Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Monday Night Chinese: Part 2

Part 02: RE:MEMORY

Once, many years ago, Levi remembered embarking with Alice to the living world. He hadn’t been there in ages, not since he died in the mid 1800’s, because Listeners never had a reason to leave the Afterlife. This was a unique occasion and required the L Noise- the unique ability Listeners had to harmonize with souls. Something unusual had happened; a soul had been created.

“How exactly did a little girl create a soul?” Alice asked, sounding both bewildered and irritated (taking anyone other than a Reaper into the living world was something she considered irritating, or so she had told Levi on more than one occasion). Proudly she wore the same flower print summer dress she had come into the Afterlife with when she had died in the 60’s. The look worked for her and to Levi and anyone else who saw her she looked timeless. “Don’t tell me she’s-”

“A Saint,” Levi said cutting off the Reaper, “that little girl is a Saint. Or a witch.”

“Is there a difference?”

“No, I suppose not. They’re just titles for the same thing after all, living people with special powers. She’s a little witch who’ll grow up to be a noble saint destined to help save the world or something, and the poor scamper probably doesn’t realize it yet.” Levi buried his hands deep in the pockets of his light khakis. He stood a little hunched over, squinting his emerald eyes to see into the backyard of a little blue house. The yard was currently empty, disappointing Levi greatly. As a spirit he felt out of place being in the world of the living and he had no idea how Reapers could feel comfortable travelling between the two worlds.

“Scamper? Scamper? Who are you, old man? My grandpa?” The look Alice gave Levi caused him to slouch deeper and squint harder, trying to make himself invisible. He perked up once he saw two little children opening up the back sliding door and running outside.

“Quiet. We have to talk to the children,” Levi straightened himself up, adjusting his brown tie. Alice rolled her eyes, grabbing the man’s shoulder and vanishing in a haze.

When they re-appeared they stood off in the corner of the yard, watching the children, waiting for the right opportunity to reveal themselves. The waiting period was short; the little boy, who had a short mess of black hair and green eyes almost as piercing as Levi’s, stared straight at the two spirits. The little blonde girl looked where the spirits were then back at the boy, tugging at his shirt.

“You see something, Quincy?” She asked the boy. Quincy pointed at Alice and Levi.

“There,” Quincy said boisterously, “over there, Aster.”

Levi walked towards Quincy, who stared him down, his eyes unwavering. Every step that Levi took Quincy clutched his little fists tighter and tighter, and with every step Levi and Alice became more visible to the little girl. Her eyes narrowed and she stepped in front of the little boy.

“What do you want?” She snapped, sounding more adult than a child should. Levi smiled and knelt down, looking the little girl in the eye.

“Are you the little girl who made a person?” Levi’s soothing voice didn’t calm the little girl who nodded curtly.

“He was my imaginary friend.”

Levi smiled, “I hear you’re called Aster. That’s a very strong name. Listen Aster, I just have to check and make sure your friend here is healthy. Okay?”

Aster and Quincy stared Levi down a moment longer before Aster stepped aside. The Listener began to harmonize with the little boy’s soul. A minute passed by, and he stood up, turning to Alice.

“I don’t know how she did it, but she created a fully functioning human soul. The kid’s powerful,” Levi kept his back towards the children, speaking in a whisper.

“So what’re we going to do? Do I need to take him back to the Afterlife with us so?”

“No, we don’t need to dispose of him. Like I said, for all intents and purposes, he’s a natural enough soul.”

“Natural enough?” Alice grabbed Levi’s face, which he did not appreciate, and pulled herself up so she could look him straight in the eye. “Levi, would you care to explain what that means?”

“It means he’s not perfect, but close enough to where he won’t cause any troubles. I doubt any spirits will be any more drawn to him than they would be the little girl or any other Saint. Now can you please let go of my face?” Levi pried Alice’s hands off his cheeks. She scoffed in response.

“Whatever. If this comes back to bite us, I’m blaming you.”

Levi moved his head so he could look at the children one last time. “Thank you for your help. Have fun, you two,” Levi said, waving. Alice grabbed on to his arm and together they faded away back to the Afterlife.


Levi woke up in his favorite booth in the restaurant. Through hazy eyes he saw the familiar figure of Alice in front of him, trying to get his attention. He was groggy, and couldn’t quite focus but Alice was trying desperately to snap him out of the dream he was having about the past. Levi stared blankly at Alice’s lips, unable to comprehend her. She was speaking but the words didn’t make sense. He stared. Stared. Stared. He wanted to scream, scream, SCREAM at his lack of comprehension. The silence surrounding Alice’s lips began to chip away. The lip movement was planted in his brain, and the seeds started to grow, each word blossoming slowly and painfully.




The silence was shattered in Levi’s head. He looked like he was caught in the headlights, and in a sense he was just like a deer. This was unexpected. He tried swallowing the lump in his throat.


“Don’t know. Blue and I saw her talking with a man in gray before she vanished, though, so we have our connection. She’s been missing for almost a day.”

“The trail’s getting cold, we need to find her.” Levi stood up and grabbed Alice by the arm, dragging her out of the Chinese restaurant and into the hallways of the Afterlife.

“What’re you- How are we going to-?” Alice struggled to get out of Levi’s grip and finally settled for kicking him in the side. Levi fell over and swore. Blue, who happened to be walking by, stopped to look at his two colleagues.

“Hey guys,” He started, “How’s it going? Is there something you’d like to tell me?”

“Yeah, Levi’s trying to kidnap me,” Alice responded haughtily.


“Not in a cool fun way, in the creepy ‘hey our friend just got kidnapped so I’m going to say vague things’ way.”

“Oh. Wait, what?” Apparently none of what Alice said made sense to Blue, and all the while Levi writhed on the floor.

“I’m trying to harmonize with her soul…” Levi got up on a knee, clutching his side and talking through gritted teeth. “I can use the Listener’s noise to locate her.”

Blue and Alice stared uncomfortably at Levi.

“I’m pretty sure she’s not in the building. Alice, I need you to take us to the living world.” Levi brushed himself off.

“Levi, I don’t think I’m allowed to take you-”

“Us,” Blue interrupted. “I want in on this… well, whatever this is.”

“Oh yeah, in that case the answer is still no. I’m definitely not allowed to take both of you.”

“Well, now that that’s been decided, I have a question I’ve been meaning to ask.” Blue looked around to make sure nobody was nearby to hear him. “Who cooks the food in your restaurant?”

As Levi lifted his head he spotted a figure that caused anger to boil up inside him. The man in gray. Fueled by the knight in shining armor complex, Levi grabbed both of his companions by their wrists and pulled them down the white hallways.

“The man in gray!” Alice and Blue broke away when they heard those words leave Levi’s mouth, and sped up, pushing people out of the way.

“Where?” Blue asked, brushing past a fellow Ferrymen.

“Up ahead, he’s moving- come on, he’s the only person in gray. He stands out!” Levi, frustrated, broke out into a half jog.

“Maybe to you,” Alice spotted the man in gray and sped up. The adversary began fading away in a mist; Alice grabbed both Adam and Blue. “He’s heading to the living world. Hold on.”

Down the rabbit hole the trio went, appearing in a lush forest filled with evergreens, covered in twigs and rocks. The forest wasn’t overly crowded by the trees but there were enough of them, anyway, to make it difficult for larger things to move around.

“Where is he?” Levi tried running aimlessly into the woods, but Alice grabbed the back of his blazer, forcing him to stay put.

“Shhh, patience.” Alice pressed a pasty finger to her lips, making a soft sound. She pushed the Listener back a little while the young Blue slowly made his way forward, step by step, keeping a sharp eye out for an out of place gray-suited man. Levi wasn’t entirely sure what to do except wait, and so reluctantly he sat himself against a tree and stared off into the distance, out at the blue sky that accompanied his broken heart and melancholic outlook. No sweet-talking could get him out of this deep desire of his to find the man in gray, to save everyone who had gone missing, and most importantly to rescue Laura.

There wasn’t much time to keep hating the situation. Right in front of Levi’s eyes he saw the sky changing, a ripple effect distorting the reality that was that plane of existence. Like a fish leaping out of water, a large cobalt ogre splashed out of the ripples in the air and sent a gnarled tree and its splinters toward the Afterlife employees.

Levi didn’t have the reflexes to respond, but Alice did. She grabbed the back of his blazer and chucked him out of the way, next to Blue. She herself managed to make it to a tree branch close to the eye level of the Ogre, where she got a better view of it; the monster had tiny empty white eyes void of any soul, light blue skin like fresh water, three twisted horns coming from its head.

The natural ability of the Listener kicked in for Levi out of habit, and he began to harmonize with the ogre. He inhaled sharply; the first impression he got was that the ogre was newly formed, and its aura was familiar. It was Laura. This thing was supposed to be Laura, an incarnation of her spirit body being overcome and oversaturated by a negative emotion.

Alice didn’t spend much time thinking like Levi, and she went to work. Alice leapt towards the unnaturally large demon, and landed a swift kick to its head. Instantly, in response to her attack, the ogre knocked her down into the leaves. Levi winced, but Alice got back up without a scratch.

“Alice!” Blue shouted hoarsely. Alice held out the same finger she pressed against her lips. When she lowered her hand a sickle formed in it out of a haze.

Alice slashed the Ogre with the sickle, never once having to push her dress down much to Levi’s surprise, but the attack didn’t seem to do much damage if any. Alice tried poking out the Ogre’s eyes, and in the process avoided being hit again by its large and strangely agile hands. Blue was not so lucky, being in the most terrible location. The clawed hand jostled the boy and sent his body right into Levi. The two to drop to the ground as dead weight.

Sitting up, Levi clutched the half-conscious youth in his arms. He shook him gently. “Blue, wake up. Come one, wake up.” Levi started shaking more vehemently when Blue didn’t respond. Blood might not have pumped through Levi’s veins, and Blue couldn’t die, but the Listener’s heart pounded swiftly and the sound of it overtook Levi’s ears. Relying on the one thing he knew how to do, Levi allowed his ability to take over and he started to harmonize with Blue’s soul. Levi stopped shaking Blue, brought him close, and spoke in a strong whisper.

“Hey, Blue. Have I ever told you why the grass grows? It’s to keep us cozy while we watch the clouds, and the clouds keep the sky pearly and blue, blocking it from the penetrating sins we try to hide.” Levi’s voice held strong and bold. He knew those vague, lyrical words would speak to Blue, lead him back to consciousness, comfort him. “Come on, Blue. Wake up. We need to get out of here.”

The Ferryman replied with a moan, prying open his eyes with great effort. “Wow,” he started, “you really know how to woo a guy. You’re really speaking to my inner Indy kid right now.”

Levi laughed lightly, but stopped when he heard the big crash. The ogre, with tiny little white cuts covering its body, had knocked Alice into a tree, forcing it to the ground. Alice lay like a rag doll.

“Alice!” Levi shouted at the top of his lungs, using all his voice had to give and then some. There no response, no movement. She was out cold and now Levi was left by himself in the living world, his only defense his voice. He now faced the ogre, overbearing, snarling, and emanating the negative aura Levi new too well by this point in his existence. Levi had to try something.

“Laura,” he began as coolly as he could, trying to mask his anxiety, “We’re over worked. We get no rest; it’s like we’re the wicked mentioned in scripture.” The ogre, Laura, emitted a low grumble.

Levi felt like biting his lip, just to watch the crimson spill down to the ground, wondering if that would get a reaction out of the ogre, showing her what her actions were doing. Too bad he didn’t bleed. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the man in gray; oh great, he thought, he now had an audience. An evil audience.

“I think I love you?” Levi’s voice was trembling now. He had only said that in a vain attempt to harmonize with her soul and calm her down.

“Idiot…” Blue forced out a laugh, sitting up. “I’ll be fine, focus on the L Noise. Really listen to Laura. You said it was her, right? Everything’ll work out.”

Levi let go of Blue and stood up. The ogre reared back its head, its thinning hair blowing back in the breeze. It was so unnatural, thinking that thing had once been a woman with a life, an existence where she did good, not harm. The ogre lifted up an oversized arm, and aimed for Levi.

“No, that’s a lie.” The arm stopped right before it hit the Listener. The wind created by the force made Levi’s coat and hair blow to the side but it didn’t keep him from staring intently at the ogre with those piercing emerald eyes. “That’s a lie, I don’t love you. Me saying that was just a lie to get you to come down. But, Lady, won’t you come down?”

The Ogre retracted its arm, confused. It went to try and hit Levi again, but the same thing happened- it stopped mid-hit. Levi continued.

“You were forced into this situation- yeah, great, woe is you, that sucks. But that’s not you. You don’t sit idly by. You don’t let things pass you. We’re alike, you and I- we don’t settle for timeless. We’re not stuck in the past. We’re not in the future. We are the present, we keep up. We do not doubt our ways. We do not deny them. We simply believe; we simply are. You are Laura; You are not ogre. Now pull yourself together and let’s go home.”

The ogre’s breathing got heavier and heavier, releasing a foul, rotten egg smell. The trees shivered and shook with each heave; the white scars emitted steam. The ogre shouted. Over and over it shrieked. Over. And over. And over. If Levi could bleed, if Blue could bleed, their ears would be dripping blood. Alice woke up, covering her ears. Wisps of wind picked up in a circular fashion around the ogre, around Laura, as she started shrinking and transforming back.

Levi turned his focus elsewhere, however, locking his eyes on the man in gray. It was the first time he had gotten a good view of the odious fellow. Head to toe he wore shades of gray; gray pants, gray jacket with flecks of red. He looked more like a young adult than a real man, with a baby face and strangely parted hairstyle that made his hair look thick. He had a single x-shaped scar on his cheek, and thin, rectangular glasses. And, curiously enough, his eyes were two different colors; One black, one white.

The man lifted up his glasses, and with his fingers began to carefully remove his white eye. Once he had done so, he crushed it, and an old wooden door fazed in behind him. Levi’s eyes grew wide, and he began trembling; how had he found a door to…?

“Astoria.” The Listener unconsciously let the word slip from his lips.

“What?” Blue, wobbling, had propped himself against the trunk of one of the few trees that had remained whole during the encounter. Levi inched towards the man in gray.

“Levi, don’t you dare.” Alice, holding Laura over her shoulder, stepped out of nowhere into Levi’s path. “You’re not going to follow him. We’re not allowed there.”

“WHERE!?” Blue hit the trunk of the tree and sank down. He picked himself back up. “It’s taking longer for my spirit body to heal than it should, so I’m kind of cranky as hell. Don’t leave me out of the loop.”

“Astoria. The melancholy town where no one ever smiles. It’s where you take souls, Blue.” Like a bird of prey, Alice kept her eyes locked on Levi. He moved closer. So did she.

Before Blue could respond with another question, Levi intervened. “It’s not as dramatic as she’s making it sound, Blue. The spirits you take there, the ones you leave with the guardians at the shores of Acheron, are fine. They get reincarnated after they go through Astoria.”

“You don’t know that,” Alice spat, “no one knows what really happens to them in Astoria. For all we know they feed them to No One.”

“Nobody?” Blue pinched the bridge of his nose.

“No One. He’s the boogeyman. He eats souls, and according to legend his body’s chained up in Astoria,” Levi inched closer. The man in gray was frowning, turning around to open the door. Levi could tell he was bored, frustrated. He could feel it. He was missing his chance to capture the man. “I know you don’t believe we’d feed souls to No One, Alice.”

Alice didn’t know how to respond. Levi knew he had guessed correctly. She wouldn’t have stayed in the Afterlife had she not believed the souls were recycled and given new life.

“Yeah, so?” She seemed nervous now that Levi had called her bluff.

“Blue, keep an eye on Alice.”

“Levi, if you take one step closer, I’ll-”

Levi shoved Alice to the side and ran for the opened door the man in gray stepped through. Before the creaky hinges allowed the gateway to shut, Levi stepped through the threshold into the land where he did not belong.

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