Into Hell

Into Hell

A Story by Aurafiex
"

A murder victim awakens to the fate that awaits her. A story set in the City of Midnight.

"

I.

I awoke with a massive headache, sitting on a small wooden boat that made soft creaking noises as it traversed its path towards a destination unknown. It was a boat sailing upon a river, a river with water that was pitch black like the night sky overhead. Were it not for the eerie red glow of the floating lanterns upon its ichor-like surface and the gentle swaying of the rickety contraption I sat upon precariously, it would have seemed like I was amidst an endless void in a world of darkness. My blouse and skirt reeked of dried blood, and there was a sharp pain that wracked my chest constantly as I drew in the faint scent of incense into my lungs with every breath of foul air. The urge to scream welled up strongly within me, but my throat found nothing to convey my fear, as if resigned to whatever fate awaited me.

 

Steering the boat was a girl that appeared a few years my junior. Standing at the front of the boat, she appeared unshaken, barely fazed by the darkness she was navigating us through as if it was all part of a routine. Dressed in a black kimono streaked with flower patterns that were crimson like the colour of blood, she cut a menacing figure in the darkness, further accentuated from the eerie red glow surrounding the river. Her back was turned from me, looking ahead as she navigated the dark waters with a long paddle that seemed twice her height that she, or even I, should have been barely capable of wielding, let alone use with such skill.

 

I watched her silently for a few moments, trying to make sense of the situation I was in. My last memory was that of having supper at Mikasaki’s Burgers, fiddling with my phone as I sipped on a strawberry milkshake. It was then and there, for less than split second as I drank my milkshake, that I felt a change in the wind as my breath gave way to darkness. The world around me faded to black, as if I was being whisked away. But what really got my attention was her, the same girl that now steered the boat I was now a passenger of. For the briefest moment then when I closed my eyes, I caught a glimpse of her with a frightening clarity as she stared down upon me passionlessly with soulless, red eyes, as if in preparation to take my soul.

 

“Where am I?” I found myself demanding of her after mustering the courage to speak, shouting despite the anxiety of my new surroundings.

 

“Hell,” she replied after what seemed to be an eternity of awkward silence. “Not yet,” she continued, correcting herself soon after. “Soon.”

 

“W-what?” I exclaimed, only to be met with dead silence once more as once more, she focused entirely on paddling. I slapped myself as hard as I could. Nothing changed. I was still here with her, on this boat, to a destination unknown. One moment I was having supper, and now this? The thought of it was utterly crazy, almost unbelievable.

 

As we sailed in silence once more I stared at the brackish waters, watching the fiendish red lanterns upon its surface in both fear and awe. And as I watched them float silently in the darkness, my thoughts wandered to my dad. I wondered if he knew what was happening to me right now, as insane as it all was. Perhaps he would just think that I had gone missing, kidnapped, maybe. But there was no way he would ever believe this, assuming I could even snap out of this craziness and go home, like it was all a mere nightmare from falling asleep at the burger bar. I had promised them that I would be back by ten, and I even promised my dad a chocolate milkshake. Now, I was not even sure if I could get home. If only dad was here with me. Perhaps he would know what to do. He usually does, as crazy as it is. I wondered if he would come looking for me if he knew what was happening. I wish he would. I really do, even if in my heart of hearts, I could not say the same.

 

“Don’t,” a voice rang out into the darkness, seemingly addressed towards me from the girl in the black kimono. I looked away from the brackish river and looked at her. She was still facing away from me, looking onward, still paddling. “Lost forever,” she added with a swish of her kimono’s sleeve, pointing a pale finger towards the brackish water all around us, “You’ll be.”

 

I gripped the edges of the boat as tightly as I could, fearing for my life, if life was even a thing here. I closed my eyes and felt its rough, weather-beaten surface upon my palms as I tried to attune my thoughts with the gentle sway of the boat as we sailed onward towards our destination. It was strange, how doing that gave me such comfort, despite everything else.

 

II.

How long has it been? An hour? Many hours, maybe days? Weeks? I do not know. It feels like an eternity. Many eternities, if that is even possible. Time, I discovered, much to my chagrin, made no sense whatsoever in this realm. But one thing was for sure- the scent of incense was getting stronger with every waking moment, to the point that I could see it manifest in the form of a that smothered the darkness in ghastly grey smoke that appeared to be coming from somewhere, that somewhere most likely being my destination.

 

But after what seemed to be an eternity of sailing on the dark, endless expanse of Hell, I caught sight of a massive torii that stood out in the darkness like a scarlet beacon, illuminated from all sides by a cluster of those fiendish red lantern lights that I had come to both adore for their light and dread for the seemingly endless path they lit. The torii was the kind you would see at those old temples run by shrine maidens and holy men and perhaps this one also led to something similar. 

 

Come to think of it, we used to visit a shrine with a gate much like this with my mom and dad. The name of the shrine escapes me, having never been there in years, but we used to go there when I was still in elementary school. We, or should I say, my mother, would pray every year until one day, when I was about to begin middle school, she left us without a word. We stopped going after that.

 

The boat began to slow down as we approached what appeared to be the end of the line, for red lanterns that once lighted our path in a straight line were now clustered all around a stone platform of sorts where wooden boats, much like the one we were on, were docked, floating in the dark waters as though forsaken and without purpose.

 

Upon reaching this stone platform did our voyage finally come to an end. I watched quietly with bated breath as she squatted to moor the boat, wondering what awaited me ashore. With seemingly little effort, the girl in the black kimono stepped off the boat and onto the stone platform. Turning to face me, she extended a pale, bony hand to help me off the boat. Grasping it with one had with the other clutching the side of my chest, I nearly fell into the brackish waters, taken aback at the frigidity of her grasp, were it not for her iron grip keeping me. It felt was as if a chunk of ice was suddenly thrust into my palms, and even after I got onto the stone platform and released myself from her grip, my right hand was still shaking uncontrollably.

 

“Go there,” the girl in the black kimono said to me, a bony finger pointing towards where the incense was coming from. I wanted to protest, but some unknown force within me was compelling to obey and without even realizing it, my feet were slowing shuffling me towards her dictated direction, as if a part of me was no longer my own. Without looking back, I ventured forth towards my new destination. It was just as well anyway- that girl was really creeping me out.

 

Compared to that ordeal of a boat ride, the walk was so much shorter and for that alone, it felt so much better even if it meant having to limp every step of the way while carefully clutching my chest to deal with the pain that wracked my every breath and step. Eventually, perhaps by sheer desperation or perseverance, I made my way to my destination where a small, red-roofed shrine stood before me, wreathed in a seemingly impenetrable cloak of incense smoke. I held my breath as I limped through the thick wall of smoke. Despite my best efforts to hold my breath, I was coughing violently at the end of it, collapsing onto the floor like a ragdoll as my chest tore me asunder, so much so that it felt like my soul was going to cough itself out of my flesh.

 

It was then, as I lay crumpled upon the stone floor, that I saw a smiling old man hunched over me with his hand reaching out to me. Taking his wrinkled warmth into mine, I was pulled up with an unnaturally strong, yet gentle grip.

 

“Ah, another one, I see,” he said as he helped me up. “Welcome, Kurosaki Aya, o’ pitiful shadow, bound in sinful karma. I hope Styx didn’t scare you too much on the way here. She takes this thing way too seriously if you ask me.”

 

“Where am I? And how do you know my name?” I asked, looking the old man in the eye the best I could. Standing face to face with him now, he was nothing unlike the girl in the black kimono I had spent a seemingly eternity’s worth of voyage. Dressed in a brown haori with a cloth cap resting on his bald head, he was nothing like the ghoulish figure that Styx was. His skin was tanned and weather-beaten, and he was all smiles despite the gloom.

 

“I’ve been expecting you. Come, follow me,” he said, disregarding my confusion with a wave of his hand as he began walking towards the shrine, towards the source of the fog. “All will be revealed, in time, little Aya.”

 

“Just who exactly are you?” I shouted as I tried to keep pace with him, “Are you the devil?”

 

“No,” he replied flatly, turning to face me. “She’s been dead for a long time. You can call me Mara, or grandpa. Doesn’t matter, really.”

 

I followed Mara along the stone path, trying my best to keep up with his surprisingly quick steps. As I struggled to limp alongside his increasingly quick stride, I could not help but notice that all around the stone walkway was a rather well-kept garden with flower bushes and trees that one would see in any temple. Were it not for the gloom, I dare say it would have been a very beautiful place to hang around.

 

The red door of the temple opened with a creaking that betrayed its age despite the old man’s best efforts at maintenance. Watching him take off his shoes, I quickly did so as well, doing my best to keep up with his rapid movements as we transitioned from the cold stone path to what appeared to be a prayer hall of sorts.

 

“Tell me, Aya, do you know why you’re here?” Mara asked.

 

“Not really…” I replied. Truth be told, despite everything, I had no idea why I was even here, in this weird place, sailing on that hellish boat, meeting these strange people. It was almost like something out of a nightmare, the unreality to what was reality to me. “I just want to go home.”

 

“I see,” Mara remarked dryly. “Come,” he commanded, leading me by the hand as we walked deeper into the prayer hall, which turned out to be much larger than I had expected based on its dingy, tiny exterior. Looking around with each step, I noticed that it was completely dark save for the large number of meticulously arranged wax candles that burned like beacons of light in the absolute dark, lighting the way forward and revealing the temple’s interior in a dim light that made everything around me give off a blurry vibe as they faded in and out of sight, flickering constantly between light and darkness. It was as if the world around me was constantly shifting between existence and non-existence. There were a great many things that piqued my interest, though I dared not move from where I was standing, given the uncertainty of my surroundings and circumstances ever since awakening in this hellish world.

 

There were many things to behold, but what truly captured my attention in this temple grew clearer and clearer as its frame of polished gold shone and flickered in the light of the candles’ flame against the darkness. At a size almost double, possibly triple of mine to the point that it towered over my frame all the way up to the ceiling, it was a golden statue of a creature that, despite its humanoid and feminine appearance, was indescribably monstrous, yet glowered over me with an unfathomable alien beauty. Words fail to describe its form, but it struck me as something of an amalgamation between a mermaid, a spider and a young woman, likely only a few years older than I. Before its golden magnificence was a massive pot of comparatively dull brass filled with burning joss sticks, each one standing as if to placate the monster while acting as the source of the fog outside as the streaks of grey emerged from its metallic frame, filling the temple and flowing out of the door.

 

“Come, closer, o’ pitiful shadow, bound in darkness,” the old man said, encouraging me forward towards the horrifyingly beautiful idol. “Breathe deeply of her deathly incense and remember who you once were, Aya Kurosaki.”

 

“Amon…”

 

It was a name that made no sense to me, a word unfathomable and yet at this very moment it rolled off my tongue like it was a name I had known all my life.

 

Beholding her alien and lustrous splendor, I could not help but prostrate myself before her shimmering frame, kowtowing to beg for salvation. And my prayers were answered, it seemed, for I felt the irresistible urge to draw closer towards the brass pot. I closed my eyes, and at her behest, I breathed deeply and partook of its fumes, those same fumes I had once so desperately tried to avoid breathing. Embracing them at long last, I filled my lungs and every fiber of my being to the brim. The pain that enveloped my chest was smothered entirely by the sensory overload taking place in my brain and soon, I collapsed onto the floor, smiling as everything faded to black. I should have been afraid, but a part of me knew that all this was happening for a reason.

 

III.

“What took you so long? You retarded or something?” Ai sneered, smiling wickedly at the sweat-drenched mess that was Mayumi, whose hands trembled anticipation as she held three paper cups filled with our beverages precariously with her hands, as if expecting a beating at any moment.

 

“Hey, lay off, she’s had enough,” Sayaka said, a look of annoyance on her face towards Ai. “And besides,” she added, turning to me with half a grin on her face, “She’s way faster compared to last time, ain’t she, Aya?”

“Perhaps, you’ve been a pretty good girl, Mayumi,” I said, snatching my drink out of Mayumi’s trembling hands, eyeing her with mild amusement. After all, no one would come to her aid in the darkness that was the back of the school building. “By the way…”

 

“Mayumi, are you stupid?”

I was cut off mid-sentence as Ai rushed towards Mayumi, pinning her against the grey wall of the school building as her cup fell to the floor, its orange contents spilling all over the concrete and the grass. Apparently, from the way she was shouting, she was angry that her drink was not the soda she had asked for. It was a stupid reason, possibly not even one at all. If anything, she simply wanted an excuse to hit her.

 

“Don’t do this! You’re gonna hurt her real bad!” Sayaka said, her hand on Ai’s shoulder in a bid to get her to back off from Mayumi, whose crumpled form watched me in abject terror.

 

“I know that, damn you! Its just that this stupid w***e keeps messing with me! I told her so many times that I want a soda and she keeps getting me orange juice! She’s probably aware and wants to piss me off!”

 

“Damn it, Ai, stop it, stop this right now! Stop, or I’ll tell Mishimoto-sensei about this!” Sayaka shouted. “Come on, Aya, don’t just gawk, damn it!”

 

They were looking at me, all three sets of their eyes, each expecting something different from me. Watching, waiting and judging me for my actions to come, or lack thereof.

 

“That’s enough, Ai. If you hurt her she won’t be able to pay up!” I stated matter-of-factly, placing my hand firmly on her shoulder. It was a middle ground that I hoped would appeal to the two of them. It was difficult at times, choosing between Ai and Sayaka. But thankfully that convinced her to back off. Cursing silently under her breath, she shoved Mayumi aside like a ragdoll before taking a few steps back.

 

“Th… thank you, Aya… I ah…” Mayumi stuttered, clutching her arms close to her chest as she regained her footing.

 

“Anyway, as I was saying, downtown, 9pm, tonight. You better show up with the money.” I said, placing my arms on her shoulders as I squeezed them tightly while I drew her face closer to mine, smiling as I took in her fearful expression with my eyes.

 

“Yes… of course…”

 

From the look on her face it may have very well been that she was staring down death itself. Laughing, I could not help but smile at the terror I was able to inspire within her with just a smile and a few words. “We’ll have some fun together, the four of us.” I added as I released my grip on her shoulders, allowing her to scurry off like a terrified mouse.

 

“You’re not gonna hurt her then, right?” Sayaka asked.

 

“Maybe, maybe not…” Ai sneered, leaning against the wall, arms crossed as she eyed Sayaka with a look that betrayed her disdain at the latter.

 

I sipped my drink in quiet contemplation as the two of them argued for the rest of recess. It was strange, to be honest, to even consider that back in elementary school, at what seemed to be a much different life, they were the best of friends. Things were so much simpler back then, we never fought or argued, and never was I ever forced to choose between the two of them until we met Mayumi. Looking back, it started out simple enough. Requests to buy drinks from the vending machine during recess, followed soon after by requests to copy her assignments and homework. Eventually, she even agreed to fork over some money every week. It started out small, but we were now living well thanks to her, for on top of what we got as allowance from our parents, we had an on-demand piggy bank that squealed money at our behest. It was never a question about how Mayumi could get so much money, but she had her ways, even if those ways would hurt her. But it did not matter so long as she paid up, even she became thinner with every passing day with bruises on her arms. One time, she even came to school with a black eye. She spoke little to begin with, and eventually, everyone was afraid of talking to her. They said she was a thief and a liar and that she smelled bad and was ugly and it seemed like everyone, even her parents, thought so. The teachers tried to help initially but gave up when she never squealed, for she seemed to fear us more than death itself.

 

The money was really good. Ai liked the extra money a lot, being once unable to even afford lunch every day without borrowing money from us to coming to school wearing all manner of branded goods like she was a walking mannequin at one of those fancy boutiques she could only look by from the windows with great jealousy. Sayaka on the other hand refused it all on principle, saying that she’d rather starve than eat poisoned cake, whatever that meant. And as for me, I once enjoyed the money as Ai did, but now, it no longer felt as good as it once did. One time, I remember shopping with Ai with our weekly windfall and I left the mall with nothing in hand. It just did not feel right, as crazy as it sounds. Since that day, I took to saving it instead, to buy dad a new refrigerator. The one we had was, after all, always breaking down to the point that it might as well be a shelf instead.

 

Mayumi was loaded, it seemed, or at least she had some way of getting those obscene sums of money we demanded of her. She had to, considering that the one time she did not, Ai made it such that she had to come to school on crutches for an entire month. She told everyone, even the teachers, with a sheepish, fearful smile, that she had fallen down the stairs. Ever since then, she paid up on time, keeping up with our requests, no matter how obscene.

 

Sayaka was against it on principle, and she tried to convince me so, much to the endless chagrin of Ai, of what she saw as weakness. Sayaka would have told the teachers, but a part of her held back, a part of her consisting of equal parts naiveté and insanity, for I knew that she held a glimmer of hope within her that one day, she could convince us to be like we once were. I considered her words seriously, but Ai seemed to relish every second of it as she pushed someone weaker around, finding triumph in taking what she wanted from someone who could barely defend herself. And truth be told, I too, felt that same relish whenever we pushed her around. It felt good to be powerful, even if being powerful meant being awful to someone who did not deserve it. And it was for that reason that Sayaka’s words struck a chord in me, and why, despite all my greed and desire, I tried to hold Ai back when she, as what Sayaka would say, was going too far.

 

Were we truly going too far? I would give a thousand justifications, as Ai would. But in my heart of hearts, I was not too sure.

 

IV.

We met later that night, at Mikasaki’s Burgers. Ai had yet to arrive, having texted us that she would be late. Without her, it was almost like the three of us were friends, simply hanging out, enjoying a meal together as friends would. And when that came to mind as I bit into my double cheeseburger, I could not help but wonder if t was right to feel that way.

 

“Woah, slow down!” Sayaka teased, smiling at Mayumi as the latter wolfed down two cheeseburgers right before our very eyes. “You’ll choke if you keep on like this!”

 

Sayaka had bought Mayumi a meal despite my reluctance to do so. Two, actually, as well as some of her french fries. It was the right thing to do, she argued, after Mayumi had refused to order anything when Sayaka collected our orders, saying that she had no money for food. A part of me wanted to say no, but another part of me kept that part of me quiet as I found myself ordering a large chocolate sundae for the three of us to share.

 

Eventually, however, like the advent of reality, Ai showed up, swaggering up to our table in a plated miniskirt, tight-fitting blouse and high heels as we ate the chocolate sundae I had ordered.

 

“You eat like a pig, Mayumi!” Ai sneered as she took a seat beside me, spoon in hand as she helped herself to the sundae. The moment this happened, Mayumi froze up, watching me in fear, as if hoping I would do something. What that something was, unfortunately, was unclear to me.

 

“Fancy that you’d say that, Ai!” Sayaka retorted as she observed our silence to Ai’s arrival. “I mean, that tight fitting blouse isn’t doing your belly any favours!”

 

“Oh, Sayaka, I didn’t know you liked pigs like Mayumi so much!”

 

“It’s also why I hang out with you, Ai.”

 

“Why, you…”

 

“Okay, cut it out, you two!” I said, waving my non-spoon holding hand to punctuate my point. “Now that we’re all here, Mayumi?” I said, turning to Mayumi, who was still crestfallen, stretching my hand towards her. She eyed me for a brief second, unsure of what to say or do, until she realized what I meant. Digging frantically into her bag, she pulled out a white envelope and passed it to me with both hands.

 

“Thank you, Mayumi.” I said, ignoring Ai’s grin and Sayaka’s scowl as I opened the envelope to count the money stuffed within it.

 

“I… ah… I’m sorry, Aya. Its all I can scrape together on such a short notice… I’ll get you the rest next Monday, I… I promise!” Mayumi spluttered as she watched me count the bills within one after another.

 

“Hmph,” Ai sneered, “Worthless, like usual. Not that you didn’t know that a long time ago.”

 

“Hey, money’s money. Isn’t that all you care about, Ai?” Sayaka replied curtly, an edge of disgust towards me and Ai in her words.

 

“So, ah… can I go now?” Mayumi whimpered, watching me with pleading eyes.

 

“No, we’re not done here. Follow me.”

 

Gripping her by the arm, we left the burger bar and walked for a few minutes amidst the crowded nightlife until we reached a dark alley. There, Ai explained to her what she had to do, and as she did it, I noticed her smile with great relish as the expression on Mayumi’s face soured into a deep frown.

 

“Are… ah… are you sure about this?”

 

“Yes,” Ai commanded, smiling wickedly. “Go out there and find a guy. Any guy, so as long as he goes on a date with you. Make sure he pays.”

 

“I can’t do this…” Mayumi whimpered once again, like she always did.

“True, you might not be good enough. But these pigs don’t have very high standards!” Ai laughed. “Right, Aya?” She added, nudging me with her elbow. I was about to reply, but I saw the anger in Sayaka’s eyes and I kept my mouth shut.

 

“You don’t have to.” Sayaka interjected, glaring at the both of us as she offered her hand to Mayumi. “Come on, Mayumi, follow me. We don’t need to be a part of this madness.”

 

“I’ll beat you if you listen to that dumb w***e!” Ai warned, raising a fist towards Mayumi.

 

“Don’t listen to her! Aya? Don’t just stand silently! Don’t let Ai have her way with this! She’s crazy, and you know it!” Sayaka shouted at me, almost pleading, hoping that I would take her side. And I really wanted to, but at that very moment, I felt completely powerless, almost like Mayumi, as she stared at me in desperation.

 

“...” Their eyes were all upon me, expecting me to say something in their favor. But when that time came, I could do naught but stand there, deathly silent, as though I was but a ghost observing everything fall apart.

 

“There,” Ai declared as they beheld my silence. “Aya’s with me on this one, Sayaka.” Turning to Mayumi, she pushed her forward towards the glaring lights of the crowded. “Just do it, god damn you!”

 

“I…” Mayumi stuttered disappointedly, now looking fearfully at the two options before her. And it was then that she caved. No offer of safety that Sayaka could promise was good enough, it seemed.

 

“Mayumi…” Sayaka uttered. She would never admit it, but even in my despondence I could sense the defeat in her voice.

 

“I’m sorry, Sayaka…” she croaked as she wandered out onto the busy street, as Ai had commanded. Finally beaten, Sayaka stormed off into the dark alley, cursing under her breath, seemingly equal parts furious and disappointed.

 

Wandering onto the street, Mayumi stood there in a daze, seemingly mortified as the noise and crowds threatened to consume her in a tidal wave of human traffic. It was then, as I stood with Ai, watching from the darkness, that she bumped into a man that appeared in his mid-thirties or so. It was too noisy, and we could barely make out what they were saying in the crowded pavement, but we could see their lips moving in conversation. He said something to her, and she said something, but then she screamed and took to the alley where we waited when he tried to embrace her.

 

“I… I can’t do this, Aya, Ai, I’m so sorry! I’ll do anything else, I swear!” Mayumi shrieked, panting as if she had seen a ghost.

 

“It’s alright,” Ai, sneered. “Didn’t think you had it in you. Not that it matters,” she laughed, shoving her phone in front of Mayumi’s face. “Twenty thousand yen, next Monday. Or I’ll send this to the teachers and your parents. They’ll know how much of w***e you truly are!”

 

Looking at Ai’s phone, it was a picture so expertly taken at the right moment where the man had drawn Mayumi in for a hug, taken right before she had fled in utter terror, so much so that it made it seem like she was embracing him like they were lovers. They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and at that moment it seemed to be so, for what it had to say left Mayumi in tears as we left her in that dark alley, alone and broken.

 

I did not hear from Mayumi for the rest of the week. She had taken ill, the teachers said and as a result she was apparently resting at home. It was not until after school on Monday when I received a message from her, telling me that she had the twenty-thousand yen ready. She owed us only half, of course, but that little persuasion had gone a long way to doubling that amount.

 

“I can’t believe you’re doing this. This is low, even for you.” Sayaka remarked as Ai showed her the photographs she had taken the previous week while we waited for Mayumi. “If you had even a shred of conscience left, you’d delete those photos right now.”

 

“Oh, and how will I convince her to pay up on time? By saying please and thank you?” Ai sneered in reply.

 

“Well, maybe you can try being a decent human being for once, and stop pushing her for money?” Sayaka shouted, banging her fist on the table so loudly that for a moment, everyone in the bar turned to look at us. “I’ve had enough of this. I’m disappointed with the both of you, especially you, Aya. I thought you were better than this.”

 

“Guess you were wrong, huh?” Ai retorted, smiling triumphantly in the face of Sayaka’s anger. “You’re a coward, just like Mayumi. Why else did you leave her like that back there?”

 

“I guess you’re right…” Sayaka remarked, staring at the window, as she averted Ai’s gaze, seemingly defeated in spirit. “I am a coward. But not anymore. I’m going to tell the principal about this. I was a fool to truly think that the two of you would stop someday, and that by hanging around I’d be able to keep things in check.  No longer, Ai.” And with that, she stormed out of the burger bar.

 

“Wait!”

 

Before I could say anything, Ai had rushed out of the door as well, following in her wake as she tried to reason with Sayaka, for whatever good that could possibly do now, given how things had turned out. As for me, I was all alone now, waiting for Mayumi to show up as she had promised.

 

I looked at my phone. It was five minutes past ten now and Mayumi had yet to arrive. It was unlike her to be late, considering what had happened the last time she was. Even now, if you look close enough, you could still see that line slanted across her left cheek even though it was months ago.

 

And it was then, as I fiddled with my phone, surfing the internet as I sipped on a strawberry milkshake, that I felt something sharp and painful in chest. Turning around in shock and horror, I saw Mayumi smiling for the first time in what seemed to be forever, hopped up on malignant courage. Looking at her, I wondered why. And for the briefest, most terrifying moment then, I saw the dull, bloody glimmer of her courage as she plunged it right into my chest once more, over and over, as if stuck in an endless loop, laughing with each strike as if she was trapped in a mad rhythm. I wanted to do something, anything but I was too slow. I fell to the floor, clutching my chest as I gasped desperately for air while the pain tore me asunder. People all around me were screaming and shouting, but their words were but loud, unintelligible cries as I lay on the floor, broken and bleeding.

 

In my last waking moments, I saw Mayumi to be no different from me as she lost grip of her newfound courage, as it clanged uselessly onto the floor, far from her reach as people rushed in to restrain her. And at that very moment, we were both frozen in terror, afraid of what was done and what was to come.

 

V.

The sharpness of the blow and the many that came after jolted me from my incense-induced trance. I awoke once more to find myself kowtowing with my head bent towards the floor as if in deep prayer. Before me stood Mara and the statue of the dread god whose fumes brought remembrance, the former smiling while the latter glowered at me with alien, seemingly divine indifference.

 

Taking Mara’s hand into mine once more, I got back up on my feet, groaning in pain as the pain returned to my chest once more. We stood in silence for what seemed to be an eternity, my eyes on his as he smiled, as if waiting patiently for me to say something.

 

“So, I’m…” I stuttered, trying my best despite the wetness in my eyes. “I’m…”

 

“Yes.”

 

“But why?” I asked, sobbing despite my best efforts at controlling my composure. “Why me?”

 

“Who knows?” Mara remarked dryly, an eyebrow raised at me. “Everybody has to die sometime, so why not now?”

 

“I…”

 

I wanted to say something, anything, but everything that came out of my mouth was incoherent sobbing as Mara held me in his arms for what seemed to be an eternity. And after what seemed to be just that, when my eyes were red and raw and could cry no more did he finally let go.

 

“Don’t worry, little pitiful shadow. There’s a way to make things right, to be good again. To go home.” Mara said, squeezing my shoulders as he smiled at me, urging me to smile with his own until I found myself smiling weakly in the face of his.

 

“How?”

 

“Well, you can go home, but not quite.” Mara said, correcting himself, his brow furrowing as he watched my hope turn to a sliver of disappointment. “Let’s just say that you’ll be someone else… someone different.”

 

“What do you mean?” I asked, puzzled at his words.

 

“Reincarnation,” he replied before handing me a large white candle whose flame flickered strong in the darkness. It was unlike the others that burned in this hall, for as I watched it burn, its flame danced strongly and never wavered. “Take this and hold on to it. Don’t drop it for any reason, or you’ll be lost forever on the old road.”

 

I took the burning candle from him without a second thought, as if compelled by some kind of primal instinct to do so. It was a large candle, the size of a beer bottle and it fit nicely into what appeared to be a candle holder made of dull brass, of which I held on to with my right hand. Upon the sides of the candle I could see the words “Aya Kurosaki” carved upon its wax surface, as if the thing was specially made for me.

 

“You’re awfully young to be here, little Aya, but you’ll be strong, and you’ll make it through the old road.” Mara said as he led me out of the temple. “And perhaps there, you’ll find your redemption. Come, I’ll walk with you to the entrance.”

 

After a short while, we reached a red bridge that led to what appeared to be the beginning of absolute, unfathomable darkness. But despite the seemingly endlessness of what lay before me, I could not help but notice a faint glimmer of salvation, lying just beyond my reach as it flashed for the briefest of moments as a sliver of hope, beckoning me to cross the bridge in pursuit of it.

 

“Thank you, Mara, for everything,” I said, holding the candle as I prepared to take my first step onto the red bridge, towards what he called the “Old Road”. “But tell me something first.”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Will… will I see her again there? Or along the way, or maybe at the end?” I asked. Truth be told, I was not sure why I asked. But I did.

 

“Yes,” Mara stated, “You will, for your fates are bound together in the afterlife. By condemning you here, she too has condemned herself.”

 

“I see. You know, it may sound strange, but I want to see her again. For better or worse, I just want to. I want to make things right again.” I said as I turned to face the darkness that lay ahead.

 

“Listen to your heart, little lost shadow, and I believe you’ll do what is right.” Mara said, raising a hand to wave farewell.

 

“Goodbye, Mara.” I waved. “And thank you, for everything.”

 

With my candle in hand, I turned to the darkness, following the sliver of salvation that lay within my heart. But with each step towards my ultimate destination my every thought wandered back to Mayumi. She was not here right now, but she would join me eventually, and our reunion would be inevitable. It was not a question of how but when and in my heart of hearts I wondered if I would greet her as Sayaka or Ai would have wanted when the time came to say hello once more.  I could not help but wonder if Sayaka went ahead with her threat, or if this changed her mind towards Mayumi’s plight. After all, I doubt even she expected this. Then again, I doubt any of us did, even Mayumi. It may sound weird, but a part of my wishes she would forgive her, even as another part of me wishes otherwise.

 

All in all, it was a question that threatened to tear me apart, making the pain wracking my chest seem like a mere annoyance in comparison. And as I trudged through the seemingly endless dark I wanted to answer it badly, if only to put my heart at ease, but I could not, and I would only know when the moment of truth would inevitably come to pass. Which sucks, since the anticipation was killing me, if that was even possible given my situation.

 

I clutched the handle of my candle-holder tightly, watching the streams of melting wax roll over my name as I walked towards my destination. There was nothing left to do but walk onward into the unfathomable dark, towards my inevitable destination. 

           

© 2018 Aurafiex


Author's Note

Aurafiex
Hey!

I don't think I've updated in almost a year (or at least a SUPER long time). Anyway, do let me know what you think of this story!

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register




Reviews

Hi

I had a great time reading your story. The world you created when Aya is led towards the Torii through the brackish waters is spectacular and terrifying. It really helps in making the reader cower away from the words and want to go on reading at the same time. Great job!

The idea itself is not unique, but the delivery, the portrayal, is pleasurable and fresh. I must admit I was having some problem believing Aya was in Hell, but what followed showed me the reason behind it all.


You could maybe analyse the language you used in the story. Though you have used quite a few beautiful words, there are instances when they haven't really come out right, and when a sentence has gone on longer than it should. Don't get me wrong, I am one who thinks there is a beauty in longer sentences that just cannot be matched by breaking them into smaller ones. But the sentence shouldn't go on and on and add information to a degree that the reader has to re-read them a few times.

There are a few sentences I thought I should point out for particular comments.

"Her back was turned from me" - minor error here. There are a few of them in the story, but that's alright. We always tend to miss out on these things. A fresh, slow read will help show them to you!

"he was nothing unlike the girl in the black kimono I had spent a seemingly eternity’s worth of voyage." - I'm not sure if you meant nothing unlike or nothing like.

"It was as if the world around me was constantly shifting between existence and non-existence" - I loved this sentence. It made me visualize the effect you wanted to depict, and it was good. It made me smile in admiration. :D

I would love to see how you follow up this story. Keen to read the next part!

Posted 1 Year Ago


One thing to note, you have the story twice. It has the five parts, and then they repeat.

Such a creative mind you have. To construct this semi-elaborate story, as well as the cast of characters and the vivid and often abstract descriptions, show that you put a lot of time into this story. The somewhat ambiguous ending lends itself to the general theme and tone of the tale.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago


Aurafiex

1 Year Ago

Hey,

Thanks for taking the time to read the story! I do hope you regard having the st.. read more
Aurafiex

1 Year Ago

Oh, yeah, to add on to my reply....

I realised that I double-posted the story. Someho.. read more

Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

395 Views
2 Reviews
Added on March 11, 2018
Last Updated on March 15, 2018
Tags: Hell, Into, Afterlife, Death, Salvation, Hope, Devil, Murder, Bully, Middle School, School, High School, Bullying, Redemption, Victim, Despair

Author

Aurafiex
Aurafiex

Singapore



About
Hi! I enjoy World of Warcraft, music and swimming. I'm someone who writes for fun. Pardon any typos or mistakes, because I write on my phone(lol). I'm new here, so if you like what you see do.. more..

Writing
My Webnovel! My Webnovel!

A Story by Aurafiex


Midnight Midnight

A Story by Aurafiex


My New Life My New Life

A Story by Aurafiex