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Task One: Death

By: Austyn Krons

Page 1, Hi, My name is Louis and I\'m a ghost. And now I must help save the world. One small task at a time.

“Don’t---“      

            The rest of that sentence was lost as the door closed behind me, for really why should I care what that strange old man was talking about. I had just wanted to get my groceries and get back home. Nothing more. However I should have cared. I should have stayed and listened to that man. If I did I probably would have survived the next day.

            You seem confused. Sorry I have a habit of starting in the middle of a story. Let me explain. First of all, I’m dead. Secondly, yes I am writing this after I was killed and yes I happen to be a ghost. Please don’t freak out on me. Third, turns out that crazy old man was really a secret genius who happened to be able to use magic and see into the future. Still confused? Let me try again:

            I awoke on a beautiful Saturday morning- oh who am I kidding? It was 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon. It was a freezing day in late January and I was grumpy. I went to the fridge in my one room apartment, only to find that it empty. My stomach growled angrily at me, vowing vengeance if I didn’t fill it soon. Looking in the pantry, which was really one kitchen cupboard, showed how bleak my options were. I could chew on some cardboard or go to the store.

            Luckily the store was just down the street, and thinking it wouldn’t take me much time, I just put on my shoes and started on my way, without brushing my teeth or changing from my awesome superhero pajamas.

            As I started down the street I immediately noticed the old man. He was just sitting outside the shop, just sitting on the ground. What caught my eye was that he was clean-shaven, with a nice black suit, some fancy shades and a tie so purple I’m pretty sure he had just now skinned an eggplant and tied it around his neck.

            He looked at his watch and when he noticed the time he seemed shocked and looked around, as if he was the White Rabbit and missed ‘his very important date’. Then his eyes settled on me and he calmed down. He stood up and started walking straight for me.

            Now normally I am the friendliest person you’d meet, especially when the ‘you’ I am meeting seems to be a nice rich old man, but something about this guy really freaked me out. Of course that could have been because I had just woken up and had yet to feed the monster currently residing in my stomach.

            Purple Tie quickened his pace as I grew closer to him, and my eyes seemed to be looking everywhere but him, trying to avoid eye contact.

            “Louis! Louis Johnson!” He shouted towards me. My mind raced. My name was Louis. My last name wasn’t Johnson, but the fact he was shouting my first name still scared me. Hoping and praying that there was another Louis right behind me, I kept walking, deliberately not giving any recognition.

            Mere seconds after my prayer, he grabbed me. I looked up in alarm as he spoke, “Louis. So glad I have found you. You must listen to me. Go back right now. Go back to your bed. Or go to a restaurant. Do not go to that store. I’m warning you Louis Johnson.”

            “Get off me,” I muttered as I shook him off. “ You’ve got the wrong person. My name is Louis Gerter, not Louis Johnson.”

            “Gerter? Ah yes, Gerter is your mortal name; Johnson is your proper name. You are after all, John’s son, are you not?” He replied as he took his glasses off.

            Mortal name? This guy was nuts. And my mother believed in the Greek gods. However my dad’s name was John. Either way, I was hungry and nothing was stopping me from buying my lunch!

            “Well it’s been a lovely chat, but I really must be going. Thanks for being all creepy and what not. Have a wonderful day.” I started to walk off when his hand reached out and clutched my arm. 

“Ow that hur---“ I stopped short when I noticed his eyes. That had gone completely black, then white, and then black again. They kept flickering as spoke; his voice seemed a higher pitch, as if someone had just punched him in the gut.

Black cat, white door, don’t go down number four. Broken glass, dark mask, death is the first task.” After this he gasps and his eyes became a normal color again. He looked at me, and must have seen the wonder in my facial express because he asked, “What did I say? I said something crazy sounding didn’t I?”

I just nodded and started to back away. “Really now, its been great and all but that’s my cue to leave. Bye-bye now.”

            “Listen to me!” he shouted after me, but I had already opened the door to the shop. “Don’t---“

            The door closed behind me, and I smiled as his voice was cut off. Now to feed the beast. I walked over to grab my usual snacks, and as I reached for a bag of chips I noticed they had a new salsa. The packaging was completely black, except for a white door on the front that was opened slightly. The only thing coming through the door was a long, slim tail. “Black Cat” read the title “Tastes so good, its just plain bad luck to run out.”

            Well that’s weird. Stupid old man must really like this salsa. Yet it still intrigued me so I grabbed a jar of the stuff and wandered to grab some bread.

As I headed towards the bread aisle I noticed the aisle with some mac-and-cheese, and never one to pass up cheesy goodness I diverted course. As I headed down the new route I spotted that I was currently in Aisle 4.

            My heart skipped a beat, and normally I’m not a superstitious man, but things were beginning to add up.

            “Hello,” I jumped as someone touched my shoulder, and turned, dropping the Black Cat salsa. The glass shattered as I looked upon the scariest thing I had ever seen since seeing that birthing video in high school biology, a menacing person wearing a black ski mask.

            Now according to witnesses and the security tapes I screamed like a five-year-old girl. I do not believe this happened. I am sure I just gasped. The person grinned and took off their mask.

            “Sorry, I forgot I had this on,” said the most gorgeous girl, no woman, I had ever seen. She had the most amazing smile and stunning blue eyes that contrasted nicely with he black hair. In fact everything was perfect, well that is until I noticed the ring on her left ring finger and this huge hulking beast coming up behind her.

            Death is the first task was rounding circles around my mind. I smiled slightly, “Oh its ok, I’m just a nervous type of person that’s all. Please have a wonderful day and wonderful life.” I turned and hurried to the cash register to check out and get out before the Monster killed me.

            “Just the bag of chips, sir?” The cashier asked before coughing and wiping her nose on her sleeve.

            “Yes that’s it” I paid as quickly as I could, and rushed out of the store. If I had taken the time I would have noticed the sirens and gunshots outside, but in my fear I was blind and deaf to the world.

            It’s funny because when most people talk about tragic events they talk about how time slows down, or how it happened so fast, but for me, time played at its normal speed, not seeming to care how life was treating me. The door was still open behind me when I felt the bullet hit. It didn’t hurt, I just felt pressure on my chest, like something was pushing me back, telling me I need something else from the store.

 I collapsed back into the store when the pain struck. It was bad, so bad I didn’t scream. This time I really did just gasp. My vision blurred and all I could see was that stupid purple tie.

“Louis, Louis,” I heard faintly. “It’s going to be ok. Just trust me.” Trust you, I don’t even know this guy except he predicted my death minutes before. That’s a trustworthy guy.

The next thing I know is that I’m a ghost. I finally met Purple Tie officially. I awoke in a strange place with him gazing down at me.

“Good morning, or evening I should say. You’ve had quite the day haven’t you?” He left where I was lying down and sat in a chair near by.

I sat up, if a ghost actually sits up. “What the---“ I looked down at my body. It was a pale green color, and I could see right through myself. I tried to stand, half expecting to float, but apparently ghosts follow the same walking rules as the living.

“Yes I expect it would come as quite the shock to you. Let me try and explain it as quickly as possible. You are dead. Sorry to tell you this, but sadly it is true. You were shot outside the store today, and currently your body resides in the county morgue waiting for your parents.”  I opened my mouth to curse but was stopped short when he raised his hand. “I know, I know. You’re angry and confused.  Let me try and explain. My name is Ostrinus, and I’m the Veneficus.”

“What’s a veneficus?” I asked before he could passive aggressively stop me.

“The Veneficus. It’s a job title; one that I am relatively new to. In fact I really haven’t started it yet. I am a Seer, Louis. I have the unique ability to see into the future. Because of this gift I joined the last Veneficus’ team. The Veneficus and their team have duty to the world to protect it.”

With each sentence my jaw dropped lower and lower. My mind was spinning. This man was crazy. It must be some kind of prank. Yet he had foretold what had happened in the store, sort of. “Wait, protect the world from what?” I asked.

“The forces of evil of course. This planet is in a constant state of war. Chaos wants to rule the people and the land. It is our job to stop them.”

“Our job? I don’t remember signing up for this,” I turned to go.

“Obviously he isn’t fit for the job,” came another voice in the room. I gave another little shriek and spun around. Sitting in the corner was a girl, for she couldn’t have been older than 20. She stood up and walked towards us. She had sleek short brown hair, and a short stubby nose, which she kept pointed up as she walked past me.

“He isn’t the one, Ostrinus,” she told Ostrinus. “ We’ll just have to keep looking.

“No. He is the one Lectrix. I have Seen it,” Ostrinus responded. She sniffed and gave me a once over. She walked back to her chair, muttering something that sounded suspiciously like “I suppose, if you’ve seen trash in our future.”

I gazed after her, wondering who she was. “I’m not the one? Which one am I?”

“You’re the Animi, the ghost.” Ostrinus said turning back to me.

“WHAT?” Ostrinus flinched at my shout, but remained calm.

“Just sit down and let me explain,” he motioned for me to sit before continuing. “As I was saying it is the Veneficus’ job to protect the world, it has been their job since before time began. I don’t know who decided it, just that the job has been passed through the generations to me. Each Veneficus has a team, one he, or she, must find on their own. Each team consists of a Seer, a Scholar, a Warrior, an Enchanter, and an Animi. This team then works together to help the world.

“After the last Veneficus passed the job onto me with his death I set out to find my own team. As I have told you I am a Seer, so I as Veneficus didn’t need to find one for the team. I found sweet Lectrix,” I snorted at this, “here a few months ago. She really is quite bright. After I explained everything, and why she had certain powers, she awakened as the Scholar.”

“Awaken? What is this, a spiritual journey you’re trying to take me on?” I asked him.

“No that’s just what we call it when you accept your destiny. Now I used my gift to see who next I would find, and destiny pointed me to you.”

“So now I’m just supposed to accept that I’m dead, and have to now join this crime-fighting team to save the world? Just leave my life behind and join a crazy old man and his strange little apprentice?” I shook my head, and turned towards the door. “No thank you. I’d prefer to go back to my body now.”

“That is impossible, Louis. You’re dead. You have two options at this point. Join my team and go around the world keeping the world safe.”

“Or?” I stared into his eyes, trying my hardest to catch him in a lie.

“Or you die. Simple as that. Your choice. But you know I’m telling the truth. It’s something you’ve always been able to do isn’t it? That’s what Animi do, Louis. They help find the truth.” He maintained eye contact barely even blinking.

He was telling the truth. He was right; I had this knack for knowing when someone was lying. Telling him I needed a moment I sat and thought for a while. I never did much in life. I was a 24-year-old college graduate working two part time jobs. I was a disappointment to my family and to myself. After a long time I decided. If I was going to be dead, I was going to make the most of my death and live it to the fullest, well make a difference at least.

“I’ll right I’ll do it, I’ll join your team.” I told Ostrinus, yet judging by the glint in his eye he knew I was going to say yes the whole time. “What do we do now?”

“We find our Enchanter and our Warrior,” he answered. “We need the full team to succeed.”

  Well we had the Seer, the Scholar, and the Animi. It shouldn’t be too hard for an old man, and cranky girl, and dead guy to find two people right? The only real problem was that I had died on an empty stomach.

            

© Copyright 2014Austyn Krons All rights reserved. Austyn Krons has granted theNextBigWriter, LLC non-exclusive rights to display this work on Booksie.com.

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