Soul
rating: +3+x

I remember them. I remember the night that I came face to face with the single most horrifyingly interesting entity anyone will ever get to meet. I didn’t mean to. In fact, I wasn’t supposed to. Had they not appeared on that fateful night, I’m not sure I would have ever gotten the chance again.
Most stories begin with a legend. Some fable, an abandoned area, or one that’s off limits. They had no tale. No one knew they existed until the night I decided to do the most for my dad.

That night, the sky held stars and deep clouds that scattered around in a deep abyss. The water was warm as I rowed my boat to the peninsula in the middle of the bog. He and I had always had our fair share of adventures around the bog. Fishing, building forts or furniture. We weren’t the most modern family, but we enjoyed it. Hot days weren’t hard to come by, and nights were more or less the same. Cicadas chirped and buzzed in the grasses. Everything was great, until the day he died of a heart attack. I didn’t know until the morning. I grieved for a few days, but was able to keep myself alive enough. That night on the boat had been the fifth night, and I decided it was time. The peninsula wasn’t close, and the two of us never went out there. I’m not sure we would have seen them out there had we gone any other night.

The lantern at my side was almost out as I drew closer to the peninsula, but the moonlight above me mostly guided my way. My boat gently nudged the shore, and I tied up my boat to a rickety, decaying block of wood. From the boat I pulled out the wooden cross that I had built myself just the day before. It wasn’t much. His name was engraved into it. I pulled another match from my pocket and lit the lantern, making sure I wouldn’t fall into pitch blackness under the shade of the trees. With the lantern in one hand and the cross in the other, I began my journey into the peninsula.

It was covered in trees, layers of moss, grass that almost reached my waist, and damp soil. The smell of moist summer air hung in my nose; a scent that I had grown comfortable with. He was getting old, my dad was. I wasn’t entirely surprised, but I wasn’t happy nonetheless. We moved out to the bog when my mom died in childbirth. The baby was dead before a proper procedure could be started to save them. The baby was going to be a girl. Rose, they had named her. My mother’s favorite flower. This may all seem a bit irrelevant, as the story began with them, but it’ll all come together in the end. I promise.

I slowed down at a clearing between trees where a small patch of moonlight laid calmly against the wet grass. The lantern sat close to it, its light flickering and casting an orange-yellow shadow across the ground. My knees hit the ground, dampening in the moist soil. I placed the cross firmly into the ground and knelt down in front of it. I can admit that I shed a couple tears, staring down at his name on that moonlight patch of a peninsula. Had I had the money, I would’ve done more. Though I don’t think he would have wanted more, it’s what he deserved. I sat there for a few more minutes, reminiscing on our greatest memories. A couple times I whispered to myself - or who I like to think was my dad - and chuckled at my own memories. Finally, I stood up, not bothering to wipe off my knees. I grabbed the lantern from the ground, spoke my final goodbyes, and walked away. It was hard to grasp what life would be like without him. I was seventeen at the time, and would be eighteen in only a few months from that night. I could handle myself, but having to do it all myself was a bit overwhelming. Life would be lonely. Sad.

The boat barely came into view, as now clouds were over the moon. The lantern in my hand blew out silently with the wind, plunging me into darkness. I let out a sigh and fumbled into my pocket for the matches. Another, more irritated sigh escaped my lips as my fingers grazed a piece of paper. I had written my dad a note to put at his cross, but had forgotten about it. I quickly lit the lantern again before beginning my trek back. As I approached the cross, the moon escaped from behind the clouds. Standing in front of my dad’s cross stood a figure. I froze and looked up at them. They wore a bear’s head on their own and stood with a dark, leather jacket and a pair of ripped jeans. A bandage was wrapped around their right thigh. They stood with their hands in their pockets, looking down at my father’s cross.

“Hey,” I called. “What are you doing?”

They looked up slowly, then turned around to face me. The bear’s bottom jaw sat on their collar, as the bear’s paws draped over their shoulders. Their face sat in darkness behind a few bars that kept the jaw open. I couldn’t make out any features.

“I said what are you doing? Who are you?”

They said nothing, only looked at me. The bear’s left eye was scratched out with three, pale pink scratch marks. It looked real. Thinking about them, I think it was.

The anger I felt for them was beginning to slip into sadness. I just wanted to give my dad a proper burial, or as proper as I could handmake one. This random person was standing over it. Judging it. I pulled the folded and slightly crumpled note and held it out for them to see.

“I just need to drop this note off,” I called. “Can you go? Please?” They looked at the note for a moment, not saying anything. They then held out their hand, a hand that sat pale, almost grey in the moonlight.

“What? No, you can’t have it. Can’t I just have some alone time with my dad? Please?” Their hand faltered as they gazed back to the cross. “Yeah, my dad. He died.” When they turned back, it was at that moment I believe I heard them speak. Through the wind came the word, how. I thought I was hearing things, but at that moment I didn’t think it could hurt anyone to just tell them.

“He… had a heart attack in his sleep.” I stayed silent, as I wasn’t sure if that was the right answer. If I had just thought I heard them speak. It seemed to be the right answer. They held out their hand again.

“Tell me who you are.” In that moment, I felt it. I felt something I knew I should’ve felt a long time ago. Like a prerequisite from a dream. Something you just know, without being exposed to any of the events or information. I hadn’t noticed that tears had begun to flow from my eyes. I couldn’t utter her name. I slowly walked up to them and placed the note in their hand. They opened it and looked down at it. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t muster up the words to say anything in that moment. They finished reading the note and closed it. They placed it into my hand and placed my other hand over the paper. Their hands were cold, yet warm and comforting the same time. They felt empty with an aura of emotion. They moved aside and looked down at the cross. I walked forward and placed it down. I stood up and whipped around to face them.

“Are,” I mumbled. I quickly cleared my throat. “Are you…”

They waited for me to finish my sentence, and when I didn’t finish, they shook their head no.

“What are you?”

They never answered that question. They looked up at the moon, and then back at me. In one swift movement, they turned around, a jet black smoke appearing from below them. It surrounded them in a quick tornado, and when the smoke dissipated, they were gone, leaving me standing in the clearing. The moonlight shone down on me and my tears.

“Rose,” I whispered, finally able to utter her name.

I didn’t know how. I still don’t. Yet, somehow I knew that they were Rose. Well, they weren’t Rose. It’s a bit hard to explain, as not even I know what really happened that night.

Some cases I’ve heard about them came up at various times, and I was always quick to look into them when I got the chance. Some people called them “death himself”. Others referred to them as a guardian. I don’t believe any of it. One thing was for certain, they used the word “soul” a lot. How the souls of people they knew were attached to that being.

I referred to them as Soul after that, and would frequently return to that spot at my dad’s grave, both to visit him and try to find Soul. I was never able to find them again, but being able to feel the soul of my dead sister was an experience I won’t ever forget, as long as I live. Whatever happened that night, wherever Rose really was, I hope I end up there with her. I hope I learn what Soul is. I hope I find out what happened on that humid summer night out on the peninsula.

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