User:Hawl/Gaia Planes

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The following story is a tribute to Christopher Pike and his books. Gaia Planes is based specifically on Remember Me, Remember 2:The Return, and The Star Group. He has written many novels and which amongst The Early Years Of Merlin and The Redwall Books were some of the examples of my literary history through childhood. I feel honored to join the ranks of talented writers of which in the TSA I have met several and deliver samplings of my own mind for all to enjoy. This is an Open Universe and I encourage anyone who wants to write in it may do so.

As a Disclaimer Warning I would like to state that there are moments in this story where death is glorified, I normally would not do this as a trust all of humanity, even those of us who don’t want to continue being apart of it, to be of a sound mind, but anyone with thoughts of suicide or feelings of depression I strongly advise you to keep a clear head while you read and remember that The Gaia Planes is just a story. None of it is real nor based on real events, no one knows what happens after death for sure and in several religions and this story suicide is punished by a judgement of the gods, but more importantly there are those who love you and those who want you to seek help. Including myself who is speaking from experience as I have attempted suicide before. Self-Inflicted Death is NOT the answer and this story is meant only to entertain. I don’t know what’s on the other side, I can only hope it’s something good that makes up for how screwed up our Earth is. Though if you have any musings or meditations about it, or any of my stories. I would like to hear about it at kyle.vernon@gmail.com

Without further ado I now present to you


The Gaia Planes:A Tribute To Christopher Pike

by Jessica Kylie Nichols-Vernon aka HawlSera Tygarus Enroygall


He didn’t remember much, just being at a friend’s birthday party and trying to get high off of this friend’s air conditioner’s freon, things got fuzzy after that and a man in his mid twenties named Vincent found himself overlooking a large cave like area with no sky to speak of. He just looked up and saw darkness, and various rocky areas. “Where the hell am I?” he asked himself, looking around and seeing no real way to go. A path behind him, and a path in front. Both ways he saw much of nothing, beyond. He exhaled a bit before kicking a pebble forward, still assessing things. “Guess I better get moving...... No point standing around.” he said to himself

“What a question!” Vincent heard, and turned around to see a very familiar looking human skeleton in roman gladiator armor. “You’ll find the answer within the question. You need to stay properly ventilated when you breath in freon or you’ll suffocate like you have, Vincent Creede.”

“I saw you before....” Vincent rubbed his head which had just started clearing a little. “Before I passed out, I.. I.. saw you!”

The skeleton chattered his lower jaw, trying to bend his face into the the closest thing he could to smiling. Brandishing a sword and holding it before Vincent. “You are very astute for a dead man. Yes, I am Death come to welcome you to the afterlife.”

“What’s with the blade? Are you trying to kill me? Take my money, just don’t do anything rash.” Vincent swallowed holding his arms up in fear.

The skeleton laughed. “What makes you think I want money? You are already dead, do you not listen? This is the blade I use to severe the bond between the body and the soul. I cut yours recently. You are dead and these are The Gaia Planes, the afterlife.”

“Yeah... guess I wasn’t listening... it’s just? I’m dead? I wasn’t expecting that, or to be so calm about it.” Vincent said to himself, no matter what he couldn’t force himself to have much emotion about his predicament. He was dead and That was that!

“What’s there to worry about? You’re dead.” The skeleton said, Vincent could not argue with him. That was that, if he was dead, he was dead. It just seemed so simple “If you excuse me, I’m a very busy revenant and I have so many people to kill. In so many different time periods.” and with that, Death was off.

Once Death had left Vincent he quickly felt cold and scared. “I’m dead? Oh god, Lenny must be trying to resuscitate me.... he must be panicked, I bet my whole family’s gonna be worried... God they’ll be blaming him for my death... Why did I let him talk me into trying freon?” he wasn’t worried for his own sake, he was dead and yet he was not in any pain. His body or whatever, seemed healthy even though it was apparently expired. His friend Lenny on the other hand would be devastated or mentally scarred, heck he might even go to jail for manslaughter. “I can’t help you Lenny, not from here, unless someone knows a way back....” Vincent said to himself as he began walking forward cursing Death for not explaining more about the afterlife.

As Vincent walked through what seemed to be the cracks of a red canyon for what seemed like hours, yet he found that his legs did not get tired, likely a plus of the whole deceased thing. Eventually the man found something that lifted his spirits. The scenery changed from a tight cavern to a large green meadow. Everything seemed a bright green though it seemed just as bright as it did dark. Vincent was unsure what to place the shade exactly, it was unlike anything he had ever seen, and soon he heard a female singing voice unlike anything he had ever heard. It was beautiful and exquisite in ways a professional live singer could not match.

Running towards the sound of the voice, Vincent found himself not losing stamina or even needing to stop for breath, he did however hear the sound of a rushing waterfall and himself literally running onto the water before stopping. Once Vincent’s movement ceased he fell into the lake splashing all about. The water seemed very warm, almost like a heated swimming pool at a nice hotel and yet it looked natural. Vincent could even feel fish brushing up against him.

What the man could only accurately describe as a silver raccoon shaped like a woman, was bathing in a very close waterfall just under a canyon, but again there was no sky. “Hrmmmm, what a lucky week this has been. Let’s get our new self nice and squeaky clean.” she said to herself as she literally conjured soap suds and rubbed them through her furry body. Vincent had to admit, even though she looked like an animal, she was as every bit a woman as they came.

“Umm... miss, can you tell me where I am?” Vincent said meekly, his face gaining the coloration of a fresh peach.

“Don’t know, but a girl could get used to this..” the coon giggled to herself before stepping forward, literally walking on water. She was still nude, Vincent just stared, to which the bushy tailed one found far more amusement in than embarrassment. She laughed to herself before jumping in next to Vincent and splashing him a few times. “You seem new around here.”

“How do you figure? Forgive me for asking, but, what are you? An angel? Servant of death?” God?” Vincent was confused being in a strange place where he couldn’t get tired and apparently not only did animals talk now, but they were also very pleasant to look at. There was a certain degree of thickness to the raccoon, her figure could best be described as a bottom heavy hourglass and she had long flowing silver hair with purple streaks in it.

“Awww you’re too kind. No I’m not God, I haven’t seen him, I don’t even know if if he exists.” The raccoon said with a chitter, before swimming back, letting her mind wander to whatever it was raccoons think about. Eventually she went under and like a dolphin propelled forward through the water and splashed down near “Actually I’m just dead. like you..”

Vincent looked even more lost than he did before, there were raccoons on Earth, but they didn’t talk, and they sure as hell didn’t look like that. “What are you really? If animals back home looked like you I think every guy I know would be guilty of beastiality.”

“Flattering, but I mean it!” The silver furred girl exclaimed, throwing her arms down in hand motion to highlight the importance of her words. “This place is always judging you and when it finishes it changes you. I think I agree with they came up with for me, but just to be safe I’d try to be on your best behavior.”

The human seemed quiet about this and started thinking for a bit. The prospect was interesting, but he wasn’t sure he could pull off the whole animal look, however he was sure that a tail would likely get in the way. “What if I like me the way I am?”

“I don’t know if you can do that... I’ve only been here about a week or two, hard to say really what with there being no sky and all.” the furred female said looking up. “I am not sure what the deal with that is, it would really liven the place up if there was a sky.”

“So I didn’t catch your name, mine’s Vincent.” The human said, swimming to the shore and drying himself off, and doing more surveys of the area. If there was one person here there should be others close by.

“Jake.....” Jake the coon answered nervously looking away, she seemed to regret saying this, but she smiled and tried to change the subject. “Vincent huh? Cute name, can I call you Vince?”

Vincent looked at her with a strange look in his eye and opened his mouth as if to say something, but Jake was the closest thing he had to a guide and thus it was likely unwise to say anything about her very masculine name. Vince figured that the poor girl was likely teased about it all throughout high school. “So... what’s it like around here? Is there anyone else? Is Death coming back? This is a lot to take in....” the late confused young man sat down on a nearby tree stump as he awaited answers. “And who cut down this tree, do we really need wood wherever this is?”

“Well, from what I can tell this is a place called The Gaia Planes, it’s sort of like purgatory. Nothing bad happens, but nothing particularly exciting either.” Jake said, her irises moving to the top of her eyes, her ocular orbs rolled back trying to piece together all of the things she had seen in her time here. “Outside of that, all I really know is that we don’t seem to get fatigued or hungry and you change after awhile. I’m not sure how it works, but I guess it’s judgment. I mean you’re supposed to get judged when you die, well this is the closest I’ve seen to it.”

Vincent nodded and asked the masculine-named woman the following “So is it always animals? I’m not too keen on fur. Would be a tad warm with clothes.”

Jake shrugged “That’s why I took mine off. Of course it’s winter on Earth, or at least it was when I died. So my clothes were kind of toasty.”

Vincent looked away “I guess it’s been a few months, it was Spring when I was alive. So you’re not gonna get redressed then....”

“Sorry.” Jake apologized, a warm red blush surfaced from her silver brightly colored cheeks. “I know it’s not proper, but, I guess I can get clothed if you like.”

Vince smiled, noticing the blush and if a beautiful woman, human or not, mentioned clothing was completely optional what heterosexual male with a pulse is going to ask her to wear them? “Well if it’s too warm, I guess we can just say you’re wearing a furcoat.”

Jake laughed to herself as she left the water. “Mother always warned me about boys like you. Shall we grab a bite to eat, I mean... If you want.” the coon seemed kind of nervous, in actuality she had never been with a boy before, especially not one as cute as Vincent, and was only half sure on how to proceed. Jake put her shoulder forward, which confused Vince, but he rolled with it the two locked shoulders with Jake leading the,.

“So... if we can’t get tired or hungry, what’s the point of eating?” Vince asked as the two came up to a secluded part of the forest. The whole place seemed trippy. Being just as small as it was large, just as fake as it was real, the whole thing seemed reminiscent of being on shrooms and how appropriate as two mushrooms sprouted up, a blue one for the gentleman, and a pink one for the lady, and grew to the size of small stools with a third in the middle forming a table.

Jake sat atop one of the shrooms and giggled to herself, finding amusement in the forest floor which strangely resembled the green on a miniature golf course. “Because we still have taste buds.” she responded as she plucked a grape off of a small plant that grew from the mushroom table and tossed it in her mouth. The silver coon literally moaned in ecstasy as she bit into the grape and allowed succulent juices beyond anything she had ever tasted on earth seemed to literally pour down her throat.

Vincent did a double take and plucked one for himself, slowly bringing it up to his mouth. “Hell, if they’re that good then I hope we don’t get full either.” he said as he bit into the grape, the unbitten half remaining in his hand for the next five seconds. The young human tried to keep his cool, trying to show restraint at instantly knowing that this had been the greatest thing he had ever placed in his mouth. The she-coon gazed into his eyes, resting her chin on her upraised arm placed casually upon the red and white polka dotted mushroom table. Jake knew it was only a matter of time until Vince couldn’t hold it any longer. This did not take long as Vince scarfed down the remainder of his grape and then plucked grape after grape eating over and over. The plant continued to regenerate much to his leisure something he was very grateful for as he never wished to stop consuming the succulent juices of the grapes.

“Uhh, Vince, you wanna slowdown there chum?” .Jake said, started to get worried, but her softly spoken words which carried concern had fallen upon the most deaf of ears. The grapes began to slowly lose their flavor as Vincent ate more and more trying to rekindle the joy of his first tasting of the gloriousness that he remembered it to be. It was for naught as eventually they had no taste at all, but this did not stop him. Jake saw her friend’s nose perk up as if some invisible finger was pressing at the tip just above his nostrils, and doing the only thing she could think of she tackled Vincent to the ground who literally squealed in a blind rage, sharp boar like tusks raising from his now pig like face as he was suddenly tackled by the ravenously beautiful furred female who looked deeply into his eyes with a gaze that almost summoned tears. “Vincent you bastard! You’re not a pig, you can snap out of this....”

Vincent raised a fist that was growing larger and meatier, gaining a pink skin tone that was quickly obstructed by a sudden burst of dark brown fur covering the arm like ants on a picnic. It was headed for Jake who winced in anticipation of the blow, gritting her pointed fanged teeth, ready for pain. However, pain did not come, as when Jake opened her eyes she found another arm holding back the cruel fist of Vince’s selfishness manifest. This arm seemed to be hoofed as well and yet much smaller, covered in a more orangish shade of brown, in a way resembling a buck’s hoof Vince swallowed and turned his face toward Jake. “What the fuck is going on?”

Jake, getting up and holding his pig-arm “I... don’t know... I’m not an expert, I just turned into an animal wo... an animal...” she quickly calmed herself and repeated in her head that there was no reason to get scared. Jake was after all already dead and had proven to herself from her playing around in this strange afterlife that she couldn’t get hurt anymore. Running without experiencing and no longer needing to breathe were good indicators of this.

Vincent calmed himself and took a deep breath, he felt really strange as he felt a wave push outward inside of his pig-arm, now a second deer-arm. “I’m very sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you, did I?”

Jake shook her head no. “No I’m just fine, but you’ve started changing. That’s impressive. I’ve been here for awhile but I just finished a day ago, or.... at least I think it was a day ago.” Jake began thinking really hard trying to find a way to count the days, that was rather troublesome. “I’ve been here for awhile, but I didn’t change until just last weekish.”

“How does it feel?” Vincent asked, looking his strange hooven hands over. Fingers like a man, but they were hard and black like hooves. Vince was awe-struck, but found some small entertainment value in the clacking sound they made when he clicked them together. Before Jake could answer he looked up at her with great discomfort. “To change I mean? Does it hurt? Can I stop it? I kind of like being human, it’s served me well so far.”

“I felt great, I was hoping it’d hurry up and finish, but at the same time I never wanted it to end.” Jake smiled, remembering to herself that tingly feeling that built up inside of her body and intensified until it exploded into a supernova of wonderment. “I don’t think there’s any stopping it, just make the best of it... it feels... overwhelming.” The tingling sensation that Vincent couldn’t shake in his hooves, building up like his body was numb and yet drenched in feeling. at the same time.

Vincent nodded, wanting to make conversation but not knowing what to say, was he going to pig out again? Did Jake know? Who was Jake anyway? “So.... what were you like when you were... alive?” he said, looking at the grapes again, but getting up and facing away from them instead desiring not to be tempted.

“.....I...” Jake seemed very uncomfortable at being asked this, she rolled her eyes away from Vincent, rubbing up and down her arm nervously. “Well, I wasn’t the prettiest girl.... I uhh.. did lots of guyish things, but... oh that probably sounds weird..” The she-coon forced a laugh.

“Not really, at least some of the girls I know like guy things. The Pac-Man machine by the gas station had its high-score set by a girl in my class.” Vincent had been temporarily distracted by the sensation of his tusks shrinking slightly. They were still present on his face, the judges sign that though he has calmed they still kept their eye on him.

“What is Pac-Man?” Asked the innocent voice of Jake. “Is that anything like Superman or is it something like Pong?”

“It’s a game you put quarters in.. Then you’re this yellow mouth that eats pellets and fruits while dodging ghosts.. there’s even a girl version called Ms. Pacman..” Vincent said confused. “It’s not that old so you must have been dead for awhile. I guess I’m not getting to play the Atari 2600 Version that’s coming out..... now that I’m a ghost myself...” The mutant amalgam of boar, deer, and man thought back to lunch time around that day.

Vincent did not eat dinner that night, Lenny’s girlfriend was still preparing it when he choked, so this had been his last meal, a bag of cool ranch doritos and a gas station chilli cheese dog with a 20 oz glass bottle of Mr. Pibb. Vincent had eaten half of this feast as he began to try and break the high score on the gas station’s Pac-Man machine. He had come pretty damn close, Clyde had been right on his tail from the beginning, but it took some time for him to even become a problem. Too long, a power pellet made him go blue and then he was free. “Go Vince, Go!” his best friend Lenny had cheered. “Win it for the birthday boy.”

For the honor of the anniversary of his best friend’s birth Vincent would comply. “You got it buddy.” The young man said as he munched down the final pellets and took a celebratory bite from his hotdog. “One bodacious Pac-Victory, coming up!” Vincent boasted, this had only been the first stage, he’d need to clear four more if he wanted any chance at breaking the high score. Much like the day after this one, it simply was not meant to be.

Vincent the dead mutant of the present shook his head, the memories were too painful for him, he had been deceased for what seemed like only minutes. “I think we should get moving on...” he said, turning to the raccoon. “Aren’t there any towns or something that we can stay at? Or do we just walk through the forests forever?”

“Oh, uh, follow me. But on the way, can you tell me what year it was when you died?” Jake asked, not hearing of this Pac-Man or this Atari, believing she had to have been dead longer than she thought.

“1984... I didn’t die that long ago, it hasn’t even been a day...” Vincent said, his thoughts beginning to trail off. The mutant was worrying once more about Lenny. What’s happened to him? Was he being tried for manslaughter? “I hope I can return to Earth somehow...”

“Yeah me too, I wanna see what’s changed. It’s weird, but I didn’t die that long ago either and yet it was 1956 when I kicked the bucket and yet I’ve only been here a month at best.” Jake said, a chill tingling down her spine. “Oh God, I hope my mom’s still alive.”

“Why’s that?” Vincent asked, normally it would be a BAD thing to want your mother dead, but in the afterlife it seemed like a valid want. “Don’t you want to see her again.”

“....I don’t wanna talk about it...” Jake replied, and focused more on leading the way.

They walked for what seemed like hours, but never once did they need a rest or a breather. In fact, walking felt great. They weren’t getting tired, but they were feeling good being active. Almost like adrenaline, but it was much calmer. Everything seemed calm in this place, calm and sorrowful, like being in a graveyard appropriately enough.

As they walked Jake asked Vincent all sorts of questions about the future, finding it perplexing that people can afford multiple television sets, and these Atari and VCR things sounded downright fun. “So did the coloreds stop trying to end segregation?” Jake asked. “I can’t imagine they’d keep that crazy idea up this long.”

Vincent did a double take, looking at her like her face was peeling off. “Wow! Where did that come from?”

“You believe in it? How?!?! They’re not like us. They’re black and they act like jungle people! We’re white and we know how to be civilized. They can have equal rights, but, us and them? No way, it’d never happen.” Jake argued sincerely, becoming uncomfortable as she tried imagining a school in a white neighborhood that actually allowed black students to attend.

Jake’s tusks shrunk ever further, he even began giggling as the tickling sensation of his tail coming in was a little much. “Hehehehe...... Oooh hehehehehe...”

“You were kidding?” Jake asked with a smile. “For a second I was getting worried about your time.”

“Actually Jake, hehe... I just.... hehe.. Sorry about that, what I was trying to say is that segregation isn’t a thing in my time. It hasn’t been for awhile, there’s even a holiday dedicated to the man who helped end it.” Vincent said getting really offended. “I... think we should just drop this topic.”

Jake nodded slowly in agreement. “It makes me sick, I don’t want to live next to some nigger... though I guess by default I’ll never have too.. so hooray for that.” Vincent was about to open his mouth once more when Jake ran up to a cliff just ahead and looked off of it. “Come look at this...”

Vincent stepped foward and was amazed. At the bottom of the cliff there were dark brown rocks and stalactites everywhere, spelling out a singular path through an endless valley. Though in the middle of a few groundspikes, he could see something amazing. Being finally out of the trees and mountains he could verify that there was no sky at all and the world truly seemed like it was completely flat. In place of a sky there was just darkness, almost as if there was a roof to it that he just could not see because it was so far away. Vincent couldn’t really see too far in any direction, there was no source of light at all save for something below him. Vince wasn’t sure how he was seeing at all as the interesting thing below him. What was most interesting was that in that rocky valley below there was a giant glass globe with a city inside, and a sun with clouds in a blue sky. “A bottled city?”

“I’ve seen places like these, never been into them, but if we’re going to make sense of this place.. we should find out what they are.” Jake advised, nodding with her paws on her hips as she jumped head first to the rocks below. Her body bouncing around until she got to the bottom.

“I thought we were dead already!?!?! JAKE ARE YOU OKAY!?!?!!” Vincent screamed as he looked down at Jake’s body looked mangled with her bones broken in various places. The ex-person climbed downward in a panic to rush to her side. He didn’t want to find out what happened if you died twice. “Jake... I’m coming....”

“Heh.. relax.” The mangled body said, getting up perfectly okay with her bones cracking back into place. “I’m fine, it’s not the first time I fell from a long height. Though it did hurt a lot more the first time.”

“You scared me half to... well you scared me.” Vincent explained, hugging Jake like she was the last woman on Earth, or the Gaia Planes rather. “You’re the only person I have in this alien world, I can’t afford to lose you!”

“I don’t think that’s a problem.” Jake smiled, returning the hug. “At first I thought I was dreaming, so I tried waking myself with a pinch, then I tried more extreme methods.. We can’t get really get injured. Still.. I’m glad you’re here. I have never investigated these globes.”

“Why not?” Vincent asked, getting closer to it. As he did it gave off a purple spark, opening a small door for him. “We can’t get hurt, like you said.”

“I don’t know what these things are... if they’re reincarnation, oblivion, heaven, hell.... and well I’m not really sure if I’m ready to find out. I just figured I might not be as scared if I had someone with me.” Jake explained, looking up at the globe, holding her tail in front of her and playing with it as a stress reliever. “Especially since well... I’m finally....” Jake looked down at her naked furry body. “I... I’m comfortable out here... just really lonely. I mean, what if going into this thing makes me change back to the old Jake. I don’t want to be the old Jake, never ever ever!”

“I’m sure you didn’t look that bad.” Vincent tried assuring.

“And what if when it turns me back into the old Jake, I can’t leave to become the new and improved Jake. Please... no.. I change my mind. I can’t go through with it.” Jake said, turning to face the other way. “Please Vincent... don’t make me.”

“I’m not standing around in this wasteland for all eternity, it won’t do us any good. We need to go in and see if anyone knows how this place works.” Vincent put his foot down on this matter. “I’m going in and seeing if there’s a way back to Earth....”

“But, then I’ll be alone again.” Jake turned around again. “And I haven’t had the chance to be New Jake around people, please stay with me.”

“I won’t, I’m going in.” Vincent inhaled a good amount, he was just as scared. Lenny was a big spiritualist and told him a story of a demon that pretended to be a house to eat the souls of weary travelers and being nothing but soul, Vince didn’t think he would enjoy that. This is what it could be, but it could also be something else. No two ways about it now, he wasn’t going to look like a wimp in front of a girl. He just couldn’t stand down, for both of their sakes. “Are you coming with?”

Jake looked towards her hindpaws and sighed. The silver she-coon felt her breasts one more time before running up to Vincent and grabbing him by the arm. “Okay.. but if I do turn back into the old Jake. You won’t hate me for it right?”

“I don’t see why I would.” Vincent promised as the two entered together. The entrance closed behind them.

The two found themselves in the middle of a what they saw on the outside, a city where the sun was shining. Vincent was now completely a deer-man, he rubbed his antlers and complained immediately. “Okay I hope these break off because they’re a little too heavy.”

“Alright!” Jake looked at herself, feeling up her curves and hugging Vincent. “I’m me, the me I should be! And look! We’re not the only ones here!” Jake was right, there were dozens of other animals walking through the city, all between what looked like the ages of six and twenty.

“You two must be new, welcome to Everchase, one of the Afterburgs of the Gaia Planes. Please come inside and we’ll get you straightened out.” Asked a kindly teenage badger-woman with glasses who went back into the building she was standing outside the door of.

“Uhh.. okay..” Vincent said, entering with Jake following behind. Literally dancing as she stepped.

The building was a very small one which in copper letters on the outside read. “Everchase, Department For Recently Deceased.”

The inside was a small office with the badger behind a desk, there were side rooms where altered humans were talking to each other and reviewing papers, but this seemed to be the main attraction. “Greetings, I can tell from your auras that this is your first Afterburg and you’ve both been dead for less than a year. We’ll get you straightened out. It’s a very serious matter dying, so I just had the door take you straight to my office.”

“Okay....” Vincent said as he sat down on one of the chairs in front of the desk, Jake in the other.

The badger opened up a laptop and began entering in some information she gathered from their auras, whatever that meant. “Alright I have your profiles up. Vincent Creede. You died October 25th, 1984 of suffocation when you tried to inhale Freon and Jacob Herman, you died February 12th, 1956 from being pushed off a tall building in New York. Ms. Herman judging from your last moments your Anima Equalization could not have been kinder to you.”

Jake gave a half-smile. “I just wish birth could have been as kind as death was. Getting murdered was a good thing to happen to me.... I just... I just wish this wasn’t necessary to... you know... stop hurting.”

“I feel sorry for you Ms. Herman, I wish you could have done your life over how you wanted it to be.” Said the badger-woman. “Well... you’re in my paws now. I’ll see to it your afterlife is much happier.”

“How kind of you to say....” Jake blushed under her fur.

“I’m lost, what are you talking about? And more importantly, if we’ve been dead for less than a year how is she from thirty years before my time? What year is it now?” Vincent was confused.

“Ms. Herman had a rare condition that made her unable to appreciate life. The change has fixed her condition, beyond that I can’t say. I’m obligated to keep such details secret.” The badger-woman stated as she re-adjusted her glasses, they didn’t want to stay on with animal ears. “Time doesn’t work in the afterlife the same way it does on Earth. Here we’re on a different timeline entirely, one that completely ignores the Earth concept of it. They’re so different that you could accurately say that time doesn’t exist here. Once this world recognizes your death, you die. This is because we see time periods as different locations where humans can kick the bucket. I hope that makes sense it never gets any easier to explain.”

“So it’s like Earth is a story told in weird order and we aren’t dead until that book says so.... No matter what time it is?” Vincent asked, tried to piece this together. “I think I get it, but it makes my head hurt to think about it.”

“I’m just as lost, but as long as mom’s not here.” Jake said as she looked over her shoulder as if to look around to see if was here. “I don’t want to talk to her...”

“Well try not to think about it, the point is... Time doesn’t exist for the non-living, so people from the same period of history don’t show up here at the same time.” The badger-woman said. “So... we use aura details and data from the Deaths to mark whose dead and who isn’t. And you two are officially kaput. As a result, I’m required by the Gods Of The Gaia Planes and the Spiritual Research League of New America to answer any and all questions and see to it that you adjust comfortably to your afterlives.”

“Well you can start by telling me what New America is... Ms.....” Vincent asked, scratching his head in confusion.

“Dr. Bella Wakefield, Time of Death 2:34 PM July 9th, 2234 AD. Cause of Death, Fatal Allergy to peanuts, my failure to recognize that a snack containing one Muffin, one bag of trail mix, and one canister of Neo-Hydrate contained them. I was working hard on my studies and clumsily put a peanut in my mouth, my allergy to some of the ingredients in the muffin did not help, but I was only fatally allergic to peanuts. My allergies always were a bother. It happened not that long ago, yesterday we had a celebration around the office. I’m so glad that it happened, it’s done wonders for my research!” The badger said excitedly, getting all giddy with herself.

“I didn’t ask that, I want to know what the Spiritual Research League is, especially now that you’ve raised further questions like, if you wanted to die why didn’t you just kill yourself?” Vincent asked, Jake thinking hard because of that last thing he said.

“It’s customary in the afterlife to greet people with your time of death and cause, it’s just good manners.” Bella assured, giving a big smile. “Also very excellent questions. In the 21st Century humans became masters of upgrading themselves through mechanical replacements and nanites, which eventually lead to a holy war between religious groups who saw it as an abomination and the Transhumanists. Eventually the Transhumanists won in one of the least violent wars of the planet’s history, simply from having longer life spans, being younger to start with, and better technology. After the devastation a process was eventually uncovered that uploaded human minds onto a world wide computer network called the Internet. Thus creating UI, or Uploaded Intelligence. The UI’s revolutionized our way of life, but mankind began to see them as slaves leading to another war. Some left the planet in the computers of spaceships, some buried themselves deeper into the internet and took over the planet. Putting the highest focus on technology there’s ever been. From this group, the greatest discovery of the 22nd century occurred. A portal from the Internet to the Gaia Planes, the UI found a loophole that made them technically spirits letting them jump from computer to afterlife and back again. Which was crucial to winning the second transhumanist war. So the Spiritual Research League of New America was founded with the ancient idea of life after death finally proven. Shortly afterward came the discovery magick and the idea of mixing it with science to create newer and better technology. I’m from the 23rd Century, previously I had been using a process with the chips in my brain to virtually interact with the Gaia Planes and we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible or the mystery of this expansive afterlife. And we can’t just ask the future. The Gods have forbidden us from taking knowledge from future years to past time periods, sometimes it happens anyway but it’s always kept hush hush. Besides the Death Cap’s at 2315, no one past that year can die until the Gods write more in the story book you mentioned. It’s a little complicated. Any deadie can learn about the future, but not tell about it to the living. It’s why I’m so excited to have expired. I’d have killed myself if it wasn’t punished by the Gods with complete soul erasure, I know that sounds weird but death isn’t really the handicap it was in your time. I’ll even show up for Thanksgiving Dinner like nothing happened. It just won’t.. feel the same, but.. hey.”

“That’s a lot to take in.” Jake swallowed as she rubbed her head. Not sure if she got all that. “...and I still have so many questions about who the Deaths are and if the Gods write in the book, why was I cursed the way I was?”

Bella petted the Raccoon on the head. “It’s okay Jake, you’re yourself now. Well, anyway. I’ll get you set up with some pamphlets and my number is inside the Anima Equalizer And You:Why You’ve Changed one....” Bella slid a few papers forward. “There’s so much to cover, but I will say this one most important thing. There is another afterlife beyond this one, no one knows anything about it, just that it’s the center of the Gaia Planes and those ready to move onto it may. No one knows what it’s like, some people think it’s soul-erasure others think its the true Heaven. I’m telling you this now because it’s the whole reason the Gaia Planes exist. To get us ready for whatever is in that life. Jake your powers should be upon you already, Vincent, it’s only an illusion caused by this Afterburg that your change is complete. Once your soul has fully adjusted to working without a body yours will come in.”

“Powers?” Jake and Vincent asked at the same time as they looked at each other.

“Yes... Powers. Your soul is normally powering your body and keeping yourself separate from the energies of the world. Now it’s only your consciousness that does the latter so your soul is adjusting to being one with everything. It’s very hard to explain, but it allows you abilities that not many people in your time have.” Bella stated. “We all have the same abilities, but the ones that work easier for us vary from person to person. People in my time are trained to use these while they’re still kicking, but you two might want to sign up for a seminar or two. Though Vincent, you’ll have to leave the Afterburg to finish your change. It’s a pocket dimension outside the Gaia Planes but still heavily connected, I recommend going out for a few hours when you’re ready.”

“I think I got it, it’s a city for the dead that pretends to be the world of the living, but isn’t?” Jake asked. “I don’t blame your future people for making them, it’s confusing out there.”

“They were crafted by the dead mostly. They’re all rapidly different from one another, this one was however crafted from my people’s time as you assumed. Everchase represents the ever-lasting chase for knowledge. It exists and mimics how cities looking from the time period most people are dying in. The late 20th and early 21st Century. To help us study them. With an illusion spell to help people know what they’re turning into.” Bella explained. “I’m afraid our time is up and I have other clients who need to see me. We don’t have currency in Everchase, we’re a study group primarily. So please, enjoy yourselves on the town. Everchase's treat. If you need me again, just ring.”

Jake and Vincent nodded. “Alright... we’ll... certaintly try.” Vincent said, as he walked out of the building with Jake following. The two decided quickly to head for the pub to just unwind after that mental overload.

The Sacrificed Goat was an amusing name for a bar, it was ran by a bull named Donnie who in favor of talking made words appears to only the person or persons he was addressing. Donnie nodded to the two coming in and made the words. “Welcome, you must be new. Please, enjoy yourself. Everything is free, there’s no currency in our Afterburg.” appear before the two.

Vincent looked towards Donnie confused, wondering how he knew he was responsible for the words.

“So where should we sit?” Jake asked Vincent

“With me.” Piped up a white rabbit with a blue-gold vest and green pants who walked in behind them. “My name is Henry, died 1963 May 13th from a hunting accident, please come sit with me and my friends. Your auras tell me that you two need friends right now. It’s a big scary underworld out there, please. I insist.”

“That’s awfully kind of you, the more I learn the less I seem to understand.” Vincent admitted as he followed the rabbit to a table of animals eating chips, wings, and drinking ale.

“Sorry I’m late.” Henry laughed as he pulled up a chair. “I got caught up with some paperwork... But I’m here now, I have these two with me. I haven’t asked their names, but they’re new so I figured I’d show them a friendly group.”

A pregnant looking tigress dressed in a black one piece outfit with green glowing tron lines purred. “Glad to see you my darling husband.” the tigress purred as Henry sat next to her. Gemini turned to Jake and Vincent “The name is Gemini Eight, I abandoned my real name ages ago, a lot of us from this thing called the HI-UI War did. The idea was we were renouncing our humanity. died 2289 AD, I was one of the UI’s from long ago, but someone poured beer on a control panel while I was desynced from the cloud.... No big loss. I feel barely different” she seemed very friendly. “I mean... it’s clear that I’m dead now. Being a soul feels very different from being code, my avatar was the same tigress my soul is. Plus, it’s nice being able to give birth. I've wanted to experience what it's like to be pregnant since 1999”

“We can do that? But how?” Jake asked, rubbing down under her breasts. Pregnancy was not a joy she experienced in life, so she thought it would be wonderful to do so in death.

“Well yeah, souls who decide they can’t keep up the afterlife thing and don’t want to cross-over into the beyond can reincarnate and have another go on Earth. You can even reincarnate in the past, which is part of why this place is so weird with time. Souls have to come from somewhere, but... it’s a little more complicated than just having sex. You are infertile without an actual womb, so you’ll need to use magic to birth a new soul.” Gemini explained.

“Neat!” Jake cried out. “When are you due?”

“Dunno, it’s hard to tell with these kinds of things.... could be five minutes from now, could be 9 months from now. Magick is often unpredictable.” Gemini replied, rubbing her bloated belly once again with a purr.

A bearded dragon in knight armor spoke up next. “Sir Fargos, slain for the Lord during The Crusades. I hold no regrets, I fought valiantly for my Pope and have been rewarded in Heaven. I have been dead 200 years and enjoyed every moment of it. We are gathered for drinking in rejoice of my sister passing the pearly gates! May she find Everchase safely and with the demons of Acclaimation, or Hell as my people call it touch them not.”

“Here we consider it worth celebrating when our loved ones die so that they may be with us again.” Gemini Eight explained as she wrapped her tail around Henry’s foot as she leaned onto him. “Incase that wasn’t obvious.” she added, purring as her mate rubbed her pregnant belly.

“There’s a Hell?” Vincent asked, looking down at the table. “With what I put Lenny through... why aren’t I there?”

Sir Fargos smiled at the cervine. “The Lord is very forgiving, one cannot be sent to Acclaimation unless their heart is truly consumed by evil in its entirety. Awful place that.”

“Cenate. Hoverboard accident in 2083.” Caw’d the teenage crow. “And no, I’m not stuck at this age. I could grow older, I just don’t want too. I don’t talk much...”

Finally a Walrus, the final member of this trope introduced himself. “I call myself Ebert, 1998 from a polar bear, I was never human unlike the rest of you. The Anima Equalizer made me half-human, that’s a thing. And now that you know who we are we want to know who you are.”

Jake clapped in delight. “How fun, that is so neat that it does that. Okay okay, here we go. Jacob Herman, but please call me Jake, died Feburary 12th, 1956. I don’t wanna get into it too much, but I tried to kill myself, and when I decided not too I got murdered...... I should explain why eventually, but since I became a raccoon I’ve been much happier.”

Vincent sighed. “Vincent Creede, died October 25th, 1984 by suffocating on Freon... a bag of the coolant they use in Air Conditioners. It’s so weird, having just died and being surrounded by people from after my time. I can’t believe it’s already over, I feel like I had so much more to do. I was still in High School for God’s sake. And now I’m worried that my best friend will get blamed for my death. Truth be told. I’m waiting to wake up and be told this is all a bad dream.” after this he immediately buried his head in his hooves. “I appreciate you guys welcoming me, but... I just wanna go back.”

Gemini grinned “You can as a ghost... read your pamphlet. You won’t get your life back, but you can save your friend at least. Well I don’t know about that, I mean, you did just admit to being unable to fight your way out of a paper bag, ahahahaha!”

Vincent looked shocked at Gemini’s laughter. “Hey that’s not funny.”

“Says you.” Gemini retorted.

Vincent ignored her and began to open one of his pamphlets up, the one labeled “How you can go bump in the night!” and began reading. No matter what was said to him he would not pry his eyes off of it. He had all the time there was ever going to be to relax later.

-EPILOGUE- They partied until it was nightfall. Drinking and getting to know one another, all except for Vincent who left early to finish changing. “Come on, come on. I need this!” he said to himself, willing his body to change. It seemed to be working, he surrendered himself to it and forced it. It burned his insides a lot, the first pain of his death.

The Anima Equalizer made all the people of Earth equal, and the Gods counted animals as people, but Vincent could have cared less what the intention was, he just needed his powers. “I don’t care if I go deer all the way.... Lenny... I’m... coming....” his insides tightened, or rather that’s what he felt happening, he didn’t have insides anymore. Not really. He did have fur growing on all parts of his body as his head snapped into a queer new shape and regained those heavy antlers. Yet strangely, they didn’t seem to be that bothersome outside of the Afterburg. “Okay... good thing I left my shoes in Everchase... here... here come the legs!”

Vincent screamed, this was not something that liked to be told what to do at all. He felt like his legs were exploding as they rearranged into appropriate deer legs complete with hooves. The new deer found himself wobbly and said to himself what exactly he learned. “Okay... magic can hurt me... I’ll keep that in mind... but we’ve gotta force some more...” he said to himself, this time it was surprisingly easy for him to vanish and reappear in a jailcell. Lenny curled up in a corner with people yelling the word “Murderer!” at him over and over again.

“Am I too late?” Vincent asked himself.

“.....Too late for what?” Asked the cowering Lenny. “Are you my executioner?”

“..Oh good I’m not.... he’s just dreaming.” Vincent said under his breath, it took a special kind of person to actually be able to see spirits in the living world or at least a trained mind. Though maybe a bump on the head would work too. The bigger give away was that if someone was awake and saw Vincent as he was now they would most likely be more concerned with him being a deer than a prison executioner.

Lenny backed away from the cell entrance, but his inmates kept pulling him closer and closer to the cell door. “A couple hundred volts for the slayer of friends! Why did you kill him? He was your best friend and you KILLED HIM!”

“STOP! You are not a murderer!” Vincent exclaimed. According to the pamphlet, unless they were particularly used to lucid dreaming or the paranormal influencing them then chances are they weren’t going to recall much from the dream, just the gist of it. So although he could not explain everything he could atleast get one important message. “Vincent doesn’t blame you for what happened. I don’t blame you for what happened”

“He doesn’t?” Lenny asked, the inmates leaving him alone and backing off as he asked.

“No.... he’s, not exactly at peace, but... he doesn’t blame you either.. I blame myself for it.” Vincent admitted, opening the cell without effort. The deer-man walked closer to the human regaining his footing and the strength to stand.

“Who are you?” Lenny asked, shaking his hand as he moved it closer to the deer. “What are you?”

“Vincent Creede...” The deer man smiled as he hugged his hugged his best friend in any world he had ever been too. “And I already miss you...my friend....”

-To Be Continued.-