Thursday, March 31, 2016

How To Survive The Afterlife: Human Edition Part 4

Welcome humans recently dead or alive, inter-dimensional beings, and other such good readers! I hope you're enjoying the story so far! If this is your first time reading this serial you might want to go to the beginning--or you'll probably end up as confused as our main character Ben, if you don't!

Also, I apologize for this very very late update. I'm not going to lie to you and say that I procrastinated or got the day wrong. I had writers block and I'm not afraid to admit it. But I had it and it was frustrating. I didn't want to give you bad writing, so it sadly took a couple more days than I thought. But here it is and I truly hope you enjoy it!

Thank you for reading this serial! I hope you're enjoying it as much as I'm enjoying writing it!

The Story So Far:

Benny seems to have the worst luck! After being taken to the broken city of Dregen Benny has discovered that his new pal Ringo is friends with some shady characters in shady places, and that his previous partner, Tayla, seems to have flown the coop along with her information on something called the 'multi-map'. In order to obtain the information on the maps whereabouts, Ringo has just traded our poor Benny for it to Francine. But why is Francine so keen on having Benny?

Find out in this 4th installment of:




While I waited for Ringo and Francine to return I weighed my options. I could do the following:

                                      a) Try and run away
                   b) Stay put and see what happens

       The problem with option A was that Francine and Ringo had stepped through the door with the beads, and the other only other door on the far right side of the room was guarded by Grug. Grug with his rhino skin and feet and molting black feathers. Grug with his fat lips and long ostrich neck. I took a deep breath and offered my best smile.
       “I don't suppose you'd let me walk out huh?”
       “Waddya think?”
       Sighing I contemplated breaking one of the glass windows in front of me and jumping out. But Grug would probably be able to stop me and snap my spine in half if before I could finish. Actually, I didn't have a spine, I don't think. Could you break a soul? All this dead business was really starting to mess with my head. I had more questions than answers and the pamphlet so far hadn't been able to help too much. I mean, except for informing me I was considered a delicacy here on this planet.
       The beaded door across the room buzzed and Francine's 2 foot figure walked through the door. If you ever wondered if rats could smile, they can. And it's really ugly looking. All crooked sharp teeth and black curled lips. Francine adjusted his monocle and directed his ugly smile at me.
       “Well Benny, it would appear that we have all had a good trade today.”
       “Really? Because I'm unhappy with it.”
       “You shouldn't be.” Francine's tail twitched. “I just saved you from a very unsavory being.”
       I could have told him that it takes one to know one—but this wasn't a fight in a school yard. And I didn't want to get eaten by a rat. Or Grug.
       “It seems to me,” I said instead, “That I was safer with Ringo. I mean, at least he was going to show me around.”
       “Oh I'm sure he did promise you. You wouldn't have liked it. Follow me and I'll show you to your living quarters.”
       Grug stepped aside and I followed Francine down a very ordinary looking hallway. There wasn't even slime on the wall. Living quarters. It sounded kinda nice. I mean, everything about this hall felt like Motel 6 quality, but hey, I'd slept in worse.     Francine stopped halfway down and opened a door leading to, of all things, an honest to god dungeon. Like, the kind you see in movies. Stone walls, moss, and the dripping of leaking water coming from somewhere. There were even shackles. A window with iron bars was a good ten feet up, letting in moonlight. It was the only light.
       “What gives, man!? I thought you wanted me to work for you or something!”
       “I do.”
       “Then you should be giving me better living conditions don't you think!?”
       “I heard this is what human servants live in. We just had it redecorated.”
       “Redecorated?” Just who was he taking interior design advice from? “Maybe a few hundred years ago or something! But now we get nice rooms. Blankets even!”
       “Oh,” Francine said in his deep voice as he adjusted his monocle, “Well. It would be too expensive to change now. Rest up. I have a job for you to do in a few hours. It's really too bad you trusted Ringo.”
       “Yeah, I'm beginning to see that.”
       “No, you don't.”
      After that enlightening conversation Francine and Grug shoved me in and slammed the door. I was alone. Well, not completely alone. I found a squashed bug the size of my hand stuck on a stone next to the door. One of its legs twitched.
       “I'll name you Frank.”
       Frank's other leg twitched a hello. I spent the first hour replaying the past events in my head, trying to see where I had gone wrong. I mean, I could blamed it all on Ringo, but I guess it was my fault for just saying yes to everything. So I couldn't really blame him. Plus, I've always had the unfortunate habit of not thinking things through. Dad said I got it from mom and that's why she'd left us all one day when I was 10. She hadn't thought the whole 'raising kids' thing through. I don't blame her though.
       Mainly my thoughts just kept coming back to me dying. If only I hadn't died. If only I remembered how I'd died. If I hadn't died I wouldn't have said yes to Ringo. If I hadn't died I could have lived longer and matured more. Well. Probably. I like to think I mostly had my shit together. I mean, I wasn't sobbing on the floor, now was I?
       Getting bored I realized that I wasn't hungry or thirsty. I wasn't even craving my favorite burger. Which then begged the question: what do souls eat? Do souls eat? When I consulted the manual it didn't say anything. But really, so far it hadn't even told me how to contact my guide, so why would it tell me what souls ate? Or if they did. I angled my head up to the window. I could see a bright pink fragment of what I realized was part of the broken moon.
Pulling out my pamphlet I wondered if it would tell me more about Dregen. It did. In a section I missed reading it informed me:

Due to its extremely fortuitous location of being in the center of the 8th ring, Dregen is also famous for its rather larger and extremely popular black market. The largest in 100 glicks. The market closes for Bank Holidays.

       Great. Not only was Dregen dangerous for humans and won Prettiest City seven years in a row, it also had the largest black market for 100 glicks. Whatever a glick was.
       So here's where I am. Stuck with a pamphlet that doesn't tell me how to get help, and probably about to get my organs harvested. If I had organs. I'm still not sure how the whole 'soul' thing works. I felt my atoms buzz a little and pushed the thoughts of my body away. That was a bad idea. I had to stop thinking about my body.
       “Hey kid, you ready?”
       I'd been staring up at the moon fragment when Grug's scratchy voice cut through the silence. And the boredom. I scrambled up. I was almost happy to see Grug's wrinkly, leathery face. Almost. He opened the wooden door wider and I could see his fat legs spread wide. Fuzzy black feathers floated to the floor behind him from his back. Like the kind you find on feather boas. I frowned.
       “Ready for what?”
       “Francine's gotta job for you.”
       Well, it was better than being stuck in a dungeon. I just hope it didn't mean I had to kill someone. I'd never killed some one and I kinda want to keep that track record up, you know? Grug led me through a new hallway that looked like it was designed by an artist with too much time on their hands and no sense of depth perception. The walls heaved back and forth, twisted in others, and had small staircases running along them that led to nowhere. Francine had a really weird house. Or office. Or whatever.
       “What's the job?” Grug gave a grunt and I saw a thick drop of salivia leave the corner of his lip. Ew.
       “You're transportin'.”
       “Transporting what?”
       “Nuthin' you need to worry 'bout.”
       “Shouldn't I though? I mean, I'm not even from here.”
       “Just shut it. Francine'll explain everything to you.”
       The conversation wasn't going well. Usually I was really good at making friends with people. Although Grug didn't count as a person. But if I thought about it that way, did it make me a racist? An alien racist? A dead racist? I didn't want to be any of those. While I was trying to figure out if Grug counted as a person or not he led me out a metal door and into an ally. Francine was waiting for us, and his top hat was back on.
       “This is for you.” Was all Francine said, and held up a baseball sized purple diamond. At least it looked like one. He had to hold it with two hands. “This is a very expensive, very valuable item. You need to deliver it to Simon.”
       “And how am I going to find Simon? And why not just have Grug do this? I don't even know me. Or if you should trust me. What if I run away, huh?”
       Francine smiled his really creepy, snaggle toothed smile. His monocle gleamed as a red light lazed past us.
       “Grug will give you directions. And he can't go because he can't hide this item like you can. He's not on the right frequency. And I know you won't run away 3rd dimensional.”
       Without warning Francine suddenly plunged the purple rock into my chest. Have you ever been playing a video game and your character glitches and becomes all pixely and spiky? That's what happened to me, and let me tell you, it's the most painful feeling you've ever felt. Like, worse than getting kicked in the chest by a horse.
       For a moment I thought I was going to Tear. But then I felt my atoms hover around the purple object and hold it. Like it was a freaking egg or something. Francine's smile was so big I could see every single tooth he owned.
       “If you try to get this out without Simon you'll Tear. And if you don't come back in three hours I'll make you wish you could Tear. Grug, give him the paper.”
       Grug handed me a small piece of paper, looking at me with something like....horror? Fear? Francine's tail slapped the ground and then curled up, resting neatly over the crook of his pin-stripped suit arm.
       “When you exit this alleyway go left then follow the instructions. Three hours Benny.”
       As one the two foot rat Francine and the seven foot Grug departed through the door we'd come from. I looked down at the paper. The hand writing was tiny and I had to hold it up close to even read the words. They were directions. I looked back at the door. There wasn't much more I could do than follow Francine's orders. I don't know what was worse than Tearing, but I didn't want to find out.
       By following the instructions I found myself out of the shady, green oozed puddled alleyway, and into a busy maze of outdoor stalls. All of them had white canvases as roofs, and hundreds of white and blue orbs hovered above, making everything feel like it was a twisted version of an underwater floorbed. There were people—well, 'people—screaming out things in languages I didn't understand. I checked my paper again. I had to go down to the end of the row I was in front of, and I would have, if a hand hadn't grabbed my shoulder.
       “Hey oh hey Benny! There you are!”
       “Well who else huh!? C'mon kid, we gotta dash!”
       Ringo was already leading me away from my goal. I recalled Francine's ugly smile and Grug's big feet. I tried to stop, but Ringo kept pulling. He was stronger than he looked.
       “Ringo I'm doing a job for Francine. He'll kill me! Or....or something.”
       “Never mind him Benny kid! He can't touch you once we get outta here, and you won't be coming back. He can't do anything. Besides, I'm here to rescue you! Did you think I'd really give you up!?”
       “I'm hurt Benny! You're my partner! And you're not like Tayla. So of course I'd come back. Now, hold on, this is gonna hurt a little more than the first Beat we got.”
       Ringo had led me through a bunch of narrow, twisting alleys that I couldn't keep track of and then stopped at what appeared to be a dead end. From the pocked of his leather jacket he took out what seemed to be a mechanical pencil and walked up to the wall. Starting from the bottom he drew a large square then did a little dancing tap back to me.
       “Okay Benny, just hold my hand and don't let go.”
       “So you don't get lost in the 20th dimension of course! Ready?”
       “That's good enough!”
       Grabbing my hand he rushed at the wall and I saw it ripple. Like if you threw a stone in a pond, and then we jumped through it. All I heard was screaming winds. I had to close my eyes against the pressure and I kept my hand gripped tight on Ringo's. It was weird though. I could feel his hand change in mine. At first it felt like it'd turned into a lobster claw, then a pillow, then slimy, then...I don't even know what.
       Ringo wasn't kidding though. It hurt. Inside my body I could feel the diamond rattle around. I hoped it didn't fall out or hit a vital organ. Like my kidney or something. And then it was done. Ringo's long blond hair was wild and he'd lost his glittery sunglasses. We were standing on a white sand beach with a lime colored ocean and a neon orange sky. What was it with the afterlife and lime green? Ringo was kicking off his shoes and grinning.
       “Where are we now?”
       “The second stop on our secret mission!”
       “Which is....?”
       “Excuse me? Heaven? what people on Earth call heaven?”
       “You bet! We're on the 2nd ring on the southwest side. Swanky right?”
       “Hey oh hey Benny, pick up the pace, we have a meeting to go to!”
       I trudged after Ringo, taking in the empty beach and gently foaming lime green waves. Why was heaven so empty? Hell, why was heaven so.....bright? Oh shit, was I allowed to curse in heaven?
       “Who are we meeting?” I really had to start asking more questions. “An angel?”
       “An angel? Those feather brains? No. We're meeting up with an old friend of mine.”
       “And whose that?”
       “Lucifer. You'll love him! s really relaxed you know? He makes great margaritas too!”
       What. The. Hell? I looked back, and couldn't see any doorway that we'd come out of. Or that I could go back through. I'd rather be with Francine and the black market. I'd rather be with my smushed bug friend, Frank. Hell, I'd rather be with my Guide Frank.
       “When I find that cat I'm going with her.”
       “What's that?”
       “Don't mumble under your breath Benny.” Ringo turned to face me, his wide green eyes dangerous. 
       “Lucifer hates people who mumble.”

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