Ages from Eternity (Book 1)
Author : Lora Douglas
The Nigerian man sat before me rubbing his head. Dark skinned with short dreads and a thick accent that coated every word that passed his lips, the man appeared not much older than myself.; young, in his mid-twenties, healthy and strong. Young, but he was just as dead as I was.
“Where am I?” He groaned trying to force his eyes to open.
“You're in the Realm,” I whispered as I crossed the floor of the white room. I sank down next to him careful we did not touch. I’m not a delicate person, but next to his Gladiator frame, I felt like a child. From his seated position, he attempted to look at me before collapsing onto the floor.
My dark braid fell over my shoulder as I shifted, finding the perfect combination of comforting closeness and self-preserving distance. Touching wouldn’t be beneficial for either one of us, especially with his energy pinging off the walls. From the corner of my eye, I could see the dark blue, electrified balls ricochet and disappear.
Whoever was responsible for designing the Greeting Rooms on the lower level of the Chamber of the Council deserved a swift kick to the head. Maybe then, he or she would obtain a sliver of empathy for what newcomers go through- stark white walls; hard tile floor; no windows; nothing but light and echoes. Torture. At least there were no mirrors.
The man groaned, wrapping his arms around his ears. Sitting silent, I gave him time. I have yet to find anyone that enjoyed being sucked through the Vortex. The experience is painful, disorientating. Passing through the Vortex is having your soul ripped from the living world and dropped into the Realm, and when you land, you land hard into the white box.
The man pushed his bulk back to a seated position, resting his head between his knees. His short dreads shot out in all directions. “There was another . . .” He groaned.
“She had something to attend to,” I lied. “I’ll be your Greeter now. My name is Calla.”
“She was angry with me.” His statement didn’t ask for pity, but that didn’t stop me from feeling sorry for him. “Am I really dead?”
Too many Greeters only did the job because of Council mandate. Most didn’t have the patience or the desire, and people like this man suffered for it.
A deep primal sound rattled from his chest. “Everything hurts.” His head shook but he kept his eyes down.
“The Vortex affects everyone differently,” I explained, making sure my voice never rose above a whisper. “It makes your senses seize. The lights are too bright. Every noise is too loud. The floor is too cold. Air is knocked from your lungs and every inch of your body hurts. Emotions smother until you want to drown. All of these things are normal.”
“What did you feel?” the man asked unmoving.
There was a small chuckle, muffled by his massive arms.
In small movements, he rotated his head. Looking at me with deep, soulful eyes I saw something that both warmed and gnawed at my heart. Innocence. For the past two centuries, the driving force behind my dislike of people was . . . well, people. The Realm did things to a person. Dying did things to a person. If living in the world didn’t break you or rob you of your innocence, the Realm did.
“How did you die?” the man whispered.
Taking a deep breath, I folded my arms across my stomach.
Different stories played through my mind, ones I had told before. “Wildfire,” I lied.
“Why were you angry?” The man managed to lift his eyes. I couldn’t tell if his curiosity came from the fact that he could see no visible proof of me burning alive or if he possessed general interest. For me, the reason why I was angry was simple. In my life, I was nothing; hated, unseen and insignificant. Dying, pain crashed over me in turbulent waves. Darkness ripped through me, but when I died, I didn’t stop living.
“I had expected peace,” I said before I could filter out the truth. “Smashing onto the floor of a bright room with a thousand questions colliding in my head wasn’t my idea of peace.”
“I shouldn’t be here.” The words would have been a whimper if they came from the lips of a lesser man. “My wife . . .”
“Not all who die come here.” I wrapped my arms around my knees. The sorrow rolling off his shoulders coated the room in a rich invisible blue that I didn’t have to see to know it was there. “Some move straight into Eternity. Others stay in the living world, caught in an oblivious purgatory.” Lowering my voice, I tried to keep the sarcasm from my words. “Only the special ones come here.”
Sitting next to him, every emotion that passed through his immense frame brushed my skin from the inside. Laying a hand on his arm, just a comforting gesture on my part, sent glimpses of his life shooting through my head, tumbling over one another. I wasn’t a strong Telepath, and I wasn’t a Reader, so his mind didn’t open to me like a book, but his energy flowed through that physical connection, granting me visions of his past.
Centuries of practice allowed everything to bounce around in my mind then fade away. I made it a habit not to remember things unless it proved vital. It was more than respecting privacy; it was an act of self-preservation. I didn’t just see things that had happened, for a moment, I had lived them too. I had enough things in my past. I didn’t need the pain and suffering of every person I ever touched.
After a few moments, the man lifted his head. “You are kind.” “You hit your head pretty hard.” I didn’t tease everyone but it
came naturally with him. Then he smiled at me. A beautifully contagious smile. “What is your name?” I asked.
“Kumal Adeyemi.” He rubbed his eyes. “How can we understand each other? You are not Yoruba or any other tribe from my country.” I glanced down at my lighter skin.
“Not really sure what I am, but I died in Greece before it became such. In regards to language, everyone within the Realm understands one another.”
That innocence in his eyes mingled with a softness that offered a sliver of hope. Not many still carried that light, that beautiful softness that living had yet to beat out of him. I prayed the Realm wouldn’t beat it out of him either. He looked at me with those eyes and asked the question that always made my stomach knot:
“Why am I here?”
“In the Realm,” I explained in the way I had perfected over too many years, “we aren’t ghosts. We aren’t spirits. We are people that happen to possess abilities that transcend the living world. A person may exhibit the beginnings of these abilities in life, and those early manifestations have led to the history of many executions, witch-hunts, and stonings. Others know nothing of these abilities until they are here.” By the look on his face, Kumal was one of those that didn’t suspect a thing.
“It’s scary and confusing, but with time you will adjust. You are a Seeker, a member of the Realm not affiliated with any of the existing factions. After we are finished talking, the Council will assign you to a Training Group.”
Kumal shifted around to fully face me. He still moved slowly but it was evident some of the pain had subsided.
“Calla?” he asked, forming the word in his mouth.
I nodded back, indicating he remembered my name correctly. “Nice to meet you, Kumal. Even under these circumstances.”
That was over two hundred years ago . . .