Eden’s End: Illusionary Birth
by J. H. Zech
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4
At six o’clock in the late afternoon, Keuvei arrived at the edge of the lake in the forest. Unlike yesterday, when the water was black, today it had taken on a beautiful golden shine from the setting sun.
“So, what are we doing?” Ūnje asked, coming out casually from behind a tree.
“We’ll reveal Suni’s true nature and attempt to negotiate. If negotiations fail, then it will mean a battle.”
“What do you need me for?”
The sun had just about set below the tree line. Twilight. The time between light and darkness, the time when those who lingered between life and death could be seen most clearly.
“Goddess Suni,” Keuvei said. “Or perhaps I should say False God Hana.”
A glowing woman in majestic robes rose from the center of the lake. “Who dares call me a false god?”
“As I thought.” Keuvei chuckled. In truth, he was terrified, but in a battle against the supernatural, one couldn’t show fear. “You responded when I called you Hana.”
“Wretched foreign trickster,” the ghostly woman said. Her hair flowed down to her shoulders, and she wore a pretty headband, but her eyes glowed a divine yellow.
“Ūnje, does that look like Hana to you?”
“Yes.” Ūnje stepped forward, looking the woman in the eye. “Hana, it’s really you, isn’t it?”
“Ūnje? What are you doing here? You have a happy life, don’t you?”
“Did you think I would forget about you so easily?”
“You were the only who stood by my side to the end. But I am no longer the Hana that you know. You should forget about me.”
“This man wants to bring peace to you.”
“A foreigner wants to bring peace to a domestic goddess? How laughable.” Suni-Hana looked down at Keuvei. “You don’t even understand what I’m doing.”
“I didn’t until today,” Keuvei said. “I happened to run into a tourist this morning,”
The corners of Suni-Hana’s mouth twitched. “Is that so?”
“The curious thing was, he claimed he arrived here yesterday and bought a T-shirt from the souvenir shop. Only one bus came here yesterday, and I was the only passenger. The souvenir shop never saw that tourist, either. So where did this tourist come from? And when I saw his Essence, it had been corrupted. In other words, part of the information was forcibly changed.”
“You can see Essences? A mere human? Impossible.”
“You were once human not too long ago, so it shouldn’t feel that far-fetched to you. Back to the topic of that tourist. The mayor did mention that tourists occasionally popped up. Nothing would seem strange if another tourist showed up every now and then. But it would be strange if five or six tourists that no one saw showed up all at once. That’s why these disappearances were spaced out one month apart.”
“What do these tourists have to do with the disappearances?” Ūnje asked.
“The answer lies in why she has been making people disappear in the first place. All those who disappeared were students who were unjustly hated or abandoned by the community. An adult could simply leave the village, but a student couldn’t, especially not with their parents’ jobs tied here.
“What you said about the sin of suicide is important, too. These students couldn’t commit suicide, either, because of the shame it would bring upon their families. They were powerless; they could do nothing but suffer in silence. But what if they were spirited away instead? Then they could escape without the shame and consequences.”
“Are you saying Hana killed them?” Ūnje said, the alarm evident in her voice.
“I did no such thing,” Suni-Hana said.
“Whether you killed them is not such a clear-cut, yes-no question. Another way to describe it is that you gave them new lives while ending their old one. Reincarnation. It’s when a body dies, an Essence expands and connects to a new body that is then born. The memories of the previous lives are sectioned off, and new memories form in the new body. But in the corrupted Essence I saw, memories were forcibly suppressed, and new ones written. If you’re capable of directly modifying an Essence, then modifying a body would be child’s play for you.”
“Then you’re saying those tourists—” Ūnje said.
“Yes. They’re none other than the missing villagers themselves. Their bodies were transformed into completely different people and given new memories. A corrupted reincarnation. The tourist I met detested this village and wanted to leave immediately. Even if memories are suppressed, deep-seated feelings like that wouldn’t disappear so easily. She wanted to help those without any means of escape by using her own power to reincarnate them so they could leave the village.”
Ūnje turned to Suni-Hana. “Why? Why would you go so far?”
“You’re the person closest to her, so you should know that best,” Keuvei said. “She chose to commit suicide, and her family suffered. She did it to prevent anyone else from going through what she did.”
“You’re still full of kindness, even after the village betrayed you. I guess you really are the reincarnation of Suni,” Ūnje said.
“I can’t confirm whether that’s true, as I’ve never seen Suni’s original form before.” Keuvei turned to Suni-Hana. His eyes glowed red as he examined her Essence. “But this Essence is definitely on the level of a divine being. You believed that you were Suni to the very end, to the point that strong conviction prevented you from leaving this world. You had the power to become a goddess, and your wish made it so, but your wish was twisted by the circumstances of your death, so you ended up this way. You are a false god, or in this nation’s terms, a demonic bodhisattva.”
“And what are you going to do now?” Suni-Hana asked.
“I ask that you move on. Staying in such a form with a twisted wish for too long will permanently taint your Essence.”
“And what of those suffering now and in the future?”
“I hate to say it, but you’ve already died. It’s not your place to meddle. The people of this village and the victims have to save themselves.”
“Hana, please. I want you to find peace,” Ūnje said.
“No. No. No! I will not acknowledge it. That would mean admitting the village was right and all the victims were wrong!” A dark aura emanated from Suni-Hana. “I cannot let you tell the village the truth. You will be reincarnated as well!” The goddess flew over the water, rushing toward Keuvei.
Ūnje leapt in front of Keuvei, her arms spread out. “No, Hana, don’t!”
Suni-Hana stopped right before Ūnje and pushed her out of the way. “Don’t interfere.”
That hesitation was all Keuvei needed. The tip of his index finger burning with blue energy, he drew a symbol of a river and a gate in the air, the energy trailing and leaving the symbol floating. It flew at Suni-Hana’s forehead and burned itself into her like a brand.
She shrieked and fell to the ground, rolling in agony. “What have you done to me?”
“I’m an exorcist. I’m exorcising you. More specifically, I drew a character of a river and a gate. To cross the river and enter through the gate means to pass on through death. It’s a symbol that makes you acknowledge that you have died. I haven’t killed you; you were already dead, and now it’s time to rest.”
The sun had set, and now the moon shone a pale light from the black sky. Bathed in the light, Suni-Hana began fading.
“Hana...” Ūnje said. “I’m sorry I couldn’t save you. In the next life, may you find happiness; but for now, take a long rest. You’ve earned it.” She knelt down beside Suni-Hana and held her hand.
Tears streamed down Suni-Hana’s cheeks. “Next time, I hope I can meet a friend like you. Someone who stayed with me till death and even beyond. Thank you.” She faded into sparkles under the white moon.
* * *
The next day, Keuvei waited at the bus stop, shielded from the blazing sun only by the wooden shelter.
“Are you leaving already?” Ūnje asked.
“Yes. My work here is done.”
“Thank you for saving Hana.”
“I only did my job. I even got paid. The real hero is you.”
“Me? But you exorcised her.”
“I only made her acknowledge her death. She willingly moved on because you were there. She could have chosen to fight to the bitter end, and I’m not sure I could beat someone so powerful.”
“Huh...” Ūnje looked at him with wonderment. “What about the victims?”
Keuvei leaned back. “There’s nothing I can do about that. You can debate all day whether they actually died or not, but the reality is that they’re different people now. Different bodies and different memories. Hopefully they’ll live happier lives outside the village. I informed their parents as such, though it was only a small consolation.”
“I wonder if this village can change, so nothing like this happens again?” Ūnje said.
“What’s so funny?” Ūnje put her hands on her hips.
“Hana’s wish, the wish of a single person, was able to cause so much commotion. If you have a wish, and if the villagers want change, too, then act on it. I’m sure you all can do it.” The bus came through the tunnel in the distance.
Ūnje waved goodbye, and Keuvei boarded the bus when it arrived.
The bus turned around and made its way to the tunnel, heading into the darkness and towards the light, towards the end and a beginning.
Copyright © 2019 by J. H. Zech