Prologue: Death

There was a sound. Then nothing.

I remember my vision fading as quickly as my hearing.

But my thoughts…


I want to live!

Part 1: Library

Aislin opened her eyes. Blinking a few times to clear her vision, she was able to make out a wood ceiling with a fan spinning slowly.

Everything seemed normal, like nothing had happened.

“Happened…?” She coughed. “What…happened?” Slowly sitting up, she looked at her surroundings. It wasn’t a room she had ever been in before. There was the bed she was sitting in, with a small table next to it. There was a door on the wall to her left, though she couldn’t tell if it lead outside or to another room. A desk was pushed against the opposite wall with some paper scattered across its top. There were no windows; the room was lit by a single light hanging from the ceiling fan.

The door creaked open. Aislin looked over, and saw nothing. For a moment she thought about getting up to look, but her head didn’t like that idea, and by the time the moment was up, she could see a hand holding onto the door.

The door opened more, giving enough room for a head to be stuck inside the room. Aislin almost gasped at the sight. The person looking in looked like a young girl, fifteen years old or so, with white hair and large red eyes. The girl’s mouth briefly twitched into a smile when she saw Aislin.

“Oh good, you’ve woken up.” She said in a light voice. “I have some tea made, if you would like to come out and join me.” The girl started to pull out of the room.

“…What happened? Do you…know anything?” It was the only question in Aislin’s mind right now. The details of anything before the last five minutes were extremely fuzzy.

The girl stepped fully into the room. She smoothed out her light blue dress slightly before speaking again. “You’re Aislin…I saved you after the accident.”

“Accident? And how do you know my name?”

“Oh…well, I guess it’s understandable that you would forget.” The girl stepped forward a little. “You see, you were killed. I…saved your soul before a reaper could take you. I…I guess I thought you deserved a second chance.” The girl was looking away now. She turned around. “Well, I’ll be in the main room. I hope you like mint tea…” The girl left the room, shutting the door behind her.

Aislin sat, stunned. She certainly didn’t feel dead. She placed two fingers on her neck, and felt a heartbeat. It was light and slow, but it was there. Her skin, her body, her mind…it all felt alive. She needed more answers, and that strange girl seemed to know what had happened. Aislin slowly got out of the bed and straightened the sheets before walking out of the small bedroom.

She didn’t expect the main room to be a library.

A seemingly infinite number of bookshelves filled the room. Everything was neatly arranged into rows, with more shelves against the far wall surrounding a door that presumably led outside. On the right wall was a set of stairs leading up to another floor, and to the left was an open door. Aislin realized it lead to the kitchen when the white-haired girl from earlier walked out with a tray in her hands and began setting a table in the middle of the room. Aislin slowly walked up to the table.

The girl looked at Aislin, then smiled and pulled out one of the chairs. “Here, please sit.” The girl sat in the chair on the other side of the table as Aislin settled into her own seat. Before Aislin could think of anything to say, the girl spoke again.

“I’m sure you have a lot of questions…I will answer them as best I can.” She smiled again. “My name is Ria. I take care of this library. This place is located in the underworld and is directly connected to the observatory and to every world whose souls arrive here upon the death of their body.” She sipped her tea before continuing.

“This library is used to keep logs of the stories each world has. So while each book corresponds to one world, there are many other books inside them, and so on. The observatory is used to watch over each world and keep track of events…just in case someone decides to try something like, merging two worlds.” Ria smiled. “Of course, that doesn’t happen often…hm? Are you even listening?”

Aislin had been glancing around the room during Ria’s speech. She looked at the girl in front of her. “…I don’t really care about what this place is used for. Just tell me why I’m here.”

Ria grumbled. “Well, I told you that I felt sorry for you when you died! So I’m giving you another chance to live…you just have to do something for me.”

“What are you?” Aislin asked in a flat voice. Ria tilted her head in confusion and opened her mouth to speak, but Aislin interrupted. “Your ears, your hair, your eyes. You can’t be human with those looks.”

Ria’s hand brushed past her white hair and up her slightly pointed ear. “Well…you’re right, but does that matter right now? Don’t you want to know what you have to do to be revived?”

“Hm, I guess so.” Aislin shrugged. For a brief moment, Ria wanted to reach across the table and grab the other girl, shake her a few times, and ask if she really cared that she was dead. A question would do instead.

“Well, if you don’t want to work, you could leave…enter the soul stream, await reincarnation…”

Aislin’s eyes widened slightly. Her hands gripped the edge of her shirt. In her mind, she remembered the last words she thought in life.

She wanted to live. As much as she could try to hide it, she did want to live, and getting a second chance was very lucky.

“…Then what do you want me to do?”

“It’s very simple. You just have to collect some stories for me. Sometimes…things happen, and stuff doesn’t get written down in the books. I go to those worlds, and get the information caught up. It’s sort of like time travel…you can’t affect anything in the world.” Ria smiled again. “Seventeen stories should do. That’s how old you are, right Aislin?”

Aislin nodded. Considering that Ria had already known her name, she wasn’t surprised that she knew her age as well. If Ria had been just guessing, Aislin thought, she probably would have given a higher number. Aislin was rather tall, and exuded an aura of maturity.

“All right then!” Ria smiled widely. “We can get started now, if you wish. Unless you have more questions, or would like to do something else before going anywhere.”

“…This body. I don’t feel dead.” Aislin said, flatly.

“Oh, right…it’s your soul shell. A projection of what your body looked like when you died, it protects your soul from being harmed. You feel alive so your mind doesn’t panic.” Ria walked around to Aislin, and placed two fingers on her neck. “I’m sure if you didn’t feel a false heartbeat or warmth from your skin…anything like that, you would panic.” Ria moved away and motioned to the door surrounded by shelves. “If you step out that door into the soul stream, your shell will disappear since your soul is safe from harm there.” She then turned and pointed to a door next to the room Aislin had been sleeping in. “That door leads wherever I direct it to…another world, the observatory, other habitable places here in the underworld…don’t you find that cool or anything?”

“It’s interesting, I guess.” Aislin hadn’t been looking at where Ria was pointing. She really thought the girl was talking a bit too much about very complicated things. She put her head down on the table.

“I-if you’re still tired, you can go back into your bedroom…well, it’s really a guest room, but you’re the first guest I’ve had here other than…” Ria laughed nervously. “That doesn’t matter. It’s yours now.”

Aislin stood up, facing away from Ria. “I’m surprised someone like you would even have guests.” She walked into the bedroom and shut the door, leaving a slightly dumbfounded Ria behind to clean up.

“…What have I gotten myself into?”

Aislin came out of her room a few hours later and sat down at the table. She had attempted to sleep, but couldn’t. Her mind kept going over the day’s events again and again, and was still filled with questions.

Ria came out of her room a short time later. She pulled a book from one of the many large shelves and placed it on the table before sitting down across from Aislin. The book had a red cover made out of something that appeared to look like leather. There was a blue jewel embedded in the front surrounded by six off-white colored wings.

“Do you like it?” Ria had suddenly spoke.


“The book cover. Do you like the design? The covers take on the image of whoever keeps watch over them…”

Aislin blinked. “That doesn’t remind me of you at all.”

Ria sighed, and tugged slightly at her dress. “Well, this is my favorite color, and…” She stood up and turned around. “I have wings too.”

Aislin hadn’t noticed the wings on the white-haired girl’s back before. There were six, like the book cover, though Ria’s were more white than the cream color the ones on the book had, matching her hair. Each pair was smaller than the pair above them, with the largest set slightly bigger than a parrot’s wing or so. When Ria turned back around, Aislin could just notice their tips sticking above her shoulders.

Ria spoke again. “This is the first world I want you to go into. I think you’ll find it interesting. The story you need to record…well, I’ll just say that you should run into a princess soon after you arrive. Just stay around her, okay? The book will be connected to your mind…so it will write down the experiences you share with this girl.”

Aislin nodded slightly. She was a bit happy that she wouldn’t have to actually write everything down.

“Oh, one more thing…” Ria pulled something out of her pocket, then moved next to Aislin. “Hmm…I apologize in advance…but this will sting a little.” In a swift movement, she pulled Aislin’s hair away from her right ear, and pushed an earring into the top.

Aislin flinched, holding back a cry. She pushed herself away from Ria, glaring at her. “What was that?”

“I know you only know one language, and it isn’t the one spoken in the country you’re going to. You have to wear that so you can communicate with and understand the people in the different worlds.”

“…You don’t wear one.” Aislin said a bit coldly.

Ria looked away. “I’ve…I’ve been doing this long enough that I don’t need one. Just remember to twist it a few times a day and keep it clean so it doesn’t get infected or stuck in there, okay? When you get back, you can replace it with something prettier. It’s just a silver ball right now…”

Aislin rubbed her new piercing. “I hate jewelry.”

“Sorry, but it’s necessary.” Ria picked up the book from the table, then motioned for Aislin to follow her as she crossed the room to the back door. She then placed the book on a pedestal set against the wall. “When you enter the world, you’ll have a book with you. Check every night to make sure that it’s writing everything down.” Ria pressed some of the buttons that were on the outside of the pedestal. Aislin stood in front of the door while Ria worked. The book glowed slightly, followed shortly by the same glow surrounding the door.

“Okay, it’s ready. Just open the door and after a short walk, you’ll be in this world. And…” Ria turned to face Aislin. “…please be careful. Your soul shell is a little weaker than your normal body would be, so don’t push yourself too hard and damage it.”

“…And what happens if it gets too damaged?” Aislin said, quietly.

“You would have to be sent into the soul stream for reincarnation.” Ria looked at the floor. “A soul can only project one shell. When it is destroyed, the soul itself can easily break apart…be scattered and lost…To be honest, I really don’t know what would happen if a reaper didn’t bring it to the soul stream. I’m sorry.” Ria moved next to Aislin, and placed her hand on the taller girl’s arm. “But I know you’ll protect yourself…I know how much you want to live.”

Aislin nodded, and stepped forward to the door. Without hesitation, she stepped through the portal to the unknown world.

Afterlife: Second Tale – Prologue & Chapter 1

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