Purgatory

When Raina falls to a death clouded with mystery and horror, one which not even The Elders can figure out, she is placed into Purgatory. As the mystery unveils, as well as the secrets of the place between Heaven and Hell, she learns that at every corner a sea of possibilities awaits. But will she be able to realise the correct ones, or will she stay in Purgatory for eternity?

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10. 10

Instead of being back in the now oh-so familiar Purgatory, we were standing in a room, which could only be described by one word: lavish. It was completely coated in gold, with a glossy undertone highlighting it beautifully. It was almost like a box, so to speak. It had no decoration or decor, however it had one long table, which was also a rich shade of gold. It had no food, or cutlery, or accessories on top of it. It did have a table tucked underneath it. "This isn't Purgatory," I stated, if it being pretty obvious.
Guardian pulled out the chair, and gestured for me to sit on it. I went to do so, but remembered something, and instead proceeded to turn around to face Guardian again. I leaned back, recovering from the swiftness of my turn, which had made me slightly dizzy. "You said you were dropping me back off," I pointed out, crossing my arms meaningfully.
"I decided to have a change of plan, seeing as I couldn't find the powder which would transport us to Purgatory," he said, if a little sheepishly. 
I narrowed my eyes, and used up all of my strength to stop myself from lurching at Guardian, and physically pushing him in anger. "We can't get back to Purgatory?" I said, my voice low and stern. I felt a sensation in my chest brimming with anger. "We can't get back to Purgatory?!"
"Raina, it's fine, don't worry." If we were in a film, he'd be taking a long drag of his cigarette. But we weren't. This was reality. It was a scary thought, that I was dead, and this was what I was doing now my life on Earth had ended. I was in a whirlwind of tasks, meetings, and rarely having a moment off my feet. And even those moments were if a little stressful. It made me think of Kai, that thought did, and the moment where we had been so close to...
I shook my head, sighed, and sat down on the chair. "So what are we doing here, then?"
"I can't tell you that," Guardian mumbled.
I immediately worked out exactly what was going on. "It's a trial, isn't it?" Guardian stayed silent. I frowned. "But I thought Purgatory would be where all the trials would take place?"
"Mostly, yes. However this trial works better here. And please stop asking questions, Raina. I'm going to give away all the answers like your precious Kai did." He practically spat out the word Kai.
I glared at him. "First off, Kai did not give me all of the answers. He gave me the book, but that was it. And second off, what's your problem with Kai, anyway? I don't see why you two don't like each other."
"Why should we?" Guardian sighed. "Anyway, this trial had better get started soon."  Just at that moment, a cloud of shimmering dust appeared out if nowhere. It gradually started to expand until it was completely spread out across the room, filling up my lungs.
 I coughed, gasping for air. Guardian patted my back, if a little awkwardly. "Why the heck is there all that dust?" I wheezed. But my question was soon answered as the settled dust started transforming before my eyes. Each pile of dust turned into a delectable dish, which was perched on its own table which had also appeared. There were bowls of berries, plates of pizzas and pastas, dishes scattered with dumplings and duck...all of my most loved foods, and they all looked luscious. Scrumptious. Mouthwatering. Except my mouth wasn't watering. I wasn't feeling any sort of attraction towards the food, in fact. I turned to Guardian. However, he quickly snapped his fingers, dissipating into his light once again. "You need to prove you are capable of doing this on your own."  After saying that, he had completely gone. 
The food must be poisonous, I thought. Or at least, some sort of temptation...temptation...I sat up. Was that what all these trials based on? Resisting temptation, in many shapes and form? The first trial seemed to be to do with resisting pride. The second trial seemed to be resisting envy, though I had not felt it in the first place anyway. And this trial...it was resisting something, though I could not think of a name for it. Nevertheless, I was certain all of the themes of the trials were linked, in some way or another. I remembered being told that the tasks would be a lot easier if I had read The Bible. Who had told me, however, I could not remember. My memory was truly abysmal. Perhaps I could ask Guardian if he had a copy. I laughed out loud, my chuckle bouncing off the walls. Of course he had one. It was a case of whether he would let me borrow it.
 As I tucked my knees under my chin, the light filled the room again. That was quick, I thought. Clearly Guardian has worked out I was not taking the bait. He practically shot daggers at me from behind his veil. I could feel them digging into me. "So you've figured it out, huh?" he sighed.
I nodded. "Basically, yes. I could do with borrowing a Bible to double check..."
Guardian chortled. "Do you honestly think anyone from the heavens would be idiotic enough to give you the answer straight?" He smiled at me. "I'm surprised you got the gist of the trials already, though. Congratulations again."
I grinned back at him. "Does this mean I completed this trial?"
He nodded. "Yes. Great job, Raina, may I say."
"You really have picked up on The Elders' language," I laughed.
Guardian nodded again, and held up a bottle of powder, this one being the same green-black as the ocean in Purgatory. "You can get back now," he explained, dusting the powder onto his hand, and pinching a little bit between his fingers. He indicated his head to get me to come closer to him, in order for the light to swallow me too. Guardian didn't grab my wrist like usual, though. Instead, he carefully held out his spare hand, and entwined his gloved fingers with mine. We didn't say a word to each other as the light once again transported us to yet another place.

And sure enough, we were back in Purgatory this time. I breathed in the familiar salty aroma that clouded the beach. I felt the sand between my toes. I saw the endless coast of grey trailing off into the distance. For some reason, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. But I hated this place. Didn't I? 
"What are you smiling about?" Guardian grumbled, crossing his arms.
I shrugged. "You know, I've got absolutely no idea why." I then paused, trying to figure out the reason. "This place is so familiar to me now. In fact, it almost feels like...Purgatory is my home now." I let out a short laugh. "Funny, that, isn't it? This grey, dismal place actually feels welcoming. Like I belong here. Which is pretty stupid. I mean look it." I gestured to the surroundings. "Who does belong here? It's the place for the misfits. And misfits never belong, so nobody does." 
Guardian placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder. "Raina, this is not your home. Your home is in Heaven, I am certain of it. The facts just need straightening out. Secondly, this isn't a place for the misfits. It's a place for those who..."
"Who don't have a place. Who don't belong. Yeah, for the misfits." I sighed, and sat down on a nearby rock, clutching my legs with my arms and rocking back and forth. "How long do you think it will take for the 'facts to be straightened out'?" I mocked his deep, formal tone voice, then grinned at him to show I was only joking.
Guardian wearily smiled back, and joined me on the rock. His mouth then turned into a thin, thoughtful line. "Goodness knows," he said softly. "Hopefully, your memory will have returned by time these trials have finished. If not, if all the trials are completed of a high standard, you will have the right to go to Heaven, as everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty."
I frowned. "But Guardian, if that is so, why am I not in Heaven now?"
"Because The Elders have to have some proof you are worthy of belonging in the Heavens." He scratched the back of his neck, then got up from the rock. Guardian then started fumbling with his belt of potions and powders. "Anyway, I had better get back now. Places to go, people to see."
"What places are there?" I inquired, raising an eye, intrigued. There couldn't be many places to go in Heaven. Could there? 
"That I can't tell you. However, if you like, I can give you a tour of the areas you are allowed to access?"
I nodded. "Sure. Sounds like it'll be interesting."
"What about, say, tomorrow?" Guardian asked.
I beamed at him. "I think that's a plan. I'll let Kai know. Hang on."  I walked across the coast, looking for him. "Kai?" I called out. There was no response. I carried on walking, surveying the shore with a clear purpose. There wasn't any sign of him. I decided to go to the cave to look for him instead. I'd been gone for what seems like ages, so who knows, he could have had time to chip at the rubble. As I reached the entrance of the cave, I paused. Would it be awkward, since we had nearly...No, it wouldn't be, would it? Nevertheless, I poked my head through the arch. "Kai?" My call echoed through the cave. Kai. Kai. Kai...One single thought echoed through my head. Kai. Kai. Kai...
I walked into the cave, and my heart sank; partially because the cave was still littered with piles of rubble, and partially because Kai wasn't anywhere in sight. I stood awkwardly, not knowing where else to look. Maybe I should look in…should look in…the underwater temple? I turned swiftly on my heels, and ran towards the ocean, the wind blowing in my hair as I made my way down the sandy slope. I skidded to a halt as the warm water tickled my toes. I took a deep breath, though I could breathe underwater anyway, and proceeded to dive. Just as I could feel the impact of the water about to hit my body, sturdy arms grabbed me, and pulled me back onto the sand, placing me down on it. The figure of Guardian loomed over me. "What did you do that for?" I scowled. "I'm trying to find Kai."
Guardian shifted his weight nervously. "Raina, there's something I have to tell you."
"You didn't kill him, did you? Please don't tell me you were the one who collapsed the cliffs in the cave. Please don't tell me you killed him." I started shaking, and tears sprang to my eyes. Even though it had been but a few days since we'd first met, I felt so close to Kai.
"He isn't dead," Guardian started. "He's...He's..."
I sighed sadly. "Just spit it out, Guardian."
Guardian stared behind me, averting looking into what I imagine were my swollen, bloodshot eyes. He fixed his gaze on some random object in the distance. "He's gone," he stated bluntly.
"Gone?" I exclaimed. "What do you mean, gone? Where has he gone?"
He pressed his lips together. "He completed all of his tasks."
"Has he?" A tear from my eye dripped onto the sand. "I suppose that makes sense." I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. "WHERE has he gone to, though?" I asked again.
Guardian turned his head away from me. "I don't know."
I stood up, my body tense. "You don't know? You're the gate escort, of course you know!"
"I better rephrase that. I can't tell you," he sighed.
I glared at him, and crossed my arms. "That's not rephrasing it, that's completely changing it!"
Guardian held out his gloved palms in front of him. "Don't take this out on me."
He was right, I suppose. "Sorry," I said apologetically. "It's just...Will I ever see Kai again?"
He shrugged. "It's a possibility, I suppose."
My eyes welled up again. "A possibility. Great. Everything is a possibility here, isn't it?" I flopped down on the sand again.
"Everything is a possibility, full stop," Guardian answered.
I turned around to him, ducking my head so he wouldn't see what a state I was in. "I need to be on my own for a little bit," I said softly.
Guardian nodded. "I'll be around here if you need me."
"Don't you have things to do?" I frowned.
"Well, yes. But I can't leave you here in a mess," he replied. Finishing our conversation with that sentence, he headed towards a particularly secluded area of Purgatory, and set off arranging his potions and powders again.  
The wind brushed my hair against my tear stained face. Everything is a possibility, Guardian had said. I got lost in that thought as I stared out into the dismal horizon.

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