As Kaden lay in the hospital, he thought about everything that happened in his life. The fire topped them all, that was a given. His existence had been a useless one for as long as he could remember, achieving nothing by his thirtieth birthday, except the most basic excuse of a life.
His first love had cost him a decade of recuperation and trying to get over the fact that the problem hadn’t been with him. Rather it had been with the girl who had just used and thrown him away. The story behind the love of his life was rather sad and stupid. She had asked him to date her before prom. He had helped her get through her exams and put real effort in the few weeks they had been together. When everything was over, she gave him a kiss on the lips thanking him and saying goodbye.
The students’ laughter and teasing had given him two options. Either get over it or close up on himself. He chose the latter, ending up without a new girlfriend for the next decade. His Co-workers, the female ones at least, had tried to set him up with some of their friends, but it had never worked out. The spark wasn’t there anymore as it had died out a long time ago.
The day of his thirtieth birthday, work was tedious with his boss yelling and threatening to fire him. He had enough by that time, so he took a swipe at his superior, knocking him out with one blow. On his way home, he bought medicine for the pain his hand had caused. Exiting the local drug store, something had caught his eye. A woman so beautiful, there wasn’t a word which could describe her.
‘Watch it!’ the woman said just as he stepped into her path, almost knocking her over. The woman's long white hair, pale as the moon flowed down her back. Violet eyes stared back at his, boring holes into his soul. There had been something about the way with which she looked him in the eyes. Something primordial and violent. For her face was a mask of indecision as if she decided over life and death. A long black dress hugged her body as if the universe had wanted for everyone to know it had been created just for her being. Her arms were bare as the dress had no sleeves, accenting a muscled physique.
‘Is something wrong with your head?’ she asked, giving him a strange look. Kaden came to, shuddering in the cold breeze, yet the woman didn’t seem phased at all. As she didn’t seem to notice the cold weather even though the clothing she wore was minimal.
’I am sorry, miss,’ Kaden replied, looking away. The woman’s eyes were too violent for him, so he hadn’t dared to keep eye contact for much longer. Grabbing the things he had dropped to the ground, Kaden made his way home. The woman gave him a strange, almost comical look.
‘Wait,’ she called out. Kaden stopped in his tracks and turned around in anticipation. ‘Would you like to have a drink with me? I would say you sure look like you can use one,’ she asked him. To his own surprise, he nodded once. Approaching him, she offered him a hand which he took.
None of them had spoken a word for a good while until they reached a cafe and had sat down. The woman’s violet eyes looked at his all the while, making him feel uncomfortable.
’What is your name, miss?’ he blurted out. Not the smoothest of pickup lines, but then again, he wasn’t smooth in any way. She chuckled at his question and winked once.‘My name is Laney if you already have to know.’ Her response was short and to the point as she gave him a strange smile.
’And yours?’ Kaden looked away, his eyes darting all over the room except where they should have been looking at. There was something that made him shy away, a higher power controlling his movements.
’It is Kaden. I turned thirty today,’ he blurted out without thinking. Laney chuckled again. Her voice was a choir of Angels singing in one's mind, pure delight.
’Now that was quite the reply,’ she said with another chuckle. ‘How about we drink to that?’ Laney offered, giving Kaden a wink. He nodded as if under a spell.
A good hour passed in conversation and laughter. She had been doing the majority of the talking, but it didn’t matter. Kaden felt like he had a renewed purpose in life, a goal he had to achieve. As they got up after paying the bill, the waiter looked at her. Laney went silent and her demeanor changed. Another look at the waiter revealed memories within Kaden’s mind that were better unexplored. His heartbeat increased twofold as sweat dripped down his forehead.
’I suggest you better watch what you do, my boy,’ the waiter's voice spoke in his mind. A strange power was radiating from the small man that made him want to curl up in a ball and die. Just who was he? Under his stare, he finally collapsed.
Kaden woke up a few hours later in his bed, a woman lying next to him. She lay underneath a satin sheath that covered her from knees to chest. A smile appeared on Kaden’s face. He hadn’t really known why, but it was there. Time froze as she smiled back at Kaden. Her eyes still as wild, smile genuine.
The waiter from the cafe appeared out of nowhere but in a business suit this time. Kaden fell in a state of shock and froze up, not knowing how to proceed. The flames on the candles just hung there in the air, not burning but rather floating.
’Did you enjoy last night?’ the man asked, his voice laced with malice. Kaden cried, not knowing how to reply as a renewed pain shot through him. The man was something he could not comprehend as even his words were so heavy that one could die by just listening to them. The man exerted some strange pressure, making him feel less than man, less than an animal until Kaden cried out and fell to the floor.
’Did you enjoy last night?’ the man yelled, losing control. Glass shattered into a thousand pieces, covering every part of the room.
‘Yes!’ replied Kaden, fear getting the better of him. ’Yes, I loved it!’ The man seemed pleased with the reply and laughed. Time started up again and Laney shot up out of bed.
’What are you doing here!’ she screamed in outrage, the cover falling down her body.
’Cover up!’ yelled the waiter. The walls shook from his thundering voice, the flames atop of the candles fell down onto the cloth and lit up. Laney caught Kaden’s bewildered look and cringed deep within. She disappeared together with the man, leaving Kaden to die in a burning apartment as the flames spread rapidly. Smoke soon filled his lungs, making him cough for his life. The flames engulfed the small apartment within a mere minute. His vision went dark as he tried to cling onto life. Light flashed in front of him and an angel gave him its hand. The face was dark, so he wasn’t able to see who it was. Did he really care? Not at all. His arm tried to reach up towards hers, but he couldn’t quite make it and dropped down again. The Angel’s hand shot out grabbing Kaden's, embracing him in warm light just before he lost consciousness.
The memories of that day haunted him to no end. Distant lights reminded him of the fire every time. His gaze wavered as he stared up at the pale white moon. Sighing, his eyes trailed everything and everyone through the large window down the tall building. Cars and pedestrians everywhere, akin to an ant colony. People walking down the streets, hand in hand, laughing, chatting.
Kaden closed his eyes, trying to forget about everything now that he was back in the present. His dreams weren’t any better than being awake, but his body needed rest as much as he needed to get away from the pain. The burns weren’t healing no matter how much they tried. They had given up and taken him to a special, sterile ward where he would live until he died. He was aware of this and hated the fact that he had been put there because of someone else.
He sighed again, eyes still closed. Strange visions kept him awake at night and during the day it was the pain. Images of Angels and Demons, of strange fantastic creatures, only found in books and cartoons. Constant warring between all of them, the constant blood spilling and the dead bodies cluttering the battlefield.
Kaden wakes up, not able to bear the mental strain from all the images for another time. A soft knock on his door made him turn to the side.
‘Come in,’ he replied, his voice weak. The door creaked open, letting a beautiful young woman inside. Seductively, she smiled as she approached Kaden’s bed, carrying a tray with pills and some water.
’Hey there,’ she almost whispered. There was something wrong with her voice, but Kaden thought he might have imagined it. She helped him sit up straight as he clenched his teeth together, biting through the pain. As she was getting his pills, Kaden observed the nurse. She was familiar to him. The long white hair, the purple eyes, the face of an Angel. He couldn’t figure it out, but he must have known her some time ago.
’Time for medicine again?’ he asked, observing the tray. There was more this time, almost double the usual amount. Kaden frowned and looked away, remembering the taste of the brown pills.
The nurse fed them to him and put a glass of water to his mouth, which he drank. His throat was always dry, no matter how much liquid went inside.
’Say, do we know each other?’ he asked. She looked away as if caught in a lie or even worse.
’I will check back on you later,’ she said and walked out. Kaden couldn’t get over the fact that he knew her and if he needed to, he would ask her again the next time she visited him. Having nothing better to do, he went back to staring out the window. The same lights stared back at him every evening. The same pedestrians walked down the street and the same cars drove up and down the road.
How much longer until I can find peace? Why don’t they let me die? he thought to himself. Ever since the fire about which he knew nothing brought him to this state, both his personality and his hatred towards his own kind rose to the heavens. As if life hadn't been bad enough without surviving a fire and then be on painkillers until he died.
’What the hell?’ he murmured to himself, trying to sit up even straighter and look down the window which was open, letting in a cold breeze. His eyes found someone standing at the edge of a roof, some twenty meters below where Kaden was lay. It was the white haired woman. Her hair danced in the wind as if playing. First, she took off her coat and then her skirt and blouse, standing there only in her underwear. Her head turned toward Kaden and their eyes met. She smiled and jumped off the building. Kaden’s heart started beating much faster than it should, pain shooting throughout his body.
’No!’ he shouted as his hand shot up and slammed against the window, hurting him even more when the wounds burst open. He cried out in pain as the gauze went red around his hand. Biting through the pain, he gathered himself, wanting to see what would happen to her. Just as he found her body which was falling like a brick towards the busy streets, she shot up again, wings unfurled behind her back. Kaden, not quite believing what had just happened, closed his eyes and covered himself with a blanket. His heartbeat was still erratic minutes later, not able to slow down. Kaden's eyes blurred over and darkness crept up on him as his breathing gave out just as the woman knocked on the window from the outside. He looked through the window once more before he went into shock and faded into the darkness.
’Father, what will happen to me?’ Laney asked standing in front of Kaden’s dead body. The man from the restaurant appeared wearing his business suit, looking them both over.
’You know I have given you a second chance already. This will not happen again. If you go through with this, there is no turning back,’ the man replied. Kaden looked from above as if his soul was observing the corpse he left behind. Memories were flooding back in as he remembered. Yes, he remembered her, the white haired angel. And him, he was the devil himself. It was him who had caused the fire which took his life away. Anger boiled within Kaden, but there was nothing he could do. He was already dead.
’Kid, do you like my daughter?’ the man asked, turning toward Kaden. He yelped in surprise, gathering himself. What in the seven hells was he asking me? If I liked his daughter? She should have been dead as well by all rights.
’Father, please. Give him some time will you?’ Laney interrupted. ’You know this isn’t something a mortal would just understand with no proof or explanations. If we had approached him before his death, there is no way he would have been able to take all of this.’ Kaden looked at her first, then at her father.
‘Are you two insane? Or are you used to acting like complete mad men?’ Kaden yelled. Somehow, his voice carried, and they heard him as he floated above his body, staring down at them. ’Oh and am I expected to get over my death and have a happy conversation with you two?’
The man sighed and shook his head as he moved his hand up and squeezed his fingers together. Kaden’s soul felt like being choked to death for the second time. He flipped his hand up and down, sending Kaden’s soul slamming back into his body and reviving him. Kaden gasped for air, coughing and clawing at his own throat. As a few seconds passed, he breathed again.
’I will give you a few moments to gather your thoughts, then I will ask you one more time. Use the next few seconds well,’ the man said as he seemed to look at his watch. Not even five seconds later, he spoke.
’Now, if you'll indulge me. Do you like my daughter?’ he asked one more time. Kaden was shocked by the question for the second time. How could he like her? They had spent a night together, but what had happened between the two? Was it a charade into getting him to give an answer which would get him into even more trouble? Not knowing how to proceed, he went with his gut feeling. It couldn’t get much worse than the situation he was in already so there was no real wrong answer in his book.
‘Yes, I do. Well, I don’t have a way of knowing if I like her. But if it counts, I find her very attractive. So much that I would call myself an idiot for falling for someone so pretty.’ The man laughed at Kaden’s response, weighing his options. He could have killed him as easily as bringing him back to life. But there was something about the way Laney had asked him what would happen to her. She wasn’t trying to manipulate him, or was she?
’I have a lot on my plate today, so cut it out you two. I will give you a chance of a lifetime, but it only counts if you two make it together. If not, both of you will cease to exist.’ Kaden looked at him, renewed fear washing over him. Was this all a dream? If it was, he would wake up any moment now, wouldn’t he?
’No it is not a dream. Shove your idiotic thoughts somewhere far below and listen to me!’ he yelled again, motioning with his hands toward himself. ’Are you even aware of what I am, human?’ Kaden curled up in a ball at the same power crushing him into tiny bits. He screamed in pain, which again just disappeared. Something was not right with that man and whatever he was, a human wasn’t it.
’Father, please. Look what you are doing to him,’ Laney pleaded, holding onto one of the man’s hands. He looked at her and then at his hand, not quite believing what just happened. Was someone touching him?
’I will decide for the both of you. In a few days time, you will be reborn in a world called Maelstrom. There you will fight a never ending war. You will be on my side fighting another group of sentient creatures from other worlds. So far everything clear?’ he asked, clapping his hands in excitement.
’What about-I’ Laney was about to ask when the man interrupted her, holding one of his fingers to his lips. Laney squeezed her eyes and hopelessness washed over her. She had just lost it all, for the second time. Kaden uncurled and slowly sat upright, staring the two down. His heart felt heavy, his life evaporating into nothingness. What had he done to deserve something like this?
‘’For the cattle in the room, my name is Lobos. I am God of universe one, its creator and destroyer. And you, scum, have cost me one of my Angels. You will live a long life I hope, one that will be full of pain and sorrow.’ Kaden wasn’t sure what the man who called himself a God and Lobos meant, but he didn’t like it one bit.
‘Why are you doing this to me? What have I done to you to deserve whatever you have been doing to me?’ Kaden screamed at Lobos, all fear gone for that one moment. Tears rolled down his cheeks, the pain and fear coming out at once. What if the man standing in front of him was a God and he could make Kaden’s life hell? But he already had gone through hell once, so it would be nothing new to him.
’You shouldn’t have slept with my daughter. It was your own fault, to be honest. I have created them to be very attractive, and it works great if I have to say so myself. But you my boy, fell for her faster than any other before you.’ Lobos laughed and snorted once.
’Before me?’ Kaden asked. Laney looked away from him. Lobos was to blame for her nature, not herself. ’I see. How about you kill or leave me to rot in an alley? Do you think it could be taken care off?’ he asked, hope lacing his words.
‘I am sorry, but I can not do that. The world you will be reborn in is specific. You can almost compare it to video games in your own world. Those console and computer games as they are being called. You will find out more for yourself. It is nothing complicated, but it should be a fun way to spend some of your time, right?’ he said with a smirk.
‘Is it possible to get out of this? I mean, can we earn our freedom or something,’ Kaden asked, clinging on to hope. Lobos shook his head.
’There is no way out of this world. You can live and earn yourself a place in that new world, or you can just get killed several times and die for real. But each time you get wounded or killed, the pain will be so bad you will do your best to stay alive.’
’Thank you for the last chance father,’ Laney said. Her tone was all but thankful. She had realized there was no way out, so it was better to take it head on and at least preserve some of your dignity. She stood next to Kaden and took his hand. ’You don’t mind, do you?’ she asked, smiling. Kaden trembled by then and sought to grab onto anything that would provide him any comfort.
’Whenever you are ready, father,’ Laney said, her eyes downcast. The violent storms that had been raging within them calmed down, giving her eyes a dull look. She knew better than Kaden what awaited them and she didn’t look forward to it. But when you have lived such a long life as laney had, time would eventually come when they didn't care about living anymore.
’Wait? Do we die now? How about you give us time until whatever needs to happen in this world!’ Kaden cried out once more. His tears were two rivers rolling down his swollen cheeks.
’I will let you enjoy a new start to something magnificent. That is how far I will go. Enjoy the show, and good luck. You will need it. Oh and daughter of mine, please don’t call me father anymore. You count as a fallen from this moment onward,’ Lobos said before everything around them disappeared.
Whiteness was all around both Kaden and Laney as they floated in the air. There was no air, no weight, no sky. Just the color white for as long as the eye could see. That white turned into a gray and then black a long time later. Everything had a general outline. Landmass beneath their feet, water all around it. Mountains and caverns formed amidst the land and some even rose from beneath the oceans. Forests populated the land amidst grassland as far as the eye could see. Animals came to life out of nowhere, all kinds of creatures appeared all around them. Small settlements sprung out from the ground and human looking beings appeared within them, working and eating.
’Both of you are witnessing the birth of a new world,’ Lobos said as he appeared beside Laney and Kaden. The two of them flinched at his appearance as they were focused on the creation before them.
’That is to be our new home then?’ Kaden asked, his eyes glistening from wonder and pain at once. He got torn from his previous life and thrown into this new world, but his life hadn’t been all that much, anyway. Did he mind dying and coming to this new place?
Kaden looked to the side, Laney’s look wasn’t any different than his. But there were worse things that could happen to them. Permanent hell or death. This way, they got to live, if one will be able to call it a life.
‘All right then. The two of you will be in the dark for another day, then the games will begin. Good luck to my dearest pawns,’ Lobos said with a smirk as he clapped his hands once and everything went dark, swallowing them both.
Thank you for reading!