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The International Writers Magazine
The Great Beyond: a serialised novel about life beyond death
If you haven't read the previous fourteen chapters start at Chapter One here

The Great Beyond XV
Brodie Parker

Urimaru picked up a tail on his way to Gloria’s house. He didn’t make any attempt to lose it. Instead, he made himself as conspicuous as possible. Being back among the living bothered him a bit.

"You came back from the dead Sloan. Most people wouldn’t handle that too well."

Especially the smells. These could be duplicated easily on the other side, but usually they aren’t. Most people would rather not remember what a paper mill or a sewer smells like after they no longer have any use for them. The people on this side had such different attitudes than he was used to dealing with. He could smell fear and sweat everywhere. Such distantly familiar sensations made him think back to when he was young. He ran a finger along an invisible scar on his right forearm, tracing the line and reliving the day from so long ago on which he received it. This scar was not apparent when Sloan had finished his training and he had revealed the scars which his students gave him. This one was much older and had an entirely different connotation associated with it. It was a scar left by an enemy; his first true enemy.

Whatever trait inherent in their bloodline that made them so dangerous to the darkness was not exclusive to Sloan or Jerry. His family were well aware of their unique nature and had tried to hide him from danger until he was ready. They almost succeeded. Urimaru could still see the stranger coming at him with a sword. He could still smell the air and the grass outside his home. He could still feel the hot sting as the edge of the weapon split his skin apart. It wasn’t a fatal blow by any means. It was quickly stitched and cleaned after his guardians had chased away the assassin. They never caught him, but they never saw him or any like him again. The blade was poisoned as well. He could still smell that too. It had been neutralized and his arm was saved, but the infection that managed to take hold refused to release him. His mortal body soon collapsed and he began his second life. During the countless years which followed he had considered tracking his assailant down, but never seemed to find time for it. There was always something that kept him preoccupied. But today the same scent that he remembered from ages past hung around the man in the back of the bus he was on. The man who watched his every move. This was unmistakably the same man.

He was followed off of the bus and across several city blocks. When he was less than half a mile from Gloria’s house he rounded a corner out of sight from the man and quickly disguised himself like a chameleon as a part of the building he was next to. There were a few bystanders in the immediate area but they were out of sight. When the man was past him he dropped the cover and followed silently. When he was sure they wouldn’t be seen he whistled. When the man turned Urimaru made an obscene gesture and the fight began. It ended in seconds. The man’s arms were broken and useless. They were sprawled in dozens of obscene angles on the pavement, hanging loosely from his shoulders. Urimaru sat on his chest and began to ask questions. When he didn’t get them he slowly increased the density of his cells. Soon he knew everything he needed and the man’s chest collapsed under the weight. Blood erupted out of his mouth, nose, ears and anus staining the wall of the building nearby and the ground for several feet. Urimaru quickly pulled up a web of energy completely encasing the body. This was similar to the web used on Sloan, but instead of destroying the soul with the body it merely kept it there. Charon, or Bootman as Sloan called him would be by later to collect, and he would have to explain. He made a mental note to thank him for delivering Sloan as he hadn’t had the time. He set up a temporary residence in an abandoned building within shouting distance of Gloria’s house. When he was ready he busied himself with traps and wards to keep the undesirables away, then set up a routine for patrolling the area. There were three more before nightfall. Once he had dispatched them he contacted Jerry.

Jerry Tucker was standing on a dock on a large lake at his family’s ancestral home. He was breathing in the air coming in off of the water and remembering. His sister was living in the old house several yards from the dock. She was spending her days painting, reading and taking walks around the place where they grew up together. Jerry’s death was hard on her, but Sloan’s was slowly killing her. She had visitors often. Gloria and Sloan’s friends would bring her food and flowers and much needed company. Fortunately none of the unwelcome guests had appeared yet, but he had met one on the way there. The meeting had been quick and violent, and what remained of him was in the water under the dock wrapped in a stasis web with the soul intact. He lingered at the dock until dark then started walking in a large circle through the fields and the forest he knew so well. There were others coming, and he felt sure their associate under the dock would have company soon. He didn’t bother with any of the fancy traps that Urimaru was so fond of. He kept it simple with a few alarms that only he would hear and wards on all the doors, windows and any other possible entrances to the house. When he heard from Urimaru the moon was just rising over the water.
"All quiet on your end?"
"Just a shadow I picked up on the way. I never thought I’d be standing here again. I built a place like this once, but it just wasn’t the same. I’ll have to thank Sloan for this. Have you heard from him?"
"Not yet. I have a small pile of bodies building up. I had a follower too, then three more stopped by. They’re in stasis in a building nearby. These aren’t from the council. Not one of them. They haven’t sent anyone after Gloria yet. I don’t know what they’re waiting for. The council is smart enough to know where we are. Even without spies they know what we’re up to on this side. Do you think they’re scared of Sloan?"
Jerry thought for a moment. "Possibly. I don’t think so though. They don’t know him as well as we do. They’re probably still in the middle of a power struggle. By now the dust should be settling, but on this side there’s no way of knowing. My guess is that they’re regrouping and the force they send against us will be massive. These annoyances we’ve met today are nothing. The real fight has yet to come." He was about to mention his concern over Sloan’s silence when his voice sounded clearly in their minds.
"Any problems yet?"
"Where are you?" Jerry continued his walk along a trail through the woods.
"North. I spoke with the guys already. They’re prepared and they’ll be out to check on Gloria and Ma over the next few days. They gave me a tip on something I have to check out. I should be back in another day or so."
"What do you mean you spoke to them?" Urimaru interrupted. "You told them who you were?"
"Sure. I need my hands free. There are four of them. I can’t watch them all every second of the day."
"And they aren’t looking up psychiatrists?"
"What do you mean?"
"You came back from the dead Sloan. Most people wouldn’t handle that too well."
"They’re ok. I convinced them and they know everything now. They had to cope with the shock of it, but they can handle it. They aren’t like most people. My friends are the kind of people who expect completely impossible things to happen at any moment. They know me and they know it’s real."
"What are you doing there?" Jerry cut in.
"I’m looking in on someone. Something isn’t right here. As soon as I’m finished I’ll get back to you. I can’t tell you anything else until I find out more myself."
"All right. Hurry back. There’s going to be plenty of action and you aren’t going to want to miss it." Jerry felt the connection abruptly end. He spoke with Urimaru for a while before setting up watch on the roof of the house. The night was clear and warm like the calm before a storm. The storm would come soon enough. Until then he would rest under the familiar constellations of his youth and remember better days.

© Brodie Parker - Begun May 10th 2004 - this Chapter June 2005

Missed Chapters One & Two of our serialised novel - it begins here
Chapter Three here

Chapter Four here
Chapter five here

Chapter Six here
Chapter Seven here
Chapter Eight here
Chapter Nine here
Chapter Ten here
Chapter Eleven here
Chapter Twelve here
Chapter Thirteen here
Chapter Fourteen here
Chapter Fifteen here
Chapter Sixteen here

I sold my soul to rock and roll right here at Hackwriters…
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