Tony stood in shock for a few moments. His mind wouldn’t comprehend what he had been told.
“I was chosen?”
“Think yourself special. No one else has ever been chosen.”
“He did this to me? Nate?”
“He did you all a favour. He promised you the afterlife. He promised that you would all be together,” Jimmy wheezed.
“That’s not the point. This place isn’t heaven. This place is hell. I spent years going insane in this place. It isn’t for him to choose.”
Jimmy slowly stood up.
“Whether you like it or not. You’re here.” He paused and took a a step towards Tony. “You can’t change what has happened. The deal is done.”
“Is that why he broke down? Is that why I didn’t care.”
“I felt that when it happened. I was stabbed in the real world. Spent days without harvesting chose the first one I found. Bad blood. Stabbed me from the inside. I’m weak. I’m breaking. I just need more time.” He sighed and closed his eyes. “That man you saw up there. The one that led you to me. He wasn’t your brother and hasn’t been for a long time. He was a part of me acting on echoes of impulses and feelings Nate left behind. Nothing more. He’s meaningless.”
Jimmy walked beyond the Tony and towards the doorway.
“Where are you going?” Tony asked.
“I’ve rested enough. There isn’t much time left. The other forces are coming. And with them is the end of me and you. If I don’t harvest beforehand then you, and your family are all doomed for eternity.”
“The higher forces?”
“Yes. Those that destroyed my family with tricks and deceit.”
“If I join with you? If you take my soul, like you did Nate’s. Will you save my family?”
“Another deal. Your family are so quick to make them. I’m afraid it won’t help this time. I need more than a soul. It isn’t that I’m weak from hunger. I’m weak from bad blood. There are other ways, though in which you can help me.”
“Like what? Will you leave my family alone?”
“Like I said. A deal is a deal. And I’m not making a deal with you. I’m suggesting you go back to the city. I’m suggesting you find a way to hold the higher forces away. I’m suggesting that if you do this when I find your family they won’t rot in here with the rest of us.”
Jimmy strode out of the room. It shocked Tony how much Jimmy had improved over the space of an hour. He turned to follow him, but Jimmy had already disappeared. Tony walked out of the room and back towards the stair case.
Nate’s puddle was waiting for Tony at the top of the stairs. Without remorse he stepped over it and back outside. It was like a jungle had grown in the city. There were trees shooting out of windows, vines climbing up walls and overgrown bushes that covered cars. It all appeared stable though. Tony could just about see the tops of the jungle and it had stopped growing.
Tony found his way around the maze. A tree had shot out of the ground where a car once stood and the car was lodged inside of. A bit further along a building had collapsed where plants had grown through the front wall and pulled the bricks down. Tony took a second to look through the empty barren building. A manhole cover had lifted where vines had attempted to drag themselves out and into the open. Glass from broken windows occasionally crunched under Tony’s feet.
The jukebox at the back of the milkshake bar made Tony pause for a second. It was still playing. A dull and melancholic sound. Something turning in the stars. Tony couldn’t quite make out the song. He carried on walking.
Tony stopped once he reached the burger joint he had eaten in earlier. He was no longer hungry. And that made him think about Nate. How Nate had doomed him to stay in that hell of a city for eternity. He had been doomed and his family would soon join him. A deal is a deal.
For one moment Tony allowed himself to get angry and he punched a vine as he walked past. It was hanging from a tree and swung back and forth for a while. He carried on walking. Screaming to himself as the image of himself laying in that hospital bed crept back into his mind. Not only was he stuck in that world, he wasn’t actually dead in his real one. Not that there was any going back. He wondered if there was anything left in his body. The body he was stolen from. A part of him hoped that he would see Jimmy again soon. If there was anything left inside his body maybe Jimmy would take that instead of his family.
“This place,” he whispered. “It’s a prison.”
“What’s wrong with it?” A young child said. Tony hadn’t noticed him before. He was sitting on a branch from a tree in front of him. “We’re safe here. Together here. Forever. Nothing can go wrong. Mummy isn’t worried. Daddy isn’t angry. Nothing bad. Nothing.”
“That’s not the point. It isn’t natural. What about the other side. All this place does is prove the afterlife. It isn’t anyone’s right to take that away from us. Once we are here we’re doomed. There is no coming back. This is it. Damned souls.” The boy gave Tony a funny look. “You don’t get it. Come back to me in 100 years. I’m sure you’ll agree with me then.”
To Be Continued…