AN: Hopefully this chapter will stir you and make you think. I would like at least 10 reviews before I update again, because this is, decidedly, the second last chapter. In order to get that last chapter out I'd like to hear what people are thinking, feeling, etc etc. If that doesn't happen, well….Pfff. xD I'll update anyways, but more comments will probably entice me to get my ass in gear sooner. It's always so much more motivating to work when you get feedback, be it positive or negative.
Life and Death, people. What is important in our lives? There is no right or wrong answer, because good and bad are not definitions, but opinions. Mull over that.
It was an odd sight, to see a soul as it was harvested.
Grim had often allowed Billy and Mandy to tag along as he went about his 'job', as he called it, if only to stop their constant nagging.
"Because seeing dead stuff is coooool!" The boy would exclaim.
She had always remained rather passive as the Reaper had closed in on each victim, enshrouding them as they screamed and wailed their last pleas for a second chance. Though there was a glimmer of interest in her eyes, it was encased in stone. Not an eyebrow twitched as his scythe was raised, preparing to cut the immortal soul free from its flesh counterpart.
"Look away now, children. Dese kinds of tings are not for de likes of you to see."
And through some kind of black magic, their eyes had been averted each time. While they both wished they could see the final stage of the reaping process, one for their own deluded amusement, the other for retention of cold tactics, neither was able to look on. When their heads were finally allowed to turn back to the spot where the deceased had been confronted, they found only Grim standing there, a somber look on his face.
"Now let's get outta here, you two. Who wants smoothies?"
This time, however, she was able to see what truly happened as the scythe made its final cut.
Grim had finished taking care of those Persephone had restored to life, sending them back to their own universes and making sure each retained their memory. When he had returned to the Goddess and Mandy, expecting to see Billy with them, he had been stopped dead in his tracks. The news hit him as hard as it hit the girl, and he was left to gape at the dead corpse that remained beside a weeping woman in white and a blank blonde.
Billy couldn't be brought back without drastic changes?
Even if his body was retained the soul that rested within would forever be tainted if Persephone used her powers to call him back.
"Does that mean his soul is already corrupted?" The girl had asked.
"No…not yet." The brunette had replied between tears. "Decarabia was not powerful enough to tamper with a spirit in its original dormant state."
"Interesting." Had been the placid response "Reap him, Grim."
"Wha-Mandy!" The skeleton had nearly shrieked in surprise at her nonchalant solution to a terrible misfortune. "Just like dat? You gonna let him go?"
"What choice is there, bonebag? Billy is dead. Not even the all-powerful Goddess of Life"--here she had thrown a scornful look in the other woman's direction-- "and Grim Reaper can bring back the Billy that I knew. So let's get on with it."
Everything to her, it seemed, was on a constant plane of black and white. Anything to her benefit would be kept close. Anything less than benign was given no contemplation. A dead Billy, it seemed, was a useless Billy.
Perhaps she had not changed as much as he thought…
"Are you sure you want to go through wit dis, Mandy?"
He had sighed and hung his shoulders—he never had truly enjoyed his job. It was just so…depressing.
And now here she stood, watching as the Boy Who Could Not Die was separated from his innermost self.
There was no supernatural pull at her neck which had so often before forced her to gaze in the opposite direction, leaving her only to her imaginings of what was taking place. She watched as the blade swung down and through the body, though no tissue was damaged in the process. Rather, the scythe appeared to simply disappear into the earth below the body, a faint white outline the only telltale sign that the blade had not missed its mark altogether. A faint tinkling was heard, like the shattering of the most delicate of china. The cutting edge was dragged through the torso, and a white aura began to seep from the penetration.
No screams, no cries. The Dead could only whisper their goodbyes.
A glowing orb of white light rose above his body, much akin to the way Deacarbia's had when he was put to rest. However, as bright as that orb may have been, the one that arose from Billy was even cleaner looking, nearly devoid of impurity or blemishes such as grays mixed in with the blinding white. There was goodness in this soul.
The sphere had drifted between the three onlookers, circling around the Goddess and skeleton as though examining them before hovering in front of the blonde. Unconsciously her hand had risen to touch it, to examine what it was like to feel the encompassment of all that was her former friend. Her eyes remained fixed to it as one delicate finger skimmed the surface of the orb. All at once, a thousand memories, each with one voice, came flooding into her mind.
"There's so much I wanna do with you Mandy! We gots to go see this giant hamburger I…"
"Must've been that steak sauce sandwich I had for lunch…"
"You can eat me first…even though I'll probably taste like old smell-ay socks…."
"Aw, Mandy. Don't be all sad. We can be dateless together!..."
"Mama always said a hug makes ya happy…"
"I-I know stuff, but I don't…and it really, really hurts. The stupid words are all stuck in my mouth, and I wanna say them…but I dunno whats the heck they are!"
She drew her finger back sharply, the pain of the memories too great for even her to bear. After giving her head a shake to clear it from thought, she sighed and closed her eyes.
"Don't worry, Billy. Soon." She murmured.
"What was dat, Mandy?"
An eyelid lifted, and she took a moment to watch as the shining globe descended upon the blood-stained earth, assuming its place with so many that had died before it. Hell absorbed the entity as well as the bodily remains of a young man whose time had come far too early. When his body was finally out of sight, she chose to respond.
"Grim? Where do the souls of the reaped go, exactly?"
The Reaper scratched the back of his skull and furrowed his eye sockets, trying to figure out how to explain the events that took place post-mortem.
"Well, in short, dey go down to de lower levels of de Underworld."
Ah, the arcane Lower Depths. While mere mortals and living Underworld creatures could trespass on the upper levels on Hell, they could only reach the very bottom if they were deceased. Only the dead, who were dispatched from their flesh encasements, were supposed to be able to something that so defied reality; the Lower Depths.
"Once dey get dere, each soul is ferried across de River Styx by Charon. At de other side is the Afterlife, home of the dead."
"And how do you know all of this?"
"Well, I used to spend most of me time visiting de Afterlife when I wasn't on duty. Before I was forced into out little 'agreement', dat is."
Her eyes scanned across the skeleton and the silent brunette beside him, apparently searching for any hints of mistruth or deception in his words. Finding none, she gazed out at the walls of the valley, taking in the stench of copper and visible redness one last time. When she was finished, she turned to the Reaper and whispered.
"Take me up top Grim. We're going back to Endsville."
It was a portrait of confusion and aftershock in the world above. People were gathered n large clusters, whispering and trying to come to terms with what had really happened just hours before.
"Do you remember being attacked by some giant pig thing?"
"I could have sworn I saw a dingo…."
"I remember being bitten but whatever the heck happened after that, I got no idea...."
"I remember asking for cheese. Does anyone have cheese? Gladys! I need a cheese sandwich please!"
Snippets and breaths of conversation met her ears as Mandy materialized in the centre of the town, followed soon after by Persephone and Grim. Much to her surprise, however (and initial disappointment) Endsville was not so much a place of anarchy as it was bewilderment. Besides the crowds of murmuring inhabitants, other civilians were walking or running about aimlessly, trying to make sense of the apparent dream the entire town had shared. Interestingly, there were no cars on the road, nor were there people in houses. Everyone seemed to have taken time off to share their stories and theories as to what exactly had happened.
Mandy cleared her throat absentmindedly, as something had tickled the back of her mouth.
Everyone was silenced.
A thousand heads—or whatever the population of Endsville was, no one was quite sure—swung around to see where the tiny cough had come from. Each recognized in an instant who was standing before them, and a wave of people began to stampede in her direction before she could register what was happening.
"It's Mandy! It's her!"
"You saved us, I remember that!"
"That captain girl with the unpleasant personality! Thank you! Thank you!"
While they may not have understood what had happened in Hell below, they recognized their former leader's face. This collective memory relieved the people who were now charging towards them, arms waving and fists pumping in celebration. It was comforting to see a familiar face. It was even more comforting for pawns with no capability to think for themselves to greet their Master. For sheep, who only knew how to follow, to be without a leader was unthinkable.
Finally, they had their conductor.
They nearly trampled over the Reaper in their joy, not even seeming to realize that they were smothering Death himself as they reached out to the girl. Persephone had receded into the shadows of an alleyway, unaccustomed to being in the mortal world, and even less so to being surrounded by people. Although surrounded by people on a daily basis, Mandy also tried to back away from the oncoming mass, wrinkling her non-existent nose as a dozen hands reached out to pat her on the back or cling to her ankles. A few kisses were even planted on her cheek as a thank-you, causing her blood to boil further and her breaking point to become stretched to its limit. Before she felt herself snap and fly into a fury, she grabbed the scythe which had been separated from Grim's hands while he was crushed.
As soon as such an object of power found itself into her hands, the crowd ceased its annoying outburst. Eyes flaring, she sent each civilian stepping backwards with a light twirl of the blade.
"You there! Yes, all of you. Idiots." She yelled into the crowd, whispering the last word under her breath.
"My name is Mandy. It's one that you will all do well to remember."
"ALL HAIL MANDY!"
The whoops and cheers carried from those closest to her through the masses, trailing down as far as her eye could see. It appeared as though the entire town was trying to hear what she had to say, despite most being out of earshot.
"Quiet, you cretins!" She growled, and the cheering stopped.
The entire town was listening and obeying every whim she proposed.
"You will build monuments in my name. There will be a chapter in each history book dedicated to me. What happened in Hell is no dream. I was your leader. A battle for the very existence of reality as we know it took place, and a grand ruler proved victorious."
She had them all wrapped around her finger.
"You will remember me."
Nodding of heads, giddy shouts and exclamations of relief.
"You." Mandy turned and faced her father. He winced in fear.
"You will be in charge of establishing a statue of me, to be erected in the middle of the Town Square."
Phil shivered and bowed in compliance to her wishes.
"You." She turned to her mother. She gasped in terror.
"You will be in charge of making sure my legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of the people. I don't know how you're going to do that, but…I guess that's your problem. Not mine."
Claire squeaked and nodded furiously.
"And you." The blonde directed her voice towards the crowd once more.
"Get to work writing everything that happened down. Stat."
With a snap of her fingers the crowd dispersed, each citizen bumbling off to complete some meaningless task in her name. She was in control. And she knew it.
Her face remained concealed, hidden by shadows and veiled by indifference. The Reaper was just beginning to pick himself up and dust himself off when she whispered his name.
"I expect you to tell my story to your Underworld buddies for the next few centuries."
His eye sockets widened at the statement.
What a curious thing to say.
"You can tell dem yourself, mon, de next time we wind up down dere. What with your apparent domination of Endsville I'm pretty sure you'll be needin' a lot more supernatural magic in de near future."
There was a scoff. It sounded like acid.
She clutched the scythe tightly, and turned around to meet his baffled look. Now he began to worry more than he thought was possible.
She was smiling, and the universe was not imploding.
"A ship without an anchor, Grim, is liable to drift away no matter what captain it has."
"Mandy, I don't-"
"Understand? Figures." She rolled her eyes in typical Mandy fashion.
"You don't mean…"
"Immortality, bonebag. I've gained it, just like I always wanted. And you didn't believe I'd ever be a great and terrible Queen. My reign may have ended, but my complete domination of the thoughts of these peons has not. And won't anytime soon."
It was more a smirk than a smile of pure happiness…but perhaps that made it even more unsettling. A sinking feeling began to gnaw at the pit of the Reaper's stomach as the realization of her choice of words dawned upon him. The scythe was still in her hands.
"I have two coins in my pocket. I believe they will be more than enough payment."
"Mandy, if you're gonna do what I tink you're gonna do, please, reconsider…"
She looked down at her shoes, trying to think of an appropriate way to answer him.
"Thanks for the past seven years, Grim. I'll be seeing you again shortly."
Mandy rose the accursed scythe to her face, watching the blonde reflection that smirked back at her. Deciding that this was not her, she settled her eyebrows back into their usual frown. That was Mandy. That was how she would be remembered. In power and control of her life until the very end. A great and powerful leader.
Perhaps it was not so bad, to be loved instead of feared.
A quick flick of the wrist swept the blade across her pale neck; sweet, savoury blood ran down her chest and stained her trademark flower red.
AN: A ship without an anchor will be crushed against the rocks. A good captain knows that preserving the vessel at any cost is better than losing it to the sea; even if this means abandoning ship and watching as it fades out of sight.
Note: I'm not emo. I know that Mandy is not emo. If you wish for a detailed explanation of why Mandy did what she did (though I hope the explanation was stated clearly enough throughout the story) please message me.
Opinions and comments greatly appreciated. Thanks. One last chapter to go.