This story is by Ia Ong Xiong and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Ambition for Rebirth
A golden cloud sparkled brighter than a diamond as it swirled around a sinful soul named Simon. Heaven’s gates welcomed all spirits into the blissful embrace of the afterlife. However, evil individuals were pushed to the edge and treated like a stain on the golden clouds. Every corrupt being longed for the freedom of the living, but none more than Simon. His need to escape Heaven pushed him into entering the reincarnation race.
“I can finally get out of this place!” Simon exclaimed, his lips curved into a smirk as he worked out the plan for the race in his head until it was flawless. He paced in a little circle causing the golden clouds to swirl up in a little flurry. “Nothing can stop me now.”
Another spirit placed his hand on Simon’s shoulder, “Hey, Simon, are you sure about this? A second chance at life is great, but crossing the prickly vines field, murky water of lost souls, and the fiery flames within thirty minutes is pure insanity!”
“Yes, Timothy, I swear on every last inch of my soul that I’m winning this race!” Simon answered with a snap, causing the smile to fall off his best friend’s face. He instantly regretted his attitude and lightly boxed Timothy on the arm.
“What about Joshua? You know he purposely rigs this test to be near impossible.”
An uneasy silence filled the air as the contestants turned their attention to the terrace overlooking the courtyard. Joshua, the high and mighty thorn on every sinner’s side as well as the announcer of the competition, glared down at them. The pair had been in more trouble with him than any other souls since the beginning of time.
“Listen up, everyone, the rules are simple: cross the three obstacles in front of you within thirty minutes and you’ll be reborn into the world of the living. Your safety can’t be guaranteed so enter at your own peril. Now on the count of three,” shouted Joshua at the top of his lungs.
One… Two… Three…
Everyone took off in a mad dash towards the prickly vines, however, Simon stopped just at the edge, and his pupils dilating in shock as he witnessed Timothy and the other contestants get shredded by the vines. The vines were a writhing mass of thorns and fragmented souls screaming in agony. Taking a step back, he tripped as a vine curled its way around his leg plunging him straight into the heart of the prickly patch. Every inch of his soul screamed in agony as the plants devoured him from the inside.
“Die… heartless wretch… You will never escape our wrath,” whispers multiple raspy voices against his ears, the vines tighten their grip on him forming a cocoon.
“In your dreams,” snarled Simon, concentrating all his rage into energy he began to tear himself away from the deadly vines towards the next destination. Every vine he pulled out of his soul brought back a little fragment of his previous life. Laughing like a maniac, he envisioned each vine as a part of prey that fell into his trap before ripping it to pieces.
Simon yanked the last vine out of his wrist and threw it into the murky water ahead of him. Turning back, he gave the prickly vine patch one last look with a smirk. Several of the torn vines reattached themselves into the shapes of beautiful women. The women smiled at him beckoning him to join them. “Come and join us, so we’ll be together again.”
Simon rolled his eyes in disgust before turning his back on them. He would not be fooled into their embrace like he had done to them in his previous life before slitting their throats and savoring the sweet taste of their blood on his blade like a savory Manhattan Cocktail.
“Twenty minutes left!” yelled Joshua, his voice clear as a whistle over the screams of pain that burst through Simon’s reminiscence.
“Damn it!” growled Simon, he looked at the murky water and shivered at the sight of the barely visible souls drifting aimlessly around underneath the surface of the water. Preparing for the worst, he took a few steps back before making a run to the water and diving into the oncoming wave.
The temperature of the water would’ve been enough to kill a living person, but he was a soul so despite the frigid conditions he forced his legs to start pumping as he propelled himself forward. The lost spirits in the water drifted alongside him in ease unbothered by the water temperature. Halfway across the river, Simon began to slow down as the souls around him became so thick that he couldn’t see beyond their hollowed faces and piercing gazes. It was impossible to know if he was heading the right way or if he got turned around.
A soul had no real need to breathe, so he wasn’t worried about running out of the air, but the cold was beginning to slowly numb him. Swinging his arms down in an underwater jumping jack motion he started to push for the surface of the water believing the lost souls would move out of his way like they had done thus far.
“Finally, we get to be together again,” whispered a soothing feminine voice, the lost souls started to move closer to him creating a tight bubble around Simon. He panicked as the hollowed faces started to morph into familiar faces. The women caressed every inch of his soul with soft, feathery touches before speaking as one, “Simon, we’ve been so lonely without you. Stay with us, please.”
He nodded in agreement as the women giggled and tighten their circle to give him small butterfly kisses before wrapping their arms around him. Descending slowly into the dark depths of the water, Simon didn’t fight back as the beautiful women from his past continued to cuddle up against him whispering sweet words of endearment.
“Ten minutes!” echoed a voice through the murky water.
The fog clouding his mind began to clear as he remembered why he was in the water. Struggling out of the women’s hold, he began to push his way through the barrier they had created. Instantly, the women’s once angelic faces turned into angry hollowed forms again as they clawed at him. “You’re not going anywhere, Simon, you promised to stay with us!”
“I lied. There is still someone I need to protect, so get your grimy hands off me!” Simon kicked several of the souls until they released him. Renewed with a purpose, he swam to the surface and started to swim to the other side of the river. As he clawed his way onto the beach, the exhaustion of his journey up to this point started to hit him hard like a boulder resting on the back.
Aggravated by Joshua’s voice, Simon struggled to his feet and stumbled towards the field of fire. The flames were mesmerizing as they danced into each other in various shades of yellow, orange and blue. Refusing to turn back now that he was so close to the end, he pushed his way through the scorching fire.
He sighed in relief at the sight of the finish line and took another step forward but jumped back in surprise as the flames intensified into a blinding white-blue phoenix. When the flames died down, a tall, slender beautiful woman made entirely of flames waved at him. He stared at her in shock as he recognized his wife.
“Darling, you’re finally here. I’ve waited for you for so long,” she smiled, letting out a giggle as she wrapped her arms around his waist. “What took you so long?”
Tongue tied he caressed her cheek as the memories of their past flowed into him. Emily was the first woman to accept him for all his faults, and he loved her with all his heart. Yet the darkness within him craved her blood, so he took the lives of women sharing her appearance to satisfy that need. As time went by, his overpowering need caused him to become sloppy with his kills.
“Ten seconds left!”
Despite how much he wanted to stay, he still had someone left among the living to protect, his daughter. He had been a bad person, but his wife never deserved to die such a brutal death at the hands of someone else.
“I’m sorry,” whispered Simon, he cupped his lover’s face softly and gave her a deep kiss before pushing her away. When he turned around to look back at his wife, his heart broke at the sight of her standing in the same spot all alone. Tears of molten liquid flowed down her cheeks as she watched him cross the final barrier of flames.
Three… Two… One…
He blew her one last kiss before stepping into the light and evaporating into a cloud of golden mist.