Chapter 3 - Chrysalis
“Shi...na..” The ghostly whisper has returned, ringing in my ears more obnoxiously than before. There’s something in the background too... Crying. I’ve never felt so weak...
“Shina... you’re finally here.”
I’m afraid, but I.. can’t react.. I can’t feel my own.. my own... Where.. wh-where’s my body? My face? My arms? My hands? Where am I?!
“I can.. give you a new vessel...” The voice is getting closer.. heavier, it seems. “You are in.. the chasm, the void... However you wish to title it... you share my abode.”
Finally, I see a figure, a silhouette darker than any shade of black.. a daemon that swallows light. “Refer to me as Mors, thus you shall be my mortifer, angelus mortis. I took your life, and only I can allow you to live again.”
What.. there’s no way... I-.. I have to be hallucinating right now.
“Mortalis.. you may speak when spoken to, and you must.”
Even if I try to speak, I have no mouth to open, no tongue to articulate, no voice box to emit the sounds. How do I--how could I be expected to...?
“Projecting your inner voice in absence of a frail, fleshy construct seems to be difficult for you...” A hideous laugh filled with nothing but malice begins to build and echo around me.
“How pathetic... In providing a second husk for my chosen, you, mortalis will speak to me.” Beyond my vision, matter begins to swirl in the emptiness with the twist of this corrupted entity’s scraggly appendages. Inch by inch, I begin to feel again, from my scalp to my toes, a chill radiates across and beneath my skin. I can move, but only minutely, and it feels as though I’m floating through an atmosphere thick with gravity.
“What.. is happening?” I prompt the mysterious nebula with deep lines of uncertainty in the form of trenches.
“Perhaps, if you see it with your own eyes.. you will believe your circumstances...” A floor appears in a grid below us, a floor of glass absent of any imperfections. Trembling amid distant, mumbling murmurs, I kneel down and place my hands on the invisible boundary. Through it.. I see... I see my mother, I see policemen, I see medics.. I see... my..self. My eyes are far from this view, but everything is so clear. I.. I am dead.
My corpse is more corpse-like and sickening than anything I’ve ever seen. I seem to be painted white from the inside out; my eyes are more still than a stagnant pool of grey, rotten innards. I would have never known veins could become so black before. It’s like licorice bulging in between the layers of my skin.
Now that there is light coming in from the view of the world below, I look up to see... “My God!” I can’t help but stumble backwards as I begin to pant fearfully. The being before me is utterly.. unmistakably, approaching me in its horrid and grotesque form. Only the severely, mentally ill could’ve imagined such a disfigured frame for a creature. “What are you..?!” I feel pity for myself in being so fearful that I can only utter the most mundane of questions. As it moves forward, I can catch wafts of a stench more unpleasing than its unfortunate appearance. I turn my face from it and scowl in disgust.
“Exactly how low is your species’ average intelligence? I...” The dark and terrifying phantom starts to circle around me. “Am...” Another long pause tempts my impatience. “Death!” The unnaturally deep and disgustingly masculine voice lunges towards me from behind with a gust of putrid wind past my ears. My hair gets blown towards my face so I close my eyes. My sense of smell feels violated so I clasp a hand over my nostrils as I gag. A split second past and I reel the curtains called my eyelids, abruptly, with a gasp. “Death.” There’s no way... Death? As in.. the grim reaper, as in, death.. personified?
I stare Death in its ugly face with awe and confusion. “Mors.. is that your name?” The giant opaque menace jumps before my eyes again, eager to invade the space that is my only source of comfort in this moment. “Yes...” Death slurs and hisses like a hideous, oversized serpent.
“Why... why did you do this to me?” My brows furrow in frustration. My blood has patiently been on the fictitious burner, rising to a boil. At first I was only dumbfounded, and appreciated the fact that this was far from a mundane experience. But.. there’s one thing that’s given me hope for my life, enough to make me furious about my very untimely demise. I think I hear a new voice in the distance. With a magnetic pull, my pondering pauses while I angle my gaze slowly at the see-through tile.
“Mochta...” He must have come back to get his jacket... I find my palm plastered across my dropped jaw as my eyes begin to fill like reservoirs. He stops for a moment, a good few meters from my lifeless body. Then, he starts to run towards me, two police officers grabbing him by each arm. He.. falls to his knees... He looks so heartbroken. The officers let him go, and he remains kneeling next to me, taking a desperate hold of my hand.
“What a wonderful stranger..” I lean down and press my palms against the glass, the tears dripping from my organs of sight and plopping onto the unseen surface.
I lift myself up in an instant, with new incentive coursing through my being. “Bring me back!” I can’t escape a sniffle as little streams of saltwater run profusely down my cheeks. “Bring me back, asshole! You said you could!” I’m enraged, and all Death seems to do is grin. “Do it!” I can’t help but scream at Death. My lip trembles and my anguish continues to flood.
“I will...” The dark tyrant drones its last word on until the air runs empty. “If you agree to take as many lives as I command.”
“What?” My surroundings are quickly cloaked in black once again.
“You’re right. You appear to be the only young, able-bodied mortalis that understands... I sense.. something else in you. You have potential. You will seek out justice. You will not fear conflict. You will rise in an age of fools as a warrior.”
My head is spinning. How could someone see all those things in me, of all people...?
“Do you agree to those terms?”
I hesitate only for a second, and begin to speak in the midst of a trance. “Yes.” I close my eyes, and the moment they reopen, I detect a faint light well enough to illuminate the features of a phenomenal woman before me. With a charming face, blood red lips, and sleek midnight locks, Death lifts my chin. “You will be my beautiful, angelus mortis.” An unforeseen kiss adorns my lips like a distressing stain.
☘︎︎ ☘︎︎ ☘︎︎
It’s storming again... And it smells.. really bad! Where the hell--Ugh! No. I don’t have time for that. I hold my breath and paddle my arms through various forms of grime: stiff things, metal things, boxy things, slimy things... Eventually, I use the rest of my strength to shove open a heavy, slanted cover above me. Eeugh! I yipe loudly and scramble out of this revolting enclosure. I was in a dumpster?! What is wrong with that demented, edgy overlord!
Lifting my frown up to the faint stars, I let my eyes rest as the rain washes over me. Ultimately, I’m able to take a deep breath without wanting to vomit. Then, I realize certain areas of my body feel heavier than usual. Stay calm, Shina, some trash probably got stuck to you... I turn my head slowly past my shoulder. In unexpected recoil, my eyes grow so large my paranoia tells me they might pop out of my skull. “Angel...” I whisper to myself as I recall the words Mors used: angelus mortis. “I.. I have wings...” My hands carefully pat down my torso, neck, and face, when they reach the top of my head they halt. “What.. did he do to me?” As if that wasn’t enough shock to process, I feel the light vibrations of something slithering behind me. With a frightened screech, I leap and spin around to face whatever vermin I assume is lurking by my ankles. “Ow!” Where did that pain come from.. my... “Oh, my...” Glancing behind me, I notice a long, white tail that looks like it belongs to a cartoon devil. That’s not.. mine is it? …I guess it slammed into the side of the dumpster when I moved.
How the literal hell am I supposed to survive like this...? I can’t go back to my parents, and if anyone sees me I’ll be sent straight to a shady, government laboratory. Maybe.. if I had my phone... I doubt I’ll be lucky enough to run into Mochta again. But, this is a small town. Before I decide to venture out of this dark alleyway, I scavenge through the hoard of trash on each wall. Thank goodness it’s nighttime...
I feel disgusting, but after sifting through pounds of junk, I come upon a large, gently used coat. “It even has a hood!” Slipping it over my shoulders, I hastily pull the hood over my head and its new.. additions. I’ll wrap this tail up and pinch the end against my side as I walk... Now, I make my way down the streets at witching hour.
Houses.. houses.. apartments, more apartments, more houses... What was I thinking? That somehow I’d figure out where the guy I just met lives by roaming around past midnight? I’ve been trying to cautiously peek in windows, but I don’t want to make myself look more suspicious. Despite how ridiculous this idea was, I still have a feeling fate will draw me to Mochta soon. In the meantime, I’ve been forgetting how miserable I am. I’m shivering, soaked in rainwater and God knows what kind of bacteria... How will he even react if he sees me? How do I know he won’t just turn me away because I look like a monster and I miraculously came back from the dead? I don’t know... My plan is beginning to sound less and less like a good one. But Mochta.. there’s something about him.
As I’m mindlessly walking past townhouse doorsteps, my legs stiffen as I hear a cough and a heavy sigh. I turn towards the sounds immediately, my heel scraping a puddle off the concrete. Ten feet away... I begin to march towards the depressing man sitting on his short, brick stairs. Once I’m standing in front of him, I can tell he’s staring at me blankly. My head is hanging down, but I manage to slap the cigarette out of his hand. “Smoking gives you wrinkles!” I yell bluntly.
“What?” His voice is hoarse; I raise my gaze enough to look into his puffy, tired eyes. Curiosity seems to overwhelm him, as he leans down to get a full view of my facial structure. “Shi.. Shina!” Mochta’s legs spring up and he constricts me in an instant. It’s another unexpected embrace, much like our first meeting. However, I wrap my own arms around him for comfort.
Mochta’s warm tears contrast the rain soaked into my clothes. “I.. I know I didn’t really know you, but.. I... really wanted to.” He burrows his face into my shoulder, which muffles the sniffling. Tears begin to gather in my eyes as well. Loosening his grip on me, he lifts his chin out from the crook of my neck. “But, Shina... I thought you were dead...” He takes a soft step back, the cold fiercely returning to me as his arms drop to his sides.
“There’s.. a lot to explain. Do you trust me?” My muscles weaken with anticipation, I know I should have chosen different words. “It wasn’t a trick, I promise! I never asked for this to happen.. and you’re the only person...” My voice starts trembling and their chords feel claustrophobic. I try pressingly to refrain from bursting into tears.
“It’s okay, Shina! I’ll hear you out. Let’s go inside, okay? You’re gonna get sick if you stay out here any longer.” He gives me an obscure smile; I don’t blame him.
With dread and guilt, I drag my feet into Mochta’s doorway. “Wow..” I mutter beneath my wavering breath. His house looks like it was decorated by a famous interior designer, where did he get the money for this..?
“I better turn on the light so we don’t bump into anything.”
“N-No, don’t!” It’s too dark to read Mochta’s expression clearly, but I can tell he’s startled, or at least concerned.
“I.. I’m just--I’m a mess...”
“Shina.. I don’t care what you look like right now, you can use my shower and borrow my clothes. Let me turn on the light... Will it help if I don’t look at you?”
“Yeah, I know it sounds weird but.. that would make me feel better.”
“Okay.” Mochta flips the switch and keeps his head down, his back facing me. As an extra precaution, he covers his eyes with one hand as he reaches out and points down the hall with the other. “The bathroom is the first door on the right, and there’s a closet inside with clean towels.”
“Thank you, Mochta.” I hang my coat by the front door before moving towards the hall. Without my command, the large, feathered wings on my back span out just in time to knock down a vase on an end table. My perception seems to slow while I witness its shattering end, pleading in my mind for Mochta not to look in my direction.
Once the pottery’s pieces have settled on the floor, I grudgingly swivel my gaze behind me. Just as I feared, Mochta uncovered his eyes at the violent sound, and now stares at me with utmost surprise. All at once he stumbles backward and falls. I turn and face him fully, in shame, my animal-like accessories drooping down with my hope. Nervously intertwining my fingers, I solemnly say, “If you want me to leave... I will.”
Mochta remains speechless for a few more seconds before he chimes in, “A-Are you.. a Goddess?”
My feet peg themselves into the floor as my face flushes with burning hues. “...No! Why.. w-why would you think that?! I must be hideous: wings, horns, a demonic, wormy tail! I- I mean--”
“Shina...” Mochta’s voice suspends my train of thought before it flies off the rails. He stands, but his legs seem weak. It’s obvious he’s shaken up about my new, outrageous form, yet, he’s still not afraid of me. “I don’t know what happened to you, or what you think happened.. but, you’re beautiful. Just like you were before.” Mochta shrugs while emitting a mix of a sigh and a yawn. “But.. now I definitely feel like I’m having a lucid dream... So, I’m going to lay down on the couch while you get yourself cleaned up.”
While my eyes become miniature salt water pools, I stand in complete awe. He has to be crazier than I am. I watch Mochta slump onto his couch. Even if he awakens and realizes the insanity of this situation, I want to at least take the opportunity to shower. So, I do just that.
The warm water covers me like a heated blanket, and I feel so at ease I’m disinclined to step out. Although... my recently developed parts make this soothing experience more of a hassle. I settle on watering down some body wash and gently scrubbing it into my abundance of feathers. A good rinsing should be all that’s needed for the other two... But, now that I realize I had to rip my shirt apart to remove it, another problem arises. To avoid a devastating fall, I ground my feet slowly, one after the other as I cease the running water. I discover a blow dryer, and attempt to relieve my wings of as much dampness as possible.
Finally, I wrap a towel around myself. I have to clutch it with one hand in the front, while pinching it at my lower back with the other. After warily tip-toeing into the dry, air conditioned residence, I hover my face above Mochta’s. “He’s sound asleep...” I resort to a whisper. I’d feel bad for waking him up before the Sun rises, but.. I don’t want to snoop around for clothes or end up falling asleep with nothing but a towel over me. I don’t really know of a proper way to wake someone, so... Lingering above Mochta’s visage, I curiously press a fingertip down on his forehead.
It takes a moment, but Mochta reacts by sleepily opening his eyes. With a gasp of dismay, he impatiently lifts his head, knocking it jarringly against mine. We both emit a yelp of pain as we grasp our skulls. “Shina.. is that you?”
“Yes... I’m sorry. I should have waited until morning.”
“Hmm. No, it’s fine.” Mochta rolls off the sofa.
I follow him into his room, and he begins to carelessly rummage through his closet. “I have a lot of stuff I use for my drag persona that might fit you,” he interrupts himself with a yawn. Meanwhile, I have a lot of questions, which I’m not sure if I should keep to myself or simply wait for another time to ask. “Here.” Mochta turns to me with a cutesy pajama set on a velvet-lined hanger. “You’ll have to wear the top backwards for now, but hopefully it’ll still be comfortable.”
“Great idea! Th-Thank you.”
“Sleep in my bed.” Mochta stands by his comfy queen-sized mattress, adjusting the fluffy comforter.
“Um.. with.. you...?” My words start to get caught in my throat as it sets itself on fire, and I reject imagining the unimaginable.
A nonchalant Mochta walks past me and out the door. “No, dummy. Get some rest.” He departs with gently curved lips and softly shut eyes.
After a few indecisive glances between my host’s bed and the bedroom door, drowsiness wins me over. The soft bedding shrouds me with warmth and... I yawn.
☘︎︎ ☘︎︎ ☘︎
Resisting to even open my eyes, I eventually awaken to light seeping in from the hallway. I push myself off the mattress layered with luxurious sheets and various throw pillows and blankets. With questionable balance, I order my feet to carry me into the fancy kitchen with stark white countertops and matching bar stools surrounding the island. I think that’s what it’s called.. an “island”. Investigating further, I find Mochta with his back turned to me, fiddling with something next to the stove. “...Hey.”
“Ouch! Ahh..” Mochta turns to me in surprise with a hand flailing in the air. “Oh, good morning! I’m making us waffles!”
“...Are you okay?”
He nods with pursed lips as he runs cold tap water over his fingers.
“So... Where did you get the money for such a nice house? I mean.. you can’t be much older than me, right?”
“Well, I’m 21, and some of my wealth comes from my hobbies: makeup and fashion. But, most of it is from my parents.”
“Wow, do they.. live with you?” I begin to nervously survey the rooms within my current visual range.
Mochta starts to chuckle a bit too merrily. “No, no. They’re dead.”
My eyes go blank with shock and a tinge of horror. Should I even ask? I force my gaze to go back to Mochta’s situationally disturbing expression. “You didn’t.. kill them, did you?”
“What?! No. What made you think that?” A moment of unnerving silence passes as Mochta ponders with a hand curled under his chin. “Ohh... Sorry, I laughed didn’t I? No, I didn’t kill them, they were just.. really horrible people.” He mutters the last of his sentence, which troubles me even more.
Turning back to his task at hand, he grabs a couple of porcelain plates. “What toppings do you want, milady?”
“Oh, umm.. do you have syrup and maybe.. strawberries?”
“Yep!” Mochta lays everything in a row in front of me, then continues to stand on the other side of the island as he fixes his own plate. “Do you want to tell me how you managed to come back to life and grow wings, now?”
With a heavy sigh, I begin to cut into the freshly made waffle before me and contemplate recent events. “I’m scared you’re gonna think I’m crazy if I tell you what happened.”
“I already think you’re crazy.”
I look up at him with a stern expression as he stifles a laugh.
“I’m not exactly sure what happened, now that I think about it... But it seemed like.. Death took my life because... He wants me to do something for him?” Staring down at the smooth, pearly granite, I clench my fork in my fist and sense a shiver traversing my vertebrae. Is Death going to come for me again? What did he want from me? Why is that so unclear...?