The space of a bolt of lightening later . . .
With all the force I can muster, I bring the blades down cutting deep into the child. But there’s no blood, just friction. Like magnets repelling the knives, they bounce back upwards. I look to the gatherers for instruction but they have nothing but silence to offer.
Again, I swing the knives down into this child’s chest and I feel it give a bit, like I’ve made some progress. Over and over I cut into her flesh and I start to see the glowing residue that I saw remnants of in the dead animals. I’m making a kind of violent progression into this girls chest.
The place where I must pass to harvest the Evil soul.
Sure, it’s of a horrible, detestable nature. But it’s a step towards redemption.
I continue cutting and chopping, purple life force splattering all over my face and arms, dripping from my hands, running down my chest. And there is an audible cracking sound and then a large pop.
Just like when little Juanito the beetle popped.
I’ve hit pay soul.
Breathing hard, glowing life-fluid smearing my neck a psychedelic violet, I lift my arms and two gatherers dive their long arms into this little girl’s chest, tugging and pulling at the invading soul.
“What are they doing?” Mr. Green says, barely above a whisper. Just louder than the sound of the haunting wind.
I don’t answer.
I just keep watching. They pull and pull, yanking back and forth, like they’re wrestling an alligator, and then this massless, almost opaque greyish white form is ripped free of the child as she blinks her eyes a couple times and starts to cry.
The gatherers quickly disappear into the forest with the soul and two more of them fill in to take the next soul.
Ms. Josephine! I yell. Please come and take this child away from here.
When Ms. Josephine approaches the gatherers give her space. They actually move out of her way as if she’s respected by the creatures formed of shadows and darkness. I guess they know her pretty well, since she’s a conduit.
Now, I’m speechless.
She reaches down and picks up the crying little girl, cutting the zip-ties, and hugs her as they walk quickly off.
But my work is only ¼finished. I go to the next child, a small boy with dark tanned skin, greenish-brown eyes, and a strange language that my gut instinct tells me is Aramaic. I don’t know why I know this, I just do.
The shadow knives weight heavy on my tired hands, but I call upon every ounce of strength I can as I slam the blades into his chest. With everything I’ve got I ferociously stab, as quick as I can. Stab after glowing stab, I make my way into the chest cavity.
Until . . . crack-pop!
Two more gatherers reach inside the boy’s chest, harvesting the silent soul. As they do this I feel this unearthly liquid covering me. I’m clenched in the life-blood of the undead—thieves of bodies.
I can’t even catch my breath as I go to the next body, I just go right to chopping. Ms. Josephine comes and claims the next child, freed of the disease of Evil. The gatherers taking their soul. Ms. Josephine taking this cleansed, scared child.
They’re both basically doing the same thing.
As I cut at this Evil’s vehicle I strain for air. I’m the one drowning, now. I’m always drowning, fighting for one more moment of life.
The ground is rumbling, shaking me sideways as I chop at this child’s bare chest. These invading souls, are like body drivers. They get in, crash into everything they can, and then I come.
I cut and pound and rip into the small body, sweat mixing with life-force mixing with the forged blades of darkness and death and shadows.
Crack . . . pop!
In, the thin clawed hands of the gatherers attack, clutching for the dead who are hiding in the living. They take the powerless soul, ripping it from the girl’s body, and race out into the darkness. And there is no emotion in what they do.
It’s just another day at work.
Another soul to harvest, as if there’s a quota.
Well, perhaps there is.
One child left. Then I’m done, for now.
I catch my breath as Ms. Josephine leads the child to safety. Mr. Green, his eyes are wide and scared, as if this has forever changed him. Then again . . . it will probably change us all.
“Is this . . . is this the afterlife?”
I shrug, “Not for everyone, I don’t think. But then, I don’t see the other side of it.”
The tremors are almost constant, now. Everything is vibrating so much that the trees are beginning to look blurry. Smudged in time.
I raise my arms to the violent, angry sky and I thrust downward, but something strange happens. The knives, they shatter into a million tiny invisible pieces like the most brittle glass you can imagine, falling everywhere. All the black shards disappear around me.
I look up, uncomprehendingly.
“That’s the kid that bit Juan,” Mr. Green yells, fighting for balance as the world moves back and forth beneath our feet.
Juan . . . where’s Juan?
We both look frantically around. And seeing Juan standing there with the machine gun pointed at me, a red dot lighting my chest, I get it. I finally put it together.