Soul Theory

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Chapter 11 - A Small Coffin

What am I waiting for? It’s nightfall, and Mochta’s gone. At least… I’ll be in control this time. But is that really a good thing? Am I okay with seeing my own hands bloodied by human flesh? They are criminals, and.. according to Death, they have no souls. Of course, I forgot. I was the one who had thought that to begin with. All this time… Could I be to blame for this? He chose me, he said I was the only one who understood. Should I just accept it? Murder as my new pastime? It can’t hurt, right? I mean that’s how it is already, and I.. I can’t escape it. It might make me feel better if I just took the job, embraced it. I am the Angel of Death, not just a killer.

I stand, picking myself off the ground and heading to Mochta’s room to grab my disguise. As I slip off one of the shirts Mochta bought for me at the mall, I gaze at my reflection in the mirror above a dry sink, lightly sprinkled with dust around it’s border. It’s been a while, since I decided to look myself in the face. It’s always been that way though, long before my transformation. Myself and I have always been distant with each other.

The smooth, water-resistant fabric of this getup is without fail, satisfying to touch. The wig, firmly stuck to my scalp, makes it all the more convincing. Who am I now? I think I like her better. I’ll keep it easy to remember, “Call me Angel,” I could say. Or is that too tasteless?

I can’t do makeup to save my life, but I rummage through the several bags packed with cosmetics anyway. Several? How could one, tiny person like Mochta need this much makeup? There’s gotta be something I can do to hide my face a little. Hmm, a tube of black, cream paint. Raising it, I begin to unscrew the cap out of curiosity. I dab some onto the tips of my middle and pointer fingers, and start to smear it across my forehead, then my cheeks. This all happens in a blur of time, as if I’m under a trance. After staring blankly at my soiled hand for a moment, I look back into the object that could be a portal to a parallel universe, but we don’t know, because we would make the same movements in the mirror that we would anyway, if we had an exact duplicate of ourselves.

What are these...? My forehead has been marked with an upwards crescent, and a downwards twin meeting it, so that they are back to back. A vertical stripe fills the gap between my nose and upper lip, and another aligns with it, descending my chin. A horizontal line is streaked across either cheek, right below each cheekbone. I suppose it looks kinda cool, although I’m still unsettled by the mystery of it.

Next, I head for the door, reminding myself to turn off the light switch that is responsible for illuminating the front of the house, that way, I can conceal my whereabouts in darkness. Shooting off into the clouds, their cold humidity surprises me, since I can’t see them at this time of night.

I wonder what her name is, the girl who wants to kill. Or would it make me feel more guilt and hesitance to know that kind of information?

☘︎︎ ☘︎︎ ☘︎

I’m here, where I assume it is a rustic town with a neighborhood for families, that’s existed for ages to reside near “good” schools and the murky beach. I’m on a sidewalk, hands in my pockets, hood over my head, and avoiding lampposts. My head picks up just a little, when I hear the rustling of some plant being harassed, and a squeak-like grunt of effort. I keep walking, but I pick up speed. Is that… a girl? No, the girl? She’s straining to stand on her tippy-toes as she peeks through a window of a home that I doubt is hers. “Hey!” I muster the courage to shout. The plucky young lady gasps, and swings her head to glare at me. “What are you doing over there…?” I continue to call out.

She’s stomping towards me now, a pep in her step and her cheeks angrily stuffed with hot air.

“None a’ your business!” She spits at me, unintentionally. I look down on her for just a second, my expression stern. I can’t believe how short she is. She is in high-school, right? I heard the other girl in my vision mention prom. Shoving past me, her shoulder carelessly knocks against mine. I pivot to keep my focus on her. She didn’t react at all to my monstrous appearance like the others. Why? I follow her.

“Git’ away from me, you creep! I kno’ you’re there. I’m not stupid.

“I’m just making sure you get home safe, are you usually out this late by yourself? Don’t your parents tell you why you shouldn’t do things like this?” I lecture her while maintaining my distance.

“I hav’ a knife on me, and peppa’ spray. Like I said, I’m not stupid.” She keeps looking ahead, walking at her own pace, and somehow unintimidated by my presence, only annoyed.

“I never said you were stupid.”

“...Who are you? What’s wit’ those weird-ass marks on your face; are you part of a cult?”

“I just.. came back from Theatre practice.”

Sure. That still don’t answer my question.”

“...My name is Angel.” A shiver trots down my spine as I worry I’ve made a wrong move.

“‘Angel, huh? Hmm.” The girl’s voice almost seems to echo and call out to the crickets that soon start to play a monotonous song. “I guess you can call me Ruby.”

“Ruby…” I should’ve never provoked you to tell me your name. “Well, I’m home na’, so you can book it.” The hot-tempered, coffee-skin girl with short, unruly hair, dyed violet, scowls at me one last time.

“Good, I’ll see you tomorrow then.” I turn my back towards her and take a retreating step.

“I- I best not see you tomorrow!”

Her yell compels me to stop in my tracks.

“Freak.” she mutters, shortly before I hear a door open and close.

☘︎︎ ☘︎︎ ☘︎

I decided to give into my foolish, empathetic thinking, and stay the night. Flying into a miniature, nearby wood, I found a tree to awkwardly slouch in. I don’t remember catching any sleep, but the bugs didn’t seem to want anything to do with me, as if I had a protective field of energy that kept them at bay. Now, I get to see the Sun rise at a sickeningly early time of day. I can also see Ruby’s house from here. I’ll wait a bit longer.

There she is. The girl, with her hair styled much neater than before, walks out into the world. I drop down from my tree, and start to walk. I’ll catch up with her discreetly, and go from there. I’m not really sure where I’ll go, but the best scenario is… I can stop her from doing anything dangerous.

You again?” Ruby scoffs, “I thought I made it cle'a, I don’t want you ’round, got it?”

Even though she waited until we got within eye-view of her school, I’m almost certain she knew I was in the shadows the whole time. “You don’t have any friends, do you?” After some hesitation, I make a ballsy assumption.

“Huh?” She stops, for the first time, so she can start walking by my side and look me in the face as we talk. “You got some nerve, don’t ya?” She huffs. I’m almost relieved; I was preparing for her to retaliate much more aggressively than that.

“Let me tag along and go to class with you.”

“What?!” Ruby guffaws, “Aw’ you serious?

I nod, mutely.

...Sure, that’ll be interestin’. But if you’re gonn’ be followin’ me around, you ’betta take that stupid face paint off, ‘else I’m bettin’ there’ll be trouble, and I don’t want it.”

It’s a huge risk. Or it might be… but if I can save a life or two today, it’ll be worth it. So, I crudely wipe the opaque scribbles off my face with my sleeve.

I end up sitting at a desk next to Ruby in each of her classes, and regretting every decision I’ve made today. I’m so glad I graduated high-school, this is torture.

Finally, it’s over, and we walk out together.

“Hey, Rubes, who’s the new girl?” A guy’s voice, from behind, pesters my eardrums. That reminds me, it is pretty odd and worrying that the teachers didn’t question my presence.

“Buzz off, she’s a freak, anyway.” Ruby doesn’t even bother to turn and face him, a familiar reaction.

“Freak? Yeah? What’s your deal, girl?” The adolescent male approaches with a scheming smile.

Tuh,” I start my reply, “I’m too old for you, kid.”

“Oh? Did you get held back? That’s kinda hot--”

“Back off, Lui! She’s ma' friend!” In a startling sweep, Ruby snatches my wrist, leading me away. We weave through a mob of teens before we come to an abrupt halt.

“Ruby?” I worriedly pose.

“It’s her…”

Beyond Ruby, I search for the ‘her’ we stopped in the middle of traffic for. When I trace an ethereal line from Ruby’s cold stare, I spot a pretty brunette with a blemish-free, freckled, and suntanned complexion; she is Envy. “Who’s that?” I prod.

“I don’ care, all I know is… she asked out Tyael.”

“Who’s… Tyael?” My nosiness shows.

“The guy I.. um…” Ruby looks down. Could she be… blushing? I see, I think I get it now. The vision I had, it was Ruby, watching her crush be stolen from her, right before her eyes.

“I think I understand. But maybe, you can move on. Could you try.. becoming friends with this girl?”

“No way!” Ruby shakes her head like an ox.

“Come on, I know it sucks but there’s nothing you can do now.” I can't help but briefly think it's unfair for me to say such a thing when I loathe Axel... Then, I search Ruby’s face for answers, clues, anything. How is she so young, yet so good at hiding her secrets?

I notice an unforeseen glint in her eye before she moves again, “Okay, I have an idea.” Ruby walks away, and towards the girl?! Is she taking my advice? No… That can’t be it.

“Hey.” Ruby greets her rival without a drop of sentiment. “I’m Ruby!” she announces, grinning with an incontestable warmth as she holds out her hand.

“Oh, nice to meet you! I’m Lula!” The attractive girl promptly reciprocates the gesture.

Wow… She’s fake as hell. I internally remark while I observe Ruby’s angle. What is she planning?

I’m forced to migrate to the wall where lockers are lined up in a tight cluster to avoid the stampede of somehow daunting youths. Ruby finally returns to me.

“So, how’d it go?” I genuinely inquire.

“Per'fect,” Still, that smile… Is it fake for me too? “Will you come with us for a lil' camping trip tonight?”

“Oh, that’s sudden. How did you get her to agree to that?”

“We’ll, we're friends naw'! And I told her we could roast ma'shmallows and all.”

I try my best not to raise a brow. “Then, I suppose I’ll come.”

“Per'fect!”

I walk Ruby home again, this time, I’m also permitted to be at her side. “Ruby?” I ask.

“Gar’, what, now?

“What is it you want in life?”

She doesn’t answer. My pupils strain at the corners of my eyes to try and catch a tell, retracting forward when they can’t bear the pressure anymore. We carry on striding together in silence until we approach her rundown abode.

“You can come in,” she says, “Just say you’ from school and we have to do a project togetha’. You’ll help me pack for the camping trip, and help ask dad fo' permission.”

I keep my response to myself as I follow her indoors.

“Hey, da'!”

“What?” How cold… Now I see where she gets it from. Her father must’ve passed down a stone heart.

“This is my friend, Angel, me and her a' goin' with my other friend, Lula, to go campin’.”

The middle-aged man with his bum affixed to a dirty armchair, turns a shady leer at me. The skin on his forehead is crimped, and his eyebrows and facial hair are wiry whiskers for an old dog. “Just don’t git’ yourselves kidnapped.” he groans and ends with a nasty inhale of mucus that clogs his windpipe.

Ruby beckons me further into her home with an anxious look and the coeval, twisting motions of her head and hand. I follow her into a neglected kitchen: grimy plates and bowls congesting the sink, a rusted pot with stubborn pasta caked on the inside, and as Ruby rummages through the cabinets, I can tell she must not eat much.

“Ma'shmallows.. ma'shmallows…” she mumbles. I stand and watch her with what I can only call ‘pity’. She spins around to commemorate her victory, a bag of stiff, plump, sugar pillows swinging in her grasp. They look stale.

“I told ya to help me, idjit. Check the drawers for a flashlight! I’ma go find our ol’ tent in the garage.”

I nod belatedly before I go about my task.

Ruby emerges with a couple bags packed and a proud demeanor. “Did’ja find it yet?”

My reply is a closed fist clutching the oblong handle of a red flashlight above my head.

“Hmm. Maybe you’re not tote’ly useless.” Ruby smiles, possibly unfeigned for once. “We’s ‘hould be ready to go naw'; I got Lula’s number, so I’ll text her to come he’a.” Ruby takes out her phone before declaring “Then, we go ta’ Hamber Woods.”

☘︎︎ ☘︎︎ ☘︎

Thank goodness I’m walking with these girls. What the hell are they thinking? Walking out of their neighborhood, down sidewalks next to busy roads, and into a forest after the Sun has gone to protect the other hemisphere. Lula seems very oddly content, and I’m escorting them from behind like a loyal guard dog, watching Ruby deceive her way into friendship.

“So, whaddya wanna do when you get outta high school?” Ruby queries.

“Oh! I wanna be a vet, it’d be so fulfillin' if I got to save the lives of animals and keep 'em healthy.”

“Re’lly? Don’t that take years an’ years of school?”

“Ya'… but I think it’ll be worth it. How 'bout you?”

“Me?” Ruby looks away, and shocked.

“Yeah. If you don’t know yet though, that’s okay! A lotta people aren’t sure.”

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