Journal of Marcus Travis Blake, 6th June 2019

Final Entry

Marcus is gone. He died in peace. Passing on everything he was, everything he stood for, to me.

Until a few days ago, I didn't even know this kind of world existed. I wouldn't have believed the multiverse really existed. And now I'm the Grim Reaper. The champion of the Well of Souls. The personification of Death itself. I have some big shoes to fill. And a lot of enemies to fight. But if that means the people I care about, the people I love, are safe, then so be it.

Except I'm not entirely sure if I'm up for the job. There's still a part of me that's not convinced I'm the right choice. They all tell me the Well chose me. I can't help but wonder why. It feels true. Feels like I belong here. But why me? What makes me so special? Because I don't belong anywhere else?

So I came here. The last tether to my old life. Marcus told me a reaper needs to be deceased. There are no living reapers. But I'm something different. I died, but my body still lives. I'm a remnant trapped outside my own body. So I went back there, waited for the nurses to leave the room after doing their rounds, before stepping out of the shadows. The other patients were asleep, or comatose, leaving me free to walk through the hospital ward and stand before my own bed. It still chills me seeing my own face on a dying man. Except I'm not dying anymore. I have a heartbeat. I'm breathing without the machines. Yet I'm still here on the outside. Story of my life.

So where do I go from here? To be a reaper, I need to die. It's why I was chosen. So why am I still alive? Does it matter? I don't belong here. Not anymore. So that means there is only one thing left to do. Something I should've done a long time ago.

"He looks peaceful doesn't he?" a tiny voice interrupted just as I had made up my mind. I spun around to find a small 8 year old girl sitting on a chair by the wall, looking at the hospital bed. The seat was a little too big for her, her bare feet hanging off the edge dangling above the floor. She wore a pain little dress over her small frame, the colour as pale as her skin. Her hair was long, falling behind her shoulders, ghostly white. Her eyes were abnormally large and wide. "Like he's sleeping" she smiled.

"Where did you come from?" I asked, surprised. I didn't hear her walk in and I'm certain she wasn't sitting there a moment ago. She appeared to be alone as I scanned the room, looking for her parents.

"Maybe it's time he should wake up" she said looking up at me. "Don't you think?"

I looked back at myself hesitantly. "Maybe" I whispered. "But why? What is there waiting for him?"

"His friends? Family? He has a life doesn't he?"

"Maybe it's better if he doesn't wake up. He has a new job to do. And he can't go back."

"Why not?" she asked.

"For what I need to do, he needs to stay dead" I explained.

"Says who?" the little girl asked, her tone indicating her disapproval.

I looked back at her, seeing the inquisitive expression on her face. "The man who I took over from" I shrugged.

"And who told him?"

The question caught me by surprise. I never considered it. "The man who came before him, I guess" I suggested. But even as I said the words, I could feel the doubt in my voice. I realised we were talking about Chinese whispers. Suddenly I wasn't so sure.

The girl nodded silently. "Marcus told you what he was told. Maybe they got it wrong?" her eyes looked up at me, her gaze suddenly looking older than she could possibly be.

"Who are you?" I asked her. It suddenly hit me we've been talking over my duplicate and she hadn't even acknowledged we look exactly alike. Maybe because she already knew we were the same person. Something about her felt familiar. But I don't believe we've ever met.

She smiled back in a childlike manner. "You know who I am silly" she replied, hopping down to the ground. In her hands she held my hat, the fedora I was wearing the day I was attacked. She walked over and held it out to me, saying "I held onto this for you. I thought you'd want it back."

I took the hat from her, feeling a small smile tug at my mouth, remembering why I loved this hat so much. I've had it for years. Kept it all this time. From the moment I brought it from the market, it felt like me I thought it was the coolest thing I could wear. A few said otherwise, but I didn't care. It was my identity.

"You shouldn't give up on what makes you special" the little girl said, looking up at me with a warm smile. Something in her eyes gave me hope. That maybe I'm not as worthless as I think I am. She looked back at the body in the hospital bed and told me "sometimes you just need a second chance to find out how important you are." She turned and walked away, leaving me by the bed staring down at myself. The last thing she said was the last thing I heard before she vanished into thin air.

"Good luck Jackson White. I know you'll make proud."

After that, I had to think about what to do next. The truth was there was only one place I wanted to go. I just wasn't sure what to do when I got there. I waited outside for nearly two hours, sitting on the wall, using the time to gather my thoughts. I knew what I needed to do. I just wasn't sure if I wanted to.

She came home just before 7pm. I sensed her approach before she came into view, turning the corner to find me sitting by her front door. Her grey eyes went wide as she dropped the set of keys she was sorting through. I tried to say hi, but a lump formed in my throat. She looked so beautiful, as she always did. "Jack?" Kassie gasped. She looked like she was staring at a ghost. I supposed she was. "How are you here? I just came from the hospital. I saw you! They said you were there and you hadn't woken up. But I thought you were… How is this possible?"

There was so much I wanted to tell her. But how do I begin? How can I possibly explain? "I just came to make sure you were alright" I told her. I saw her take an uneasy step back. She was afraid, maybe confused. She didn't know if this was real. Maybe it's not. Maybe I imagined all of this. Maybe I'm still dying in an alley in the middle of Derby. So much I wanted to tell her. So much I needed her to know. But now isn't the right time. "Kassie… It's hard to explain right now. There's so much I want to tell you. But for now, I need to sort out some things. I don't know how long it'll take. You might see or hear things that won't make any sense. But I need to know you're going to be okay. I need to know that you are safe. One day, I will explain everything to you. But until then, I need you to trust me. Can you do that for me? Please?"

She looked me straight in the eye as I took her shoulders. Her expression was difficult to read. Did she believe me? "What's going on?" she asked cautiously. I wasn't making any sense. Understandable. I couldn't make much sense of it either.

"Things are going to change" I tried to explain. "For me. For us. For everyone. It's better if you don't know just yet. But I can't do it unless I know you're safe. One day, I'll tell you. I promise. But for now, you have to trust me."

It was asking a lot of her. But she nodded. I hope one day she'll understand. But I had to do this alone. I picked up her keys and put them in her hand, wishing her goodnight as I stepped aside. I wish I had kissed her that night. It might have been my last chance to. But every day ends the same. Me and her parting ways, leaving an empty void in my heart. But this time, when she looked back, I was already gone. Vanished into thin air. Leaving her alone in the vacant street.

Marcus's death sent a shiver across creation. Something out there was powerful enough to kill death himself. Entities from across the planes have already made use of the reaper's absence. And many more will make their move. The fact that killing an immortal is now possible will shake loose some new threats. So much is changing. I'm stepping into this role with so many questions. I couldn't pretend to understand how I came to be a remnant, though I feel in my gut the one responsible is the same force that chose me to take Marcus's place. And this brand on my hand, the scar in my palm coursing with powerful magic, how dangerous is this? Where did it come from? And who was responsible for killing Marcus? And How? I'm taking this position with a noose hanging around my neck, waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me. No training and now idea what to do.

Don't be me. Be better, Marcus said.

The more Freya and Azrael teach me about how Marcus operated, the more I'm convinced. I need to do this my way. The day Death died was the day the game changed. Now I need to switch up the rules. Maybe that's why I was chosen. Maybe that's why my body is lying in a hospital bed waiting for me to return to it. Maybe the Grim Reaper doesn't need to be dead. How else can I understand the value of life? So after I finish this entry, that's the first thing I need to do. Reclaim my life and go from there.

My name is Jackson White.

I am the Phasewalker now.

This is where my story begins.