The bonding between the characters and the Mc grows stronger.
| A while ago if you had asked me about the underworld, whether I believed in ghosts and gremlins or winged creatures almost the size of an adult jaguar for instance, I would've laughed at your face and probably would've guided you to a therapist, just out of goodwill.
As we started running, everything was passing by in a blurr. My hand tightly gripped Frank's, he's eyes straight ahead without a hint of terror as if this was something he encountered every single day. Jester the gremlin, was nowhere to be seen. He didn't abandon us to save his ass did he? I tilted my head to see the creature.
As my eyes landed upon him, I took in it's features. It was something I had never seen before. Or even heard of for that instance. It looked mostly like a skeleton but it's porcelain wings seemed as huge as an aeroplane's, pieces of it's flesh dangled from its visible bones. It's eye socket was completely hollow, as if devoid of sight. It's body was completely covered in wrinkles with stains of black liquid all over it. It's honed talons so massive that I wouldn't be surprised if it pierced through a boulder.
Suddenly it's mouth opened in a shrill screech, almost bursting off my earbuds. It stretched it's sharp claw, penetrating my back with hot, red liquid gushing out. It's claw was in so deep that, I even felt it in my front. I wanted to scream myself out of this hell-hole but before I could do that, again a huge hand clasped my mouth to stop me from screaming. My eyes started pooling with the pressure, as Frank dragged me with him, tumbling down a shallow slope.
My chest heaved up and down with my back paining from the tear. He still had his hand over my mouth, and gestured me to not move.
The winged creature hovered above us, it's hollow nose similar to that of a skeleton, it's beak straight with insides from a nightmare. After a while it went away in the opposite direction, flying in a somewhat sluggish manner.
After the creature left, I didn't realize I was actually holding my breath. I heaved a sigh, but a shrewd pain tore me out of a fleeting sense of safety.
I sharply sucked in air as, I traced my finger along the gash, my shadbelly around the cut had completely vanished. Everytime my hand touched or even came nearer to the slash, I winced in pain.
Frank with his back to me, searched for something in his backpack. Jester came running from somewhere with bundles of firewood in his hand. He layed them on the ground and went to check up on Frank. It felt like I was completely invisible to them. I wanted to ask for help but, my pride got the best of me. It hurt like a bitch, that I couldn't even sit anymore.
My sweaty fingers were of no help as I tried standing up with much difficulty. The cold was back and it teased my tear, every minute of it felt excruciating. I felt high on the gash, my sight became muddled, suddenly my legs gave out and I fell with a thud on the ground. My eyes rolled to the back of my head and once again I was a welcomed guest of the darkness.
A splash of cold water jerked me into my senses. I winced as water dripped from my eyelashes onto my face, in front of me stood Jester. His gaze upon me and his hand holding water as if ready to splash me again. I was shivering now, when suddenly a roar of a voice made me jump.
"I told you not to wake her up like that! Why don't you ever listen to me!?", It was Frank! Was he worried about....me?
"This was the fastest way. Besides, don't be such a pussy", Jester replied looking at me. My anger was surfacing once more, I was ready to throw a punch at him when he looked me up and down. What!?
I followed his gaze and looked down. Immediately I wished the ground would open and swallow me entire. My torso was completely bare with just bandages around my bust and my back. Wait, don't tell me that one of these assholes were the one that changed me into these! I mean of course it was one of them! I don't see anybody else here.
My back was feeling......incredible. It actually felt even better than it was before the incident. I marched towards Frank, my eyes fixated upon him. His hands held something similar to the bun, that he had offered me earlier to eat. I fisted my hand and a swift swing was enough to knock him to the ground. Silence.
Jester started howling with laughter, I looked back at him with utter abhorrence. Frank groaned on the ground when I grabbed his collar and forced him to look at me, I didn't realize but I had busted his lip. Regret crossed my mind as something black dripped out of the corner of his mouth.
"Were you one who undressed me?", I asked sternly.
His eyes searched for mine, his reply steadfast, "Yes, but we had no choice. If I hadn't, you may not have even survived".
"What do you mean? It was just a cut from that ghastly thing, surely it wasn't that deadly........", Jester started tisk, tisking at me as if out of disapproval.
"That thing's tip of the claw is enough to wipe out an entire village of people. If it wasn't for him, you would've been dead by now missus!", replied the gremlin in a plaintive voice.
"Don't worry, I didn't see anything. I had a blindfold over my eyes, I swear!", Frank gestured me towards a thin cloth lying on the ground.
Oh my, the regret was coming back. I just gifted the man who actually helped me, a busted lip! I gave him a hand to help him up but from a distance I heared a slow, "oh boy, but I did see", it was Jester as he waddled into the darkness once again.
Crimson red flew into my cheeks and the regret from before was replaced with fury. A smirk played upon Frank's lips, I withdrew my helping hand and pushed him to the ground cause embarrassment made me do it.
Fuming with anger I walked over to the fireplace and sat cross-legged. He dragged himself to the spot in an exaggerated manner, his hand over his black, busted lip. He threw me a bun as if I was some kind of a dog, I wanted to throw the food away into the fire but my stupid stomach had other ideas.
Without a thought I gobbled down the sweet bun, it felt even tastier than the before. I was eating so fast that I started coughing, I must look like a complete slob to him. I wonder if my fans would still like me if they saw me in this state........ugh, I missed my fans, I missed warmth, I missed my aunt, I missed my furballs waiting for me at home.
Home. That single word was enough to bring me to tears. Before I knew anything, a single droplet trickled down my cheek. I got flustered, I didn't want this stranger to see me crying like this. Never! I wiped my tear away with the back of my hand. Frank sat beside me surrounding the fire. He seemed to be searching for something in that bag of his, when suddenly he offered me a bottle.
The bottle was made out of polished glass, the liquid from thr outside looked to be transparent but I was skeptical. The fire cast a shadow upon his face, his eyes enchanting, his front hair now falling sideways giving him off a 90's red carpet look.
Upon seeing my reluctance, he snatched the bottle from me and took a swig of the liquid himself as if to prove his innocence. He winced a bit but the liquid didn't seem to be poisoned. I took the container from him, the inside looked pitch black, complete opposite of the outside. I gulped a small portion of it, at first it tasted mellow but suddenly it burned my throat as if I was drinking acid. I coughed, it felt like my throat was on fire. It definitely didn't felt like alcohol but something worse.
"Cough, what is it!?", I asked clasping my hand upon my throat. Damn, it burned so bad!
"Venom", he replied. Yeah right, like I was gonna believe that.
"Seriously? I'm not in the mood for your silly jokes"
"It's the venom of the the Great Delphine the Serpent. She's referred to as the mother of all snakes, this venom of hers isn't poisonous but somewhat similar to that of nectar of the gods except it's for the beings of the underworld.", he replied.
"You mean the heavenly drink, that cures any gash or injuries and promises longevity and immortality?", I asked him with utter surprise. That can't be actually real!
"Quite similar, it cures you and all but just doesn't confer immortality. We're already dead so it's pretty useless but even for the alive ones, it doesn't provide immortality", he said with a solemn look on his face. The silence was too loud, was his death a sensitive subject? I wanted to know but I was afraid to ask. "Jester, he was joking you know. He didn't look when I was tending to you, he wasn't even there. He just likes to tease."
A hint of red tinged my cheeks, I tried to think of a clever segue to distract him. "Why's your blood....black?", I asked genuinely as curiosity piqued my interest.
"Isn't it obvious? I'm dead, and we're in the underworld so there should be something differentiating me from the living ones, right?", I don't know if it was just my imagination but for a fleeting second, he looked almost....sad.
"I know it's not my place to ask, but how did you die?", I asked daringly. He just stared at the blazing fire as embers danced around his statuesque face.
After a moment of consideration, he replied, "The most earliest memory that I have of my living days is that at the age of 9. I was raised in an orphanage because apparently my so-called parents had abandoned me on a pavement after I was born. It was Mrs. Michaels, the director of a nearby orphanage that found me and took care of me". A look of uttermost adoration moulded his face.
"Until the age of 16", he continued, "She was kind enough to supply me with shelter, food and all the basic human needs for free. But after I completed my high-school from a nearby local government school, I decided it was time to finish my studies and start earning".
"Wait a minute, but what about your relatives? There must have been some, at least on one of your parents side....."
His face turned grim, I realized maybe I shouldn't have asked him that, "They didn't want anything to do with me, after I started earning my first keep I thought of searching for my relatives. I even found some....."
"Then what happened?", I asked him.
"I even found some of my relatives but, they told me that my parents were already dead some years ago in a car crash. Also they didn't want anything to do with me and asked me to never show my face around them."
Wow, what a douche of a family.....I realized I was slowly having sympathy for him, maybe it was his situation or maybe it was that he also like myself grew up without any parents. I guess that's one of the ways in which we were similar.
"I returned and promised myself to never search for them, even in the most dire of situations. After that I changed a lot of jobs from a butcher, a part-timer at a Cafe, to working at a cheese factory. I was already 24 and had gotten myself 2 or 3 girlfriends by then", a sly smirk tugged his lower lip as he brushed his thumb over it.
Ugh, I so wanna wipe that smug look off his face. I mean it's no surprise that he had "girlfriends", and I didn't even ask about his love history! I just wanted to know if he ever got a funeral!
"All my past relations didn't last long, I mean looking back I still don't know what kind of a girl would date such a loser, but that was until I met a girl so lovely that I believed her to be the love of my life. We both were very deeply in love", he seemed genuinely happy reminiscing about this girl, but there was something dejected about it too.
"But the problem was that, we both were from completely different worlds. She was filthy rich and I was dirt poor. Even though now I had a steady paying job at a construction site, it still wasn't enough to even come anywhere near her wealth. I loved her a lot and looked forward to our future but just somewhere I knew we wouldn't work.", he said. The tunnel or whatever now was too silent. The only noise came from the crackling of fire.
Where the heck is that son of a bitch Jester!? Even though he's annoying, he can't leave me to deal with this sadness alone!
"I even made a friend out of an elderly lady, Mrs. Puddles, in my neighborhood. She lived with her cats, everyday she would ask me if I had eaten anything or if I was feeling well. Every Thanksgiving, Christmas she would ask me to celebrate it with her. She was so sweet, once just out of curiosity I had asked her why she was so good to me. She said that, she used to have a son that ranaway after stealing all her savings and since then she had never seen his face. She also said that I looked like I needed a parent, so she thought she would take care of me as her own"
Oh no, he was crying. I could see it, even though he tried to hide his face, I could see from here that he was overcome with emotions. I wanted to comfort him, but how!? I cannot just hug him! He's still a stranger, but is he now? He's even trusting me to share his past with me.......ugh I don't know!!
I scooched near him and placed my hand over his folded ones resting upon his knee. I don't know if this was enough but that was all I could offer other than comforting words.
His gaze lingered over our stacked hands as he sucked in a sharp breath and continued, "Everything was going well or so I thought, I had a mother figure now, a lover and a steady earning. Everything was ideal but during my 27th birthday, I accidentally got to know that I was diagnosed with stage four cancer and after that all my dreams crashed. Any little hope that I had, just vanished like my parents."
Tears stung my eyes now, I knew that feeling of despair. The desire to be loved, cared was immense during my childhood. But since then I've grown up. After hearing his story, I feel like maybe I was just overreacting.
"After I knew about my disease, I didn't take any treatments since it cost a lot of money. For one whole year, I didn't say a thing about this to anyone, I just tried to went on with my life. But it wasn't so easy, eventually I felt guilt that I was letting my beloved one's love go to waste. What good can she get from loving a dead man? So, without any prior hint or anything, I broke up with her. Not because I didn't love her but because I loved her so much that, I wished for her to love someone whom she could be with forever", he said with a sad smile tugging at his lips.
"What!? Why!? Oh my, how can someone be so fucking daft!? If you loved her so much, why didn't you share your side of the story with her? How did she react to your revolting confession?", I asked him blaringly with mixed emotions.
"I don't know, but I guess she moved on. Since then I've never looked back", he replied with a proud look.
"Well, what happened then?"
"After I broke up with her, I was mostly absent-minded. Even though I spent a lot of time with Mrs. Puddles, I was slowly losing interest. There were times when I didn't even wanna meet her, I've even made excuses just not to see her face. I felt guilty but I didn't have the courage to spend time with her, when I knew she would be alone once again after I was gone."
Could this story get any worse? How much more pain does he have to go through to......oh no, he's death is still impending.
"I started avoiding her and like that my 28th birthday arrived, I still remember that I was sitting in my room with no lights on, when I got a delivery. It was from my now 'ex-girlfriend'. I was excited, I thought maybe she hasn't forgotten me yet. There was a box completely wrapped up in ribbons with a note that read:
I'm happy, hope you're too.
The minute I read it, I knew she had already gotten herself a new, suitable man for herself. I was happy for her, then why did I felt sad? I opened the box, it was a shoe from a brand that read 'Prada'. It looked super costly and something I could never afford on my own. Just out of my little ego, I tried to return the shoe but then realized I didn't know how to. So I just wore it everyday to work with intentions of it completely tearing apart from all the rough work".
I laughed, I know I shouldn't be laughing at such a point of the story but I just couldn't contain myself. I needed to out my emotions one way or other. And for heck, I wasn't gonna cry.
Frank looked at me puzzled, he didn't seem offended or saddened by my reaction but just seemed perplexed. He was still wearing that shoe gifted by his girlfriend, maybe he died while wearing it.
I gestured him to continue and he did with a little hesitation, "Then after that I was all alone, I didn't go to meet the old lady across the street, I didn't check up on my lover, I just went to work everyday and did overtime", he sighed heavily.
"Then one fine day, I was walking to my work site. The sun was just extra shiny that day and everywhere I saw happy faces, except mine. I didn't have any reason to be alive now, a fleeting thought brushed my mind. As I reached the construction site, the work had already started and a massive crane was hoisting up a huge heavy load stock to the 4th floor, when suddenly the machine malfunctioned and crashed. The huge heavy load fell, crashing people under it. And among them..........was me."
I couldn't say anything, I gasped so loudly that even I had to cover my mouth. Such a tragedy, I couldn't believe my eyes earlier and now not even my ears.
"Since then I've lived in regret, I wanted to do so many things. I wanted to apologize to my girlfriend, I wanted to say goodbye properly to Mrs. Puddles, I wanted to thank every person that was ever kind to me. But then before I met death, I realized that I was just too late."
Every now and then his voice cracked, "What happened then? How did you end up here? Is this where everyone comes after their death?", I asked carefully choosing my words.
This time, he laughed. "Not everyone, after death people go somewhere completely different. This place isn't for everyone, just some souls are allowed to stay here under one of the prince's rules. After I died, I was a lost soul when I met prince Marcolf- The king of Lust. He took pity on me and asked me to stay with him as his personal contributor. Since then me, Jester and a few others do his dirty work. At first, like you I couldn't believe my eyes nor ears but eventually I got accustomed".
He looked a bit troubled as if contemplating his decision of sharing his past with me. Without thinking, I got up on my knees and pulled him into a side hug. At first, he seemed as confused as I did, but then he relaxed and patted my head. A loud whistle whiped me into reality, Jester stood at a corner, his hands folded over his chest, his legs resting against a wall and a smug look plastered over his ghastly face.
Colour flew to my cheeks as I swatted Frank's arm for patting me, I wasn't a kid. I scurried over to the opposite of him as Jester approached, his eyes moving skeptically back and forth between me and his friend. He puckered his lips, "I left you two for what, five minutes and you're already down each other throats?"
WHAT IN THE HEAVEN'S SAKE!?