Pip. Something poked me. Being too earlier for anything, I groaned and rolled over. For some reason, I had a fierce headache, but no recollection of provoking one. I certainly couldn't have a hangover, since I didn't drink at all, but that's what it felt like. Through my eyelids, I could see that, wherever I was, it was too bright to possibly be my room.

My eyes shot open and, like jumping a gun, I bolted out of the makeshift bed I lay in. Once my pupils dilated, I stood staring in horror at the surroundings. The room I was held in looked similar to a stereotypical doctor's office. The walls were a weird peach color - like Pepto-Bismol, I thought - and the carpet was the cheap but sturdy standard gray kind that was built to last. A desk even sat in the corner, with important-looking papers cast in a jumbled heap atop it. Beside it, a small bookcase stood with novels protruding from it with labels like Reincarnate and Chicken Soup for the Deceased Soul. I gaped at it for quite some time.

Eventually, as time passed, I had inspected every inch of the room. I found no exits and panicked, trying to get out of this seemingly jail cell with every bit of strength I had to no avail. In the end I collapsed into an armchair and plucked Reincarnate out of the bookcase to read. It seemed like the only thing I could do.

The book, I admit, was interesting.

" ?" Natasha cried as life ebbed away from her beloved. His face was a deathly pale, and that's where he was headed - death. Or life, if it mattered. His face broke into a wide grin and he held her.

"I can't change the rules, know that. The message I was sent today said I had to go immediately - to govern the free world. I'm sorry it couldn't be different, I'm sorry!" A bitter tone took to his voice like a duck to water.

"But why can't we reincarnate together?"

"I see you've found my mini library."

My head snapped up from the book. A man in his late thirties stood before him, grinning roguishly. He was built short but with strong arms and a muscular torso. His black eyes reflected his balding hair, and his face was slightly unshaven. A perfectly normal man. I thought it odd, though, that he was wearing a pinstriped suit.

The man's grin only widened at my quizzical stare. He whipped out the leather swivel chair and plunked down into it, crossing his feet on top of the desk. Out of one of the desk drawers he took a cigar from its package and lit it, taking a few puffs. Once satisfied, he turned back to me. I sat silent.

"So, kid. How are you enjoying death?" he asked bluntly.

I blinked, sure I had hallucinated. "Death?"

"Death, kid, death. You're dead. Can it be put any plainer than that?" He took a drag, and puffed out blue smoke that disappeared almost immediately as it had come.

I snorted. "If I was dead, how come I'm on solid ground? Why am I in my body? Why can I feel pain?"

"You think people are immune in the after-life? Gimme a break, kid."

I felt myself wanting to hyperventilate. Instead, I took a deep breath and quietly, I asked, "How did I die?"

He showed me. It was gruesome, quick and painless, at least. I found out shortly that I was heroic for taking bullets for another man. There was one problem, though. I couldn't be reincarnated. Stealing the scheduled death of another was strictly taboo in the minds of the High Council, who controlled the Wheel of Incarnate. They forbid him any further chances at life.

So, I was offered a job. This man - Donadrieba Fremen, Donfre for short - was an officer with a special division of the IO, the Incarnate Organization. His job was to intercept those forbidden to reincarnate for cheating scheduled death and offer them a job on a specialized team. This team being the Necrosis Guardian Division. The NGD was designed specifically to make those who had already cheated death live. Sort of a rebellion task force opposed to the ways of the High Council.

I found that this would be much better than permanent death, which Donfre informed me, I would go to if I didn't take the job. So I became a Guardian.

At first I was assigned the task of escorting unconscious heroic souls, like myself, to the offices of the NGD. Some were conscious, and had to be bound by light tethers. Others knew they were dead, and put up no struggle as they contemplated their sentence. There were a few that asked if they were going to hell on the way. I told them there was no Hell, no some men in pinstriped suits with a reincarnation wheel. Those who weren't reincarnated would become a Guardian if they were lucky, but those who weren't had their souls permanently rested. At this point, they would bury their head in their arms and sob or pray for mercy.

I had no heart in this petty task because I had no control. I couldn't save them from what they were soon to become. My face became stone-like against their emotions. As soon as my count of souls escorted reached the thousands, I was assigned to a new post. This time, I was a full-fledged Guardian.

So there I was.

It was the 19th of December in the year of 2004 that I was sent down for my first job. I found the life I lived in the Otherworld was much quieter than the Earth. It had only been two years since I was shot, I realized. Then why did I have such a headache?

I exhaled, breath coming out as a foggy cloud on such a crisp night. Waiting was one virtue I had come by in my recent death. It was put to practice as I hovered slightly over the subway entrance across from MTV studios. I stared wistfully at the building, lust for the sweet essence that was rock. It made me miss the victim as he walked up the subway stairs. I followed after him as he took great strides down the sidewalk.

After about twenty minutes, he entered an unlit alleyway and stopped abruptly. In the distant glowing lights I observed him. He was young. Young held college books in his arms. With a jolt, I realized he was no older than I was at the time of my death.

He suddenly spoke.

"Who are you?" Tha-thump. Tha-thump. My heart thud against my chest as he turned an icy stare on me. Slowly, I pointed to myself. After a while, he nodded at my action and grunted, "You."

As gun shots sounded, I knew it was not me he inquired. I swore loudly as the small gang of thugs approached the still body and checked for signs of life.

In no time at all, I was summoned back to Otherworld - to Donfre's office. Grimly, the officer beckoned me to sit in the squashy armchair near his desk. I sat and waited. Waited for what was to become of me.

An escort Guardian appeared through the wall, leading a conscious spirit into the room, and then left. It was a young man; a man maybe two years younger than himself. The man I had just let die.

I crashed backward from the chair and onto the floor. The freshly dead spirit regarded me indifferently from where I lay sprawled at his feet.

The room went into an uneasy silence, a silence that could be pierced with a knife. No words were needed, no explanation. A scolding was ten times more effective through quiet. I could hear myself breathe and hear myself think. It tore at my nerves, plagued my conscience. I used all my reserve energy just to keep myself from screaming.

It is now years later and I still blanch at that memory. The man, Taeran, became my partner shortly after the incident and eventually forgave me.

The reason I tell my tale is simple. People have forgotten what exists and what is merely a delusion of the mind. There is no Heaven or Hell. Just men in pinstriped suits with a toy incarnation wheel.