Chapter 4 - Trial and Horror
“Wait, what? You make it sound like death is a person.”
“More like a monster.” I lift my gaze to match Mochta’s eyes with sincerity. “I met him, he’s this disgusting...” I briefly trail off with my hands swirling in a motion to help me recall the details. “Disgusting.. entity, and he can transform into people... I think.”
Mochta begins to lift a brow as I look away.
“Well.. ’cause at the end he turned into this woman and kissed me--”
“B-But the point is, I was begging him to bring me back to life and he said all this weird stuff and that he would only do it if I agreed to t-take...” I leave my jaw unhinged as words start to cling to the walls of my throat.
“Shina...? Are you okay?”
“To take..” I return my focus to Mochta’s perplexed manner, gasping coincidentally. “Take lives.”
Mochta’s eyes grow wide. “So, you’re like.. the grim reaper...?”
“I.. I don’t know. I- I mean, how do I know when I’m supposed to kill someone?” My breaths start to anxiously quicken, and I end up groaning with my forehead plastered against the cold surface beside my uneaten breakfast.
“I’m.. sure you’ll figure it all out somehow. You’re a strong person.” Mochta continues to munch on his waffle, watching me with worry. Gradually, I pull my head up and start to dig into my own.
“Wow, Mochta, this is really good.”
“Really?” He counter remarks, running his fingers through the fuzz on the back of his head. “I’m a notoriously clumsy cook but waffles aren’t hard to make with a waffle iron...”
I begin to tap my overgrown nails in slow intervals against the sparkling countertop. “Is it.. really okay with you if I stay here? I’m not sure where else to go...”
“Of course! As long as you’re okay with it. You might end up getting pretty bored... But I have tons of video games and books you can use whenever you want. Consider my belongings yours.”
“R-Really? Is that.. sarcasm?”
In one incredibly foul sweep, I feel a sharp tingle through my veins as soured blood pours from my heart. I start to see through a filter of sanguine. “I- I don’t feel so good.” My body becomes a tiresome metronome, swaying from one side to the other on repeat.
“Shina? What do you mean? What’s wrong?” In my last glimpse of reality, I catch Mochta on high alert, rushing to my aid.
“I see.. red...”
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I feel like I’m melting in an oven... I expect my skin to turn crisp and crumble. “Where am I?” The reverberation of my own forlorn voice taunts me.
“You are.. so weak...” An ominous tone is suddenly dredged up from the depths of hell. Is it Death? “Shina, before you begin.. your work for me... I must rebuild you.. as the ultimate catalyst for destruction.”
The scorching climate of this place is too much for me to even construct a thought. My lips are chapped beyond relief and all I know in this moment is fear. “P-Please--”
“Shina... You are not going to deny power, are you? Don’t you want to stand tall above all the idiocrasy that surrounds you on your decrepit planet? When I’m through with you, the bulk of humanity’s fate will become dust.”
One invisible minute I feel chained, and the next I am standing on otherworldly ground, wielding an iron mace. Of course. I see now, wherever I am is engulfed in unforgiving flames. I must be inside a volcano.. but when I look up, I see nothing. How is there nothing above? It’s all.. just darkness. Is the rest an illusion?
“Now, angelus. Before you I shall place the sins of mortality.”
Thus, one by one, squirming bodies appear in rows. Death calls out the sentences like a nightmarish executioner. “Rape.” A flabby old man. “Murder.” An emaciated woman. “Deceit.” A stocky youth in prisoner garb. All with dramatic crimson masks covering their expressions with ash painted frowns. “Now, bludgeon them all!”
“What?!” I yell, just as my limbs concur to move against every fiber of my moral being. My feet, heavy, like armored soldiers begin to march towards the first culprit. My arms raise over my head, my eyes protrude in panic and my blood runs cold. An exhilarating swing, the spiked mace plummets down, splitting the skull like a ripe melon.
I’m appalled by the liquid flesh spraying onto my skin. My limbs relinquish foreign command and I throw myself onto the stone floor beneath me with a retch. I hear a suppressed cry from the woman and a clueless remark from the teenager, “What’s happening?”
“Again!” Death roars in my ear. His will overrides my tendons and I stand. Again, I lift my weapon, staring at the cowering woman on her knees, bound helplessly like the others. “I... don’t.. want... to!” I figure if I resist with my own energy and grit my teeth, I could stop myself. I strain and heave until veins begin to show off.. but Death always wins. I shut my eyes like a slamming door, yet, they’re obstinately forced open just as I pummel her brains into the rock. Crack, splat, and the metallic ring of a clobbering dictator in my blood soaked palms. My wings furiously unfold as my soul rattles within me. “Stop.. stop this...” Tasting the blood on my lips is the last thing I want, but if I don’t, they may shatter into grains of sand.
“You agreed to work for me if I let you walk the Earth once more. You will do as you’re told.” Death gloats, topping it off with a vile cackle. “Again!”
I’ve had more than enough. I guiltily observe myself demolishing the anatomy of the last human doll. I drop the mace tethered with pieces of meat and fall to the ground. After pushing myself away from this revolting scene with my quivering feet, I shove my wrists into my temples and bury my head into my knees. “Stop!”
“You’re a hero, Shina. You slayed the monsters... Joseph played a part in many sex trafficking operations, sick conventions where pathetic men make children suffer for their own twisted pleasure.”
“Don’t. I don’t...”
“Miriam slaughtered her unknowing husband and her loving children because she didn’t get the glamorous life she wanted.”
I stay trembling in an internal war between disgust and flickering justification as Death speaks his piece.
“Taylor dealt drugs at parties, laced with experimental chemicals to invent a concoction even more addicting. Knowing their history of lethal side effects, she figured her wealth was more important than a few hundred lives.”
“It just doesn’t feel right...”
“Shina.. the best part is none of them felt any remorse for the dark deeds they committed, over and over again. It is your right to rid your world of this filth. Protect the good ones.”
Shivering, I intend on clasping my hand over my soiled lips. Instead, I inhale the sharp, copper-like miasma of blood and expel my guilt in the form of chunky, putrid goo. There has to be a way out of this. With tears hanging onto my lower eyelids, I lift my petrified stare above my vomit and the coating of blood that ferments under my palms.
Hesitantly, I rise to my feet and reach for a gleaming, flaxen sword newly lodged within a pile of stacked, human entrails. “I can protect them...?”
“Yes, angelus. You are a knight in impenetrable armor, and the Earth is your citadel.”
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say I’m comfortable with this path, but trying to escape Death doesn’t seem like an option.
“What.. do I have to do, now?”
“The mace was revenge, now, you will wield justice...”
Upon the chilling echo of Death’s order, three mortal cattle are placed in front of my body in its quaking stance. There are no masks this round. I have to face the fearful orbs within each mundane face, shimmering in sorrow.
“Angelum meum, what are their sins?”
I raise the sword over my shoulder and grip it tightly with perspiring fingers.
“N-No! Please! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to!” The first man pleads wretchedly. My panting breaths go off in my ears like land mines, and I peer down at him with a furrowed brow.
“You didn’t mean to tear up that poor woman’s body with your own flesh and that of your frat brothers?” Death sounds as if he’s hissing through gritted fangs. “What a revolting testimony!”
“Kill him!” As Death intends, I spin eagerly, directing every kinetic fiber into the golden blade, an extension of my enraged spirit. Slicing cleanly into his neck, I can feel fire’s flickering reflection in my own eyes. The man’s head tumbles to the ground while a blond beside his writhing body screeches.
“Rape.” I mutter into the hefty air.
“Again, angelum meum!”
Wielding high the sword half drenched in crimson, I take a step towards the frantic woman.
“No!” She screams, “It wasn’t my fault! It wasn’t my fault!” She sobs.
“Was it her fault that she crushed the puny body of a ten-year-old boy as she raced down her neighborhood street...?” Death whispers to me.
“I didn’t know it would happen, I promise! Please, let me go!” The damsel in misery cries.
Revolving the weapon’s handle in my grasp, I’m unsure if she really deserves to be lacerated.
“He was running away from home in the middle of the night, and suffering for hours, he met his end on bated breath until he lost all hope.” Death enlightens.
“You saw him.. didn’t you?” I prod the woman.
“I.. I... I don’t know!” She continues to relentlessly despair in herself.
“You saw him, didn’t you?!” The sword in my hand sheens in the chaotic light as I point it to her throat.
“Yes, yes I saw him!” Before she can continue to bawl, pure justice lances through her trachea.
“Murder.” My declaration is final.
“Deceit.” I clasp both steady hands around the golden hilt and raise justice above my crown.
“W-Wait! Aren’t you gonna hear me out too?”
With an instinctive battle-cry, I proceed. Like a skewer in a red, meaty kabob, my blade strikes through the final death row convict’s torso, ripping his fragile hide in two. It’s almost relieving...
Am I really doing the right thing? This is still.. utterly grotesque. This is what he wants, isn’t it? Look at you Shina, you’re surrounded by that repulsive, dense, iron scent you hate, and several mutilated cadavers. What are you doing? “What am I doing...?” I speak in a hushed tone only to address my conscience. Death redirects my focus with a booming, hysterical chuckle. “Don’t you feel better?”
“You know what would be even more entertaining?” The menace continues to utter foul curses upon me. As I catch my fretful breath, I remain uninterested in the answers to Death’s condescending inquiries. The apparent sword of justice slips from my weary grasp and clatters upon the stone floor. When I decide to face the burning walls of this hell-scape once more, I acknowledge a pair of ominous axes, fit for a dual wielding fury. The metal seems more like gemstone, a daunting, pitch black quartz.
“A real fight,” Death declares, “Not only must you not show mercy, I will teach you.. not to feel it.”
“Does that mean...?” I ponder hopelessly until my mind...--How is.. this possible? There are devils arising from the lava. I’ve never been touched by such an intensified and paralyzing fear. I imagine they are slowly climbing molten staircases beneath a still lake of fluid destruction. They look more and more human as they reach the surface, all sharing the most devious expression: smiles that stretch wider than two combined. In an anticipating motion, I sprint towards the dusky weapons awaiting my needy grasp. There are two men in my left field of vision, two women on my right, each donning a suspicious all-black tux.
I feel immensely unprepared and my limbs begin to quiver with dread. “Screw it, I’m not going to die again.” I take two deep breaths, puffing my cheeks with hot air. Nervously twisting the axes in my palms, I take note that the sinister group is only several feet away. But, the pairs are separated by ever further a distance... I might actually have a chance. My eyes dart hastily between the right and the left assassin. In a window of a few milliseconds, I decide to take a step back, chucking my right axe at the man’s head. The woman closest to me is rushing to attack, just as I assumed she would. I now hold the spare cleaver with my right hand, clasping it over the other as I swing vigorously with both arm’s strength.
Wow, Shina, great plan. Now, you only have one weapon, and two monsters still gunning for your life-force. My feet slide further apart to feign stability, because I’m actually terrified and clueless. The mystifying hitmen are inching towards me with cruel delight. Inhale... I free my left hand, exhale... I raise my axe with a tight, sweaty grip. All of a sudden, they dart swiftly to me, and with a shock of adrenaline, I take a shot at the one on the right. She caught my arm! The man left alive grabs the other simultaneously. As I glance to and fro at their faces with a furiously beating heart, their mouths snap open wide. Somehow they’ve transformed, with lamprey-like jaws assimilating their whole visage in accordance with a hiss.
“What the fuck?!” I yowl out of both fear and anger while the demonic femme contorts my wrist and the axe falls, clattering against dark stone. The closer their pungent, enlarged tongues creep towards me, the more I struggle to free myself from their hold. Finally, my arm springs backwards, and like a boomerang, hurls toward the side of the once-woman’s head. She’s down, but I don’t have time for self praise! I swing my stare towards the last assailant as his--or “its” hot saliva sprays across my face, infiltrating my eyes. I wince, half-sheathing my sight while I aim for an uppercut punch to the jaw.
I stagger backwards, blinking rapidly. Once my eyes are left open, I can tell I’ve won. A smile can’t resist the victory, and pushes past my torment. I take heavy breaths and laugh this insane ordeal away. “I did it.. I’m alive! Is this what you wanted?!” I’m yelling at the mock, pitch-black sky now. “You, sadist!” I quake as my sanity riots against this flaking reality. The silence is even more painful than Death’s condescendence. I can feel him elsewhere relishing in the taste of my savagery.
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I gasp for air deep within my lungs, lunging from the opaque waters of Death once again.
“Shina!” Two warm and acquainted arms are wrapped around one of mine that’s cold and dangling lifelessly off a bed. I turn my head to its side with care. Mochta’s face is oozing with countless tears... I can’t believe I’ve put him through so much in less than a couple days. His lap is folded over his shins and empty, so I take action to fall into it. Witnessing his stunted grief, I envelop my arms around him and use my wings to secure us both. “I’m so sorry--”
“What.. happened to you?!”
“A lot. I didn’t see any of it coming... How long was I out for?” I tilt my gaze to meet his worn, glistening eyes.
“Not long.. m-maybe ten minutes? I don’t know what I would have done if it were longer, I mean who knows what would have happened if I called the cops? F-First of all, your supposed to be dead, a-and second--”
“Mochta...” He’s so shaken up. I run my fingers through his satin, hazel hair, and with a light chuckle, I smile.
“What? How are you so calm...?”
“What I just went through was.. terrible, sure, but just knowing that I had you beside me that whole time makes me feel so relieved.”
Mochta wipes a final tear from his lower lid and succumbs to a soothed grin. I observe him for a moment before drawing him in close, tightly constricting his torso with my arms, like vines. I feel his chin perch on my shoulder while I chase my mind in thought. So much has happened; I have so many worries and questions. Yet, there’s one thing I know for sure... I don’t want to lose him. “Mochta?”
“Do you.. have a computer by any chance?”