Grace was led by the daemon through the long grass. They were heading to a long line of trees not far away.
The Daemon tugged at the snake that bound her hands and she stumbled forward, she scowled at the back of its head and sped up her pace and the snake slackened.
As she admired the glowing landscape she thought that this was not her idea of how the afterlife should be. The daemon had already told her this wasn’t heaven or hell, but what else could it be, a mixture of both? She thought of the other names for after death places, didn’t some people suggest a place called Purgatory or Nirvana? Grace didn’t claim to be an expert on these things. Purgatory sounded like a waiting room, and she was certain Nirvana was a rock band her father had once loved.
She half suspected that this was indeed a dream, but it was weird that she was aware of it. She remembered that it was called Lucid Dreaming, when you suddenly become conscious of the fact you are asleep and everything is happening in your head, however wasn’t she able to change a dream once she was aware of it?
She stared at the back of the daemon known as Legion, and imagined him shrinking to the size of a garden gnome, then they would see who would be treating who as a slave. Grace smiled at the thought of making the daemon hold a fishing rod and placing him by a pond. It would be the ugliest gnome in the world.
However the Daemon, annoyingly, refused to change.
Grace wondered what she was doing wrong, why couldn’t she control the dream?
When they reached the line of trees Grace saw that they bordered the bank of a small stream. The water was like flowing diamonds, as it too glowed with its own inner light. Grace fancied that she could dip her hand into, then draw out some of the most precious jewels imaginable.
They followed the water uphill, reaching a place where the water gathered in a small pond before continuing on. Waiting for them were three more daemons almost exactly like the one who had captured Grace. One had black skin just like Legion with the same rumpled muscular texture, the other two were white and smoother. They all had horns, which were more varied than Legion’s, and swept backwards from their heads at random angles. Some spiraled and others were etched with symbols and markings.
They definitely looked out of place in the beautiful world she now lived in. You could tell as you looked at them that the light shied away from them, and they never seemed to connect with the earth, plants and even the air.
Legion pushed Grace to the ground, and the snake extending from its hand to her arms unravelled and returned to the daemon, freeing her. The snake was sucked back into its arm like spaghetti slurped into a child’s mouth.
It seemed to glare at her, a very difficult expression considering it had no eyes, but the way it pointed its blank face and gritted its teeth meant that Grace still got the message, don’t run. She definitely wasn’t going to, she remembered the strength of the daemon when it had ensnared her around the leg, and she didn’t want to feel that kind of pain again.
She rubbed her ankles where they had been bound and was surprised to find the soreness diminishing fairly quickly, she checked her glowing skin and saw that there was no injury there. As she thought about the pain, she realised what she felt was more the memory of pain, as if by being attacked and bound she believed she should be hurt and therefore reacted.
She looked up at the daemons that were also looking at her. Their heads were leaning to one side as if studying this new thing before them. They also had no eyes, like Legion, just bulbous foreheads that gave the suggestion of eyes.
Grace looked away from them and twirled the remains of the man who had just ‘died’ in her hand. She had never seen anyone die before, the sense that something had gone from the world forever was a crushing feeling.
She presumed that somewhere, someone was sad about that.
“Too young to be a scientist, but she looks like she has a powerful soul,” one of the other daemons said.
“She’ll make a fine slave,” another commented. “You really are the best at tracking down souls Legion.”
“Where are the others Mhoro?” Legion asked, ignoring the compliment.
“Bound and secure, Multa and the others are bringing them over now,” the Mhoro daemon answered. “And, guess who we’ve caught? The Cavemen,” nodding to a ridge where another daemon was bringing more souls into view.
They were all bound like Grace had been, each tied up by the hands and led by a separate daemon, who smiled when it either prodded or pulled the people forward.
The other souls that where being herded down to the pond were the oddest collection of people Grace had ever seen.
The group could have been on their way to a fancy dress party.
They all shone like she did, but that was where the similarities ended.
Two were massive humans, at least eight feet tall. They wore clothing made from animal skins in various shades of brown or white, and their physiques were abnormal for a human. Their upper bodies were huge and lower limbs disproportionately small. They both had big beards and differed only in that one had a bulbous nose while the other had more common human features. They looked like apes, strategically shaved apes, that were almost human.
They scowled at the daemons and didn’t appear to be scared or surprised by the situation they were in. Grace's brow furrowed, "why aren't they freaking out?" she though to herself. "They were just dumb, stupid humans, who thought fire was hi-tech. Surely they should be grunting and hollering a the peculiar sights in front of them."
The third person was an old nun. She looked very stern and held her hands together in front of her as if she were praying. Her Habit billowed around her and she marched forwards, ignoring everyone except the daemon who was leading the group, who she fixed her gaze upon disapprovingly. Grace had the odd feeling that the nun was waiting for something, maybe a guardian angel to swoop down and slay the daemon for her.
The fourth person looked like a businessman; he was dressed in an immaculately pressed suit with shirt and a stylish tie. A small American flag designed as a pin was stuck in the lapel of his jacket. He reminded Grace of the stereotypical U.S politician. The politician looked confused, considering the way he was dressed he might have just visited the president of the united states and was now wondering why he was no longer in the White House and instead what looked like Africa. He occasionally glanced at a daemon and appraised them as if he recognised them.
When they were led closer they all looked at Grace and studied her as she had studied them.
The Cavemen seemed bemused by her clothing, the nun seemed to disapprove and the politician looked even more confused.
“Sit them down next to this one. Two more souls will arrive here soon,” Legion said indicating the immediate area around Grace.
When the two big cavemen were seated beside her they still towered over her. The one with the big bulbous nose looked down at her and smiled. It was a big broad smile full of friendliness, and teeth that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a hippo’s mouth.
Grace put on a fake, but large smile not wanting to upset this giant man.
“Me Grace,” she said to him in her best caveman.
The Neanderthal looked confused.
The caveman then turned towards Legion who was looking at him with a cheerful smile on its lips.
“Hello Legion,” the caveman said, strangely enough in a flawless British accent, Grace gasped in surprise.
“Hello Ug, we finally caught you,” Legion replied.
“I was asleep when your minions found me, it does not count,” the caveman called Ug replied.
“Still, your bound and a slave once more,” Legion countered. “It’s like the good old days when I had you slaving away in the mine, chipping away at rock day in day out, huh, great times.”
“Great times for you,” Ug said.
“Yes they were,” Legion said and smiled wistfully and gazing into the distance.
“I guess your pride is feeling much better today,” Ug said.
“It’s like your escape never happened.”
“I will escape again, I always do.”
“Those snakes binding you are a new breed, you can’t break them,” Legion replied.
“I say, they aren’t they, they did feel softer against my soul skin, very considerate of the daemons to make such comfortable bindings.”
“We try to make the experience as pleasant as possible,” the daemon said.
They both chuckled together for a few seconds, the caveman and the daemon as if they were bantering over a drink in the pub.
“I will still try,” Ug suddenly said.
“You will still fail,” Legion replied.
Both caveman and daemon appraised each other, their conversational sparring having ended.
“What are you doing this far down the Cradle Legion? You’ve never come this deep before, doesn’t your fortress feel very far away?” Ug asked.
Legion shrugged his spiky shoulders. “Sightseeing,” it replied.
“Come now, you’re searching for something.”
“Just piece of mind,” it replied.
“Legion he knows, we must end him,” a daemon suddenly piped up in a high pitched voice.
Legion sighed. “Shut up Multa, he doesn’t know anything, and it will stay that way as long as you keep your mouth closed.”
“We will escape,” the second caveman said in an equally posh accent as his fellow caveman.
“Og, you’re always so optimistic,” Legion replied. “You can’t break through our Snakes; you’re going to be our slaves, so why not start with a positive mental attitude,” Legion said in a sing song sort of voice, then strolled away, laughing.
The other daemon called Multa ‘glared’ at the caveman then walked away too, but it stopped as it passed by the politician. “How did you get here human?”
“Don’t speak to me Daemon,” the politician said.
“How did you separate your soul from your body?” Multa asked again.
The politician stood his ground. “I am a United States Senator, do not speak to me in that tone boy,” he responded in a thick southern American accent.
“You’re nothing here,” Multa said, and a snake extended from it's arm and it whipped the politician across his chest.
The Senator screamed.
Whatever the Senator was made off responded to the attack and his skin and suit opened up as if it had been slashed by a sword.
The daemons turned to watch this bullying, some smiled others remain impassive.
Grace expected blood to shoot from wound, but there was nothing, the cut just glowed extremely bright.
The politician fell to his knees in pain. “I’m better than you, and I will punish you spawn of evil,” the politician said.
Multa scoffed and struck him again, opening up a hole in his back.
“Multa, they’re valuable slaves,” Legion pointed out casually.
Multa looked ready to whip the man again. The openings in the Senator’s soul the daemon had created were stitching back together, healing the politician. Without creating any more, Multa obeyed its superior.
When it was out of earshot Grace heard the caveman called Og whisper to the one called Ug. “We are going to escape are we not?”
“Of course we are,” Ug said, Grace was astounded at the way these two Neanderthals talked. “We need to wait see what kind of souls they are after however.”
Ug looked around and noticed Grace looking up at him, listening to their conversation.
“Have you heard the daemons mention anything about souls?” he asked.
Grace didn’t answer she was still having trouble getting to grips with the fact she was talking to a caveman who spoke better English than she did.
Ug looked at his partner who was smirking at Grace’s reaction.
“Just arrived have you?” he asked her.
Grace snapped out of her trance. “Arrived?” she asked.
“From the Normal World, or the first world?” the caveman prompted.
“The Normal World?” Grace asked.
“I hate explaining these things, doing the induction for every soul who arrives here, we should think about distributing leaflets when new souls arrive,” Ug said to Og, who smiled.
“You experienced a traumatic event right?” Ug asked.
“I think so?” Grace asked.
“You have,” Ug said bluntly. “You are now in the Soul Life where your soul will now live.”
Grace realised she was talking to someone who had the answers to all her questions and began to focus. “I don’t understand I thought when I died I would go to heaven?” she said.
“Maybe you will, that’s not up you, but you have not actually died yet.”
“No, you see your soul has just been separated from your body,” Og said. “What happened to you?”
She didn’t immediately answer, she would feel stupid if she told him she just fell down some stairs because she wasn’t looking where she was going, and then Legion’s own words on the subject gave her an idea. “I was hit by a car,” Grace answered.
The caveman looked confused. “Is that anything like being hit by a rhino?”
Grace was confused now. “Well it hurt really badly and it damaged my body, I had a broken leg, the bone was sticking out of my skin and everything,” she answered, then cringed when she remembered seeing her body lying prone on the pavement and in a right mess.
“Were you unconscious?” The caveman said.
“Well it sounds like your body is in a coma, and the accident had knocked your soul from your body. Now the soul can’t survive without the body in the Normal World so when its gets separated it falls from the Normal World to this one, where it can survive.”
“So this is another world?” Grace asked motioning to the shining landscape around her.
“It looks so similar to the erm Normal Life,” she said deciding to use the terminology everyone else was using.
“The Normal Life doesn’t shine,” Ug pointed out.
“You know what I mean, the grass the water the sky,” Grace said.
“Well this planet is essentially the soul of the planet earth, so it stands to reason it would look roughly the same and all souls glow,” the caveman explained.
“Roughly the same?” Grace asked.
“Some parts represent different periods of the Earth’s past present and future. The Atlantic ocean is only two miles across here, Italy is no more than a shoe not a boot as most people expect it to be, Australia is two miles higher than it should be and Antarctica doesn’t exist yet,” Ug said citing a few examples.
“Wow,” Grace said, she would have to learn a whole new map."Wait the earth has a soul?"
"It's alive in it's own way, what’s your name?” Ug asked.
“Grace,” she answered.
“Well Grace, welcome to your new life, think of it a holiday from your normal one, things are very different here as you can no doubt see,” Ug said.
Grace looked away from the caveman and processed the information she had just received. She was in a completely different world. Everything she had left behind was far away and couldn’t touch her...it felt like the afterlife to her, which always promised to be a place where all worries were taken care of.
Her parents were far away, she wouldn’t have to listen to their arguments any more.
Her sister wasn’t here, no more looking after her.
She wasn’t going to have to go to school anymore, which meant no more confrontations with Sally the school bully.
Steven wasn’t here. She surprised herself by not shuddering at the memory, but she didn’t need to bury it, for some reason although it carried painful and unwanted thoughts, they didn’t seem to tear at her mind as they had once before.
She thought about him again, allowed herself a brief resurgence of those painful memories.
Those thoughts clung to her mind and she wanted to shudder then she tried to forget him and the memory faded quickly, it didn't hang on and infect her thoughts, here it faded away on command and she bottled him up once more. With far more ease than she could in the first world.
She really was free, there were no more worries.
Grace turned back to the caveman, “What do I do now?” She asked.
“Do?” The caveman replied.
“Well, where do I live, what do I eat, what now?” She asked.
“Fortunately you do not have to worry about shelter or food your soul does not require them. You can do whatever you want with this other life, just like you did with the last. Unfortunately you have fallen into the hands of the daemons who control most of this world.”
“Yes the fellas with the creepy smiles, they were here first and they run the show.”
Grace looked away and tried to assimilate this new information. She found it hard to believe that she was in another world, no one had ever told her about it before, was it a secret you learn of when you turned eighteen or something?
She looked at the pleasantly smiling caveman and then realised there was a question she hadn’t asked yet. “You’re a caveman?”
Ug laughed loudly at that statement. “I never lived in a cave,” he said.
“But you’re a caveman; humans like you don’t exist anymore.”
“I was separated from my own body more than seven thousand years before you were born.”
“You’ve been here seven thousand years?” she asked.
“No I’ve been here for at least fifty years and I’ve been the same age ever since I arrived, Souls don’t age here Grace; as long as you nourish yours properly you’ll be able to live here for a long time.”
“How can you live fifty years here, but were separated several thousand years ago?”
“There is no time here like in the Normal world, and souls pop up from various periods of history. While you’re here it’s like time stops in the Normal World so don’t worry about your body, it’s perfectly safe.”
Grace immediately started worrying about it, was it on its way to the hospital? Was it dying? Then she looked around the shining landscape and then went back to not caring, it was there she was here, who cared, not her.
“Ask him how he got separated from his body,” Og suddenly said and winked at her.
“Ignore him,” Ug said, with his shining face turning red.
How could Grace not ask?
“How did it happen?”
The caveman huffed and scowled at Og. “Sat on by a mammoth,” he said quietly.
“Sat on by a mammoth,” he repeated.
“She can’t hear you,” Og said in a sing-song kind of voice and smiling broadly.
“I was sat on by a mammoth,” Ug said in a normal voice hanging his head.
“How did that happen?” Grace asked, her mouth twitching as she tried not to smile.
“My clan used to hunt them, and one night I was given the job of chasing them to the cliffs where they would fall off and we would then collect the meat. One of them however made it to the cliff and even in the darkness it saw the drop and fell backwards in alarm. Guess who was right behind it when that happened?”
“Don’t worry at least your still alive,” Og said cheerfully.
“It’s not as bad as falling down some steps,” Grace said.
“You said you were hit by a car?” Ug pointed out.
Grace smiled sheepishly. “Sorry, falling down the stairs didn’t sound cool.”
“Falling into a coma is not cool,” Ug said.
“Almost dying is not cool,” Og pointed out.
“Oh right yes,” Grace replied.
“Judging by your clothes you came from the twentieth/twenty first century, better than the ones I’m stuck with,” Ug commented peering down at his animal hides.
“Hang on let me get this straight,” Grace said bringing the conversation back to the previous subject. “So about seven thousand years ago you used to run around on Earth?”
“But your soul was brought here?”
“But in the real world your body is lying under a mammoth waiting for you to return to it?”
“Yes and so is yours, probably lying in a hospital bed waiting for you, not under a mammoth.”
“So if I return to it, then I’ll be back to my Normal Life again?”
“How come you haven’t returned to your body?”
“I have a better life here than in the Normal One. For one thing I don’t have to worry about food or shelter,” the caveman said.
Grace didn’t feel that way; to her it felt as if she had just moved to some foreign country.
Ug looked down at the remains of the man she was still twirling around in her hand.
“Oh you’ve got a Soul Bone,” Ug stated.
Ug indicated the object in her hand. “That’s a Soul Bone the remains of a soul that died here.”
Grace looked at the bone in her hand. “A few minutes after I got here a man appeared, he grew from the ground, he then faded and became this. The daemon said he had died.”
“He has.” Ug said solemnly. “He failed to feed his soul when it was in his body, and when the soul came here the soul died,” Ug then appraised Grace in more detail.
“Don’t let go of the things that fed your soul Grace; it will help you while you are here,” Ug said, smiling another broad smile, if his beard had been white it would have been as if big nosed Father Christmas looking down at her.
“What feeds the soul?” she asked.
Og then nudged Ug and they both turned to watch the daemons who were getting worked up about something.
“More souls arriving no doubt,” Ug said. “Maybe we can finally learn what kind they are after. I’ll explain later” he said in answer to Grace’s question.
Before the caveman turned away from her again, Grace grabbed his massive arm. “How do I return to my body?”
The caveman pointed behind her then turned to the group of excited daemons.
Grace looked over her shoulder and saw the mountain of black stone she had seen earlier reaching far into the sky. She thought that it was further away than it should have been the last time she had looked at it. Legion had only brought her a hundred metres or so from where she had arrived in this crazy place, it should have been closer.
She blinked, then realised it had moved slightly nearer.
Grace didn’t understand what the caveman was talking about, so she got up to watch the souls form. She looked at the Nun and politician; they too were paying attention to the new souls arriving.
She watched as one soul blossomed out of the ground and formed a boy, who was probably only a year older than her. He was dressed in a mismatched collection of military uniforms. Patchy bits of stubble grew on his chin and his black hair curled around on top of his head. He wore a shocked look on his face. He then looked at the daemons and his jaw dropped.
“JINN,” he cried out.
Legion motioned with its hand and a daemon stepped forward. A snake whipped from its arms and bound the boy.
The boy spluttered incoherently.
A second soul erupted from the ground near the boy, whose mouth fell open again.
A man formed from the ground this time and he was dressed in a lab coat. He wore thick glasses and his chest had lots of muscle, but the rest of him didn’t. His arms and legs were stick thin.
“What happened?” the man said.
“This one is definitely a scientist,” Legion said.
“Scientist,” Ug whispered to Og who nodded.
“Bind him,” Legion ordered.
Another daemon’s snake wrapped up the scientist who collapsed to the floor in a whimper.
“What kind of discipline do you follow?” Legion asked.
“Sorry?” the man said.
Legion huffed impatiently. “Chemistry, biology, physics, what subject are you an expert in?”
“Bio-Biology,” the man replied.
“Excellent, he will go to the construction site,” Legion said.
“And the others?” one of the other daemons asked.
“To the mines or the fortress, I don’t care which, we don’t need them,” Legion replied.
“Now is our turn to make our move,” Ug said quietly, and he turned and nodded towards the nun.
The nun then spoke for the first time. “Which one have you chosen?” She said in an Irish accent.
“The idiot,” Ug said, and the nun nodded.
“We cannot escape from the snakes,” Og said, holding up his bound hands with the snake wrapped around them that were connected to a nearby daemon.
“Take out its master,” Ug said.
Og looked at the daemon binding him who was concentrating on the new arrivals, then smiled.
Og’s leg then lashed out into the daemon’s side. The kick was so powerful that the daemon flew through the air until the snake it was using to bind Og went taught and the daemon experienced extreme whiplash, crashing to the ground.
Grace yelped in surprise.
The snake loosened around Og’s arms just as Ug was taking care of his own daemon by head butting it fiercely in the face. The nun freed herself in a spectacular fashion as her clothes billowed around her then extended to wrap themselves around her binding daemon. The daemon struggled in the clothes, which constricted it until it ceased to move and the nun was freed.
“Molti!” Mhoro said as the nun crushed the daemon within her clothes.
All the other daemons were first shocked by their actions, but then rallied quickly.
Legion smiled. “Sleeping! Yeah right,” it said.
“You should have picked up on it quicker,” Ug said also smiling.
“Kill the cavemen and the nun, they’re more trouble than their worth, I don’t care about the others, but the scientist must live," Legion ordered.
The daemons extended snakes from their arms and prepared to face down the cavemen and the nun.
“Let’s have some fun,” Ug said.
Then he charged at Daemons.
And battle commenced.