Embracing Horror

This was it. Phillip braced the window of his fifth floor dorm room. His roommate was gone for the night, which isn't that unusual. Phillip wasn't afraid of much. He was more afraid of the fact that he wasn't afraid of death than he was afraid of death. It would be like an adventure. It would be his very own adventure.

He walked back over to his computer and hit the Enter key which would activate the program he had put together. In not too much time several ambiguous messages would be sent off to his dearest friends saying that he cared very much for each of them and that he was sorry for all the things he may have done to hurt them. He didn't actually think it mattered what they thought of him and his decision, but he wanted to bring them some sort of happiness that he did, in fact, love them, as ironic as it may be from what he was about to do.

He walked back over to the already open window and pushed the screen up out of the way. He looked down at the faded black of the parking lot far below. He took a deep breath and gazed up at the beautiful stars one last time. It was hard to see them properly because of all the clouds in the way, but the North Star was there at least, shining its guiding light through a hole in the array of cloud cover. "I'm ready," Phillip said to no one in particular.

And with that, he flung himself out the window. It was just like he imagined. The ground came toward him so fast that he didn't have time to make sure his head hit the ground first. He didn't have time to do much at all. Time sped up and then slowed down as though he were on drugs. And then everything was smoothly gone.

-

Shawn grabbed the cannon fodder and ran with it. He had to get it to the cannons as soon as possible and he didn't have time to think about consequences of his failure. The ship had been attacked while he slept and he kept telling himself that it wasn't his fault – he hadn't slept for seventy-hours beforehand and not by his choice, either. So it wasn't really that bad that he fell asleep during his shift. He didn't ask for it.

But he did ask for it – when he signed up to be a pirate. He agreed to all the fine print that he actually took the time to read. He wasn't being tricked into anything. But now wasn't the time for thinking

Shawn threw the cannon fodder onto the ground almost carelessly in front of Troy, the current Arms Officer. "Here we are, I'm off to help the captain unless you need any further assistance," Shawn muttered even as he started off towards the bridge. He knew Troy didn't need any help, it was just courtesy to say that.

"Actually," Troy said, "Don't move. I have something you can do." Shawn didn't want to hear these words. He hesitated and turned around in time to see Troy press a gun of some sort into his stomach. A large, menacing grin appeared on Troy's face as he spoke, "You can lie down… and die!"

Shawn didn't see or hear the gun going off. He just felt an immense feeling of pain in his stomach area. His hand automatically flung up to the cover his wound, but he suddenly didn't feel strong enough to stand up. For a moment it felt like he was someone else watching his body slump to the ground in a fetal position. Thoughts filled his mind.

Why was Troy doing this? Was this the end? Was he dying? He didn't want to die in this way. He had to fight to live. He had to fight to stay alive. And then he couldn't think any more for the simple reason that he was unconscious.

-

Phillip woke up to the sound of a loud bang. Startled, he bolted up to a sitting position and looked around him. He appeared to be in some sort of wooden room with windows… to a sea or ocean. And cannons were definitely pointed out of them. "What the hell? Is this what death is?" Phillip asked.

"Who the fuck are you?" a loud, booming voice asked. Phillip swung around to see a burly man with a think beard and loose clothes that had several holes in them. The man appeared to be covered in scars.

Phillip jumped to his feet. "I'm… not supposed to be here. There must be some mistake. Do you know the way to Hell?"

"That doesn't answer my question. Now, I have things to do so you're either going to answer my question or else you're going to be shot. Got it?"

Phillip shuddered. Perhaps this was a test of some kind. He'd think that he was comatose and dreaming except this was definitely real. He could feel the wind from outside. "My name is Phil and I have no idea why I'm here."

The burly man smiled and said, "That's more like it. Now I'm not going to kill you just yet even though I should for being a stowaway. Honestly, I don't have time to deal with you. I rushed through here earlier and thought you were one of my crew, Shawn. But that doesn't really apply to you. Get up so I can tie your hands behind your back and lead you to the brig. Cooperate so I don't have to hurt you." The man started to grab some rope from his waist and step toward Phillip.

Phillip had no idea what to do. To say the least he didn't think he had much time to think about what he should do. So he stood up. What else could he do anyway?

"Good boy," The man wasn't exactly being nice and certainly wasn't kind when he put the ropes around Phillip's arms, but what was he supposed to do? He obviously didn't have a choice here. Not that the threat of death was at all threatening to Phillip, but cooperating seemed to lead to being treated well and that appealed to Phillip. He wanted to be able to act if need be. Now just wasn't the time for acting.

So the man led him through what was increasingly looking to Phillip to be a ship of some sort. And Phillip concluded that it must be an ocean that they were sailing on because he never really saw any land from the occasional windows – just water and water and more water. And then the burly man lead him into a room that was obviously a brig of some sort. All around him were small barred cells with large locks on them.

"So," Phillip began, "I suppose I'm to be kept here until you're, err, ready for me?"

"You got it. Now pick a cell. As you've done me the honor of repeating, I have places to be. I'm the captain, you know," the man said.

The last bit sort of startled Phillip, as the man certainly wasn't dressed as someone whom he thought a captain should be dressed as. But that hardly mattered. He looked around and noticed that one cell was missing a bar. He might be able to slip through it. And there was a lump under the cot in the room next to it. Worse case scenario, he'd have someone to talk to. So he walked into that one and held out his arms to be untied.

"Hah," the captain said, "I wasn't going to untie you, but you've been good. Now you should probably get some sleep. I may be awhile getting back. If you're hungry or thirsty, well that's just too bad."

At least the guy was a good host. Despite the fact that he hadn't seen a single other person yet, he probably really should sleep for now. He didn't want to be on the captain's bad side. He could sneak out later when he was less… fucking exhausted. So he slept.

-

Shawn woke up. Everything seemed unnatural around him. There were a couple stars out as if it was night, but there were lights coming from everywhere. It didn't make any sense. Better yet, the ground below was a strange, faded black material that was like stone. But it certainly wasn't stone, not the way it was flat. He made his way to his feet.

"Am I dead? Have I gone insane and let a demon get to me?" Shawn said to no one in particular. Nothing was making sense.

"Actually, this is probably my fault," a voice came from behind Shawn.

He twirled around to face whoever was there, but all he could make out was a figure draped in black, fully covered. His head was covered in the black hood of his cloak and even his hand was covered in dark black gloves. It was a perfect black, far darker than the night sky above him. Shawn said, "What are you, a demon? Get away from me!"

"I suppose you could call me a demon if that pleases you. It hardly matters. You see, what does matter is that I fix a mistake that I've made. My dearest Fate allowed me to use her weave on a sort of challenge and I've rather fucked things up. I messed up your thread, you see. You're supposed to be dead."

Shawn just stared at the figure, unsure of what was expected of him or why this demon was telling him these things that he didn't really understand.

The dark figure spoke, "I can tell from your face that you don't understand, but that's alright. Let me say it this way. You and someone else were supposed to die. In this way I would bring forth a paradox of sorts that would bring change the world dramatically for the better. I thought it all out, but it just didn't work right. Maybe… maybe eternal peace is impossible, but… you can't blame me for trying. In fact, what I'm trying to do right now is fix things so that either my plan woks or so that at least things return to normal. Do you understand?"

"You like to talk. I understand that much. And I'm not that stupid that I entirely misunderstand you. But where the hell do I fit in? What do you expect me to do?" Shawn had a dreading feeling that this figure wanted him to die, but he didn't want to say that. He didn't even want to think that.

"I need you to, well, lie down and die."

"Fuck you," Shawn said. The demon's words seemed to echo Troy's voice exactly. "Why should I?"

The demon laughed. "It's quite hilarious," the figure continued, "that you think you have a choice. You see, if you don't do exactly what I say, either the world will end or else Fate will get back from her vacation early and, well, let us not have that happen, alright?"

"You speak of a mythology that I haven't heard of let alone believe in, say what you mean in terms that I understand."

"Fair enough. You are dead. This is your afterlife. Now, if you prepare yourself for 'death' and then take your own life then you will move on to the next level, wherever that is. It will benefit both of us very much if you would be willing to do that. You don't actually belong here."

Shawn took a deep breath. Part of him knew this was the case. It all seemed strangely familiar, but it probably meant nothing. He could see no benefit to living in this world that he didn't understand anyway. He could believe that the afterlife looked this strange. It wouldn't be that far of a stretch of the imagination. "What do I have to do?" he asked.

"Just take my hand," the figure said as he extended his black hand. Shawn could have sworn he saw a wide grin on the demon's face but when he looked again it was just sheer darkness. He reached out and accepted the demon's hand. And then the dark world with strange lights turned into simply a dark world with no light at all.

-

Phillip woke in his cell with a back ache. The cot he had slept on wasn't exactly comfortable. It was more like a thick piece of wood held up to the wall by chains.

"I was wondering when you were going to wake up," a voice came from an adjacent cell.

"What?" Phillip asked as he looked around to his neighbor. He was pretty shabby looking, even moreso than the captain; he had an eye-patch over one eye. Phillip decided to call him Pirate regardless of what his name really was.

"I've been watching you ever since I woke up. You're about the most interesting thing in here. So who are you, some captured enemy?" Pirate asked.

"Not exactly. Or at least I do hope not," Phillip said, "I'm not really sure why I'm here." He saw no reason not to talk to this person. Pirate seemed innocent enough to him regardless of how much of a major fucking sketch-ball he looked like. "My turn: so why're you dressed up like a pirate?"

"Whatever is it that you mean? If I were more proud of what it is I do then I would be dishonored by your comment. You see, I am a pirate. Maybe not the best pirate in the world, but certainly a pirate."

By this time Phillip had decided that this afterlife simply sucked. That, or whomever was in charge here had a sick sense of humor. Their conversation didn't get any further because at that moment the door to the room burst open to reveal the captain and someone else.

"Thanks for the tip on Troy. I'll take care of it. Good luck with your adventure, Shawn," the captain said to the other person and promptly shut the door behind Shawn as soon as he had stepped through it.

"Phil?" Shawn asked as he looked directly at Phillip. He half smiled. "Something went wrong and I'm the one that's supposed to fix things for both of us."

Phillip started laughing. He couldn't help it, really. Of course something was wrong. Hearing Shawn say those words was like hearing someone deep underwater state that the water was wet. "Well," was all that Phillip said once he managed to stop laughing.

"At least you have a sense of humor," Shawn said, "You see, we're both supposed to be dead. For some reason, when we aren't in our own worlds, our fatal wounds don't exist. But in our own worlds, they will. For example, while I'm here… well, I won't be alive very long, I don't think. The one who explained all of this to me told me there's a way for you to return. And that you must take it. He also seemed to think that you'd have no problem with this, even knowing that it meant death."

"Well. He'd be right. I'm not afraid," Phillip said. He just looked at Shawn and shrugged as if to tell him to continue.

"I envy you that. I'm terrified. I didn't choose to die. I have lots to live for, you know," Shawn said. Shawn seemed to stare off, as if thinking.

"Why? Like what?"

"Why am I terrified? Well, because I don't know what's there. I don't know what happens when you die. No one does. Except maybe us, a little. And even then not quite, I hope. And do you mean to ask what I have to live for? Well, if you do then I was told once that I am to find my true love someday. And I think that that is something worth living for." He paused before saying, "Well, I guess I won't find my true love before I die. Could I possibly find it after death? In that case… I guess I shouldn't be afraid at all. I just have to come to terms with it. You know, change is hard sometimes. The human brain isn't equipped to be able to handle it well. I'm sorry, I'm babbling."

"No, it's fine. I'm curious – I asked."

"I really don't normally talk this much, I swear. I just feel like I can talk to you about this. Maybe it's because you're going through this too. Or maybe it's just because I know inside that it helps to talk about this sort of thing if I'm to really prepare myself," Shawn said.

"Well," Phillip said, "How exactly do I get back? Not to cut you off – I'm interested, I promise; I just have a date with Death."

"How, you're eager?" Shawn asked, "That doesn't make sense to me at all. There are still things you can do in life, right?"

"Oh sure. Like I could clean my room before I finish my homework. Or like I could do everything else I want to do before I do what I don't to do. But the fact of the matter is that I have nothing against dying. Why should I procrastinate when getting the duty done as soon as possible would yield the same results. Except, you know, without the getting stressed and being tired as hell. Everyone dies eventually. I just want to do it on my own terms. Before I get too old."

"Little guy," Shawn began, "You have more wisdom than you seem to. I think… I think I'm ready too. I was told… hold on." Shawn twirled around and pulled a key out of his pocket. It was a funny looking key that was a little big and copper-ish colored. Shawn poked the wall with it and the frame of a door appeared.

Phillip walked over to it. Beyond it was just blackness. That's all there was for him, apparently. Darkness forever. Alright, that's not too bad. He turned back to Shawn and said to him, "So are you sure you want to do this? You can come with me if you wanted, you know. I have to die, but why should you? You're not a bad person or anything. And I… I wouldn't mind having someone like you as a friend." Phillip offered his hand to Shawn and smiled.

"I-I-I… alright. I am always up for an adventure." Shawn grabbed Phillip's outstretched hand as Phillip slowly walked back into the doorway and vanished.

-

Shawn was disoriented for a moment. Then he realized what was going on and where he was. He looked up to see Phillip falling toward him. He jumped forward and neatly caught him in his arms, almost instinctively.

"Oh my gods, what a thriller. You should totally try that," Phillip said with a smile.

Shawn smiled back at him. "You know, I think I just saved your life."

"What an asshole. I guess that makes you my hero, huh?"

"Do I get anything for it? Like a reward? I like rewards."

"You silly pirate. If you were a girl I'd give you a kiss, but I don't think you'd enjoy that. How about if I guide you around my world instead?"

Shawn turned a little red and said, "Who's to say that I wouldn't enjoy it? Though I'm not turning down your offer to show me around town, either."

Now was Phillip's time to turn red. "You really… wouldn't mind?"

"Today I just came to the conclusion that death wouldn't be that bad. I don't think a kiss could be any worse."

Phillip smiled a little and just said, "Well." Then he kissed Shawn.

It was about then that Shawn realized that he was still carrying Phillip, exactly how he had fallen into his arms. And that Phillip was wrapping his arms around Shawn. And that Shawn enjoyed all of it.

Oh sure, maybe they were fucking up the fabric of space and time and of even destiny by simply existing. But it didn't matter. Because they both enjoyed doing it, right? And they both had better things to think about than that anyhow. They had plenty of better things to think about… like kissing each other… and spending lots of time together… and enjoying each other's company.