Elementals-Chapter 10

From: Cheryl Baumgartner(C Baumgartner, Posted Date: Oct 22nd, 2011

The rushing and the bright light engulfed him again.  But this time something was different. 

            Benai tried to stay focused on his new form and where he wanted to awaken, but the pulling took him in a different direction.  It was much colder, louder, and the light faded more quickly.

            Is this the true end?  Have I run out of lives?

            “No, you haven’t run out of anything” said a cheerful man’s voice. 

The next thing the man said was drowned out, literally, by water flowing over Benai’s head.  He scrambled to his feet, coughing and sputtering.  With great dismay he noticed that this bedraggled body was his own, he hadn’t been able to change this time.  And where in the Gods’ names was he?  This was not the inside of Duke’s city where he had hoped to return.  He was knee-deep in….an ocean?  On a beach?

“Yes, isn’t it tranquil?” said the voice.

Benai searched the beach for the owner of the voice, but finding no one there, he turned out towards the water.

A man stood on the water, smiling and waving.

Wait, ON the water?

Sure enough, his boots made little ripples in the surface but did not go below it.  He was dressed all in white, a casual tunic and trousers under an ankle-length trenchcoat.  His face was handsome and kind, with bright hazel eyes under dark brows, and short salt-and-pepper hair.

He walked toward Benai, creating more ripples.  Benai backed away, up onto the beach, noticing that he didn’t have any of his usual weapons on him.  No, of course not, the last body you had was the black-clad assassin, who only had the brace.  You’ve lost that form.

“Who are you?” he growled.

“People used to call me Raim” the man said, stepping onto dry land in front of Benai, “But I really don’t have a name anymore because I never go to the living places.”

Benai remained wary.  Raim chuckled, a deep, raspy, whole-hearted laugh.

“I suppose I should explain a little bit better.  You might say I’m the ringmaster of the cycles of life you’ve seen and experienced.  I decide when and where the life essences of people who perish here will be resurrected.  I allow them to remember themselves or not each time.  But more importantly, I am the judge of whether people belong on the planet you call “Fire” or the one you call “Water”.”

“You mean, you’re Death?” Benai asked.

“Glad you’ve decided to join the conversation.”  Raim winked.  “Not Death in the sense that you mean.  I don’t determine when and how people die, humans are far too good at choosing that themselves.  I simply give them a path to follow afterwards.  So, I’m actually more a force of life.”

“What is this place?  I’ve never seen this before.” Benai glanced around at the endless expanses of sand and water.

“Oh, this is where I bring certain life essences when I find it difficult to decide where they should go.  Some people are quite the mixed bag of good and evil you know.”

“Let me guess, the evil ones go to Fire and the good go to Water?”

“Can’t put anything over on you, can I?” Raim grinned.

“So what do you want with me?” Benai asked, still suspicious, “I’m sure you don’t need help deciding where I should go.”

“Oh you’re a very special case, Ben.  I’ve been watching you most of your life.”

“Why?”

“My, you are nothing but questions.” Raim laughed again.  “It’s quite true that you’ve committed far too much evil in your living time to ever be able to get to Water.  But I can see to it that that will be your only limitation.”

“Meaning?”

Raim sighed.  “Meaning that, if you accept my offer, you will have almost absolute power.”

Getting tired of asking questions, Benai just folded his arms and waited to Raim to continue.

“Haven’t you noticed that everyone you’ve ever loved has died an untimely death, either directly as a result of your actions, or simply for being associated with you?”

Benai narrowed his eyes.  He brought the major chapters of his life out of his memory.  The first death he’d ever seen was the stranger in the forest, killed by the assassin.  Instead of being horrified like Danik had been, he was actually intrigued and had wanted the murderer to show him how it was done.

Then, he had loved Klea.  A silly teenage crush, but love of a sort.  She had died because of the actions of Danik and Benai after her rejection of his gift. 

His beloved Sarni, the first woman who had truly loved him in return.  He’d tried not to blame himself for her death, but it had been his child that had ended her life in a pool of blood and pain.  He caressed the necklace she had given him, which he still had never once removed.  The sphere in its gold setting was as familiar to him as his own skin.

Benai’s father had been claimed by a deadly plague in his village.  Danik had been personally responsible for the death of Benai’s mother at that very same moment.  But he would not have targeted them at all as an act of vengeance if Benai hadn’t been there himself.

 And Vila, his sweet little girl.  It would seem to have been a random act that killed her, just where the Divine Order had struck first on his planet.  But he could have already had her on a shuttle and not in school at all.  He could have saved her.

Benai stared at Raim.  “Why did they all die?”

Raim was serene.  “Because you are such a powerful being.  Mortals simply don’t have the existential stamina to stay alive around you.  Whether you intend it or not, death has been following you since childhood.  Death craves power in the living world, and you have provided that.”

“Yet you offer me more power?” Benai asked, staying composed as a sheer act of will.

“I have not encountered anyone more worthy to replace me than you Ben.  And I’ve been searching for a very, very long time.”

“Replace you?!”  Benai actually found the ability to laugh at this statement.

“Absolutely.  I’ve grown tired of my role and would like to end it.  The only way to do that is to find someone else willing to take the position.  You would have complete control over the fate of everyone from the living world, after death.”

Benai raised his eyebrows, then chuckled again and shook his head.  “No, thank you.  I’ve got far too many important things to do as a human.  Why don’t you just take the next runner-up.”

“That would be Duke”

Benai nearly choked.

“Yes, I knew that idea wouldn’t go over too well” Raim winked.  “You can either accept this proposal or it will be offered to him.  It would be just awful if he had that kind of power, wouldn’t it?”

Raim’s face had darkened as he spoke.  Now, his expression was no longer kind, but full of malice and manipulation.  Benai fought the urge to attack the other man, as it would be a futile waste of energy.

“Why did Danik not die with the rest of my “associates” before we ever got to Fire?” Benai was practically growling.

“Everyone in power must have an enemy of equal ability, an opposing force to keep you creatively on your proverbial toes.”

Benai snarled.

“I never said you couldn’t still have a human existence.  You would simply have a second incarnation here, as judge and jury for the departed.  The control you’ve been learning over your own resurrections would be perfected and you could do anything, be anyone, anywhere, on Fire.”

“But not Water……”

“No” Raim looked truly disappointed.  “Like I said before, your human life was full of too many evil deeds for that to be possible.  But you’ve already created a way to get there that has nothing to do with resurrection, so you can still conquer and pillage to your heart’s content.”

Yes, the balloons.

Benai took a deep breath and turned away from his companion to hide the conflict he was facing.  He didn’t want this responsibility, but he could not allow Duke to have it either.  And he could certainly use it to his advantage.

He turned back to Raim.  “I accept”.

Raim burst into hysterical laughter.  He said nothing, but his mirth got louder and louder until it was almost a scream of merriment, and Benai had to cover his ears.  Then, Raim exploded into a white cloud of mist, hovering just inches above the sand.  The shrieking continued as the mist flew straight at Benai, penetrating him, ripping him apart, filling him with razor-sharp ice and molten fire at the same time.

Then, blackness.