Charcoal Ch. 11

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Aidra Fox

Scott started when he realized the skin on the hand he had landed in was warm, he imagined, before he scrambled to the ground, that he could feel a heartbeat. This place was familiar to him in a way that went deeper than his current life. He paused for a moment to collect himself when he was standing on the relatively stable ground. He didn’t spend too much time thinking about what body parts could grow out of. Scott was in Soul’s hell and he had to get him back. He began to walk following the thread that would forever connect them. Scott tried to hurry, he didn’t want to be here any longer than he needed to, and he wanted to get back before anything could happen to their bodies. Scott didn’t know how long he had been falling, or how time passed here. Everything was an enigma, except his purpose, to get his arima, his soul back.


Soul turned slowly to look to the owner of the voice, but he didn’t see anyone there.

“Things are tricky here aren’t they, but it couldn’t be that easy to find all the answers could it?” Soul turned again, but as the voice was behind him again. Soul hated not being able to see who was talking to him. He remembered the inky whispers during his fall and the flickering images. He knew this voice was a continuation of them, and as tempting as they had been he didn’t want to give in. He didn’t want to give in to the trick of this voice either.

“What a clever boy, though you didn’t come here in a very clever way. Leaving your body behind, souls aren’t very sturdy when they are untethered, just like those you saw there.” Soul couldn’t see the gesture or the speaker but he knew that it was referring to the swirls of darkness in the pool, and knew he did not want to become one of them.

“So clever boy what do you want to know? You must ask the right questions, because as you know there are definitely stupid questions and I hear quite a lot of them.”

Soul stayed quiet. He didn’t know what he wanted to ask. He had already found more than he had expected. He had expected, had wanted, nothing, and yet he could feel that answers he had been waiting for his whole life were at his fingertips. But he also knew that he could ruin everything with a word, ruin it in a way that went beyond dying, beyond nothing. He would be trapped in some unknown form, and there would be truly no way out because he was already dead.

Soul thought of his mother, about what Sylvia was planning, about how to get out of here. There were so many questions that he could ask. He could ask how Scott was doing, and whether he was going to stay dead. But nothing seemed like the right questions. He wished he could draw, that he could be truly alone. That he could live a normal life. Knowing he wasn’t going to get any of those things Soul sat down on the surprisingly warm ground. He wasn’t tired, but curling his insubstantial arms around his fading legs was a small comfort. He hid his face between his knees and closed his eyes. He had never been good at asking questions, he was good at figuring things out, find ways to slip through the cracks and avoiding questions, asking questions required interacting, and speaking, two things that were not skill he had developed further than what was absolutely necessary.

“How do I know what the right questions are?” Soul heard a laugh and could almost feel the warm breath brush the back of his neck. He suppressed a shutter and closed his eyes tighter. He imagined a face for the voice, a person he couldn’t see was somehow better than a person that wasn’t there.

“That is dangerously close to a stupid question, and not deserving of a clever answer, so I will tell you an almost stupid answer to match your almost stupid question.” The voice seemed to come from changing directions, as if its speaker was pacing. “There is no way to know the right question, you must simply trust yourself.”

Soul sighed, he could argue that his question was slightly better than the answer but he stayed silent. He had to trust himself to get out of this. His last few choices had helped him in unexpected ways. He could do it again; maybe he would find some unexpected answers.

“Who is watching through the eyes in the gate?” Maybe a question he didn’t particularly want the answer to would throw the invisible speaker off, Soul felt that the creature was bored. Boring it more would definitely not be beneficial to him, and would not lead to him getting anything out of their encounter. And as disturbing as the voice was, Soul really didn’t want to be left alone here.

“Much, much better, that question is almost clever. They are my eyes, the hands are my hands, the fingers and nails and lashes and feet- all of it is mine. I have been here waiting for longer than you can know and I have grown, I have swallowed countless souls and given them form, I have spat them out, shat them out, thrown them up and eaten them again. Some grow and some stagnate. Some float in pools of my stomach and some rest in the hallows of my teeth, but they are all a part of Sakarya Escort me, just as you will be some day.” Soul swallowed. Information yes, but not really anything he wanted to hear, and nothing that he knew what to do with, nothing of what he needed to know.

“Is my mother here?”

“She is, because she is a part of you, she is here because she is in hell, but she is not here, because this place, well, it’s all for you. Your personal slice of eternity. You will end up here alone, but with everything and everyone that created you and will come after.” There was a small pause, if the speaker had a body Soul would have placed a shrug in the space, he almost could feel a small ripple under him, if the whole landscape had lifted a shoulder. “It’s rather complex. Language is not good for explaining. You can only really understand once you are a part of it.”

“Is my mother dead?” Soul felt another laugh against the back of his neck.

“Oh that is such a long story my clever boy, but you will hear it, because you have nowhere else to go, at least not yet. You have asked a clever question but I do not think you will like the answer.”


Scott walked as quickly as he could, he was aware of the way he was not quite here. It was very clearly a place for the dead and it would not be a good place to be lost, or stuck. He focused on the fragile thread holding him together, connecting himself to Soul and to his soul. He passed from the mostly open landscape into deeper and deeper forests of- body parts. He wondered what was in Soul’s mind to produce such a place. Scott tried not to look too closely to anything he saw, but as the forest got deeper he began to stumble over obstacles he didn’t want to touch with his bare hands. He was forced to slow down, to look where he was going and what he saw did as much to disturb him as the warm soft skin he felt every time he fell. Scott began to imagine he heard voices whispering to him, promising him a break from the dissembled parts, a break from the almost heartbeat he couldn’t quite ignore. He saw shadows out of the corners of his eyes, slithering through his legs, almost brushing against his face, promising answers, comfort, Soul. Scott flinched away from them and even though he never felt them he tripped over them, tripped trying to avoid them. He knew they lied, but the deeper he went the better their promises sounded.

The thread seemed to be fading even faster than his willpower, and each whispered thought that breezed through his mind held a deeper compulsion. He could stop for just a moment, retreat from the skin, the heartbeat, the horrible living warmth. He could always begin again. Time began to have no meaning, he would find Soul eventually, did it matter if it was in the next moments, or in the next lifetime? Scott tried to hold onto his determination to reach Soul as quickly as he could but each time he fell he got up less quickly. Closer to the ground the heartbeat seemed almost soothing, the warmth like waking with Soul wrapped around him. The shadows whispered that he was already with Soul, that all of this was Soul. That the heartbeat was Soul’s, that the hands that grasped at him through the dark were Soul’s hands, that each scratch he got from unseen fingernails were the same as Soul scoring his back in the midst of an orgasm.

Scott finally saw a break in the hands, in the shadows. He had made it somewhere, he felt his determination return but as it did the last pull of the thread disappeared. Scott had lost his Soul. If he would have thought about the end of their bond he would have guessed there would be intense pain, desolation, even death, but he hardly noticed its absence. He reached a gate covered in rolling lidless eyes, and as he gingerly pressed it open, wincing at the smooth slippery, and altogether too yielding flesh of the eyes, he realized he had no direction, nothing to follow, and for the first time in his life he had the opportunity to choose his next action based solely on what he wanted.

Scott was through the gate and he wanted back in his body, back in his house, in his bed, but the homey image was incomplete, what he really wanted, compulsion or not, was Soul.


“And so you see, the question of if she is alive is an altogether more complex question than one would imagine.” Soul stared into the swirling darkness in the fountain, and wondered if that fate, or the fate of his mother sounded worse. She had found a way to hide, but at what cost, her personhood, her peace? Soul was still angry with her for leaving him with a shadow, but the alternative? To be in pieces so small they could never be assembled, to be scattered bits of shadow aware and incomplete, without direction? Soul couldn’t imagine the feeling and didn’t want to. Pain was one things, stagnation was another, but the deep incompleteness of no longer being one entity?

“You little boyfriend might be able to explain the feeling- well that is if he remembers it, you were quite the naughty Adapazarı Escort boy weren’t you. Clever though, using your body to get what you want. Though you still haven’t quite managed to find what you really want have you?” Soul didn’t respond, but the voice seemed to like talking, and Soul realized that he was a better captive audience than digested, dissembled, ancient bits of souls. The creature must have gotten so bored waiting for him.

“I wasn’t just waiting for you, you know. I am waiting for many, many things.” Soul had gotten used to the sharp changes in subject during the story of his mother, but he didn’t think he would ever get used to the bits of his thoughts being pulled from his mind into the conversation.

“Well it sure sounds awkward if you think about it that way, so try this way. We are essentially in your mind now. And you, well you aren’t quite anything right now, your thoughts are just out here in the open, diffusing with the atmosphere.” Soul looked down and found he had faded even more, his edges were gone and the color that tinted the air around his consciousness was wavering, like it couldn’t quite tell where he began and it ended.

“You don’t want to stay here much longer, free thoughts are one thing, but to be only an assemblage of thoughts? Not really anyone’s favorite. Though your boyfriend is quite slow. I think he must have gotten distracted by the sudden freedom.”

Soul looked up from his fading being. Scott was there and-

“What do you mean, freedom?”

“Oh stupid boy, that is really not a clever question. I was beginning to have such high hopes for you. I suppose a bit more time in the world might help you. I will be lonely waiting for you to return, but the time will pass quickly before I see you again I think.”

Soul stood, and the feeling was so strikingly similar to sitting he almost fell, his molecules were spreading and instead of feeling the ground beneath his feet he felt only the different temperature, the steady thrum of what he had though was his heartbeat and its absence.

“But you have been so fun these few days, I will answer it. The Gifts as you call them fade here. They are nothing more than beliefs and impressions, and as you fade what holds them together fades as well. The bond is gone, and will never be again. Your boyfriend is close, but you will have to find him on your own, go quickly if you want him to leave with you. His hell is a very different place than here, and if you don’t find him quickly he will find out what it is like before his time, and wouldn’t that just be so sad?”

Soul tried to gather himself, but only felt his being diffuse more. He needed to find Scott. He had no idea where he was, or what would happen if they couldn’t find their way back, the creature was gone, though he never saw it his diffused being felt the change in the atmosphere distinctly. Soul looked around and noticed he was sensing more than seeing and his urgency ratcheted up another level. The creature had said it had been days and his body was waiting for him, Scott’s was as well and Soul knew that if their bodies died they would be trapped in another way, even if they made it out of this hell. He choked back a laugh and searched again. This place was endless and time was nearly gone.


Scott stood inside the gate and stared. A ghoulish shadow creature was wrapped around Soul’s crouched body, whispering in an unknown language. Its head turned to face him, its eyeless face smiling through Soul’s fading body. It wrapped itself tighter around him before vanishing. Soul stood and Scott watched the impression of his love shiver in the air, fading and diffusing slowly, bits of him drifting away, fading and settling into the soft skin of the ground. Soul looked around, his almost face desperate, Scott tried to walk to him but was unable to get any closer no matter how he tried. It was like a nightmare, he could run but he didn’t move, he could circle around or stand still, but he could only watch as little bits of Soul faded.


Soul spun fighting to feel Scott, searching inside himself for the ache of Scott’s mourning, for his pain, his love, for the small thread he had felt while falling, but the only thing he could feel was the fading of his imagined body. The creature had been right, the bond was finally gone, and Soul could only wish for it back. He had to find Scott, and they had to figure out how to get out of here, and both were things he had no idea how to do. He stopped moving and called in his voice that was not a voice. He pulled everything that he was, everything in himself that called out to Scott and yelled. There was no sound and the effort caused even more of himself to fade, but he felt something. A pause in the constant pulse. A stutter of thoughts, or the whispering he had become so accustomed to. Everything was still and silent, and in that missed heartbeat there was a glimmer of something that did not belong. Soul started toward the spot he had Serdivan Escort seen. It was gone but Soul trusted what he knew he had seen and reached. He felt nothing, saw nothing, but he knew from the place inside his heart that was no longer his own that he had found Scott.

“Lets go home.” He whispered, and even though there was no sound, he knew that he had been heard.


Soul felt like he had been burned to the bone, he felt like he had run a marathon in his bare feet and that he had not eaten in days. His soul hurt, his blood hurt, and his lungs felt like the air was razorblades. He wanted to throw up, but the thought of that much effort hurt not only his body but his thoughts as well. His body wanted to die, and each breath was an exercise in masochism. Soul focused on the solidity of his pain and told himself with each razorblade breath that it was better than feeling himself fade piece by piece.

“It makes you think dying maybe isn’t worth it doesn’t it.” The sound of Scott’s voice was almost enough to motivate Soul to open his eyes, but the burning he felt from remembering he had eyes was enough to deter him.

“If you ever want to look that deeply into you subconscious just ask, there are much easier ways than dying. You almost started rotting.” Soul couldn’t stop the dry heave. He felt decomposed, but he would really rather not think about his body as literal dead meat. “That was harsh, I’m sorry. I would give you some pain meds, but well you might die for real so you are just going to have to deal for a few days.”

And so Soul dealt. He was conscious of pulling each breath through his lungs, he was aware of the water being dripped slowly down his throat and the balm that was dabbed on his lips almost constantly. And after an age Soul felt secure enough in his body that he let go, and slept with only the lightest suggestion of dreams, there were lights and colors and whispers and almost sensations, but each faded before he was fully aware, and when he woke he opened his eyes in a field of poppies.

Soul blinked a few times, caught off guard by the lack of pain. And realized that he was not really seeing flowers, but a painting of flowers. He was lying not in a bed of grass, but in a real bed, with arms wrapped around him and a hand brushing his hair out of his eyes. There was a strange lack of pain, Soul almost though he had died for real, but, he thought slowly, if he had really died he would be back in hell and this was entirely too nice to be hell.

Soul sat up slowly and turned to look at Scott, his face was the most wonderful thing Soul had seen. All his odd feelings were gone, his worries about the truth in them was gone. He was finally able to look at Scott and feel what only he felt, and what he felt was a strange fluttering in his stomach, and heat in his cheeks like he had fallen asleep in the sun.

“Um hi.” Soul said, then looked down at his hands. He felt, shy, but more than that he just really hoped Scott still liked him. Scott had never felt ambiguous toward him, Soul knew, but he had never seen Soul without the oppressive bond telling him that Soul was his everything. Soul knew he couldn’t be everything for Scott, but he really, really wanted to be something.

“Hi to you, I love you.” Soul looked up sharply. There was no way it could be that easy. He had to be dreaming, alive but dreaming, there was no way he could be in heaven so soon after all he had done. He hadn’t been alive, awake, long enough to make up for even a tiny bit of what he had-

“Stop thinking so hard. I had a lot of time to think while you were trying not to die. I had a lot of time to tell you all I need to say. I was waiting for you to see me for real. When I was stuck in the disgusting hell that is apparently your mind ,I felt the bond break, and really nothing changed. They whispered that I could have anything that I wanted and all I wanted was you. I think I found my hell there, I could have had anything I wanted but you, you couldn’t see me, and you are the only one that ever really has. It was torture and it wasn’t even a moment compared to forever.” Soul wanted to frown and roll his eyes, it was entirely too sappy, but he could still feel the butterflies trying to claw their way out of his stomach with their tiny harmless feet and he sighed instead.

“I loved you even when I hated you. Being dead was no fun without you. I think it wouldn’t have been hell if I didn’t remember you. But I did and you ruined my peace.” Soul realized as he continued to talk that his speech was entirely unromantic. He employed the one tactic that had been consistently effective in his life and stopped talking. Soul looked at Scott for a moment and just let himself feel. He could feel a smile trying to sneak its way onto his face, but it was just not going to happen. He kissed Scott instead, and when he felt the corners of Scott’s mouth turn up he had to smile too, if only to keep kissing him.

Soul let his hands creep under Scott’s soft shirt, he let them trace up his back and around to the tight nubs of his nipples, he let his nails train down the gentle bumps of Scott’s ribs, he let them feel the goosebumps his touch had caused. And when they had finished their journey he let them wind into Scott’s hair to pull him closer.

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