Death Is Only The Beginning
I traveled a strange road that led to crossroads I'd never seen before. There was the sound of running water, as if a river was near. I followed the sound until I came upon an old bridge built over the river. There was a man sitting against a post, apparently taking a nap.
“You want to see what's on the other side, Jake?” The man spoke, his voice smooth as silk.
I didn't know who he was, but he knew my name. He wore a brown derby that covered his eyes, as he peeked from under the brim. Come to think of it, he was dressed in clothing that was worn by people in the 1800's. Strange indeed.
“Always the right guy, aren't you? Good friend, good lover, and excellent officer, yes?”
I was taken aback by his casual tone. “Do I know you? I don't know what's going on, but have you seen my friend, Cain? He's about my height, blue eyes, short blond hair?”
“No, I'm afraid I haven't, but I'm certain that I will soon enough. Say, how did you find your way here? I don't usually see your type at my front door.”
The man sat up, and gave me a once over, making me feel rather naked. He rose to his feet, and dusted his clothes, and with a big grin pointed across the river.
“You see, those who cross this river never return. They have a quality about them that makes them unique. They lead extraordinary lives, and most leave a legacy after their names. I am most pleased to see them cross this bridge, and get what they deserve. Do you know who they are?”
I stared at the bridge he now blocked. I tried to push past him. He shook a finger at me, and even with all my strength, I could not make him budge.
“Who are you? Why do you prevent me from crossing?!”
“Who I am is not important. What is important, is that you are not like those who cross here. You are not welcomed here, Jake. And for that, I believe someone will owe me a big favor. Let's say, that it's a business, and my business has been booming in the last three hundred years. Tell them that I do not need any help reaping the dead, and if they keep sending me good guys like you down here, half dead, and innocent, I will start tossing them ALL back.”
I felt my lungs burn, and the blue river of cool water changed into a river of lava, spewing heated gas in the voices of the damned. I was sucked into a white light, and the next thing I heard was the panicked sounds of voices all around me.
“He's back! Let's get some lines into him, O Positive and IV STAT!”
I could see the doctors and nurses soaked in blood, and some even cheered, while others cursed.
“We almost lost one of the good ones.” The doctor mumbled, shining his penlight into my eyes.
My thoughts were still on the man waving from the bridge.“Is that what I am, O reaper of death?”
I spent my first night at the hospital in deep sleep. It was decided that a medically induced coma, would allow the swelling to go down in my head. I was shot once in the chest, then once in the head. Ironically, it was the shot in the head that saved me. I was a veteran of Earth's latest conflict, sent home with metal plate grafted onto my skull, and even my lover never knew this.
In the dim lighting of my room, a shadow crept up to my bed and touched my hand. Immediately I opened my eyes, and found myself back at the bridge, staring at the other side.
“You again?” Said the man in the derby hat. “Now if you really want to cross this bridge, I'd be happy to tell you the endless ways you can do this, but I'm afraid you would fail.”
“I...was shot.” I touched my head, and my chest. “Why...?”
“Asar. My name is Asar, at least in this century. It keeps people on their toes. Look, kid, I can tell that you are not all there right now, hell, you were far more clear minded when you were dead.”
“Yeah, you died on the way to the hospital. But the really interesting part was watching you scare the b-jeezus out of the Coroner. I may be seeing him soon enough.”
“Shot?” I had no memory of being shot, not to mention waking up in the morgue.
Asar tapped me on the shoulder. “It has been quite a while since I've had a live one try twice to cross this bridge. When your time finally comes, you will not fear me.”
“Believe me, it's far stranger to me.” I blinked, then looked at Asar. “You said, that you have not seen Cain? If he's not here, then where is he? In Heaven?”
Asar laughed, “No, murderers rarely go to heaven, unless there are special circumstances, like self-defense. Your lover is MIA and he's not the first. And while you and I are on the same plane at the moment, I want to expand on what I told you before. The number of missing off the Scrolls of the Dead has increased in the past centuries, and you are the perfect man for the job.”
“Job? What sort of job?”
“I need one with your experience to direct these pain in the ass souls to this bridge.”
Asar began to tap his foot. This was not what the Lord of the Dead was expecting.
“Forgive me, but I believe you have the wrong man. For one thing, a soul, or ghost, cannot be seen with the human eye. And second, if I was to even consider this job, how the hell am I supposed to do this?”
“Ah, I see. You think the old goat has lost his mind? Not at all. If you can see me, then you can see them. Wrangling them and sending them to me, is where you will be perfect. But I sense you're about to be awakened..”
“Wait! How will I..?”
Asar began to fade, as I was roused by the sound of a familiar voice. It was my partner, Detective Carlos Santiago.
“Whoa, my friend! Take it easy, nice and slow.” Carlos held me back from falling out of my bed. “I see I've arrived just in time, who were you chasing, some perp?”
“Carlos. Have you forgotten your partner? Man, I hope you didn't lose any brain cells with that shot to the head. If you did, we're both screwed, you're the brains of the department.” Carlos laughed.
“Water..please.” I motioned to the tray table next to me. “I was dreaming...that's all, Santiago.”
Carlos handed me a glass of water with a straw.
“Where were you at, partner?” Carlos looked into Jake's eyes which darted around the room.
“Thank you. I was having a strange dream, and well, I feel as if I've been asleep forever.” I tried to move, but I was hooked up with many sensors and all of them were going off. Of course this brought the nurse.
“Detective Santiago, I'd appreciate if you would for once, obey hospital regulations and visit during visiting hours! Mr. Thomas requires peace and quiet.”
Carlos made a face. “Sorry, Alice.” He winked at the middle-aged nurse, “I was just on my way home from work, and wanted to see if Jake had awakened yet.”
“Well, he's awake now.” She glared at him. “With all these alarms going off, you're waking the whole ward!”
“It's alright, nurse...Alice was it? Detective Santiago actually just saved me from falling out of bed.” I said as she tucked me in. Someone entered the room, a doctor by the looks of it.
“Ah, so it was you who lit up the board. I'm glad to see you're awake, you sleep like the dead. My name is Dr. Kendall. I am the Chief Neurosurgeon who operated on you after you were resuscitated. I was shocked to see the dent on the metal plate in your head. This actually prevented the bullet from killing you. Not that being shot to your chest wasn't enough to kill you. Let's take a look at you, how do you feel?”
No wonder my head was still ringing, as the pen light was once again in my eyes. I felt the doctor's cold hands on my neck as he began to examine my collarbones and the wound on my chest. There was a chill in the air, and I trembled. I looked over at Santiago, noticing movement behind him.
“H-How long was I out?” I winced, as the doctor looked under the bandages on my chest.
“You were placed in an medically-induced coma, Jake. It was necessary, due to the swelling in your brain. It surprised everyone that you had a metal plate in your skull. It was excellent work, by the way.”
“How long?” I looked at Santiago, who shook his head.
“You've been asleep for nearly a week. Can you tell me, what is the last thing you remember?” Kendall once again examined my eyes.
“I remember going on a walk with my friend, Cain...” I looked at Santiago. “Oh my God! Cain! Is he alright?!” I could feel my eyes burn, as they filled with tears, “I couldn't find him, I've been looking for him...”
“Looking for him where?” Santiago said rather sarcastically, “Jake, Cain is dead.”
“Detective!” Dr. Kendall protested, “A little more tact on your part, perhaps?”
No. That wasn't right. Not Cain! Then
something caught my attention behind the three men, as if the shadows
seemed to move on their own.
“Dead? How? When?!” I looked down at my hands, “W-We were walking, and...and...”
“Yes, my friend, he shot you...and now he's missing,” The voice of Asar whispered from the corner.
Santiago looked at the doctor and nurse and gave them a nod. He sat next to me and looked me in the eyes. This was the part of the job all officers despised, informing a person that their loved one was dead. I know that look. I've worn it myself a thousand times.
“Jake, Cain shot you, and then committed suicide.”