This is a Raising Pagan Voices Project Submission
It was a long way down and Moldovo watched each globule form as it left the body dangling over the edge of the building and fell beautifully through the air as it made its way to the ground. Once three droplets had gathered on the ground she swooped down and gracefully landed. Inhaled, and tasted the droplets where they now lay on the tarmac. They tasted different to the three she had consumed yesterday. Today’s experiment completed, she leapt back to the top of the building and pondered. To push the body to the ground or take it back to where it resided?
Sally lay stretched out on the sofa, a cup of tea positioned on the floor in arm’s reach ready to be drank when it had a cooled a little. The TV added some background noise – the news the same day in day out: wars, starvation, corrupt governments, accidents, global warming. She stretched her hand to the floor – knowing the remote lay somewhere nearby, deciding something less dreary would be better background noise. Her fingers collided with the cool plastic and she grabbed it. As she went to hit the menu button she stopped. Sat upright. A body had been found. A flicker of interest on her face as she lifted her tea. She watched closely, and sat back in the sofa. She knew that body. She’d met it whilst it was still warm, tended to it. Sat with it whilst it went cold. Comforted the soul as it ripped away from the flesh. She’d tidied up where the left arm below the elbow had been sawn off with a rusty blade. She recognised the face, peeled back from the ears and forehead, scratched away with sharp fingernails and a blade. The smile still sat on the body’s mouth. She had never met a body with such a self- satisfied smile upon its lips as it died –‘I did it’ it smiled. So why was this body now on the floor outside the art gallery? It should have been decomposing with the others.
Calmly she drank her tea, knowing that her plans for a lazy afternoon were now shattered. Left the comfortable sofa – it had been a long week and she’d been looking forward to lounging today. Went to the cupboard and did a small jig of delight as she discovered not one but two chocolate biscuits lurking. She munched them as she went to get changed into her work uniform.
At the police station she found Jim who escorted her to the stores, confirming it was one of hers and having sorted out the necessary paperwork, she left with the body and took it back to where it belonged. She looked around to make sure the other bodies were accounted for.
Mrs Miller’s body – one finger missing and an ear that was oozing nicely
Mr Smithfield – body intact but a little bloated
She inhaled. She loved her job. She tended to them all. Loved that people trusted her to look after their body. Susan in the corner was not looking well, the colouring was coming back to her cheeks.
‘Not yet Susan, it’s too soon’
It would be dangerous. She placed a plastic bag over Susan’s head and taped it tightly in place, watched as the colour disappeared again. Then gently removed the tape, taking care not to damage the delicate skin.
‘Now then, Esmeralda, how did you get out?’ She checked the body over carefully. No pulse. She redressed stump. Pulled the peeling edges of the face as high up to the hair line as she could. Would it be better to actually glue it up? The skin not as pale as perhaps it should be. What to do? She’d had strict instructions with this body. Not to interfere in the process. It was a conundrum. She decided to move it to a room of its own. And lock the door.
She checked the lighting and the temperature, spoke to each body tenderly, and locked up. She stopped off to collect fish and chips and returned home to the ever-beckoning sofa hoping for a lazy evening, or what was left of it at least.
The blood gushed. Not droplets like the last body. It was faster. But this was different. This one wasn’t from the Dead House. This was a live, still breathing body. Moldovo watched. Tears spilled from the human’s face. She had seen it happen and had flown closer for a better look. She tasted the blood. Watched the shock on the face of the human. The taste was again different. Joyous almost. She hadn’t anticipated being able to taste the blood from a human before its first death. And she highly doubted she would again. But now she knew. She would add that knowledge to her work. Possibly a first. The human looked paler and she realised it might die. What to do? How could she call for help – only the dying, dead or undead could see her. If she did nothing this human would join the dead – but, such a beautiful creature – she could help it. Save it. Follow its blood flavour throughout its death cycle. She summoned the wind and it came howling through the town, lifted the human and carried it to the doorstep of the hospital. She scraped a talon down the glass panel of the door – made sure that someone had heard her and disappeared into the evening sunlight.
Sally nodded at Martine, who manned reception at the hospital. ‘Thanks for the call ’. It was good to have someone at the hospital who understood – who had been through the process. The small scar on Martine’s chest a proud record of her achievement. They smiled at each other – then Sally went to find the poor woman on the ward.
She sat by the bed. ‘I can help you,’ she said softly.
‘NO; I didn’t do it. I was attacked.’ Sally stood and looked at the folder hanging off the end of the bed. ‘It wasn’t me,’ the woman whispered. ‘It was Him. I did not choose this. I do not choose this. I would never choose this. I abhor it. I do not want it.’
Sally nodded, her head dropped
It was not many who chose the way – but she would always be there for those that did.
But Him. This was the 3rd time in six months. He must be stopped. This was never something that should be forced upon people. She rang for the police and left them with the woman to give them the information. And she hoped, truly hoped, that they would catch him soon.
She stopped for a cup of tea in the hospital canteen. And added a blueberry muffin. She’d skipped breakfast in order to fit the hospital in.
Sally’s mobile rang. Details of someone about to jump the bridge joining the shopping centre and office block. She ran. It was not far away.
Within minutes she was sat by her side. The woman saw Sally and gave the briefest of smiles. It was what they had agreed, and she had waited for Sally to get there – otherwise it would all be for nothing. The only smile in her today – life was otherwise shit. That is why she was here. To escape. They had discussed options. The best way to leave this life. She was here – for her first death. It would be painful and messy. And would leave its mark on her body – some people chose to do it with less of a mark -others would wear their scars in the second life like a tattoo. Some in fact chose to go through their first death just for the markings it would bring.
She would jump
And with luck, impale herself on the spiked fencing below.
Sally would deal with the rest. Sally hugged her, asked her to give to her six minutes exactly to get to position, then it was up to her.
Sally washed her face and applied some night cream as she put on her silk pyjamas. Today had been a long but exhilarating day – it has been a very messy clean-up operation but now the woman was tucked safely in bed thirteen and was quite dead. The screams when the soul ripped away were the loudest she’d encountered. And now they would wait. Wait till it was time.
She had stopped to check on the conundrum in the side room. It was still there and still in the same state as before. Stump still in good condition, skin around the edges of the face not festering too badly.
Moldovo followed him. Why had he done that to the beautiful human? Her life’s project on their bloodwork could wait. She would study him – a light break from her work.
He walked differently from the others. In fact, the more she followed him from high above, roof top to roof top, the more she realised he was different to the others. He didn’t look at the others as he passed them by; he almost scurried. Scared? No, that wasn’t right, how to describe it? It was very unhuman like. She realised they were close to the Dead House. She watched as – well, he walked through the wall. How was that possible. She swooped down for a closer look. But too late – he was back out – and he had that body with him. The one with the lower arm missing and the scratched face. She watched as he dragged it – paying no attention as the skin scraped on the ground. She watched, and followed. She noticed the body he dragged was changing. It breathed. This was interesting. She knew it happened. But she hadn’t witnessed it before.
He threw it on the ground by the edge of the canal path. And then he changed. His black flowing coat dropped to the floor and there was just soul -angry and red and no body left.
She watched as the dark soul of an evil being forced its way into the currently soulless body of a someone who should have been lying in the Dead House awaiting its rightful soul.
The body let out a grumble and she watched as it staggered back towards the Dead House.
Sally shook her head. Something wasn’t right. The conundrum had woken before she had returned to work. And was talking. But something was different. She’d given the body space and time and waited for it to drink some water and have a biscuit -a small energy burst helped. She usually spent a lot of time with the bodies before they were dead – but this one had been unusually brief and came with strict instructions to not interfere with the process. To let it happen even if it was early. She’d accepted these instructions as a special favour to a friend to whom the body was a relative. But something didn’t feel right. She was also sure that someone had been in the building, but there was nothing to prove she was right.
Esmeralda Wallington-Smith glimmered through the streets – confused. Her body had been waking; she had been sure of that. She had gone through that awful pull when the soul left the body and felt the weird fuzz a few weeks ago when she’d tried to re-enter the body – her first life was over and her first death completed and she was ready to get back to her second life. Refreshed and with a new scar as her reward. Oh yeah, and a missing arm. That had been a nice but incredibly painful touch.
But she couldn’t find her body.
She saw black wings above. She had heard tales from the others of the wings. You could only see them after you had died. But no one knew what they belonged too. Sightings were rare.
Moldovo got closer and realised the soul was looking at her. Shit. This was a first. She would usually stay away but – this human had no body and she suspected she knew where its body was – but she didn’t understand why or how this had happened. She had never observed this before. And in 1599 years, she had done a lot of observing.
The human’s soul quivered as she stared at it. Beautiful and silvery.
She tried to speak to it – but knew not how. She bowed.
The soul moved towards it. Esmeralda had always been quite brave. And in death she was braver still, reached out and floated on to the wings.
Moldovo flew, hovered over the Dead House. She and Esmeralda watched as Sally waved goodbye to the body, the now very alive body that Sally had helped to ease its return from the dead. The body that Esmeralda was definitely not inhabiting.
Sally watched as Susan’s body began to waken…the colour seeping back into her cheeks. It would take a while yet. She checked the time and date in the files at the side of the bed. It was ok. The body could start the process now – it would be uncomfortable at first. The history books tell of times where people only knew of the soul leaving the body. But soul re-entry – it happened. Not to everyone. But for those who really wanted it, there were ways. The body had to die – and as the pain of death ripped through the body and the shudder as the soul ripped away fast it was possible for the soul to wait. To take time out. To pause. To evaluate. To leave behind the world but not forever. And when the time is right, 26 days and 36 minutes after death – the soul can re-enter a body. The body needs to be ready to receive the soul again. Some bodies try to wake up too soon – so desperate are they for reunion with their soul. You must keep them dead till then.
It is best if they are just beginning to undie before the soul re-enters; it makes it slightly less of a shock and takes a small edge off the pain. Re-entry of the soul is painful. Very. All the pain that left the body as it left its first life must be forced back in. Sally had seen times when it was less painful. These were usually people who had been so unhappy in their first life that the freedom from leaving life behind outweighed the pain – and re-entry for these souls was easiest. It was the people who did this for fun, for looks, for the experience that found it most painful. But afterwards they wore their pain like a badge. ‘Look what I did,’ they tell their friends. But Sally knew, she saw them broken, in their beds. She did what she could but in her job, watching re-entry was the hardest part. And not everyone made it. That it why, so many, many years after the discovery, still so few did it. Sally remembered her third death and shuddered. That one had hurt her, but the elation after the soul had re-entered the body, wow. The soul having taken a break, free to fly, to roam, catch up with souls it knew from previous times, the soul so lifted that back in the body – pure joy filled and brimmed through. Her body had healed so spectacularly that time -filled with such love – that the token mark she had left on her body was now just the faintest of scars. Few healed that well – but then, few died three times. But her soul was special.
An alarm sounded – it was time. Sally walked to Susan and held her hand – listened to the body scream as the soul re-entered. Watched it rise up off the bed and fall back with a thud. Watched her tremble. Tears streamed down her face ,but her voice not yet found. Minutes passed and Susan was still. And then she saw it….breathing. Sally smiled and left the bed to give Susan some space, leaving a glass of water and a digestive biscuit on the table ready for when Susan wanted it.
Sally returned to her desk. She head a scratch at the door. She rarely got visits to the Dead House. Cautiously she opened it and there was Moldovo, who bowed. Esmeralda’s soul quivered in front of Sally. Moldovo sniffed Sally, evaluating her blood, and flew off.
Sally felt the soul. A pink tinge round the edges. She was sure if was Esmeralda’s. But how? Souls can’t speak.
Esmeralda’s body was rampaging through town. It was hunting.
Moldovo watched from the top of the tallest building she could find. Yes, Esmeralda’s body, or whoever was in it, was looking for something. She wondered why she had found that body a few weeks ago. The more she thought about it the odder it felt. Sure, sometimes the bodies awakened before the soul. They occasionally went for a walk. But lost bodies rarely climbed buildings. They were too weak without a soul. Perhaps her moving the body to a safe place to be discovered had been a bad move.
It was climbing
Moldovo stared. Yes, it was climbing up the building she was stood on
She swooped from the building to another across town and as she turned back a genuine flash of fear streaked through her as she watched Esmeralda’s body leap through the air and land on the building next to her. Before she had time for her next move a black arrow soared through the air. Moldovo felt pain as it pierced her heart.
History books would tell of a time, a time when souls could return to the body and of a day, a Wednesday morning at 12.53 when all the bodies that gone through their first death went through their final death together. Souls never to be returned. How 1599 years after history books began to write of tales of the returning soul, it simply stopped, and they could return no more. The time when kind Moldovo, returner of souls was finally defeated by Him, Collector of Souls.