The Death Gazer

Prologue

I looked up, staring at the moist moss-laden sign which read: "Ark, Death Gazer". This apartment was only one of the many in Devisce, a major city in the world of Lifya. I suddenly felt the urge to turn around and leave this accursed place, but my sense of curiosity thought otherwise. Cringing grudgingly, I pushed open the door and winced as it gave an abnormally loud creak. Trudging up the stairs, I wondered if the shop was vacant. For one, the shop was covered with at least a metre of dust. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but still it was pretty much the truth. Second point, the darkness of the shop had me groping my way, and if anyone actually lived here, they would obviously have the presence of mind to install lights. But still, this person I was looking for was no harmless child.

A voice suddenly rang out in a corner, breaking my chain of thoughts and giving me a good jump, "Welcome, Mr. Roger Davids, to my humble abode. And what could a reporter want with me, a banished scum of society?"

I was undoubtedly impressed. He knew my presence in the dark (although that could be partially due to the noise I was making), my name, and my job. That's three things he could tell just by me being there. "Very good, and I presume you are Mr. Ark Carson?"

Ark screeched, "Do NOT call me by that name. Carson is dead. I am Ark alone. Now what do you want?"

Not wanting to offend him, I took a step back and unintentionally knocked into something. Ark leapt towards me and I raised my hands in instinct. He grabbed hold of me and pushed me away. Seconds later, the cupboard I knocked into toppled over, missing me by a head.

I was stunned, but not surprised. "It is true then, Mr. Ark, of your ability?"

Ark chuckled. "Maybe we could do with some light, and then we could talk."

I couldn't agree more, as I did not want to risk my life further. With a slick movement, he sat down onto an armchair and snapped his fingers. Immediately, the fireplace lighted up.

I took a mental note about that and confirmed that he was who he claimed he was. As he turned, the light from the fireplace illuminated his face, which was literally white, even with the darkness of the room. Being only 21, that was a feat. His eyes were blood-red, and one of his arms was severed. His face was scarred, and one could almost see the bitterness and sorrows he had faced in the past. Pardon the pun. Weariness caught on as he gestured for me to sit down.

As I did, he spoke up. "You want to know more about me, do you not?"

I thought to myself, Mind-reading, another proof that he was indeed a Carson. "Yes, I do. In fact, I would like to record all this down. This could prove that you are not a murderer, nor are you a servant of Satan. This could be your revolution, your chance to make it back to society."

He laughed. What a cold, cruel voice, I thought, shivering. "And at what cost? I will not be accepted, mark my words. Shunning, fear and even hate. I do not need the world, and the world does not need me."

This is bad. He is getting unstable. I should leave. As I prepared to get up and make a run for the door, he told me, "But I will answer your questions."

Surprised, I sat down. Finally, the mysteries of the Carson family could be revealed. Whipping out my journalist's notebook, I prepared my pen to write. "Well then, could you tell me everything, right from your birth?"

PART I: Chapter 1: The Carson Family

"My name is Ark Carson, although I am not a Carson now. As you might already know, the Carsons are a unique family. There is the ability to predict the future, but not everything in the future. They can only predict human deaths. No one knows how the ability originated, and people welcomed the ability, as they could lengthen their own precious lives at a cost. And that was how the Carson's Death Gazing business started."

"My father, Trent Carson, was the 5th heir of the ability, and once he managed to perfect his ability, he started the business. It did not start off well and he was even arrested twice under charges of religious practices. However, due to lack of evidence, he was released. After that, he gave a demonstration on his ability. One afternoon, he hijacked a bus and demanded it pull over at a hillside. He announced to everyone on the bus that there was going to be a landslide at exactly 1553 hours. And of course, it happened. Everyone on the bus was shocked as they would be passing the exact location at the exact time. That marked the beginning of the business. "

"People began flocking to his store, demanding that he predict their futures. Although he could predict at will, it cost him a lot of energy and he could only tend to about fifteen customers per day. The customers that did not receive the "Divine Service" as they called it were unhappy, and a mafia leader actually threatened to tear down his shop if he didn't have his fortune read that day. He had no choice but to predict the leader's future, and he was indeed saved from a terrible outcome. However, my father did not know that death could only be averted, but not avoided. Death would still come to the people who cheated death. That happened exactly to the mafia leader."

"Not long after, my father got married. My mother had no idea about my father's abilities. However, he told her himself after I was born, as he did not want to keep the truth from her any longer."

At this point, Ark's face twitched into an angry sneer and he became silent for awhile.

"It was best that he never told her, but anyway, he did, and my mother just could not accept the truth. She hanged herself, and even my father did not see it coming. He was too busy with that damned business to care."

"Four years later, the new leader of the mafia whom the previous leader died came to my father. He accused my father of causing the previous leader's death, and that he was a fake. He ordered his men to wreck the place, while he himself hurled verbal abuse at him. My father did not tolerate such nonsense and with a thrust of his hand, he broke the leader's neck. As the leader fell, the lackeys just stared like fools. When they finally got sense of what happened, they surrounded my father, snarling and hissing like that were the only two things they could do."

"Even numbers could prevail over skill, and before long, my father was stabbed. Ruthlessly stabbed. As they felt that a clean quick death was not enough to repay for his sins, they cut him in the shoulder, then the legs, and wherever they could manage to. It so happened that I was there, a five year old kid, witnessing all these bloody events. I hid myself well, trembling, and when everything was over, I could only crawl out and weep. I never could forget the sight of him, lying in the corner, blood everywhere."

Ark's eyes turned blank. He stared into the distance, and shuddered. I watched him with a dreaded feeling in my heart. He went through so much, and yet he was gifted with this curse. I did not hurry him, instead I watched him patiently.

He snapped out of the daze, and continued, "I grew up without parents, I harnessed my power without control, and I mastered it without help. I would of course say I'm an intellectual talent." He threw his head up and laughed. I shivered uncontrollably again. "When I was 15, I wiped out that gang who did that extremely cruel act. It was pure joy, watching them fall one by one, paying for their crimes."

I thought, The irony. Paying a debt of blood by blood. What could be next? He giggled like a child. I had gotten used to the abnormalities already.

"Well, a life of crime would not satiate my thirst for revenge, so I decided to continue where my father left off. However, I found that I could not. This was because I was born with a defect. A defect that forces me to save whoever's death was imminent, as long as it's within my ability, unless I have the slightest true urge to kill that person myself."

He gestured towards the cupboard. I asked, "But if you convince your mind that you want to kill a person, won't you be spared from being forced to save him if he is in danger?"

He looked surprised at my interruption. Nodding wearily, he answered, "Yes, that is possible, but it is very rare. True hate is hard to develop by persuasion alone. Furthermore, if that habit is established, I won't be able to be forced to save the people close to me, and as you know, I can't predict every death. That means I won't be able to save everyone I care about if my mind gets over-persuaded." I nodded.

"Anyway, as I was saying, my upside for that defect is that I cannot die by any unnatural cause. Heh, that proved to be a curse by itself. Not long after, I was enlisted in school. Terrible experience, that was."

Giggles again. Man, this is rather unnerving, I thought to myself, jotting notes in his pause.

Chapter 2: 10 Years Old and Unnatural

An emaciated boy with messy brown hair sat on the swing in the school playground. He looked at the fields, where children were all having fun playing with each other. The boy thought to himself, I don't need them. Ark Carson does not need friends. Friends are evil. They appear harmless but they gut you when given the chance.

A few months ago, when Ark just entered school, he had tried to be sociable with all the other children. But wherever he went, there were always murmurs and whispers. They all act as though I don't exist! Ark thought bitterly.

"His father crossed the mafia. He deserved his death."

"The child can't be any different."

"Stay away from that kid, you hear?"

Ark could not believe his ears. He was ostracized because of his father. Being young and not knowing the true tale behind his father's death, Ark slowly developed hatred towards him.

I hate them. I hate those kids.

"Hey kid! What are you doing here? This is MY seat, shove off now!" The school bully started to push him around.

"Shut it, Shark. Your name's absurdity is enough to make me deny your rights." Ark retorted, staring at Shark with his ruby red eyes. Shark blinked, processing the information, and when he couldn't, he decided to pick on the only part he understood.

"You told me to shut up? You had picked your last fight, punk!" Shark had obviously picked up this line from those ludicrous TV serials.

Shark threw a punch at Ark. Ark took it with a loud crunch, falling to the ground. The girls in the class screamed. One of them ran up and asked, concerned, "Ark, are you alright?"

Her name was Triss Avery, but more of that later. Ark pushed her aside and stood up, smiling at a flabbergasted Shark. He wagged a finger and spoke in an apathetic voice, "You've got to try harder, Shark, you weakling."

Smirking, Ark strode off, leaving a shaken Shark to mope over his lost dignity. At the age of 10, Ark had already realized his immortality after being flung 60 feet by a speeding car one day.

The next day, new rumors had apparently appeared.

"Damn, that kid was like the Devil himself! He just stood up and smiled!"

"Do you think he's immortal?"

"He's most probably an angel!"

Ark thought, Stupid, over-imaginative kids. No one dared to cross his path since that day, and instead of gaining popularity as Ark had hoped, they merely seemed to shun him further.

I wonder, why do I exist? I do not fit into anything, I have nobody, and I am alone. I should not exist. Hell is a better place for me. So why am I still alive? But wait, I am unique. That's what I am. And that's my sole purpose of existence, isn't it. To live. I cannot die.

Ark Carson's birthday came. Sitting on a canteen bench, he stared at the table. He began to hum a birthday song for himself, tilting his head sideways in the process, smiling in a disturbing way. His own classmates hurried past, staring at Ark as though he was a freak. Ark lifted his head and gazed straight into the group, and his smile widened.

Whipping out a penknife, he leapt over the canteen table and thrust it into his classmate's stomach. Screams erupted throughout the canteen as children scrambled frantically in an attempt to be as far from Ark as possible. The classmate who was stabbed slowly sank to the ground, pointing a finger at Ark, who was sneering now, and mouthing something inaudible. He then fell into a weak lump and a pool of blood began to form around him. The teachers who witnessed this murder stood rooted to the ground, mouth agape. Sirens rang and Ark just stood there, laughing. He was taken away, and put into the Mental Institute.

What have I done? What did I do wrong? I live, so people must die! I only fulfilled what I lived for! There is nothing I did wrong!

"Here Arkie, here's your dinner!" A plump nurse with wobbly cheeks entered the cell, carrying the daily tray of "healthy, unpoisoned-by-extremely-unhealthy-and-immoral-man-made-stuff" muck. Ark winced, thinking if she called him Arkie again, he would give her a few broken ribs. Leaving the muck where it was once again, he arranged the blankets and cuddled up to sleep.

He had sworn never to be a Carson again since that day.

Chapter 3: The Carson Manor

Three years later, Ark was released from the Mental Institution after making it clear that he was not insane by taking an IQ test and scoring a baffling 190 for it. Since the parents of the murdered put off the charges that were held against him, Ark also had no reason to stay on longer.

Ark decided that he needed a shelter to stay under, and since he knew no one, he had little choice but to return to his father's Manor in Yaleglearn. After walking tirelessly for 2 weeks without much event, he reached the edge of the Yaleglearn forest. "Home," Ark muttered.

Deep in the heart of it laid an unhabitated manor, littered with evidence of neglect and abandonment. Ravens crowded atop the rusty gates, but none ventured further into the accursed sanctuary. Trees in the lawn were barren, leaves strewn all over. In fact, the whole place spelled nothing but sorrow and pain, and an aura of sorts lingered amongst the spires of the building. "Home," Ark repeated.

Inserting his little golden key into the keyhole with much difficulty, as the rusty keyhole was laden with moss, he turned and the towering door creaked open. Ark stepped into the throes of the guest hall, and was greeted with dust and cobwebs. Paying little attention to them, he stared at the chandelier. He could almost remember the ropes that once hung from it. This was where his mother committed suicide. And it's all thanks to him! Ark thought angrily.

He took a little tour around, reliving his memories of the place he so badly wanted to escape from, and yet was forced to return to. As he stepped into the wine cellar, he vividly remembered his father screaming at him in his drunken stupor. It had something to do with his family bloodline, and something called a Death Gazer.

Thinking that it could be something important, Ark closed his eyes and focused on his memories, trying to piece them up together like a jigsaw puzzle. Finally, he rearranged them and it all came back.

"You worthless midget! If you weren't here, then your mother wouldn't have known! She wouldn't have known that Carsons could predict death, and she wouldn't have…" He fell into a deep sleep. Ark looked at him coldly, and stepped away.

Death Gazer? Ark wondered. Predicting deaths? Could that be possible? I have to find out.

Wandering into his room, he took a look around. Bars reaching as high as the ceiling surrounded a corner of the room. A corner whom Ark despised, hated, yearned to take down and hurl it into the deepest depths of the ocean. Whenever his father became drunk, he locked Ark up in the tiny corner without food for days and singed him by throwing red-hot coals at him. Ark could not do anything but plead helplessly and weep for forgiveness for nothing he did wrong.

Ark gritted his teeth, staring at the dark room. There were no windows, no furniture except for a bed and the door. The room was painted black and Ark had always lived in darkness. But this was all going to change. Yelling, he swung the sledgehammer which he brought upstairs with him with all his might.

The wall cracked, and Ark tried again, manipulating all his hatred of that place into strength he never imagined he could possibly wield. With an almighty crash, the wall crumbled and light streamed into the room. The room was dark no more.

Ark smiled and left the room. He had larger fish to fry.

He decided to try out whether his ability was true, and hence, he tailed a man home, noted his address and made sure he lived alone. The next day, he broke into the house, and set a deadly trap for the man. He tied a string to the door, which when opened would pull a rope from a pulley, dropping a knife weighted with stones onto the unsuspecting man's head. If that wasn't enough, he would then be mutilated by the chair which Ark spiked with badly hammered nails. With the experiment ready, he sat down and wondered whether he would be able to predict the man's death. Suddenly, his hand flung up and set off the trap, and the knife was released, landing on the door, digging in deep. Just at that moment, the door opened, and the man stepped in.

But before he could do anything, Ark had slipped past him and escaped.

From that, he found out two things. He could predict the man's death after all, and not just that, he would automatically try to prevent that death before it happened.

At that point, I realized how heartless Ark Carson could get; his lack of compassion and conscience scared me. I reminded myself not to cross him.

Not long after, Ark tried another experiment. He tailed a girl home this time, recognizing her as Triss Avery, his primary schoolmate. Setting up the very same trap, he waited to see the results. Again, the loss of consciousness hit him. He saw a girl opening the door, as the knife he planted sunk into her head, and she fell onto the ground, blood spurting out of her wound, gasping for air. Slowly, she stopped moving.

Ark shook his head and he regained consciousness. The door was opening! Maybe he could try to stop himself from disabling the trap! Having that in mind, his mental self began a struggle with his physical self. He reasoned with himself, "I want her dead, so she should die." He tried to think of not to save her, but his physical self prevailed, not a second late before she died her grisly death.

Triss recognized Ark immediately, and was surprised to find him in her house, but just like the last time, he escaped.

Back at the Manor, he immediately sunk into his couch as soon as he reached it. Heaving, he thought about what just happened. It did not work. What went wrong? Do I have to really hate the person for me to not save him without my control?

Hence, Ark decided to proceed with his final experiment.

Chapter 4: Change of Thought

Ark decided, in all ways, he would have to get close to Triss and make himself despise her. He knew that it would be an arduous task, but for the sake of knowing himself further, he decided to go with it.

Pretending to walk past her house one day, he arranged for himself to meet up with her. Ark smiled when he saw her, and waved. "Triss, is that you? I can't believe I am able to meet you again after all these years! How is everything going?"

Triss raised an eyebrow and replied, "Ark? Huh, I could've sworn I saw you in my house two nights ago. But it was most probably my imagination. Life has been treating me well."

Yes, everything is working according to plan. Ark grinned.

Ark suddenly fell silent.

I asked, "So what happened next?"

Ark spoke in a thick voice, "Let's just say that my experiment failed. I fell in love with her and so did she. That was the first time someone actually accepted me, and I have gratitude for that. A while later, something happened that twisted my life ever since."

"We were wandering along the mall at Rigengard, when this abysmal fool decided to rob the exact shop we were in. Unfortunately, I had mastered my abilities without even knowing it, and of course I was off guard at that point. That caused Triss' death. I never forgave myself, nor did I forget the man's face. I swore to avenge her death. But now, I am reduced to hiding in this den, having interviews with REPORTERS."

Looking up, Ark suddenly snarled at me. Taken aback, I recoiled due to instincts. Ark's face then assumed its previous form as quickly as it came.

Ark's eyes sparkled at that instant with a hint of terrible sorrow, something that was worse than the suffering he ever faced and endured until now. It had to be awful, finally finding someone whom he accepted and vice versa, only to lose her shortly after.

Ark continued, "I tried to kill myself after that. Throwing myself off buildings, running into speeding cars, even setting fire to myself. Nothing worked. I cannot die, after all. What was supposed to be a gift was now a bane which I wanted terribly to disappear. I wanted the sweet embrace of death. And when I couldn't, I went back to my old ways, my introvert self. That's what you see today, what you see now."

I could not help but sympathize with Ark. He led a life no other could possibly endure, and had a destiny which no one would dream of partaking, for it was nothing but darkness.

I asked, "So what did you do after that?"

Ark jerked, having been lost in his memories, and took a moment to recover. He then spoke up, "I left the mansion, wound up my father's business, and tried to leave everything behind. I visit her grave once in a while, to remind myself whom I really was, someone who will be left alone, till something finally takes me away."

Hmm, I asked a redundant question. What else would he have done?

I asked again, "I understand. Then, how did your ability of mind reading come about?"

Ark smiled for the first time after he began his recount. He whispered in a secretive manner, something which was really unlike him, "That, I can't tell the public, but I can tell you. But you must tell no one else. No one."

I thought about it, and nodded. Closing my notebook, I signaled that this was the end of the interview.

I looked at Ark in the eyes and said, "I am ready."

Ark replied, "Wait here. I will be right back."

My mobile phone rang. Picking it up, I found that it was my wife. "Honey, when will you be home? We need to celebrate your 46th birthday, remember?"

Smiling in memory of her face, I replied, "Not so soon, dear. My work is not finished, but I promise to be back before Thursday, alright?"

Flipping off the phone, I took a good look at my surroundings. It looked rather well-furnished for a person this introverted.

A few minutes later, he returned, carrying an incredibly old but clean book under his arms. Throwing it onto the coffee table, he flipped it open to where there was a bookmark and turned the book towards me.

The book read, "The Reaper, a mythological creature which takes the form of a human. Is believed to have been the descendants of Death. The Reaper has abilities which are like Death's but none as powerful as the King of Reapers'. Each ability is acquired with the maturing of the young Reaper. Maturing of Reaper is not by age, as Reapers cannot die until they are fully mature. A Reaper matures when a person whom the Reaper has feelings for is killed in his or her presence. This is meant for the Reaper to discard thoughts of Love and Affection, such that his job can be carried out without hesitation. A Reaper is born into the world when it is time for the world to end, and a fully mature Reaper will be the one to send it on its way.

The list of abilities acquired is as follows:

0 deaths - Ability to randomly predict deaths of people physically close to him.

1 death - Ability to predict death of people physically close to him.

2 deaths - Ability to automatically prevent deaths of people physically close to him.

3 deaths - Ability to read mind.

4 deaths - Ability to manipulate method of death. The Reaper will lose a portion of his human mentality.

5 deaths - Become a full fledged Reaper. He is now able to be killed.

I looked up and stared at Ark. "You can't be serious. You think you are a Reaper?"

Ark replied, "Why not? After all, everything fits. My Father has the same ability, I could not predict his death as I was just an offspring, and when he and my mother died, I gained the ability to prevent deaths, and when (chokes) Triss died, I gained the ability to read minds."

I looked on in awe. "So that is how you have these abilities. But you are dangerous, in a sort. You will end the world when you are fully mature!"

Ark looked crestfallen. "Yes, I had dreaded that fact. But I can prevent that from avoiding people, and if I do that, people will not be able to get close to me. I really was fated to be alone from birth."

Chapter 5: The Feared Begins

Back at the hotel which I lived in, I immediately felt a sense of insecurity as soon as I entered the door. Immensely tired, I fell asleep as soon as I hit the bed. I don't know, about 4 hours passed, and then I woke up, shivering. It was not the cold that interrupted my sleep, but fear. I remember that taste in my heart. Looking around, I noticed something in the shadow of a corner. It appeared to be a cat, but it instantly grew slightly damaged wings and vanished. I do not know what it meant.

The next day, on my way to visit Ark at his house, I saw a commotion on the other end of the street. Curious, I stopped to look. I saw a man wielding a gun, pointing it at another man.

Ark! I recognized him immediately. It was Ark. And the man… Who is he?

Just then, Ark yelled, "Return her to me! You took her from me, you deserve death!" Screaming, he broke into a run towards the man, who most probably was the person who killed Triss Avery by accident.

Ark, don't do it! I thought frantically as I began to cross the road to stop the madness. The man held up his gun by instinct and fired 4 rounds, 3 of which sunk into Ark's head. Ark laughed maniacally, and resumed his approach. The man trembled in terror, before dropping his gun and fleeing. Ark picked up the gun and in a smooth flick, cocked it and aimed at the man's head.

I began, "Ark, no!"

But it was too late. Ark, driven by his hatred and fuelled by sorrow, shot him in the back. Falling to the ground, the man pleaded for mercy. Ark, with his all-too-familiar grin, unleashed the whole magazine's worth into the man's head. Blood spurted on himself, but he did not care.

Laughing, he exclaimed, "Triss, your death is avenged! Rest in peace, now, for I will live your life!"

Sirens. I thought. The police are here. I can't let Ark be arrested.

I watched with mixed feelings as the police surrounded Ark. Ark smirked, and pointed at one of them, saying, "Why not just relax, hand me the gun, and I will send you on your way."

The policeman, as though in a trance, trudged over, much to the surprise of his allies, and handed Ark his gun. Gloating, Ark raised the gun and fired. The policeman slumped onto the ground, dead.

I was shocked, Ark was a dangerous man now. He cannot be let loose. Not on any conditions.

With that in mind, I decided to send Ark to prison myself. Sneaking over to Ark, I grabbed him by the back and knocked him out. But before he lost consciousness, he saw that I was the one handing him over to the police.

Groaning, he muttered in a strangely distant voice, "What happened to me? Why am I doing this? Roger, help… help me."

I couldn't look on. His 4th ability had surfaced so soon. I couldn't believe it as well.

That night, when I returned to my hotel room, I sensed that same shadow's presence. Searching the whole room, I found nothing. However, at midnight, I woke up again. This time, I found someone staring at me at the edge of my bed. Shocked, I flicked on the lights. The figure vanished.

Rubbing my eyes, I blamed the illusion on lethargy. I fell asleep again.

The next morning, I hacked into the police files for the profiles of the 4 people who died close to Ark. Trying to find a pattern wasn't as easy as it seemed. Searching for jobs, family, physique, and even names, I got close to nothing. Until, I realized I overlooked something trivial. Age! That was the only connection between the 4. But was that is? Age seemed far too simple. I tried to search further but to no avail. The only connection was that their ages ended with 6.

That midnight, I was roused from my sleep yet again. As soon as I opened my eyes, I found the blood-red eyes of Ark staring at me. Stunned, I jerked and realized there was a knife held at my throat. I quickly found my voice and asked, "What is the meaning of this, Ark?"

Ark smiled broadly and replied, "Well, you did hand me over to the police, didn't you?"

His face turned into a frown, "Traitor!"

He smirked again, "I'll just have to silence you, though."

He quickly attempted a slice at my throat, but luckily I was quick enough to grab the knife.

I tried reasoning with him. "You do not have to do this. As long as you don't try to kill anybody, you can escape your destiny!"

He lost focus for awhile, staring into the distance, and then replied, "It's too late. My destiny is already fixed."

I took that opportunity to wring the knife out of his hands, and it fell to the carpet. Ark snapped back into reality and snarled. "By the way, Roger, Happy Birthday."

I was astounded, and I just remembered. Today…

The diary ends on the page "6th September 1986".

PART II: Chapter 6: New Beginnings

"Lumine, where are you..?"

"Wha… Dad? Is something wrong?"

"It's raining."

"And… so?"

"Eridyl."

"Dad, is that where you are at? What happened?"

"It's raining… and it's dark…"

"Dad, snap out of it! Where are you?!"

"I'm burning… Help… Help me…"

"Dad, that's enough, if this is one of your jokes, it's not funny!"

"*crackle*"

It was 2 months since she had received that call. That was also the very call that had caused her to stand outside the gates of Eridyl.

"Here I am. I hope that I will finally unravel the mystery behind my father's disappearance." Taking a deep breath, Lumine stepped through the gates of the forsaken town.

YES, DEATH CANNOT BE AVIODED, ONLY AVERTED, BUT WHAT IF THE KILLER WAS THE ONE KILLED IN HER STEAD?

The world shook. "What the hell?" Lumine gasped. A voice just spoke in her head. Damn, this place chills the bones out of me! I had better move fast. Taking a step forward, the gates slammed shut behind her. This is not good.

The town of Eridyl. The cursed town that was once a boisterous town. It was rumored that one day, the town simply began to collapse. Townspeople vanished, buildings corroded, and the sky turned the color of red. People whom managed to escape the town lost their sanity, and were never able to divulge any information about the happenings in that area. Lumine had to do the job in their stead.

Plucking up her courage, she ran through the main street that led to the closest directory she could find. Tearing the map off the board, she studied it, locating the main buildings in the area. She had to begin her search somewhere. Picking the town hall, she began to walk towards its location.

A fog immediately began to roll in. It was a fog like no other. She could barely see 2 meters away. A buzz began to fill her ears, causing her to panic. "What is this…? I can't think," Lumine clasped her ears.

A silhouette appeared in front of her. Lumine heaved a sigh of relief. There were still people living here after all. Speaking up, she asked, "Excuse me, could you tell me where the town hall is? I can't see it in this fog."

The silhouette drew closer. Lumine asked again, reaching out to tap the person, "Excuse me…"

A bloody mannequin crumbled in front of her. Lumine stared in shock, stuttering, and screamed.

The fog was getting worse; Lumine could barely find her way. But she did not care, for all she wanted to do was get as far away from the mannequin as possible. The buzzing grew stronger, and Lumine knew she had run out of time. Silhouettes surrounded her from all sides, and as they got closer, she saw that they were abominations of all sorts. Puppets, rags, dolls, all wielding a bloody knife and having that horrible, horrible smile on their faces. It was like something out of a nightmare. The things shuffled nearer and nearer, and Lumine could do nothing but curl up in a ball, waiting for it to end. A puppet raised its cloth arm and prepared to strike, smiling more devilishly now. A horn sounded at that instant, and a high-pitched scream pierced the air. The unholy objects shuddered violently, and Lumine could not help but wonder what would happen next. The objects exploded in a shower of blood, covering Lumine completely.

Lumine was anything but brave now. Trembling, she poked the fragments of cloth that lay on the ground. A chill shot up her arm instantaneously. Withdrawing, she stood up and looked around. The fog had cleared, and she found herself standing outside a school.

Chapter 7: Plot

Walking hastily through the school's hallways, she saw what seemed like a perfectly ordinary school. There were neat albeit dusty classrooms, lockers, laboratories, anything that would make up a school. Walking past a mirror, she stopped and stared into it. There was something wrong with the mirror. For one, it did not reflect the school. Instead, it reflected a field of burning grass, with a woman standing in the center. Lumine froze as the woman turned around. She was faceless, and she was walking towards her. Lumine backed away from the mirror and blinked. The mirror reflected her pale face, obviously filled with fear. But what was strange was that there was now a message etched in blood: LET ME GO!

Lumine blinked and saw her own reflection: pale, sweaty and filled with fear. What is this unholy place?! Is this really worth it? I have a good mind to leave right now… but… Thoughts of her father filled her mind. Courage welled up inside her once again and she dragged her unwilling feet towards the other end of the hallway. She felt as though she was being watched the whole time. Combing the first level, her search yielded nothing. Resolve pounding in her ears, she proceeded to the second floor.

What was presented to her was a sight she never expected. Opening the door the second floor's hallway, she saw nothing but a hallway. There were no rooms, simply a hall which seemed never-ending. But she had to take the chances. Stepping into the hallway, a chill immediately crept into the air. Backing away by instinct, she felt cold concrete. Gasping, she spun around the find that the door had vanished. Believing it to be a trick of the eye, she felt the sides of the wall, with the slightest hope of finding a crack of crevice which could be proof of the non-existent door. Giving up, she made her way towards the only place she could go.

Taking slow steps, her footsteps reverberated around the endless chasm. What was strange though was that the echoes never seemed to dampen. With every step she took, the echoes grew louder and louder, till the point that she had to cover her ears in an attempt to protect them. But it was futile: the noise was still as loud. Stopping dead in her tracks, she waited for the echoes to subside. But they only increased in magnitude. Lumine was paralyzed due to the noise now. Even so, the hellish noise refused to stop. Sinking to her knees, she grabbed her head, pleading for it to stop, for it to end.

It did.

The noise vanished abruptly. Panting, Lumine got to her feet and looked around. Her heart sank in despair. The hallway was bathed in deep reddish light, and there was an extremely faint sign of buzzing. She knew that they had come again. Breaking into a sprint, she made for the door at the end of the hallway. Grasping the knob in relief, she pulled the door open. What lay beyond was yet another hallway, but this was covered in blood. Blood plastered the walls, dripped off the ceiling, and conjugated into pools in the floor. She hesitated before looking back at the door she had just come from. Her fears were confirmed. The door had vanished as well, leaving her with no choice but to grit her teeth and just run through the hall. There was her target: the light at the end of the tunnel. But the light seemed to stray further and further away, until it became a mere speck and flicked out of existence. Slowing down to a halt, she felt like giving up. Her only hope of escaping had disappeared, and she simply watched without the slightest hint of flinching as the growing darkness consumed her.

"Lumine…"

Her heart was full of terror, despair and pain.

"Lumine."

She wanted to give up, to go home. She wondered why she had even come in the first place.

"LUMINE!"

She jolted awake, to find herself outside the school. Or what was left of it. In its place where it was supposed to be lay a swirling fog that refused to leave the premises of the gates that surrounded it. A kindly face was peering at her, which belonged to whom she presumed was her benefactor.

"Thank you, thank you so much for getting me out of there." She bowed in gratitude.

I LIVE BECAUSE I CANNOT DIE. SO WHY DO YOU LIVE WHEN YOU CAN?

Jerking involuntarily, she looked up and there wasn't anybody around. Lumine sighed heavily.

Staring back at the fog, her heart ached. She heard whispers of children's laughter. Disregarding it, she turned and left.

Chapter 8: Sacred Halls

Searching the heart of the town, Lumine placed her sights over the church. She gazed at the stained-glass windows which reflected nothing but the gloomy reddened sky. Crows circled the spires and refused to leave.

An inexplicable heaviness in her heart slowed her steps, but nonetheless, she made it to the doors of the church. A huge symbol had been scrawled on the doors with blood. Lumine could tell from books that it was an unholy symbol, that of a cult. She did not want to touch the door, but she felt that her efforts would yield results. Flinching as she touched the door, she pushed. It creaked open noisily to reveal a hunched figure kneeling in front of the altar.

Lumine identified the figure as her father, and exclaimed with delight. Rushing forward with new-found energy, she found herself rebuffed by the mystical energies of the symbol. Unable to pass through the archway, she pounded her fists on the invisible wall, but to no effect. The slumped figure stood up and walked away in silence.

Lumine gradually stopped her assault on the field. Tears gradually filled the brim of her eyelids. But as she was about to turn and walk away, something pushed her beyond the field and into the church. She was surprised, but it did not matter now, for she could now pursue her father. As she retraced his steps, he found that it led into a sewer beneath the whole town. Having had suspicions of the whole mystery now, she found herself climbing down the metal ladder into the sewer.

The first thing she noticed about the sewer was that it was filled with the offensive stench of rotting bodies. Wrinkling her nose in disgust, she made her way into the tunnel, using the light from her flashlight to guide her path. As she walked, she began to hear faint footsteps growing louder, and assuming that they belonged to her father, she picked up her pace. She heard the laughs of a man and woman, but she ignored them as they did not sound malignant. Instead, she felt a profound peace in her heart which granted her the energy to begin sprinting down the tunnel.

Before long, she found a hole in the middle of the wall. It was as though it was made by something large and powerful, to have made such a hole in concrete. She knew it better otherwise to climb into the hole, but she felt an urge to do so. And as she stepped into the hole, she saw a book: a brown leather-clad book that lay in the center of a pentagram etched in blood.

This could be the answer to everything, but the pentagram looks dangerous… But her lingering suspicion would be confirmed if something happened when she picked up the book, and she would be safe then, so she ignored all negative vibes from her head and snatched the book up from the ground. Immediately, the pentagram flared, causing Lumine to jump. But as she proceeded to examine the pentagram, it vanished.

Feeling safer now, she opened the book and began to read. It was a diary! Lumine realized. Of my father, at that! As she walked back towards to metal ladder, she understood. Everything fell into place, and she realized what she was up against and what had happened. She climbed up the ladder, and made up her mind that she will stop this nightmare immediately.

Stepping into the church once more, she realized that night had fallen. The church was plunged into darkness, and she could faintly see a white shadow lingering about the long table in front of her. On the table was her father's unconscious body. Knowing that this was it, she stepped forward bravely, and the white shadow vanished, forming a scythe that swept across Lumine's throat, cutting it. Lumine gasped with the last of her air, eyes sparkling in shock, and fell to the ground in a heap, dead.

Ark Carson appeared above her, a fallen angel of the world, an embodiment of evil, a Reaper. He grinned, and began to laugh, victorious.

Chapter Finale: Revelations

"It was all an illusion created by me. I unleashed the horrors from the pits of hell against you. Yet you came, after all that trial. You prevailed. This is proof enough that you love your father, and hence will be the key to my full maturing! Yes, you have made a foolish mistake by coming here, Lumine. Now that your love has been proven true, I will become a true Reaper!" Ark laughed, as his body began to twist and writhe in a grotesque form. Wings spurted out of his back and his face and body began to rot, revealing the skull and bones underneath. Carrion infestations began to swarm in and out of his body, and he rose into the air, gloating at the foolishness of the dead human whom had brought him this power.

Only that she wasn't there anymore. He suddenly felt the brandish of cold steel in his heart. "But... how? You are supposed to be dead!" Ark gasped in fear, something he hadn't felt in several decades. He stared at the Holy Sword protruding out of his chest.

Lumine's face grew grim. "You had never killed me in the first place. You killed the one you loved the most, you were the one who caused her death. It happens once again."

She flicked her hand. "Furthermore, you didn't unleash any horrors from hell at me. You unleashed your emotions towards yourself. Your fear of your father, your hate of your schoolmates, and your lack of knowledge of your own fate caused you to despair. ALL of this was created not for me, but for yourself. You are the fool, not me. And to prove that I'm right…"

The spirit of Triss Avery appeared. Ark looked shocked, and hurt, and a many other myriad of feelings which he never thought he could feel. He tried to grasp her hand, but she smiled a serene smile, and vanished, this time permanently. Ark stuttered, looking at the remains of his hands, "Impossible… She was dead… SHE WAS DEAD! WHAT FORM OF TRICKERY IS THIS?" Ark yelled in frustration and regret and pain.

"She wasn't. She wasn't dead in your memories. You refused to bury her and forget her like all the others, and yet you neglected to feel her inside you." Lumine's eyes brimmed with tears. "You have nothing in your heart but fear, vengeance, anger, hate, fury. Your ability to love had died when Triss' physical body died. You caused her pain by refusing to allow her to leave. And that has caused your own downfall."

Ark shook his head in furious denial. "No… NO!" His body began to burn, wither into ash, and before long, his final scream became no more than an echo, which reverberated a few times before sliding out of existence.

"Although I wish things could have ended differently…" A tear fell.

As Lumine and her father stepped out of the church, they saw that the town had slid completely out of Ark's influence. The town was still in shambles, but at least the sky was an azure blue now, and they could hear the faint chirping of birds. Smiling faintly at one another, they took their first step towards their last destination: home.

FIN.