The International Writers Magazine
:Final Chapter No: 20
The thrilling closing chapter of the serialised novel about life beyond death
If you missed the first nineteen chapters go here to start

The Great Beyond
Chapter XX
Brodie Parker

stood on a charred and broken crag overlooking Chateau de Versailles, or what may have resembled the palace at one time. The building was dark and twisted with obscene figures carved into the outer walls. The gardens behind it reached out farther than I could see, and consisted of tortured sculptures and tortured bodies moaning and crawling aimlessly; searching endlessly and in vain for succor.

I shuddered inwardly as my companion, or prisoner rather swayed on his feet and occasionally mumbled to himself. Dark clouds, thick and black boiled overhead as we moved in toward a mockery of the Palace of the Sun King on which no sun would ever shine. Shugg had been in a madness web since his capture and my exile. When they released him to me after a brief argument they explained that he may never fully recover. As it was he could barely keep his feet. I needed him as a guide as I explained to his wardens. He couldn’t actually tell me what I needed to know; I had to drag it out of him. He was either unwilling or unable to resist.

We were almost at the front door and had encountered no resistance, or attention of any kind. The building was deserted to all appearances. We entered easily and what I learned from Shugg led me straight into the hall of mirrors. The seventeen mirrors and the seventeen windows were black and reflected with cool light the darkest nature and being of all that passed in front of them. I stared into it for a moment and saw my shadow wink at me. It seemed quite comfortable in these environs, to my disgust.

The ornate opulence of legend was replaced by everything ugly and wrong. The basest influence of the limitless imagination of it’s architect was evident in form and function. It was like walking through the intestines of some gargantuan malevolent creature. I felt weak and sick as I entered the enormous chamber tugging Shugg along behind me as an afterthought. A sort of royal court was waiting for us with an assortment of madmen and hollow eyed women lining the path to the throne at the far end. It was made of living bodies tied together in horrific ways that would not allow them to move. On it sat a man with blonde hair, blue eyes, pale white skin and a three-piece pinstriped suit with a golden pocket watched chained to the vest, red cufflinks, wingtip shoes and a fedora resting on his head. He was neither young nor old, tall nor short and of utterly average build. He had one leg resting over an arm (so to speak) of the throne as he reclined. He smiled pleasantly as I stopped about fifteen feet from the prone torso serving as the first step up to the throne. Shugg stumbled for a few steps then collapsed as I pushed out in front of me. "I believe this is yours."
The throng around us shifted and stirred as they looked at him. In a melodious voice the man called out to them, "Who’s is this?"
A figure in a black robe stepped forward and stood by Shugg. His face couldn’t be seen from the shadow of the hood, but a long white beard jutted out and pointed down his torso. It collected into a writhing snake which curled around him. He had a gravelly voice which replied "I do sire. He is bound by oath to my service."
"You should find more reliable servants." The man’s voice was beautiful.
"Yes sire." The snake lashed out and curled itself around Shugg’s leg, then dragged him across the floor and into the obscurity of the crowd.

His movements were the definition of grace as was his manner when he stood and descended to greet me. The soles of his shoes left burning marks on the flesh of the living stairs. Large wings with black feathers spread from behind him and stretched luxuriously before settling back into folds at his back. He tossed a black cane with chrome on the handle and the tip from one hand to the other. He put out a hand with closely trimmed black fingernails and said "Pleased to meet you. Hope you guess our name."
"I don’t have to guess." I didn’t move or look at the hand. Shaking hands, I have heard is a remnant of an old custom for checking another person for weapons, presumably hidden on the wrist. I was holding firm to an assumption that he was armed to the teeth no matter how thorough a search. He could do the same to me or not, but I wasn’t touching that hand.
"No, we suppose not. For those with our notoriety introductions aren’t necessary."
"I like your wings." I said, as he put his hand down.
"Too much?"
"No, not at all. Very appropriate to the tales from my youth; no tale or horns though."
"We never liked the tail, but" he removed his hat and bent forward revealing two sharp protrusions high on his forehead and neatly combed hair "the horns will always be in high style."

I hated him thoroughly. I knew what he was and I had never hated anyone as fiercely, but I wanted very much to like him. He was charming and distractingly beautiful. His voice carried enchantment and the silver of a car salesman or a politician.

"We have to say though, we’re very disappointed. You came to us rather than making us hunt you down. We rather enjoy the chase, but you understand. You’re quite a hunter yourself. Sharper was too easy for you though. Prey that are worthy of our skills are increasingly difficult to find. We haven’t been presented with a serious challenge in ages." He used the word in the way that children use it. The sense of timelessness which dragged through his meaning was not lost on me. "The breech you opened up had us quite beside ourselves with anger. I was certain that you were lost to us. But you are here now, and we are most delighted."

His use of plural pronouns notwithstanding, I had trouble following the mood of the situation. He seemed relaxed and unworried, but there was something behind it. It wasn’t nervous or suspicious necessarily, but very alert and aware. He was guarded in some way, but it wasn’t obvious. It wasn’t the servants that surrounded us that worried me, it was him. I could sense his power, and it was focused on me.

I rushed into what I had prepared to tell him. "I’m here to inform you that things have changed. The council has been reborn and your spies are dispersed or dispatched. You have less authority over me than they do, and theirs is nonexistent. I have made my intentions and my demands for privacy known to them, and I am here to deliver you the same courtesy. I returned Shugg as a sign of good faith.
"Now, my terms. My family is off limits, as are my friends on the other side. Shugg’s master must be handed over to answer for the extermination which took place at the nexus of my death on numerous timelines. I have no bearing on the actions of the council, nor do I have any intention of telling you your business. Once we’re finished here I’ll be on my way. Afterwards you will never see me again. If by some chance you do…well, it won’t be pleasant for anyone involved. I will not presume to threaten you, I am simply stating my terms in the hope that you will respect them."

He let me finish while he looked at me with an amused and tolerant expression. "That’s an interesting offer, but if you will permit us, we have a counter proposal." I didn’t answer so he continued. "We like you kid. You know about power and you respect it. You don’t flaunt it garishly to reassure yourself; you aren’t the insecure type. That’s why we want to go into business with you." I started to interrupt but he cut me off. "Please, let us finish. You see we’ve been in this game for a long time, and opportunities like this are rare. You obviously know by now what all the fuss over you was about. The council is tired and rapidly approaching obsoleteness. Things are about to shift dramatically on this side and we want to get you in on the ground floor. You see, we’re growing bored with this existence and we’re ready to move on. The billions of centuries of trying to keep things interesting here have worn us down. It no longer holds the same attraction that it once did. We’re retiring, but we want to go out with a bang. Even now our legions are poised for an assault on the council. They wait but for our command…or yours. We have no heir, and no protégé worthy of our throne. Of all the potential candidates you are by far the most qualified. Think of it. You could rule it all. Do whatever you want. Eliminate death all together if you like. Make your friends and loved ones immortal. Give them power and wealth beyond imagining. Restructure the entire plane of existence to your liking. It’s yours, and we can help you get it."
"What’s the catch?"
"Ah yes, the catch. You will have to take our place, and we’re not certain what that would do to you, but we have an intuitive inkling that you’ll fit right in. Lead our soldiers. Help us eliminate the council and it’s all yours."

He was unbelievably charming and his presence was a bit intoxicating. Against my better judgment I felt a strong desire from someplace to accept the offer immediately. Drawn as a moth to a flame; hypnotized. Once again my shadow came to the rescue. It saw through the lies into the reality of the trap. He was stuck here on this side against his will. He would have to take his freedom by destroying the council and breaking whatever hold they had on him. I gathered my wits.
"Sorry. I’m not interested. If you’ll kindly reprimand Shugg’s master I’ll be on my way."
He snorted and flames shot out from his nostrils. His eyes burned with white heat and his wings unfurled. "You honestly didn’t think it would be so easy did you?"
"No, but I had hoped." I drew my sword and braced myself for what was next.

He rose off the floor and suddenly the suit was gone, replaced by black armor that refused to reflect light of any sort. His cane stretched into a spear which he handled effortlessly. The snake that pulled Shugg away came from nowhere to strike at me as the throng which surrounded us moved in. I severed it’s head and took the bleeding end in one hand. As they moved in I whipped the head around catching a few with fangs and more with my sword. This took them aback for the moment I needed to exude a web of force across the floor which trapped them where they stood. Their master was still hovering overhead, and he charged at once with overwhelming power and speed. The spear tore through my side and deep into the floor pinning me down, but my sword caught him across the middle and he pulled back momentarily stunned. It was enough. I threw my sword at him and it pierced his armor and sent him flying backwards.

From deep in my memory I began to visualize and give form to every sword that cut into me in the museum where I was killed. I knew each of them intimately and within moments each had stabbed them home and he was pinned to the floor just as I had been. Freeing myself of his spear took careful maneuvering. It was laced with charms and wards that demanded respectful attentiveness to prevent their release. When I was free I approached him slowly as his servants all howled in fury and frustration around us. My own weapons were holding him fast as he writhed in anger. I knelt beside him and looked into his burning eyes as I pulled my favored sword free.

"One last thing before I go. I’ve prepared something for you. Something that will keep you occupied while I’m away." I put a hand on his forehead and released a string of energy into his mind. It took all of my effort to put it there, but when I was finished I was greatly relieved. I wasn’t sure it would take. "There. Now every person you hurt, either directly or by way of an order to your subordinates will share their pain with you, but it will be greatly amplified. It’s a tricky spell. Don’t try to remove it. I won’t go into details about what could happen if you do, but I wouldn’t risk it."

I freed Shugg’s master long enough to dispatch him, then removed the web and the swords. "Your slaves are all free now." I shouted to the crowd. "Your hold over them is broken. Consider this a truce. Should any of you refuse my terms I won’t be as polite next time we meet." And with that I thankfully disappeared from that hellish place.

"So this is goodbye then." I sat in the room where I first sat and drank with Urimaru looking at the Pollock on the wall. Jerry and Urimaru were sitting across from me looking for all the universe like children losing their best friend.
"I can’t stay." I replied. "There’s something pulling at me from farther beyond. I can’t resist it and be content here." I reflected that I was feeling what Dio felt when he crossed over. He knew when his job was finished and it was time to move on to something else.
"It seems like you just arrived." Urimaru had a faraway look like he was remembering something from years before.
"We’ll meet again. That’s the way it works. When you’re finished here you’ll feel it too and you’ll follow me into the unknown."
"I wish you would reconsider. Think of what we could accomplish. You faced down the Prince of Darkness himself, or whatever he’s calling himself these days. In his own house no less. You could eradicate evil from this reality." Jerry desperately wanted me to join him and the council. He had been promoted, if that’s the word for it, and his authority and responsibilities were more far reaching than ever.
"No. It’s not for me. I think I would know if it was, but it isn’t. I’m not sure that I could or that I should for that matter. I’m not God, and I don’t want to be. You got along without me before, and you’ll do fine after I’m a memory."
"You mean a legend. What you’ve done since I’ve trained you will never be forgotten. They’re already writing songs and poems about you."
I cringed. "All the more reason for me to go now. I don’t want to be a living legend anymore. It’s embarrassing."
"After you go it will get worse. You have a fairly enormous cross section of willing followers who await your command. It’s going to effect us too. Once word gets out that I trained you I’m going to be busy. Everyone is going to assume I rubbed off some magic on you and try to get some of it for themselves." Urimaru suddenly looked tired and annoyed.
"Maybe you did."
We drank in silence for a while, then I stood up. "It’s time for me to go."
They shook my hand and wished me well, then walked me to the front door. I wandered down the path leading off into perpetual sunset. Off in the distance Bootman waited to escort me to the other side; into the Great Beyond.
© Brodie Parker Jan 13 2006
Begun May 10th 2004 - this Chapter December 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
Chapter Seventeen here
Chapter Eighteen here
Chapter Nineteen here
Chapter Twenty here

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