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The Death of Them, pt. 1
There was warmth all around me. White, gold light that wrapped surrounded my body, slowly leeching the lingering pain away. I know this place. The thought came from the very depth of me, I know this place; I've been here before. A smile tugged at my lips as I walked down the path before me with sure, confident steps. But how did I get here? This question, too, came from somewhere deep: and with it came memories. The feel of cold stone against my back, "No," I whispered, trying to force the memories away. A white hot pain in my side, the feel of something tearing through my flesh, "Please no," my voice seemed loud in the silence of the light. Slowly the memories faded into the nothing they had previously been and I sank back into the peace the light offered.
I continued down the path letting myself sink into a calm I had never known. Is this really it? I really get an eternity of peace, even after my sins? The moment the thought formed, I felt myself run into a barrier. I pressed my hands against it. It was strong as stone but clear like glass. Beyond it the warmth grew and I could see the faint outline of people through the blinding light. I pushed against it, panicked, but it didn't yield to my touch, "Please no," I cried, "Please let me in, please don't let me remain here!"
"You should turn back, Jenine," a voice whispered from behind me.
I turned and slowly a chamber came into focus, clear like the barrier but still there. There was no sign of the one who had spoken.
"I'm over here Jenine," again the voice came from behind.
I turned again and there, I saw him sitting on a low throne made of a black material that contrasted the brightness of the light. "Who are you," Does it seem darker here?
He shagged "No one? Everyone? Does it really matter?" he smiled a toothless smile and his eyes narrowed from behind his matted gray hair, "Apparently to you it does. I have no official title, though other's before you have simply called me Thorn, the Keeper."
"Thorn?" Yes, it's definitely darker. "Where am I?"
Again he shrugged, "Some have called this place the In between, but like myself it has no true name," another toothless grin, "Before you ask, it's the place between life and death."
"Why am I here?" I looked behind me and saw that the barrier had become a door, I could see light spilling from around the edges, "and not there?"
"Because Jenine, you have a very important choice to make."
"A choice? What choice?"
"You have to choose between turning back, and walking back down into an eternity of nothingness," he motioned with one withered hand to the right, "or you can go through this door, and accept what ever the afterlife holds for you," he motioned to the left.
"A-afterlife?" I stammered, feeling the shock on my face.
His laughter was shrill in my ears, "Yes Jenine, have you not figured it out yet? You are dead."
The moment the words left his lips I was pulled into a memory...
It had been an ordinary day, that day of my death. A crisp, bright ordinary fall day, the kind I had always cherished. The sun had shone at its highest point, a bright jewel in the sky, bringing the cool air to a perfect, warm temperature. The leaves that had hung over head had changed, painting the world in hues of red and gold, but not yet fallen, It had been, in short, my perfect day.
I don't know why I had decided on a walk, after the treason I had committed against Them, but with so much on my mind, I had to do something. Perhaps if I had been more attentive or a little less confident that they would not yet know; perhaps if I had paid attention to the dog walker that made its way towards me as I walked down the sidewalk I would still be alive. But I wasn't, and I didn't and for those mistakes I paid with my life.
"No," I gasped, "I can't be dead."
"Always in denial," he sighed, "You are dead, and you must choose how you wish to spend your eternity."
I looked to the right, at the path and the darkness that waited at its end, then to the left, at the door bursting with light. I started to the left and again he laughed, "I would choose carefully, you may not like what your afterlife holds," as he spoke the light around the door became darkness and the warmth became a searing heat, "The afterlife could be painful for someone like you."
Someone like me. The thought came on its own accord and with it more memories of my death...
I remember feeling him; at least I think it was a him, bump against me as we passed. It was just hard enough that I felt nothing.
"I'm sorry," he had murmured, before moving on.
I had taken a step, and then another before I felt the pain. I remember looking down and first saw the blood as it spread crimson across my white shirt. My eyes then slid to the center of the spreading blood and there I saw what was causing my pain. A white hilt, untouched by the blood, stuck out from my side, the blade attached was deep into my flesh, piercing my liver and kiddies. I had felt what blood I had left run cold and panic waited at the very edges of my mind, waiting to rush forward and consume me. My strength bled out with my blood, They found out, the thought flashed through me, calmer than it should have been, as I sank to the ground.
It was then that I saw my assassin. He stood behind me, watching me as I realized I was dieing. He had stepped forward and knelt beside my fallen body. He roughly grabbed my shoulder; I had landed on my side, and pulled so I was on my back, so that I got a look at those empty doll eyes that only came from Their brainwashing. He reached across me and took hold of the blades hilt.
There had been pain, a white, hot pain when he twisted the blade. A half strangled cry flew from my lips, despite my attempt to contain it. I could feel my insides shredding. He then slowly pulled the blade out, marking each inch that slid from my flesh with another twist. When the blade, all seven inches of it, had finally left my body I could no longer feel anything but a coldness that had replaced the warmth of my blood.
My numb fingers wrapped weakly around his wrist as he slid the blade across a bloodless spot in the chest of my shirt.
"How?" blood blossomed from my lips and it dribbled down my chin.
"You betrayed the organization Jenine and for that you had to die."
The organization... the name whispered through my head as I remembered who I had once been. "People like me," my voice shook as I said it.
"Yes," Thorn's voice was patient.
I swallowed, "An assassin," even as I said it I knew it was true, "I am... was an assassin. And the organization was... the group that trained me," another memory, "they're the one's who brainwashed me and made me kill," I glanced at the door and at the darkness that seeped from around the edges, "I-it wasn't my felt.
"As they all say," was his only response.
I gave the door another panicked look and started back toward the path. Anything is better than that.
"Are you sure about that," he asked, "Look again."
I did and saw the light that leaked from around the edges and I could once again feel the brilliant warmth, "But... then which one is it."
"You'll never know unless you step through it, remember you are a killer," he held up a hand to stop her denials, "At some point you could have stopped."
"But I did, I didn't kill my last target."
"And there is the big question. Is the sparing of one life enough to erase the countless other's you destroyed?"
This time when the memory took me I was ready and went with it willingly...
He pulled the tassel from the hilt and laid it across the gaping wound on my side. He then pulled up my pant leg and unsheathed the blade strapped to my calf the organization had given my after my initiation among them.
"You should have just killed him, instead of letting him undo all of our training," he said as he stood, "It's not your fault; I've seen countless others fail as you have."
I tried to respond, but the darkness that fluttered at the edges of my vision rushed forward, replacing the coldness with numbness; I couldn't feel my lips. The last image I saw was of my assassin walking away, leaving my body on the sun baked sidewalk...
"I-I died for him surely that's enough to allow me in," I gasped, remembering the old man that had, with only a few words, turned me against the organization.
"Perhaps," his toothless smile widened, "But perhaps not, you must choose," he paused and cocked his head to the side as if listening to something, "and soon."
Panic fluttered in my chest. I looked first to the right, at the path to oblivion, and then to the left at the glowing light. I started towards the left and, this time Thorn was silent as I laid my hand on the knob. Light continued to seep out from around it.
"Go Jenine," his voice sounded far away, hardly more than a whisper.
I took a deep breath and turned the knob. I realized too late that I had mad the wrong choice. The moment the knob turned, darkness rushed in from all sides, wrapping around me; I could feel things tearing at my skin. "No!" I shrieked trying to turn back, but the door, the cavern, Thorn were all gone. My prayers were overrun by the laughter that echoed in my mind. We have you. The laughter said you’re ours now, my screams joined the endless others that rang in my ears, and my pain was all my eternity was...