Syd the Sassy Atheist 3

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!

Part 1 | Part 2

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.

 

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Syd the Sassy Atheist 2

This chapter was inspired by my mom. Thanks mom. I hope you find the joke I put in here just for you.

Part 1 | Part 3

Syd the Not-So-Sassy Atheist

To say Syd was unimpressed with life would be an understatement. She never had the lust for life that many share–those who create bucket lists and drag unwilling others on extended vacations into potentially hazardous situations. No, Syd had always been content to curl up in her corner of life and let it wash on over her like a gentle tide. The only movement she made was to scratch away the building barnacles.

However, to say Syd was unimpressed with Life, would be wholly incorrect. This personification of all that breathes and eats and sleeps is very impressive.

Or, Syd supposes, as impressive as a room full of squirrels can be.

After emerging from the tunnel and stepping through the light, Syd found herself transported to an amalgamation of a principal’s office and a waiting room. There are a good dozen chairs set up behind her with scattered magazines, such as Reaper Daily or Spectral Health. The walls are lined with dark wood bookcases packed with heavy, vellum bound volumes. Syd would attempt to read the titles, but the squirrels have a penchant for these books. They run and scurry along the shelves, knocking a few to the floor in frantic scrambles to the top.

Directly ahead of Syd is a large, cherry wood desk. There is a large calendar on it–or, at least, Syd assumes it’s a calendar. It is really just a grid with no numbers or months or holidays, only blank cells. Nevertheless, Life had managed to pen a few appointments in, which tips Syd off to its true purpose. One appointment, marked in red and with an angry face next to it, cements her belief.

“Annoying Atheist Arrives. Argh.” Syd reads the appointment aloud, her head tilted to accommodate the angle. She frowns. “I wouldn’t say I’m annoying.”

“You also wouldn’t say you’re dead, so you’re really batting a thousand today.”

Syd jumps half a mile and spins around to see who had spoken. In one of the chairs is a woman with golden hair and sharp features. Her eyes are translucent, but sufficiently piercing to make Syd wish she could hide under the desk or maybe become one of the squirrels and scurry into the air ducts.

Then, upon thinking about the squirrels, Syd suddenly realizes they’re not here. She scans the room for them, but the only other living thing is the woman.

“I take many forms,” Life divulges and brushes an acorn from the sleeve of her white, loose robe. “A room of squirrels is a new one for me, but I suppose that is your perception of life.” She locks eyes with Syd. “Why squirrels?”

Syd laughs uncomfortably. “Because life is nuts?”

There’s a long pause and then Life’s mouth quirks. “You’re right, annoying is not the proper adjective for you.” She stands fluidly and carefully picks her way to behind the desk. Despite the bookish environment, Life looks regal. Syd can almost swear she feels the cool of a drafty castle.

Life rests her chin in one dainty, pale hand. “Abrasive might suit you.”

“Or alluring,” Syd attempts to no avail. Life just waves the suggestion off.

“I don’t believe you came here to speak to me about your qualities, though. I assume you’re here for reincarnation. What god do I owe this wonderful appointment to?”

“I’m an atheist,” Syd explains, baffled that Life seems to not even know this. “Not believing in a god is kind of in the name.”

Life shakes her head. “I was afraid of that. Sometimes you guys have revelations on the way here and this is so much easier. Oh well, I suppose this is less paperwork for me in the end.”

Suddenly, Life ducks down and begins rummaging in her drawers. Syd tries to crane closer, but is kept in her seat for fear of upsetting Life. She’d hate to have to go back to Life’s Janitor and explain she lost her chance because she was too nosy.

But one question couldn’t hurt, right?

“So I still get reincarnated?” Syd hazards.

Life makes a sound of agreement. Sydney nods to herself. She can most definitely work with that. Maybe she can be a wolf or an elk  or a water buffalo always seemed cool. Or she could go into the ocean and be a shark–live off the coast of Australia and chomp some cute surfers in the ass.

Syd’s thoughts are derailed when Life produces a glass display that thumps loudly onto the desk. Beneath the thick pane are two bugs pinned to a canvas pinboard. “So,” Life asks and gestures to each specimen in turn. “A dog tick or a deer tick?”

Syd groans: dead or alive, Life still sucks.

Syd the Sassy Atheist

WARNING: there is gratuitous swearing in the very beginning. Be prepared for that. Kay?

Syd the Sassy Atheist

Sydney was never much of a fan of living. Not that she didn’t like life—life was just fine and dandy. But living? That’s the tough one. You needed a job. You needed friends. You needed priorities. Syd very much liked sleeping and drawing and never, ever giving a fuck. Sure, she sort of gave a fuck at work; you couldn’t stock Zippy D’s grocery shelves without giving a fuck. But she was pretty scarce with the fucks she gave otherwise.

Overall, Syd wasn’t poised to do much living, so when she woke up dying, it was a welcome relief. Kind of. Sort of.

How welcome can walking down a stinking tunnel really be, anyway?

It smelled of rotting wood and her hamster’s cage and just a hint of mums all rolled into one. The water went up to her ankles. The walls were slimy under her trailing touch. She was blind save for the light that seemed to be shrinking away. Syd started running, dream-logic, as she perceived it, telling her she absolutely must reach that light before it was snuffed out.

Then it snuffed out and Syd was left in a desperate, reeking darkness.

“This is a pathetic nightmare,” Syd murmurs in her lazy drawl. She pats her pockets, which she doesn’t have because she’s in her pyjamas, and has to resign herself to no hope of dream-her bringing a flashlight. Syd struggles over to the wall and feels along it for anything that might hint towards a door. There is a door knob and Syd is about to pull the door open when a voice shouts.

NOPE. NOPE. I WOULD NOT DO THAT IF I WERE YOU.

Syd rolls her eyes and opens the door anyway. What greets her is a freezing gust that sends her through the dizzying stages of hypothermia instantly. Once her eyes adjust, she can see that there is canyon wrapped by icy walkways that gradually lead to the valley floor, which in turn is covered in sulphurous, slinking, burning rivers. The sky is a storm’s brew of gun metal grey and infected green. A dog, mangy and red eyes aglow, watches her from across the yawning canyon and begins a loping run over the frozen terrain to the open door.

Syd casually closes the door.

“So uh, what was that?”

THAT WOULD BE HELHEIM. Syd nods, still baffled, and leans some of her weight on the door. There’s a light thock before she feels the door gradually melt into the wall again. YOU AREN’T NORWEGIAN ARE YOU?

Syd’s mouth twists. This is the weirdest dream she has ever had. It must have to do with all the Nyquil she took to fall asleep. “I’m not Norwegian.”

GOOD, comes the voice again and Syd would swear it’s inside her head. I REALLY DIDN’T THINK SO SINCE YOUR LIGHT WAS UP AHEAD BUT IT SEEMS TO HAVE GONE OUT. IT’S BEEN HAPPENING A LOT LATELY… the voice trails off.

Syd steps away from the door and begins fumbling along the wall for another door. Maybe she’ll find one to the Bahamas or LA or Disneyworld. When the darkness turns to a hazy gray so that Syd can see the endless line of doors and old, dead languages carved above each one; she doesn’t notice. Mainly because there is a black, hooded figure towering just centimeters away from her; it’s rather distracting. “You’re death.” She states, hands shaking and current mission of finding Narnia forgotten.

The hooded figure shrugs. I’M LIFE’S JANITOR REALLY, DEATH IS MY LITTLE SISTER. SHE SENT YOU HERE.

Syd nods dumbly, trying not to cry when she can see the half-rotted face under the hood. Suddenly, she realizes the smell she has been smelling has been dea—Life’s Janitor. “Well—uh—if you could just have her send me back…”

NO CAN DO. WE HAVEN’T TALKED IN YEARS AND I AM NOT GOING TO BE THE ONE TO CHANGE THAT.

“Got into a fight, huh?” Syd asks, warming up despite her trepidation. It’s a dream after all, right?

DO YOU REMEMBER THE BLACK PLAGUE? Syd kind of does. She learned about it in school, after all. The figure continues on, becoming more animated with each syllable: IT WAS WORSE THAN THE DMV BACK HERE—PEOPLE GOING TO THE WRONG AFTERLIFE AND ALL THE PAPERWORK AND NO ONE UNDERSTOOD THE CONCEPT OF MANNERS OR CLOSING THE DOOR AFTER THEMSELVES. I ALMOST WANTED TO DIE, SUPPOSING I COULD.

Syd nods sympathetically. She can really get behind the idea that people are rude and DMVs are hell on earth. The hooded figure returns its arms to its sides after flailing them in its tirade. Then it straightens, hollow chest puffing out, self-satisfied:

BUT DO YOU REMEMBER THE INVENTION OF PENICILLIN? The figure asks and Syd swears she can hear his eyebrows waggle—or the maggots that are forming them on his bare skull waggle, either/or. THAT ONE GOT HER GOOD!

Syd laughs despite herself and Life’s Janitor’s laugh echoes through her head like the toll of a church bell.

After they both settle down, the figure asks SO OF WHAT FAITH DO YOU BELONG?

“None,” Syd says without thinking. “I’ve been an atheist since I could form my own beliefs.”

Life’s Janitor releases a huge sigh. WELL THAT EXPLAINS THE LIGHT GOING OUT. The figure’s head turns about, scanning the doors at hand. SO YOU BELIEVE IN NOTHING?

“I believe in myself,” Syd says hotly. “And Nutella.” She adds as an afterthought.

Then, they stand there staring at each other. The figure is at a loss because where do you send someone who has nowhere to go? She has no coin to pay Charon. She has no faith to buoy her against the feather. She has no weapon for Valhalla. Her name is not in the Book of Life for passage through the Pearly Gates. And—with no heaven—there is no hell to send her to either. Really, she is caught here and Life’s Janitor really hates having people underfoot. They just ask too many questions and give him headaches and it’s all just bad news.

“I don’t want to be dead.” Syd concedes. This catches the figure’s attention and he doubles over to be on the same level as she. Syd swallows thickly but plows on. “Even though I know this is a dream. I don’t want to be dead” because dead as an atheist means being gone and Syd is not at all ready to be gone. “Can’t I—I mean—can’t I like work my way out? Like work-study or something?”

Then, Life’s Janitor has an idea. LIFE MIGHT HAVE SOMETHING FOR YOU. And, with that, he sends Syd down the hall. The very long, very dark hall that grows darker with each step.

By the end of it—presuming this bit of the tunnel is the end and not the beginning—Syd is stepping so high-legged that she fears she has to swim. Not that Syd can’t swin: she can swim, but it’s just that she’s not too fond of swimming, especially in unseen waters.

Bracken and debris brush her legs. Sometimes she imagines hands grasping her calves. Or the walls closing in around her with each stuttering breath. Then she reminds herself it’s a dream. A horrible, wretched dream and that there is no such thing as an afterlife. This cannot possibly be happening.

Then she meets Life and she realizes there’s no waking up.

Part 2 | Part 3