More Than This

A boy drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments.

He dies.

Then he wakes, naked, bruised and thirsty, but alive.

How can this be? And what is this strange, deserted place?

As he struggles to understand what is happening, the boy dares to hope. Might this not be the end? Might there be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?

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1. Afterlife?

Gasping for air underwater is a dead end. With the final breath gone, his body just floats helplessly in the thick waves of the endless blue sea.

 

Involuntarily, his body from waist up flung itself upright and his throat hacked up all the water contained in the lungs. Coughing and spluttering, his eyelids fluttered open. Where am I? He looked around in panic, trembling at the sight of his body - bruised, naked, yet alive. All of the questions filling his mind at that moment just overloaded him, his body made sudden movements, like glitching. This was just him trembling. He couldn’t find the strength or confidence to stand up, being barely able to sit up. No-one around to vacate the deserted area surrounding him. Nothing lived, there was no sight of people, or wildlife. Just dead trees, and lots of strange rock-like lumps, dirt and ashes on the floor. This place looked like it had been set on fire. It then hit him with a bolt of energy that made him plummet up onto his feet. He was alive. H-how can this be? I-I died… right?

 

I remember the water, washing over me. People crying out my name. My name… I can’t hear what they were saying. What were they calling me?

 

He walked over the ashes, of the origins he dared not to think about, ignoring all factors of himself. Meanwhile, a village sneaked up to him, and he only noticed when he stepped through the open gates. Cautiously, he crept around, now fully aware that he was naked. This place didn’t look uninhabited.

In hope of finding any form of human life, he called out, “Hello?”

“Hello?” questioning again, this time louder.

No response. Spotting a shop labelled ‘Clothes’ he knocked on the door and ducked behind a rack of female’s dresses.

“Umm.. Hello?” he asked, his voice trembling as he did.

Again, no response. He weaved his way through the racks of female clothes, to the men’s section. Aware that there was no one in the shop, and no one outside, he slipped some clothes on. Underwear, a t-shirt, a pair of trousers and shoes. It’s not like he had any money to pay for them anyway. Back outside, there was still no-one to be seen. Continuing to stroll down the street of the deserted village, names of the buildings triggered his mind to wonder again where he was. Weapons, Armour Gear, Upgrades, Healing Jewels, Strength & Skill Jewels, Alchemy. What is this place?

 

His lost soul sensed a reserved screech down the path to the right. Moving on their own, his feet stumbled, yet kept the body balanced somehow and managed to transport his body to a young female laying on the floor breathing heavily.

“A-another person?” he muttered to himself in shock.

She raised herself so that her back leant against the smooth newly-looking constructed wall of a building.

“Hello?” he asked, expecting to find that he had finally lost it in this strange world and had started hallucinating cute girls his age.

“What do you want,” she stubbornly questioned.

“I.. Whe..” his voice cutting off from his stuttering.

Slowly reaching out to the side of her where a sword was placed, he jumped back.

“Who are you then?” she asked him, not showing any compassion to the mixed negative emotions clearly displayed among his face.

“That’s my problem, I don’t know? Also, I don’t know where I am,” straight after admitting that, he queried his own utterances, I bet I look crazy now, in a crazy place, seeing crazy things. I’m dead right?

With a slightly shocked look, she blurted out, “So you’re new here, and haven’t been eliminated already!”

No response was given from him, apart from a look that suggests he has no clue what is going on around him.

“I’m Rita,” she paused, then laughed, “No-one remembers their name. Just gotta adopt a new one. You aren’t who you were in the other life. Guessing you want me to explain this place to you then?”

With a discreet nod from him, she stated, “Firstly, I’ll choose your name,” giving a long anticipated pause, she finally decided, “Seth, that seems to suit you.”

Immediately continuing, Rita questioned, “Haven’t you ever felt like there has to be more? Like there’s more out there somewhere, just beyond your grasp, if you could only get to it?”

“Well..” Seth replied

“I have, Seth.”

“I really haven’t adjusted to a new name?”

“Tough, you need to adjust to living here, otherwise you will get eliminated, like all the others.”

“…” Seth hesitated from speaking to her, his eyes wide, showing Rita to give him the information she was about to give him.

 

Rita’s hand tightly gripped the handle of her sword, which was in perfect condition, with no scratches or dents. Looks like it doesn’t get used, although her eyes say differently.

“You need to prove you’re worthy of living, to get to the next life. Something just beyond your grasp, what stands in your way from getting to it? Known as the ‘Next-Life Jewel’, you need to prove your soul’s significance, and once you get through to the Jewel, you get to go to a place known as ‘Heaven’. Though what is heaven? The place of your dreams..” Lifting her sword into the air, her body did the same, Rita was just a pinch taller than Seth.

“So an afterlife exists, and we have to fight for it?” Seth questioned, staring at the sword Rita was caressing with both of her hands.

“Of course it does, although..” her voice trailed off, with her mind distracted, the horrified look on her face made Seth worry.

“Although?” you could definitely hear his vocals trembling at the unknown.

“What stands in your way of proving your life has meaning, that you are worthy of living, and not just some coward who lets themselves die.”

“I still don’t understand”

“Jerk!” Rita shouted at him, her eyes filling with tears, that crawled down her cheek at a painfully slow speed, omitting all of her emotions into the breeze.

Unsure at how to reply to this, Seth embraced her, and whispered a silent apology after gently brushing her golden brown fluffy hair away from her ear.

She finally managed to soundlessly blubber, “You need to face your death.”

Feeling the time was correct to withdraw from the emotional hug, he received an apology look from Rita.

 

“I’ve had to face my death, multiple times, but I can’t get through to the Jewel. I mean, I know I’m strong enough and deserve to reside peacefully in my afterlife, but..” suddenly, shocked, Rita yelped, “Y-you! You will be eliminated if you don’t fight for your afterlife!”

“Eh-ehh!” Seth stammered.

Removing the second scabbard from her back, she held it out to Seth, “Here, take my back up sword for now, you really need to start fighting for your existence.”

“F-fight what?”

“You’ll see, any more questions?”

“O-one more?”

“…”

“Where are all of the other people, I mean, people die every day, so this place should be filled right?”

“People get eliminated if they don’t fight for their existence, if you die here, you respawn to a town like this, but if you give up on fighting then, you will be eliminated.”

“Kinda like a game then”

“What! How can you think of this as a game? Are you even taking this seriously? DO you want to continue living? Or are you fine with just being eliminated, like all of the other people that just give up.”

“I..”

“Follow me. Now.”

With that, Rita ran to the end of the village, with Seth clumsily in pursuit of her, with the scabbard on his back, and his new sword in his grasp.

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