“Are you always this quiet?”
“And rude. Is this how you treat a victim?”
“For the love of god, please shut up.”
“Why? Scared you’ll lose your footing if I say too much?”
“Quite the opposite, actually. The more you talk, the more inclined I feel to push you off this ledge.”
The figure beside her feigns an expression of fear. “Rina, I’m horrified. Don’t joke around about this.”
Rina rolls her eyes, forcing herself to fight back the urge to stop and shove the latter into an eternal black pit.
“I really hope you don’t make it out of this alive,” she mutters.
“You’ll be charged with homici-”
“There’s the-...door,” Rina hesitates, furrowing her brows in confusion. “Why is there a door in the middle of the trail?”
A grumble answers behind her. “Shouldn’t you know the answer more than me?”
Rina shoots an irritated glare in response. “No, because I’ve never done this before. I’ve heard of other Soul Guides who have, but it’s rare for it to even get to this point.” she sighs, shaking her head. “It's locked. Give me the key...uh, what was your name again?”
“Allan. I just told you my name a couple minutes ago.” he scoffs.
“I was trying to pay attention to my footing. I don’t remember hearing anything from you but complaint the entire time, so I zoned out.”
Allan pulls out a key from his jacket pocket and hands it to her. “Can you blame me for freaking out? I wouldn't be here if it weren’t for you.”
“You mean you wouldn't be here if you had minded your own business while I was doing my job. You’re the one who tripped while getting out of the bush and then body-slammed into me. How is this my fault, again?” She pushes the key into the keyhole and twists. Allan peeks over her shoulder as she continues to fumble with the lock, jamming it in every direction possible.
“Do you know how to open a door properly?” Allan questions with a tone of criticism in his voice.
Rina pulls the key out and angrily shoves it towards him, turning back to examine the door. “This isn’t the right key. You’re sure you didn’t find any other one?”
A moment of silence passes.
Rina turns around to find Allan staring stone-cold shocked at the bottomless open space next to them. She lets out a sigh of disappointment. “This isn't the time to be having an existential crisis. The void isn’t going to disappear if you keep staring at it.”
“Allan!” Rina shouted. It succeeded in snapping the male out of his daze, and he turned to look at her, bewilderment in his eyes.
“Sorry. What were you saying?”
Rina passes a look of concern before repeating her question. “You sure you didn’t find any other key?”
“No. Just this one.”
“That’s odd. How are we supposed to get this door open then?”
“What? Let me try. With the way you were jamming that key into the lock, I doubt this door would want to let someone like you in.”
Before Rina could fire back a retort, Allan stepped past her and twisted the doorknob. His shoulder bumped into her, causing Rina to take a step back.
“Hey, watch it! This ledge isn’t wide enough to fit two people side-by-side.”
The door creaks and Allan gives Rina a look of satisfaction, taking in the disbelief plastered all over her face. Her eyes widened at the opened door.
“How did you-”
“Told you so. The door just didn’t like you.”
“Woah...what is this place?” Allan surveys the drastic change in scenery as he steps through the door, shortly followed by Rina. “It looks far nicer than that awful mountain we were just trekking on.”
“...I’ve never seen anything like this either.”
“It looks like an idealized version of heaven.”
“This must be her safe place, meaning we’re near. Come on, let’s keep moving.”
“Where? All I can see from here is an endless amount of sky, clouds, and dense fog covering the entire floor.” he glances towards the light. “And the sun.”
Rina whips her head to the right, scanning the perimeter for any signs of movement. “Allan, did you see that?” she asks.
“What?” he turns to look in her direction, seeing nothing but more of what he’d just described. “No?”
“I just saw someone run past me. I think it’s the boy I’m looking for.”
“Huh? I don’t see anything…Rina, why are you pulling my sleeve? I said I don’t see anything.”
“Allan, I’m not touching you. Are you going delusi-” She suddenly turns to look at Allan, and sure enough, a little boy was tugging on his sleeve. Having been discovered, the boy started to run, glancing back with a giggle.
“Hey, come back!” Rina began to run after him, leaving Allan no choice but to follow. No matter how fast they ran, they couldn’t seem to get an inch closer to the boy, the scenery so motionless it made Allan wonder if they were just running in place.
“Why aren’t we getting any closer? That boy can’t be running that fast, can he? His legs are definitely moving slower than mine!” Allan shouts, beginning to feel a side stitch ebbing on.
“Stop asking me questions I don’t know the answers to! This isn’t my consciousness.” Rina cried back.
“Wait, I can finally see something! Is that...a park?”
The pair finally slowed down their steps as they chased the boy into a park, both tired and out of breath.
“A park...in the middle of all this...totally normal,” Allan noted in between breaths.
“It’s where I first met that boy.” A voice emerges from behind, startling them both.
Rina glances at the figure that had just spoken, moving to now stand beside them. She looked to be a woman in her early forties, with brown shoulder-length hair and soft green eyes. A white blouse fitted her body, blotches of paint visible on her wine-red skirt. She gazes longingly at the boy, who was now lying on the grass, painting on a canvas.
“Come.” She moves past them and settles down on a park bench, motioning for the two to join her.
Allan looks to Rina for help, who walks over and sits down beside the woman. He hesitantly joins them.
“I was sitting right here, painting the scenery of a spring day in this park-the trees, the birds, the fountain that sat in the middle, a cute elderly couple napping on the bench across from me-”
Allan opens his mouth in shock as the park she was describing suddenly came alive all around him. “It looks so real,” he mumbles, realizing that it wasn’t just the scenery alone that convinced him-it was the sound, the smell, and the colors that brought the whole place alive.
The woman gives a small chuckle. “Of course. This is exactly how I remembered it.” She looks over to her left and continues. “I suddenly heard a boy crying in the distance. The tears and snot wouldn't stop streaming down his face...I went over to ask him what’s wrong. He had lost his parents, so I offered to stay with him and look for them. Luckily, they showed up 20 minutes later, thankful that their child was safe and sound. They had been looking around for Noah for over an hour, praying that he hadn’t wandered out of the park by himself. It was a huge park, after all.” She peers at the sunset, streaking the park in hues of orange and pink.
“How did you become so close to him?” Rina asked.
“...After the three of them had left, the mother came back and asked me for a favor. Both her and Noah’s father worked tedious jobs that required long work hours, and they were looking for a babysitter to watch him while they were away. I agreed to help, and that’s how I became a part of Noah’s family. We both connected with each other fairly quickly, and I loved him like my own child. He reminded me of my own son...” she pauses. “I’m sure you know what happened to Noah after that.” She suddenly turned her focus to Allan, examining his face. “You know, you look a lot like my son... if he were older,” she noted.
Allan smiles softly at the woman, unsure of what to respond. “...I’m sorry for your loss.”
She shakes her head, then shifts her attention to Rina. “So, what are you doing here?”
“Ah…” Rina struggles to answer her. “Look...I know this may be hard to believe, and...I know he means a lot to you…” she gazes sympathetically into the woman’s eyes. “But Noah’s soul refuses to move on from this world. He’s far too attached to you, and as a result, he decided to escape into your consciousness, which is how I-” she glances back at Allan, “-we ended up here. If his soul doesn't leave this world soon, it could dissipate or turn into something worse...”
The woman blinks in surprise and concern. “Ah. I’ve heard the stories. How do you convince him to move on, then?”
Rina takes in a deep breath. “Well...that’s the thing. All he has to do is leave your consciousness, and I’ll guide him to the gates-but because of his soul’s strong connection with you, the only way he’ll leave is if you lose all your memories of him. That way, he could move on without anything holding him back.”
“Rina, that’s-” Allan begins.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Verdant. There’s nothing you can say or do that’ll convince him once his soul has made a definite decision. I wish there was another way.”
“...Please, call me Emily.” she turns away from Rina, taking a moment before giving her response. “I understand. I’ll tell him to go. Can you give us a moment, though?”
“Of course. Take your time. Just so you’re aware, all your memories of him will be erased the second he leaves your conscious.”
She gives a nod and heads over to Noah, who’s been painting peacefully on his own, and sits down next to him. Rina gets up from the bench and quietly walks away from the park landscape, Allan following a couple steps behind.
“So that’s the job of a Soul Guide?” he asks.
“In a nutshell, yes. Though, this is the first time I’ve ever had to guide a spirit like this.”
The two remain silent for the rest of the time until Emily walks over, holding Noah’s hand. It’s evident that she’s been crying, though she hastily wipes away every tear that falls.
“Remember, you’re going to follow these nice people through the door, okay? And I’ll be right behind you.” she leans down to give a gentle kiss to his forehead before motioning him to head towards the pair.
“I believe you found a key earlier on your way here. It’ll unlock this door.”
The two turn around to face a door that wasn’t there before, and Rina takes Noah’s hand.
“...Allan, we’re waiting.” Rina gestures at the door.
“Huh? Oh right, the key.” he reaches into his jacket pocket before searching through his other one, then suddenly looks up at Rina, his eyes wide like a deer caught in headlights.
Rina raises a brow. “Allan?”
“Uh...I might’ve accidentally dropped the key...back when we were at that mountain.”
“I heard you the first time, Allan. What is wrong with you?” she shouted.
It was an accident, I’m sorry! You shouldn’t have shoved it towards me in the first palace-”
“Oh, so this is my fault now? Who’s the one that-” Rina stops herself as she feels a tug on her hand, looking down to see Noah trying to get her attention. He holds out his other hand and unfolds his fingers, revealing a key.
“Oh...thank you, Noah. Would you like to do the honors?”
Noah takes the key and puts it in the lock, as Allan stares at Rina then at Emily in confusion, who looks just as surprised.
“Good job, Noah.” Rina smiles at him. “Would you like to give Aunt Emily one more hug?”
Noah lets go of Rina’s hand and runs over to Emily, giving her a tight hug in which she returns.
“I love you, Aunt Emily,” he whispers.
“I love you more, Noah. Remember, I’ll be right behind you, okay? Make sure you hold Rina’s hand.”
As the three step through, Noah’s hand clasped tightly around Rina’s, Emily found herself letting go of a sob as Noah granted her one final small wave.
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This has a really interesting premise! Dialogue is hard, and you did a good job of weaving your plot into it. I was a little confused at the start and would like to know more about why Allan is tagging along and some of that history. Overall it seems like there's great opportunity to do some cool world building if you carried on with this as a larger project :)
I appreciate the feedback! That's a good point you make about Allan, I think I would be able to expand on his role if I choose to further develop this story in the future :)