Grace and the odd group of souls traveled across a vast plain. The Caveman known as Ug had told her they were heading for a river that cut through a great desert. They were going to follow the river in order to visit some 'experts' to help answer their questions and interrogate the daemon Multa more thoroughly.
Grace found herself getting tired and her skin became more and more transparent when she stared at it, as did the Senator’s and the boy’s soul. She had asked Ug why this was happening when she didn’t have a real body that could get tired.
“You’re still thinking like you’ve got a body, you don’t need food or water here you have to draw out your souls energy,” Ug replied.
“What does that mean? What do I eat?” Grace asked.
“It’s not really eating I suppose,” Ug said, “it’s more like encouraging your soul to stay healthy and strong, “ he explained.
“I still don’t understand,” Grace said.
“Your soul is a source of energy, but you have to draw it out to maintain this form. You will turn into soul bone if you don't draw out enough energy. If your soul becomes Soul Bone and you are dead when that happens, because at that point you can't consciously draw that energy out anymore, and you'll be stuck as Soul Bone,” Ug said.
"So how do you draw the energy out?" The boy walking behind her asked.
"It's kind of like willpower," Ug began, "In the first life you could run and run, but eventually you will get tired, but then you can still keep going. Somehow you can reach deep inside and pull out the energy to keep on running. It's like that with your soul, you may feel like you're tired but the energy is there if you want it, and with will power you can draw it out. It also helps to stop focusing the things you think you have to focus on if you had a body. Your body was simply a place for your soul to reside and drive. Here though you don't need to eat or drink so stop worrying about those things. With your thoughts no longer dwelling on them you'll find it easier to draw out your soul's energy."
Grace kind of understood what he meant. She looked away and breathed in, then realised that she didn’t need to breath, she knew she didn’t have lungs she was doing it on reflex, so she stopped. Nothing happened, she didn’t feel like her lungs were on fire or that her body was screaming for her to continue.
“I just realised that I don’t need to breathe,” she said looking up at the caveman and smiling.
Ug smiled back at her then raised a hand for them to stop.
"Look," he said and reached down."
He picked up in a giant hand several pieces of soul bone.
"These litter the cradle," he said, "people who came here and turned to soul bone almost instantly.
"A soul is eternal, even when reduced to soul bone. But it's like a star, some are brighter than others. You see in the first life you have a chance to feed your soul usually by in engaging in curiosity, learning and gaining experience. When your soul leaves your body it builds the forms you have now, but can only do so if your soul has that extra bit of energy to do so, a kick start, the bright kind of star.
"See these pieces of bone, more than likely as soon as their body died their soul came out like this and fell here like this. The dull stars, they couldn't build a form and so reduced themselves to bone."
Ug tipped the pieces of bone out his hand.
"You can draw more energy out of your soul to use here if you feed it with more curiosity experience, a desire to feel the world around you.
"But in a pinch you can also dream."
“Dream?” Grace said, “I thought I didn’t need sleep.”
“Don’t worry when the sun changes you’ll understand.”
Grace wasn’t immediately relieved by this news since the sun was right above them, it would be hours before sunset.
The group walked on for about an hour, then Ug called a halt to the march.
“What’s going on?” the Senator asked.
Grace knew they were up to something and she only understood what that was when the sun gradually stopped emitting black light and switched to white light shrinking and changing to become the moon. The entire landscape then started to dim and was no longer shining as bright as it had been when Grace had arrived in this world.
She was now looking at a world even more beautiful than it had been before. The moon was full and the stars were clearly shining behind it, more stars than Grace had ever seen in the sky before. The grassy plain had also changed and emitted a soft white light that sparkled when the grass was blown by the breeze.
Grace instantly felt better and less tired than she had been mere moments before, and as she drank in the view. However she wasn't drinking in energy instead she felt better inside herself and her soul brightened.
“It’s beautiful,” Grace said.
Ug smiled at her. “Feeling better?” he asked.
“Yes I am,” Grace said.
“That’s how you get refreshed and re-energized, feed your soul on the things it needs. I’ve been watching you while you’ve been walking, you’ve been distracted, thinking about something you left behind in the Normal Life,” Ug said.
“I’m thinking about my body,” Grace said.
“Not your parents or your friends?” Ug said.
“Yeah them too,” Grace added quickly.
“How far away is the mountain?” Ug asked.
Grace looked to the horizon and saw that the pillar of black stone was on the very edge of this world.
“Far away,” she replied.
“You’re conflicted, you’re still thinking about your Normal Life, but this place intrigues you,” Ug said.
Grace looked up into the kindly caveman’s face where two eyes and a nose were the only features she could see amongst the beard.
“How can I not think about my Normal Life? Why am I not trying to get back there?”
“It's like I said, there’s something about this place that intrigues you.”
She then realised what might be causing the conflict.
“How come you’re so strong?” She asked.
Ug smiled. “I am a big Caveman,” he answered.
“Yeah but your stronger than you should be, you threw that tree at Legion as if it was nothing,” Grace responded.
Ug just looked back at her.
“And what about me I can jump,” Grace said.
“So can I,” Ug replied.
“Not like this,” Grace said and she crouched then jumped, throwing all her energy into it.
She soared into the air and the group below shrank as she rose straight up, higher than a house and onwards till she must have reached the height of a ten story building, it felt like she was flying and it was effortless. She reached the full height of the jump and then fell. But the decent felt controlled, delicate and she landed on her feet and felt no injury as her legs bore the weight of her body and the speed of the fall.
Grace steadied herself after the jump, she was shaking, but not because of the impact, but because how terrifying the jump had been and how thrilling it was.
“You’re right I can’t jump like that,” Ug said.
“How can I?” Grace asked.
“Unique to everyone who comes here is a power or ability, something that epitomises their personality, kind of like your clothes.” Ug replied. And he motioned to Sister Mary whose habit was curling around her feet like an octopus’ tentacles.
“Personality?” Grace queried.
“Yes, I was a strong man in the Normal Life. I hunted large creatures, survived in harsh climates and I believed myself to be strong and that part of my personality came with me here.”
“So what makes me jump so high?” Grace asked.
Ug considered it for a moment. “Did you feel constrained in the Normal Life, like the world around you was too small?” Ug asked.
Grace thought about it. Constrained was most definitely the wrong word for it. Trapped would have been a better one.
Trapped in oh so many ways.
She remember how scary every day at school was, walking down corridors and feeling like everyone was judging her. Then she would bump in Sally Webb.
She was a mean girl, an absolute prima donna, caught up in her own stunning good looks and just had to let everyone else know who far beneath her they were. Grace always felt she was the only one Sally picked on and demeaned.
Every day she felt like begging her parents to keep her at home but they had their own problems. They fought constantly about everything, money, nights out, friends they only saw separately not together. Grace didn’t feel like she could talk to them about anything.
Her sister was also not someone she could talk to, she wouldn’t understand her anyway.
Her friends weren’t people she was going to open up to as well, it had taken ages to convince them to let her hang out with them, she wasn’t going to jeopardize that.
No she was trapped, her life was going to be this way for several more years of education, probably not university because her family couldn’t afford to send her.
Not long ago she had had a careers day at school and nothing had leapt out of her as being particularly appealing career choices.
And where would see go to get away from her past, from him?
Grace looked up at Ug who was still waiting for an answer.
She wasn’t about to tell him how she felt deep down. “Yes I did,” she answered. “Everything about my life was regimented and structured, money, popularity, unnecessary rules they were everywhere and it was so...boring.” She didn’t say what ultimately described her Normal Life, that it wasn’t going anywhere at all.
“Then I think your ability reflects that attitude. You desire to be unrestrained, and what could be more unrestrained than being able to leap around unheeded. I also bet there is more to your powers than just that.”
“I can do more?” Grace asked enthusiastically.
“Yes, but that is for you to discover.
Grace felt the pocket and realised that was where she had placed the Soul Bone of the man she had met when she had first arrived.
“Be careful with your powers they can kill you here if you’re not delicate with them. You draw energy from your soul to maintain your form, use too much energy to fuel your powers, your form destabilises. However the more you use them the easier to draw upon and like training muscles you get used to drawing the energy out. It's a delicate balance."
Grace looked into the sky and thought about how high she could go; she then turned to Ug and nodded.
They started a camp fire and tied Multa up a few metres from their little campsite. It had complained and screamed at them until Og punched its lights out again.
“Why do we need the campfire?” Grace asked, she hadn’t felt cold or hot since arriving here.
“Habit,” Ug said, “I always build a campfire when I stop for the night.”
“He’ll be out for a few more hours,” Og said returning from tying up Multa. "Those who need to dream should do so."
“Dream?” the Senator said. “I don’t feel tired why do we have to sleep?”
“I said dream not sleep, you’ll get bored if you don’t and boredom will kill you here,” Og replied.
“Dream? I thought this was a dream,” the boy said.
Ug looked at the boy “What’s your name?”
“I am Anas Abd-Al-Qadir,” the boy said.
“Well Anas this is not a dream it is as real as the life you did have. And dreaming is important here, more important than in the Normal Life,” Ug commented.
“Why is that?” Anas asked.
“In this Soul Life, there are no chores, very few meaningless distractions. However there are some and they build up in your mind like pure boredom, and boredom saps willpower and joy, it needs to be cleared out,” Ug said.
“Cleared out?” Anas repeated.
“Dreaming allows the mind to have some fun and it eats away at the boredom. For example we’ve done a lot of walking, a necessity for us to get about to each destination, but its mind numbing and repetitive. Those thoughts can fester and degrade a soul if not taken care of, the best way to do that is to dream.”
“It even happens in the Normal Life,” Og said.
“It does?” Grace asked.
“Here you don’t have to clean, sleep, do chores, wash up, etc, all the things that a necessary but boring. Tell me have you never felt the relentless pursuit of those endeavors to just wear away at the soul?” Og asked.
Grace had to admit to herself that yes they did.
“Dreaming gives the mind time to clear it so your soul remains strong,” Ug said.
“That and you will go crazy if you don’t,” Og added. “Marshmallows anyone?”
Grace, The Senator and Anas looked at him in confusion. “You said we didn’t have to eat here?” Grace asked Ug.
“You don’t, but it’s nice to remember the flavours,” Og said and he started handing out small balls of white marshmallow.
“S’mores! Where did you get these?” The Senator asked.
“I made them,” Og said and he held out his hand and clenched his fist. The light of his hand shone brighter and when he unclenched there on his palm was a marshmallow.
“How did you make that?” Grace asked.
“I made it out of me,” Og answered.
Grace dropped the marshmallow she was holding. “Yuk,” she said.
“What?” Og asked.
“I’m not eating you,” she said.
“Cannibalism,” Anas said throwing his food on the fire.
“Here it's just energy. Fine then make it out of yourself,” Og said, “See if I care,” and he threw the marshmallow he had recently created in the air and caught it in his mouth and chewed on it.
“We can create food?” Grace asked.
“Yes,” Og said, “just as your soul produced the clothes you wear you can form other things from it. But keep them simple, don't go creating cars or anything like that, you'll use up too much power too quickly."
“If it comes from us why bother creating it and then eating it?” the Senator asked.
“It’s the taste and the feeling that’s important,” Og replied. "It's about the reminding yourself of the taste."
“Show us how please,” Grace said.
“Put your palms together,” Og instructed and she and the Senator did, Anas just watched. “Then think of a food you want. Think about its texture, where it comes from, what it takes to grow or rear it, its taste and colour. You’ll then feel it growing in your hand, after a few seconds gently open your hands to let it form completely.”
“Why our hands?” Anas said as the Senator and Grace put their hands together.”
“You don’t eat with your feet do you?” Og said smiling.
“Of course I don’t,” Anas replied.
“There you go then,” Og replied.
Anas looked embarrassed.
Grace meanwhile held her hands flat and thought of chocolate. She thought about it growing as a coco bean, of it being added to milk and processed. She thought about its soft crumbly texture and its sweet taste and dark brown shiny surface when melted.
She then opened her hands.
And chocolate shot from her palms like a fountain.
“Aaaarh,” Grace called out and she closed her hands as the chocolate fell into her lap. The chocolate still flowed from her hands squirting out between her fingertips.
The two cavemen bellowed with laughter while Anas looked shocked and the Senator smirked and ate his hamburger that he had produced flawlessly from his hands. Sister Mary rolled her eyes.
“Make it stop,” Grace cried out.
Barely containing himself enough to talk Ug replied. “You have to stop it.”
Grace looked at him and saw no help there. She then concentrated on her hands and tried to forget or push out of her head the memory of chocolate. She closed her eyes and emptied her mind. And when she opened them she saw that the tide of chocolate had stopped. She felt exhausted.
She looked down at herself and saw that her shirt and Jeans and shoes were covered in chocolate, however it was slowly fading and was being re-absorbed into her again.
Her hands though maintained their covering of chocolate and there was so much of it, it was like she was wearing chocolate gloves.
Grace licked her hands and it tasted great, like Easter egg chocolate, which for some reason was always the best in the world.
“Yum,” she said and then as she saw everyone watching, she burst out laughing as well.
This is such a great place, she thought, and those worries she had listed beforehand were forgotten once more.
Miles away Legion trudged wearily across the sunny landscape. When the sky darkened it looked up and watched the process of day turning to night.
“Night time,” it said to itself, and the daemon stared at the stars for a good long while.
It then walked on dragging behind it, using its snakes, the daemon called Mhoro who had been knocked out by Ug and his band of souls. The skins of the other daemons they had destroyed were draped over Legion’s shoulders, they could still be used.
Legion walked for a few more hours then stopped when it reached the desert where the greatest river in the world was.
Waiting for Legion was its current Daemon Lord, who it was seconded to for this operation.
“What happened Legion?” The smiling Daemon Lord asked.
When it talked it spoke from one of the two mouths it had, it only opened the other on special occasions.
“The Cavemen and the Nun fought us in the Cradle,” Legion reported. “We managed to find some new souls, but they were rescued by the City Souls.”
“The Nun?” its master said, sounding a little shocked by the news. “Did they free any souls we needed?” it then asked.
Legion clenched its jaw and froze the few features on its face that it did have. It was glad that it had no eyes that might betray it when it lied and said. “No Lord, no scientists.”
Its Lord looked away, musing on the information. “That is not too disappointing or a great loss,” it said.
Legion looked over its shoulder at its crushed and destroyed companions, No great loss? It thought.
Legion turned back to its Master then braced itself. “They did however capture Multa,” it reported.
The smiles were gone and its master opened its second mouth.
Legion was enveloped in purple and white flame and thrown through the air landing in a crumpled, but warm heap some twenty feet away.
“That is disappointing however,” its master said.
“My Lord I am sorry,” Legion said picking itself up with smoke rising from its burnt body. “If I could return to the fortress to heal my Daemons I will then set out after them, I think I know where they are heading.”
“Multa must be rescued or the Humans might find out what we are planning. You will pursue them now!”
Legion opened its mouth to respond but thought better of it as its burnt skin caused it all kinds of grief. It instead unleashed its snakes grabbed its daemons and started trekking out across the desert pulling them behind it.
“Don’t come back without Multa,” its Master called out after it.
Legion grumbled to itself as it walked through the sand and tried to think of a way it could fill the skins on its shoulder again, it was going to need all the help it could get against the Cavemen and the Nun.