Authors: Mon D Rea
Tags: #afterlife, #angel, #crow, #Dante, #dark, #death, #destiny, #fallen, #fate, #Fates, #ghost, #Greek mythology, #grim, #hell, #life after death, #psychic, #reaper, #reincarnation, #scythe, #soul, #soulmate, #spirit, #Third eye, #underworld
be with the woman he loves, one man will move
heaven and hell…
When Nate Cuervo dies in a
diving accident, he realizes he isn’t ready to leave everything behind,
including his soul mate Samantha. He falls into an underworld prison where the
only way out is through a reaper named Sephtimus Rex. As head reaper, Septhimus
leads an army of Crows tasked with the cold deportation of overstaying spirits
from the human realm.
When Earth ended, three
Nature, red in tooth and claw
With Ravine, shriek’d
against His creed.
In Memoriam A.H.H.
exist among us in secret. Their ancient war has spilled across the borders into
our world, and what passed for blood from their undying energies inked the
provisions for a halfhearted truce.
are the two great primal forces; the superpowers of the afterlife. One spawned
by light, the other by darkness. One tasked with recycling everlasting souls
into mortal bodies, the other with banishing them into a perfect, grim prison.
come in many forms but all of them discreet, misleading. Some humans see and
name them as angels. Others worship them as gods of destiny. All reduce them
into familiar myth and superstition to dull the world-shattering implications
of their existence. And so, the two warring camps take their most consistent
and harmless forms: benevolent storks and ravenous crows.
human word or symbol would be a cliché because they’re as natural a part of
life as the laws of physics or the features on one’s face. The only cliché is
man’s tendency to value one to the exclusion of the other. Because the two
forces necessitate each other; they’re two sides of the same supernatural coin
who would believe the truth even if it stared us in the face? Many choose to
ignore it, content to live in the safety of lies, the delusion of control.
Humans find comfort in the belief that we devise our own fate and pass time in
our own steady pace, but deep down we know we’re merely sojourners from this
realm to the next. Behind every wall and through every crevice, other worlds
lie beyond our senses.
to our dimension yet incredibly exotic, perfect antitheses of each other:
Helium, kingdom of the great white storks, and Necro City, territory of the
are several layers to true darkness. It’s like when you go scuba diving and the
transparent, color-tinged water gets bluer and bluer the farther down you go,
to the perfect violet shade. You’re an insignificant speck and your flimsy stab
jacket is all that stops you from plunging to the lowest, bleakest, most
Godforsaken point of all. It’s that spot right before you hit pitch-blackness,
where you realize you’ve already ceased to exist.
name is Nataniel Cuervo. I was born one day in October. I was abandoned on the
porch of Blessed Children’s
when I was just a few days old so I’m not really sure
about the date. I met the love of my life when I was twenty-three. Her name’s
All I need to do is get up from this foldable
chair where I’ve been sitting all night philosophizing
about the sea, the universe, and fate; but standing up feels like too much
trouble when weighed against the alternative of non-existence.
This is what happens when I run out of meds. I turn into one hot
puddle of self-doubt.
Add my utterly pointless yet true-to-life
psychic ability and you’ve got the perfect breeding ground for recurring,
I say dreams? That’s inaccurate because in fact there’s just the one and it’s
always been the same. Dream, nightmare, vision, whatever you want to call it; I
know its dreamscapes like the back of my hand.
there’s the strange room whose walls are covered from floor to ceiling with
computer monitors. With a steady, almost insectile hum, the hard drives fire
data swiftly and perpetually, occasionally emitting electronic beeps and clicks
as they tally mutations in sequences of genetic codes, in infinite strings of
destinies. A voice whispers distinctly:
, like the name in Greek
whisked away into the post-Apocalyptic ruins of the world. Every grain and
chunk of rubble littered as far as the eye can see buzzes the same
entomo-mechanical drone. And amid all this chaos, a solitary figure walks in
whole thing ends with the ravaged land sprouting wings and rising as a colony
of angry bats, all determined to drown the heavens in shape and sound. I wake
at this point invariably bathed in cold sweat.
infernal noise from the dream has hung around me every waking moment of my
life. I just didn’t think it was such an awful thing when I was still a kid.
Now it seems like I was ever only this OC Math major who couldn’t function
without his prescription meds, who couldn’t even go to sleep without a light or
a TV on in the background and who’d wake up as soon as it turned off. That was
the kind of person I’ve been, always wired and restless inside.
one hand all the times I’ve been free from this curse. The first was when I lay
in bed with Samantha and listened to her whispered secrets. Sam; breathing,
fragrant proof of a miracle. The first time I made love to her, everything fell
into a deep hush.
another spell of peace when I moved here to Concepcion, a tiny seaside village
in Southern Luzon, Philippines where the air’s salty and fresh and the people
still haven’t been consumed by their wants. Once a week, Sam drives from her
career and family in the capital to me down in the province.
a public-school teacher, I teach not only Math but also Astronomy, Marine
Biology and Ornithology (the last three are unofficial and inspired by the
pristine environment). My audience consists of underprivileged teenage students
– little fanciful star-gazers, keen scouts and bird-watchers – whose stuttering
and lack of self-esteem call for segues into Speech and Drama.
remember the day I arrived and the first time I saw surf up close. It lay just
beyond the welcoming smile of Mrs. Salas, the thin school principal who has an
impression of frayed elegance about her. I hastily excused myself and couldn’t
help laughing as the waves rushed and soaked my jeans. Their roar and rhythm
felt all wrong when in fact it was my own senses that had been set to the
unnatural beat of the city. A lullaby as I lie in bed at night or a blanket of
silence in my many dives, the music of the sea has never failed to soothe me
then the alien drone of the nightmarish computers came back with a vengeance,
and now I live inside a fog of noise. Though I’m afraid to admit it, via my
psychic sense I have a fairly good idea what it all means.
a superfluous and cruel joke of fate, I know exactly what death sounds like.
The first part of the vision that keeps playing in my brain? It’s about
supercomputers recording the accumulation of damages to a person’s genetic
code. In a word, a biological countdown to expiration.
second segment of the dream is harder to interpret. But there’s this unholy
fear in the pit of my stomach that says it’s far bigger and more frightening
than any human mind could comprehend.
point I find myself
in the kitchen getting ready for a dive. It’s like this
when good ol’ depression visits; I move around in a daze. I write a note for
Sam because she might arrive this morning as per the old schedule. I pin it
under one of the fridge magnets before I change my mind. The note reads:
to catch some rays. Not much sun since you left.
slow falling-out is hurting both of us. My clinical depression has given birth
to a secret third presence. Like a fat black Buddha sitting cross-legged
between us, it keeps growing and pushing us apart. And maybe that’s for the
best. Sam awakens in people a thirst for life they don’t know they have.
Sam, her skin baked to a golden-brown heaven so every time she
smiles there’s the jarring contrast of pearly teeth. I can never resist
freediving for those underwater gems that beckon for three-minute breath holds.
A part-time model and full-time Art History major, Sam’s Filipina
with more than the average Spanish in her blood. She got ahead of her time when
she bloomed bigger and faster than the other girls. It’s like she just woke up
one morning a full-grown woman and had over the night outgrown and burst wider
the skimpy shorts she was wont to wear, but of course all her favorite pairs had
been bought already ripped. She gives as an excuse a special medical condition
that exempts her like a malamute puppy in the tropics; and though it’s true she
looks more at home on the beach than anywhere else, there should be a law
against her walking around the hut in only her bikini. Carrying my
distracting and irresistible.
a bit old-fashioned in her belief in soulmates, which I guess is a good thing
for me except every time she treats me like her own fixer-upper. She can be
ultra-altruistic too, only too willing to sacrifice her own happiness so I can
search for mine. And I know she longs for a bit of long-gone chivalry from all
the chick flicks she watches.
But if she could be just one thing, Sam’s a secret stretch of beach
one discovers with a bit of cave-diving. On our dives together, I’d feel
blissfully content to linger a while and just watch her rise back up to the
surface. Her tiny belly grinding, her body hanging down amid sunbeams breaking
through the veil is an affirmation from heaven, bringing tears to my eyes
inside the goggles.
Sam, my own personal
I steer the motorboat to my favorite dive spot. It’s after the
swift diffusion of morning and the light’s just now starting to get warm. I
drop the anchor and turn off the engine. I go about the business of
, tank, wetsuit, weight belt, and mask. I find
myself more methodical in my movements than usual, but as soon as I dive
through the surface my breath’s stolen away by the world that lies underneath.
It’s too easy. I lose myself again in the visual feast and yearn
to coexist with its broken time.
I touch the multi-hued coral reefs, glide
with the mantas, drop by a shipwreck frozen in time and just marvel at the
vibrancy and color of life around me. Dives like this one make me believe that
if I wished hard enough I could grow gills.
some time the flashing light in my dive computer tells me decompression has
What I do next is the most natural yet also
the most shocking: I tear my mask off and flip my regulator over my shoulder.
My depression has taken its toll.
Land’s the farthest place in my mind and there’s nothing remotely
strange about the thought of giving up and just accepting my fate. There aren’t
any serious consequences for me, not even the possibility of losing my life.
Once an eerie calm takes over, all sensations go through a sieve
of extreme clarity, every tiny experience becomes more vivid than I’ve ever
felt in my entire life. It’s like my body had been transformed into a giant
microphone tuned to a lone pair of lips and the many tiniest vibrations they
made. As though a mist has suddenly been lifted, I see the world exactly as
it’s meant to be seen: raw and in all its terrifying splendor. I become a
bystander to my own body, which is presently taking the greatest abuse.
I barely notice
I’ve been holding my breath till
the need to live kicks in. Always the instinct for self-preservation. I quickly
dismiss this and resolve to break through my pain threshold. My eyes bulge and
feel like pincushions.
inhale at last, sa
freely enters my voice box. It cuts a burning path. I cough and gulp more. And
as my throat goes into
blocking the invasion of water, I begin to panic and feel my consciousness
dimming. Despite everything, there’s one thing I can swear is the literal
truth: images of my life flicker inside my head.
I see the toddler orphans laughing at my antics
learning to ride a motorbike… Sam smiling at me for the first time…
…ever so beautiful I see…
…death not as an end but a beginning, like being born backwards
Next thing I know I’m being dragged upwards. My mind’s protesting
but my entire body’s limp.
Must be one of those damned fishermen…! Sto-
Aboard a boat (mine? the fisherman’s?) my rescuer gives
mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and tries to jumpstart my quiet heart. Seawater’s
dripping off him and all over my face.
Out of frustration, the man delivers a mighty, perfectly-vertical,
all-knuckle blow to my chest. It still fails to clear my lungs of
seawater. I realize I’ve crossed a point of no return and feel a confused sense
of relief as a great icy coldness settles upon me.
The fisherman’s sobbing and shaking. At this precise moment, Death
comes for me.
Now I can
tell everyone from experience:
Death’s made up of these black, amorphous yet recurringly
bird-shaped and fluttery things. Like iron fillings that bristle when you pass
a magnet underneath them, their sharp edges and talons cut my skin. They
press me downwards and deeper, persisting till
the bottom of the boat creaks.
very curious, unknown species of birds is whispering inside my head in that oh
so familiar entomo-mechanical hum. My mind-snapping nightmare brought to life.
The noise becomes louder and louder in sync with my racing heart and soon it’s
roar as the birds home in on their prey.
I realize with ice-cold fear, these creatures are thoughtlessly
bent on bringing me an even worse fate than death: the descent to madness.