Forgemaster (Book 1 in the Spirit Guide Saga) by H. Lee Morgan, Jr by H. Lee Morgan, Jr - Read Online

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Forgemaster (Book 1 in the Spirit Guide Saga) - H. Lee Morgan, Jr

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Chapter 1

Ethan pried his tired eyes from the computer screen as he heard the familiar ‘click click’ of his boss’s ridiculous high heeled shoes on the polished tile floor and cringed. He couldn’t see Sherry’s familiar black hair just yet, which everyone knew to be heavily dyed because no woman in her eighties did that without trying to look young and not realize that their pursuit of youthful beauty is thirty years too late. Those six inch stiletto heels she always wore would even make a call girl wince, yet the sound of them getting louder meant she was closing in on the latest victim. Already he could hear his fellow coworkers start fastidiously typing on their keyboards with more speed in the attempt to not receive her wrath and be seen as a diligent worker, not that it ever worked, from what he ever noticed. In his head Ethan could barely keep the frightening images at bay of Sherry’s wardrobe options. As a man, he knew little of how to dress properly and why colors had to match or choose proper patterns, but even a gay man would rather scoop their own eyeballs out with a rusty spoon than ever look upon her daily selections.

The hairs on the back of Ethan’s neck continued to rise as she had yet to speak and as he worked at the very end cubicle meant one thing.

This chopping block had his name written all over it today!

Groaning softly, he rubbed his temples as the ‘click click click’ of those heels felt like spikes driving deeper into his skull. He checked the latest analysis of accounting options and how the business could continue to expand with its current resources when the sounds stopped and could feel those spiteful eyes glaring.

"Mr. Ethan Volorum, a word." He heard her almost masculine voice caused by sixty years of smoking and not for the first time had he wondered how she hadn’t died from lung cancer, stroke or any of the other factors smoking does decades ago and she still chain smokes so much that when she’s not you’d still catch secondhand. She seemed to bathe in cotton candy perfume and mix that with cigarette smoke and even a person without a sense of smell would gag on the taste hanging in the air.

The man in question sighed and turned in his chair to look up and successfully hide a cringe as he noticed she had somehow stuffed her two hundred and forty pounds into a neon green, strapless tube dress. Outlandish gaudy rings covered gnarled fingers while loop earrings hung from sagging earlobes. A diamond necklace plunged into a bosom that had seen way too many miles and would be a deathtrap to any fool who had the stomach to get closer. Worst of all she wore too much makeup and seemed to highlight a mole wider than the pad of his thumb and had long curly hairs sprouting from it. Ethan swallowed down bile as he was revolted to be employed by a woman who had a demeanor that matched her appearance. In this instance the book was as bad as its cover. In a neutral voice that surprised everyone who listened he said What may I do for you, Ma’am?

I do not tolerate slackers, Mr. Volorum. Pack any and all of your belongings and leave these premises immediately. You’re fired!

What? He asked, dumbfounded and shocked. "What did I do to deserve to be let go? I need this job, Ms. Sherry. My grandparents just died in a car accident three days ago and I need the money for the funeral arrangements. Please…"

She sneered while holding her hand in a ‘stop talking’ gesture. "Save your excuses for someone who cares. You’re fired. End of discussion. You were caught using company equipment to play videogames and that is not allowed."

But only during my break. I have no money to spare to go out and buy lunch so I do something to not…

Leave, you sorry excuse for a man! Before I call security. Sherry pointed to the elevator.

Humiliated, Ethan reached forward and grabbed his mug of coffee and his prepaid cell. It was all he could afford to decorate the lifeless cubicle. He stood up, towering over Sherry at six foot and carried a husky frame. It had been three days he’d gone without a proper meal, but without his grandparents he couldn’t afford so much as a drive through value meal at the corner fast food. Still, Sherry sneered and grabbed his slightly flabby stomach. You can’t afford to eat? Don’t insult me, Lardo.

With that last dig, Ethan straightened and glared. You’re one to talk, Hag. And yes, I haven’t eaten much more than two small cups of ramen for the past three days. You can’t expect someone to become skin and bones that quickly. For a moment he felt frightened when he saw Sherry’s cloudy eyes of mild cataracts suddenly clear and flickered an eerie and frightening red, but then she blinked and they returned to normal. She was angry at his comment, but he turned his back, stepped around her and headed to the elevator.

Immediately as he pushed the button he heard a soft ‘ding’ and the shiny metal doors slid open. He entered and hit the first floor button. As they closed he saw Sherry glaring, turn her nose up and sauntered off. What was revolting was with each step in her famous high heels, her flabby body jiggled. If anything was in his stomach it would have tried to escape its confines and make a mess for the janitor. When the doors closed he could hear her snarl at everyone to get back to work.

On the way down Ethan couldn’t shake the feeling that what he saw in those eyes wanted him to die slowly or receive the worst kinds of torture. And that reddish hue was disturbing in a whole different way from her usual persona. He had to shake it off and forget it happened now that he had been fired for doing something he promised not to do at work. He had to do something to raise some quick money.

The elevator rang and opened to allow a mail deliverer and his empty cart inside. He seemed so bored, not even bothering to acknowledge Ethan leaning into the corner.

Eventually the floor he wanted came and he exited, walked the hall and left the mind numbing building. He thought, Why does everything have to spiral down the crapper so fast when it will be nearly impossible to recover? Granma, Grandpa, I wish you were still alive and could help me settle your affairs. As it is, I have but one option left to break even and still honor you. I have to sell my whole collection. It would be just enough to get me by for a week and hope another job opens up somewhere before I need to beg help from ‘Him’.

Ethan found the bus bench a half a block later, sat down and grimaced while waiting for the next means of transportation to come. Positive thinking wasn’t possible. Everything I have worked so hard for and all the chores it took to use my whole childhood and teen allowance went to all my comics and games. Is the universe telling me it’s time to grow up now that I just turned thirty? All I’ve earned will be lost tonight. I cannot prolong waiting… But before I go to ‘Ol Fred’s comic store I need to tell Jenny.

Deciding to pay his girlfriend a surprise visit first, Ethan sighed and saw the bus coming ahead of schedule and stood. He pulled out his wallet, removed the necessary cash to ride and stepped to the curb. The hydraulics hissed as the city bus stopped and opened its doors. Two passengers exited before he entered alone. He gave his money over, got the change and walked to an empty seat in the back and put his head against the cool window. Contemplating.

The driver, seeing everyone properly seated, drove on ahead.

Orlando’s skyscrapers drew his attention over the thousands of cars always in a hurry to get nowhere fast. It was summer in Florida so it meant not only hot, but humid to the point where breathing the air was almost like inhaling a glass of uncomfortable water. Luckily the bus was cool and loud enough that he didn’t need to listen to any conversations or be bothered by any other problems. Ethan felt numb now that the shock of being fired had passed. It was a dead-end computer job with only cheap dental for benefits. Being perpetually healthy and born with straight teeth meant he only had to go once a year for a cleaning. His mind then went on autopilot as he only made himself take notice of the stops so he didn’t miss his.

Then it happened. Crap! he exclaimed as he saw the familiar spot pass right by. He knew the driver wouldn’t stop for another mile so he bit the bullet till it happened. At the next stop he exited and forced himself to walk back the other way. Ethan stuck to the sidewalks and crossed the street like an actual law abiding citizen without jaywalking. Businesses large and small passed one at a time. Being Saturday, the kids were out of school and a group found energy to play outside thanks to water hoses, balloons and squirt guns. For the first time in three days he smiled at a simple good thing as children played, but he didn’t stop walking.

Twenty reflective minutes passed as Ethan took the mile one step at a time, going over what he was going to say. He knew Jenny’s reaction wasn’t going to be fun, even though they have been dating four months. She was aloof at times, but had a quick temper. They met through a free online dating service. He stopped at the front of her apartment, remembering more of her. Jenny is a year younger, no children and works for an Orlando home and garden magazine, though she doesn’t own a garden or really know much about flora and fauna other than they exist. All she does is take the letters to the next person in the business ladder. She is very pretty with an average figure and thinks his hobby is completely childish. She’s been trying to change him ever since she saw his small apartment with a whole wall dedicated to an organized selection of comic books, graphic novels and the other holds hundreds of videogames from every retro console to state of the art.

Well, Jenny, you’re going to get your wish. It’ll all have to go so my grandparents debts are settled. He murmured and opened the front door. The lone elevator was currently being repaired still if the worker’s prominent bubba crack for the second week in a row meant anything. Stairs it is again! He thought and found the door to it after following the signs and took them one at a time up to the fifth of six floors. It was the first time using them, but he prided himself on a good sense of direction, when not daydreaming, and took two corners before finding room five thirteen and gently knocking, since it was Saturday and she never works the weekends. He didn’t get an immediate answer, but he heard odd noises inside.

The door was unlocked and he opened it as he knew what those sounds were and wished he didn’t need to find out, but after all this in his life, it was just the icing on a shit cake. The living room was empty of bodies, but shed clothes were scattered all over and Jenny not only didn’t have a roommate, but she couldn’t ever wear men’s shoes so large or long pants due to a short woman’s stature.

Then as he neared her bedroom door his fears were realized as he heard moaning and skin slapping skin. It was certainly Jenny’s voice saying There! Harder! Ahhh!!! Disgusted, he turned around and walked away and just as he went to the front door, he held the knob, but what drew him was a familiar wallet given as a present two years ago at the last family reunion up in Tennessee.

Heartbroken and blood boiling, Ethan slammed the front door closed while remaining inside to find his voice calm in asking Jenny?! He heard an immediate thump from the bedroom as someone fell from her bed as she cursed colorfully, telling the willing partner to ‘fucking hide.’ You got company?

Moments later Jenny poked her head out to find Ethan looking rather calm and questioning while looking down at a pair of crumpled jeans and cursed loudly within her mind, but she guessed him a bit slow on the uptake as he kicked the mess aside and smiled. She said One moment, I just got out of the shower. She lied to make the excuse to her flushed cheeks.

Then the smile vanished and she knew she was caught. Oh, then tell Billy I need to talk to him too.

She cringed and saw the hurt in his eyes and how he looked at her made her feel just like the slut she realized she was. Her anger flared at the condensation and opened the door, wrapped in a bed sheet. "Where do you get the gall to look at me like that, Ethan? A woman has needs, which you neglect. Four months! Four months of no sex, Ethan! Yes, everyone knows your shy about sex and remain a thirty year old virgin. Come on, I throw myself at you, and gave obvious signs even a blind man could understand, but you apologize and leave after seeing a glimpse of my breasts. Any man would be all too willing to have me wrap my legs around them, but you just stand there. Jeez, even a person more nerdy than you would grovel at my feet for a chance to have me for a night."

In a calm tone he said "But not this man. I told you I’m waiting for my soul mate. And even if you could have any man alive, why did you choose my own brother?!" he didn’t yell, he rarely did because he hated what rage does to him.

Billy laid a hand on Jenny’s shoulder and stepped out in nothing but a pair of boxers, his head of black hair disheveled and a proud smirk on his lips. Well hello, big brother. Jenny and I weren’t expecting company so soon, for a person with your old world personality I expected a call to warn us. Why is it you are here in the middle of the day when you should be working? Let me guess, they fired you, eh Tubby?

Brushing the remark aside he looked at his little brother’s twenty six year old, pretty boy appearance and lean form most women prefer. "Billy, I’ve tried calling you for three days and you haven’t responded. I know we cannot stand to be in the same room together, but our grandparents died in an accident and the attorneys found me first. Where have you been when I needed you… Never mind, I answered my own question. He glanced at Jenny’s burgundy hair framing her flushed face. Listen, Billy, I need some help. Even selling all my belongings I’ll not be living off them long, so yes, I was fired. You are the only family I have left and we must honor their wishes to be buried by mom."

Billy burst out laughing. "You think I care about those pathetic old geezers? If I remember correctly, they disowned me after a minor drunken incident when I was eighteen and never once spoke to me at the old man’s ninetieth birthday reunion. What makes you think I. Give. A. Damn? I’ve got money, your girl and great looks yet you were always the favorite. You were the suck up who never did wrong. You’re all on your own, Ethan. They could rot on the side of the street and I wouldn’t bat an eye. Family is for losers, just like yourself with all those comics."

Retaining a calm exterior, Ethan looked between the two carefully and Jenny twisted the knife in his heart as she wrapped her arm around Billy’s narrow waist and tilted her chin up. Seems I was right again. My happy little brother is gone because he cannot understand anything beyond the tip of his pecker and doesn’t have the stones to remember what family means and brushes it off like a piece of lint. His gaze turned. And Jenny, I hope you truly find the one that will bring you happiness. My gut instinct told me we weren’t meant to be, but I disregarded them because you took some interest in me. From the bottom of my heart I wish you well even though it is aching right now. Billy, Jenny, farewell?

"Stop being so formal, Tubbs! Are you so shy and even tempered that you cannot show emotion? I distinctly remember Mr. Temper growing up. Drop the chivalry act. Mom isn’t here to tell you to always remain the proper gentleman. This is the twenty first century dumbass, not the eighteenth. You just make yourself into those comic books, pretending to be a hero. Get with it already, this is the real world." Billy spread his arms around the room.

"Maybe, but I was raised a gentleman, Billy. I don’t want to change something good into bad and it makes me who I am. And I truly meant what I said. I can only count on myself after all. Farewell to you both." He then turned around and left the apartment.

Only then did Jenny realize what she had lost from her own deplorable act. She knew it could never be taken back. In one day he had to grieve for his grandparents, lost his job and that of his girlfriend to none other than his brother who seemed to have come out of nowhere. There was no one to be with him and yet he didn’t act anything more than an honest fool who still believed in being a gentleman. Looking back over the recent months he always opened doors, took the curb side down late night strolls, pulled her chair out and never once lied about himself. She felt so dirty to have lost someone so genuinely good. Before she could chase after him and beg forgiveness Billy turned to her and kissed her on the lips. Care to pick up where we left off?

The only response came in a nod so she could temporarily forget what she had done. They went back to her bedroom.

Down and outside the apartment, Ethan forced himself calm so wrathful emotions didn’t get in the way and have an old habit return. He needed a release to lessen his troubles and chose to walk home, which was about eight miles away. He decided it would do some good and started for his cheap apartment while focusing ahead.

Never in the whole of Ethan’s life had he come so close to being that angry and it pushed his willpower to the limit to remain calm. It wouldn’t have mattered since that is what everyone expected, but he would not burden anyone with his own problems or take it out on someone else. Still… he felt cold by how callous and narcissistic every person he knew was.

Just ‘Ol Fred and his grandparents had ever truly treated him with respect. The old comic book shop owner understood Ethan’s enjoyment because he was a kindred soul who also grew up with the comics all the way back when he was a boy and bought his famous first issue Superman, first print, for just a few cents but is now valued for over three hundred million since it is still unopened and in mint condition. Even back then the old man knew a treasured investment by buying two. The other print had disappeared long ago. They had a longstanding relationship so Ethan knew that ‘Ol Fred will give him a fair price.

As he turned another block he smiled because the kids were still in a heated water war. The hot asphalt street was so saturated it didn’t instantly evaporate despite the oppressive sun directly overhead. The laugh of children momentarily claimed his full attention and washed his misery away.

About ten to twelve children between the ages of six to ten were battling to the death in their bathing suits in front of a pricy condo. Their parents were over sitting under the shade of a gazebo, knocking back one drink after another and not really watching them as they should so near the road where a pedophile could so easily snatch them before anyone could intervene. Luckily there was a bench beneath an old oak out of the way where he could rest and enjoy the sounds of joy, at least for a short while.

After a few minutes Ethan watched on as an athletic boy hurled a perfectly filled water balloon straight at a giggling six year old. She was distracted by something and moved just before getting a direct hit to the back of the head. Only when it sailed by and bounced off the sidewalk to roll into the middle of the road did she figure she could capture the enemy weapon and launch it in return. She smiled evilly and ran out to get it.

Immediately Ethan’s heart seem to stop and fall into his stomach.

Barreling down the road was a heavily loaded semi with a prominent 7UP advertisement displayed all over and going greatly beyond the posted speed limit. But the worst part is that the driver was too preoccupied with his cell phone while focusing on texting rather than the road… Right where the little girl ran out into the street to retrieve her ammunition. She held up her prize in victory, not seeing what was going to run her over.

There was a choice, let her get hit and die too soon or do something.

For Ethan, there was none. "LOOK OUT!!!" he yelled at the top of his lungs and lunged forward, dropping his coffee mug. The girl stopped and turned to Ethan with frightened wide eyes before turning towards oncoming traffic and seeing her own detailed reflection in a green bumper of an eighteen wheeler who’d yet to notice. Flying on adrenaline and fear for the girl, Ethan somehow leapt over the hood of a parked car and jumped with all he had. The girl seemed to stand frozen in time, her mouth half opened to scream her last breath.

But just a moment before the rig ran her over Ethan’s long arms and large hands slammed against her, thrusting her forward and out of harm’s way.

And then he hit the ground and saw a large black tire a moment before all went dark. There was a slight shooting pain… then nothing except darkness.

Suddenly there came the unmistakable ‘woro woro woro’ sounds of a semi’s brakes locking up and its tires losing rubber on the ground to stop as soon as possible. Then as it stopped there came the cry of a girl with adults yelling "RACHIEL!!!"

Slowly Ethan opened his eyes, realizing the darkness was from screwing them shut. He pushed himself up after learning he felt no more pain, to find a group of frightened kids and adults running to a crying little girl, but now had a name. Rachiel. Ethan said and sighed when he saw her get up and run into her mother’s arms. He looked at himself and found not a scratch. His shirt and jeans were still fresh and clean. All felt as it should.

When he realized little Rachiel was fine he found himself angry and turned to the trucker and give the distracted idiot a piece of his mind and stopped cold.

Parallel to the unbroken tire marks of the heavy 7Up truck lay for over thirty yards of blacktop was an unmistakable skid mark of fresh crimson blood and bits of flesh and bone. Between where Ethan found himself and the truck was a mangled, unrecognizable body.

He went to throw up, but felt nothing rise within, not even bile, but he dry heaved at what happened.

Unable to resist morbid curiosity, Ethan looked down to see he looked exactly as he did before, but no longer cast a shadow below his feet as the sun was nearly directly overhead. He knew what happened immediately, but couldn’t quite accept such proof till he went over to a nearby worried man and watched as his arm passed through solid flesh.

Ethan learned he just died and was a ghost.

His odd sense of humor first wondered, So am I a spirit like the classic Patrick Swayze movie Ghost? I feel like me. I feel my breath, but… I don’t smell anything, that’s wrong. I should smell fresh rubber, grass and feel heat of the sun. Oh this isn’t good. He muttered. I wonder if I can spook people… his mind stopped going down such a mischievous path when he heard the cries of fear of a mother and child. His attention turned to them.

Rachiel, Rachiel, look at me, are you alright? The worried mother fussed and saw only both knees were scraped and bleeding. She held the crying girl close to ask What happened?

She couldn’t answer, but one of the other children said A man saved her.

What man? Rachiel’s father asked hurriedly.

Ethan stood before the group on the sidewalk, but try as he might, they clearly couldn’t see or hear him. The child who saw everything quite literally ran through Ethan’s left leg and stepped carefully onto the street to say That ma… the boy stopped as he pointed to the mangled body and gasped, his eyes almost as wide as the girl’s before.

The adults hurried to the street and screamed, some turned their children away from the scene. That’s when the truck driver chose that moment to see what his actions wrought and he swayed before falling on his ass in a state of complete shock. Call 911! someone yelled and another was already dialing.

In a minute there came sirens from police, fire and EVAC, but Ethan already knew his place and watched along with the bystanders while a coroner was called to gather the remains of his body. The whole process lasted no more than twenty minutes as police took statements from witnesses. The firemen put bandages on the girl’s knees and left while the driver was not only caught texting from the police checking his cell, but a breathalyzer and found to be almost double the legal limit.

The only disheartening thing Ethan felt was listening to the coroner explain how his body was captured by the front wheel, pulped, drug under before getting dislodged shortly after and all his identification in his wallet and cell was shredded instantly beyond repair from getting caught beneath as the truck decelerated.

It meant there was no quick way to be indentified and who to inform.

As the ruined remains of what was once human were shoveled into a bag and water sprayed on the road to wash away blood down to the gutters and the emergency responders began leaving there came a singsong voice. Well this is certainly an unexpected surprise! You must be Ethan. Howdy!

He turned around at the lovely southern accent of a highly feminine woman and stopped as his jaw felt like it dropped to the ground like a Looney Tunes character to look upon true beauty. Ethan’s life would forever be changed.

Chapter 2

Standing before him was beyond what imagination could ever describe.

The woman was exceedingly lofty, taller than any person he had ever met for she had the stature of an eight foot tall athletic woman of perfect proportions. She appeared in her mid twenties and wore no makeup to hide her unblemished features. But despite her impressive elevation she was curvaceous to flawlessness as her narrow waist flared to wide hips of a woman in her prime. Her breasts were average in proportioned size, but the symmetry was perfect. Her clothes were breathtaking as she wore gold threaded into a sports bra-like top that crossed her belly in an X and attached to golden pants that hugged her curves. She wore an elegant and classy pair of silvery high heels of four inches, but to her large size it would be compared on a much shorter woman as a pair of two inch heels or quite possibly one. But that is all that had a woman’s natural shape.

Great metallic blue wings sprung from her bare back and each feather looked downy soft and Ethan couldn’t stop from imagining wanting to run his finger through them. The wings were tucked and lay flat down her whole length, adding a beautiful backdrop if one could take a picture. The curved joint apex of each wing was as higher than the very top of her head and the primary flight feathers stood just five inches from being drug along the ground. The woman’s hair was also startlingly metallic blue like her wings and short as her jaw line. Her shimmering hair framed a heart shaped face and looking at the roots proved that either she recently dyed it or it was completely natural. He felt it was the latter.

Despite all of this, it was her face that drew him close and would forever hold him in awe. She was the epitome of true beauty and refined class. Full and generous ruby red lips were smirked like she held some private joke and just above them was a small nose that couldn’t work for anyone other than herself. High cheekbones and arched blue eyebrows added to her stunning form. Her skin was of creamy alabaster and even from the distance, he knew they would be like touching the finest silks. The luminous quality of healthy skin also revealed that she was covered in fine glitter as the sun blanketed her perfection. But like the wings and hair, Ethan understood the glints of millions of glitter was actually a natural quality of her skin.

But it was her eyes that held him prisoner. They were like pure molten gold. Never had he seen in anyone’s eyes hold such luminous color. Her unique eyes twinkled with calm and subdued excitement at the same time. He felt drawn to her as his emotion surged in a way he never expected. If he had use of a heartbeat he knew it would be firing on all cylinders and racing like that of a horse getting chased by a pack of wolves.

Well, you goin’ to answer me, Darlin’ or stare blankly? This time Ethan listened more closely to her sweet, dainty voice belonging to that of a southern belle. He never expected such a delicate sound to come from a woman of her stature. Her accent and quality belonged more on a woman of no more than four and a half to five feet.

Shooting out of his mouth he said Damn!

She blinked and tilted her head some, making her loose hair shift in an adorable way. Never had that response from a soul before. She smirked. Probably because I’ve never seen a soul keep his form after dyin’. Why’d you say ‘Damn’ Mr. Volorum?

Ethan shook his head before craning his neck back. Because I was wrong. Angels do exist and are more gorgeous than one would imagine.

Thank you for the comment, it’s flatterin’. He watched as her wings fluffed while her cheeks dimpled some. "But it is a mistake to refer to me as an angel, not like the religious myths humans have twisted. I am a Spirit Guide, a ferry to show the departed where they will find rest for the remainder of eternity. But this circumstance has never happened to me before. Your soul retains its form."

Before he could respond he looked around at all the people talking. Ma’am, can people see or hear you talking to me?

She burst out laughing at his ignorance, unable to contain herself. Ethan though found her laugh as wonderful as her form, which she picked up clearly from his mind and was overcome with joy. Do you think humans who could see me wouldn’t find anything alarmin’ in my appearance? Me, a woman taller than men, with wings and blue hair? I think not. I haven’t a physical form, like yourself. Watch. She walked confidently through people who never even blinked. She returned with a smile. See.

But if we could walk through people, why aren’t we falling through the ground? I still feel the weight of gravity on my body.

Ah, you are a thinker. Souls are usually so distraught they cannot think critically once their physical form loses energy, but to answer you, it is part of becomin’ one with the Spirit World. Some of the laws you know remain, some aren’t… Strange, I’ve never had this kind of conversation before with a soul.

You said that before. Ethan pointed out. What does that mean?

Your spirit’s form remains human, somethin’ I’ve never seen or heard of. Souls naturally appear like this. She held out a hand and gently blew from her lips. White bluish light spilled from her mouth like smoke or fog and gathered in her palm. Ethan watched as the light gathered to form a ball and almost burned a cone straight up like some kind of medieval torch or fireball. But what captivated him more was her fond expression and happiness towards the soul. This is a human soul from an elderly man who passed over into my care this mornin’, surrounded by his whole lovin’ family. He is to be taken to the Endless Garden for his life’s deeds earned him a place where he loved forests and mountains brimmin’ with life. She then gently breathed the spirit back inside. "Within me are twenty thousand souls that I hold to take over, just this day. Six hundred are human. Mr. Volorum…

Ethan. He corrected.

My apologies, I’m Kanade Cerulean, she pronounced it as Ka-na-day. a family name, not due to my wing color. Kanade enjoyed the way he brightened to hear her name. What I was attemptin’ to say is that souls have never appeared to me the way you do. I protect the souls by takin’ them into myself so the journey is safe. Human souls never talk to me coherently, animals can’t entirely and I’m unsure what to do with you.

Are you going to suck me into you like that old man’s soul? he shuttered by the thought and felt bumps rise all over.

I cannot. She answered calmly. Before he could ask ‘Why?’ Kanade crossed her arms and continued I tried when you were preoccupied with watchin’ your body being collected to be disposed of. You would not be taken.

"So what is next, Kanade? I doubt I can remain. Every movie and book turns out badly for souls who stay." Ethan sat down on the bench he originally took to watch some good and sighed.

Kanade joined him, sitting on her wings as if it not only didn’t hurt, but was natural. Her long legs crossed and she sat her head on her raised knees. The short bench for her allowed it to be possible. Golden eyes calmly stayed locked on him, but they didn’t unsettle him as others would feel. Deep down he wanted to stare into them forever.

She studied him closely, taking every inch of him in. She didn’t say a word for a full minute while studying this unique situation and enjoying the way his mind worked through the situation and how he saw her. She knew she was beautiful, but his mind spoke of so much more. Ethan had exceedingly dark brown hair with auburn undertones, cut in a simple shortness and was very thick, enough to comb to the side. It was thick with natural waves. Long eyelashes that made women envy stayed momentarily closed. He was tall for a male and had some extra girth around the middle, but not so much to be seen as unsightly. Grey, almost pale white eyes turned on her and the way he looked at her made her breast feel warm. No male had ever made her feel so calm, not even the old ones of her kind. His face was clearly masculine and had a little fat that made him seem average to other men. Neither handsome or homely, but she could understand enough that his character was kindhearted and lacked any way to be deceitful. A rare old soul she hadn’t seen in a while from his age, not counting his shape. Finally, Kanade, answered while keeping her head on her knees. No, you cannot remain, but not for the reasons you see in human movies or books. Souls attract Chaos, demons. Demons devour souls and will likely eat yours or take you to a greater demon since your form is odd. Nevertheless, when they come, you will cease to exist once eaten. Don’t be mistaken by how I hold souls inside myself, I do not eat them. A demon destroys the soul and takes its power. Should your soul be different, they will enjoy it more than you. And you will be unable to outrun a demon, even a lesser one. Chaos would not treat you with any kindness or sympathy. But there is another issue...

What now? He said with calm fear that he didn’t let take control. I die, demons will want to devour me because I can’t even die correctly… what’s next, you are going to say you’ll end me sooner before they get a chance?

Quite an imagination you have, Ethan. Kanade watched as when she said his name he seemed to find joy in the simple gesture and truly relaxed on the seat. Firstly, you must know that I’m unable to do harm in any way. I haven’t the power. Demons cannot harm me, but nor can I touch them in anger. I won’t be able to stop them if they sneak up and take you from me. She laughed as he looked fearfully over his shoulder. Do not fear, I do not sense the taint of a denizen near us. For now, we may talk. Ethan, what I meant to explain before that brief outburst is you weren’t slated to die this day, it is why I didn’t show myself to you immediately.

His eyes grew at the statement. In a whisper, mostly to himself he asked I wasn’t supposed to die?

Afraid not. Kanade sat up and flicked her wrist. A silver sheet of what looked like paper came into existence without any sound or grand effects. One moment it wasn’t there and the next it was. Kanade grabbed it on slender fingers. Clear, manicured fingernails glistened when sunlight found a hole in the leaves. She then began to read and he focused on her words rather than the dainty southern belle accent. Ethan Volorum, currently aged thirty years, two months, four days. Born March ninth at eight pounds eight and a half ounces. Total height, six foot, two hundred and seven pounds currently. Scheduled death would be caused by heart failure at eighty three years. Alone. Never married or had children. She glanced to gauge his reaction.

Well that royally sucks. He huffed and looked across the street. Well at least my sad life wasn’t fulfilled and found some meaning. At least Rachiel will see another tomorrow. I’m glad it’s me and not that innocent child who got hit.

Aaactually… She hesitated greatly and looked away too quickly.

Kanade… don’t tell me it was pointless too? Ethan saw the answer before the angel, Spirit Guide or whatever replied. Kanade was too pensive.

"I’m sorry, Ethan, but at the time you died you were actually supposed to tell Rachiel Flemmings to ‘Duck!’ not ‘Look out!’. That is why I wasn’t waitin’ on you immediately. Fate had determined Rachiel would have dropped to the ground like her favorite game and the truck would have went over her. The worst of the injuries sustained would have been one scraped knee, not two. She was small enough that the vehicle would easily go over her… she blinked and held up a finger as she felt a nudge within her mind as something changed dramatically. She flicked her wrist out again and another sheet appeared. Ethan remained patient and allowed Kanade to read it. Well I’ll be cow kicked by a mule! Fate has changed her life because of this moment. Rachiel was scheduled to die at twenty six from excessive drinking and run off the road to hit a tree, but now she will forever be changed and will die at twenty five in combat after joinin’ the navy."

"How is that better? Ethan asked, feeling horrified. Seems I shortened her life. Seems whatever I do turns out wrong."

False assumption. Her death will save the lives of her navy team who will then go on to kill a terrorist organization savin’ thousands more from a chemical attack on a hospital. The awe in Kanade’s voice made him feel better. "She will later become known as a national hero, sayin’ to most she befriends how her own guardian angel died to give her the chance to save others… Ethan, you’ve saved her future soul from the Lost Lands. That is a place where souls feel sick forever on whatever substance they died ingestin’."

Really? Hope filled his voice though he didn’t fully understand what she said.

"Fate himself just changed her destiny from your selfless action. Her molten gold eyes swam with tears that didn’t spill. Mind if I can call you a friend? It would be an honor to befriend someone so selfless and genuine as to forever change a person’s outcome. Few humans disregard their own well being for a complete and total stranger."

Ethan felt truly uncomfortable under her straightforward personality and looked down. Umm… I guess we can.

The winged beauty squealed like a schoolgirl and hugged him.

Electricity shot between them. It was so sudden both pulled away and looked at each other with wide eyes. It didn’t hurt, but was foreign, unsettling and oddly exhilarating. Ethan didn’t know if it was being dead or that her breasts rubbed against him so wonderfully, for never in his life had anything felt like that. Kanade also felt it and looked down at her arms that tingled slightly and her breast warmed pleasantly to the point she blushed.

Before either could speak of the experience Kanade’s head snapped up and in a fluid move, stood. Her wings shot out instinctively, prepared to take flight. Ethan was likewise on his feet and looking down the same street she was. Even standing in front of her, she towered behind by over two feet, easily looking at what he could not. Kanade, why do you look so scared?

Demons! she hissed, her kind and beautiful features turned both fearful and angry. I sense their bloodlust rushing this way. Hundreds of lesser demons. Goblins most likely. They come for you, Ethan. They smell your open and exposed soul. I cannot stay. I protect too many within. If they capture me, they can steal them. I won’t die, but twenty thousand souls will be forever lost.

Then what the hell are you waiting for, Kanade?! Get out of here! He turned around and smiled up at her, enjoying how she appeared one last time in her full angelic glory. I’m unimportant compared to them. If the demons want me, I’ll do what I can so you escape. It was a short friendship, but thanks for meeting me. My life might be worth less than crap, but meeting you was worth it in the end. Ethan turned around and squared off. He didn’t know where this courage came from, but he would do with it what he could.

A great power startled Kanade as it against brushed hers. An ancient mind greater than all others spoke Child, danger comes in force. You must fulfill your task for the many souls’ safety. Take Ethan by the hand and return to me. He is worthy to stand in my presence.

But, My Lord, he is not within me. His form remains that of a man! How can I transport him safely? She asked humbly, staring into the sky.

Ethan glanced over his shoulder as she supposedly spoke to herself, but he didn’t know another spoke to her mind. Fear not, Child, he will survive the crossing. You just do not understand what has happened. Be off before Chaos claims him!

Understood. Kanade felt the foreign power recede and looked down to a good and kind soul. Ethan, take my hand! Hurry!

Not bothering to question her, he spun around and took her soft hand slightly larger than his own and they felt the electrical, tingling sensation return where they touched. Her finger’s curled around his tightly and neither would release. He watched as her wings lifted high, her knees bent and as she jumped her blue wings shimmered in the sunlight before slamming down. The power of her wings shot the two of them fifty feet skyward. She looked up into the sky as she powered her way ever higher.

Ethan looked down and saw the emergency vehicles leaving the site of his physical death, but before things became too small to identify he noticed hundreds of dark hairy forms running at inhuman speeds not even a car could contend with. Then came the city of Orlando which led to seeing the whole Floridian state. Still Kanade ascended higher till the bright blue atmosphere turned to blackness of space.

He eventually looked up at his hands gripping Kanade’s with all he could so he didn’t fall, but his fear vanished as he saw her smile down in his direction for a moment before looking up. Shoulders ached from his own weight, but she didn’t even seem fazed by carrying a passenger.

It was a marvel to see her still flying straight up, but then he noticed a ball of silvery light in the sky that resembled a pulsating star. She flew right at it and didn’t slow. As they entered, Ethan was blinded as he felt his body feel itself get jerked painfully. Then he closed his eyes to darkness.

Just as the gut wrenching pull came to an end Ethan heard her lovely voice. It is over now, Darlin’. Open your eyes. He felt her take her hand back.

Wholeheartedly trusting her, he did and it made him gasp.

Further than the eye could see was a lush forest of green grass swaying in the breeze with grand trees of lustrous ivory that held reddish golden leaves as if Fall were in season. A truly crystal clear lake gently lapped at the grassy bank and made sweet music with the placid wind. Rolling hills teemed with frolicking animals. A herd of horses were running for sheer enjoyment while deer were hopping with mirth. All around was a calm beauty. The sky was bluer than any Ethan had ever seen with a pair of suns high above the wisps of clouds. It was so hard to describe, Ethan couldn’t fully comprehend the depth because of his limited human mind.

That wasn’t all as he saw thousands of Spirit Guides either lounging in intimate pairs in the grass, soaring on the winds, some under the shade of a tree reading or making music with instruments or their voices. His jaw continued to drop as he realized no two had the exact wing color and their hair matched. Like Kanade, each winged being was a giant at eight feet or taller, especially the men who were all no less than nine. But what really was awesome to see is some were playing with light at their fingertip and creating lines in the air which did things beyond belief.

Kanade, are they doing magic? He pointed to a group over by the lake.

She smiled down at him, seeing how quickly he can recover. What she found most endearing is his honest smile that was filled with intrigue. "You may call it magic. It is the simplest word to understand it. This is the Spirit World where all souls come to live. From the tiniest plants to the greatest of whales throughout the entire universe. Those are other Spirit Guides, my kin. Most stay comfortable, maintainin’ this realm’s order of peace. Those you see doing ‘magic’ as you called it are merely usin’their Spirit Energy to invoke their unique and individual talent to help the lost or in danger find their way. Some use the ancient runes to invoke an idea into existence, but all Spirit Energy is meant to benefit. He looked up into her eyes and she felt pleasant and unsettled at the same time. Though she spoke as if nothing was wrong, her hand still tingled from his touch. Ethan, a very important being wishes me to bring you in his presence, but first I must release the souls I contain."

Then lead on, Kanade. I’ll follow you wherever you wish to take me… since I don’t really have a choice or have an idea where to go… Wait, an important person? God? Is that who you speak of? He exists? Ethan asked quickly when her words sunk deeper into his mind.

Here full ruby lips quirked again and he enjoyed how the two suns made her skin glitter even more than the last time on Earth. Keep thinkin’ that. She laughed as she hid it behind a hand. No, the gods of human religion are wrong in almost every way. But there is a ruler of the Spirit World, Spirit King. He was the first life to be born from Chaos’ darkness. She began walking slowly from her sculpted long legs would out distance Ethan’s effortlessly. He matched her pace, never looking from her unless it was to see what was ahead. What he didn’t notice were the other Spirit Guides realizing who walked with her. Fingers started pointing, drawing attention from everyone to Ethan. None had apparently seen a human spirit retain form either and it was the greatest spectacle of her kind recently. She felt a sense of pride and accomplishment that she was the one who got to be by his side. Spirit King has but one son created from his own essence, Fate, as he has always been called. From Chaos’ darkness sprung Order’s light. But god or gods is nothing more than a figment of twisted truths human religion has used to control and poison the minds of naturally good humans. So your disbelief of god and angels is somewhat true. Those myths do not exist as believed. Religion is as useless as breasts on a boar. That made them both laugh. Fate is the one who wishes me to bring you. As soon as the souls go to their final rest we will meet him.

Still, thanks for the clarification. I’m just glad you are my angel.

Kanade stopped too suddenly and Ethan hit the brakes to notice her expression hardened, wings stiff and her posture tense. Her golden eyes were narrowed and as she spoke he could feel the sting of each syllable. "I am not your angel. Watch what you say for you know nothing of my kind or culture. Friends are all we can be, nothin’ more. Never, ever, call me your angel or hint there is somethin’ more. Do not ever say it to another Spirit Guide unless you wish to be sent to the realm of Torment for two thousand years."

Ethan could see she was furious, but no other person was near enough to hear her though he noticed others gawking in his direction. "Kanade, forgive me for upsetting you. It wasn’t my intention. I don’t have a clue what brought on your anger, but it was an ignorant statement. Yes, you are more beautiful than any I’ve ever seen, but you need to cut me some slack. I’ve had one hell of a day if you haven’t forgotten? I lost my job, a girlfriend, a brother and died for nothing. And in context, you saved me from demons like an angel. It’s not even been an hour so tell me how I know what and what not to say? And what is so wrong saying my angel anyway? Is it bad or derogatory? A curse?"

I’m sorry, Ethan. I didn’t bean to snap your head off. Kanade closed her eyes and sighed. But inside her head she couldn’t get out the comment he said of her being more beautiful than any. She knew she couldn’t fancy it, but it sounded so wonderful coming from him. He was too honest a person to lie. Ethan, why do you make me feel so? She asked herself privately. If only your words knew what they do to me. No, I cannot indulge in this. I need to find out what is wrong with me.

Molten gold eyes reopened and first looked at her shoes in the firm grass before slowly meeting Ethan’s gaze. I had no reason to jump to a conclusion so defensively. And I’m not angry. I’m worried for if an Enforcer heard and misunderstood, he would not care as he threw your soul into Torment. And I’m also sorry your day has been so sour. For a good person, it shouldn’t have happened. She walked on.

Well, are you going to explain why what I said was so bad? He inquired as he caught up. And what is an Enforcer?

An Enforcer She began. "is the only ones of my kind that can intentionally harm another being of flesh or spirit. Enforcers wear a helmet of burning gold and hold a spear or sword of light. They protect Spirit World from the outside as well as within. Any infraction will incur their Just wrath. There are few Enforcers, but they have power equal to a great demon lord and will never stop till their judgment is completed. Only Spirit King controls them. They are unequalled in battle and have the power to kill a Spirit Guide or any other creature."

Frightening.

Indeed we are. Came a deep bass voice.

Ethan and Kanade gasped and spun around. Behind was an Enforcer and he stood just as Kanade described. A full knights helmet covered his head and was aflame with power, but it did not hide two soul piercing violet eyes. The man stood ten feet tall and was ripped with so much muscle that not even a hint of fat touched his shirtless chest. White pants held a sheathed sword at his left hip, but in his left hand was an actual lance made of light with a height similar to the Enforcer. But not one scar or blemish marred the being. Without waiting for them to recover the Enforcer said Fate wants Ethan immediately after the souls are freed, Kanade. No more walking. He says it is important and time is wasting. Enormous violet wings spread and the Enforcer jumped into the sky without another word.

She recovered sooner by wrapping her arm around Ethan’s body and displayed great strength as she lifted him to hold at her side. She then immediately took to the air in haste, not wanting to tempt those to wait any longer if they sent an Enforcer.

Trees, grass, adorable animals, lakes, hills and other Spirit Guides blurred below as Kanade flew.

If I wasn’t already a dead man I swear that guy would have made me wet myself. Ethan said and she felt him shiver in her arm. She agreed with a nod while looking forward. "Let me take some of the