She was walking Chrissie to school while pushing Johnny in his wheelchair. Chrissie was a little further a head, holding onto the straps of her backpack as she skipped along. Johnny looked dazed but quite a lot better than he had done when Tony last saw him. Older too. But that was to be expected. If everyone else was right then he had spent over a year in that place. Jennie, Chrissie and Johnny all together. That made Tony think. Everything he had been told was true. There was no way that his own mind would trick him into believing that he had missed out on so much. Her hair was tied up in a pony tail. Tony remembered that it was like that the first time he saw her. Perfect.
Tony got onto his knees and touched the pool. Just with the tips of his longest fingers. It rippled and they all disappeared. He withdrew his hand, the water steadied and then they returned. They turned a corner and reached the school. Chrissie returned to Jennie to receive her hug and then sprinted into the playground. Jennie watched for a moment and then turned back on herself. Tony wanted to cry, but he couldn’t. He stood up and walked away.
“Can I see me?” he asked Nate.
“I don’t think that’s the best idea.”
“How do I do it?”
“Just look in and think about yourself.”
Tony turned back around. The water had reverted back to its natural black state. He looked into and thought about himself. Thought about himself laying lifeless on a hospital bed. And there he was. A white sheet pulled up to his neck wires attached to him all over. He looked like he was sleeping. It had been a while since he was last shaved, but his beard was shorter than when he was in control of it. Nate walked up and patted Tony on the back.
“You okay man. It can’t be easy to see that.”
“Yeah I’m fine. I needed to see it. I think we can go now.”
They started walking back down the stairs.
“Why don’t they have an elevator in this place?” Tony asked.
“We don’t need one. We can’t feel pain. We have no reason to rush. Just enjoy the walk.”
Tony didn’t say anything. He didn’t want to admit that he felt a twinge of pain in his feet. The faint feeling reminded him of his younger days, standing in a crowd all day just because he could. The pain made him smile. He was finally feeling something again and in his head that could only be a good thing.
They reached the bottom about three hours later. They walked out onto the high street and found it empty.
“What’s going on?” Tony asked.
“I don’t know. People are always out. Doing something. Come on. We should find someone soon enough.”
They walked down the street. It was empty and quiet. Soon enough the sound of the jukebox broke into their ears but they passed and it faded. It took them quite a while to find any evidence of life. They reached the city limits and found a crowd. Tony guessed that every single collected soul had gathered there. He soon found a face he recognised.
“I told you I’d see you again,” the Bride said.
“And you were right,” Tony answered. “What’s going on here?”
“They found life. True life. Someone travelled out of the city and found a blade of grass. He came to fetch us and there were more. A flower is blooming.”
“Why is that a bad thing?”
“The legend says that when nature begins to flourish that the reaper is dying.”
“Surely he just needs a new soul or something.”
“It doesn’t work like that,” Nate added. “He’s not having trouble with collecting souls, he’s been hurt. He could be close to death himself. We need to do something.”
“What?” the Bride asked. “What can we possibly do?
“Something. Tony stay here. I’m going to the elders. They’ll know something. They can communicate with Jimmy. They’ll know more than any of us.”
Tony watched as his brother turn and ran back down the street and towards the tower. He guessed that it would take an age for him to get there and back. He would soon enough lose his breath, feel faint, feel the pain. He wouldn’t be back for a while. That led Tony’s mind onto himself. He was hungry. An odd sensation. He left the crowd and entered the first food place he found. A burger joint. He walked in and picked up a half-eaten burger. After he ate that he moved onto another burger and then another. As he ate he watched as one man wearing a black trench coat walked along the empty street towards the tower. Soon enough he’d eaten everything in the place and he was still hungry. The food was just as empty as he was. He left the joint and rejoined the crowd. They had moved further away from the city and were all stood around a sole tree. Tony found the Bride.
“It just grew out of nowhere. I watched it with my own eyes.”
To Be Continued…