Sunday: September 4, 2016
Miles sat on the bedroom’s carpeted floor, legs folded Indian style, elbows resting on his knees, hands locked together in front of him. A young girl stood behind him, playing with his dark hair. “What style we going for today, Kare?” he asked.
“Mm… lots of little ponytails, I think. Just, like, all over the place,” the girl said.
Miles chuckled. “Of course. Have at it, then.” Karen Hawkes, only seven years old, was still young enough that she could see Miles while he presented himself in his human form, which is what he tended to remain in. He much preferred the fashion and personality that came with his human form to the utter nothingness that came with his black and silver smoky, spirited form, even when he was in Hell.
For all seven years of the young girl’s life, he had worked to keep her safe and protect her soul from any untimely doom. His boss, Fate, assigned him to the job the very day the child was born, and Miles had done everything he possibly could for her since.
Born with a rare and severe autoimmune disease, the child had always been at risk of dying long before her soul reached its official expiration date. It was Miles’s job to make sure that didn’t happen, for when a human died before their soul expired, it remained trapped on Earth for years upon years, living in pain and anger.
“How’s your pain today, Kare?” Miles asked.
“It’s okay. Daddy already gave me my meds and my shot,” Karen said. She combed her fingers through his hair, shaking her head almost distastefully. “Your hair’s gross, Miles. It’s all greasy.”
“Oh, sorry. I’ll fix that for ya, okay?”
Miles lifted a hand and snapped his fingers. His scalp warmed, the smell of mint enveloping them both. Karen giggled, pushing her fingers back into his soft hair. “Better?”
“Much.” Karen looked around the room for a moment before a frown formed on her little face. “Do you have any hair thingies?”
“Hold out your hands.” Karen did as told, and when Miles snapped his fingers this time, a pile of small, elastic hair ties appeared in her hands. She grinned, setting them on the footstool at her side. Miles looked down at his watch. He had to be in Texas for a harvest in an hour, but he was in no rush. For him, the trip between Seattle and Austin was nothing but a blink of an eye.
He figured that was an advantage to being an immortal being caught somewhere between Demon and Angel.
Karen looked back over her shoulder as the door to her room opened. “Hi, Daddy.”
“Hey, baby.” Ryan Hawkes stepped into the bedroom, a plate of apple slices in his hand. “Is Miles here?”
“Yeah! I’m doing his hair.”
Ryan smiled softly. “Sweet. You’ll do great, baby. Where is he? I don’t wanna set the plate on him.”
“You can just put it on his lap, Daddy. He’s right here,” Karen said, patting the top of Miles’s head. Miles closed his eyes, forcing himself to release the strength in his legs while summoning enough in his hands to keep him propped up on the floor. The plate touched the floor as Ryan set it down on Miles’s lap, a glaring chill ripping through Miles’s leg and snaking up his spine. As far as Ryan was concerned, Miles was Karen’s imaginary best friend. Since Ryan was too old to see him, doing everything he could to feed into that belief was his best option.
Or, at the very least, it was a better option than Ryan setting a plate down on what he would see as thin air and it… simply remaining there, floating.
“Make sure to eat, baby,” Ryan said, pressing a kiss to the girl’s temple.
Once Ryan left, Miles opened his eyes and picked up the plate. He allowed his strength to course back through his legs and set the plate down on his thigh instead. “Just tell me when you want a slice.”
On Earth, Miles tended to feel like a ghost. He was invisible to most people, and more often than not, people walked right through him. He was capable of disappearing between walls—he had even accidentally slipped through the floor once while Karen was combing his hair—and he could muster up the strength to let people touch him. This was what he did for Karen. Without the strength, her hands would slip right through his face, which was a sensation Miles had never quite enjoyed, to say the least.
“Apple,” Karen said.
Miles picked up an apple slice and held it back over his shoulder. Karen leaned down to grab it between her teeth. “Anything special planned today?”
“Daddy wants to go to the park,” Karen said after a moment. “The sun feels good most days.”
“That’s good. The sun’ll help you feel better, make you stronger.”
“I hope so. Daddy thinks it will, too. I don’t like feeling icky.” She held a hair tie on two of her fingers and gathered up a little section of Miles’s hair, promptly twisting the elastic around it. She giggled happily, tugging on the tiny ponytail atop his head to tighten it. Far too quickly, her laughter faded away. “Mom says the sun’s just the sun and it won’t do anything that the medicine hasn’t done. Am I gonna die, Miles?”
“I won’t let you.”
Miles caught sight of her pinky finger in his peripheral. He wrapped his pinky around hers. “Promise.”
Miles wrapped a hand around the man’s upper arm as he walked down the sidewalk. He had to take two steps to match every single stride of the man’s, but he did it without complaint for the whole ten seconds it took for the soul to disconnect from the rest of the body. Soulless, the man walked out into the street. A bus driver laid on his horn and slammed on the brakes, but it didn’t matter. It was designed by Fate. Nothing they could have done could have stopped it.
The man’s body crumpled under the force of the bus before it skidded to a stop.
“It can be alarming at first,” Miles said.
The man’s soul turned to stare at him. The hazy outline of all that remained of the man flashed between yellow and gray. Fear and confusion. Miles didn’t blame him. They usually came out fearful and confused or angry and looking for someone to blame. That someone usually ended up being Miles. He couldn’t blame them for that, either. “I don’t understand.”
“You’re dead, Gary,” Miles said. “I’m sorry. It happens when we least expect it.”
“What is…? What happens now?” the man, Gary, asked, his voice unsteady.
“Now you get to move on. I know what happened is hard, but now you get to leave Earth and move onto your Afterlife.” Miles laid a hand on Gary’s shoulder and turned him around. “That beautiful pink light over there?”
“That giant slit in the sky?” Gary asked.
“Yeah, that. That’s your happiness, Gary. Everything that ever made you happy is waiting for you there, in your own little world,” Miles said.
The yellow surrounding Gary’s soul faded, and bright orange quickly replaced it. Curiosity. “So I just… walk through it? And that’s it?”
“That’s it. Walk right on through there, and you get to be happy for the rest of eternity, Gary.”
“Thank you,” Gary whispered, looking back at Miles over his shoulder. “Thank you.”
Miles smiled softly. “It’s what I’m here for.” He squeezed the man’s shoulder. “Move on and be happy, Gary.” The man looked away from Miles and headed down the sidewalk. Miles watched Gary until he disappeared. The pink light dissolved in the sky after him, returning to nothing but a boring blue.
Miles turned around and walked the opposite way, away from the confusion and noise that arose as an aftermath of the bus accident. He pulled his phone from his pocket as it dinged, quickly stepping out of the way of a jogging man. The man’s hand still managed to slip through his chest. Miles shivered, rolling his shoulders back. He didn’t think he’d ever get used to that.
He unlocked his screen and opened the text message from his boss.
The F-Man: One of your souls dies within the next three days, no exceptions.
Miles stumbled, grabbing the signpost at the corner. His breath caught in his throat, and for a moment, he could feel his heart racing in his chest, even though it hadn’t beat even once in over a hundred years. He couldn’t allow those twelve words to come true, or he’d never be the same again.
He loved each of his three protected souls. Fate couldn’t just rip one of them out from under him now. He couldn’t!
Enjoying the story? Consider dropping a comment or a like down below!!
Love what I do and want to help support me? You can ‘buy me a coffee’ on Ko-fi!