I swirled in my small room. The mirror beckoned me. I took it by both
sides and learned into it, beaming and unbroken at my new face. Two
months in and I'd finally become used to this.
My other half didn't feel the same way, he thought I made him look old
and tired-see that's the thing. I smirked at the thought of us being
married, we weren't. We weren't at all. My other half. It means
precisely what I said it means.He is the other half of me. The only
way I could describe this as marriage would be to say I was locked in
an eternal battle with myself, two minds in one body, both struggling
to go our separate ways. Till death do us part. Death that would
never come, well not again anyway.
My name is Faustus Merrick. I share a body with a young man. He's not
prepubescent, I'm not a creep. Even so, I never wanted to be in this
I'm 49. He's maybe 15 years old. I sometimes feel I'm babysitting myself,
but he's very mature for his age.
Today I looked at afterlife with new eyes. I pulled on my heavy dinoskin
boots, a friend of mine had taken a big one down a while back and she
still has skin to make more today. My eyes followed the breeze around
my small cabin, my bed, my chair, Duscha's coat.... I hated that coat
but Duscha forced it upon us none other but every day. I never knew
why he was so attached to it....
Once again, I struggled against the coat, like a child battling against a
school uniform. I gave up after a while. I didn't have the strength
for another twenty-minute battle like yesterday.
Stepping into the breeze I sighed, the only cover for my forlorn emotions
being the excessive woodland above me. I was alone for acres but not
in my head. Alone except for the man that was rooted to the ground an
acre away, but he was unconscious most of the time, or off his head.
I suppose I was lucky in that sense, only being crossed with a human.
Although sometimes I wish my other half was some thoughtless animal
such as a cat.
Today I wanted to see Jack, the girl who gave me the dinoskin boots. When
she had died, she was crossed with a bird of sorts. I found her
strange at first but she was the only one there to comfort me. Only
me. My other half, Duscha, hated her, that's why I take over the body
most of the time. He's weak and most of the time can't overpower me.
I wanted today, to reveal my life to Jack. I had previously refused to
but now I feel so comfortable around her I wanted her to know. I had
planned to go over there today but Duscha, as usual wouldn't have it.
I directed my thoughts at Duscha.
''Why do you hate her so much? She's a beautiful woman!'' I asked,
''Let me off, Merrick, she's a two-tonne tramp.'' his rasping thought
cursing through my mind. I was angry at him, but he was young. I
tried to be understanding.
''Is this because of her wings?....Or her legs?''
''She's a dirty flirt and she's only rooting for you 'cause she's desperate.
I swear, you take over everything. The clothes I wear, the places I
go, the food I eat....'' He rambled on
''Stop mothering me and let me make a decision for once!'' his voice hoarse
''Well fine, Duscha. What the hell do you want to do?''
Francisko, or Frankie as Duscha so lovingly referred to him as, was his friend.
He went on and on about how he'd seen Francisko die, which I can
imagine was traumatic for him, but we're all dead here. Finding his
friend would be impossible. This place is huge! Trying to teach sense
to Duscha would be much like telling a mermaid to do the splits. It
just doesn't work.
After a while, I decided to let Duscha take over, and I lay rest at the
back of the mind. I was keeping an eye on him though, I wasn't about
to trust him so freely with the body.Serious injury here takes a
while to fix.
He trampled over the forest ground and through the town. I knew exactly
where he was heading, he was so sure that Frankie would be in Violet
City. Violet City was, as far as I'd heard, a sick place.
Violet City was for the richest, most successful people, many taking
hundreds of years of afterlife just to stumble through the front
gates. If someone found themselves rooted to the ground as half-
tree, they were slaughtered from the ground and thrown out. Only
species that had become crossed with their own kind was allowed in.
Last I'd heard of the place was that the police were checking it out,
however it's no secret that the police are relatively new-found,
persistent and hardworking police nonetheless.
Duscha was smashing rapidly through the blushing and exhausted leaves, and
just as I was wondering how we'd get into Violet City dressed the way
we were, he swung into a dressing store. Smart fashion, or things
considered luxurious here were different than back on Earth. All
heeled boots and waistcoats were the most upmarket.
Duscha paraded towards the operator of the small wooden store, emptying his
pockets as soon as he got to the front desk and barking for the
operator to tell him what he could get with his money. Seventeen
starling feathers, or archangels as they were so frequently called
were sprawled on the desk in-front of us. I had never seen these
''Duscha, where'd you get these?'' I interrogated inwardly to him.
''While you were out, Merrick, I....'' He started, but the operator had
started talking to him
'While I was out....' That meant whilst I was deep in sleep. Duscha does
that, even when the body is out running, eating, whatever, I can't
tell what's happening if I'm asleep. Sometimes I wake up to find
myself dressed and eating already.
I only drew my attention back to the here and now when I realised
Duscha was taking off the dinoskin boots.
''Dus....what in hell are you doing!?''
He ignored me.
''Are those....dinoskin?'' the operator gasped, wide-eyed.
I forced my way through the body, taking over
'No! You can't have those....Jack....''
I slowed as the operator puzzled at me. I took them back and held them
in my arms like a child's toy.
Duscha begged out loud, his emotions consuming the whole body like a
sad song creeping through the ears of a desperate listener. The
operator could feel it too, he tried to console Duscha, who's tears
were dripping westward with the wind.
''Listen, boy'' The operator began, his gruff but friendly voice slashing my
''What's your name?''
''Duscha....Duscha Rose'' He sniffed and stammered quietly
''Okay, Duscha, let me ask you, are you heading to Violet City?''
Duscha nodded, and so did the operator in response indicating that he
''Are you looking for someone there? Someone you haven't seen since
Once again I felt my head tilting solemnly and a few warm tears dripping
form my lashes.
''I get a lot- a hell of a lot of people in here looking to find clothes
to get into Violet City so that they can look for loved ones. Who is
it you're looking for?'' The operator spoke delicately, although I
wasn't sure what he was getting at.
''My friend, Frankie.''
''Was your friend loved?''
''I.....Yes. I think he was. He had a big family , and me. His friend. He was
loved very much, I mean who isn't loved?'' Duscha melted into a
massive array of sniffs and stammers again.
''I know where he might be....'' The operator sighed with eyes that said
''if only you knew''
''WHERE?!'' Duscha cried, his exclamation leaping at the operator
The operator made a 'calm down' movement with his hand and began speaking
''Well you know when you die, Mr. Rose, you come here....''
He spoke slow and nervously, Duscha's headbanging nod rushing him on.
''....some people don't come here when they die. Some people go to this whole
other land far away from here. I know because I've been there''
I gasped and Duscha widened our eyes, performing an exquisitely shocked
The operator carried on and we listened. We now know that to get to this
land you need to go through The Earth as a ghost, but once you get
there you have to be split from your other half. As much as I'd love
to be split from Duscha, I said no. We had made a life for ourselves
here, worked hard, I wasn't about to risk all that to find some kid
that I'd never met.
Duscha broke down completely when I said no, screaming and kicking and
battling me both inwardly and outwardly, pulling out hair and begging
until finally he had stressed himself to sleep.
He had done me in, I strolled about, treading slowly and sadly on the
eternally orange leaves. I came across Jack's house and wondered if I
should give her a knock, after all, it was what I'd planned to do
originally. I batted the idea back and forth in my mind until finally
I decided to go for it before Duscha woke up.
I ratted on the door, and Jack beamed at me as she opened it. We
chatted the night away, departing awkwardly as Duscha woke.
Over the next few months, I'd kept a different body-clock to Duscha,
waking only a while before he went to sleep so that I could see Jack
on my own for a few hours every day. Weeks whispered away like sand
blown from soft skin and I fell in love, cracking my knees as they
hit the golden-leaved ground.
Things were euphoric for the two of us, days so rich that I can't remember
since the early days of me and my wife back on Earth. I looked
forward to every day with such beauty, that is until I never saw her
again. A pain that only calls for me to remember the whole day from
the moment I woke to the second I broke down.
I woke right as Duscha fell asleep, we hadn't talked a lot recently but
only because I'd been so exited about the way things between me and
Jack were going.
I spent quite some time preparing myself before strolling through the
constantly-autumn leaves to Jack's place, holding a bunch of the best
flowers I could find, lovingly decorated with the rarest butterfly
The wings in my stomach, however, were not so rare and tore at me every
time I stood at her front door. Routinely, I knocked and she
answered, blushing rosenrot at the gift. She pecked me before letting
me in. She shone in a silky shirt and her hair was shiny and curled.
She looked the best I'd ever seen her.
''Come, Faustus'' she murmured at me, glaring mischievously before leading me
down her corridor, her hips swinging like a ringing bell. She led me
to an average size room, with a large bed and small window.
Her bright eyes twinkled at me as she playfully pushed me down onto the
bed, giggling as her lips crashed upon mine. She began unbuttoning
her shirt, and I felt weak, but a good weak. A longing weak. A
longing for something I feared I'd never feel since I'd died.
I pulled her down and rolled over her , kissing her face and her mouth,
still weak. I was weak. Because of my weakness, something came over
me. Something took over. That something was Duscha.
He yanked her from the kiss, his hands on her neck, choking her. I
couldn't do a thing to stop him. I had to watch him do this to her,
paralyzed. He yanked at her hair, punched her, she couldn't do
anything to stop him. Her wings and her bird legs struggling against
his violence. Duscha spotted a pair of her dress-making scissors near
by and took hold of them, ignoring my pleads for him to stop. He took
them and he stabbed her. Stabbed and stabbed till her feathered flesh
fell to the floor along with the the afterimage of Jack and her
relationship with me. Duscha's relentless flush of frustration was
released right there and he finally stopped, the scissors left lodged
in her left eye.
He smirked and laughed, swinging off of the bed and stood shaking, heart
racing, wiping my tears from the face and drowned my emotions with
the sound of his sick hilarity.
He was talking to me. Laughing at me.
''You never gave a damn about my emotions. You never cared about my feeling
towards Francisko. You've had your time. You had a wife too. How
lucky. Now it's my turn, Merrick. We're leaving to find Frankie, if
we don't, this bitch here is bound to wake up and tell the police all
about us. People don't die down here, Merrick. We better leave.
He glanced at the disfigured remains of Jack, forcing me to see them
too. He smirked and paraded out onto the busy streets.
He had complete control. The thing is I've had no idea what we was doing
this whole time I was asleep. He'd grown unbearably strong. Duscha
knew exactly what he was to do to pass through Earth and onto the
other land. He'd obviously spent his time researching. I was about to
let him take us there, though. There was nothing more that I wanted
than to be away from this sick maniac, not a part of him.
To my surprise, Duscha ran straight back to our cabin, stripping off the
blood speckled clothes as his quick feet hit the dusty rug . He was
shaking violently, like the orange trees in a storm. Tears fell from
him like the leaves, too. He drew into the corner of the bed, naked
and quivering. He suddenly seemed to be unresponsive, and I could
control the body. For my own safety I searched inwardly for any
glimmer of his consciousness. He seemed to be dead. I now had to
decide. I knew Duscha wasn't dead but neither was Jack. Do I go find
her and nurse her back to health or do what Duscha wants?
Time didn't wisp away like it once did, every breath seemed to elongate
the passing seconds, each one more painful than the last. The hurting
exhausted me, and my thoughts slowed and darkened like an early
sunset over a stroll in the park. I was out and dreaming.
I dreamed of my wife, our house, my job.... something I hadn't dreamed
about in so long. My heart was warm throughout the dream and my head
I woke to find myself staring though Duscha's stained eyes. My clothes
and lay in a bloody heap on the floor, and I was dressed in black.
Duscha flattened out the black trench coat against the
abruptly-lengthed raven shorts and I followed his gaze to the end of
the coat, which lay at the midpoint of a pair of knee-high dark grey
socks, followed by a pair of silver -buckled black boots. Duscha
tightened the black lace that hung around his neck before pulling the
coat round over the white shirt and black waistcoat. I brought my
attention up to the mirror in-front of me, I was hardly recognizable.
Duscha had cut my hair from my shoulders, shaved and plucked my
eyebrows. He looked better than I'd ever managed to. He licked his
dry lips and I tasted a sweet treacle.
''All this just for Francisko?'' I whispered almost sorrowfully.
''I....I want him to recognize me. Merrick I can't change your eyes. Your
build is stronger than mine was....'' He trembled and fretted and his
pink lips quivered.
''Don't we get split once we're there?'' I asked, almost forgetting to sound
completely disgusted at him. Truth is, I was finding it hard.
''Not at first. I want to find Francisko before we split.''
''Why drag me along? Why not leave me be and go find him yourself?''
''I want you to stay with me, Faustus. Right up until I find Frankie to
look after me.''
''You can't look after yourself?'' I asked, wondering if I knew him at all.
Duscha swung a large drawstring bag over his shoulder, took one last look at
the little cabin we'd resided in for the past nine and a half months,
and left, crunching along the leaves in the opposite direction of the
town, eventually taking a right down a long moonlit road.We walked
for miles and miles, sharing details of our lives with each-other, we
knew each-other like never before.
I'd reached, as the conversation ran dry, the conclusion that Duscha had
never been sane. Most of the thing he'd said led me to believe that
he was a bit of a loner. He simply didn't like to be around other
people, I thought, being stuck in the same body as him probably
didn't help the situation. Some of my anger at him turned into pure
sympathy for Duscha, I'd misjudged him completely. The reason he'd
flipped was mostly my fault. I never listened when I should have. I
sighed, the raw, icy air scratching at the back of my panting throat.
We'd been walking for so long, nothing on either side of us but the
cantaloupe-leaved trees, brushing gently against the moon. To keep
myself from uneasiness, I attempted to reboot conversation. A
previously forgotten thought floated into my mind and reminded
where did you get those 17 archangels?''
''Merrick....don't hate me I only did it for Frankie....I....didn't-''
''Didn't what, Duscha?'' I asked firmly, expecting something awful. Something
sick, degrading or illegal. Drug deals and hit-men were not
unheard-of here. They weren't unheard of at all.
But as he began to talk again, his tone changed completely.
''Merrick I found a really rare bird feather and sold it on for the archangels,
Aching, we reached the end of the road, and onto a dark desert area, a few
crispy brown leaves were blown across the powder-white soft sand. We
reached a small hut after just minutes of walking and Duscha pulled
us through the front door. The place was well-lit with candles,.
Inside was a dreary looking operator with patches of grey fur beneath
her eyes and tabby triangle ears atop her head.She's a lucky one, I
thought, just so loud that Duscha could hear me. She nodded for us,
well, Duscha to step over. And he did.
''Higher lands?'' She asked, voice buzzing in the back of her throat, like a
Duscha nodded. She handed him a form which I helped him to fill in.
Names: Duscha Rose and Faustus Merrick
Ages: 15 and 49
Species: Human and Human
Sex: Male and Male
And a few short questions after that.
We were then led to a small room with no floor, just dirt, a small ditch
in the center.
''Please stand in the indent on the floor. Your journey will begin shortly.''
Duscha handed the operator two archangels and thanked her as I wondered how
many people actually came through here every day. We were stood in
the ditch and nothing was happening. Nothing happened but still our
breathing deepened and heart rate accelerated.What the hell was
standing here going to do?
In one unearthly blast of suddenness, we took off in one exasperating
crash of energy, so powerful that all my senses bled from me and I
could feel nothing. Nothing until we passed through Earth, where the
seconds stretched out before me and I could hear everything, honking
of modern traffic, chatting on phones of stressed businessmen and the
laughter of playing children. I could hear them living. I'd have
cried if the energy around me would let me, I knew I'd never hear
life quite like this again. Living. Praying. Believing. Unsuspecting
of what actually happens when they die. Nothing their holy books tell
them would have prepared them for this. Before I could take in a
breath of Earth air, the moment was over, and the last thing I felt
before once again losing my senses slowing and turning, head towards
the Earth before flashing off again.
My sense came back to me before Duscha's did. I was alone in my mind and
I was terrified. I thought we'd been split. I was pretty sad when I
thought that. I was so confused and everything was a blurry, tearful
mess. I could see light bulbs, something they never had in the other
place. Something I hadn't seen since Earth. I could hear chatter and
smell faintly the scent of chemicals and heavy disinfectants. The
place was so white, white bed-sheets and tiled floors. It was so high
tech, unlike where I'd previously resided. I sniffed and took hold of
a young doctors arm, begging weakly not to split me from Duscha. They
assured me they wouldn't, not until we'd signed a form.
The doctors took a while nursing me back to sanity, until I had a sense
of where I was and what had gone on. They wheeled me into a clean,
small but fresh room with a few other people, closed the curtains
around me and turned on my TV. I was really amazed to see such
technology here. Not even Violet City had things like this. I watched
the news with more interest than ever before until Duscha woke.
Although he was slightly less confused than I was, it still took be a while to
bring him up to date with the current situation. He marveled at the
TV and the lights and the doctors and the bed. He seemed pretty
content with the situation, I concluded, since he swung unstably in
his black clothes from the bed and began stumbling down the
corridors, almost tripping as he did. He eventually grasped the hang
of walking again.
He stopped a passing staff member, asking how to get out of the place.
''Go to the end of the hall and two floors down in the lift. Turn right
and you're in the reception area''
''Thank you! Thank you!'' He beamed at her, before skipping and weaving
through the passing people, the only thing he stopped for was to
swing into a nearby bathroom, checking his looks in the mirror. He
fixed his hair and splashed his face with water before stepping
calmly out into the moving corridor. He looked around, but before
stepping forward, he gasped, bright eyed like he'd been hit with the
crown jewels. He almost fell backwards but managed to pick himself up
just as I'd spotted what he'd seen. A skinny, snow-haired boy with a
name tag reading in large letters: FRANCISKO FALL. Duscha was
paralyzed, and I didn't dare move. Francisko had white skin, tan lips
and strangely orange dips under his eyes. He had a dominating scar
curving off his left jaw into a slash across his neck.
''Fr....FRANKIE!'' Duscha called, crying as he short off in his friend's direction,
almost knocking him over in embrace. All I could hear was a rapid
breathing from the two bodies and all I could smell was something
sweet, like strawberry shampoo. This was right before being jolted
away violently, bedazzled and confused, Duscha grabbed Francisko's
struggling arms tightly as he begged for Frankie to remember him.
''I remember you. You were the last thing I saw, Duscha!'' he spat, teeth
bared, growling as Duscha hung from his grip. Francisko slammed us
onto the floor, into a pile of medical equipment. ''You can't expect
me to just forgive you, not after this!'' Francisko pressed his
petite hands against his flooding face and turned. I couldn't contain
my confusion. ''I don't understand!'' I yelled. Apparently Francisko
still thought I was Duscha because he then made things completely
clear ''You killed me, Duscha. How can you not understand that?'' His
anger growled and grew in that one sentence, I knew, as he booted me
in the head so hard I could hear my eye-socket cracking.
I was fuming. I was angrier at him now than when he'd hurt Jack, who
was slowly fading from my memory. ''DUSCHA YOU KILLED HIM?'' I
screamed out loud, hurt that he'd never even bothered to mention. The
room was silent. Not even a crinkle of an autumn leaf blowing across
the ground was to be heard. Francisko turned around and stared at me,
his amber eyes turning green with the tears. Duscha spoke with a
whisper, but the silence made it so everyone could hear. ''Yes I
killed you. I then killed myself.''
What happened next was bizarre. Francisko stepped over and pulled us to
our feet. He took us to an office and sat on a small leather sofa
with us, away from everyone else, cradling Duscha as he cried. We
watched out the window. Snowy blossoms fluttered by like the wings of
the butterflies I'd once decorated Jack's flowers with. I didn't care
about her anymore. The spring bleeds here. It's not always Autumn.
''Frankie, what is the difference between here and where I went when I died?''
Duscha asked softly, fidgeting so that he could get a better look at
Francisko's moving lips. ''People who come here were loved when they
had died. People where you were, weren't loved. You killed me before
you had the chance to come here.''
Things then became clear to me. My wife never loved me. Francisko had killed
the only friend he had.
The next day, I was split from Duscha, we finally had our own bodies.
Weeks went by, the best ever weeks for Duscha and Francisko. And for a
while now, I've been wondering why he did it. Why did Duscha jump
from the top of a building? He had such a future here. He's not dead.
You cant die again. He's just completely unresponsive, caught in a
glass coffin, stored away in Francisko's apartment. Frankie lost his
job. He couldn't handle his feelings, drinking himself into oblivion
every other day, unconscious on the days he wasn't. He'd drink until
the doctors here advance to find a way to bring Duscha back. And me?
I have a bottle of a certain poison that will put me into Duscha's
state. I'm about to drink it. I don't want to be cured until he is.