View Full Version : Life Versus Death, chapter two

February 12th, 2014, 03:29 AM
Paragraph breaks and indents are so stubborn on these message boards! Anyway, here's chapter two to a book I'm writing. Here's a link to chapter one, in case you missed it: http://www.writingforums.com/threads/144834-Life-Versus-Death-chapter-one

Chapter Two – The Beginning

Thirteen point seven billion years ago, life was quite different. So different, actually, that life didn’t even exist. All that did exist was an infinitesimally dense sphere, which contained everything that ever was and ever will be. Eventually, it decided that it didn’t like being infinitesimally dense anymore and that it should do something about that. So it exploded with incomprehensible velocity, hurling its contents outward in every direction.

Over the next billion years, atoms collided and collapsed into each other, eventually giving birth to the first stars, illuminating the universe with magnificent light. Seven billion more years later, a group of planets formed and got caught in the gravitational pull of one particular middle-sized star named Sol.

On one of these planets, atoms continued to clash and combine in the atmosphere until water fell from its skies, filling its craters with great oceans. Chemicals stirred in these oceans over millions of years, until eventually single-celled organisms came to be and occupied their depths. Finally, after four billion years of genetic advancement through trial and error mutations, life spread from beyond the oceans and the species Homo sapiens came to be. They grew to like this planet, so they decided they might as well stick around and make themselves at home.

Of course, this information is readily available to many people; scientists have studied space, physics, and biology for decades to reach these conclusions. What they do not know – what they cannot study – is what else happened during this time. They do not know what occurred beyond the reach of this physical universe. But that is a story for another time…

Homo sapiens spent the next couple thousand years becoming more developed. They built tools and shelters, they adapted to their environment, and they invented color television. Societies and communities were formed, destroyed, and reformed. Culture and information flourished during times of enlightenment and diminished in dark ages. Eventually, in the year 1806AD, the city of Detroit, Michigan was established. It was a glorious time indeed.

One hundred and seventy years later, a young woman in a now less glorious Detroit gave birth to a boy and named him Henry Alan Mardukas. Hank for short. Throughout his whole life, Hank’s defining characteristic has been his anger. As a child, he threw countless tantrums. Throughout his teenage years, he grew more aggressive and got into schoolyard fights. But once he reached adult-hood, Hank finally found a way to put his anger to good use; he joined the Detroit Police Department.

Although Hank would never admit it, he was not an average man. Nor was he an average cop. He never did and never could understand why some people looked up to him. In his five years on the force, he had seen a lot, yet he did not let his temper get in the way. (Well, not too often anyway). Instead, his temper usually fueled him through tough situations.

He did, however, have the bad habit of not calling for backup when necessary. Hank was a man of pride; if something had to be done, he could do it himself. He had confronted abusive husbands, chased down violent criminals, and had been shot at on more than one occasion. In fact, the amount of action he’d seen had earned him a nickname. A nickname he hated but could not shake, despite his best efforts to do so.

On the night of March 2nd, 2012, a young man 235 miles away died in his sleep. The next day, Hank prepared himself for the biggest day of his life. Even after all he had experienced throughout his career as a police officer, he was not ready for this.

He stumbled into the bathroom at the back of Sacred Heart Catholic Church and quickly glanced down the row of faded green stalls to make sure he was alone. He went to the sink, splashed water on his face, and looked into the mirror. His rugged face stared back at him, drops of water running down his coarse cheeks and through his bushy black mustache. His mouth hung slightly agape and his eyes sank softly in his face, but his tuxedo helped him maintain his debonair appearance. Hank brushed his wet hands through his thin hair, decided it wasn’t quite right, and did so again. Suddenly the door swung open and in walked Ben Reynolds, needlessly adjusting his tie out of habit. Hank suddenly lifted his head up, turned to face him, and slammed his fist down on the sink.

"Not now Ben!" barked Hank.
"Good to see you too, buddy. Looking sharp! You should relax, this is a great day."
“I don’t know if I’m ready for this," said Hank matter-of-factly. He looked down at the sink and frowned at the cracks he made in its surface.
Ben walked over to the sink and leaned against the wall. “Well, maybe you aren’t,” he said.
“You’re the worst best man."
“I know it sounds bad, Hank, but look at you. Look at who you are. The man they call The Blood Spiller. What are you doing getting married? Does Lindsay even know who you really are?" Ben sounded a little nervous as he said this, something very uncharacteristic for him.

Hank chose Ben as his best man because he was his best friend, but that’s not saying much; Ben was also Hank’s only friend. The two of them met one year ago, when Ben visited the police department on business as a representative of Energy Link International. Although Hank did not get close with others often, Ben was easy to talk to. And once they struck up a conversation, they became fast friends. Ben stayed in Detroit occasionally, but he was frequently out of town for work. Fortunately he was able to make it for the wedding.

“Of course she knows who I am,” replied Hank. “Do you? Cause if you did you’d know I hate that nickname. I don’t want to be the blood spiller anymore, it’s a stupid and immature nickname anyway. I want to be a husband." After he said this, his shoulders straightened and his voice began to sound more calm and confident.
“I want to be a husband," Hank repeated, surprised at his newfound assurance.
“There’s the man I know. Now go get ‘er.”

Ben smirked at Hank as he walked out of the bathroom. Once Hank was gone, however, Ben’s smile quickly disappeared. He pulled a small bottle out from his pocket and popped a pill into his mouth.

Hank heard the crowd talking amongst themselves in the pews, and he followed the sound of their voices to navigate himself up to the front of the church. He took a deep breath, straightened his tie, and marched down the aisle towards the altar. Ben followed closely behind him, and once they were situated, all eyes focused on the chapel’s entryway in anticipation.
Hank had always felt that his soul was a storm at sea, but since meeting Lindsay, the waters have calmed. With her guidance he had begun controlling his anger. His outbursts became less frequent, he used violence as an answer less often, and he even cut back on his swearing. Today marked the beginning of a new life for him, a new life for them together.

Paul stood still in the bland desert environment and finally gave up on staring at his hand. He looked up to face the apparently uncomfortable Todd.
"So you’re sure I died?" asked Paul, still not accepting it.

"Sorry but yeah, you definitely died," said Todd. He shrugged casually.
Paul looked all around himself. "And this is…heaven?"
Todd seemed hesitant to answer. He tossed the question around in his head, and then told Paul, “I’ll let you decide that on your own. But I’ll just say, if this is Heaven, then that must mean Hell exists too. And seems to me like a lot of people got sent to the wrong place, myself included.”
“You seem like a nice enough guy to me.”

Todd shrugged off the compliment. “C’mon, let’s walk while we talk, we have a ways to go to town."
“What about your bike?” Paul decided to set aside questions about towns in the afterlife for later.
Todd laughed heartily. “What bike?” Paul turned around, and indeed there was no bike to be seen.
"But…” Paul gave up. He decided to pursue a more pressing matter. “How’d I even die?"
Todd grimaced. “I was hoping you wouldn’t ask that, but I need to talk about this…you shouldn’t be surprised to be here.”
“I shouldn’t? So, I should have just woken up and thought, ‘oh boy, I died!’?”
“I didn’t say you should be happy, I said you shouldn’t be surprised. Everyone remembers their death, it’s a natural part of dying! I remember my heart attack very clearly.”
"Well I have no memory of it. I went to sleep in my bed last night, perfectly alive and healthy and happy,” Paul lied. “Then I woke up here.”
“And as far as I know, that’s new.”
“Don’t people die in their sleep pretty often?"
“Yeah, but they still remember it!”
“Great. My first day in the afterlife and I already don’t fit in.”
Todd reached into his pocket, pulled out a wad of paper, and straightened it out to reveal a map. He looked around himself, then back at the map, shrugged, and continued onward in a new direction.

"Fit in? You’re dead, fitting in is the last thing you need to worry about," he said.
"Wait, do you not know where we are?" asked Paul.
"Of course I know where we are, it’s my job."
"What’s your job?"
"I’m a greeter. People arrive to the afterlife pretty bewildered, just like you did, and I help make the transition a bit easier. Except unlike you, they know how they died. Like waking up and remembering a dream very clearly. And also unlike you, they arrive in the right spot."
"The right spot?"
"Believe it or not Paul, there’s more to the afterlife than this desert. Reapers take souls to designated areas for them to get settled in. There are no drop-off points anywhere around here, so when we saw you show up here we were pretty confused."
"Who’s ‘we’? And, ‘reapers’? I…this is a lot to take in."
"Shit, Paul, enough with the questions! Don’t worry about it, you’ll learn as you go."
"Well I’m having a hard time not worrying! I just found out I’m dead, I’m being told about reapers, getting attacked by giant snakes, and now we’re lost in the desert. And how do you know my name?!”
"It’s my job to know! And nonsense, we’re not lost. We’re almost there."

Hank continued to wait for Lindsay at the front of the chapel, his air of confidence beginning to falter. Ben frowned at Hank but didn’t say a word. The audience in the pews exchanged uncomfortable glances. The priest standing next to Hank began shifting his weight. Somewhere in the room, the sound of someone letting out a heavy sigh could be heard.

As Hank waited, he felt an all-too-familiar oncoming storm of anger, but he suppressed it with great difficulty. He did his best to wait patiently.

He waited a long time.