A voice is only useful if there are lips brave enough to utter the words needed to be said.
Chiara was speechless. She had wrenched her body from “The Duke’s” strong grasp, fell to her knees, and sat in silence trying to comprehend the severity of his claim. How was it possible for her to even be in the Underworld? As her hands gripped her head, she exhaled a loud and labored breath—that shaky sigh slipping out of her chapped lips. After several repeated breaths, she caught the scent of smoke and looked up to see Death above her, blowing smoke from his cigarette into her direction. The cigarette looked hand-rolled with a bent tip which flickered with its little flame.
“Does this mean…I am a ghost?” Chiara finally called out, gripping the thin white fabric of her dress. Death laughed, his voice bouncing off the walls in the small room.
“You are breathing and walking, aren’t you? Have you ever seen a ghost do any of those things?” he said casually, putting his left hand in his pocket and pulling out a small necklace. It was silver, with a small crystal on the end. It radiated with a soft hum.
“Think of your body simply as…re-animated,” Death finished with a smirk, tossing the necklace to her. Chiara caught the chain in between her fingers and looked at it curiously.
“Re-animated?” she whispered.
“Of course, how else would we use that magnificent voice, Chiara.” He answered, kneeling down to take the necklace that was intertwined with her fingers.
“My voice?” Chiara interrupted, looking up at him.
“Not like we want your body, you’re built like a board,” he joked.
Before Chiara could defend herself, the sound of the record crescendoed back into play. She turned her head and saw the small girl standing next to the record player.
“And that girl?” Chiara asked, moving her head to inspect the girl who remained still, like a statue.
“Ah yes, Lucy is re-animated just like you. And there are others.” Death outstretched his hand and pulled her to stand, then back in his grasp to twirl her in his arms.
Chiara and Death once again danced in silence, leaving Chiara with the opportunity to scan the room. It was tinted with a red glow and only had five things: the small record player which sat on a small stand, an old armchair with a black and grey plaid design, and a red velour fainting couch, and in the corner was a small table with a vase of red roses. While the walls looked freshly painted and the floors recently waxed, there was still an overwhelming scent of dirt and rainwater.
“Why would you bring us back to life,” Chiara whispered into Death’s shoulder as he held her in his bony grasp.
“Not brought to life, re-animated. Remember, Chiara, you are but a shell.” Death stressed, pulling away from her and looking down to the brunette. His bright eyes narrowed.
“A shell.” Chiara repeated, averting her gaze from Death’s to the only door in the room.
Just as her eyes were to move back to the dark-skinned figure who held her, a loud creaking hissed from the door’s hinges. The door groaned, as if unable to hold its own weight, and opened to reveal another.
This man was tall, but not as lithe as Death. In fact, his height was hard to determine, as he dropped his shoulders and slouched forward. He stood as if he was carrying on his back a large load. He walked with such labored steps Chiara thought Atlas himself had entered the room and was carrying the sky along with him. Like Death, he dressed professionally in black slacks and a black shirt. With his green eyes he stared at Death and Chiara through blond locks.
“Back already, Big Brother?” Death called out, looking to the male who dragged his feet, moving into the room and to the chair before collapsing onto the cushion. And, like a ton of weight had been dropped on the floor, there was a large bang and the chair groaned in agony.
Lucy, who had stood in silence among the shadows, hurried to the blond and pulled off his arm what had previously not been seen: another snake-like soul. Lucy held it like the others and the male turned his head to look down at her.
Those long fingers of Death grazing her neck, hooking that small silver necklace around her neck and pushing her hair from her shoulders interrupted Chiara’s gaze at the stranger. She turned her head in embarrassment as she felt his piercing gaze stare back at her.
“Isn’t she too young and bland for you, Death?” the man said, disturbing their silence. He sat sprawled in the struggling armchair. His arms draped over the chair. The sleeves of his black dress shirt rolled up to his elbows, Lucy stood by his side in silence.
Chiara said nothing of the insulting comment from the blond, half expecting Death to defend her. After all, Death had brought her back, “re-animated” her, and gave her a gift. Surely he had already become fond of her.
“You are correct, Alton. Chiara is neither my type nor new lady, but we need her.” Death said with a laugh, tossing his cigarette to the ground before parting from the brunette to attend to the record player, removing the needle from the record and resting his elbow against the wall.
“Well, I don’t believe we would have a need for things like that here in the Underworld since we are nothing but re-animated corpses.” Chiara spoke bitterly, her arms crossing over her chest.
“Speak for yourself, Two-By-Four,” Death began, getting a smirk in his direction from Alton. “I am very much alive. I am a twentieth generation Death, miss, and I would like to consider myself the best.”
Chiara listened to Death’s gloats, sighing as he looked at her with that smug grin.
“So if you are the best, why am I needed,” Chiara stepped closer into the poorly made circle the group of four had created. She noticed when she spoke, the slithering snakes in Lucy’s arms did not struggle or contort to try to get to her. Lucy had no need to calm them.
“If you are wondering about the spirits, it is because of the necklace.” Death said simply.
“What? How could you have—,”
“You’re very transparent.” Death answered, making Chiara drop her shoulders in mild frustration. Her small fingers ran over the small crystal necklace around her neck.
“I’m sorry for being so simple then,” Chiara looked back to the souls. Her brows dropped as she contemplated the crystal’s power over the souls.
“While you don’t remember your alive life, your voice has always been different. It attracts the spirits of the dead, as well as other things.” Death walked over to Chiara, passing by her and circling around to go to Alton, who remained silent this entire time in his slumped position.
”Attracting them, but what for?” Chiara watched Death’s slow and careful steps. The movement of his body looked planned, as if he had thought of them days in advance; those long fingers of his fixing his tie and straightening his suit jacket.
“Who knows why, but we need it. We need your voice to help us gather spirits, and help with some…malevolent beings.” Death put a hand on Alton’s shoulder. Lucy looked up to Death, who simply returned the gaze for a brief moment before returning his look to Chiara.
“Do I have a choice?” Chiara said skeptically.
Death laughed, that smoky voice making her worry. Out from his lips exhaled smoke, which must had been lingering in his body for some time. By his laughter, the room no longer smelled of earth but instead the musky fumes of cigarette smoke that slithered in the air like the spirits in Lucy’s arms.
“If you say no, we will just toss you back into oblivion.”
Chiara hesitated, remembering her stay in the void where forgotten souls floated. It was not a life she desired for the rest of eternity.
“I will do it,” Chiara agreed. Death nodded.
“Glad. Alton, show her to her room, the one westward of here.”
Death assisted the blond man from the seat, obviously having trouble pulling his weight. When Alton stood, the chair creaked with relief of the man being lifted. Alton motioned for Chiara to follow him as he walked to the door, pushed it open, and walked into the darkness. Chiara looked back at Death, who was now sitting with Lucy at his side, before following after her guide. She shut the door behind her.
“Will she really help us,” Lucy spoke monotonously as soon as the door closed. Death looked down to the girl and reached to pat her head in between her pigtails.
“My, my, do you not trust me and my decisions?” Death joked. Lucy shrugged, looking down to the souls in her arms as she turned away from the man and began her trek back to the river of souls to place the beings where they belonged.
Death watched Lucy leave in amusement. Never once had she questioned him, it must have been a sign of development. Children were troublesome, but then again so was his entire team.