2.5 - Ryth: Rehabilitated

“As an Orc we're told how much better than humans are. Better than anyone really. We held the world at our mercy, the fiercest warriors anyone has ever known. There is no way in hell we could be brought down by some human drug,” he pauses. “PCP, is no normal drug. When I first got introduced to PCP I witnessed some friends take it before a big football game. We're Orcs but damn, those humans make some fun games. “ He pauses for a laugh, and to gather his thoughts. 

“Well, they told me it made you faster, stronger and just all around better.” The Orc gets choked up, a rare sight, but he takes a deep breath and forces himself through it. “I felt invincible, as if nothing could stop me. The Gods had come to this realm and blessed me with the power that none could grasp before. I thought, no I knew, this is how my ancestors felt when they conquered four continents. This is how they felt crushing their enemies beneath their feet. I felt as if I was the monster Orc people tell their children stories of. The Orc that ground bones into dust, and baked bread. I could not be stopped. Then one day, I stopped playing football. I was just me.”

He looked away as an elf rubbed his back gently. “Even without the need, I still felt the power calling to me. I still needed to be that monster. I kept taking the drug, and I needed bigger doses to feel the same levels. I remember on one occasion, I broke into an old woman’s,” he looks down and gently bangs his fist on his head. “I wanted to take her crystal ball, because I knew I could get money for it. What I didn’t know is her husband was home. She screamed, I panicked. I could have ripped her head off, I probably was going to. Her husband came around the corner firing. He hit me six times, but I was so fucking high I didn’t even notice. I dived out of a fourth story window to get away, broke both ankles and just kept running until I couldn’t run anymore.”

“When I woke up in the hospital they had taken part of my intestines,” the orc lifts his shirt displaying a gnarly scar and sagging flesh across his abdomen. “My ankles are some kind of metal alloy now, can’t even get through an airport. I’m strapped to a hospital bed with a catheter all the way up my schlong and all I wanted to do was get high. I rubbed my wrist against the restraints until they were bloody enough to slip free,” he holds his wrists up displaying more scars. “I rolled out of bed, and crushed my implants because I was trying to get high. Then I tried to crawl out of the hospital. As they fought to hold me down, I cried. I cried because they weren’t letting me get my fix.” 

“I saw my mother in the hallway, and that’s when I quit fighting.” He wipes a single tear, “that’s when I realized just how messed up I was. I really was a damn addict, a junkie. A disgrace to what it meant to be an Orc, I had brought shame on my clan name. That’s why I’m here, because I pissed away my whole life with PCP,” the Orc takes a seat as others applaud him.

“Thank you for that,” Michael brings us back onto topic after a few minutes of comforting to our new member. “As you all know Rythe is going to be leaving us soon. He’s been here a few times around, but this time is going to be the last time we see you right,” he gestures to me.

“I won’t tell that lie. Addiction isn’t something you beat, it’s an everlasting disease,” but I’m not an addict. “It doesn’t matter if I’m clean now, every day I’m going to hear the call. It’s my job to not pick up that phone. Unfortunately, I’ve picked it up too many times before. Just can’t seem to block the calls. So I’m leaving here today, clean. I’ve done this three times before, but hopefully it sticks. Still, I can’t promise I’ll never get high again. I will say, don’t follow in my footsteps.”

“Wow, that was great. Thank you Rythe,” Michael motions for me to sit back down. 

Outside of our therapy session Michael stops me, he gives me the same speech I’ve heard many times before. Just because I’m discharged from the rehabilitation center, doesn’t mean I can’t continue therapy. They’re all here for me. I don’t have to go through this alone. The fact is, I don’t really care. You’re born alone, live alone and die alone. Addiction is no different. I stand in the therapy and say I’m an addict, and I need help. I tell some fake stories about what I’ve gone through and then they cry while I stand stone faced. 

I’ll be back here, my job forces me to come. They say my work performance is slipping because of addiction. They’ve never seen me addicted, or without drugs in my system. The way this country perceives people with addictions or even people who might have one is disgusting. They’re treated like criminals who are nothing more than a burden on society. None of these people have done anything but become victims of circumstance. Instead of giving them real help, we’re all locked in a building and do team building exercises. We’re supposed to be one big family helping each other out now. A team, nor a family, can stop you when you’re staring down your next hit.

Am I rehabilitated? As rehabilitated as you can be when you’re not an addict.

2.4 - Ci-Ci: Brotherly Love

A knock came at the door, close to eight at night, strange hour for a visitor. Maybe they’ve got the wrong house, still they just knock harder. I slowly creep around the furniture, making my way over to the peephole. Outside the door is Jonah, my brother in law. Almost as angelic as Justin. He’s got a temper, but he’s dedicated his life to hunting down missing people. I hadn’t heard from him in months. After Justin’s death we drifted apart, both of us reminding the other of the missing bond. 

“Hey, little late for a house call,” I smile and let Jonah in. 

“Sorry for dropping by so late,” he lightly touches each of my cheeks with his own. “Couldn’t remember where the house was from the ground. Had to wait until night so I could fly unseen.” 

“Too good for a car like the rest of us,” I joke. 

“That’s why I ride a motorcycle. Next best thing to flying.” 

“You should try Mercedes,” I let him inside. 

“You should try flying,” he takes a seat in what grandpa would call the good chair. 

One thing Jonah did have over Justin was a sense of humor. Three jokes and Justin might not talk to me for the rest of the night. Jonah could go back and forth with me all night if either of us was drunk enough. We used to drive Justin insane which is why he always made sure we wouldn’t be in the same spot with an open bar. We had some really good times together. 

“What made you stop by,” I ask? 

“I’ve been having a tough time. It’s the anniversary of Justin’s death. I made it through these last few, but this year just feels really hard,” he tilts his head back and stares into the ceiling. 

“I know the feeling, even now I’m so used to him doing certain things for me that I just expect it. I ran out of gas so many times after his death. I just expected him to fill up my car,” I shake my head at myself. 

“Cars need gas Ci-Ci,” he brings his head back to the conversation. 

“And we need Justin,” I add. 

“Miss him every day. We were twins, not identical, but he’s still like my other half. I mourn him every day.” 

“You won’t have to for long,” I keep my head down.  

“What are you talking about? I’ll mourn my brother forever.” 

“Not if he comes back,” I try not to play my hand too much. 

“There is no force on this planet that can pull his soul back from the heavens.” 

“What if his soul never left?” 

“What did you do,” his tone quickly shifted, a hint of rage. 

“I saved him,” I produce the diamond from my purse. 

The diamond had grown to become the size of my fist after finally capturing the entire essence of Justin’s soul. Sitting there in the center of the table we both stared at it. The man we had both loved was gone, yet his was sitting right in the middle of my living room coffee table. I had already come to accept it, but Jonah was in shock. He was clearly having some issues accepting the whole situation. 

“You can’t do this,” Jonah breaks the silence. 

“I can, I’ve studied it over and over again.” 

“No, he’s my brother. You shouldn’t have done this. You shouldn’t have done this.” 

“What was I supposed to do?” 

“Let him die.” 

“How could you be so cold,” I ask shocked by his answer. 

“We all have a time to die and we can’t always decide when that is,” he argues. 

“What would you have done if the love of your life was dying in your arms?” 

“I’m going to make us some tea,” I excuse myself while he sits in silence. 

I’ll give him some time to come to terms with what’s going on while I brew the tea. I probably should have told him sooner.  I can’t blame him for being upset with me. How could I? I trapped his brother’s soul here on Earth. I don’t get why people can realize what I did was for the greater good. I would have never done something like this if I had nefarious purposes. 

I hear a crash and rush back to the living room. Jonah is already gone, door wide open. Where my coffee table once stood is a pile of wood. Atop it sits the remnants of a smashed diamond. The pieces slowly shrinking as Justin’s soul leaves them behind. I know he disagreed with me, but I couldn’t believe he would go this far.

2.3 - Ci-Ci: Crystallized Soul

I stare into the small diamond that holds Justin’s soul. If I had time to prepare, I could have gotten a sapphire and used that. Typically, they last much longer than diamonds. Diamonds are for quick usage, if they’re used at all; I’m surprised this one managed to hold onto a soul for so long. 

The night Justin died was Halloween, but we weren’t passing out candy to neighborhood kids. Instead we were trying to hunt down a child vampire. He had been turned by accident and clawed his way out of the grave. Nobody wants to stake a child, and we didn’t intend to. Justin had this idea of turning the kid over to a group of benevolent vampires we knew. He had hoped they’d take care of the kid and give him a safe home where he could learn that slitting throats wasn’t the best way to feed. 

We thought we had the kid cornered; I can still hear Justin screaming. I thought he was telling the kid to back down, or leave someone alone. I rounded the corner and there he was, body covered in what looked like tab wounds but no knife was anywhere near and they were deep. I did what I could with magic to seal up his wounds, but it just wasn’t enough. I knew he would die, without ever waking up to give me his last words. There was no one around, and I didn’t have time to go looking for a killer that didn’t leave any obvious evidence.  

I rushed him home as fast as I could and skimmed through my spell books as fast as I could. I knew regular medical treatment wouldn’t be enough. In the end, I couldn’t find any solution that would heal him, or even wake him up. In the end I found a spell that could trap a soul inside of a gemstone. I broke the diamond from my wedding band, and cast the spell. At first, I didn’t think it worked, as his body was still there, breathing as if nothing was wrong. But it did, slowly the gem began to change over time. Grow a little bigger to encase his soul, the color changed from almost crystal clear to a bluish hue, the color of his soul from what I understand.  

This little shop of oddities is what helped me understand what I had done. For now, his soul isn’t free to pass on from this Earth. Heaven, Hell, Anubis, or whatever waits after this life is out of reach for him. I feel bad for trapping him there, but it was for his own good. With time drawing closer, I need to get a husk, and the shop has just what I’m looking for. 

Madame Griselda’s is a mess on the inside. Magic tomes placed on shelves with no common theme, trinkets alongside real ingredients. From what I was told Madame Griselda died long ago, and the shop just remained in the family, although the current owner doesn’t have much interest. I rummage through unaided by the shop keeper, a young man with dyed white hair that I don’t recognize from any of my previous visits, likely a new hire.  

I know exactly what I’m looking for, a premium husk. A dehydrated human, almost like a mummy, almost like beef jerky. Organs and everything else is intact. They’re classic dark magic, murdered through a spell that turns their bodies into these forms. The soul leaves the body after death, but the body can be brought back with the right spell. From there, you can place any soul you want inside. Doesn’t matter what kind, human, animal or something else. I choose the husk labeled “male” and make my way to the front counter.  

“You don’t want that,” the boy says to me. 

“Excuse me?” 

“Those things, they never turn out how you expect.” 

“I know what I’m doing,” I don’t. 

“I don’t think you do.” 

“And you do?” 

“No, that’s why I leave them alone,” he rolls his eyes as if he’s just said something brilliant. 

“So you know even less than me. Thank you for your insight,” I bow. 

“Look, if you don’t believe me, that’s fine. But, go down to the Shadow Realm tonight, and take a look. They mess with dark magic all the time. I heard they’re doing a revival tonight. Go check it out if you think I’m lying,” he’ sincere. 

“Sure, I’ll check it out,” I won’t. 

“I don’t believe you.” 

“Just wring me up so I can be on your way. Once things leave this shop, it isn’t any of your concern what happens. On top of that, I used to work as a cashier. You’re not even supposed to comment on what a person is buying.”  

“Fine,” he says typing into the register and taking my card. “But don’t say I didn’t warn you when some kind of twisted monster returns begging for death.”  

That young man is barely old enough to be a little brother to me. I know he only has my best interest at heart. The world needs more people like that. People who care about a stranger's life enough to say something instead of wait for the chaos to take place. Unfortunately for him, my mind is already made up. If he was warning me of bad sea food or something like that, I might have taken his word for it but this is something entirely different. Just something I have to do.