit too close... oww! Augh! Why a hug?! Did he not see me get stabbed earlier?
“Y-You’re hurting me.”
“O-Oh!” He starts to back away quickly and full of guilt, “Sorry, sorry!”
I let out a pitiful wheeze as my lungs try to process this new trauma, and my mother’s disgruntled expression is kind of priceless.
“What... happened to the guy that attacked you?” My voice flutters and floats in the air like a wisp.
“He got chased and arrested pretty quickly after you swooped in! And then, I carried you back to the street and put pressure on your wound until the ambulance came!” The perplexing individual flips a few dozen strands of pretty, teal, but synthetic hair, over his shoulder.
“You… carried me back?”
“Of course, it was the least I could do! Well... I have a show I really should get to, thank you again! Here’s my number, I wanna know when you’re feeling better! Ciao!” Before leaving, with a brisk walk, he places a slip of paper on the bedside table.
I stare at the scribbled numbers for a moment and think of nothing until my mother shouts, “I have to go back to work, I’ll come back later to pick you up, okay?” She starts heading for the small strip of paper and swipes it off, so it needlessly falls to the floor to make a point. “Don’t talk to that man, he’s a freak.” She makes her final steps through the doorway, “Love you!”
“...Love you too.” I stare at the stranger’s phone number again. Reaching down to pick it up is harder than I anticipated, I strain and strain, and with a triumphant grunt I end up with the paper in hand. “He seemed a lot nicer than you, bitch.”
After looking around for a minute, I find my smartphone. What will I say to him? “Hi, thanks for stopping by?,” “It was nice to meet you?,” just “Hi,” “Hey,” or “Hello”? I suppose... I never got a name. My thumbs hesitantly hover over the little, luminescent keyboard as I enter his number and start a message. “Hey, this is Shina... from the.. hospital... what’s your name?” I stop for a moment to think of a way to make the best impression, but not too lengthy of an impression. “What pronouns do you prefer?” N-No wait, that sounds nosy, asking all those questions at--Damn... I pressed the send button by accident... Now all I can do is hope I don’t sound like a weirdo who’s too eager to make friends.
I yawn and lean back on the cool surface of these thin hospital bed sheets. It’s funny, that feeling you get when you’re suddenly so tired it feels like you’re drifting, slowly seeping into another world almost. Everything starts to fade... into a warm darkness.
“Shi.. na... Shi..na... why won’t you.. answer.. me... Can’t you hear... death.. calling your... name...?”
It’s that voice again, the whispering strokes like long, stiff nails on an opaque chalkboard in a pitch black room. “Death...?” I utter, and shiver. My body is so cold, but I can’t feel it, it’s like I’ve been ingested by the hungry void I’m immersed in. “Death...?” I bet I’m feverish, but I don’t know for sure. Please, wake up! Wake up, let me wake up! “Death...”
I can’t... move.
“Her heart rate’s plummeting!”
I start to feel the light around me again, but everything is faint and eerie... What’s all that noise?
“I have the AED ready!”
What? That sound... that sharp, crackling... “Stop!”