Prologue: The Ethereal World
I stepped outside and took a deep breath, reveling in the feel of the gentle, constant wind on my bare skin. The night had just descended, covering the word in a soft, dreamy cloud of deep blue sky as it devoured the sun behind an enveloping fog, leaving the sky with a soft pink tint.
The cold might have bit into someone else's bones, but tonight I walked without a coat or jacket, sweating already from the smoldering heat of the building I had just left. The wind picked up in tempo, making my arms tingle, brushing the delicate, exposed skin of my legs, pushing me forward.
It had rained earlier—likely the source of the fog that refracted the light and gave the world a surreal feel—as if the whole place was tipping to one side, but not causing anything to fall. The streetlights had flickered on and now danced and floated like orbs of light as I walked down the street. The puddles beneath my feet reflected the lamp's light and caused the whole earth to glow.
On the black, flooded asphalt the puddles looked less like mirrors and more like gaping holes that would swallow up an unsuspecting passerby. The ethereal feel and look of this so-called "world" cleared the doubts from my mind as I approached my destination. Off in the distance the ghostly sound of a bell echoed towards me, vibrating a haunting sound through my ears, sending a tingle down my spine.
This "world" hummed with its false reality. The strange night liberating and suffocating at the same time if given enough thought. It was beautiful, without a doubt, but it was also proof of its lying nature and false securities. The wind came again in a gust that ruffled my clothes and tangled my hair and nearly pushed me off the ledge I now stood on. I had arrived at my destination, but the world would not have the last say here—I would go on my own terms.
I spared one more glance at the dreamlike setting I found myself in and inhaled slowly, deeply… to have a scent of damp earth and fresh rain assault my senses.
This was indeed a night of extreme beauty, perhaps the most beautiful this earth would ever be to me, so now would be the best time—the only time to do it. If I left now I knew, no matter what, I would never summon up enough courage to come here again. This was my one and only chance to prove I was no coward; that I still had enough life in me to die with true finality.
Yet the wind tugged on my long locks of hair, beckoning me to turn and look, against my will. I didn't want to turn around; I knew there was nothing left for me there or anywhere. Yet I was compelled to hesitate—compelled by the same earth I had grown to loathe in the deep silence of my own heart.
I would not let such a place keep me chained under its will…
Not a place where it was okay to…
Turn a little girl's father into a man who walked out on his family…
Take away a little girl's mother…
Leave a small girl with nothing but a heartbeat to prove she was even alive…
But that was still hers. Her heart—the steady thrum of it working in her chest. That she still controlled. That she would control right up till the very end—the end that now stood before her in the form of a skyscraper high plummet into the dark waters below.
Her toes inched forward, she peered over the edge, taking in with silent amazement the drop—knowing that she would have a few long seconds of weightless joy before her life came to an end. It really wasn't such a bad way to go.
She inhaled through her nose, her lungs filling with life-sustaining air. Her hands curled into fists at her side… before slowly unclenching and dangling loose and free. Systematically she relaxed her body, calmed her mind, and then… one foot up, dangling over open air. It was a matter of pitching her small weight forward… a simple matter of falling into the embracing winds… she leaned into the breeze and…
"What the hell are you doing?"
I jerked back, snapped back into my own mind by the unwelcomed voice. My heart was pounding furiously, angry at what I had just nearly attempted. I spun around, nearly losing my balance in the process, only to be greeted by the furious face of a boy that looked close to my age.
"What?" I asked dumbly, not sure what else to say—I hadn't expected or planned on anyone showing up, least of all some strange boy that would bother stopping me at all.
"I said," he growled slowly, rage brewing in his strange red eyes, "What the hell are you doing?"
"It's not obvious?" I snapped. "Now if you'd left me alone, it would be done already! Now I have to try and relax again and everything and—!"
"Like hell you are!" he yelled back, taking a few quick strides towards me and pulling me down, and then to my surprise he tossed my up and over his shoulder, carrying me like a sack of potatoes.
"What the hell are you doing? Let me down!" I demanded indignantly. "You have no right to touch me!"
"And you have no business trying to kill yourself!" he retorted and for a moment I wasn't sure what to say. It was the first time I'd heard it out loud like that—trying to kill myself. I stayed silent, failing to find the words that I needed to say—that I needed to explain why I wanted this—why I needed to do this.
"You know there are people out there dying from deadly diseases that would love to have a healthy body like yours—that would give anything for another shot at life," he lectured, carrying me to—wherever it was he was carrying me. "There are people out there that have cancer or multiple sclerosis or some other shit—and you—Miss Too-Good-For-The-World—you think you have the right reasons to do this to yourself?
"People like you make me so damn mad!" he concluded in a huff.
"I won't apologize, just so you know," I muttered, knowing he could hear my soft voice due to our closeness.
"I don't want you to apologize," he answered, his voice finally calming and picking up a neutral tone. "I would like to know why the hell you thought killing yourself was a good idea—but that can wait." Suddenly he dropped me on my feet, catching me as I wobbled from the rush of blood to my legs.
"Where did you take me?" I asked, blinking hard as stars blossomed in my field of vision, blinding me for a surreal moment.
"My apartment—you're staying here tonight," he explained. "And before you start spouting some nonsense excuse let me put it this way—you just tried to kill yourself, so you really don't have anything to lose by staying here. Not like you have to worry if I turn out to be some crazy serial killer, right?"
I opened my mouth to produce some kind of excuse—nonsense or not—but he did have a point, and I didn't really have anywhere else to go. By this point in my life—well, by this point I thought I wouldn't have a life, so my schedule was pretty clear for the rest of… my life.
How weird to think of that now. My life—something some stranger considered more precious than I did. I followed the stranger in question inside the apartment complex, up some stairs, and paused as he fiddled with a key, unlocking the door that unveiled his sparse little living space.
"It's not much, but you can take the bed in the room back there," he said, gesturing down the hall to my left. "And don't try anything weird, one because I'm a light sleeper, and two because if anything happens to you while you're here—with some guy you have no history with—guess who gets the blame?"
"Is that your way of telling me to think of someone other than myself?" I asked with a frown, still pissed that he had interrupted me.
"Basically—good to know you're not totally stupid." He yawned and stretched his hands over his head. "I'm getting a snack, want anything?"
"No, I'm fine," I said, watching as he disappeared behind the opening in the wall to where I assumed the kitchen was. After a moment I followed him and poked my head in the opening, toes tapping nervously on the wooden floor beneath them.
"What is it?" he asked, turning around with a scowl on his face—probably expecting a snide comment from me, which I couldn't exactly blame him for.
"I was just wondering," I started slowly, dropping my gaze from his eyes. "What's your name?" I looked back up in time to see him blink in surprise before he quickly masked it.
"Soul," he answered, shoving his hands in his pockets. "Soul Eater. What's yours?"