Emma lost all of the intimidating demeanour she had tried to have during that last minute. She sat down in her chair, lost for words, while Rein pulled up a chair and sat in front of her.
She looked sadly into his silver eyes, wisps of white-blond hair falling into them.
"How do you do it? How do you defy Death?" Emma asked quietly.
Rein looked at the shattered remains of his strange apparatus.
"Life Attraction wards off Death Attraction, much like how your immune system fights off diseases. It makes it pretty much impossible for Death to find you."
"But how do you collect Death Attraction?"
"You kill someone. Just before they die, you use magic to extract Death Attraction from their souls. By then, it's too late. They will die anyway, Death Attraction or no Death Attraction."
Emma's eyes widened and she sprang up from her seat, racing for the door.
Rein's hands roughly grabbed her shoulders and slammed her into the wall violently, making her scream with fright. She was pinned to the wall with no way to escape from the death grip that this monster had. Her breath came out ragged and uneven, her heart booming beneath her chest.
"You… you're the one who uses the Travelling Shovel of Death!" Emma choked out, hardly able to breathe with fright. "You're a murderer!"
"Shut up," Rein growled.
"You're a monster! You killed thirty-seven people to save one life: yours! You're a horrible, sinful person!" Emma screamed.
"YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND! SHUT UP!" Rein roared.
"You kill and kill and kill and you don't stop and you just keep taking people's lives and you never stop to think what full lives they might have had if it weren't for you–"
The most shocking thing happened. Rein smashed his lips onto Emma's forcibly, making her squeak with surprise. When he pulled away, the anger was so clear in his eyes that it frightened Emma more than what he had just done.
Well, the kiss had been effective. Emma shut up.
"You don't understand," Rein repeated softly.
"Don't I, Rein? What is there to understand?" she whispered, a tear leaking out of the corner of her eye.
"I never chose a life so full of murder," Rein explained, slightly loosening his grip on Emma's shoulders, though not enough to let her go free. "My family have been cheating Death for many generations. Every descendant of the Syrani family is required to take away their Death Attraction as tradition. But I never wanted to be like this."
"Then why didn't you rebel?" Emma asked.
Rein cautiously took his hands away from Emma's shoulders (which she was sure would be bruised) and he looked very relieved when Emma didn't move.
"Because of my parents. You haven't met them… But everyone who has agrees that they're scary. There are certain things they will do, certain extents they will go to keep the tradition of the Syrani family going."
"How did you choose your victims?" Emma asked, deciding not to pry further into what the "certain things" were that Rein's parents did.
Rein looked at the wall to Emma's left with a slightly melancholy expression on his face.
"I didn't really choose. I just popped out of nowhere and killed whoever was closest. I didn't want to know the identities of the people who died thanks to me; otherwise, the guilt would overwhelm me."
Emma nodded softly to show that she understood.
"But now that the thing I use to convert Death Attraction to Life Attraction is smashed, my Death Attraction will slowly come creeping back and Death will find me."
"You couldn't just make a new one?" Emma quizzed.
"No. That was the only one ever made – with minor adjustments, of course, like the tubes."
"So, if Death will eventually come back to get you… you wouldn't mind if I brought you to him a little earlier, would you?"
Rein cocked his head. "You made a deal with Death, didn't you?"
Emma nodded and then explained about the day on the train station when she was meant to be picking up Aunt Maude. Rein listened silently until the very end.
"No, I wouldn't mind at all if I went to Death early. In fact, I would welcome the idea. I want to escape life and start fresh with death."
Emma smiled a small but sweet smile.
"Then let's meet here tomorrow," Emma planned.
Rein nodded. "Let's. Actually, let's meet outside."
Emma moved to the spotless window and looked outside. The Syrani backyard was not a backyard at all, but instead an expanse of rolling fields of barley – the exact one that Emma saw in her dreams. Rein was the man who always visited her in her dreams.
"Okay. Outside, tomorrow at four o'clock."
Emma started to move towards the door. "Oh, and a few more things. Why are you not in school?"
Rein's expression darkened. "If you look on the news tonight, you'll see another report about the Travelling Shovel of Death."
Emma's breath hitched. All those reports about the shovel… were all about Rein.
"And why did you kiss me?" Emma asked finally.
"I honestly don't know," Rein answered.
The two stood in silence until Rein made an apology.
"I'm sorry if I scared you and made you feel offended."
Emma blinked. "I forgive you."
And then she left.
Josh yelped in surprise as Emma burst open the bedroom door.
"Emma, why did you wag school again?" was the first thing Josh said.
Emma waved it away. She immediately bombarded him with questions.
"Josh, how come you could only see the blue jay?"
He was caught off guard with that question. "Er, I don't know… Wait! That blue jay was once my pet! But when I met James he told me that it was an evil bird and I let it escape. It was Perry all along!"
Emma raised an eyebrow. Perry was probably the name Josh had given the blue jay.
"Do you have any siblings?"
"No. Why do you ask?"
Emma didn't reply. Instead, she kept going with the questions. The long interview lasted until sunset. She wanted to find out all the things she'd never bothered to ask Josh about. At the end, she left at once with a quick goodbye.
After grabbing a quick sandwich because she was hungry, she rode Steve the bike to Opal's place, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips.
Her goal was to do what Death had suggested; tie up all her loose ends, resolve all those unresolved arguments and say her final goodbyes to everyone she loved. She didn't want to live any longer than tomorrow afternoon, which would be Wednesday.
She pressed the doorbell of Opal's door a single time. When no one answered, Emma couldn't contain her eagerness to see Opal again. She jiggled the doorknob and was surprised when the door swung open perfectly.
Immediately, Emma could sense that something was wrong.
No lights were on, despite the fact that night had fallen. Already getting jittery because of the eerie silence, Emma climbed the stairs up to Opal's room and heard screams.
Eyes widening, Emma ran for the door and swung it open. Opal was lying in bed, writhing frantically on top of her sheets. Carmen had pinned her to the bed and Julia was looming over her, licking her lips. Emma jumped at the three in horror, not knowing what in the world she was meant to do.
Julia and Carmen both bared their fangs and Emma and Opal screamed. The pair of vampires dove into Opal's skin, making blood seep out. Emma cried out as Opal's eyes rolled in the back of her head.
"STOP IT!" Emma screamed as loud as her voice could rise. "STOP IT!"
The vampires simply grinned wickedly and sucked the blood from the holes they had made in Opal's skin.
Emma ran towards them, planning to knock them away… somehow. But Carmen was too fast, kicking her away with the points of her high heels. Emma gasped as the point hit her stomach.
Panicking, Emma grabbed the sandwich, praying to whatever deities would listen that it contained garlic, and threw it at the two blood-sucking creatures.
And then they wailed as the garlic burned their skin as if they were touching fire. Emma closed her eyes until the horrible noises of dying monsters stopped. Nothing remained but two piles of ash beside Opal's still body.
Emma rushed over to Opal. The first thing she thought of doing was slapping Opal's face.
That was exactly what she did.
Opal moaned softly and opened her eyes wearily. Her mouth opened in horror as the recent events came tumbling back to her.
"I'm a vampire!" she cried out.
Emma patted her arm softly.
"It's alright, Opal. There's nothing wrong with being a vampire."
"Yes, there is! You have to kill other people to survive!"
Just like Rein.
Emma sighed, stroking Opal's hair as she worriedly inspected her wounds. She was slowly becoming pale, the purple veins visible beneath her skin.
Opal stayed in bed and Emma stayed by her side.
"I should have listened to you. You know, when you told me that you thought Julia was strange. She turned out to be a vampire."
"But it doesn't matter," Emma said, stopping her friend from feeling guiltier. "They're gone now. They both are."
Opal nodded. Grey circles had now formed around Opal's pink eyes.
Emma stayed for the rest of the slow transformation from human to vampire to comfort her best friend. At the end, when it was around nine o'clock, Opal looked like a vampire from the movies, with typical snow-white skin, red lips, scarlet eyes and sharp, long canines. When Opal saw herself in the mirror, she reluctantly accepted most aspects of her new appearance, except for her eyes. She covered them with contacts.
"Thanks for staying with me, Emma. You are the best, best friend anyone could wish for."
Emma smiled and hugged Opal.
On Wednesday morning, Emma rushed over to her parents' bedroom and jumped on their bed like she used to when she was little. They woke up with surprise.
Emma embraced them tighter than she had ever done before, almost squeezing them to death.
"I love you, Mum and Dad, so much. Just remember that."
Before they could try to guess why Emma had suddenly talked to them like this, she had retreated into the bedroom.
Josh was in the shower, so Emma grabbed the white dress she had worn in her dreams and a small bottle of something she knew to be poisonous.
Today was it. Today was her final day to live.
She waited patiently for Josh to get ready for school, as she wanted to go to school with him. The ride there consisted of absolutely no conversation, but Emma was all right with that. She felt as though it was a comfortable silence.
When they joined Lester, Callum, James and Rein in the parking lot, Emma talked to all of them.
"Lester and Josh, I want to thank you for always being there whenever I felt like having a witty banter. I think we're all sadomasochists, you know. We all like arguing. It's fun."
Lester and Josh exchanged confused glances.
"James, thanks for being the quiet one, the one who was a little break of silence in this crazy world. And thanks for making those animals go away."
James smiled in response.
"Callum, think you for being courteous and chivalrous all the time. It makes me wish more people like you in this world."
For Rein, Emma did nothing but smile. The smile held a million words.
Emma saw Opal again in one of her classes. She said her final goodbyes to her, as well as to Cameron, who knew exactly why Emma was saying goodbye to everyone. When the men in black appeared across the field at lunch, Emma ran over to them. Finally, she had managed to approach them without them disappearing!
They towered over her like two identical statues. Their faces were covered with balaclava-like things, but Emma could see their eyes – yellow, mysterious and a window to their souls.
"Why did you send the animals after me?" she asked.
The first man replied in his deep, rumbling voice, "We wanted to punish you for making us cross over planes."
"When you came back to life, a hole was ripped open between the barriers of all the planes and some of us wandered through by accident. But it was too late; the barrier was closed again," said the second one.
"We need to get back to our home plane. It is of vital importance that we get back."
Emma smiled and patted their steel-hard arms. "Today, at four o'clock, go back to where the barrier hole was. It'll open again, I'm sure."
Emma closed her eyes for five seconds, allowing them to disappear. They did exactly that.
School dragged on. At the end, Emma grabbed a random person's bike from the bike racks. The owner shouted after as she rode away, but she ignored him and kept going. She rode in the direction that she had run yesterday and managed to find the house of Syrani once again. The Glaces were running amok through the street behind her. Emma hoped that someone would be able to stop them when she was gone.
She dressed behind a bush into her white dress, wanting events to pass at least in a similar way as they had in the dreams given to her by the pendant. She took the glowing pendant off let it hang off a branch of the tree next to her.
She didn't even bother to ring the doorbell. Instead, she walked around the Syrani house – or mansion – and up to the top of the closest hill. The barley stalks tickled her just like they had in her dream and the sky was an unblemished blue, clashing with the golden fields.
Rein was already up there, watching her as she climbed up the hill, her white sundress gathered in her delicate hand.
When she finally reached the top, the wind blew in curiosity and the barley rustled. Emma stood face-to-face with Rein, who was smiling.
"Are you ready?" Emma whispered. The sun shone at a perfect temperature while the wind continued to play with the hair and clothes of the boy and the girl about to die. It was the perfect place to leave life.
"Yes, I'm ready," Rein said. "I'm ready to go."
"STOP!" someone yelled and both Rein and Emma looked to the source of the noise. It was a middle-aged woman in fine, silk clothing, and the cowboy Emma had met in The Green Mug, Mr. X. But he wasn't Mr. X; he was Mr. Syrani.
"Mum, Dad, you can't do anything. It's my time to go now. I've caused enough death in this world, so it's my turn."
Mr. Syrani's face turned an ugly shade of beetroot.
"No! I won't allow this!" Mrs. Syrani yelled fiercely.
"It's too late, Mum. The converter's been smashed."
Mrs. Syrani turned pale. She and her husband looked as if someone had painted their faces two different colours. But they didn't object anymore, so Emma turned back to Rein.
She softly raised the bottle of poison to his lips. All of it went into his mouth and he looked at the sky as he swallowed it. Then he embraced Emma and she held onto him tightly as his breath started to become weaker and weaker, until it finally stopped.
Emma let his body slowly go to the ground. As she watched the lights fading from his eyes, she planted a delicate kiss on his lips – it was something to remember her by.
Mrs. Syrani let out a choked sob and Mr. Syrani's grief seemed too large to be able to be shown on his face.
"Death!" Emma shouted to the wind. "I have completed my mission."
A voice spoke gently in her head.
I thank you, Emma. But don't you wish to keep living until Sunday?
"No; I've finished experiencing all I needed to experience. The mission you gave me allowed me to meet so many new people and experience new things like magic."
The voice told Emma that it was time to go and the sweetest wind blew tenderly, as if it were sad to see her leave.
This time, Emma was ready. She accepted Death; she saw him as an old friend. Because, really, he was. And so she spread her arms like wings and fell backwards, knowing with certainty that he would catch her.