Thorüsa: The Missing Place
CHAPTER TWO: THE MISSING PLACE
AS SOON AS Obsidian dashes into my master’s back bedroom for safety, I venture outside - and shriek. “Scillàndota Thorüsa…!” Now that my eyes have adjusted to this supernatural realm, I understand why our priests call it “the conflicted missing place”. All of the currents of existence around me have been laid bare, and the sight is absolutely astounding! For instance, there stands a great and sprawling evergreen in the front yard of our country cottage. When I was physically awake, that tree was just a tree, as solid and ordinary as any other. Now I can see the faintly luminescent streams of water trickling through its aged wooden veins. The healthy sections of its trunk are a lush brown, infused with a subtle light that illuminates even its tiniest parts as I look closely. I’m breathless with astonishment! As delighted as I am to see our magnificent tree teeming and gleaming with life, I am also dismayed to spot some mold and decay. These are infecting the trunk. While its living parts glow, these festering, creeping intruders take its light away.
So this is the afterlife. What a pity that we mortal beings can’t see it until we’re dead, or at least in a deep-enough sleep… Apparently, only Galinicus had the wisdom to try and discover this second part.
I have to shield my transparent eyes, even with my transparent hands. Every blade of grass, every flower, and every bird in our evergreen’s drooping branches is the same, suffused with Life’s light and Death’s encroaching darkness. I now understand why people call Thorüsa “conflicted” as well as “missing”: I’m not sure whether I’m happy or sad to behold all of these wonders. The truth is that I’m both at the same time. I never paid much attention to this tree when I was awake, except when I rested in its cool shade. Now I can see its joy and pain, and feel it too. The evergreen stands tall and proud, inhaling and exhaling with plant-breaths that only I can hear. My ethereal ears catch every sound that men cannot, but all are faint.
“Oh, tree,” I whisper, in both a greeting and an apology. “Here in this missing place, I greet you!” I float over and embrace it with these pale arms which can hardly hug, and these hands which can hardly touch. The evergreen remains still, but then its branches sigh. For some reason, I know it has heard me, and not only been disturbed by the breeze. It has pardoned me for all the times I ignored it, threw pinecones at it when I was frustrated by a long day of study, and basically forgotten its existence. I lean against it happily.
Then something catches my eye: a tiny spark, as bright as the sun, coursing its way through the gray sky. Instinctively, I know what it is - a cèla, or celestial, on its way to find a fugitive soul and escort it to Elysium. At first I wonder why there aren’t more of them, but then recall: Who wouldn’t want to go to paradise after they die? Only those who have unfinished business in this world, perhaps loved ones to try to save. I stand next to the evergreen, spellbound, as I trace the brilliant path of the cèla through thick rainclouds. An autumn thunderstorm is on its way, and I think of going back inside before I remember I’m a shade! I hear a rumble, pressing and ominous. Oddly enough, it’s beneath my feet and not up in the heavens…
Another scream escapes my throat as I turn and see what’s causing it. I climb the evergreen without any effort, floating through its branches like the wind, which starts to howl. Horrified, I watch the scene below:
Myriads of hissing, writhing leeches, glowing with amber fire, emerge from the cold ground and begin to move. There are thousands - no, tens of thousands! Hundreds of thousands! Each one gives off its own infernal heat, and I realize what they are: the dùrni, or fiends. They are the ones who escort the damned to the Abyss, dragging them by their two ever-ravenous mouths. I watch as they squirm and writhe, making remarkable progress as they flow in rivers toward whatever lost souls they seek! It’s no wonder why some choose to try and escape here to Thorüsa instead of accepting their fate and being cast into darkness.
Our priests say that even after we die, we’ll be able to feel every sensation we did here in this world. I bow my head and weep as I watch the fiends, swarming and relentless. Who’d stand a chance against them? Suddenly, I catch sight of three of these particular leeches, who - oh, in the name of our god! - latch on to other, weaker leeches and suck the life out of them on the way. The weak fiends shrivel up like grapes drying in the sun, or like parched skins of wine after they’ve been used. The three strong ones gain even more size and strength, and as they pass the evergreen where I’m hiding, they’re as big as cougars!
If you want to find your first soul, an inner voice says within my transparent body, follow these three fiends.
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