Chapter 7 - I Can't Stomach A Kiss from Death
Axel is the first to sit on the long couch in the center of the living room, and Mochta… sits in his lap. Hm. That's fine. Whatever. I, of course, take my seat in the fancy armchair across the room.
"Oops, I forgot! Hey, Shina! Can you grab the controllers under the TV?"
"Sure." I get up, take his request, and walk towards the two of them. There's just one problem... Looking at them together makes me wanna throw up. I have to close my eyes. "Ack!" That wasn't a good idea. I open them one after the other once my knee crashes into the coffee table. Axel's holding a hand over his mouth to cover a chuckle while Mochta glares at him briefly. "Are you okay?" Mochta asks me.
"Yeah." I set the controllers down and walk back to my chair, barely concealing my frustration. Calm down.. it'll all be fine. Just play the game, it'll be fun. We all choose our characters and select "start". I slip up a few times, but by the end I've won first place.
"Wow! How'd you do that, Shina?"
I look to Mochta for the first time since I sat back down. His smile is contagious. "Well, I--"
"You usually suck!" He starts to laugh. Oh. That's where you were going with that...
"That's pretty rude." Axel comments. I almost agree with him, until the two surveillance cameras in my eye sockets lock onto his hand slithering around Mochta's waist. I stare at the ceiling for solace.
"Dude, are you getting a semi?" Mochta so carelessly addresses. Within a miniature parallel universe, in the jewelry store called "My Sanity," the alarm goes off, and all the employees stare at each other with apprehension.
Axel says, "What? I mean, what did you expect, you're laying right on my--"
"Ew!" Mochta pauses the game, gets up, and walks towards his room. He comes back with a pillow to wack Axel in the face with. They both make fun of the situation while I observe, unwillingly, in the background. Mochta sets the pillow down in Axel's lap before sitting atop it. As we continue the game, I slowly boil in a pot of aggravation. I turn my head to scowl at Axel once, then twice, then...
"Hey, Shina, you need new batteries or something?"
"No.. my controller's fine..."
Mochta butts in, "Are you okay?"
"I said I'm fine." I reply as passively as possible, but I think my eye's twitching.
"Well, I better get going. I've got football practice soon at the college." I watch Axel stand up with Mochta as they set down their controllers. "Would that be okay?" Axel strokes Mochta's jaw. Meanwhile, the thieves burst into the jewelry store with assault rifles, "Put your hands up!" They order. "Your sanity's being robbed!" All the employees run around screaming, then they all get shot.
"Y-Yeah, of course!" Mochta smiles shyly.
I suck my cheeks in with furrowed brows and the impatient tapping of my nails against the side table by my chair.
"Here! I'll get the door for you." I hold my feet hostage while I go open the door for the jerk.
"Oh," Axel remarks with a breath of amusement. "Thanks, Shina."
"My pleasure." I reply, and as soon as he steps out of the house, I slam the door harshly. "Oops! My... what a heavy door. Hope I didn't hurt him." I walk away without looking anywhere but the hall.
"Umm..." Mochta awkwardly stands still, as far as I'm aware, until I make it to his room and fling myself onto the mattress face-down.
A bit of time passes, I have no idea how long. I wish I could go for a walk, but I know if I told Mochta he would insist on joining me. I really hate lying, but... I could ask him if he's made that costume for me yet, and take some time to myself. There is a chance that another target may appear. So, I pry myself from bed and stumble lazily into the living room. Mochta turns to look in my direction. "Hey." He's still playing that stupid racing game, by himself. "Hey," I bounce my response back at him. "So.. is that disguise you talked about ready yet?"
"Yes!" He leaps from the cushions of the licorice-dyed sofa, and his controller clatters on the floor. He jogs past me to his room. How does he have so much energy? I decide to wait patiently with my hands stiffly gripping the counter in the bathroom. I stare at my abominable reflection. Why did Death have to reincarnate me this way?
"Ta-da!" Mochta's voice rings cheerfully. I glance to my side and behold a various assortment of costume pieces protruding from a duffle bag. Alright, let's get this over with.
I've been sitting nearly motionless on the lid of the toilet with my knees and hands pressed atop each other comfortably. I feel as though I'm meditating, or under a hypnotic trance up to the point when Mochta's voice brings me back with the key phrase, "All done!"
By the time I gaze into the mirror again, I'm unable to withhold my surprise. "Huh... I look like a different person--"
My forehead compresses as I resist a complete scowl at Mochta, "Get out. So I can put the rest on." Beyond my immediate comprehension, I nudge him through the doorway and shut the door before he can refute. Quickly, I change into the clothes he picked out for me. The color scheme in their water resistant fabric is sunflower yellow, emerald, and black. The top has a trapezoid hole in the back, that stretches with an elastic lining, a hood, and a zipper that traverses my sternum. The pants are just loose enough to be comfortable, and are marked with a familiar V-shaped opening. My skin finds contentment in this smooth, thin material. When I reopen the door, the first thing Mochta does is look me over, then he yanks the zipper on my chest down. "Wha--You little pervert!" I snap at him.
"Pervert?" He looks a bit taken aback. "It's an obvious way to distract your targets. How didn't you think of that?"
I pause for a moment and huff. "Whatever..." I mutter.
"Anyway, you look hot!" Mochta exclaims.. before congratulating himself. "I did a good job."
"Hmph." My hand, with a mind of its own, raises itself, only to fall on Mochta's head with a gentle pat. He starts to appear slightly puzzled. "Can I ask you something?" Why am I even bothering?
"Do you..." I strain and dart my eyes elsewhere. "Only like guys?"
"Hmm. Well, most people just assume I'm gay, but I've dated women too."
My attention draws back to him with a dumbfounded expression.
"People are just people to me."
"Right..." Off you go then, Shina, you've got your answer. Don't look too happy about it.
"Is something wrong?" Mochta seems worried now, have my facial muscles gone to extremes to conceal my relief?
"No, I'm fine. I'm about to head out."
"Really? Then, you have to take all that off and keep it in the bag. If you walk out like this it'll completely defeat the purpose, dummy."
I say no more and shut the door posthaste, overhearing Mochta's disgruntled mumble, "Rude..."
☘︎︎ ☘︎︎ ☘︎
I've finally managed to leave the house, and so far, I'm enjoying being by my lonesome. The next alleyway I come across, I duck into. I'm lucky no one else is outside in this area, and that the Sun is finally sleeping. Changing technically in public is nerve wracking; my head keeps whirling side to side to make sure I'm still alone. Lastly, I fasten the wig to my scalp, a conglomeration of short, tight waves dyed charcoal. There are two carefully placed cuts in the wig’s cap to adjust it to my horns. The all-black sneakers Mochta gave me are pretty comfortable too. This isn't so bad... But the makeup does make my face a bit itchy, I've gotta scold myself repeatedly not to touch it.
Walking down the sidewalk at dark is already wistful. My focus starts to exhibit wanderlust while I greet the moon. My ears start to tug at the rest of my body to stop it in its tracks when a loud, but muffled voice, intrigues me. I turn my head to confront a poster on a brick wall that's almost giving way to the breeze. "Look into the future with us to find out how you can live forever," It reads. What? I glance next above the door to search for the building's name. Isn't this a homeless shelter? My hand impishly latches onto the doorknob. All at once, a warm light embraces me until my eyes adjust to see way more people than I expected. Wow, this place is packed. There's one man on center-stage who succeeds in capturing my attention. This guy doesn't look homeless at all, his dress shoes are perfectly polished, and his suit is well-fitted, wine-colored, pristine. He's mildly pacing back and forth, preaching passionately about something, "You know the saying, "face your fears"? Well, what about the one we all have? Whether you think you are or not, somewhere in there, you're scared as hell to die. However, some people seem to have a death wish: they jump out of airplanes, they go swimming with sharks, they do heroin, they slit their wrists, they go to war. Why... Are they so desperate to find out what's on the other side? We're sick of living mundane lives, we're curious, is there a better one out there? Our brain tells us a different story, each chemical reaction is in favor of keeping us alive. So, why do we all have to die? Everything dies. It makes me wonder, is a soul a soul; whether it keeps a human alive or a dog, a tree, a star? Even if we are dormant for dozens to millions of years, will we always come back one way or another? Our planet's population is growing, so is our collective knowledge. And evidence tells us, so is the universe. If the universe never ends, why should we?"
An applause fiercely roars from the crowd, but I have a feeling only half of them understood what the guy said. I'm not even sure I understood what he said.. it sounded like a bunch of contradictory rambling...
"Thank you, thank you. Now, there is nothing to prove that reincarnation or an afterlife exists, and even if it does, I personally don't want to forget all the memories I've made and things I've accomplished in my life. I wouldn't want to be stuck floating in space or in the body of an animal. Would you?"
The horde murmurs with a few shaking heads. People are so gullible.
"Alright, that's what I thought. Times are changing, people, and we were lucky enough to be born in this golden age of ambitious technology. I want to give you all the opportunity to live through the future, to see the world evolve into paradise. Now, I know most of you aren't well off financially, which is why I am reaching out to you, free of charge. I believe the first ones who should have this technology available to them are those in need of a second chance. All you have to do is fill out this form, and we'll alert you when a position becomes available for evaluation."
His henchmen begin to energetically pass out fliers. One makes its way into my hand. I stare at it in disbelief. I suppose this is a company that advertises immortality, claiming to have conclusive research on preserving the human mind. There's no way this is legit.
"Hey, little lady, aren't you a bit too young to be here?"
I pick my head up to look in the eyes of the owner of that transfixing voice. I stand still, studying his features as if time has allowed me to do so while he walks past. His eyes are peculiar, a mossy-green hazel and angled, like a fox's. He has an amazing hairstyle, long, silvery, woven-in braids, paired with his dark, natural hair. He has richly colored skin, and doesn't look to be too old himself, late-20s maybe?
Before I can apprehend it, he's gone, like a mystical thief. I guess it's time to head somewhere else. Walking outside, the air feels warmer than it did before. I keep going down the sidewalk until I get that feeling of unprovoked curiosity, which leads me to an empty parking garage. So much space beneath each concrete layer, unused, hopelessly gathering debris like an elderly woman with a hoarding addiction. I've always wanted to go to the top floor, just to see what it's like. My wings propel me into the air at such a speed that I don't even worry about potential passerby. I land smoothly at the end of the fifth floor, eventually sitting with my back against the elevated edge. There aren't many lights on in this corner of town, so I can see the stars fairly well, which is really... enchanting.
I start to pause in between blinks, keeping my eyes shut for longer and longer periods of time. Even if I fall asleep.. I'm sure I'll be safe here.
What's that sound...? I can't see anything, my eyes must be closed still... I can't open them. Is it.. just that dark outside? There's no way--
Whispering? It sounds different than the times Death called out to me... M-Maybe he just has a cold. Don't be silly, Shina--Hey, I'm just trying not to piss myself here. Out of the void, a heavy talon rests on my shoulder. I scream like a banshee being doused with holy water and spin around on my invisible toes. A little light eases the injure on my perception. "Mors?!"
I can see him now, the gigantic blob of opacity, but he seems different somehow, as he inches closer... I retch and instantly shield my facial orifices with my palm. An oversized jaw of his droops down, as some kind of inky goop seeps out like rotten pudding.
"Wh-what do you want?" My fingers start to tremble against the skin on my face, I can't take my hand away. I hope he doesn't think it so disrespectful of me that he smites me again.
"To bear.. my legacy... angelum meum. You must learn how to overpower your subjects at any moment in time..."
"Your consciousness is a valuable tool to access the plane that dwells outside of this pitiful world. Learn how to project yourself beyond your flesh, so I may prepare you."
"Why is that so important?" Mors is slowly distancing himself, I think he realizes my dilemma now. "I handled the last one just fine.."
"That.. pony show... was a stroke of luck. I cannot protect you if you are caught by those who live by foul deeds."
A nervous gulp slides down my throat, just as Death's claw playfully runs up the outside, causing me to lift my chin. He sinks into the dark for a moment, and returns as the woman I saw before I resurrected. Somehow, we are standing right where I left off in the real world, being groped by the wind atop a blank, stone canvas under the cosmos. The strange lady nears and loops her arms around my neck as if we were on a date. I divert my eyes with a frown in suspicion. What is this?
"You like this me better, don't you?"
I give her my gaze just this once to observe a creepily innocent smile. Waiting to hear a soft chuckle from her in my ears, it never comes. Just the union of her pearly whites, rows of lashes pinched shut, and her head fixed 30 degrees east while her long hair swims in the dimly lit background.
"What's the point of this?"
"Dance with me."
She slinks her tan hands down my shoulders, arms, forearms, until our fingers interlock. I feel numb, slightly sick, and I kick myself for falling for this deception. But, everything in this moment feels real, she's warm to the touch with the voice of a siren. She steps forward and back, side to side in a rhythmic pattern, and suddenly, I realize I'm following her. I clumsily step on her foot though, that was bound to happen. I look down with wide eyes, "S-Sorry."
"It's okay!" There's that soft, easygoing laugh I was waiting for. What am I thinking? This is still Mors, right? That big, nasty monster that's been ordering me to murder people? I look up. No. This must be a dream... Right?
"What are you thinking about, Shina?"
"..I- I don't know. I feel weird." God, I must sound so stupid.
"Why do you think that is?" She sneaks her hand onto my hip and coaxes me into moving closer.
"It feels like... I've known you forever." What is this feeling? It's like a mix of sadness, hope, loneliness, nostalgia, and yearning. I wrap my arms around her waist, time flows indefinitely in circles while we sway together. Eventually, we're pressed together and moving only minutely, I can feel her heartbeat faintly on my own chest. I find myself coiling around her tightly as if it was my mission to never let her go. Tears want to infest my eyes, but it's a ridiculous notion. I feel haunted by something I can't ever remember. I raise my chin off her shoulder and pull myself back. She's looking at me with an expression that starts to melt away anything else that could possibly be going through my head right now. She pushes misbehaved strands of my hair behind my ear, and leans in so close, my heart beats to the point where I think it might explode. I veil my eyes, then... Ugh! What is that smell?! My eyelids jolt apart and that pungent ectoplasm is flowing relentlessly right before my face. It's streaming out of her mouth and tear ducts. She looks possessed! I yelp with dismay, traumatized. My tail flings up; I can't stumble backwards and fall on my ass fast enough. Her head cocks to the side like her neck has been snapped in half, waiting to fall in spite of her. I blink, and Death has made another entrance. "Bravo, asshole." I bring my shaky hands together for a single, sarcastic clap.
"Get to work."