Chapter II: Paradise

“Welcome to The Miraxis Index. This floor is just a lobby for those who need to obtain information or missions directly from the Defense Department of the facility. It is also a suitable social hub, as you may have noticed. May I ask for your name?”

The woman behind the desk was very kind and polite. I could not see her clearly, for she was seated behind a distorted glass window that created a scrambled image, blocking the outside viewer from identifying the person within. I responded to her request with haste.

“Yes of course, my name is… Xathoven. I was just given that name.”

There was a short pause as she worked behind the barrier. I was unable to see what she was doing.

“Okay, thank you. Please hold on for a moment.”

After a few short tones following audible button presses, I concluded that she must have been activating some kind of communication device. Her words were a dead giveaway of this action.

“Sir Dusk, he has arrived. I am sending him to the meeting room.”

She seemed to hang up the device and spoke to me once more.

“Sir, please progress through the hallway to your right and wait in the room at the end of the hallway. Sir Dusk should be with you in a short moment.”

She returned to her work adamantly, leaving me to make my way over to a new destination. I turned to my right to view the path; the hallway I needed to enter was very narrow and diagonal in relation to the room I stood in. Its floor was raised just a little above the lobby, creating a small climb as one entered the path. Since the corridor was not very wide, it was a little discomforting to squeeze through. There were two doors on either side and just one at the end of the hallway; that lone, closed entrance being my objective. These doors were more old-fashioned, unlike the other doors I had encountered so far. They had handles and were not automatic with sensors. I found this relieving in the strange and futuristic facility.

After making my way down the hallway to that final room, I reached for the handle and turned it slowly, unsure of what I would discover on the other side. I gently pushed forward, opening up the room and finding myself in a dark area. There was a short pause but the lights flickered on after several seconds. The room’s walls were curved and shaped like an ellipse, although the ceiling and the floor remained flat. There was a large and flat egg shaped table sitting in the center of the room, surrounded by six chairs. Other than those items, there was little else to grab my attention. I walked over to the side opposite of the entrance and stood, awaiting the arrival of the person I was to meet, the one referred to as “Sir Dusk.”

It did not take long for me to favor a comfortable seat over standing; I quickly sat down in a chair just beside me, one that was positioned at the near edge of the table. With an elongated sigh, I sat at the table, twiddling my thumbs. I slowly became immersed in my own thoughts, deeply pondering the situation at hand. I was still unsure as to what was happening and although everything seemed to be embedded in reality, I dared not place full confidence in my senses. For as much as all felt real, such are the feelings that deceive everyone in the world of dreams. Whether life was in play, or just a unique dream, I knew that my only choice was to follow through with the events of the world around me.

In my momentary thoughts, I acknowledged that I had now heard reference to a Defense Department. I had only loose clues that pointed to this segment of the facility as a combat and military focus, yet this seemed out of place in a world that could truly be the afterlife. The Miraxis Index itself was a difficult concept to understand. Dwelling in my own realm of thoughts, I managed to miss the presence of another person completely, the second time I had drifted from the environment around me and lost my attention of the surroundings. I looked up to see a man standing high above me to my side. A strong face looked down upon me with an expression that appeared curious, as if I were some unknown presence. He had short, dark hair which was borderline gray, cleanly brushed to the side and perfectly straight. His face was somewhat squared, giving him a powerful and intimidating look, yet he managed to offset this facade with a sudden sly smirk and a stylish mustache. His eyes were a dark yet unique shade of brown, and they locked onto mine without distraction. He wore a black tuxedo suit, something I would have to adapt to seeing in The Miraxis Index. He placed a strong hand upon my shoulder and reached out to me with the other, inviting a handshake between us.

“Welcome son, it’s nice to meet you.”

With a warm smile and greeting, he created an aura that seemed awkwardly cheerful in the achromatic room. I made sure to shake his hand as he sat down in a vacant seat beside me.

“You must be Xathoven, correct?”

I nodded quietly, careful not to say anything unusual. I knew that eventually I had to adopt Xathoven as my substitute name, seeing how my past identity was now obsolete.

“Well then, I am Sir Dusk, though some refer to me simply as Dusk. I know all of this must be a frightening surprise to you but I have placed considerable hope in the belief that you may be of great assistance to this revolutionary facility. You see son, we need people like you to defend The Miraxis Index. This facility cannot exist if it is not kept safe from the dangers of the afterlife. Speaking of which, I presume you have been told the nature of this world, am I correct?”

Sir Dusk relaxed himself as he awaited my response. I thought for a moment, retrieving the information I had gained earlier.

“I was made aware of my death… but not much else really.”

I felt restrained as I spoke, trying to avoid saying anything out of place. Something about my surroundings made me feel displaced, but admittedly, this man’s presence did give me a little comfort. He smiled lightly as he began to speak.

“Then I shall tell you the story of The Miraxis Index, if I may.”

His stated inquiry was polite, and I was more than willing to hear the mysterious story.

“Of course, Sir Dusk.”

He chuckled heartily for a moment, in such a way that I could not help but respond with my own contained laughter.

“No need to refer to me as “Sir”, my boy, but I do admit I fancy the title in its entirety.”

He stood up and slowly strolled around the room, observing various nearby details with wandering eyes.

“It is somewhat enigmatic… this system was created long ago. We have learned much about the origin of it but not everything. The theory is that when one passes on from life, they must travel through some sort of dimensional stream, a type of pathway that leads from one world to the next. The spirits of the dead must progress through this path to travel to the real afterlife, a world which theoretically is flawless, where the dead may remain forever in peace; an existence that we refer to as ‘Paradise’.

Unfortunately, something went terribly awry. Somehow, the gateway to this perfect world was attacked. Evil spirits have engaged in conflict and so, in order to keep the afterlife safe from corruption, the gate was closed shut. It now remains closed temporarily, at least until all is safe; such is the logical assumption. That is where we come in. The reason we are here is precisely due to the circumstances of that gateway. Our spirits remain forever locked out from Paradise, yet we have moved on from life itself. We can only conclude that the mission given to us is to eliminate all threats to the gateway. Xathoven, I ask you, will you assist us in destroying the dark forces which block us from an infinite and unrivaled world of peace?”

Turning my pensive gaze from Sir Dusk, I connected the information in my mind. I had died… for this was my spirit. I now sat in a structure that existed in the middle of nothingness. Now, I had received the important background of my story. I was here because I needed to help the spirits of the dead defeat a mighty force, an evil one that stood between the dead and the realm of Paradise. Completing this objective would lead to all of us being admitted into the afterlife, the real afterlife. After all, was that not all that a person could desire after their death? We should all be allowed our rightful passage to eternal peace.

It all appeared so clear to me but I could not quell my instinct to be wary of the situation. This world was out of my scale of understanding and I did not want to latch onto the first explanation I received. Obviously, this place was mysterious and advanced. At that particular moment, I decided to keep my own judgment on what I experienced. However, for the time being, I had no choice but to cautiously accept Sir Dusk’s request for my assistance and from there, carry out any actions as I saw fit.

“I will join you in this quest…”

Sir Dusk lifted himself from his chair, which triggered me to rise as well. His warm expression extended into a smile. He clasped his hands together as he spoke.

“Thank you very much Xathoven. We need all the help we can get, and I see you will be a fantastic addition to this facility. We will train you to be a grand fighter and in due time, we will defeat the evil spirits and receive our glorious reward. I will leave you to your own time now.”

As I turned away to leave, the kind man placed a hand upon my shoulder.

“I would like you to rest well and think over what you have been told. Make your way to the receptionist down the corridor and you will be given some items and information. Farewell Xathoven. Sleep well, for tomorrow, your life shall begin anew.”

With that, I swiftly nodded to Sir Dusk and left the meeting room quietly. He smiled at me and bowed gently as I closed the door on my way out. There was an eerie silence in the air as I walked down the corridor, back into the floor’s main lobby. I found that the ominous lack of sound was due to the leave of all of the people who were previously present in the area. I exited the corridor and stood in front of the clean desk that sat centered against the lobby’s wall.

“Are you all done sir?”

A familiar voice rang out. I spotted the same distorted figure I saw earlier behind the desk, still hidden behind the glass barrier.

“Oh yes, I am done speaking with Sir Dusk.”

My voice shook involuntarily as I adjusted my volume; our voices seemed unreasonably loud due to the silence. I heard the muffled sounds of shuffling from behind the glass.

“This messenger bag, courtesy of The Miraxis Index, contains an item which will be important to you soon. Please take the bag and proceed to the elevator. It will automatically take you to the floor where you will stay. Good luck sir.”

A small hatch opened up just in front of my knees, I had to back up to allow it to fully open. I stretched an arm into the opening and grabbed a small leather bag. The bag was not very large and it displayed some subtle decorations that gave it a military look. As much of the facility, the bag was an uninspiring gray. It felt light and comfortable as I pulled the strap over my shoulder. I turned to the elevator and began to step forward before I realized I had forgotten something.

“Thank you…”

I stood for several seconds, awaiting any kind of response. When I turned back towards the desk, I was astonished to find that the figure behind the glass had already left. For a moment, I felt sorry that I had not thanked her quickly enough, but I jumped back on track and headed to the elevator. The main lobby had the set of four elevators I had seen before, but this floor had just one. The doors swiftly split, as if expecting my appearance the whole time. I took a few steps inside and turned back to the doorway, taking one last glance at the empty lobby. It was several seconds before the doors shut tightly and the elevator’s panel headed for floor one-hundred. I must have appeared bewildered for a moment as I wondered why the lift now had a display panel where it had nothing earlier. Regardless, the elevators were taking me to my expected location without any command, displaying yet another interesting function of the facility. Much of what I had seen so far in The Miraxis Index surprised me; the structure itself was a miracle.

As I stood in the cozy elevator, my mind continued to dwell on one thought, my death. I tried as hard as I could to retrieve that memory but it was almost painful to try to grasp it. Every time my thoughts approached the flashback, the visualizations of what happened that day, I was punished with a grueling headache. It was as if the memory was locked forever. My mind was weak and without any clear thoughts to look back on, The Miraxis Index seemed like a dream. I knew it was not a dream; the memory was too real, too painful. The facility seemed genuine; I was sure that nothing I saw and touched could be a creation of my imagination. The way things began to fall together… It was like the lost pieces of a puzzle. I began to reject the remaining assumptions that hinted of the possibility that this may have indeed been a dream.

I felt my body bounce upward for a moment, the quiet hum of the elevator’s ascension abruptly ended. The digital panel read that I was now on the one-hundredth floor. The doors slowly slid apart to a large and dark floor. I took a step out of the elevator and glanced around. Five corridors branched out from the point in which I stood, as rays from a focal point. Each corridor was lined on both sides by many doors, all the way down their path. The floor was covered with a dark carpet that felt rugged to the drag of my feet. The walls were brushed with a coat of beige, as was the ceiling. Instead of many lights, this floor only had several exquisite lamps that were mounted upon the walls. It was a very relaxing scene, intentionally kept dim and dark to keep a calm mood. I could easily tell that this must have been the living quarters of the facility. All of the doors had small signs above them; I could not read them from my distance. There were small glimpses of light drifting out of some rooms, from underneath their doors. Some people were likely awake; that alone made me feel a little less anxious.

I walked closer to the entrances of the corridors, peeking down each one for any sign of my room but I could not find anything. The signs above the doors could only be read from nearby so I was required to stroll through the corridors before I would discover my new home.

My heart skipped a beat as the quick ring of the elevator’s arrival took me by surprise. The facility’s lift system was quick on its feet and in my minute of pensive wandering, it had already retrieved another person. Nervously, I turned around towards the elevator to see a figure moving quickly in my direction. When I realized that I stood as an obstacle in the corridor, I quickly slid to the side to move out of the way. The figure moved forward hastily, but as it began to pass me, it abruptly stopped. A small, inactive lamp nearby was triggered by a motion sensor. It lit up the scene in an almost intrusive fashion. I squinted as the figure moved towards the lamp and stood beside it. A light, almost melodic voice wisped to my ears.

“Sorry, these lights get so bright; I didn’t mean to set it off…”

The voice clearly indicated that the figure was female. Her voice was soft and relieving in the eerie darkness.

“Don’t worry about it, I will need to get used to the ruthless lighting of this place.”

She flicked a switch beneath the lamp and the previous, softened lighting returned to normal. The figure moved a step towards me and away from the wall. As was I, she was now lit by the mixed glow of the lamps around us. She was a young woman, only a little shorter than I was. She looked at me in somewhat of a tilt, trying to avoid direct eye contact with a lamp high upon the wall behind me. Her skin was smooth and light; its paleness contrasted by her jet black hair which hung straight down, ending just before her shoulders. As her pupils adjusted to the lighting, she looked directly at me, exposing her eyes of a striking shade of blue, similar to that of the early morning sky.

In what appeared to be the customary neutral pallet of the facility, her outfit displayed similar shades of gray just as mine did. Where I had a combination of a thin jacket and trousers, she bore a gray long-sleeve shirt that exposed her shoulders to the frigid draft, as well as a short, ruffled skirt as black as her hair. I felt cold just noting that all she had below her skirt was a pair of casual sneakers, though she seemed to be enjoying the comfort of her bare legs. Perhaps we were allowed to choose clothing as we pleased in the facility. As I completed my observation, I could see that she was doing the same as she scanned me visually. Our eyes met and we both locked a gaze for a brief moment. Though I felt that I had never seen her in my squandered memories of life, there was something eerily familiar about her. It was strange, yet I was so sure I had never encountered her before. She pulled off a small purse similar to my messenger bag and began to speak.

“So… I guess we haven’t met. Hi, I’m Kaiyandra, nice to meet you.”

She extended a friendly hand.

“Hello, my name is Xathoven, or so I’ve been told.”

She covered her mouth as she chuckled, revealing to me that she must have been supplied a name as well. I extended my arm to shake her hand. I stretched my fingers and gently placed my palm into hers. After a silent pause, my mind rushed into an image...

I was seeing something, some kind of… dream. My head was rushing with unusual images. I saw myself falling towards water at a great speed. Resistance was helpless as I dropped, slamming into the sea. I shook around, trying to find my way but my body was weak. I heard the terrible sound of a muffled scream. I quickly turned and saw a car sinking as it plunged into the water. A bright light flashed towards me and my vision was hindered...

Suddenly, my mind returned to reality and I saw that I was leaning, almost falling towards the young woman I had just met. The vision appeared to be over and my head was thumping in infuriating pain. I felt embarrassed as I recovered my stature and stood straight. When my eyes returned to Kaiyandra, I realized that I was not alone in the event. She had her hands on her head as she shook slowly. She looked back towards me with a pained and confused expression.

“…I’ve never seen that much. It feels so close to me now.”

She rubbed her head with the palm of her hand as she recovered. It appeared that she had seen the dark memory of her last moments too. Quickly I inquired of her experience.

“Do you see it as well?”

She nodded gently.

“Yes, and it hurts more every time. It hurts to live with the memory of your death trying to come back to you. For me, every time I see it… the pieces come together just a little bit more. As much as I want to know what happened, it hurts to think about it. It hurts my heart… it hurts my mind.”

She shook a bit as she spoke, as if she were traveling back to reality.

“Does it happen very often? The memory I mean.”

I was careful not to ask about specific details, seeing how it was a very personal and surely, painful memory. Kaiyandra, with a bewildered expression, simply shook her head.

“Not really, seeing it right now was strange. It was right when I touched your hand…”

I looked down to my hands, as if expecting a sign. Evidently, there was nothing, yet somehow we had just triggered the memories of our deaths to appear. We both stood idle and quiet as we thought deeply. Kaiyandra opened up her purse and began to dig with her hand until she found a small and thin card. I caught a quick glimpse as she picked it up and held it tightly. Casting our visions aside, she looked over to me and smiled softly.

“Well, I’m going to head to bed now. I’m feeling a little tired. It’s really nice to meet you Xathoven. Hopefully we can meet up sometime and talk.”

I uncontrollably smiled back.

“That sounds wonderful.”

I could not think of anything else to say, anything that was not inept for the moment. She looked to my left as she approached the door in that direction. She slid the card into a panel beside the entrance and the handle clicked. The door was now unlocked and she pushed down the handle as she slowly nudged forward. Before she went into the room, she paused and looked over to me once more. She smiled and waved gently for a short moment; I felt as if her eyes were excavating, looking for something inside of me. I promptly waved back and she finally entered the room, closing the door behind her.

I stepped back towards the middle of the hallway as I looked around. I noticed that above Kaiyandra’s door, a sign read “K-17”. My eyes drifted over to the door opposite of hers that had a sign that read “X-19”. I thought for a moment as I dug into the small bag I had been commissioned. I shifted through emptiness without looking until I eventually grabbed what felt like a slim card. When I pulled it out, I was able to read its label. The card had a glossy white design; it was blank except for the small black text that read “Name: Xathoven – Age: 19”. It did not take long for me to make the connection as I walked over to the X-19 door and slid the card in the panel. The handle clicked as the door was now unlocked. I opened it up and flicked the lights on with a nearby switch.

Before I entered, I looked back once more to Kaiyandra’s room. I watched as underneath the door, I could see the lights dim and then turn off; she had quickly gone to sleep. I looked back up to see the label, K-17. I then glanced at my card just before I put it away in the bag. Did this mean that K-17 meant “Name: Kaiyandra - Age: 17”? I could only assume this was the case. I walked into my room and closed the door. I turned the standard locking mechanism once I had entered.

The room was small and cozy. There was a wide bed with a table on one side and a mounted lamp on the other. There were no decorations or furniture, other than a small desk with a chair beside it. The scene consisted of the same materials as the entire floor, with its dark carpet and beige walls. I wearily placed my bag on the table beside the bed and quickly pulled the blankets open. I was a little cold as I climbed inside and tucked myself in tightly. The Miraxis Index was not a warm place. Seeing how it was in a void between the life we left behind and the so called Paradise, I did not see warm and nice as fitting words for the cold, frigid air. When I was ready to finally rest, I reached over to the lamp and shut it off. I closed my eyes and cuddled up to heat my body.

I thought deeply, aware that all I wanted was to sleep. Now that I was in The Miraxis Index, there was nothing I could do. I had been forced into this situation in which I had to join a fight to get to where I really needed to go, to the perfect world. It sounded like an intriguing adventure in my head, but truthfully, I worried that it would become a long and painful journey to find out what had happened to me, and how I had ended up a dead man.