A Different Kind of Graveyard 35 DJ Corisis

A Different Kind of Graveyard

Kaden brushed away the snow from his face as he continued to speak into the phone and listen to the resulting reply.

"I just don't understand why you would do something like that Kaden!" his girlfriend Jennifer said through the other end.

"What does it matter? You act as if you own me sometimes!" Kaden replied through the mouth piece.

"Ugh, I do not," Jennifer huffed, "I simply like you keeping me as your one and only!"

"I gave her a hug Jennifer…" Kaden said rolling his eyes, "It's not like I swept her off her feet and have been dating her ever since as it was with you."

"Well it certainly didn't seem like it was just a hug!"

"It's high school Jenn, nothing seems for certain. Look, I gotta go I'm almost home."

"Ugh, fine, I'll see you tomorrow. I love you." She said harshly.

"Love you too…" he replied, then folded up his phone as he started to take his short cut across the frozen pond to his house.

I really do mean it… he thought to himself, most of the time… she can just be so frustrating sometimes though!

He continued to walk across the pond, hands dug deep into his pockets for warmth and watching his breath as it disappeared into the outside winter air like a ghost. He noticed a rock sitting on the ice partly covered by the falling snow that some child passing by had thrown. He kicked it across the length of the pond and watched it as it suddenly disappeared into a snow bank. He smiled at his small accomplishment.

Kadens smile quickly turned to a frown as he heard the ice begin to make noises from stress under his weight. For a split second the world stood still as he himself stood solid as a statue waiting for fate to make the move. He wasn't sure if he should stay as still as possible or run for the bank just ten feet away!

He was startled when a crack burst forth from the ice near where he was standing, sending up a small puff of snow powder. He decided to make a break for the bank, but at his first step he felt the ice give way beneath him. His heart stopped as he experienced the cold thrill of falling into waters full of an icy death, knowing that if he lost his hole in the ice he would die. The pond was too deep for him to stand and push up on the ice!

He fell into the water, violently splashing for his life, attempting to get a grip on the ice surrounding him; however it was to no avail as it broke away and sank as he applied pressure to it.

Then he started to sink. He started to panic as he tried to think why he wasn't able to swim, and gasp both in surprise and need of air as he realized his backpack was weighing him down, pulling him under the surface.

His heart raced as his body temperature quickly began to drop, making his mind race and causing panic. He fumbled with the backpack around his shoulders, his fingers so numb he wasn't sure if he was touching the strap or not. He began to near the bed of the pond and mud quickly flew upwards in all directions, clouding his vision and greatly disorienting him.

He managed to wrestle his pack off, but was faced with the problem of direction.

Panic is the number one cause of drowning, Kaden recalled his teacher saying to the class one day.

How hard can it be to know which way is up and to kick back and forth with your hands and feet? Kaden had said in response.

Now he saw how so many people had died from panic. He didn't know which way was up, and to add his distress he was beginning to see spots in his vision.

I need oxygen! He screamed inside his head, I have only seconds to find my way out!

He quickly chose a direction and viciously swam that way. He hit his head on his backpack.

I thought I had swum away from that already! Maybe I had and I just swam back to it! Then he began to think, wait! Did I take it off straight under the hole?! Or had I struggled so much it's in a different spot?!

He began to feel the feeling in the back of his head and lungs that signaled he was out of oxygen, he was out of time. In a final desperate attempt, he placed his feet on the ground, and shot himself upward towards the ice.

I'm going to live! He cried joyously to himself in his head. Then his head made contact with the ice, the ice cracking his head more than itself. His victorious cry went silent as his vision went black and his head rebounded off the ice. He slowly sank to the bottom of the frozen pond, unconscious and no hope for survival.

Kaden later awoke on his back. He slowly sat up and held his head as it spun, coughing up the water in his lungs.

"How am I still alive?" he asked himself, "I thought for sure I had died… was I lucky enough for someone to find me?"

"You were lucky alright!" a voice called from behind him.

"Huh?! What? Who said that?" Kaden said as he whirled around on the ground.

"Me of course! Who else?" Kaden saw a girl calling to him a few meters out of observant view, "It's not like there's anyone else around, silly."

"Anyone else around…ok, wait! Did you save me?"

"We—ell I wouldn't exactly call it saving… there are worse fates a guy could have met."

"What are you talking about?" Kaden asked getting more frustrated by the minute. That's when he took the time to look around him at his surroundings. He was in a graveyard, surrounded all over by headstones that appeared out of the fog as he realized his situation.

"W-where am I?" Kaden stuttered.

"See? Now couldn't it be much worse?" the girl giggled.

"What are you talking about?! Where am I?!" Kaden panicked, knowing that there was no cemetery anywhere near his house, "I was in a pond. Not a cemetery."

"Cemetery? This isn't a cemetery! Get your places right!"The girl laughed back.

"Well then where am I?!"

"A Memorial Park!"

"What's the difference?!"

"It's not a cemetery…duh."

"You are making no sense whatsoever." Kaden huffed as he strained his eyes to try and see who he was talking to.

The girl sighed and stood up from t he headstone she had been leaning on and walked over to Kaden, holding out her arm to offer him help to his feet. Kaden was surprised to see that she was not only closer to his age than her voice had led him to believe, but that she was also incredibly attractive.

She stood at about eye level to Kaden, only a few inches shorter. Her hair was smooth and jet black in color and hung just past her shoulders loosely. Kaden took her hand and as he stood to his feet she smiled the most charming smile that had showed no teeth at him, the moon silver color of the whites of her eyes sparkling.

"S-so, uh, what's your name?" Kaden asked stuttering.

The girl giggled and replied, "I'm Jira. If you have any more questions you can always ask me! I'm probably the most knowledgeable person here you know." She giggled again then said, "I guess you could say I'm the most unknowledgeable person here to, I had been alone here for years until you showed up!"

"What? Years!? What is this place!?"

"Haven't we been through this already?" Jira said placing her hands on her hips, "This is a Memorial Park!"She looked at Kaden and reading the puzzled look on his face said, "Ugh, look around you." Kaden did as he was told and took a good look around himself. He saw the normal scenery of a Memorial Park; headstones, mausoleums, pathways and trees. But upon closer inspection, Kaden saw something strange about the headstones. He walked closer to one that was nearest to him, and saw that it, along with all of the other graves in the area hadn't been dug at all! All that was there was a simple jar.

Kaden stooped to his knees to inspect the headstone. It read in gold calligraphy:

Katherine and George

1856-1908

Loved dearly before and through death

"What am I looking at?" Kaden asked picking up the jar from the ground and peering into it.

"What do you think?" Jira asked.

"How am I supposed to know? The jars empty!"

"Ready the headstone again dummy."

"I already have, what is this place? Not what kind of place, what is it?"

Jira shrugged and said, "It's one kind of purgatory I guess you could say."

"One kind? There is more than one purgatory?" Kaden asked skeptically.

"Eleven to be exact!" Jira chimed with a smile.

"No… there's only one purgatory…"

Jira shrugged her shoulders again and said, "That's a matter and choice of opinion I suppose."

Kaden froze for a moment after a thought.

"W-wait am I dead then?" he asked nervously.

"Well of course you are! You couldn't get here if you weren't!" Jira said smiling cheerfully at him.

"Ahh!" Kaden yelled, "You might have told me that as, I don't know, the first thing?! It's kind of a big deal!"

"Aw it's not so—o bad… you learn to enjoy it! Of course there's not much to do but your job when you've been here fifty years alone …"

Kaden ignored her and said, "F-fifty years? Wait, no, I can't be dead. I can't be! I was only in high school!" he said starting to panic.

"Hey! That's just like me! Except I got sick…" she giggled to herself and said, "At least I knew to stay off the deep frozen ponds at the end of winter so I don't fall in and drown."

"Hey! I was—"Kaden cut himself off, remembering his dilemma at hand, "I have to get out of here."

"Where are you going to go? Don't you want me to show you around?" Jira asked with a sparkle in her eye, gazing at Kaden.

"No, no thanks… I can show myself around…" Kaden said after a quick glance into her eyes. He looked away and said, "Wait! Wait a minute! Jeez! You're like a leech for attention and focus!"

Jira laughed and said, "Close!" Kaden hadn't heard her.

"I'm getting out of here…" he said as he began to trudge in the opposite direction of Jira, weaving in and out of the headstones with jars at their feet.

"Ok Kaden! I'll be here when you get back!" Jira called happily.

"Did I tell her my name?" Kadens silently asked himself, "Forget it… its nothing. I just have to concentrate on finding my way out of here. There has to be civilization somewhere around here." He said to himself as he continued on his custom path.

After a long while of walking, Kaden became to get impatient walking through the seemingly endless sea of headstones.

"What time is it anyway?" he asked himself. He looked at his watch but the numbers did not change.

"Oh, great. My waterproof watch wasn't really water proof!" he complained to himself.

Of course there's not much to do but your job when you've been here fifty years alone. Kaden recalled Jira saying.

"Fifty years… that girl is senile. She looks no older than me! She must have escaped from her leash and helmet somehow. "Kaden laughed to himself, "And why is it night? I feel like it's been night forever but I couldn't have been here more than an hour!"

Kaden continued walking for what seemed as an eternity, finally coming to a clearing in the headstones.

"Ahh, I'll rest here for a minute…" Kaden said to himself. He lay on the ground, making sure to keep him distance from the headstones closing his eyes and thinking of home.

"HI KADEN!" came a high pitch shriek. Kaden nearly jumped out of his skin at the shrill noise. Without knowing what was happening he sat up and yelled,

"WHAT!?" he looked around him and his heart sank while he felt it grow wings as he saw Jira in the same place she had been when he had left on his venture.

"Small Memorial Park huh?" Jira piped.

"B-but… I went that way!" Kaden said pointing in the direction of his departure.

"Right! And you came back around, tha—at way!" Jira said with another lips only smile and pointing in the direction he had just arrived.

Kaden, becoming irritated with her loony personality said, "Can it batty. I need to get out of here!"

"O—oh!" Jira squealed excitedly, "Is that your nickname for me!? Batty!? I love it Kaden!" Jira exclaimed running up to him and throwing her arms around him a hug. She stepped away and said, "Now I need to come up with one for you!" Jira sat and though for a minute and suddenly exclaimed, "I've got it!"

"And I don't want to hear it!" Kaden yelled. "I need to get out of here! Are you going to help me or not!?"

"Well excuse me for trying to have a little fun." Jira said crossing her arms and pouting, "I just thought that if we are going to be spending eternity together we might want to become incredible friends at least!"

"WHAT!?" Kaden yelled loudly.

"Tell you what, I'll give you time by yourself for a little while, then when you ready you can come find me, k?" Jira said planting a quick kiss on his cheek and skipping away.

Kaden heart quickly fluttered, but as his eye twitched, in his head he thought,

I am not spending eternity with that.

Kaden sat and thought for a long time about this new life he apparently had thrust upon him.

"How could she have been here for fifty years…" he thought to himself, "She couldn't be older than seventeen!" he tussled his black hair as he sat against headstone thinking. He felt as if he had been thinking for hours, but it could have been minutes for as much as he knew, his watch still wasn't working.

"I don't believe a word of this…" he said to himself in disbelief, "But then again… she has a convincing argument…" he continued as he picked up a jar beside him and peered into it. This jar instead of containing emptiness, held a thick swirling gold substance. He sat it back down on the ground beside him and said,

"U—ugh, where am I?" Kaden rose to his feet, and walked in the direction Jira had specified she would be waiting. He soon found her sitting on a rock humming to herself.

"There you are! I was wondering when you would come around…" Jira said not turning around.

"Yea… well… it doesn't look like I have much of a choice. So can you answer some questions I have?" Kaden replied scratching his neck.

Jira leapt off the rock and came running up to Kaden, and looking him straight in the eyes said, "Of course! What's on your mind?"

"U-um," Kaden stuttered, trying to avoid her piercing gaze, "It seems like I have been here forever, but it's still pitch black."

Jira laughed and said, "I thought you said you had questions for me!"

Kaden sighed and said, "Ok, so why isn't the sky getting brighter?"

"Now I thought that you would have figured that one out on your own! Time doesn't pass in purgatory… it's supposed to be a time for waiting! Course I suppose that's kind of ironic… can you be waiting if there is no time?"

"You just answered my question with another question." Kaden said frustrated.

"Did not! I answered yours then added a question of my own…" Jira stated.

"Ugh, fine. Can I ask another?"

"Of course!"

"You mentioned a job earlier… what's the job?"

"Yay! I was wondering when you would ask that!" Jira exclaimed excitedly, quickly turning around, "Come on! Follow me!" she quickly ran off in a direction, Kaden having no choice but to follow.

After a quick run, Kaden soon found himself at a large group of trees, Jira waiting.

"Here we are!" she peeped.

"Here we are where?"

"At the gateway!"

"Ok, stop assuming I know everything about this place… what is the gateway?"

"The gateway is the doorway between this world the mortal world! I thought that would be obvious!"

"What!? Through there? Through there!?" Kaden yelled pointing down the tunnel made by the trees branches.

Jira giggled and said, "Well it's obviously not that way!" she said pointing in the opposite direction, "But you have already found that out haven't you?"

Kaden couldn't believe that his way out was through a tunnel of trees. He quickly sprinted as fast as he could into the bleak darkness, listening to the voice of Jira call out behind him,

"Ok! I'll be here when you are done exploring! And don't stay out for too long! It's not safe!" Kaden didn't care what she was saying to him, he just wanted to get back to his world and away from the Memorial Park full of jars.

"I hope he heard me about not staying out for too long…" Jira said to herself worriedly, "I never got a chance to explain to him our part in his world or the dangers of it either…! But he was just so excited to try out his new job! Oh well I guess… even grim reapers need to learn for themselves sometimes…" Jira said as she walked away.

Kaden tripped and fell onto the concrete, stunned at the sudden change of environment. One moment he had been running through a tunnel of tree branches, now he was on his knees on a sidewalk!

"Am I really back?" he asked himself. He got to his feet and looked around, seeing an open door with the scenery of the Memorial Park through the other side. He watched as people walked up and down the street, taking no notice of the boy standing idly in the center of the sidewalk.

"Yep, just like home!" he said to himself. He quickly decided to find his way to the nearest business or gas station to find out where in the world he had turned up. He crossed the street to the brass artwork on the sidewalk, hoping the small description would give him a clue. He discovered nothing but that while the artwork looked like a brass ball of spaghetti, was really a willow tree. He turned on his heels and after many turns and many turns up and down streets, came to a service station. It wasn't the service station that revealed his location however; it was the building next to it.

"So I'm in New York…" he said to himself gazing up at the Empire State Building, "It's going to take some explaining when I finally get home…" he said to himself, dreading the punishment for disappearing or drowning or whatever had happened.

"So where do I go from here…?" he pondered to himself. He jumped as he heard a loud dark sound from d own the street.

"Jasper. Jasper! Heel boy! Heel!" Kaden heard a lady yelling at her dog running away from here, dragging his leash behind him. Kaden saw that the dog was running in a straight collision course with him, and bracing himself, prepared for the worst. But the dog just stopped right in front of Kaden, continuing to bark.

"Jasper! Bad dog!" the lady scolded stumbling after her pet and regaining his leash, "Don't bark at nothing, bad dog!" she said leading the hysteric dog away.

"What do you mean at nothing?! Your dog almost just attacked me lady!" Kaden yelled after her, the woman taking no notice, but the dog barking and tugging wildly at his leash.

"I guess that's New York for you…" Kaden justified, "She could have said sorry at least."

Kaden looked around him, making sure there were no more hysteric dogs to fear, and continued on. Something at the entrance of the Empire State Building caught his eye however. He did a double take and saw a tall, darkly cloaked figure standing in front of one of the doors. Kaden stood there for a second staring at the figure, not able to see its eyes, but knowing that through the distance they were linking.

"You think the Empire State Building would have a no loitering policy…" he said slowly starting to walk away. He took one last look at the entrance, but the dark figure was gone. He turned his head back forward and almost leapt back when he saw the dark figure at the other end of the street now! He watched as it started to walk closer to him.

He decided that he would calmly walk past it and put it out of his mind, against his better judgment. He took his eyes off the figure for only a second, and when he turned them back the figure was gone again. Kaden wasn't sure if he wanted to turn them another way again for fear of seeing it again.

He suddenly heard a woman bustle past him and drop a folder at his feet in her hurry.

"Oh jeez, come on… I can't be late!" she grumbled to herself. Kaden stooped down to pick it u, standing back up to give it to her.

"Here you go!" he said nicely. He watched as the woman completely ignored the folder being held out to her, and bent down to pick up the same folder off the ground. She returned it to the stack in her arm and hurried off to her destination.

"What the…?" Kaden said to himself perplexed, "Hey! Lady!" he yelled, the woman paying no attention. He decided to throw it at her, in attempt to test his greatest fears of what was happening. It flew through the air towards the woman, hitting her back and falling to the ground, the woman giving no reaction whatsoever.

"This is getting weird… maybe I should have listened to what Jira had to say…" Kaden said worriedly. A delivery truck pulling away from the curb caught his attention and Kaden nearly died a second time when he saw the same dark figure across the street from him, now with a companion of the same fashion. What caused him even more terror was that he wasn't able to see any feet touching the ground.

At the first moment he sensed them make the first move towards him, instinctively he knew to run. He sprinted down the street, it becoming more and more apparent to him that neither the dark figures nor himself were visible to anybody around them.

"Where did I enter at?!" Kaden yelled out in terror as the dark figures began to gain on him. His surroundings luckily began to look more and more familiar to him, and soon he knew exactly where to doorway was. He took a sharp left around a corner, and leapt into the door, landing on the moist earth of the Memorial Park under the dark sky, a high pitch shrieking audible being him through the tunnel of trees.

"You're back!" Jira said excitedly looking affectionately at Kaden with her hands clasp together behind her back as Kaden walked up to her.

Kaden stuttered for a moment then said, "I-I was just chased by two grim reapers! What just happened?!"

"Hey! You almost just guessed something right again! And that's what you get for just running off like that! It's not very polite you know… you're lucky I was here to guard the Memorial Park still!" she said pointing a finger at him, "Now, are you ready to listen to all the details of your future?"

Kaden, at a loss for more words, simply took a deep breath and said, "Ok… I'm listening… tell me everything about what I'm doing here."

"Ok! First off… you've heard of the grim reaper right?"

"Really tall guy? Stick like, carries a scythe?" Kaden replied jokingly.

"That's it exactly! That's what we are! Were grim reapers! Only…were a little different."

"Different in what way?"

"We're love reapers of course!"

"Oh, of course… I don't know why I didn't see that before…" Kaden mumbled rolling his eyes.

"You didn't actually think this could be the face of a grim reaper did you?" Jira said giggling.

"I didn't know I was supposed to be looking for any kind of reaper!"

"Anyway!" Jira said ignoring Kadens last comment, "We, as love reapers, have a job to do! Remember what the grim reaper gathers?"

"That would be souls…" Kaden said with a chill.

"Good! So as love reapers, we gather…love!" Jira said excitedly. Kaden quickly straightened up as a thought occurred to him as he looked around.

"So then… all these jars on the ground…are love?"

"When you get down to it, yes! That's exactly what they are! The pure concentrated form of love that every human experiences!" Jira said with glee. Kaden walked over to a headstone and read what it said.

"So why does this jar have something in it while this one doesn't?" he asked.

"It tells you! This one says Dearly loved before and through death. So that means that this couples love started and never ended! It never died. Which is why it doesn't have a second date. While this one says 50 pure years of true love, it means that after fifty years, their love died for some reason…so it was time for the love to be put to rest! That's where we come in." Jira said standing up from the headstone and picking up a staff about five feet tall with what looked like a bird at the top.

"This," Jira said, holding the staff out to Kaden, "Is our tool. It's what allows us to reap the love and ferry it back to the Memorial Park." Kaden took it from Jiras hands and examined it.

"What's the bird for?" Kaden asked.

"That bird is not just a bird…" Jira said taking the staff back. She took it in her hand and thrust the end of it into the earth, leaving the pole standing by itself. "This is a phoenix! The mythical bird of fire! If there was ever a symbol for love, the phoenix is it. You know how phoenixes are born again from their ashes right?"

"Everybody does…"

"Well, that's love! If it's true love, then it will always manage to rise from its ashes, no matter how charred and burned it is. Love is the fire that keeps the furnace of the soul burning."

Jiras last statement softened Kaden a little, and then he said,

"So, um… what were those things that were chasing me?"

"Hey, every hunter is hunted by another! Those happen to be our hunters! They are called creatively enough, the love seekers. We have what they want, and that of course, would be love! We don't have much of anything else around here." Jira said jokingly.

"So they weren't so much after me, they were after what I had access to?"

"Precisely! Don't take them lightly though… they are our only and greatest enemy. If they would be allowed to reach the Heart of the Memorial Park, the forces of love would never find peace."

"Well… why not? As long as we are here, cant we put it to rest?"

"Not if the Heart of the Memorial has fallen. Because if it has, then we to must have fallen. Apart from laying the forces of love to rest, our first and foremost job is to protect and preserve the Heart of the Memorial. With our lives. If the heart is allowed to fall, no love would ever find rest, and no new love would ever be created." Jira said with a serious tone.

"So… we can still…"

"Die, yes…and believe me, you would not want to die again after a first time already." Jira said laughing now.

"How would we die?" Kaden asked.

"Our hearts would stop! Not our fleshy, beating hearts…! Those stopped whenever we died. I mean our hearts that are connected to the heart of the Memorial Park, giving us the ability to do what we do!"

"Ok… everything is starting to make more sense now…" Kaden said confidently, "So, where is this heart?"

"Oh! Is this way!" Jira said excitedly, as she started off in a random direction. Kaden had no choice but to follow, and soon to his amazement instead of ending up back where they began, he found himself standing in front of an enormous sculpture.

Kaden stood gazing at the most beautiful sculpture he had ever seen. It was as tall as a two story house, and carved out of a deep, blood red shade of marble. It depicted two full grown phoenixes soaring out of a pit of flame, their body length tails streaming behind them in curvature. The spun around each other in a dance of seemingly endless beauty and passion, the talons of the two mythical creatures clasp together. Near the top, the heads and breasts of the birds intertwined together to create the image of a perfect heart. Every feather and detail of the birds were meticulously carved, every sharp edge and point lined by a thin, glistening line of rubies. The sculpture seemed to emanate a golden aura, every detail and tongue of flame clearly visible in the bleak night of the Memorial.

"Wow…" Kaden whispered to himself in amazement not knowing it.

"Ye—ea… this place always makes me feel so calm and serene when I come here…" Jira said sneakily taking hold of Kaden hand and leaning her head on his shoulder sleepily.

"How did you find your way here…?" Kaden asked wondrously, not noticing he was holding hands with her.

"Simple! You can walk in any direction at the Memorial and you will end up where you knew you were going…"

"Then why did I end up coming back to where I started a while ago?"

Jira laughed and said, "I didn't know where you were going. Did you?"

"No I guess not…" Kaden laughed, still staring at the sculpture.

A few minutes passed of Jira and Kaden staring at the sculpture, and then Jira suddenly said,

"Ok! Well, now that you know all the rules and you're the new one here," she began, "And me being the only vampire around, I need to bite your neck!"

Kaden just stood mesmerized at the sculpture, then after what she had said had sunk in, jolted alive and said, "Wait, what?! You never said anything about you being a vampire, o-or needing to bite my neck, or even a possible combination of the two!"

Jira laughed and said, "I just did! Now, come here! Trust me; you do not want eternity spent with nothing to do."

Kaden backed away as she made a tender grab for his neck and said, "What are you talking about?! I just need that staff don't I? W-why do you need to bite my neck?!"

"It's not what you're thinking! Really it's not! I don't know where those stereotypical vampire images came from, but this isn't to suck your blood or anything! It's more of a…right of initiation you could say I suppose."

"Initiation into what exactly?" Kaden asked, stopping his backing away.

"What do you think silly? That!" Jira said pointing at the heart of the Memorial Park. Kaden stared back at the sculpture and felt deep inside him that it would be nice to be connected to it, and then was brought back to reality.

"And you need to bite me in the neck to do that?!" he said pointing at his neck.

"Well… no—ot so much right there…" she said putting his hand down and pressing at a different spot on Kadens neck, "It would be more like right here!"

"Oh, yea, because that makes a difference." He said rolling his eyes worriedly.

"But it does! It really does! That's where the largest vein is that leads straight to the heart! I'm connected to the Heart of the Memorial already. I have its eternal love already being pumped through me! That's what we need to do with you. I, being the only vampire here, need to connect you to the Heart of the Memorial so you can do your job and use the phoenix staff!" Jira explained.

Kaden was silent for a moment, then said, "When you say vampire… what do you mean exactly?"

"I mean that I can connect you to the Heart. That is the only difference between you and me! Those stereotypes are just killer sometimes!" Jira further explained, "I can connect you, and you need connected! You don't have the teeth for it, I do! See? Jira said smiling, showing the full of her mouth for the first time to reveal two abnormally sharp teeth on the right and left on the top jaw.

"So… I would have love, from that," Kaden said pointing at the Heart, "Flowing through me?"

"Essentially, yes. Think of it like a circuit! The Heart is the battery, and the current flows through our body. The battery keeping us alive and able to perform our job correctly!"

"Well… will it hurt?" Kaden asked nervously.

Jira laughed and said, "I don't know! This is new to me to!"

"Well… ok I guess…" Kaden said. He watched as Jiras face grew happy with excitement, a grin revealing the mini-daggers sprouting from her jaw.

"Well?" Jira said, "Come here!" she told him as she opened her mouth and bit down in example.

Kaden took a small step towards her, then in an instant turned on his heels and sprinted off in the opposite direction.

"Kaden!" Jira called after him, "You need to get connected to the Heart of the Memorial!"

"All of this was fine until she had to take a bite out of my neck!" Kaden said to himself, "I know I don't know where I'm headed, but that's exactly what I want! Because then she won't be able to find me." He said as he continued to run, Jiras yells becoming more and more faint, until he couldn't even hear her any more.

Kaden soon came to a clearing with a large dead oak tree. He sat down at its base to catch his breath and leaned his head against the trunk, closing his eyes and listening to his breathing.

"There's no way she could find me…! I didn't know where I was going, so I'm not really in a specific place she could check…!" he said smiling.

"Close again!" a voice sang from above. Kaden hit his head on the tree out of surprise and jumped forward, looking up into the tree. He saw Jira sitting on a branch holding her phoenix rod at her side.

"Believe it or not there is a place for when you don't know where you're going!" Jira said cheerily.

"H-how did you get here before me then?!"

"Simple! I guess I just didn't know where you were going before you did!"

"That makes no sense!" Kaden yelled.

"It makes perfect sense if you think about it in a non-sensible way! Now are you going to let me bite your neck or not?" she said with a toothy smile.

Kaden sat there staring at here for a minute before Jira used her staff to swing on a branch and down to the ground to say, "It's an awfully boring afterlife to sit under a tree for all eternity you know…"

Kaden thought about everything Jira had shown and explained to him, and the possibility of a never ending after life wandering around a Memorial Park full of jars.

Kaden sighed and said, "Ok, do it… before I change my mind again." Jira jumped with excitement and ran the rest of the distance to Kaden from the tree.

She walked in close to Kaden, and after pulling him closer by grabbing his neck with her left hand, and wrapping her right arm around his back, looked upwards deeply and passionately into his eyes and said, "Now this shouldn't hurt a bit." She smiled a cute and affectionate smile revealing her pointed teeth. And after pulling his neck down to her mouth level, she smiled again and said, "But then again… love hurts." And she bit down into the flesh of Kadens neck.

Kaden later awoke staring up at the dark sky.

"How are you feeling?" he heard Jira ask. He looked up a little more and saw that he was lying down in her lap, "After I bit you, you just kind of fell asleep. D you feel any different or anything?" Kaden all of the sudden remembered what had just transpired. He used his tongue to try and sense if his teeth had grown into that of a vampire as tradition held. Jira noticed him doing this and said,

"Well? Any different?"

"Yea! The actually are…" Kaden said now using the tips of his fingers to feel their points, "They keep getting caught on my lip…"

Jira laughed and said, "Yea that tends to happen sometimes! How do you feel?"

"Well, now that you mention it, I feel a lot warmer…"

"That's the feeling of the Heart of the Memorial Park running through you!" Jira squealed.

"Well I like it! Where do we go from here?" Kaden asked excitedly.

"You get to create your own phoenix rod! Then it's off to work!"

"Great! So how do I do that?"

"You need to carve it of course…! How else were you expecting to do it? I don't see a store anywhere near here, do you?" Jira said laughing.

"Carve it from what? With what?!"

"From a tree branch and a rock of course! Their all over the Memorial Park you know…" she looked at Kaden still having difficulties grasping the idea and said, "Ok, follow me." She led Kaden to the wilted tree where they had been just a moment ago, and instructed him.

"Ok, break off a branch a—bout this big!" she signaled with her arms, "Proportional to your height!" Kaden did as he was told and reached up and snapped a dead branch off with ease.

"Now what?" he asked holding his prized branch.

"Find a rock and carve away! The bottom is at the short end, and the phoenix is at the fatter end!" Jira instructed. Kaden looked at her in disbelief.

"There's no way I'm going to be able to carve something like that from this stick." He said pointing at Jiras staff.

"Hey, it's a work of heart! Not a work of art. You can do it, trust me!" she said poetically.

"Ugh, fine. I'll try, but don't expect a masterpiece out of this." Kaden said picking up a stone from the ground.

"I'm not! Is anyone really ever the master of anything?" Jira said walking away to leave Kaden to his work.

She returned later to find Kaden hard at work sitting cross legged on the ground.

"Look! It actually looks good! Like you can actually tell what it is!" he said when he saw Jira walking up to him.

"I told you it would work out!" Jira said happily.

"Now how do I use this thing?" Kaden said jumping to his feet swinging the staff around experimentally.

"Well, in truth, everything you will ever need it to do, it will basically do by itself. And the sum of everything it will ever need to do is use it to lay dead love to rest, and do away with the love seekers. And as long as you know what you need to do, and let the staff do what it needs, it'll take care of it all for you!"

"Can I not train or anything? Practice?"

"Nope! Best way to learn something is by doing it I say!" Jira said smiling.

"But I don't know what to do!"

"Then that means there's nothing out there to reap! It's hard to explain, but in summary, when there is love to reap, you pretty much just feel it inside of you and you know where to go. It's an effect of being connected to the Heart of the Memorial I suppose…"

"Yea well… being connected to the source of love would do that to you I suppose…" Kaden said in reply.

"I'm sorry, I know this is probably a lot to take in right now, but it will make sense in time. But your power does tend to increase the more in tune you become with love, logically. So in this case, practice really would be a step towards perfect in love reaping."

"So…if I suddenly got the urge to visit a beach house on the coast of California, would that be where I need to go?"

"That would be it! Just follow your feelings, head through the tree tunnel, and you will end up where you need to go, approximately. Oh! And one of the fundamental concepts is to never be gone for too long, because the love seekers will eventually find their way through the door and back into the Memorial, which if neither of us is here, would mean big trouble for the Heart."

"So follow my instincts, do away with any love seekers I see, and don't be gone long, that about it?"

"In a nutshell, yes! But, if you ever come across a large group of love seekers, maybe about thirty of more in numbers, just abort the reaping and return to the Memorial. They can be dangerous... and it would be better to seal them off from the Memorial than to fight them and lose."

"Got it!"

"Now, go find that first spirit of dead love and hurry back!" Jira said rushing up to him and surprising him with a hug, "I'm so happy that I'm not all alone here anymore… thank you for dying Kaden…"

"Um, you're welcome?"

"Now go and reap! I'll be here!" Jira said tenderly.

Kaden did as he was told and started off in a jog to the tree tunnel to reap his first spirit of love.

He emerged in the hot sun of California, surrounded by people who didn't even notice him. He didn't have the slightest idea of where he was, but he somehow felt that he needed to go down the street and turn right after the surf shop. He followed his gut, and to his ever increasing surprise, he turn the corner to find a spectacular view of the ocean with a beach house on a sand cliff accessible by a road, a jeep parked in front of it.

"That looks like the place…" he said to himself, knowing no one could hear him. He almost seemed to glide down to his destination, fatigue not seeming to be a problem anymore with his new lease on the afterlife.

He approached the house, and opened the door, not knowing what to expect inside. He found a woman about in her thirties sitting on a couch staring out into the ocean through a window, obvious hurt in her eyes. Kaden walked up to her, and saw a note on the couch beside her. It read:

Elli,

I realize that after the years of our dating that both of us have

Matured greatly. However with my maturity, I came to realize something.

That as we grew older and stronger, our love had begun to dwindle.

I soon began to look for better options in other places; as a result I learned how to cheat.

I have been cheating on you for the past three years Elli, and deep down I believe

It would be better to break it off than to continue living the lie I have been.

I am certain that there is a perfect man out there somewhere for you, but it's over between us. I'm sorry Elli.

Derek

Kaden looked back at the woman and saw a small tear roll down her check, her not caring to wipe it away.

"So this is what dead love looks like…" Kaden said, "It doesn't need to be killed on both sides, only one…" he remembered his job and the time limit, and looked at his staff wondering what to do.

"Um… do your stuff…" he said to it as he raised the phoenix end towards the woman, hoping it would do something.

For a moment, nothing happened. Then Kaden watched as the phoenix at the end began to glow brighter and brighter, until he grew afraid it would soon burst into flames! Which to his surprise it did. The phoenix exploded into a bright flash of fire and heat as the figure of a bird made entirely out of flames erupted from it, forming into the full body of the phoenix. He saw it look towards the woman with pity, and then shot towards her at full speed, entering into her back like a ghost and not coming back out. Kaden witnessed a look of relief come over the woman face however, and he knew that his job had been done right.

He no longer felt his need for presence at the beach house, so he quickly returned to the door which he had entered the world through and found himself once again in the Memorial Park.

"So how did it go?" he heard Jira ask from a headstone across the clearing.

"It went…good I guess! She actually seemed to be happier!" Kaden replied.

"Well that's to be expected if a broken heart is mended! Look here, it's the love you just reaped." Jira said pointing to the headstone near her. Kaden walked over and admired his handy work when she added,

"Oh, and for a little extra practice, try taking out that love seeker that sneaked in a few moments before you!" she pointed to a dark figure moving quickly through the headstones away from its enemies.

"Got it!" Kaden raised his staff and again, just as before, a phoenix emerged from the end of the staff, only this time it didn't have an aura of tenderness about it. Kaden sensed that this phoenix was there to attack, and it had a protective sense about it.

He watches as it quickly soared above the headstones then the trees, gaining on the love seeker, intent on decimating its foe. Once within striking distance, the phoenix turned its body into a dive, its feathery fiery tail like that of a comet flowing behind it. It collided with the seeker dead on, but this time emerging from the opposite side of the creature unlike with the woman.

The love seeker had stopped in its tracks the moment contact had been make with the bird of fire. The piercing made by the bird began to glow a fiery red and orange, then quickly spread to the rest of the dark figure, evaporating it on the spot. The phoenix, hovering above its now slain victim, raised its wings in triumph and released a screech of victory as the flames of its essence disappeared.

"Wow…" Kaden muttered.

"Ye—ea… never gets old does it? Well! That's all you need to know! Think you can handle it?" Jira said smiling in her usual peppy way.

"I think I could get used to this… it's definitely different, but it's really not that bad of a job for all eternity!" Kaden said cheerfully.

"I'm glad you feel that way! Now, if you will excuse me, I believe I have business to take care of in Europe!" Jira said running down the tree tunnel to her destination.

"And I've got one in Connecticut." Kaden said, rushing off in the same direction to a different place.

For the next while of non-flowing time, Kaden enjoyed his job more and more with each passing reaping. His instincts improved and to his major approval his phoenix's attack speed and power had seemed to increase also. He had become capable of taking on multiple love seekers at once. He was still wary of large groups however.

He and Jira met often in between trips, often exchanging a quick hello or even a hug. The one person who had always been on Kadens mind since his arrival to the Memorial Park however was his girlfriend. It hadn't occurred to him that it might be his instincts until Jira had said something to him however.

"Well if your thinking about her then that means you have had a job to do for however long it's been since you arrived! You need to go and get her love."

"I guess your right… it would explain a lot…" Kaden replied.

"Well? Off you go then! I'll be here waiting! Don't take too long though. I know she was your girlfriend, but there are still the love seekers looking to get to the Heart."

"I know I know." Kaden said, "I'll be back soon!" having said that, he once again ran the familiar tunnel into the open world. He found himself in the familiar environment of his neighborhood. He knew exactly where to look to find Jennifer, both from instinct and knowing her.

He ran to the park to find her sitting on her favorite bench just as he had expected. He hadn't expected to see a second person with her however.

"I'm so happy that I met you Jen…" the boy sitting with her said, "And so soon after Kadens death even!"

"Hey… I'm still sad he died you know…" Jennifer said, "But as far as love goes I was about to break up with him the next day any way… it's a shame he died… I can't seem to shake this feeling of him though…"

Kaden sighed a heavy sigh and limply raised his phoenix staff, "That's what I'm here for…" he said. He watched the entire process take place and afterwards, watched a small smile appear on her face.

"But, I went to the funeral, I paid my quick respects! Time to move on I guess!" she exclaimed. She lunged at the boy next to her, throwing her arms around him in a hug, "I love you Keith…" Kaden heard her say.

"Aw ditto babe." Kaden heard Keith say. Slowly, Kaden started to shuffle away, discovering that it was still possible for him to get a broken heart while being a love reaper. He found an empty bench near a small fountain and lay down across it to think.

Without meaning to, he fell asleep, but was awaked by a burst of heat around him. Thinking a strong beam of sun had fallen on him, he opened his eyes to find himself surrounded in a pitch black mob of love seekers. He felt his heart sink as he knew that it would be the end, but saw that they were evaporating as a glowing phoenix spread through the mass of them. Seeing that they had been taken by surprise by a stronger power, the love seekers dispersed and left Kaden on his bench.

"What do you think you were doing?" he heard Jira ask as she walked towards him.

"I-I was thinking…" he said.

"You were sleeping. On the job in the outside world even!"

"I'm sorry I'm sorry… it was just hard for me was all… it was as if she hadn't even cared!"

"I knew it would be… but hey, you will be seeing her again eventually! That Keith guy isn't going to work out!"

"How do you know?"

"You develop a sense for these things…" she smiled.

"Yea? Well… all I sense right now is that I've got no one out there who loves me." Kaden said sulking.

Jira smiled and gave him a hug saying, "Not quite…"

"H-huh?"

"Listen; take as long as you need! I can hold down the Memorial. Don't take too long though… the seekers seem likely today, so be careful. I would miss you." After making her statement, she jogged away to where ever her entrance point was.

Kaden sat up and buried his face in his hands.

"The power to reap love and I can't seem to get a hold of any…" he mumbled to himself. He couldn't seem to stop hearing Jira say not quite however. After another hour of sitting on the bench, and evaporating any love seeker that happened to pass by, he made a decision.

Kaden stood up, and ran with a new found determination in his chest. He located his entrance point, and everything around him crashed down all at once. The door was open.

I always close the door! He thought. He felt his heart fall deeper and deeper into his stomach in fear of the worst. He slowly opened the door, not sure what to find on the other side, and entered back into the Memorial Park.

Silence. No one had come to greet him with a high pitch hello.

"Where is Jira?" he asked, jaw starting to clench. He quickly glanced across the ground and saw a broken phoenix rod on the ground, dull and lifeless. Kadens pulse stopped for a split second.

"Jira?!" he yelled into the Memorial. No answer.

Not if the Heart of the Memorial has fallen. Because if it has, then we to must have fallen. Apart from laying the forces of love to rest, our first and foremost job is to protect and preserve the Heart of the Memorial. With our lives. If the heart is allowed to fall, no love would ever find rest, and no new love would ever be created Kaden remembered Jira explaining to him. He knew that's where she would be.

He quickly took off, sending out everything signal he could to show he wanted to go to the Heart. Before her even arrived, he was blocked by a mass of black. The largest mass of love seekers he could never have even had imagined had gathered in the Memorial Park.

"Jira!" Kaden said raising his staff, the phoenix destroying multiple love seekers, but an insignificant amount compared to what there was.

Kaden knew Jira was ahead as the Heart, he only had to get there! He began sending out phoenix after phoenix and swinging the staff ahead of him to clear a path to the Heart. It was when the Heart came into sight that he began to hear screams. Kaden found himself becoming more and more tired with every phoenix he sent out, but he knew that Jira was just ahead, and in desperate need of help.

He raised his staff back enough that it was almost touching the ground behind him, and brought it back forward with all him might onto the earth, an enormous phoenix erupting from the end of it to create a wide path straight to the heart.

All of his strength had been used up, so much so he was hardly able to stand. The fire and blackness disappeared in time for Kaden to witness Jira giving one last attempt to protect the Heart with her bare hands, but only to fall to the ground unconscious.

Kaden found the strength to get up, and sprint the rest of the distance to the Heart, arriving at Jira a mere matter of yards from the Heart, and the love seekers already closing in on them. The path Kaden had cleared with the giant phoenix had already been filled in with new love seekers.

.If the heart is allowed to fall, no love would ever find rest, and no new love would ever be created. Kaden recalled Jira saying.

Yea? Well… all I sense right now is that I've got no one out there who loves me. He remembered himself saying.

Not quite! He saw Jira saying in his head, smiling, her tender voice soothing him. Kaden wasn't sure what had happened to put the Memorial Park in such jeopardy, nor did he know if what he was about to do would work. All he knew was that the decision he had made was the right one.

"Jira…" he said as he stared at the girl lying unconscious in his arms, tears beginning to well up in his eyes, "I love you."

Using one arm he pulled her in close using one arm, and while kissing her, in a last ditch effort to save his new love and all other, he raised his phoenix staff above his head.

Saw the familiar bright glow of fire through his closed eyes, but he did not see the work of the phoenix.

From the end of his phoenix staff emerged the bird created of pure fire and love. Only rather than evaporating a few love seekers, it soared high into the dark sky. It sailed over the top of the Heart of the Memorial Park where it began a large spiraling dive around the sculpture, a blazing trail of fire in its wake. The fire consumed the sculpture, filling every crevice and setting it ablaze. The phoenix responsible flew true into the middle of the heart outlined in fire, opened its wings, and dispersed itself into the enormous blazing sculpture. The thousands of tongues of fire swirling around it began to live, each of them moving with a common body. The two phoenixes making up the Heart began to arise from the stone, spiraling around each other as they separated from the heart and rose into the sky like a double helix, a trail of golden fire behind them. At maximum height, the birds abruptly separated in opposite directions and spun in a larger outside downward circle, forming a dome of fire around the entire love seeker population in the Memorial. Once the spiral had almost reached the ground, the two giant birds angled their bodies upwards and shot into the sky, meeting one another atop their great dome of swirled fire. The two phoenix linked claws, and together pointed themselves downwards into the double helix of fire leading straight to the center of the dome. They spun down together, gaining more and more speed until they made contact with the ground and the dome exploded into a flare of golden fire in all directions of the dome, obliterating each love seekers, leaving only the two unconscious bodies and the Heart of the Memorial they had succeeded in protecting, the spirit of the phoenix returned.

Kaden later woke up still on the ground with Jira still unconscious on his chest.

"What happened?" he asked, looking at the phoenix staff still in his hand. He looked around, finding no love seekers in sight. "Jira, hey Jira…" he said shaking her shoulder back and forth.

"What?" she said not opening her eyes.

"Were alive…" he said.

She smiled and said, "I never had a doubt we wouldn't be."

"I completely missed what happened though… there was a bright flash of light though! And it wiped out every single love seeker!"

"Well it wasn't going to leave them alive." She said now opening her eyes and turning her head to look into Kadens.

"What happened exactly?"

"They caught me by surprise… took my staff and that was it! Not much you can do after that! Thank goodness you came along though… the world would be without love if you hadn't!"

"That would be a real bummer considering…" Kaden mumbled.

"What was that?"

"Oh, nothing at all…"

"Oh, ok… and Kaden?"

"Yea?"

"I love you to." And then they kissed.