The Forest of Eyes and Shadows (Reincarnation Competition Winner)

Gwendolyn Rivers died in her sleep. This is her afterlife. As she races to get back the life she once had, Gwendolyn must face the wrath of the Forest, one very high-strung Grim Reaper, and a very peculiar Mad God all while coming to terms with the fact that nothing she had previously believed about the "afterlife" was true.
As it turned out, being dead was the least of her problems.
(Note: This is a prequel for Halo, but does not need to be read first)

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2. Prologue

Life sucks—and then, you die. That’s just the natural order of things. At least, that’s what we think the natural order is. But what if it wasn’t? What if you died before you really even had a chance to live? What if somehow the natural order was broken? What if the cycle of life and death actually began with death itself? Or you could miraculously come back from death? What if death was reversible? What would you do? Oh, come on, you’ve asked yourself those questions before. Probably around 3AM on a restless night in the middle of some sort of “what am I doing with my life” existential crisis? It’s ok to admit that you’re curious, we all are—us mortals.

Well, you are in luck, my friend—because a certified dead person is here to give you the answer: No. You can’t come back to life. You can’t reverse the cycle. And your skin definitely doesn’t turn green when your undead body pops out of your grave with an acute hunger for brains—I mean, yikes, am I right? Who thought up that one? Anyway, the point is: once you’re dead, you’re dead. There’s no miraculous recovery. Believe me, I’ve tried. After dying at the tender age of 16 from some disease I can’t even pronounce, and that I didn’t even know I had, I wanted so badly to believe that I could come back to life. I wanted to reclaim the life that I had, so that I could live the life that I wanted to live.

But death is probably the most permanent and irreversible state in the universe. Well, it's not exactly as simple as “you live, you die, and that’s it.” Actually, it’s a lot more complicated. Believe it or not, the ‘life’ part is the least complicated stage of the grand ol’ cycle of rebirth. You see, it’s more like… You live, you die, you get Reaped, you're thrown into this strange land where you fight to get over the life you had, and then you maybe get reborn.

Except rebirth doesn’t count as coming back to life—because you’re not you, you’re... different. New. And you have a whole new life, with a whole new backstory, and a whole new family, and new friends and new… Everything! Which doesn’t really sound all that appealing to someone who didn’t even get to finish living their old life. So if you haven’t really lived, and you’re bitter about death… The only thing you really want is to find a way to come back to life, right? I mean, everything has a loophole. Everything has a glitch in the program—a cheat, a hack, whatever you want to call it. And if everything has a hack, death should too. So you start to look for it.

That’s when They trap you.

The young ones are the easiest for Them to catch. The ones who had so much to live for—and then they didn’t. The ones who are angry and scared and looking for any reason they can find to not die. The ones who don’t really understand what death is, and want so badly to live again. The ones who think that they can convince a mad god to reverse the universe and put their soul back where it belongs—in their body. The ones who think they can bribe a Reaper into letting them stay with their families. The ones who believe so strongly that they can cheat death.

Basically, the ones that are like me. (And yes, before you ask, I did do all of those things. Spoiler Alert: I'm still dead.)

Yeah, Their promises sound so good when you hear them in person. Or… In spirit. Whatever. Basically, my point is: don’t trust Them.

You’ll know Them when you meet them.

Oh, and that’s not even the biggest thing. You wanna know the life altering, mind shattering, enormously huge shocker of the afterlife? Heaven and Hell don’t exist. Well, not in the way some of us believe in, anyway. For mortals, there’s no separation of good and evil. There’s no reward for good behavior. And there’s no eternal punishment for the damned—unless you’re really, really damned. I guess purgatory is the closest word for what it is. But it’s not that either. It’s not anything, it’s just… The Forest.

The Forest of Eyes and Shadows.

 

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