Grace recoiled and crawled away from the creature.
“Wh-what are you?” she asked.
It withdrew its arm and 'stared' at her, cocking its head to one side as it did so. It wasn’t actually looking at her; it had no eyes on its face, just a mouth full of sharp teeth and two slits for nostrils.
“I am a Daemon,” it said. “How did your soul get separated from your body?” it asked, its voice hissing on the appropriate syllables.
Grace didn’t answer, she looked at the creature taking in its awful appearance. It was naked, but it didn’t have anything to hide so that didn’t matter. Its skin was charcoal black and had the texture of a wet, discarded bin bag. Claws extended from its hands and feet. A single horn swept back from its forehead with two more curvy ones sprouting from where it's ears were.
It didn’t shine like the rest of the world around her, it was like the world's worst photo-shop. Grace's skin crawled just looking a it.
“How did your soul get separated?” it asked again.
The question seemed absurd to Grace, she wasn’t actually sure what it was talking about.
“Disease? Murder? Was it an accident?” the creature asked with absolute seriousness in its voice.
The questions weren’t registering with Grace she was still shocked by the daemon's appearance.
“Was it a car? Lots of you humans end up down here because of cars; I wonder sometimes why you have them at all,” the creature said.
She then realised what it was talking about. “I fell down a flight of steps,” Grace said, and she stood up feeling the need to suddenly run away.
The creature roared in anger and she had barely gone three steps when something caught her ankle, and she tripped and fell to the floor, crushing the long grass beneath her.
She looked down her leg and saw that a long, thin snake had coiled its head around her ankle like a whip. The snake had extended out from within the daemon at its wrist.
“Don’t run, you belong to the daemons now,” the creature said who held the snake at its tail.
“Who are you?” Grace asked.
“I am Legion and I am one of many, so do not think you can easily escape from us,” Legion replied.
Grace didn’t say anything. The daemon tugged on the snake wrapped around her leg and then yanked hard. The daemon had phenomenal strength and to Grace it felt like her leg was being torn off as she was dragged towards it.
“Aaaarrrhhhh,” she screamed and held her leg around her knee where it was the most painful. The daemon grabbed her arm and lifted her to her feet.
“Is this hell?” she asked in fear.
The daemon 'looked' straight at her and she recoiled at its visage.
“Or is it heaven?” she asked.
The daemon laughed. “They always ask that,” it said in mock amusement. “Neither, welcome to the Soul Life, the place your soul is drawn to whenever it gets separated from your body,” it answered.
Legion sighed. “I hate explaining this to every human that comes along, it’s always the same old questions,” it said, and then its head flicked to one side like it had spotted something. “Luckily for you I don’t have to explain, look over there, seeing a soul arrive is quite exotic.”
Grace followed its gaze. It dropped her to the ground and went to a spot a few metres away. The snake, still connected to the daemon wrapped itself around both of her legs to bind her.
What she saw was like a flower growing super-fast. Light emanated out of the ground from a spot no bigger than a pin head. The light blossomed up, forming shapes, which eventually became limbs.
“Human souls are beautiful,” the daemon said standing right next to the rising light and admiring it.
“What is it?” Grace asked.
The daemon sighed again. “Why do they not pay attention, I’ve never met a human who just listens,” it said to itself. “I just said it’s a soul didn’t I,” it then added.
Vines of light erupted from the pin point on the ground, and then wrapped themselves around the human body that had grown up from there. There was a dazzling flash and when it subsided there was a man standing in its place.
He shone just like Grace did. The colour of his tweed clothes and his skin and eyes were pale because of the white light from his body. The man blinked in surprise at what he saw around him. He had thinning white hair and glasses perched on his crooked nose, he looked like a university professor.
“That’s how you arrived,” Legion commented looking at Grace.
Its voice drew the professor’s attention and he yelped when he saw the daemon and quickly stepped backward tripping over as his feet caught one another in his panic. He fell to the floor and backed away on all fours.
“How did your soul get separated?” The daemon asked the man.
The man spluttered.
“Hmm no colour to your soul,” the daemon mused looking the man up and down. “You won’t last long,” it said bluntly,
He then turned on his heels and came back over to Grace.
“I..I,” the man replied. “I died.”
“No you didn’t,” the daemon said. “Let me guess, erm, teaching you're in teaching.”
“What?” the man said.
“Or maybe a vicar, you do look church or England. What did you believe in?” The daemon said.
“I died didn’t I?” the man asked, ignoring the daemon’s questions.
“No your soul was knocked out of your body and when that happens they tend to come here.” The daemon looked the man over again. “Hmm, not a religious person at all, your favourite clothes are more academic - smart, early 20th century. Lecturer or at least a philosopher, weren’t you?” The daemon said.
At that remark the man seemed to snap to some type of attention. “I was a philosopher.”
"Tell me what did you believe in?" Legion asked.
"I didn't believe in anything."
“Wrong choice,” the daemon said.
“I should have been a priest?” The man said with a sneer.
“Depends on which kind, but generally they don’t survive either.”
“Survive?” the man said.
“Your body is in the First World right now and your soul has come here, but it has no colour, very little energy, it’s going to die here,” the daemon said. “Which is almost as beautiful to watch as it is being born? Tell me how your soul got separated before that happens please, I would like to know.”
“I was hit by a car,” the man said.
“Car?” the daemon, repeated. “What are these cars? I meet so many souls who are sent here by those things,” it said.
“This is a dream,” the man said. “This isn’t real.”
“It is very real, your body is in coma in the first world, or normal world in your case and your soul is here. However since it’s now going to die, that’s not going to do your body much good, it will die in the Normal Life too,” the daemon said.
“What’s going on?” Grace asked looking at the daemon.
“Watch,” the daemon said, nodding at the man.
Grace looked and saw that the light that emanated from him was dimming.
The man collapsed to his knees as if he had just had the wind kicked out from him.
“What’s happening?” Grace asked.
“He didn’t feed his soul while it was in his body now it’s dying,” the daemon said. “Your soul is strong you fed it well, you will have a life here, but he won’t, his existence is about to cease. I have met so many atheists and 'Religious' humans they believe in science and their holy traditions, but these things do not feed the soul. Real faith, embracing the world and living a free life you enjoy - feeds the soul. Without that, it can’t survive,” the daemon said. “I’m glad you got to witness this,” it added nodding to the man, but still talking to Grace. “Then I don’t have to explain what happens next.”
The man gasped and fell onto his stomach, he began crawling over to them and with every yard he managed to pull himself forward his body grew dimmer. Patches of him disappeared and in the end he couldn’t move as his legs and arms vanished completely.
Grace turned away as his torso lay there, tears welled up in her eyes, she wanted to help, but what was happening was so awful that she felt numb.
The daemon bent down until its mouth was next to her ear. “Many things in the Normal Life can knock your soul from its body and your soul...” and it grabbed her hair and ran it through its fingers causing her to shiver involuntarily. “...Which is what you are now, lives on here as long as it was well fed in the Normal World. Welcome to your Soul Life, you should be honoured, not many experience the privilege of being here. Not that you will consider it a privilege for much longer.”
Grace turned back to the man. His head was turned away and he was crying. “Someone please help me,” he said, and Grace had the feeling he wasn’t talking to her or the daemon.
What was left of the man then shrank, like a slowly deflating balloon, getting smaller and smaller until what was left was a thin piece of what looked like bone. It had no defining shape it was uneven and the size of a battery.
Grace reached out slowly and picked it up, it was warm to the touch.
“Get up; there will be no more souls arriving here,” the daemon said and pulled her up off the ground.
She continued to stare at the place where the man had been.
“Brighten up,” Legion said mockingly, and then dragged her away.