Well, it happened again. I died.
The bloodied sand of the colosseum shivers out of focus as my soul shakes
off its physical limitations in favor of a higher vibration. Instead of
centurions and weeping family, I’m now surrounded by snowy white noise and
They came for me at dawn. I can still hear my mother’s sobs. I was only
I blink the memories away just as a man bends and pulls into view before
me, then straightens with a blithe sort of smile. “Welcome back,” he says in an
excessively soothing tone. He wears glasses I know he doesn’t need, and behind
them, his unearthly blue eyes trace my face, looking for signs of stress.
And it comes back to me like the snap of fingers. An Advokat. Here to
help me adjust to the trauma of crossing over from life to death.
Suddenly I wonder how he sees me. Do I have blue eyes now? In
life, they were brown, but here in death I’ve always imagined others see me
with crystal blue. I guess it would depend on how much they like me. Appearance
is entirely based on impression here. We see what we feel. Feelings are real,
vision an illusion.
And this Advokat must be new, I realize a moment later. If he’d been
here for any length of time, he wouldn’t be using the sappy voice they put on
for the newer souls. The ones who don’t understand how it works. He’d know that
I’m something of a regular in the transition between life and death—that I’ve
lost count of how many of these interviews I’ve had to sit through. I’m sure I
know the process better than he does.
Because I’ve had his job before, mastered it long ago.
I skim him, searching the endless trove of memories trying to break
through the fog of earthly business still clouding my mind. I don’t remember
him. And I can see that he doesn’t know me.
Definitely new. Which means he’ll play the interview by the book. I
The Advokat reaches out as if to comfort me, like my groan was one of
anxiety and not disdain. “Try not to panic.”
I resist the urge to roll my eyes and flatten my gaze at him instead. I
understand it’s his job to help me recover from the shock of death, but
honestly, I’m fine. So I died—so what? There are many things worse than death,
and one of them, if anyone ever bothered to ask me, is living. I’m actually
thrilled to be back here—and I don’t need an Advokat to counsel me through the
Also, I’m in a bit of a hurry. I have important business to attend to,
even higher vibrations to achieve. I’m so close now, and he’s the only thing
standing in my way.
I tap my foot and glance around for someone—anyone who might recognize
me and give me an opportunity to walk away from this unnecessary formality.
“Everything will make sense soon.” The Advokat’s voice echoes through
the white expanse around us. Clearly, all other souls are keeping their
distance to allow me to transition without any added shock. Or—I narrow my eyes
at the Advokat—he’s followed protocol by requesting they give us space.
And do we ever have it. As far as the eye can see, there’s nothing but
static white. But I smile, and my shoulders relax—because this is my true home.
Just the way I remember it.
The Advokat leans into my line of sight. “Do you know your name?”
My smile drops.
In life, my name was Agnes. In this life, anyway.
There have been so many lives, so many names, but between them all, just
one feels like home.
When it comes, my voice sounds like a lost, cherished memory. “Anaya.”
My first word after death. The truest word I know.
The Advokat smiles and nods. He doesn’t take any notes or write anything
down, and I know about that, too. The answers are in his mind, ready when he
needs them, downloaded into his head from the source of all truth on the
highest plane of vibration there is: El Olam, our master and creator. He sits
so high none of us can reach him, above laws and structure. The world is as he
makes it, and we are simply stewards of his creation, here to serve.
And today I’ll go one step further in the process of becoming a defender
of creation. I’ll become a Firn.
The Advocat, who is becoming more annoying by the moment, interrupts my
thoughts with yet another question. “Good. And do you know where you are?”
Where I am? Well it’s a much better place than where I was…
I was in Rome, in the fourth century. I rejected a boy, and he sold me
out as a Christian. It took them forever to kill me—first with shame, then with
flames. But all I gave them was a blank stare through the numbness. They
couldn’t shame me. I wouldn’t burn when they strung me to the stake and lit the
fire—even the flames knew not to touch me. But the Roman officer’s sword
through my throat did the trick in the end. I was gone before I felt anything.
So I guess the joke’s on them. There was darkness, then a burst of light—
And now I’m home, where none of that matters anymore. I’m free here.
Because no one can shame or kill the dead. I’ll be safe as long as I stay.
“This is Lemayle,” I say quietly. “The afterlife. The real world.” And I
have no intention of ever living again.
He rocks back and grins. “Wonderful!” Then his face stiffens. He
swallows and his eyes shake as he looks me over for a second time, now scanning
for any truths beneath the surface, anything I’m hiding from him. If souls
could sweat, he’d be a mess as he prepares for the most important question of
I used to have his job, so I know what comes next. My answers from here
on out will decide my final destination.
“All right.” He clears his throat. He doesn’t have to. It’s the nerves.
I will be his enemy if I answer poorly, but he has to remain objective. He’s a
professional, after all, and he doesn’t know whose side I’m on yet—what changes
this most recent lifetime might have made in me.
I was martyred, and not all martyrs come back home the way they should.
Martyrs go into life as warriors for El Olam’s cause … but don’t always return
feeling their suffering was justified. Some turn against him and defect to the
one who seeks to depose him.
And me? How do I feel about the suffering I was put through? Have
I changed my mind about who to serve? And how dangerous does that make me to
the fragile balance of the world? That’s what the Advokat needs to find out.
“Do the names El Olam and Narn mean anything to you?”
Good and evil. That’s what they mean. Free will and slavery. But which
is which? Is El Olam good … or is he evil? Are Narn’s plans for less service to
living souls and more dominion over them more appealing? Are they justified? No
soul chooses evil.
They simply choose what they believe is right.
I hide my laugh with a cough at the tension in the Advokat’s hunched
shoulders. If he’s new—and he wants to stay—he’ll need a stiffer a spine than
he’s got now. I might as well be the one to give it to him.
I level my gaze at him, eyes wide open to appear just a little less
threatening. “Yes. I know them.”
He nods, more rigidly this time, and rubs the back of his neck as he
braces for my response to his final question.
“And … your allegiance?”
I stare at him for a long moment, watching the anxiety build behind his
bright blue eyes. He doesn’t want any trouble, but his other hand twitches at
his side, ready to summon the support of a slightly higher power—just in case I
came back tainted.
Just in case I’ve decided I hate the way the world works … and want to
serve the one trying to turn it upside down.
“Oh calm down,” I finally chide him. This has gone on long enough to
bore me. I have business to attend to, and honestly, after fifty lifetimes, a
soul should be able to just skip this process. “I chose El Olam lifetimes ago.
I’m bound to be a Firn. This was my last run.”
His whole body wilts as the tension releases. Had I said Narn, the
Advokat and I would have had a few issues. Because it would have meant I was a
soul with eyes toward flipping the script, turning the world upside down—force
living souls to do as we say, and ruling over them as gods.
He’d have had to immediately summon one of Lemayle’s second-highest
authorities—a Malekh, El Olam’s archangels—to deal with me. And it wouldn’t
have been pleasant. The Malekh don’t like jokes. Most of them, anyway.
“Well that is a relief.” The Advokat’s hand slides from the back of his
neck to clutch his chest, steadying the phantom sensation of a palpitating
And I grin, even though I shouldn’t. But what’s the fun in seniority if
you can’t mess with the rookies?
“We need as many Firns as we can get,” he admits, “events accelerating
as they are.” I perk up at that. Accelerating events is much more my
speed—though it gives me less time to meet the final criteria for joining the
Firns’ ranks. “The living souls need all the protection we can give them,” he
I couldn’t agree more. And that’s where I come in—where all the Firns stand
and serve El Olam. Without Firns to guide living souls and protect them from
temptation and harm, Narn would flip the script. And humans would walk
right into their own slavery.
But El Olam won’t allow it.
So neither will I. I’m so close now. Just one step left, and if I
impress the Malekh and El Olam enough in my next job as a soul collector, then
I’ll become a Firn, and one day I’ll be even more than that. If I perform well
enough, I’ll be chosen as the Firn who oversees El Olam’s plan to defeat Narn
once and for all. It has to be one of us, so it might as well be me. And I
won’t stop until I see it happen.
Meanwhile, the Advokat extends his hand to me. “Best of luck to you. I
hope you make the cut.”
I glance at his hand and back up to him. So he really hasn’t
heard of me, then. I may not be a Firn yet, but I have made a name for
myself as the one to watch for earning the coveted position in El Olam’s plan.
Well, if he hasn’t heard of me yet, he will soon enough.
“Thanks.” With a smirk, I grip his hand and shake it firmly enough to
knock him off balance. “But I really don’t need luck.”