Chapter 7 - Gone ScoutingMature

I woke up to
the familiar smell of burning toast. Paul had informed me that it was all he
was capable of baking at the moment. Naturally, I thought nothing of the

I rolled
over on the uncomfortable surface that was Paul’s incomplete room’s concrete
floor. I had barely managed to tempt myself to sleep; I had maybe gotten five
hours of good resting in. Ever since I died, it would seem I had a problem
managing my time in terms of relaxation.

Grunting, I
stood up and stretched. As soon as I felt my body was ready to move, I walked
in the direction of the living room, which also held the kitchen. I was in no
rush; Paul’s disgustingly hot bread wasn’t something to look forward to, or
want to have in the first place.

However, I
stopped before exiting the door. The smell of smoke was very strong in the air,
and this made me curious. How hot exactly was he making these meals at? Was the
toaster overheating? I didn’t assume it was a fire outbreak, for the smoke
alarm had not gone off.

Even so, I
became wary of the large amounts of smoke. I had always been told, and I had
always known, that in a fire there can be much of the ugly stuff floating
around in the air.

Now my mind
was set; I quickly held my breath and only took in breaths when I desperately
needed to do so. I went down on my hands and knees and began to crawl on the
ground towards the source of the smoke.

When I
turned the corner, I quickly regretted doing so and ran as fast as I could back
to the bedroom. What I had witnessed was the largest fire I had ever seen,
brewing just beyond the place where the kitchen transformed into the living
room! All of my knowledge I had about surviving fires was being initiated right
at this moment, but in my panic I could not think clearly.

I began
pushing Amanda furiously, silently begging for her to wake up with the utmost

Amanda, Amanda! Get up get up get up!” I shouted at her. Eventually, my actions
worked, and she began to rise slowly.

“Wha-what is
it…” she said drowsily. She suddenly shot upright in the bed and threw the
covers off.

“There’s a
fire!?” she exclaimed.

I nodded,
confirming her fears. “It’s just in the kitchen; the largest one I’ve ever
seen. We’ve got to get out of here!”

Just as we
did so, Paul rushed into the room. I could tell he had gotten a glimpse at the
inferno for himself, and his first thought was to come here for us.

“Out the
window, now!” he shouted, pointing at the lone window that was positioned just
beside the bed. At first, I looked at Paul incredulously; I was definitely not
prepared to go jumping out of a window!

He gestured
at it again. “The front door’s blocked, there’s only one way out from here!”

I was dying
to ask questions, such as what Paul planned to do if his house burnt down
completely, but he said nothing more; just stood and waited for us to go out.

Amanda flung
the window open and in a flash leaped out of the opening. She landed roughly,
but had jumped in a way that prevented her from breaking any bones. Noticing
this, I copied her form, but I felt as though I had a much harder arrival. Amanda
beckoned to me from on top of a small hill which was a good distance away from
the blazing household. I ran over by her side to join her.

Paul was
still left in the house. He was standing on the windowsill as though
contemplating is he should jump as well. I couldn’t tell from this far away,
but I guessed that he may have been afraid of heights.

He seemingly
walked out of the opening, nearly falling straight down onto the ground. This
instantly distressed me, for if he went in a different form than Amanda and I,
it could be possible he could hurt himself!

With a loud
shout of pain, Paul collapsed on the ground and crumpled into a heap. I could
hear his loud groaning from up on the small hill. Amanda had already began
sprinting towards Paul, and I followed behind.

When I
reached Paul, I saw that he was clutching his right leg tightly. It didn’t take
too much intelligence to assume that he had most likely broken a bone. Cursing
the facts, I assisted Amanda with helping him on to his feet. He protested and continued
to shout, but with a little effort we were able to slowly transport Paul to our
previous location on the hill. Once we were there, we gently laid him back on
the surface.

“Oh damn it…
damn it!” he cussed, his eyes holding back tears of agony. “I broke it… I know
it! Damn… oh damn…oh this friggin’ hurts, damn it all…”

Amanda tried
to calm him down while I raised the all-important question.

anybody have a phone or something? I haven’t heard any sirens” I said. I think
I started sweating.

“Not on me”
Amanda said, “I’d have one over at my home”. She let out a gasp. “Paul, we’ve
got to get you to a hospital! You need help!”

Speaking of
help, I looked over at this house. The fire had already torn through the front
of the house and was finishing the job in the middle of the home. If the
firemen didn’t arrive soon, there may be no structure left to speak of.

“Let’s go
ask a neighbor” I suggested, already running towards a close-by residence. I
knocked furiously on the door.

“What the
bloody hell do you want?” was the reply I got when a man opened up the door. I
recognized his face instantly as well as his British accent, and it seemed as
though he had the same reaction.

prankster again, hmm? Leave me alone, will you?” he barked, almost slamming the

“Listen, I’m
not here about that! There’s a house burning down! I need to call 9-1-1!” I
shouted back, stopping him from closing the door.

The man
shook his head at first, then took a step outside. He leaned to see around the
corner, and saw Paul’s residence burning down.

“Oh shit!”
the man exclaimed. He quickly ran into his home and came back out rapidly. In
his hand was an expensive cell-phone. With a few quick clicks, he held the
phone up.

“There’s a
bloody fire over here! Yes, quickly!”

Just like
that, the conversation was over. The man collapsed his phone and tossed it back
inside. He took another glance at Paul’s house, cursed, then retreated into his

I stared at
the fire in awe, and half-hoping water would shoot out of my eyes and defuse
it. I found it hard to believe that such a horrible tragedy could strike Paul
when he was already down.

I rushed
back to meet the others. Paul was still loudly groaning over his broken bone,
Amanda’s comforting having done little. I have never broken a bone, so I
wouldn’t know.

called the fire station, they’re on their way” I reported to them.

Amanda gazed
at the house. “I think it might be too late…” she muttered, her voice gradually
fading away. Observing the house once again, I saw that she was possibly right;
the front of the house was nonexistent at this point. The walls were crumbling,
and soon there would be none left standing.

Finally, the
wonderful sound of sirens pierced the silent night. My hopes weren’t set too
high, however; the damage had already been done. It was a mystery as to how
nobody could have possibly seen the blaze, or why the smoke alarm never went

“Oh… how the
hell does this happen” Paul said. He was lying flat on the ground, breathing
heavily. I felt incredibly sorry for him.

Just a few
minutes later, the first group of fire trucks and rescue vehicles raced around
the corner and headed in the direction of Paul’s burning household. Working at
breakneck speed, they quickly pulled out a large, powerful hose and hooked it
up to a nearby fire hydrant. In a matter of seconds, about three fire trucks
were in the street blasting the home with water. Even with all of the
high-pressure water being shot at it, the fire refused to die out and instead
retreated to the rear of the house.

The fire
chief was present at the scene, talking rapidly into a portable radio. Maybe he
knew just as well as Amanda and I that it was a lost cause. The water kept
coming, but fire wasn’t finished yet.

Another fire
truck entered the scene, showing how dire the situation had become, if you
could call it so; it looked like there was no more scene to speak of.
Eventually, with the arrival of the fourth vehicle, the fire succumbed to the
water and soon became nothing but a few flickering embers.

I surveyed
what remained of the structure, and I almost determined there was nothing.
There were, however, a few standing pieces of the wall’s interior scarred black
by the flames. I couldn’t see what the floor looked like, but if it was
anything it was probably just concrete. Paul’s house had been completely

Some fire
men approached us from back in front of the residence to report the carnage.

“I’m sorry,
sir… we did what we could… but it’s gone” one of the men spoke up reluctantly.
I guessed it wasn’t fun to tell someone that the place they lived at was

“I… I…” Paul
was lost for words. He tried to string together more words, but had nothing. He
continuously said something and then promptly stopped.

The men
walked away soon after their brief conversation with us, leaving Amanda, Paul
and I left where we were. Another couple of fire fighters gestured for us to
move towards their position. Once we reached them, they checked us out for
being diseased by the smoke or injured in any way. I was glad to see that
Amanda and I were unhurt, but once Paul was examined, they revealed the bad
news we already knew.

“The leg’s
broken, no doubt about it. We’ve got to get you to a hospital” the man looking
Paul over said. He beckoned for a few men in an ambulance to come and extract
him from the site of the fire and towards proper medical treatment. We weren’t
able to come with him.

Curious and
worried, I asked the firefighter that examined Paul how bad his condition was.

“How badly
was the leg broken? Is it not too bad?” I questioned.

He shook his
head. “From the looks of it he fell from a high point on the structure going
straight down, which is a very painful position to be in when falling or
jumping. I’m sure he’ll be treated in a few days for it”.

“How long?”
I inquired.

“A few days
for the treatment, and possibly a couple of months until he walks properly. I’m

I bowed my
head and I soon began nodding slightly to show my understanding of the
situation. However, there were more problems concerning Paul and him going to
the hospital.

“He didn’t
have much money” I said to the fire fighter. “He probably won’t be able to pay
for the hospital bill. And not only that, but his house… it’s gone, and I doubt
he has enough currency lying around to purchase even the smallest, least
maintenance place”.

The fire
fighter tried to say something, but the words didn’t come. He promptly closed
his mouth and stood awkwardly in front of me. He obviously had nothing to say
about my description of Paul’s current state.

“I’m sure
he’ll be fine in the end” the man said, his empty words of reassurance meaning
nothing to me, and hopefully he realized this. He walked away quickly,
obviously not wanting to continue the conversation.

Amanda was
sitting over on the street curb, her head in her hands. She had always been
close to Paul, and now all of the sudden his life was beginning to fall apart.
I wish I could do something to solve Paul’s problems, but so far I was lacking
in the idea department.

I sat next
to Amanda on the curb and instinctively put my arm around her.

“They said
he’ll be fine” I said, trying to comfort her. Hopefully I was succeeding.

“I… I don’t
know” she said. “He didn’t seem as though he was doing well in life… will he be
able to pay for the hospital bill?”

“That’s what
I asked the fire fighters before… but they didn’t say much” I said quietly. “If
there was anything I could do for him, I would… but it’s just… I can’t do
anything to help… no money or resources to assist him”.

“I was
thinking the two of us could visit him some day. It’s the least we can do at
this point” Amanda responded.

I nodded
slowly, but soon I began shaking my head furiously. “No no no, there’s got to
be something other than that we can do. Run a shop or maybe, I don’t know. But there’s
just got to be a task we can carry out that’ll bring him back up to his regular

“We can’t
possibly collect so much currency in a matter of days” Amanda pointed out,
something I already anticipated her to say, though I had no reply to this.

just got to be something… something… but I just have no plan, idea, nothing”.

I sighed.
“Maybe there isn’t anything at all”.

The night
dragged on, leaving Amanda and I still sitting on the street curb. We didn’t
say anything after our conversation earlier about what to do about Paul.
Something else we should have considered was what to do with ourselves; we had
no shelter to stay in, and I couldn’t go over to Amanda’s residence or my own
for the risk of my existence being told to the public.

“I better go
home… you’re free to come along” she said while standing up.

“I told you
I’m unable to do such things. I can’t expose myself” I explained. I wanted to
go with her so bad, but it just wouldn’t work out.

“Well, I’m
not just going to leave you here” she said, hesitating from leaving.

“I can take
care of myself, Amanda, don’t worry. I’d like to lie by myself for a while
anyway” I said. I preferred to be along sometimes so I could collect my

She still
stood where she was. “I’m uncomfortable leaving you… Hunter’s always out during
the night, and if he knows that you’re reanimated, he’ll come after you. He’s
ruthless, you know that”.

“If he wants
to come for me” I said, standing up to face her. “Let him. He’ll be able to see
how happy I am about the car accident”.

“Don’t sink
down to his level” Amanda warned me. “You’re not a killer, or any sort of

I felt as
though someone else had previously stated this. “If he attacks first, I’ll
strike back”.

She sighed
and began to walk away. I ran to catch up with her. “It would be all out of
self-defense, and I won’t try to kill him or anything” I pointed out. “I’ll get
some punches in just for the sake of it…”

turned to face me. “Listen, I hate Hunter just as much as you. But if you start
beating him up today, you’ll be known to everyone, for they would be no doubt
he would spread the news. He might even bring knives for all you know!”

I had
neglected to anticipate any weaponry he could carry. “I… uh…” I couldn’t say

“Just come
with me” Amanda half-pleaded with me. “You can stay outside or something… just
don’t go out there along”.

I considered
her request. “Alright, I’ll come along. I shouldn’t be out just by myself.
You’ve always been able to convince me” I said, smiling. She gave off a grin in

We started
down a sidewalk that I could recognize from my old neighborhood; Amanda lived
just around the bed… and so did Hunter. He was infamous for roaming around
during the night and causing havoc to whatever homes he came across.

This didn’t
faze us, and we kept on our way. Jokingly, I asked if we could hold hands and
start skipping, a request which she politely refused. Other than that, we
talked as of normally. Being normal… that was a nice feeling. None of that
afterlife business… just normal.

I heard the
laughing sounds of wasted teenagers, and I immediately pulled Amanda into the
darkness along with me. Sure enough, Hunter and his friends passed by, shouting
as loud as they could and tossing various objects around on the streets,
including glass shards from beer bottles. I wanted to just go ahead and beat
all of them up, get my revenge, and shut him up for a while.

“He was
here, alright… I saw him. I ran him over, and yet there he was! Goddamn
bitch-ass nearly startled me to death! When you’re dead, you’re dead. I don’t
believe in friggin’ ghosts… but what the hell is he doing?”

Hunter kept
rambling on and on as he continued on his way. As soon as he was a safe
distance away from me, I beckoned for Amanda to return to the sidewalk. I
followed behind her to make sure that nobody was following us.

figured me out…” I muttered, already getting worried. To be known by the
loudest mouth ever to walk the face of the Earth wasn’t exactly what I wanted.
He’d spread the news of my return, and there would be no doubt the public would
get into an uproar.

“If he talks
to anyone… which he will… I’ll be finished” I said. That was the cruel reality.
My mission had to come first now, or I’ll get sidetracked for sure. I cursed my
bad luck… and cursed my carefree speech with him. If I had been much more
careful, this never would have happened.

“You’ll be
fine. He wouldn’t…” her voice trailed off as she too realized that Hunter would
in fact do what I described.

We arrived
at Amanda’s house in complete silence as both of us pondered over what my next
move could be. She knew my situation well enough to understand how dire it was
at this point.

morning” she said as she stepped inside her house, “head to the church. Early.
Scout out the building so you can figure out what you want to do”.

I nodded,
appreciating her plan and accepting it. “When will I see you again?” I asked
her an important question.

She merely
shrugged in response and retreated into her residence. I sighed, hoping we
would be given more time to spend with each other. However, I had to complete
my objective first and foremost.

I walked
into her backyard and located a hammock at the back corner of it. I guess this
would suffice for the night. I jumped on to it and laid back, relaxing. It was
much more comfortable than I thought it would be.

There was
nothing to think about for tonight, nothing to configure. I knew exactly what I
was doing now… first, the mission; I’d head over to the church, scout it out,
and soon enough I would be able get inside and possibly get rid of the
protestors as well. Secondly, revenge would, in fact, be mine. Hunter wasn’t
going to slip out of my grasp and out of the law… I’d serve him justice, like
what should be done. I can’t wait to see the look on his face when I come up
and tell him it’s his time now.

When I woke
up in the morning, I was refreshed and perfectly ready for the day’s events.
Following Amanda’s advice, I left her residence instantly and quickly, not even
looking back. The church was near the edge of the county, so the faster I
traveled the better.

I got out of
the street and continued down the sidewalk, following it for as long as I
could. Hunter was nowhere to be found, as well as his cronies. I’d be safe for
the time being.

My head was
kept bowed so that any passing strangers couldn’t identify me. Rarely did
somebody pass by, but I had to be cautious. Everything seemed to be fine until
I heard some large amounts of talking. My mind slated this as Hunter and his
friends, so I moved as fast as I could into the cover of a bush located on top
of a small ridge. I poked my head out just a little bit to see who was coming.

Jack and
Brant were the first faces I saw, just calmly walking by and chatting. Sam and
Quintin were by their sides, subsequent to the others. They looked much happier
since I last saw them.

I still
couldn’t believe that they were here, just right in front of me! All of my
previous plans were abandoned right at that moment. Those were my friends over
there, and I wasn’t going to let them by without saying hello.

I jumped
down from my hiding place and landed right in front of them in a ‘taa-daa’ sort
of manner. They had previously been talking as of normally, but with my sudden
appearance they had shut up immediately.

Their mouths
had dropped up in sync with each other, their eyes almost just as wide open.
For a while, they didn’t say anything until I decided it would be good to break
the silence.

“So, uh… hi”
I said, struggling for words. It didn’t look like I needed to say much.

“Holy shit…”
Jack muttered, his facial expression remaining the same as the others.

Finally, Sam
ran over to me, his face stuck in a permanent grin. “Holy shit, Jordan!” he
shouted, nearly running me over with a deadly tackle.

the other guys surrounded me, looking just as elated as everyone else.

“Dude, how
are you here!” Quintin shouted joyfully.

“I’m just
back for a while” I explained as simply as I could without revealing too much
information on the afterlife.

“I don’t
care where he came from, he’s back!” Sam yelled out at the top of his lungs.

We rejoiced
with each other for quite a while and did some catching-up on what had been
going on in their lives.

“We were
doing basically nothing, but we knew that you’d prefer us doing what we always do,
so that’s what we started doing”.

It was as
though they read my mind. “Well, guys, it’s great to see you. I’d like to stay
around, but I’ve got some plans” I admitted.

They all
shrugged, surprisingly. “That’s fine… because we’re bowling this afternoon, and
you can come if you want! We’re going to have what last Friday should have
been… a fun night out” Brant said.

I was way
too excited to refuse. “You can count on me being there… six o’clock then?”

They all
nodded simultaneously. “See you then!” Jack waved. My friends continued on
their way, though it looked like my intervention had changed their mood

I smiled,
the day getting much better. Amanda was happy, and so were my friends. Now, all
I needed to do was to go find this church. I still had a long ways to go until
I reached it.

That’s what
I thought, but then I heard the bicycles approaching me. Hunter was still on
the patrol I guessed, starting bright and early. It was time I one-upped him
for the accident. Deservedly so.

He came up
from the hill and was about to continue down it when he saw me. My mind had
already devised a plan that would definitely surprise him once he approached
me. He pointed half-dramatically and his friends began to pursue me, their
wild, bloodthirsty grins shining as they charged. Acting quickly, I climbed up
the ridge I had been on and I leaped off of it, falling in the direction of one
of the bikes, specifically Hunter’s, who had lagged slightly behind.

At first
glance, I thought I was going to be way off and completely embarrass myself.
However, I landed right on top of Hunter, knocking him off of the bike, but
also forcing me down on the ground from the impact. I reacted quickly and stole
the bike, disposing of the beer bottle he stored inside of it, actually
throwing it on top of Hunter’s head.

bitch! I’ll kill you!” Hunter called after me as I pedaled as fast as I could
down the street. Having beaten plenty of bikers in races before, I had plenty
of experience moving at a fast velocity while maintaining good balance and

His friends
must have refused his commands to chase after me, or they were too surprised;
all of them were standing where they were on the top of the hill. Even if they
tried to catch up to me, they would fail without a doubt. They made the mistake
of giving me too big of a head start.

heavily, I worked my way out of my neighborhood and onto a main highway, nearly
driving headlong into a slow-moving car. Navigating down the road as long as I
could, I was able to reach the area where the county’s landscape suddenly
changed into open farmland.

In the heat
of the afternoon sun, the farmers were out working hard, and they shot many
confused sideways glances my way. I paid little attention to them, preferring
to keep track of the exits branching off of the highway. I had to look for one
particular one that would take me to the edge of the county in little to no

Horns were
blazing as I weaved in between some more cars to get to the other side of a
road. I charged through them without fearing if one of them would be my death
waiting for me to arrive.

My exit
approaching, I quickened my pace. I had maybe been out for half an hour, which
was great timing. I’d be at the church with plenty of daylight hours to spare.

The road I
chose to go down was smaller and much less populated by cars, giving me some
more room to bike in. My legs were strained from their immediate usage today,
so I was able to relax and lessen my pace for a bit.

surrounding landscape stayed largely the same, except there were more houses at
much more random intervals. Just at the end of this area of the county was the
church I needed to go to.

I thought
that not many cars were down around this section of the county, but it seemed
like their numbers increased drastically. All of the sudden, there was a
sizeable chunk of vehicles inching towards some destination.

Being in a
bicycle, this wasn’t a problem for me. Staying on the very edge of the road, I
bypassed the great stream of automobiles. A small white-brick building appeared
on the horizon, the bulk of it barely visible. Its small bell tower overlooked
the multitude of people.

I sped up to
try and get there as fast as I could. Many cars were surrounding the location,
people standing in front of them with picket signs raised. Their shouting was
clearly audible from this distance.

Some of
their attention now turned to me, and they began pestering me for approaching
the structure. I heard various calls of “Turn around” and “Move outta here”

They all
were yelling about the same subject; religion was bad and should be destroyed.
Pushing my way through the crowd of people, I reached the front of the
building. In front of the grand door that marked the main entrance of the
building. Two priests were standing in front of it, trying to calm everyone
done. It didn’t look like they were succeeding.

“Tear this
damned place down!” a shout came. It belonged to a long-haired man with a long
black beard. His large glasses were constantly slipping off of his face. He
held a sign that read ‘Religion is killing us’.

He pointed
at me. “Don’t get close to that thing, boy!” he exclaimed, waving his sign

One of the
priests made a small retort. “Please leave us in peace. The Lord made us to be
equal, not separate. Do not resolve to violence in this manner”.

This was met
by more angry protests, curse words flying through the air. The priests looked
unmoved by the many insulting statements, but theirs eyes showed sadness and
concern. I had to get a blessing from this church apparently, but how could I
do that and leave these horrible people here to destroy it when I leave?

Quickly, I
ran to the structure and pushed the doors open, muttering to the priests to
meet me inside as I passed. They did as I asked and retreated into the church.
They both gestured to some scattered chairs and we sat ourselves down.

surprised that someone wishes to speak with members of the church” one of the
men began. He had stark white hair with a small bear growing on his chin. “Many
of our members have left us, or refuse to approach this place”.

I got
straight to the point. “Thank you for your time. Listen, I’m here for the Dikes
family… we’re related to the Herphans”.

The other
priest pointed at me. “You look almost dead-on like the Dikes boy that was
killed just a few days ago. You’re a brother to him?”

That was the
downside of directly approaching two strangers without any sort of disguise;
they had figured me out. “I… sure. I was his brother”.

After giving
me their share of condolences, I brought back the subject I came here to
discuss. “Anyways, I am here regarding a blessing that was put on the Herphan
family years ago. I heard you would know about this”.

white-haired priest nodded. “I do recall that blessing. It is written in some
scriptures located in our basement’s library. Such ancient writing has not been
read in years, wouldn’t you say Gregor?”

The other
man whose name must’ve been Gregor responded. “Indeed, Pearson. It has remained
untouched for quite some time. I’m curious as to why a child would need such

“The problem
with this blessing is that it appears to be… fading. If this blessing goes
away, there will be a major problem with my family”.

“We have
learned little about it” the man presumably named Pearson chipped in. “Only the
fact that it has been around for thousands of years”.

“I was told…
that if this blessing is completely wiped away without it being renewed… the
Herphan and the Dikes families will be in mortal danger… and will most likely…
be decimated”.

Gregor and
Pearson leaned back in their chairs, both of them striking thoughtful poses.
They looked to be old and probably had been priests for quite some time, but I
doubted that they had faced a situation such as this.

“This is
certainly interesting… but I am unsure as to what we can do” Pearson admitted.

“All you
have to do is renew the blessing” I said plainly, the idea sounding quite
simple to me.

“It is not
as easy as you may be led to believe it is” Pearson replied quietly. “The whole
concept, the whole event… involves much time. Sometimes these situations take

“Also, with
all of these protestors bringing their loud shouts and negative energy, we will
not be able to concentrate properly. They have no intention of leaving us to
our peaceful ceremonies” Gregor chimed in. “Our church does not even contain
many members, yet they still pester us”.

“So you have
tried to stop them in some manner?” I asked for clarification. Both of the men

that didn’t involve physical motion” Gregor said. “Whatever we tried only
served to make them more and more restless”.

“Can you do
this blessing procedure in a building other than this particular church?” I
questioned. The priests shook their heads.

possible. The blessing originated in this church, so that is where it must be
done at all times. It cannot be moved” Pearson explained.

So far this
discussion wasn’t coming along well. I had learned of nothing remotely positive
so far, only the downright negative. The protestors were seemingly unmoving
from their spots, and the priests told me they had already tried to convince
the angry crowd to turn away.

“So the only
motion you haven’t tried is… physical violence” I asked in more of a statement
form. “Beforehand, how exactly did you approach the situation?”

“Well… it
started with asking nicely… then we went out some of the members of the church
to convince them. Anything after that was basically a repeat of a previous
method” Pearson said.

I nodded,
satisfied with the answer. There was something else we could try. “Children
always pose as a soft spot for people… if you use some kids to help change their
ways, it might work”.

“We would
never… never use children to do the work of adults” the priests replied in

I wasn’t
surprised by that. “I would willingly go out there and try to move the
protestors… myself. And that would be my own decision, not yours”.

The priests
crossed their arms, both of them deep in thought. Their views probably
contradicted my plan of action, but at this point it might be the only chance I

“Well… I’d…
if no physical violence is enacted… then it is fine” Gregor said, waving his
hands as he said this. “Let me remind you, however, that these men and woman
are not easily moved… and for all we know… they may not be capable of doing

I nodded,
inspiration flooding to me. The fate of this mission was in my hands now, and I
knew that I’d have a better chance of succeeding than the calm priests before
me. Points would have to be driven through and enunciated to bring the
reasoning home.

“I’m sure
I’ll be able to talk a small amount of sense into them” I replied, a new wave
of hope coming over me.

“You seem
eager and full of confidence. This is not the sort of matter than can be won
with a few words. You’ll have to talk to them on multiple accounts most likely”
Pearson informed me.

I wasn’t
prepared to doubt myself yet. “Give me a chance, and I’ll leave a dent in their

“If that’s
what you think is going to happen, and what you want to happen, you may go try
it. Just know that what you hope for will probably fail the first few attempts”
Gregor said. “These protestors are ruthless, and won’t give up unless they have
a very clear reason to do so”.

I knew why
they wouldn’t go away, however. The church priests and members were too
peaceful to pack more shouting into their words, more action in general. I was
always told I was a good debater, so those skills would definitely come in handy.
I’d just think on my feet and half-wing it.

I swung open
the doors and the angry yells greeted me on my departure from the silent
interior of the church. I stood on the front steps smiling, overseeing the
crowd before me. The man with the long-black hair was front and center in the
large semicircle of enraged individuals.

trying to change you, boy!” he called, directed at me. “Don’t let their
trickery ruin your brain!”

I still kept
my smile on, for what had I to fear? This, theoretically, would work just fine.
Confidence filled me, and probably blinded me from the reality of the
situation. To me, this was nothing but a cakewalk.

everyone, let’s all… seriously… shut up!” I screamed, loud enough for everyone
to hear it. I thought some of the men were much louder, but nobody spoke after

“So you’re
all here because religion is bad”. A cheer rose out of the crowd, and another
yell silenced them. “Really, it’s fine to have your own views. But when you
have your views, you don’t have to be so violent about it! I’m sure everything
could be solved calmly if you tried”.

These words
felt much like what a lying politician would say, and it seemed as though the
protestors had the same mentality.

gets our point across! We can’t go otherwise!” the black-haired man retorted,
raising his hands to lead the crowd in another montage of criticism against the

“If you’re
that senseless” I continued, determined to change their minds, “go ahead with
your antics. Now-“

“We don’t
care about whatever you say!” came the response from the black-haired man. He
was starting to get on my very last nerves.

Try as I
may, the people had been quickly convinced that I was the enemy and I should be
ignored. To them, I was now a part of the church, which didn’t go well for me…
I was, in fact, an atheist, but the church held the key to the protection of my

“If you all
just stay quiet for just a little bit, if you can manage it!” I spat, acid
dripping off of my words, “we’ll figure this out!”

My head was
spinning as though someone had just thrown me into a tornado. A headache was
brewing inside of me. How hard was it to crack these thick skulls? Maybe I’ll
just bring a jackhammer next time. Obviously, I had no chance now.

My calls
fell on deaf ears. They slowly began to drown me out. Finally fed up with the
futile nature of the current situation, I stomped back inside the church to
find Gregor and Pearson still sitting where I had last left them. I felt so
pathetic having failed so easily and so quickly.

“And how did
that go?” Pearson asked in a half-mocking tone.

“Not exactly
as I had planned… or hoped” came my angry response. My frustration was at its
boiling point.

“You ran
into a fight that you should have known that you could not win. These entities
will never fall back unless a powerful speaker gets out and sets them

“I am a
strong speaker, and that’s what puzzles me” I said, wondering how I failed.
“I’ve been a good person in arguments at my school. I usually don’t lose”.

like you should know you can’t win them all” Gregor replied. “If you wish, you
can try again. They won’t be going anywhere”.

“I’ll have
to keep attacking” I said, putting my head in my hands. “Ugh… that was rough…”

with someone in school isn’t the same as the real world” Pearson pointed out.
“They have rules, and these people do not”.

“I’ll go buy
a freaking bulldozer if I have to” I said, my determination and confidence
coming back. “I’ve got a mission, and I don’t feel like failing it. It’s

“I think we
understand that” Gregor sympathized. “We can help as much as we can, but we
aren’t capable of much. We’ve done all that we are capable of, and beyond”.

“I’m sure
anything you can do is better than doing nothing” I said, trying to give them
the same mindset that I had. It didn’t really seem to be working.

“They won’t
react to our sayings” Pearson said. “They’ve seen our faces, our methods, and
heard what we try to say against them”.

saying that no help is better than offering assistance?” I took a stab at his
beliefs, and it seemed to have hit home. Pearson stiffened and nodded curtly,
refusing to say anything afterwards.

stuck in the middle, attempted to fix the situation. “What he means is he has
no way of being able to stop a force he has already tried to halt. I must agree
with his views… we’re out of ideas”.

I wasn’t
prepared to give up today, but a growing sense of weariness began to wrap
around my brain, causing no other thoughts to be registered. This trip hadn’t
gone as expected, and I desperately wished for it to end.

So I decided
to wrap up the day’s events. “Thank you for your...” I coughed, then continued.
“Your… assistance. I’m sure it helped me plenty. When you get better plans or
wish to back me up, I implore you, do tell me. This isn’t a fight I want to
lose, and I hope you have the same mindset…” I spared a moment to give an angry
glance to Pearson. “To not… give up”.

I literally
kicked open the church doors as I left, letting them sway loosely behind me in
my wake. The black-haired man was still standing where he was, however he was
moving through the crowd with the energy of a theatre actor. As soon as his
eyes met mine, he began another tirade of shouting.

“So, you’re
with them now, huh!? I’m sure that’ll go well! You’ll go to Hell with the rest
of them!” came his first group of insults.

The mind
told me the smart thing to do; ignore him. That’s what I was always told, what
books and papers said. Being faced with a problem such as this personally now
showed me that it wasn’t as easy as it was made up to be.

“Just walk
away and say nothing, so fucking rude! There goes our generation, everybody!
Can’t have the sense to follow the right beliefs! Yet the papers say these
idiotic children are going to save our doomed country! My ass!”

The worst
part came when all of the other men and woman that populated the mass group of
people joined in. All eyes and words were directed at me, and I felt so hot
that I would melt in my shoes. I needed them to go away… just to leave me
alone… but I had nothing to say. I almost began to cry.

I searched
for my stolen bike, and having located it, I made my way towards it, the clear
intention being to ride away as fast as I could from these people that called
themselves civilized people with ideas. My ass.

Again I saw
the black-haired man. He rushed for the bike and kicked it over, grabbing it
and tossing it across the road. Now he placed himself right in front of me. I
smelled no chemicals or anything… this man was really this mean naturally.

“You wanna
get going now, huh!? Couldn’t have done that any earlier, could you!? They’re
going to ruin you!” His words came out furiously, spit staining my face.

“Get out of
my way” I grumbled, sounding more polite than I intended to be. This man was pathetically
crazy, and his insults weren’t boosting my morale for the day, which had
already been crushed and stomped on numerous times.

“Make me
kid, I dare you, try and see how far you can move me! Gonna give me some of
that spirituality bullshit!? Send it right my way, and I’ll tear it up and
throw it in your face!”

“Just leave
me alone” I said, my voice steady, an angry tone added to it for affect. It did
nothing to impede the man’s speech, and so he continued.

“You’re as
pathetic as the priests. Religion should rot while humanity turns towards more
important things than an invisible puppeteer controlling our every move”.

He kept his
eye contact with me, but I refused to meet it. At this point, he had calmed
down, feeling as though he had made his point. Eventually, he stomped off. I
retrieved the bike and slowly pedaled away. I caught a glimpse at one of the
protestors leaning back ready to throw a rock at me, but he stopped that motion
once he noticed I had seen him. With a loud sigh, I exited the road and back on
the highway which was empty now with the morning rush over with.

I had lost
track of what time it was, and my ignorance to never wear a watch certainly
didn’t help me in this aspect. I tapped my wrist where such a timepiece would
be in frustration; today had done nothing but smack me down. The quietness all
around me was just tomorrow getting ready for round two.

An important
fact began to pester me; my friends were going to the bowling alley at six
o’clock. I could recall promising in a way that I would make an appearance. The
sun allowed me to estimate that I had around two hours before that event took
place, so that was a comforting thought.

My mind was
hard at work devising new schemes for when the sun rose the next day, and it
caused me to miss my exit. I cursed, and since I didn’t feel like having to
backtrack, I persisted on.

I was
heading directly towards a small area of the county where a couple of
skyscrapers shot out of the ground for really no reason; it was an awful
location for business. There was a route I could take back to my neighborhood
nearby, so I continued with the hope of finding it.

That’s when
I remembered one important building that was located in this particular section
of the county; the local hospital. It was rather small, but for any case of an
injury, illness, and so on that was in the county, the patient would be taken
there first. That meant that, most likely, I could go up to the receptionist
down at the structure’s entrance and find out that a Paul Hundson was staying

I had to see
him, not only to brighten my mood but his as well; the two of us were both in
the dumps, but him especially. His home, which was basically the last of his
life force, had burned down, and with it went Paul’s determination of survival
in the cruel world of unfair fate.

I started
off in the direction of the building, reasoning that I could stay for at least
half an hour before heading out back to Amanda’s residence. I crossed the
street quickly and made my way to the parking lot.

From the
looks of it, the hospital wasn’t having a busy day. The bike parking place,
which was usually blocked by a car, was left open. I took advantage of this and
left it to rest in the metal.

Luckily the
hospital wasn’t a vast labyrinth like some of the others I had ventured to, and
there were plenty of informal maps scattered about on the walls. I pushed open
the double doors that marked the entrance to the building and approached the
receptionist. She either didn’t notice me or refused to. After an innocent
cough, her head turned towards me.

“I’d like to
see a Paul Hundson please. I heard he was residing her to cure an injury” I
requested politely. She pressed a few functions on her computer keyboard and
then looked up at me.

“He’s up in
room 218b on the second floor. Are you Damien Dikes?” she asked me. It took a
while for me to realize Paul had set up a fake identity for me to protect my
true name. With a smile of quiet thankfulness, I nodded.

“That would
be me” I replied happily. I went over to the nearby staircase, not wanting to
waste any time conferring with him. I took the steps two at a time, and the
second floor soon unfolded before me.

Paul’s room was positioned close by, just at the end of the hallway. I jogged
down the passage and leaped into the entrance of his room. My mouth opened,
ready to talk with the man who so graciously offered me a home to stay in and a
friend to speak with in this secret life, but a nurse that was in the room held
up a hand.

don’t come in. Mr. Hundson is unconscious at the moment and is undergoing
surgery. It would be fine if you returned at a later time. Sorry for the

“No, I’m one
of his friends, I should be able to-“

She rudely
cut me off with a wave of her hand. “I wouldn’t care if you had just come off
of the streets. Mr. Hundson is undergoing surgery, as I said. Sorry for the
inconvenience”. She put more emphasis on the apology.

I shook my
head in disbelief. I guess today really didn’t want to give me any breaks. The
referee had already counted down, why did the day still beat me while I was

Stomping out
of the room, I jumped down the stairs and retreated to my bicycle. I thought I
knew where I left it… but it was no longer there. I turned around and around,
but I didn’t see it anywhere.

“This cannot
be happening… not now” I muttered. It took five minutes to take away my friend
and my only way of transportation.

I saw a
figure pedaling away in the distance… and it was Hunter. He had chased me down
just for the bike! From the looks of it, he had succeeded. I thought of chasing
him down, but he was too far away at this point.

He looked
around, and his eyes fell on to me. His grin was clearly evident from this
distance, and his hand was held up in the air flicking me off. I didn’t want to
let him get away… but I had no idea how I could assault him.

Cursing, I
sat down on a parking block. There goes my temporary bicycle… and the chance I
had to speak with the person I had gotten the second-closest to in the past few

Sighing, I
began the long trek back to Amanda’s house. It was going to be incredibly
time-consuming now that I no longer had possession of a vehicle or something
like it.

As fortune
would have it, Sam was driving by, marking the second time that a friend was nearby
to help. It was like my personal trainer was preparing me for tomorrow’s
onslaught, how to be ready for it.

He rolled
down the window and called after me. “What’re doing walking about this area of
the county?”

I shrugged.
“I wouldn’t be if I had a bike, which Hunter was kind enough to locate and
steal back”.

He looked at
me incredulously. “You stole Hunter’s bike? You know he paid for that… it costs
a hundred-something dollars!”

“Well, I
needed to get somewhere somehow, and he was the nicest person to steal from” I

It was his
turn to shrug. “Just hop on in, then. You won’t get anywhere very fast just
walking. It’s damn tiring you know”.

I willingly
accepted his offer and climbed inside. I had reason to thank him again when a
cherry Coke was tossed into the backseat. Looking forward, I saw a bucket full
of ice and soda placed inside of a compartment.

“This is
best experience for me so far… driving. It’s freedom on wheels” Sam said,
concentrating hard on the road.

That brought
up an important question. I had a lot of questions to ask, and a lot of
questions I have asked, and this one seemed pretty important on top of the

happened to my car after the… thing? Did they just impound it I guess?”

expression became solemn. “It was sold to a car company… owned by none other
than Mr. Feworth himself. He tried so hard to get that car… and from what I
heard he just destroyed it”.

I snorted.
“I bet it was just a gift for Hunter, getting to see the best purchase of my
life destroyed before his eyes”. I cursed, then slammed my hand on the car’s
armrest. “What the hell is wrong with that family?”

“It’s a
mystery still undergoing investigation. People like them can’t possibly be
understood. They’re just overly serious and cruel. Some days I wonder what
their family history was. Came from Hitler’s cousin or something fucked up like

This popped
up more unnecessary questions come onto my mind, but I was able to put most of
them to rest. I allowed myself to sink inside the comfortable seat I was now in
and leaned my head back.

“Hey Jordan…
Jordan! Hey!”

I looked
instinctively over at Sam, believing that he had been the one who had tried to
gain my attention. He said nothing nor did anything in response. Was this all
in my imagination? I could’ve sworn I heard something…

“It’s me!
George! You couldn’t have forgotten already”.

The voice
now had I know, giving it a more distinct connection to me. A smile spread
across my face; good ol’ George. However, my inquisitive mind begged me to sort
some things out with him.

“How are you
talking to me now?” I asked him. Sam seemed to be unwary of our conversation.

“It’s just a
message I’m sending to your mind. Thankfully, you picked it up. I wanted to
know if you made any developments on that church blessing…”

I nodded
slowly, then shook my head. “You could say I did”.

George asked
for more. “What does that mean?”

I took a
deep breath. “It’s… George, it’s worse than I was led to believe. These people…
they’re downright despicable… I don’t know… I don’t know how to cope with them.
I tried talking, and I was ready for other methods… but they just shot me

sighed. “I hoped that you had made some progress, but beggars can’t be
choosers… have you learned anything from your past experiences?”

shaking of my head. “Only that they’re as ignorant and arrogant as a human
being can be. I’ll need some time… and I may need more than a-“

I was cut
off. “You can only have a week, that’s the highest amount. Anything more would
result in some terrible consequences. Understand?” His voice sounded very
strict and cold.

“Don’t look
down at me as though I had not done anything at all. I gave it an honest try…
but they’re difficult people”.

“Then keep
going at them. They’re inhuman, but at the same time human… and humans have
their weaknesses. All you got to do is expose them”.

I decided to
reveal my previous plans. “This isn’t just about the church, George, my

this conversation, George had appeared to be uncharacteristically mad, and his
next few sentences justified this. In one angry outburst, no breaths in
between, he verbally attacked me.

friends? Your friends!? You’re meaning to tell me you’ve been wasting time
meddling with your friends!? Coming back to life is a privilege… use it as one!
You get no freedom, you’ve got a mission and I expect you to do it! Cancel all
of your arrangements thus far and get to that church the first thing tomorrow!
And I thought you were a Herphan… hmph! You better understand me Jordan, or
I’ll pull you back up here faster than you can blink!”

Gritting my
teeth, anger flashing in my eyes, I nodded. “Fine… I’ll get to work.

“You shall,
and if you shall not… now that I think about it… I may not let you back in”.

With that
final statement, George left me. The sounds of the real world caught up with

I couldn’t
believe the leader of the afterlife himself had the audacity to be so
heartless! I considered him a great man, but all that was present in his mind
was the mission… I had spent plenty of time on it, and everyone needs a break
someday some time. You couldn’t give a man his life back and expect him to not
say hello to anyone either, can you?

Sam pulled
in the parking lot of the bowling alley. He leaned back and nudged me,
signifying the trip had ended.

“We’re a
little early, but who cares… let’s go in” he said, already opening up the car

I followed
this motion, a smile present on my face. Today I had made progress, no matter
what George said, and I was ready to have a good time, no matter what George
said. From this new viewpoint I had of the man who was considered a wonderful
leader… I now figured that everything said about him was just a hyperbole.

The first
sodas were on Sam, and I was very thankful to accept them. This was like having
a job… work in the afternoon and then play in the night. I think I had
configured a schedule in a new lifestyle, yet in the same lifestyle I had
lived. It was interesting that way.

The End

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