Back in the Hill Atton awaited a report from Marty.
“Have you found her? Tell me you've found her,” Atton urged eagerly.
“We found her boss, we found her.” Marty gave him the coordinates and it led him to a familiar place, 817 Depriest Downs.
“No, you've got to be lying,” Atton said reeling in disbelief.
“No lie boss. Berzerk can inhabit bodies an’ she’s n one uh dem,” Marty continued.
“Well which one is she?” Atton nearly shouted.
“We don't know,” Marty said timidly.
Atton swore under his breath. “We just know Berzerk is in da house,” he said trying to cover up his mistake.
Atton let out an exasperated sigh. “I saw AJ today; face to face and he saw me. And that Chris has me running all over the world.”
“Yeah I heard about dat. He had ya in Guam, huh.” He changed the subject. “So how ya gonna catch Berzerk.”
“I'll watch them closely and see who acts out of character,” Atton said confidently.
“You really tink it's dat easy?” Marty chuckled. “Berzerk’s a sly one.”
“No, but it never hurts to have a plan,” Atton said satisfied.
The next morning Nirvana had an appointment with Minerva, her therapist. Nirvana had been seeing Minerva for years with her frequent visits. Minerva was the one who convinced Nirvana that Atton was not real.
“Why have you come to see me?” Minerva asked.
“Everything is falling apart,” Nirvana admitted. “Chris is gone and I keep thinking about–”
“Oh, so this is what it’s about. You are feeling regret in kicking Chris out,” she deduced.
“No I’m – well yeah but… that’s not what this is about. It’s about a dream I keep having, actually a nightmare, and a lingering daydream. He’s all I can think about,” she confessed.
“And what happens in this dream of yours?”
“I’m being choked,” she began, “but I can’t see who’s doing it; all I can see is him.”
“Who is ‘He’ Nirvana?”
“Atton,” she said as if it was obvious.
“No such person,” Minerva snapped. “We've been through this, Atton is not real. He is simply a figment of your imagination. He is a scapegoat your mind devised to satisfy unfulfilled needs. You need to find a boyfriend –a real person that can do that.”
“I’ll never love anyone else,” Nirvana said sadly.
“What’s love got to do with it?” she snapped. “I just said you need someone to be there for you. You don't need love.”
“I do need it. I’ve only loved one person in my entire life; and do you know where he is?” Nirvana asked.
“No,” Minerva replied.
“Me neither,” Nirvana said coldly.
“Atton is not real,” she continued.
“No,” Nirvana shook her head in dismay, “he was real; I know it.”
“Must we go through this ever session? There is no such person as Atton Brown,” Minerva told her.
“There is no such person as Atton Brown,” Nirvana repeated.
“Again,” Minerva ordered.
“There is no such person as Atton Brown.” Nirvana still was not convinced. “Prove it,” she whispered.
“Prove he is,” she retorted.
Nirvana did not reply. She could not prove it, but part of her knew he was real. Still, another part wondered if she had simply imagined it all. Nirvana was torn in confusion.
“Never speak his name again,” Minerva commanded.
With those words said, a fire ignited in Nirvana. She took orders from no one.
“Or what?” Nirvana questioned.
“I’ll –I’ll,” she stuttered.
“Let’s get one thing straight, Atton may or may not have been real, but either way; I take orders from no one!” Nirvana yelled.
Nirvana wanted much to fight the woman at this moment. These feelings were becoming more frequent, the lust for a good fight, even a small one would suffice. Nirvana had learned to restrain herself; she was saving up for a battle to come.
“Our hour is up,” Nirvana sneered “and don't expect to be paid. By the way, this will be our last visit.”
“You can’t just run away Nirvana,” Minerva called after her. “Sometimes, you just have to face the truth.”
Ahem.... excuse me! Can I have the attention of the class for one second? –Marshall Mathers
It'd been a month since the incident with Leroy. Ever since then Buzz and Spike had moved because they feared AJ would do something as rash as Leroy. Today in AJ's homeroom there was a new student, Wesley. “Class, this is our new student Wesley Adams. He used to live here in Airosfield but due to his parent’s careers, he moves a lot. And lucky us he ended up back in Airosfield,” she said with a fake smile.
In front of the class, they saw a goopy looking child. He wasn't exactly tall for his age, five foot six. Wesley’s hair was slopped to the back and his nose continuously ran. Wesley wore a dusky gray jacket, a worn out white t-shirt, and baggy, ripped blue jeans that most likely belonged to his father.
“Wesley your seat is beside Mr. Jacobson here,” Mrs. Taylor said pointing at AJ.
AJ made a disgusted smirk as Wesley sat next to him. He forced a smile when Wesley looked at him. “Hey,” he said wiping his nose.
“AJ,” the teacher began, “he has all your classes so I expect you'll show him around,” she said sternly. “Whatever,” he mumbled.
“AJ,” she repeated.
“Sure I’ll show him around,” he said reluctant and unenthusiastically. “Dag.”
True to Mrs. Taylor’s word Wesley followed AJ to all his classes. His last class was art. The teacher, Mr. Cohol, wasn't there today so they had a substitute. He didn't really care what they did so everyone walked around and talked to their friends. AJ looked around for Malik, but he remembered Malik always skips his last class. AJ was tired of sitting there alone so he went to talk to Wesley.
“Watcha drawing?” He showed him the drawing and AJ's eyes broadened.
“It's a scythe,” Wesley told him.
“Heh,” AJ said, “like that show.”
“Show; what show? Wesley wondered.
“Uh… The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy,” AJ told him, “that show is hilarious.”
“That show is a farce,” Wesley snapped. “The Reaper could not be capture by children.”
“You do know the Grim Reaper isn’t real… right?” AJ said, wondering if Wesley thought he was.
“Well my dad tells these stories about him. He says that every ten to twenty years he is replaced and when an heir is found I events fall into place so they can meet,” Wesley said, extremely into his own story. “My dad tells a lot of stories, like he was there.”
“Is it really that serious? It’s just a myth or legend or whatever,” AJ shrugged it off.
“My dad talks about him like he’s real. You wanna meet him? I know you'd like him.”
“Well,” he began.
“We're havin' one of his old friends over. CJ McCoy, I think,” he tried.
“CJ McCoy. That's my uncle,” AJ realized. Why would Wesley know his uncle? And why wouldn't CJ tell them he was in town?
“Really; cool, so we'll meet at my house?”
“Okay,” AJ gave in. “Just let me call my mom and tell her where I'll be.”
When the bell rang to go home, AJ stayed in the hall and called his mom.
“Hey, Ma, I'm going over to a friend's house after school,” AJ told Nirvana.
“What's his name?” His mom asked.
“Uh… Wesley. He said he knew Uncle CJ,” AJ made sure to mention.
“What's his father's name?” Nirvana said curiously.
“Uh… hold on. Hey Wesley come here?” AJ called to Wesley and he came over. “What's your dad's name?”
“Werly, Werly Adams,” Wesley told him.
“Okay. Hey Ma, his name's Werly,” AJ said oddly. The name sounded so weird to AJ but not to Nirvana. Nirvana put her hand over her mouth. “So mom, can I go?” AJ said awaiting an answer.
“Yeah,” she agreed, “but I'm coming with you. Tell your sisters to wait with you.”
“Okay, bye.” He spotted his sisters in the hallway. “Hey Winter, Willow hold up. We're goin' home with Wesley.”
There was an extremely awkward silence when everyone was in the car.
“So,” Nirvana finally spoke up, “Wesley is it? How are you liking being back in the Field?”
“So much has changed,” he told her. “I mean it’s been fifteen years since I’ve been here. It seems a little brighter than when I left but some of the people; they’re so reserved, like they’re hiding something.”
“You talk funny, kid,” Willow noted, “like you’re old.”
“Na,” he shrugged, “it’s just how my dad tells it to me. He tells me all these stories about what this place used to be like, how dark it was.”
“You know anything about that Ma?” AJ wondered.
“How come you never tell us stories?” Winter asked.
“Maybe her stories are too scary,” Willow suggested.
“Is that right Ma?” AJ laughed. “What, were you some kind of freaky warrior in a past life?”
You have no idea, Nirvana thought. I was the best. She wanted to tell them everything, but in her mind, it wasn’t the right time.
“Ha,” she faked a laugh, “you kids know your mom was nothing more than a teacher.”
“A teacher?” Wesley contested, “Why did you stop?”
“It just wasn’t for me,” she shrugged.
She was actually a little mad at herself. A teacher; that was the best lie she could think of. Nirvana honestly barely remembered her teachers.
“Where do I turn from here?” Nirvana asked Wesley.
He directed them to a quaint little house in Upper-Airosfield. They rang the doorbell and May answered the door.
“I have no skin,” Atton said stroking his skull.
“Iss been like dat fo a while boss,” Marty noted.
“Skin protects your organs and your bones,” Atton continued. Marty listened attentively and nodded. “It’s connected to nerves that help you feel, but…I can’t feel. I can’t feel the wind against my head or the grass beneath my toes.” Atton inhaled deeply.
“I can’t even smell anymore, Marty. Not the scent of flowers or the soft smell of Nirvana’s hair; I can’t taste. I taste nothing, not wine or the sweetness of her kiss. God, I miss her kiss Marty.”
“But ya can feel some stuff, can’t ya boss?” Marty asked.
“Yeah, Marty,” Atton said almost angry. “I can feel the blood spew onto my face when I kill them. I can smell their fear as I draw closer. I can hear their cries as I’m slicing off their heads,” the fury in his voice intensified. “But I will never feel the sting of death, even though I deserve it most of all.”
“Boss,” Marty started.
“I’m a murderer, Marty!” he snapped. “I’m the one everyone fears and I’m the one everyone hates. I am Death but I don't get to die. Every day now, I wish I could. It’s so hard to keep going every day. It’s hard to think I might have to give this fate to someone else. I am a killer, a run of the mill assassin. Yet I was given a throne, as if I’m some sort of king! I am no king. I’m just some crazy kid with some crazy life,” he was no longer angry, he had become sad and depressed. “I am no one.”
“But ya gotta tuff it out,” Marty encouraged him.
Atton looked off into the distance. He shook his head. “You don't know what it’s like Marty. I know people say that all the time, but nobody knows what this is like.”
Marty stared up at him. At first, his eyes were caring and understanding but then he said, “Is ya lil moment ova boss? We have work to do.”
Atton shot him a quick glance. He didn't expect such an impassive response. “Yeah,” Atton said, somewhat depressed. “Let’s continue the hunt.”
“Hey honey,” she said to Wesley. “Who are they?” May eyed Nirvana and her family.
“Mom, this is AJ, Winter, Willow, and their mom, Nirvana,” Wesley introduced.
“Oh. Honey Nirvana's here,” May called to Werly.
“So,” May started, “how do you know Werly?”
“Um – well, we,” Nirvana stuttered.
“Old girlfriend?” May suspiciously asked.
“Oh, no,” Nirvana spat out, “Nothing like that. We uh – fought together?” She said unsure of how that sounded.
“Oh, you were in the army. I don't remember Werly mentioning you,” she realized.
“I–,” Nirvana started.
Werly came to the door hardly believing his own ears.
“Nirvana? Nirvana.” He approached the door and saw her. “Long time no see, huh?”
“Yeah, you didn't tell me you were back in the Field,” Nirvana smiled, happy to see her old friend.
“I uh, just got here yesterday. Oh, oh come in,” Werly greeted them.
“Nice place you've got,” she said looking around. Wesley took AJ over to a desk with some of his father's things. “So I knew about Joy but you never told me you had a son.”
“Oh, we adopted him about a year and a half ago,” Werly explained.
“He said CJ was coming over,” Nirvana told him.
“Yeah I called him over to go over a new invention. I haven't gotten any from you in a while,” Werly said giving her a strange look.
“Oh I work on special weapons for Chris. I guess they don't need patenting,” Nirvana told him.
“So what have you been up to?” Werly wondered.
“I’ve been thinking,” Nirvana started, “about something Atton had said.”
“Hmm, really, what?” Werly asked.
“He said that it wouldn’t end with us,” Nirvana remembered.
“Nirvana,” Werly tried to stop her.
“No, what if Vigor’s not dead,” Nirvana beseeched him. “What if, somehow, he comes back?”
“Nirvana, we all saw Atton kill him,” Werly told her. “It’s over.”
As they conversed, catching up with his each other, Wesley showed AJ pictures and writings his father had.
“Hey, AJ, look at this. It's just like I said.” He read the text aloud:
The Reaper is a fascinating subject. It appears if his heir isn't found within twenty years he will die. The passing of the torch is simple; the next human who willingly grasps the scythe and is has the stamina to contain the power is the new Grim Reaper. Whoever grasps the scythe must hold it for a full sixty seconds, or there will be no effects. If an appropriate heir is not found in sufficient time, his closest servant will receive the honor of the Reaper. I have also observed strange ageing in the Reaper. He ages three times as slow as a normal human does.
He continued to read. “Wow this makes it sound so real,” Wesley noted. They continued to search the old drawings and writings. They saw sketches of Nirvana in the fight against Vigor. Then they found a picture that shocked AJ, a sketch of Atton and Nirvana when they were teenagers.
“Dude is that your mom? She's hot,” Wesley said with a small bit of drool.
AJ popped him in the head and said, “Keep those thoughts in your head. Hey mom, come here for a second.”
“Yes what is it?” He showed her the sketch. “Oh my God, Atton.”
“What? Who's he,” AJ asked.
“Werly, whose things are these,” Nirvana asked.
“They were some old sketches from Kip when we were…” At that moment, CJ McCoy entered the house.
“Hey, everybody, CJ's here,” CJ said walking in the house.
“Uncle CJ,” the girls said running to hug their uncle.
“Hey girls,” CJ said surprised to see them. He had only expected to see Werly and his family. “Where's my favorite nephew?”
“Wassup, Uncle CJ?”
Nirvana hugged her brother. “Hey bro, been keeping in touch, that's nice.”
“Yeah, I was gonna surprise you all and drop in tonight,” he started, trying to figure out why everyone was at Werly’s house.
“Uncle CJ, you know who this guy is?” AJ pointed to Atton. “Mom says it's some dude named Atton.”
AJ handed his uncle the drawing. “Hmm, it is Atton,” he realized.
“Who is Atton?” AJ asked confused.
CJ turned to his sister. “You haven't told him?”
“Told me what?” AJ snapped.
“Well AJ you're–,” CJ began.
“CJ don't,” Nirvana stopped him.
“Why not?” CJ wondered.
“He isn’t ready,” she whispered.
“Ready for what?” AJ said but he was ignored.
“He’s not ready or you're not?” CJ asked.
“CJ–,” Nirvana started only to be cut off.
“You can't hide it forever sis,” CJ said trying to make her realize that he was right.
“Does someone want to tell me what the heck’s going on?” AJ said with extreme aggravation.
“AJ that man is your father,” his uncle told him against his sister’s approval.