Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Genre: YA Dark fantasy (Reaper's Novice)
With a soft microwave-like ding, Grim’s instructions flash like a neon sign in my mind’s eye.
Assignment: Soul Collection
Hermannsweg, 7th district, Vienna
Age: Thirty-two years
Soul Colour: grey
Quickly I dig out my notebook from inside my messenger bag, and flip through to the dog-eared pages. On the red stickers, I pause and flatten the page with my hand: soul colours. Since I began my training with Grim a week ago, I haven’t had enough time to cram even the basic details. In between learning for my final exams at school, baby sitting my siblings, adjusting to my new life as a soul collector and above all avoiding any opportunity my parents might question my frequent disappearances, it’s been exhausting. Besides, Grim believes in letting the fledgling bird learn to fly using it’s frail wings. His exact words after my three days orientation. I bite the nail on my index finger as my eyes dart down the list of hastily scribbled words.
Red – lively, vibrant, and also mean danger or anger
Yellow – Happy, liveliness
Green- calm, peaceful,
Gold – divine, pure
Grey – restless, troubled
I groan as the soul colour dances tauntingly in my head.
Grey, really? Did I wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? Or land on the wrong foot? I shudder at the thought of this collection. Grim’s words pour inside me head: A soul is a soul, Ana Maria. Different scenarios of the kind of troubled life the grey soul endured skitter through my mind. I shake my head, scattering the unwanted images. I’ll know soon enough.
I shove the notebook inside the bag, grab my music player from the windowsill, turn it off, and drop it inside my trench coat pocket. After slipping a hair band around my hair, I push off the cool wall, get on my feet and walk away from the Cathedral’s barred lookout window, while at the same time summoning the Concealment Spell. Between one step and the next, I feel the caress of the light-as-air veil settle around me.
I descend the spiral stairs of the Cathedral. The click click of my heels on the stone floor shatters the silence. The effect is comforting. No one is around. The opening hours ended half an hour ago. About forty metres to the ground, I stop at one of the barred windows and peep out, measuring the distance. Yes. This will do.
Taking a deep breath, I ghost the stone cold wall and leap forward, my hands extended at either side of my body, and I’m flying. My blood sings as I soar in the air. Before hitting the stones, I flip and gracefully land on my feet. Coolness. I grin and straighten to my full height. There’s nothing as mind-blowing as this, even though the possibility of twisting an ankle or worse is there. Been there, done that, and broke a leg. Almost died in pain, but I healed. I always heal, thanks to Grim gift. The pain is the only thing that reminds me, body-wise, I’m human.
The early summer heat blasts my face. I pause and suck in hot air while glancing around St. Stephen’s square. The sidewalk cafes are brimming with visitors. A woman pushing a baby stroller grazes my arm as she hurries off towards the U-bahn station. Up ahead a couple poses beside a ‘living statue’. A group of aged Japanese tourists with their faces rapturous in attention crowd around their tour leader. Flashes and clicks from cameras fill the square. Laughter peals through the air, mingling with the sounds of metal wheels on cobblestones from horse ridden coaches. My heart squeezes, rendering me breathless. I miss this. I miss this life.
I project the collection destination in my mind. I ghost through a wall and exit on the other side of it. As I cross the rails, an oncoming tram misses hitting me by a hair. I smile. I can’t be hit. In my current form, things just pass right through me. Even when I’m not concealed, I can’t die. I’ve tested this theory several times, and I just keep coming back. My soul is under lock and key, and my body indestructible, thanks to Grim.
The temperature drops suddenly, and my skin prickles. The fine hairs along my neck curl, and my heart drops to my feet in dread. My eyes dart around, then up knowing full well what I’ll see. My heart stops beating altogether at the sight the dark cloud zooming by.
Soul snatchers. The opposite of what I am. Just like their name, they capture the soul and sell it to the highest bidder, people who enslave souls to work for them. There’s no doubt where they’re heading to. The troubled souls are drawn to the darker side of life. It’s like a drug to the snatchers. I’ve seen the kind of cruelties they endure, and vowed to myself to never let them get even one from me. My heart jump starts and so do my legs.
Moments later, I emerge at Hermannsweg. I spread out my senses, seeking out the snatchers cold presence, and I sigh in relief Ahead of me, people are scattered all over the place. Some are hugging one another and weeping. Others are stare in horrified expressions in front of them. I hurry forward, my breath saws in and out of my chest painfully, trepidation squeezing through my veins. I skirt around a group huddled together, and I freeze. My heart drops to the bottom of my stomach. A sour taste fills my mouth as I take in the scene. Blood darkens the black surface of the tarmac. Splitters of glass covered in blood, wink like rubies in the sun. Every sound around me fades. It’s just me and the metal wreckage, which was once a car, now a flattened mess in the middle of the road. A huge white truck partially covers the whole mess. I catch a glimpse of what I think is a body under the truck. A sudden flash of long buried memory resurfaces in my head. Pain slashes through my stomach, and I bend over and vomit until I feel there’s nothing else left. Sirens soak the air, cutting the memory into tiny ribbons, then dissolves, leaving my knees week. All I want to do is huddle in a corner and block away everything.
I straighten and fumble inside my pocket for a paper tissue, and wipe my mouth, at the same time try to block the memories warring for supremacy inside my head. I clench my hands and take deep breaths, calming my trotting pulse. I lift my head and glance around for the soul. It should be somewhere here. By the looks of the smoke snaking from in between the truck and car, the accident took place moments before my arrival.
The temperature shifts, and I tense. They are here. I’ve wasted too much time already. Angry with myself, I scan the area, for both the soul and the snatchers, my breath coming in sharp hot bursts. My eyes zoom in on the black moving mass above the immobile body. My heart stops, then starts at a full gallop, adrenaline kicking in my veins.
Where is it? Dipping my hand in my well-padded trench coat, I carefully pluck a soul vial, still scanning the area around me.
There it is, swaying above the snatchers, looking lost. Will it bow to my coaxing? Grim always tells me I have a lovely voice, though I’m not certain if his reasons are to cajole me into staying on as his novice. As if I have a choice in the matter.
I shake those thoughts away, and focus on the soul, both eyes and mind. Slowly, I take tentative steps toward the truck to avoid alerting the snatchers, and begin humming under my breath. The soul snaps to attention, and its colour burns brighter. It begins a graceful glide towards me, ensnared by the rhythm.
Abruptly, as if sensing fresh soul, the snatchers surge upward, hissing like a pack of snakes. Before I can react, or the soul waltz inside the vial, they descend upon it.
The word tears through my throat and out of my mouth. I slap a hand on my hip, and before I can yank my knife from its sheath on my waist, the grey soul is engulfed in the blackness of the snatchers. The mass begins a swift ascend toward the blue sky, up, and up until not even a trace of them can be seen.
No! No! No! This isn’t supposed to happen. Me wasting time has cost a soul. I clench my hands, and look around afraid I might see Grim glaring at me disapprovingly. My heart stutters. Grim. What will I tell him? How do I explain to him? Mostly, how will I save that soul?
All fight leaves my bones. I sink on the scorching tarmac, and welcome the heat seeping through my skin, then bury my face in my hands. I shudder at the thought of soul enslavement.
I snap my head up at my mobiles insistent ringing, and glance around at my deserted surroundings. How long have I been sitting here on the tarmac? The only signs to indicate their was an accident are the glass splinters still glinting on the black surface. I brush my eyes with the sleeve of my trench, while fumbling inside my bag with my free hand. I glance at the screen. Mom. A ding sounds in my head and instructions of my next collection flash in my mind. I let the call go to voicemail, afraid my mom will know something is wrong. She always seems to have a knack for sensing things.
I pull myself to my feet, and stumble to my next assignment. Tonight I will tread the Shadow dimension to retrieve the soul. An unshakable chill soaks my bones and clings on with iron-like teeth.
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