Steven Read Count : 2

Category : Stories

Sub Category : YoungAdult
Steven sat yawned as he stood and waited for the light to change. It was a hot morning in the city of New York and he was groggy this morning. His eyes showed it and his mind was nearly empty, barely responding to his surroundings. As he shoved his hands into this pockets, he watched the sign to walk change to the stick figure walking - giving him the go ahead to walk across the street.

It was this moment he stopped walking just off of the middle of the street. A knocking sound surrounded him and the rest of the world had gone silent to him. He looked for the knocking, but he was confused having been in the middle of the road without seeing the light changing quicker than it did for him to cross. Before the middle-aged man blinked, everything was black and he was seated in the dark.

What the… he thought to himself. Why-

“Don’t worry, you’re safe now.” A child’s voice near him could be heard and despite it being pitch black in this assumed room, he looked around to see where the voice was coming from. A single light came on and the man flinched. “Welcome, Steven.” The child was a young boy with hair like wool and dark skin. He was small in frame in comparison to Steven.

Steven was a muscular man - who often scared adults around him, but was just a teddy bear in truth. His crew cut blond hair helped show his baby face and warm, ocean blue eyes. Though they are normally soft and brave, his eyes displayed confusion and slight anger for he was going to be late for work.

“Hi, kid, how do you know my name and why are we in a dark room with one light? Is this some sort of setup? Where are your parents? Who else is here with you?”

“You’re the only one here with me, Steven. It’s just us.” The boy’s voice was calm, his hands placed palms down to the table while his elbows hung beneath the table. This was the opposite of Steven; frantic. “It’s okay to be calm here, Steven. You’re safe now.”

“Safe? What?” More confusion filled the man’s voice and he was rigid. Afraid that this was a setup to be labeled a peodophile like this neighbor Hank Redford. A man sent to prison just two years ago and killed by other prisoners before his trial date was confirmed with the public.

“Do you know where you are?” The boy continued to talk. “I was hoping you heard my calling. It’s different for some people.”

“You’re calling?”

“Yes, I was calling your name. Didn’t you hear me? You must have. You ended up here.”

“The last thing I heard was some knocking or whatever, but that’s beside the point. Where am I and why are you here? Where is everyone else? Are any of you going to call my boss and explain why I haven’t showed up?”

“Your higher ups will understand your absence. How are you feeling?”

“How am I- are you serious?” For a moment, Steven had forgotten he was talking to a child. “Listen, kid, I need to get to work. I know you don’t understand what that might mean, but when you grow up you’ll understand how hard life actually is.” He stood up to leave but then another voice stopped him.

“Steven, would it be better if I took the form of a familiar face?”

Frozen in his tracks, he hesitated to turn and look back at the child. The voice was soothing to him now, very similar to the wife he had lost to a blade of a mugger seven years prior.

“It’s okay, love.”

He turned to see the face of a dark-skinned woman with dark brown eyes filled with happiness and hair braided into a single braid down her back. Tears welled in the man’s eyes as he walked toward the woman who sat in black clothing. An unusual color to wear for someone so bright in her lifetime.

“Monique?” While he now stood just centimeters away from the love his life, he resisted the urge to touch her presence and started to lash out. “You are not real!”

The woman watched but didn’t move or speak a word. “You are not real,” he repeated. “You are dead! There is no way you could be here! Not a single chance!” He slammed his fists onto the table. “Who are you?”

“It’s me, Monique.” She stood up, just barely shorter than the already smaller-than-average height of the man she loved. “I promise it’s me.” But the man stepped back unsure of what was happening. His emotions were telling him to grab her and never let her go, but his logic mind said she was dead and this wasn’t her. “Stevie, you don’t have to be afraid of me. We are together again.”

“What the hell is going on? What is happening? Where’s that kid? Why are YOU here?”

“There is an explanation for all of your questions, but first, I need you to have a seat. I can’t have you walk into the darkness. Not again.”

“Again?”

“Please.” Monique’s soft voice struck a string in his heart. To him, this was her sadness and whether or not this was truly the woman he loved, he sat down in the seat he had just stood to walk away from and she joined him. “Thank you.” She smiled a little more, but this made the man a little more saddened.

“What’s going on? Why are you here?” Steven’s voice a little more quieter and calmer. “Is it really you?”

“It’s really me,” she answered immediately. “And the truth is that your time is up, Stevie. Just like mine was.”

“What does that mean?” Despite asking the question, he knew deep within himself what she meant.

“Stevie, you’re a beautiful soul, do you know that? Do you remember I used to say this every single day?” He nodded in silence, still in disbelief that this was the woman he loved on the inside. “My beliefs in souls and the way life works, that didn’t matter in the end. The only thing that mattered is that I was genuine to myself and I was. Even when you had hurt me, I remained genuine and loved myself.”

“But you know that I loved you.” He thought about his words quickly. “Love… you know that I love you.”

“Oh, yes, I don’t doubt that you love me, honey. But loving ourselves is what gets us here.” She smiled wide. “I sat where you sit now and it’s a very scary place because at the end of all of this, you make your final human decision.”

“My… my what?” He looked around as if others surrounded them but all he could see was darkness outside of the the lighting.

“As humans, we base our beliefs on what makes us feel good. We use our emotions on so many things and that’s okay because we wouldn’t have made it this far in the evolutionary chain if we didn’t.” Monique sat forward and crossed her fingers at the center of the table - just as she used to do when she had a secret to tell him in the past. By instinct, he leaned in as well to listen to this secret.

“You can’t change anything that has already happened, but you can make a beautiful decision right now, or a soul-killing one.”

“Soul-killing?” She nodded and they stayed leaned into the table as they spoke. “Souls can’t die, you used to say.”

“I was wrong about that.” Her voice a whisper and she frowned just a little. “Souls can die if they are given to the wrong reapers.”

This response caused his body to be seated again. He felt unsure once more about the woman before him but she continued to speak.

“The child you saw here, they called you for a reason. When I was killed, they asked if I could remember what happened to me. I couldn’t. And then, just like you, I had a series of questions and was confused even though I had known a little of what was going on. I knew my body was gone.”

“So you knew… you knew you were dead?”

The woman nodded and sat back in her own seat. “I knew the moment I saw Death. He called my name and it was the only thing I could hear. It was almost like he knew what was going to happen and he took my soul from my body before I could feel anything.” She gave a small smirk. “That is why you didn’t feel pain.”

“So this child is supposed to be Death and you’re supposed to be dead and I’m just supposed to believe it? Seems naive.”

“Death is no child,” she quickly corrected. “Death is a being that is separated from their lover to protect us. We - me, you, and other living natural beings on Earth - are given to Death as a gift. We are a gift from Life.”

Steven sat in silence and shook his head. “This is getting outrageous and ridiculous. I’m talking to my dead wife, in a black room, and I know none of it is actuality. You guys are sick.”

“Stevie-”

“No.” He stood up again and she stood with him. “I’m going home. I don’t want to be in this sick joke.” He started looking around into the pitch black distance. “All of the cameras recording, I hope you’re watching well because I’m suing the hell out of all of you.”

“Steven there are no cameras,” the woman’s voice now pleading. “Please, don’t walk into the dark.”

“What’s wrong, imposter?” Steven’s voice emitting anger. “Some big bad man coming to get me? Is it another child?”

“The reaper will consume and recycle your soul and you will have to relive the life you once lived.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. And if this is true, we’ll be happily married again.” He laughed in irony. “Right?”

“No. You will be lost. I won’t be there because I chose to make that death my final death. You won’t be you and I won’t be there. You’ll walk through life feeling as if you’re missing something and if I was your true soulmate you’ll be lost because I won’t be there. I chose to stay here.”

He scoffed. “You’re bullshitting me and I don’t appreciate it. The joke’s over. I already know everything you people are up to.”

“I’m not joking. This isn’t a joke. I am real, Death is real, and that darkness… that darkness is real.”

Steven waved his hand in disbelief and without another word, walked to his left and off into the darkness. His wife sat back and watched, unable to follow the man she loved even in death. As Steven walked deeper into the dark he walked until he noticed a light.

“Darkness… yet there’s a light.” He laughed. “Exit stage left,” he mimicked. As he walked, he grew colder and colder and as he approached the light he realized he was moving toward him. He stood still as fear struck him. Something was with him and he was alone.

When Steven turned around he could no longer see the light he had come from. His wife was gone and so was the table and the chairs. No one but him and the seemingly floating light coming toward him.

“Steven,” a soft child-like voice called out. “It’s unfortunate that you couldn’t stay with your wife.” As the light approached him he saw it was simply the top of a wooden staff and holding that staff was another child - a female this time. “We have to hurry if you want to be born again into a decent life.”

“W-what?” The child used her free hand to take hold of the trembling man’s much larger hands. “B-born again?”

“Yep. These things aren’t random and at the request of Momo we’re to give you a good life.”

“M-”

“Monique. Your wife.” The child’s steps started to glow a fluorescent pink beneath her feet as she forced them to scurry across the dark, cold floor. “She wasn’t sure if you’d believe in any of these things but she tried to tell you what would happen. Don’t worry, if you were the only one who didn’t believe in us, you’d be the only person reborn on Earth. I’m not sure why you humans don’t believe in us, we helped you your whole life.”

Steven remained silent as the much more energetic being continued to talk and rush them around the dark, though she seemed to know where she was going.

“Now, when you’re born into this life, you won’t have a father this time, but your mother will love you even more. Eventually, you’ll be put into a foster system since she dies, but there won’t be anything we can help with until you’re out on your own. It’ll feel like no one cares, but we do. We just have to let Life do her part and manifest your karmic energy. When Karma does come along, then we’ll be there to protect you.”

“I don’t get it. Why… why just for me?”

“It’s not just for you. It’s for everyone. Everyone is assigned a reaper. My name in your lifetime will be Viola. You won’t remember this moment, but don’t worry, we’ll all protect you to make sure you succeed. There will be trials you have to face on your own, but as long as you keep a strong mind you’ll be okay and get another chance to choose your wife.”

She stopped short and looked up as the man began to cry. “Almost everyone cries, Steven. That’s why babies are born crying.” She gave a small smile. “Don’t worry. You can do this.” She took a step back and pressed the top of her staff’s light against the man’s heart. “This might hurt a little and I’m sorry about that, but remember, we love you very much and we want you to succeed.”

“Tell Monique that I still love her and I’m sorry.”

“She already knows, Stevie. Now, hold still.” Just then, the lighting grew to be a brighter orange and the man was gone. “Poor guy…” the child whispered.

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  • Apr 15, 2019

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