‘It was just a toast!’ was the last thought Marc Bland had in the lifetime of 17 years that he lived.
The very next thought he had was ‘Now, that’s just ridiculous.’ which served to wake him up from his panicked state. Alas, still a dead one.
His hands flew around his body, touching and pinching every piece of skin they came across; which in truth was not a lot, seeing how he was dressed in his pajama. But it was there, everything was right where it should be; arms locked onto his shoulders, head still standing proud and connected to the rest of the torso, legs obviously glued to his butt.
Maybe he survived, Marc hopefully thought. Maybe the damn thing didn’t explode rainbows into his face and the pain he felt during those lengthy minutes was actually all just a dream. After all, the pajama was there and wholesome.
He quickly opened his eyes, checked the area around him and closed them back again.
He was pretty sure that he had no see-through blonde neighbor like the one standing in front of him.
Peeking through his eyelashes, Marc checked out his hands first. It was a regular, normal looking hand, for the most part. The glittering grayish tone was most certainly not an everyday occurrence.
Did he somehow transport himself into the Twilight world upon his death?
“Hi there!” The squeaky, high pitched voice broke the silence, along with his inner musings. Marc opened one of his eyes fully and proceeded to stare at the ghostly apparition of a woman.
‘Are you an angel?’
The giggle that followed his question didn’t really give him an answer, but it served beautifully to confuse him even more.
“No, silly! Why, do I look like one? I mean, you’re not the first one to compare me to one, but it still makes me wonder how do you humans always mistake me for an angel!”
It was glaringly obvious from her light tone, flushed cheeks and that glint in her eyes that yes, she is often asked that question. And yes, it flatters her, oh so much.
“Are you a devil then?”
The scrunching of the eyebrows and an angry pout on her mouth showed that this was also a common one. Not well received though.
“Hmpf! Is that all you humans think about? Angels and devils? Heaven and Hell?”
Well no, not really. Despite his parents' best efforts, Marc never bothered thinking about God and Satan and all that jazz… Living in the era of technology required a high amount of time spent thinking about bots and raids and loot.
Or maybe that was just him.
“Pretty much, yeah.”
She scoffed, whipping her hair behind her slender shoulder, which caused Marc to ogle her body a bit more.
She was wearing some kind of a frilly, flowery dress and the only thing from this picture missing was a hat and a man under her arm.
“Humans, always so philosophical and profound..” He wasn’t certain whether she was trying to sass him or not… after all, the only experience with women he had included a nag mom, a nag teacher, and a sailor mouthed online friends. The first time one of them used a cutesy voice on him, Marc was so confused and dazed that he ended up giving her a lot of good items from the raid he sweated blood and pain to clear.
He was still awkward around girls, even after nearly three years have passed since then.
But that was his one and only trauma in life and he was sticking with it!
“I am Life.”
Marc waited a couple of seconds, staring intensely at her cheeky grin, but after not getting anything, he decided to speak up again.
“OK, where’s the theme music?” Life looked at him oddly. “Why would there be a theme music?”
He shrugged “It seemed like the moment needed one.”
Life stood stunned for a while, before a large smile broke out on her face.
“Yeah, it did look like it needed one!” She giddily clapped her hands, before waltzing over to where he stood. She grabbed his bony shoulders and shook the world out of him.
“Perfect, you are perfect!”
Well, that’s a first time someone called him perfect. Now, if she can only stop man handling him, it really would be perfect.
“So, I am Life. Or, an anthropomorphic personification of life.”
Marc would admit to knowing a bit about antropomo… whatever personifications, due to his career of choice, but kill him if he knew what that entailed.
Or not, because he was apparently already dead.
“And you are Marc Bland, age 17, recently deceased, born on October the 18th, in the year of the Monkey.”
Stalker much? Wait, year of the Monkey?
She continued, with that confident grin, shaking him and dishing out information:
“Nice to meet you Marc.” She offered a shy smile which incurred a bit of a blush in his cheeks. “Now, I got some bad news for you.”
How worse than being dead can it be? Wait, wasn’t there some deal about life after death and repentance back in the ages of…
“You see, when you were nine years old, you were playing with a dog named Wallace, age 54, and because he got mad at you, he bit you.”
OK, so the girl gamers were not his only trauma; he remembered that nasty bite. Not the pain, but what happened afterwards.
He hated hospitals ever since.
“You see, due to your actions that day, Wallace had to be put down and, well, since it was your fault… The Records Keeper wrote it in as your sin.”
“A sin? I just played with the damn dog and he bit me for no reas…”
“You kept poking him with a stick.”
“OK, so some fault lies in me, but you can’t just write it in as my sin! The dog bit me! He didn’t have to bite me, he could’ve just barked or something!” Marc was getting irritated now, and it was clear in the way he kept furrowing his brows and raising his tone.
Life let go of him, but kept looking at him with those all seeing eyes and a grounded look in them.
“Where’s the Records Keeper anyways?! I would like to have some word with him..”
She waved her hand away:
“You can’t have a word with Records Keeper. Do you know what the appointment fee even is?”
Marc gave her a puzzled look. “There is an appointment fee?”
She nodded, her blonde locks falling on her face. “Yep. Not to mention he’s booked until 569034, so you’ll have to wait a loooong time to even be considered a valid case. And, ” Marc’s head was still spinning from the numbers, but Life continued as if it was an everyday thing. “That’s only if you can fill out the forms. Do you even know how to fill out a form?”
“... are we talking about a registration form or a tax form?”
The sharp look was all he needed to back down, but she still answered in that squeaky tone:
“The tax one.”
“Yeah, thought so too.”
After standing in the nothingness for a while, in complete silence which Marc spent shooting inquisitive looks at Life and she pouting and eye rolling, he broke the silence.
“So, what are the bad news?”
Apart from me being a sinner, he thought forlornly.
At that she perked up, smiling brightly once again. Honestly, she smiled way too much.
“Oh, just that, along with being the murderer of Wallace, Pizznat, Sizznet, Kissta, Pizznat Junior, Nicholazz the Eight, ”
“Wait, wait, wait, wait! Who, what, where?!”
That giggle was beginning to annoy him.
“The flies, remember? And let’s not forget Sparks, the goldfish you fed dirt to..”
“I thought it was the fish food!” He barked out helplessly. She gave him a pitying look, resembling his mother too much for his comfort. “I know Marc, but still, you have committed a heinous crime against the living beings of Earth, and for that, I’m afraid, you will have to pay.”
He never believed a day like this would come, when an honest human being would be judged for the murders of flies and fish. He wondered whether it was too late to start praying.
“So, as instructed by the Jury of Spirits, you are convicted to spend 128 decades in the Nothing-Land; a day for each life you, directly, or not, ended.”
His legs suddenly turned into jelly and he turned into a heap beneath her. His mind, amidst all the confusion, panic and freak out mode, found time to notice that there was indeed a floor in the black space the two were in. He promptly told his brain to shut up.
Life giggled again, and this time, Marc found it ironic and cruel.
“But there are good news too!”
Marc detached his head from the pleasantly cold floor to look at her pathetically. Her grand apparition seemed all too big and a bit unjust to him.
“See, you, Marc Bland, are truly one in a zillion! Today, you get a chance to choose whether you accept your punishment or not!”
The skeptical side of him decided it was high time to turn on the brain engines:
“What’s the catch?”
She smirked, turning around and twirling away from him.
“You just need to get a job.”
Jelly turned to flesh and Marc picked himself up to run after her, leaving a sparkly green trail behind him.
They didn’t enter any sudden light, in fact, they were still walking in the nothingness, but somehow, the ground beneath Marc felt firmer.
“See, I was once a human too. Contrary to popular belief, anthropomorphic personifications don’t just pop out of thin air.”
“They don’t?” He asked, huffing slightly behind her twirling and dancing figure.
“No silly, of course not! My predecessor was a human too, as was her predecessor, as was his prede…”
“What about the first one?” He cut her off, wanting to get to the point quickly and see if there was really a way for him to get out of here. Life huffed, a bit annoyed, but her anger quickly subdued.
“Well, to tell you about the first one, I would need to explain all about the Concept first.”
‘Please do’ his eyes begged. Life chuckled; this human was way too cute!
“Life and Death, as natural occurrence, already existed before any humans. Plants, trees, animals; all of them had been being born and had been dying before the first human.”
The logical part of Marc’s brain agreed with all she said. The non-logical one was still curious about the floor.
“It is only after humans developed a thought that the Concept was created. They started believing, not in God, but in a higher force that controlled their fates.”
And now there’s a stairway; how come there is a stairway?!
Life hopped upwards, turning her head occasionally to check if Marc was following her and her story.
“Now, imagine how panicky the Officials were when that happened! They were running like headless chickens, trying to fill out the forms and find the appropriate personifications for the Concepts humans came up with!”
Marc pulled his head away from his legs, which were getting wet, and gave an enlightened look to Life.
She smiled approvingly.
“Yes. Human faith, coupled with human logic is a really powerful thing. It created the Concept of Life, Death, Time, Day, Night and many others… All this power, let loose inside the Realm of Creation, but no one to control it.”
Marc tried to imagine it… All that came to his mind was a wisp floating around with tiny goblins chasing it. He wasn’t completely sure it wasn’t the case.
Life jumped over the invisible rock (he should know, he just tripped over it), continuing in that cheery voice:
“There was also a problem of creating a holder for the Concept; the Officials spent all their assets creating and containing the Earth and the Chair Being refused to give them any more of it by that time.”
Oh wow, even the creators of Earth are poor.
“So what they did was take the first spirit who accepted the offer and risk and just combined the two together.”
Well, Marc mussed, that sounded plausible. And logical. If a bit unsafe.
Here, she stopped and turned around to face him with her big, blazing, unworldly eyes.
“Naturally, even the first personification of Concept got bored after a while and decided to retire… which is where you come in.”
“Mh-huh! You see, I have…. Three hundred?” She tapped her mouth with a finger, her fair eyebrows falling down on her nose. “Yes, just about that much years of experience and I just want to go out and have some fun!”
Marc would probably regret asking this, but the glittery look in her eyes and that blush inducing smile built an impenetrable wall around his logical part of the brain.
“And my job here is to…?”
“Take over mine, of course!”
Ah, see, he knew this was going to happen.
He stood in front of her, this time completely blind to her smiles and shy looks, and focused on his predicament.
On one hand, it’s 128 decades (1280 years, his brain helpfully supplied) of simply existing in this Nothing-Land, with absolutely nothing to help him pass the time… and he couldn’t even sleep, no, because that’s a function body needs, not a soul.
On the other hand, it’s probably 300 years of living on as a Concept of Life…
“If, and I’m just asking questions here, if I become Life personification, will I still be stuck in Nothing-Land?”
Life spread her hands, smiling gleefully.
“No, no! If you want, you can travel and exist everywhere! After all, you would be Life!”
Like that explained anything, he though, jaded.
OK, so he won’t be chained to this… room, and if his guess is correct, he should be able to go back to Earth too.
Marc raised his head to ask her another question, but Life, sensing his troubles, answered even without him voicing them out.
“Human logic prevents them from seeing you.” He nodded firmly. “But animals can!”
That should be illogical. Then again, animals don’t believe in Concept, so it’s possible.
1280 years of solitude or 300 years of petting cats?
“I want my theme song.”
The previous anthropomorphic personification of Life smiled joyfully.
“I knew you’d say that.”
“So how come I’m the one you picked?” Marc, or Life from now on, asked Life, or Sandra (he thinks that was her name, he got lost when she began explaining how she became the Concept of Life).
They have just gotten out of the Administrative building, where they filled out the job transfer application, and where she booked a ticket to the Reincarnation Wheel.
Marc had to admit, the afterlife looked homey. Sandra/Life explained that they were located in the Capital, the biggest Spirit City, inside the Realm of Spirits. When he asked her why the administration of Spirits and Officials was like humans, she just giggled ‘Who do you think they got the idea from?’.
Oh, the puns he could make up from his situation…
The city was as beautiful as a city could be, and Marc compared the vivid colors of it to the best graphics he had ever seen; in spite of that he still felt the two couldn't be furthest apart. The roads were gray, each house and building was colored in different tone (the Administrative buildings being the only one to possess the mellow dirty one), and just like in every city, there were miniature gardens or parks every few miles.
While the two were walking down the road to get to their next check point, which was a cafe where Sandra/Life would begin to explain his duties, they passed by many shining ghostly apparitions that greeted her merrily. It seemed as, even in death, Life was well liked.
Oh well, Marc was just glad he was out of the Nothing-Land and here with some kind of beings that still have to turn out to be sociable. At least he was not alone, he concluded in good faith, before he proceeded to nestle into the curiously comfortable chair.
Sandra/Life began talking vividly to the sparkly wisp of a waiter and Marc, in order to kill some time, decided to check out his surroundings.
The interior of the cafe was pink. There were pink flowers in pink vases, upon a pink tablecloth, and the table itself was made out of pink wood. One look at his chair was enough to prove it too was pink.
Squeezing his eyes tightly and rubbing his forehead, Marc turned to pay attention to the grinning Sandra/Life.
"Well, Marc, I picked you because no one else wanted the job."
Che, it figures it was for that kind of reason.
"How come?" He surely can't be the only deceased that sinned, if killing blood sucking flies was a grave sin.
Sandra/Life thanked the waiter for their drinks and waited until she was out of their vicinity to speak up:
"No, it's not that they didn't want to. It's just, Nelly never approved."
"The anthropomorphic personification of Hate." Marc gave her an incredulous look but chose not to comment.
Honestly, some people really had no pity for their children.
"She hates newcomers and she hates 'gits who can't do their job properly!' so she was determined to help me pick a right one."
"And I was the right one?"
Here she bit her lip, her eyes moving away from Marc, staring off into the distance guilty.
"Hah, well, no. I kinda... ditched her and, well, there were you!"
The next second was spent with him trying to catch her eyes and her successfully avoiding that situation.
"All-right, so do you mind telling me what this job exactly entails?" He wouldn't want to dive into a job he has no idea what it's about....
Fine, so he already did that, but that doesn't mean he can't find what's it all about before he actually starts doing his work.
"Not that much!" She continued on, still careful not to catch his pointed glare, her happy tone carrying over them. "You basically have to exist, fill out some forms daily, walk around both Spirit and Living Realm, and be there whenever Life is created."
"Wait how can you exist in multiple places at the same time?" Marc was confused "There are more than thousands of women giving birth every day!"
And there she was, avoiding his eyes more intently now.
"Hah-ha... Well, yes, there are. You don't need to physically be there every time. I myself just send out a piece of my energy, and when it returns, it carries memories with it!"
"So you basically send out a glimpse of yourself at every birth?"He sipped his tea calmly, already giving up on having an honest, eye to eye, conversation with her.
"Ha! No, no I don't..." Her voice broke a bit, before she whispered out:
"Not at birth."
It took him a long second to understand the meaning behind what she just said, and when he did, Marc spilled every drop of tea he was enjoying so much. Right back into the cup, thankfully.
Careful to distance himself from the cup, he planted his arms on his neon green clad thighs.
It was her turn to blush now, even more furiously than he ever had.
"It's not like I chose it! The Officials were the one to decide how humans create life and, and..." Sandra/Life gripped her red face, hiding her hair into the sea of blond locks. "I never expected this either, it's just in the job description!"
Marc reached out and patted her head. She peeked shyly at him from the golden tresses that obscured her face.
"I understand." And he does, honestly. He still doesn't like it and thank the Chair Being humans can't see him or else they'll notice a teenager hiding out in their closet. "I will try to do this job in good faith and humor." Try being the key word here.
Sandra/Life rose her head, smiling gently at him and grabbing his hand to hold in her smaller, warmer ones.
"Thank you so much Marc. Jackyll is scheduled to enter the Wheel tomorrow, and I really wanted to follow him this time."
"Jackyll? Your friend?"
She blushed again, gathering her hands and lowering them on her knees.
"Ah, well, he was this big music star a couple of years ago, and I was his big fan, you know." He couldn't believe what his ears were transporting back to his brain. "I just wanted this one chance to be with him, what with his punishment being alone in the Nothing-Land." He really needed to get his ears checked regularly.
"You want to quit the job because... of Jackyll the rock star?"
Sandra/Life nodded slowly, again hiding her face from him.
Oh indeed. He just got swindled for about 300 years because of a one hit wonder Jackyll. Splendid.
While he was trying to get his bearings, Sandra/Life continued talking; more confident and bubbly now.
"All we need to do now is transfer the Life energy to you and we're done! I think by this time tomorrow, you'll be ready to start the job!"
Giving her a dark look, which she ignored completely, he sighed.
"OK. So, what do I need to do next?"
Sandra/Life giggled, and yes, her laugh was definitely annoying.
"Just go to sleep, silly."
He wanted to chide her, for it was clearly impossible for ghosts to fall asleep (he had already tried, back when she was babbling about her previous life, many, many, many years ago), but was interrupted by a light feeling in his head. The last thing he saw was her predatory grin.
The first thought Marc had when he woke up was that some people did really nasty things in their bedroom. Or kitchen. Or basement. And, oh dear Chair Being, he was Life.
The sound of violins, trumpets and flutes broke through the silence which surrounded him.
This was not the theme song he wanted.
Still refusing to open his eyes, Marc focused on the memories he carried; there were some moving pictures showing in his head of him, and some other, previously unknown to him, people and of course, there was a lengthy knowledge he never had of how to correctly fill out a Life form and then came the disturbing pictures. He whizzed past them until he came upon the one that couldn't help but grab his attention.
"EEEEEEWWWWW!!!!" He rocketed out of his position, rubbing his eyes, trying to gouge them out and unsee the thing he just remembered. He did not have to know exactly how he was conceived.
While he flailed around, panicking and re-entering his freak out mode, a grumpy voice summoned his attention.
"I see you are awake, Marc of Life."
Blinking owlishly, Marc turned around his axis and finally took notice of a prepubescent girl standing by what looked like a door. Now that he paid attention to his surroundings, he was in a bedroom. His mind helpfully supplied him with the name of the owner.
Except, of course, the picture of a grinning man in his mind was not what his eyes saw; they saw a curly red headed girl, with face covered in freckles and eyes so glaringly judgemental.
Nelly, something in his mind whispered. Marc gave her a soft smile.
Hate scoffed, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Seeing how you obviously recognize me, I'll say the transfer was a success."
Marc blinked again and the pictures of unsuccessful attempts at creating a new Concept swirled in his mind.
When Sandra came back to the Realm of Spirits, the two of them will have a talk. Eye to eye kind of talk.
"Neal, you dolt, get in here!" Nelly yelled over her shoulder.
While the illogical part of his brain kept being amazed at how there was no headache from all the information overload, the logical part decided to show him scenes of a bubbly, always happy male copy of Nelly.
Figures Love and Hate were twins.
Neal bounced into the room, carrying the sweet aroma and red glow with him. The illogical part, which Marc should really name human, noted his mismatched socks and washed out shirt.
A thought crossed his mind and he turned his gaze back to his body, where the green pajama still stood proud. Another info overload later, he silently wept over his fate.
Apparently you will forever appear in the Realms in the clothes you died in. Marc wished he at least chose something other than the footsie pajama.
"Hi Life!" Neal shouted from across the room, before proceeding to hug the l.. deadly daylights out of Marc's stomach.
Marc's hand rose to shoo the boy away but somehow he found himself stroking his unevenly cut hair.
"Hi, eh, Love?" Neal jerked his head away from Marc's chest, nodding fervently.
From where Nelly stood ahead of them, scowling and grumbling, she yelled out:
"Give him a break idiot, he just woke up!"
Neal poked out his tongue at her and returned his position back to smothering Marc.
"Shush, meanie, Life doesn't mind, right?" Marc smiled back at him, remembered smiles annoy him, stopped and simply continued to pet the already purring Neal. He turned his head towards Nelly:
"So we're at Death's place?"
He already knew Nelly didn't like Death really much, but then again, she disliked a lot of things, but her scrunching eyebrows confirmed the suspicions he never had.
"That bastard offered to host you here until you get your way around the Realm." Here she started gritting her teeth "And decided, on his own, that we all had to help you learn how to control your bloody powers."
Nelly sounded like those gamer girls Marc feared. Which meant if he kept out of her way, all would be great. Yeah, he decided, that was what he'd do.
"Oh, well, thank you." Nelly scoffed, again, before turning her back on him.
"Well come on, you two dolts, let's go. Death is already waiting for you downstairs!" And with that, she exited the room.
Marc stood still, with Neal still wrapped around himself, for a while, trying to recall the correct way to reach the living room. And while he was walking the route, Neal now trying to become one with his body, he recalled one thing that tickled his interest.
Well, more like the only thing that truly mattered in all this mess.
Spirit Realm had no electricity.
Spirit Realm had no computers.
Hell, Spirit Realm had no cell phones!