I intended this to be a 3 part. It will now be a four part. You are almost there, guys!
This part is dedicated to Soul Walker because you commented on the first part, which really made me want to finish this little project. Thanks a bunch!
Syd the I-Wish-Sass-Was-an-Actual-Weapon Atheist
After a bit of haggling, Sydney gives up on the hope of being reincarnated. She had pushed Life to give her, at the very least, a fewer legged option. But Life moved no further: it was mosquito or tick. Apparently Life could only put a soul where one does not exist, so it’d be a parasitic existence one way or another. Life had the tact to mention Syd’s life, up until her death, hadn’t been essentially parasitic.
Eventually, Syd decides that being alive isn’t that important. It’s the matter of going somewhere that she deems highly important. Life agrees with that in her trademark, caustic fashion.
“We can’t send you back,” Life says as she drums perfectly manicured, white nails on the tick display. “and it’s a little tough since you’re technically back at the start–I can’t just turn you into a ghost or spirit. You need to be on the other end of the tunnel.”
Sydney groans and drops her head into her hands. This is aggravating beyond all aggravation–worse than stubbing your pinky toe and seeing that you had the right answer on the test but changed it at last minute all rolled into one. “Doesn’t life have any options other than, you know, living?”
“I’m sorry,” Life says and she sounds sincere. It throws Sydney through a loop.
Sydney mutters something like ‘it’s okay’, even if it’s clearly not. This terrifies Syd. To think that there’s nowhere for her–at least as an atheist she had some plot in the ground to look forward to. Now she doesn’t have even that. Maybe this is why people created religion in the first place, so that they weren’t consumed by the fear of being alone and adrift for all eternity. No closure as to what could have been if things were done differently. They have their heaven or their hell: Sydney just has tick or mosquito.
Unless, that is, she drops atheism.
“What if I become religious?” Sydney offers. A spark lights in her eyes, possibly the most excitement she’s shown in ages. At least since her past birthday when her mother surprised her with chocolate chip pancakes. “Then I can just go there–heaven or hell, I don’t care!”
Life nods. “That’d work, but,” there’s a baited pause and Syd wants to reach over and hit Life into the next multiverse. “But you are past the tunnel. I can’t make those doors appear or send you back. The only way out now is the one, true religion.”
It takes a minute for it to sink in for Syd. Even then, the concept only gets ankle deep. “So, I have to believe in only one of the gazillion existing religions and hope it’s the right one?”
Life grimaces. “More or less,” she relents. “Or I could just tell you.”
“Then tell me!” Syd exclaims.
“But I won’t,” Life concludes, “Just one of my mysteries.”
Sydney drops her head into her hands again.
“…but” Life concedes, “I’ll send you out into the spirit plane. We’re in a half-way right now and I’ll just send you there. Talk to the creatures you see there. Find out the one, true religion. Then you have to believe in it and you’ll be saved.”
Sydney’s mouth twists in consternation. “Sounds simple enough”
Life laughs and snaps her fingers.
Suddenly, Syd misses the room full of squirrels.
It’s lonely on the spirit plane. It’s like the real world but just a step above. She’s back in her bed, where she had fallen asleep–and consequently died–and drifts from her body. It’s like snapping electrified wires as she pulls away. Then she feels the drain. Like all her strings had been cut and she almost falls to her knees.
Except there’s no falling because that necessitates weight and Syd, being a spirit, is weightless.
“Well, this is is different,” Syd mutters to herself.
Despite having no physical body, Syd feels chilly. She wraps her arms around herself as she takes in the look of her room. There’s no signs of forced entry. No indication her parents snapped on their free loading daughter and killed her. There’s no visible reason for Syd to be dead–even her corpse looks as if it’s just sleeping peacefully.
But she knows she’s dead. This isn’t some coma or new age out of body experience. Syd is dead and she can feel it in her bones, assuming she had them.
Which she guesses she doesn’t anymore. Maybe that kooky philosopher was right: “you don’t have a soul; you are soul, you have a body.” It does little to stop the footloose atheist from missing her body very much.
She examines her body a moment longer. Her right arm had been thrown over her head, her nose nestled into her upper arm. One leg is bent and sticks up like a mountain on the bed. Slowly, it’s beggining to relax as the muscles lose their ability to contract. Rigor Mortis will set in soon after and Syd wants to turn her body to see if the bruising has started. She reaches forward to shift her physical arm.
“I wouldn’t try to get back in there,” a voice behind Syd explains. “Something might be in there.”
Syd wheels around and is greeted by a black cloaked figure. He pulls back the dunn hood to reveal rich black tresses and ebony skin. “I am your reaper,” the man introduces himself–he is easily seven foot and broader than a boat across. Syd watches as he reaches out a hand with the skeletal bones tattooed in silver on the back. “Come with me to the afterlife.”
“What religion are you from?” Syd asks candidly.
The reaper’s brow furrows. “I’m not a religious figure.” he explains as if to a five year old. “reapers are above that. Now come with me.”
Syd crosses her arms and refuses to budge. “I’ve been reaped, buddy, so you’re a little late to the party.” She points a finger in his face and hits him right on the nose with the tip of her pointer. “Now who are you?”
He smiles, showcasing a set of sharp canines. He turns a hand over to show the golden imprint of a paw on his palm. While Syd examines that, the rest of him changes. His dark braids shrink back to pointed ears. His nose elongates and his face narrows. He eventually collapses to as high as Syd’s waist.
“You’re a wolf,” Syd points out as the reaper-wolf stares at her with pitch eyes. A bright red tongue lolls from his mouth.
Then the wolf speaks without moving its mouth. The voice is as rich as the earth. “I am brother wolf,” he states and then corrects himself. “I am a brother wolf. Brother Wolf is elsewhere. I’m sorry to say, but you’re small beans for who he picks up.”
Syd shrugs. “None taken. So are you with the one, true religion?” she asks, not willing to waste anytime. This out of body experience is seriously freaking her out and she’s nervous that the longer she stays out, the harder it will be to go anywhere–knowledge of the one, true religion or not.
Brother wolf for his part can’t really help her case. “I’m part of a religion. But you can come with me–I can take you to the afterlife. Essentially I am a reaper.”
That’s…tempting. She considers it for all of point 2 seconds before a little voice in her head chimes in “he could be lying. He might not even be brother wolf. he could be something else, something worse…:”
“I think I’m good,” Syd asserts and walks past the canine. He follows along at her heels.
“It’s dangerous here,” the wolf warns and she can feel the cool of his coat as he brushes by. He’s trying to herd her somewhere. She pointedly walks forward, trying to outpace him. “A spirit death it different than a real one. You’re out of second chances.”
“I know,” Syd says and turns on the wolf, looking him right in his bottomless eyes. “Which is why I’m not wasting my second chance on a dog.”
She’s not entirely sure she cowed him, but the wolf stays behind. The spirit plane is vast before her–just the same as earth but incorruptible, untouchable. She sees no spirits outside the door. She’s unsure if that’s a good or a bad thing.