“Like you, that is one of the Dead. They’re totally harmless. Most of them, anyway.”

The woman walked right past us, ignoring our conversation. Her eyes were fixed on the path ahead of her, but lacked any focus or drive. It was unsettling to look at.

“If I’m one of the Dead like her, why aren’t I like that?” I asked doubtfully.

“The Underworld erodes the soul, slowly weathering away at the vitality which is a core part of all humans. This erosion dulls your thinking, your emotions, pain, everything.  It is a merciful act of this world, to ease the suffering that comes with perpetual existence. You will find it is one of the few acts of mercy this world provides.” She said severely. She gazed heartlessly at another passing Dead, a well-dressed man who must have been very important when he was alive. Now he just trudged unwaveringly forward.

“You, however, are an exception. Those souls over there,” She said, nodding towards the passing group of Dead, “are headed for a different place than you were. Do you remember where you were when I met you, not long ago?” A chill went down my spine. It wasn’t a place you could forget easily.

“Those souls are headed to a place of rest. When you died, you headed to a place of unrest. Where this erosion doesn’t occur, and where a different kind of corruption of the soul takes its place. As you probably observed, it causes the eventual insanity of its inhabitants.”

She stopped talking there, as if that explained everything.

“Well?!” I urged, somewhat impatient.

“Well, what?”

“Why did I end up in that place of unrest? And those people over there didn’t?” I waved my hand towards another group of Dead passing by.

My deadpan rescuer turned to face me and fixed me with a look that was neither critical nor pitying. I could see absolutely nothing in those cloudy lavender eyes. “That place of unrest, in my craft, is called the Precinct of Strife. It is one of the realms of punishment, for those who committed various bad deeds during their life and sought no repentance.”

Yep. That pretty much describes my life. Or described, I guess.

“You are very lucky I intervened when I did. You owe your sanity to whoever hired me to retrieve you. Now, we have no time to lose. It is a long way to the end of the Underworld and already your soul is eroding.” With that, she got up and started down the path once again. She wasn’t running anymore, I noted with relief, but she might as well have been. Her walking pace was almost as unforgiving.

I jogged after her, brooding over what I had learned and agonizingly I realized that her explanation had raised more questions than it had answered. Who had hired her to retrieve me? Why had they hired her to retrieve me? And, most puzzling of all, who was this strange lavender-eyed girl?

The End

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