Chapter 3 - A Little Family HistoryMature

In the
afternoon sunlight, the gold and silver blocks that composed George’s residence
glowed. Their shine seemed to go on for miles, into the sky and maybe beyond.
The golden gates were wide open and a group of people were streaming through
them. George himself was outside greeting the arrivals.

My Grandpa
patted me on the back.

“Off you go,
then. You have fun, Jordan”. He waved goodbye, then started to walk away.
However, a call came out addressed to him.

“Brandon,
why don’t you join us tonight?” I recognized it as the voice of George.

My Grandpa
turned around, surprised.

He smiled
after pulling himself together. “Thanks. Don’t mind if I do”.

My Grandpa
nudged me, a huge grin on his face. As he said, meeting the leader of the
afterlife was a privilege extremely hard to earn. The two of us went inside,
probably just as unsure as the other what exactly we would be doing today.

As we stepped
through the gates we were greeted by another spectacular sight. There were
fountains emitting water in an arc above us, though none of it was falling down
and soaking us. I assumed George used his powers to hold it in place. Dotting
what I thought as the courtyard were beautiful stone statues. Maybe he had
built them himself.

We entered
the house itself and gazed in amazement once again. There were eye-catching
tapestries composed of multiple colors and depicting various scenes and
environments. Golden streamers were hung across the roof which arced towards a
large window that shined on a beautiful pattern on the marble flooring. Pieces
of art populated the walls; some of them I knew and others I did not.

The crowd of
people seemed to be moving towards one large, open doorway which led to an
equally large room. Numerous tables were situated in this part of the building.
The guests were seating themselves at them. My Grandpa and I went to a table
around the right-hand corner of the room. A woman and a girl of my age were
already sitting there.

I couldn’t
help but feel I had seen the girl before, but I knew she wasn’t familiar to me
in any way whatsoever. A quick memory flashed into my head of a girl I knew in
a previous life… I could barely even remember who it was or what life it even
was that she was in. I was successfully brainwashing myself.

 She smiled at me, then went back to chatting
with the woman who I guessed was probably her mother. My Grandpa leaned back
into his chair, still grinning.

“In all of
my time here, I have never been to George’s residence, at least inside of it”.
He looked around. “It’s more stunning than I ever would have pictured”.

“It is
pretty incredible” I commented.

The woman
across from us chipped into our conversation.

“First time
in here too?” she asked us. We both nodded.

“First day
in the afterlife too” I replied.

She gasped.
“You look like you’re only sixteen!” she said surprised.

I nodded.
“Yeah, I’m sixteen”.

She gestured
towards the girl by her side. “My daughter came in just yesterday”.

I turned my
attention back to the girl. She was very pretty I admit. She also seemed to
look very saddened. It was her first day in the afterlife, so I didn’t blame
her. Not everybody had a rotten life like mine that one would rather want to
forget than recall.

“Truthfully,
I just want to forget” I said, sighing.

“I wish I
could” the girl spoke up, her voice barely a whisper. She had long, smooth
blonde hair and a sparkling pink dress. Again I was reminded of another girl in
my life, but I still couldn’t recall who exactly it was.

The woman
stood up. “I’m going to serve myself some food” she said. She looked over at
the girl. “Want anything?”

She shook
her head. “No thanks”.

My Grandpa
stood up as well. “Come to think of it, I didn’t have a big lunch” he said.

“You can go
ahead Grandpa. I’m not very hungry right now”.

My Grandpa
nodded, then walked off to a winding line near the left-hand corner of the
room. It was only me and the girl who I barely knew and who was incredibly
quiet it would seem.

Surprisingly,
she spoke up. “You seem to have forgotten so easily” she said. She looked up at
the ceiling, tears forming in her eyes. “I wish I could… it’s just not that
easy. I had a great life… and lost it all in a matter of seconds”.

I took a deep
breath. “You know, I had an awful life. Terrible” I said. She looked back at
me.

“Really?”
she asked.

“I hated it…
I couldn’t bear it”.

 “It’s just someone like you; I would think
you’d have a great life”.

I smiled on
the inside; a compliment directed towards me was a rare occurrence. It seemed
as though this girl understood how I felt, in a sense.

“The exact
opposite, actually. I was beat up and mocked all of my life” I continued.

“That sounds
awful…” she responded, her voice trailing off.

“One of the
people that was always after me got drunk and hit me with a car… and then I
winded up here… I bet it was on purpose…”

The girl got
up and sat next to me.

“People get
treated badly all the time in the world. It’s just not fair that people like
you lose everything because of it”.

I bowed my
head. “I had a life, lost it… but now I’m just throwing it all away. I found
out that crying and remembering everything in my past life didn’t make me feel
better. It would just throw me into depression”.

She nodded.
“That’s what I want to do... but I can’t…”

I remembered
that the first person I met in the afterlife was my Grandpa, an incredibly nice
man. He was my friend, he was family.

“You just
need a friend” I said, giving her a suggestion from my own experience. “Someone
who likes and cares for you. I have my Grandpa with me, and you have your
mother”.

The girl
shook her head. “She’s actually not my mother. She’s just a person that took me
in as my ‘guardian’. We’re not related at all, and she’s doesn’t care for me
all too much”.

“I’m sorry
to hear that”.

“You have
your grandfather at least. I don’t seem to have anybody... I feel lost, unsure
what to do”.

This girl
seemed to be a mirror reflection of how I felt when I first came into this
world. She felt as misplaced and confused and saddened as I had been. All that
she needed was a friend, someone to help her forget. I didn’t have too many
friends myself. We could both truly start a new life as friends, forgetting our
past lives whether they had been good or bad.

“You seem
like a great person” I said. “You should know you have a friend, one who was
just in your place”.

She looked
up at me, the sadness no longer evident in her eyes. Seeing her reminded me
that I hadn’t asked for her name.

“I can’t
believe I forgot. What’s your name?”

“Amanda” she
answered. “Amanda Gregory. And you?”

“Jordan
Dikes” I replied.

It seemed as
though I knew an Amanda in my previous life, but I could not fully see or
remember who it was or what she was like. Maybe I my mind was playing tricks on
me and saying I’ve met someone like this girl before with the exact same name.

“Why don’t
we hang out tomorrow?” she asked me. “We could meet at, let’s say, the After
Café. I love that place”.

“I like it
myself” I said. “And it sounds like a great idea”.

She nodded,
smiling. It looks like I found my first official friend in this new world,
someone who wanted to forget just like me. She seemed like one of the few girls
back on Earth that would have been nice and not attracted to the idiotic
aggressors and senseless jocks.

My Grandpa
had returned from the line, but he left to another table, winking at me. I knew
exactly what he was doing; he wanted me and this girl to get ‘acquainted’,
something he did often as sort of a joke, sort of a respect for my privacy. I’d
rather him stay, but I guess he didn’t want to sit down at our table somewhat
randomly while we were talking.

Amanda and I
kept talking for a while, discussing about our interests and joking around and
such. It was nice having someone like her around.

“Excuse me,
everybody!” a voice rang from the crowd of people. I recognized it instantly as
the man who had welcomed me to the afterlife, the man who was hosting this
party.

George
walked into the center of the room with a big grin on his face. He seemed like
a very nice guy that could get lively at a party, sort of like my old friends…
who were they again?

“I
appreciate you all coming for tonight!” he continued, his voice magnified
enough to carry well in this large room. “You came to hang out and have fun,
and we all we have plenty of time to hang out and have fun”.

“I’m
saddened, however, that I forgot to redecorate. I’ve learned recently that
silver and gold just doesn’t go with me”.

With a flick
of his fingers, the room almost instantaneously altered into bright green and
blue colors, with white decorations. The crowd of people applauded, me
included. His powers were pretty unbelievable; just being able to switch a
room’s color scheme in less than a second was remarkable. That and holding
water in place.

Even
George’s clothes had morphed into green and blue colors.

He brushed a
speck of dust invisible to the eye from his shoulder. “Not too shabby” he
commented.

His
attention turned back to us. “Now, I bid you, carry on with your socializing.
But just be aware that dinner is here!”

Seemingly
out of nowhere came a table full of delicious foods. I didn’t have much of an
appetite, however, and neither did Amanda. The line seemed to consist of
everyone other than the two of us in a matter of seconds.

My Grandpa
silently asked me from his table if I was hungry. I shook my head no and
continued talking with Amanda.

She was very
talented as it would seem. A member of the honor choir, honor band, and many
more important positions. She said she was a great artist, and that her house
was covered with her own works. She went on to describe many more aptitudes she
possessed. I could never hope to be able to sing, play an instrument, or paint
a picture.

When asked
all I could do, I had a rather short list.

“I’m a good
writer. My friend’s dad was a publisher. He was actually looking over my book
before I died”.

“You got a
book published?” she asked, impressed. “I’m awful at writing. Never really got
good at it”.

“Almost
published” I pointed out.

“It could
have gotten published after you died” she said.

That made me
wonder; maybe I had gotten my book out there, and maybe it did wind up in
bookstores everywhere, selling by the hundreds, maybe even by the thousands.

“I could
never sing or play an instrument or paint. All I can play is a few notes on a
recorder, but that was a school requirement and I don’t think it counts. The
only drawings I ever made were just pen sketches”.

She blushed
slightly. “Thanks”.

“Do you have
any stories with you?” she asked me.

I shook my
head. “I wish I could get them, but I have no way of doing so”.

“No, you can
get them. Pretty easy, too”.

“I can?” I
asked her, my hopes soaring. I didn’t know I could reclaim my past possessions!
If I could, I could get a lot of things back in my hands.

“Just take a
collection trip” she told me.

“Collection
trip?” I had never heard of those.

“Yeah, all
you have to do is go to the collection house, say you’re gonna go collect some
of your past items, and that’s all there is to it”.

I leaned
back in my chair satisfied. That was an incredibly easy process. To get some of
my stories, even those rough drafts that weren’t even too good, would make me
feel so much better. It wouldn’t necessarily help my mission to discard all of
my memories of my past life, but I think it would be fine if I kept just a few
belongings.

“You feel
hungry?” she asked me.

I shook my
head.

“Neither am
I” she responded.

We sat down
in silence for a bit until she reached into one of her pockets.

“I forgot
that I had this with me” she said. She laid a paper out on the table.

I stared in
awe. It was a beautiful painting depicting a river with bright trees and other
vegetation dotting the banks of it.

“Wow…” I
said, barely able to say that much.

She
shrugged. “Just a rough draft” she said.

“Wish I
could show you some of my stories” I said.

“I’m
interested” she replied.

“So I just
go to the collection house and that’s all there is to it?” I asked for
clarification.

She nodded.
“It really is just that simple”.

“Well I know
what I’m doing tomorrow then”.

Someone
tapped me on the shoulder, and I turned around to go see who was trying to get
my attention. I saw George standing beside me, grinning.

“I see you
two are having a good time” he commented.

“Can we have
a word?” he asked me.

I looked
over at Amanda. She didn’t seem to have a problem with me going.

“Ok, I’ll
come” I said.

George
nodded. “Great! Just follow me”.

George led
me out of the giant dining room and back into the central room. This room was
changed into different colors as well.

“So are you
liking your time here?” he asked me.

“Yeah. It’s
wonderful”.

“Glad you
like it”.

We walked up
red-carpeted stairs and into the first room that appeared at the top of the
steps.

George
closed the door behind him.

“So what is
this about?” I asked him.

He was
silent for a long time. When he turned around to face me, he looked much less
happy.

“I’ve seen
wild cases in all of my years acting as the leader of the afterlife. A drunken
man shoots a hooker in a bar. A grandma goes ninety on a freeway and crashes into
a semi. A guy parks near a bridge and trips over a rock and falls over”.

“Stabbed to
death, ran over, beat to death, you name it, I’ve seen it” he continued.

“The thing
is…” he said, his voice trailing off.

He became
silent again.

He took a
few deep breaths, then continued. “I’m not sure you know your family history
too much, do you?” he asked me.

I shook my
head. “Only vaguely”.

“Well, if
you looked back…” his voice trailed off once more.

He started
tapping his foot. “I’m just not sure how to tell you this…”

I gestured
for him to go on. “What is it?”

“I’m your
great-great-great-great-grandfather!” he blustered out. 

I was
stunned by his news. I shook my head back and forth in my surprised state,
trying to get a grasp on what I heard. The only things I managed to say was
“Wha… what?”

He nodded
furiously. “Yes… I am”.

He started
pacing around the room quickly.

“You and I…
are related?”

He paused in
his pacing, and pointed at me.

“You felt
different from everyone else… detached from the world…”

He waved his
arms. “Didn’t you?”

I nodded
slowly. “Everyone was different from me… or at least mostly everyone”.

George
nodded back and kept pacing.

“There’s
reasoning behind that. It’s not because of you”.

He strolled
at a fast pace towards the wall opposite me and picked up a large paper lying
on a table.

“I knew when
you were born something was strange about you” he muttered, unfolding the
paper.

“You were
different… too different”.

He waved his
hands. “You see, you come from a very religious and very well-respected
family”.

“How could
I… of all people… be related to you? Or this family?”

“A long
story” he said, showing me the paper.

It was a
family tree of my family, dating back to the tenth century! I gazed in awe at
the ancient paper. This wasn’t just any old paper, but my history.

I saw one
name that sounded familiar; by that, just the first name; George Herphan.

“Our last
names are completely different. You probably never heard of me” he said.

“I’ve only
heard someone mention a Craig Herphan”.

“My brother”
George explained.

I stumbled
back into a chair.

“You told
me… in less a few minutes… that you and I are related” I said, my mind still
trying hard to comprehend whatever I had just heard.

“I think I
need some time to really comprehend this…” I said, taking a deep breath.

I never
would have guessed the leader of the afterlife himself would be related to me
in any way. Now I understood why he wanted to see me; I was part of his family,
and I had just died. I guess he wanted to get to know me, or just be as my
Grandpa was and be extremely upset. At this point, I wasn’t quite sure.

“Yeah… I
probably shouldn’t have rushed my explanation” he said, breathing heavily.

“Well there
you have it; we’re related”.

I shook my
head. “I can’t believe it”.

“I can’t
believe seeing you here”.

“Why’s
that?” I asked him.

He started
to deliver another explanation. “Herphans and their relatives were blessed in a
church that they would be untouchable to evil. We were very devoted to the
church, so that was their gift. The thing is, the blessing actually worked,
contrary to anti-religious beliefs; I lived to one-hundred years myself”.

“One-hundred?
You look barely sixty”.

“Afterlife
magic” he explained.

I brought
the conversation back. “So, I should be… untouchable?”

George
nodded. “Yes. You can’t be bothered by evil at all”.

I thought
back to how I died, though it was hard; my memory was close to being completely
erased. I was killed by evil, no doubt about that. I was killed by a drunken
asshole sounds more appropriate for an individual such as Hunter.

“So I
shouldn’t have died is what you’re saying” I suggested. He nodded in response.

“You should
have lived for a long time. Very long time. But somehow, you are in front of me
right now”.

I started
piecing things together for myself. Some long time ago, the Herphans and their
relatives were blessed to be untouchable to evil. Yet I had died somehow. The
blessing was probably in ancient times. It could be possible that the blessing
was wearing off… just my luck that it started to wear off when I came to life.

“The
blessing is wearing off” I muttered.

George
pointed at me. “Exactly! You have the brains of a true Herphan”.

“So, yes, I
suspect that the blessing is wearing off. Somehow, it has begun to deteriorate
and make the family more vulnerable to villainous entities. Without our
protection from the blessing, we will be wiped out”.

“Wiped out?
George, evil doesn’t come around twenty-four seven just to kill us”.

George shook
his head. “You don’t understand”.

I agreed
with him. “I’m finding it rather hard to keep up with all of the information
I’ve been given too fast for me to fully comprehend”.

George
sighed. “Sorry about that, but time really is of the essence. If the blessing
has started to wear away, than it will wear away quickly. It needs to be
renewed with the utmost haste”.

I walked
over to George, a new thought appearing in my head. “Wait… why exactly do you
not do this?”

“This calls
for another explanation” George said. He went on. “The leader of the afterlife
has the ability to allow people up to one week of life on Earth. However” he
said, holding up a finger. “People can leave the afterlife only on time”.

“So you
already left once I presume”.

“Indeed.
Therefore, Jordan, I need your help to renew the blessing”.

“I came here
to party and meet new people, now all of the sudden I’ve been given a mission
to go back on Earth and go renew a blessing”.

“Listen,
it’s for the good-“

“I hated my
life!” I exploded. “I don’t want to go back on Earth. I want to forget it all,
leave it behind”.

“This isn’t
about you, Jordan” George responded coldly. “This is about your entire family.
Without the blessing, your parents suffer. Your uncles and aunts suffer. Even
those cousins that have barely been granted life; will suffer. And it will all
be because of you”.

I took a few
deep breaths. “I… I don’t know”.

“It’s not
that hard of a job. Go to a church, renew the blessing, and that’s all there is
to it”.

I stood
silent for a minute or two, thinking about if I should go forth with this or
not. Truthfully, I’m not sure why I didn’t immediately jump for this. I didn’t
want to be the one that killed off the family.

I nodded.
“I’ll do it”.

George
smiled. “I knew you’d be up for it”.

“As I said,
your task is simple” he said. “There’s a church you need to go to, a few miles
from your old house. Speak to a priest to get the blessing renewed, and that’s
all there is to it”.

“So, what do
I need a week for?” I asked him.

“There can
be… complications” he said.

My eyes
widened. “You’re telling me now that there are complications with this… why was
I not told of any ‘complications’ before? You said it was easy.”

George
sighed. “I just need this over with. The longer we wait, the more the family
becomes vulnerable”.

“I want to
know the complications” I said, my voice strong. “I’m not doing this unless I
know what the problems are”.

He waved his
arms. “Alright, alright… there are a few anti-religion folks that swarm around
that particular church trying to close it. They can get a little rough”.

“Anti-religion
people”. I sighed. “Of course”.

“Hopefully
they won’t cause much trouble”.

“Yeah. Let
us hope that these anti-religion people don’t come after me with guns and
knives”.

“Sorry for
the unexpected twist” George responded.

“I’ve had
enough of those for one day” I said.

George
gestured towards the door.

“You should
go back out” he said. “I don’t want to ruin your night this evening”.

I sighed.
“Little late for that” I muttered.

“I’m sorry
for the quick explanation. I’m sorry for having to tell you all of these things
in a short time. But if I didn’t, the whole family would be dead in less than a
week. That’s how vulnerable we are to the evil of the world. With the blessing
repeated, we will be safe”.

I nodded.
“Yeah… sure”.

I opened up
the door and walked out, half-slamming it on the way out.

So… in a
matter of minutes, I learned I was related to one of the, if not the most
powerful man in the world. I learned that some blessing kept my family together.
I was assigned an assignment that would probably end up with a knife or a
bullet in the back of my head.

And now I
was expected to still have a good time. That definitely was not going to
happen.

I started
thinking about what would happen when I got back on Earth, what I would do…
apparently all I had to do was walk into a church that was surrounded by
anti-religious folks. I could always sneak in through the roof or something. If
I innovate, it shouldn’t be too hard at all. What was I thinking before? This
should be a relatively simple task.

I walked
down the stairs and headed towards the giant hall that the party was being held
in. I opened up the now-closed doors and looked around for Amanda. She wasn’t
anywhere to be found, though. I located my Grandpa over at a table near the
middle of the room.

I sat down
next to him.

“So, where
have you been?” he asked me. “That one girl had to leave. She wanted to remind
you about the After Café”.

I nodded.
“Okay”.

He continued
on my absence topic. “So where did you go off to?”

My Grandpa
was part of the family. This did concern the whole family, so I think he
deserved to know.

“George
needed to talk to me” I said.

“About
what?” he asked me.

“Well…
there’s this blessing that was given to our family to protect us from evil. But
now, it seems to be wearing off”.

“So he told
you about the blessing then” he said, nodding, showing he understood. “How
could it be wearing off?”

“He doesn’t
know, or he refused to say” I responded. “Anyways… he’s sending me back to Earth”.

Grandpa
chocked on the water he was drinking. “Back to Earth? I don’t think that’s ever
happened before! What do you need to go back for?”

“To renew
the blessing” I explained. “George can’t do it because he’s already been to
Earth once, and you can only go back one time”.

“So he chose
you because you’re younger and more ‘nimble’ I suppose” he said.

I shrugged.
“I don’t know. But he told me to go tomorrow”.

My Grandpa
didn’t speak much afterwards. Maybe he was jealous that I was getting back to
Earth, or just plain sad because he wasn’t. I did feel bad that he couldn’t get
to go back, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

“You’ll have
to tell that girl you won’t be seeing her then” my Grandpa said.

“But I still
want to meet her. I don’t know, but something about her reminds me of someone…
and I don’t know who”.

“You’ve
barely been dead for a day! How could you forget so easily?” he asked me.

I could only
shrug. “I’m not sure. It was just easier for me than it is for other people.
Most people”.

“You always
told me everything was okay in your life, yet here you are forgetting it as
easily as a broken nail”.

I had always
avoided telling my Grandpa that my life was absolutely terrible, but it looks
like I have no way out of this situation.

“My life was
awful” I whispered, my voice loud enough only for myself and Grandpa to hear”.

“Awful? How
so?” he asked me.

“I was
teased and beat up all of my lifetime, seemingly nonstop” I responded.

He was stone
silent for a moment, then shrugged.

“You’ve been
hiding that from me… for all that time” he said, obviously upset.

“I didn’t
want to worry you” I explained.

He shook his
head and went back to eating the food that was still on his plate. I felt awful
having to admit to my own grandfather that I had lied to him for all of my life
about my life situation. I wasn’t sure how to make him feel better. My mind was
rapidly trying to come up with a comment that could make his spirits rise, but
I couldn’t come up with anything good.

“We should
get going” he said, standing up. “It’s getting late”.

“Grandpa,
I’m sorry, but telling you that my life sucked would just make the both of us
feel unpleasant”.

We walked
out of the house with no words exchanged between us. As we went out the door, I
took one last glance around the interior of the house. George was standing on a
platform overlooking the front door. He nodded ay me, then walked off into a
room next door. I followed my Grandpa’s path out the door.

The End

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