Only one more chapter left to go after this one! It's just a wrap up chapter for Zeke and Kate...oh, and it has some other stuff too.

The Small Print: Yup, he's dead. Or will be soon. (grins) I'm glad you've enjoyed it so far. The story's almost over.

angryclouds: Lol. Well, there's more finality to his fate in this chapter than the last.

Dark Memory Maker: (grins) I think you got your wish about the little boy. I'll take a look at your story.

Kitten of Flame: lol. Thanks. Hope I didn't make you wait too long for another Chapter.

A different kind of Yellow: It was a hard choice; I know. I was also trying to add something about the darkness that lies within all of us. When pushed, people are surprised at the evil crimes they're actually willing to commit. I tried to think what I would do if my mother's life was being threatened. I would honestly choose her safety over someone I don't really know or have an emotional bond for, although I would wish no hurt upon any living person. I'm glad I'll never have to make a decision like that.

JTMchung: Cain has never died before, so he wouldn't be changed twice. Kate was the one that has died once and she can't die again. Not really. Until something happens at the end of this chapter, that is. She will no longer be immortal, but she will keep her Kulba Kori status and some of the other talents that go with it.

horsechick118: I know. It's a hard choice. But when it came down to my end decision, I think I'd do exactly as Kate did because my family and those I care about come first with me. We have such a close bond and I'd do anything for them.

Chapter 22

Cain cried out, lumbering toward me unevenly, fury alight in his cold, handsome features. His heart had stopped. It had to have, my brain calculated in a sort of detached manner as he lumbered toward me, his arms outstretched in an angry, threatening gesture. I could see the tip of the blade poking out of his front end. It would take him four minutes before brain damage set in, but the likelihood that his consciousness would last that long wasn't much. I only had to dodge him for a little while.

I scrambled backward, trying to jump to my feet out of the line of fire. My faint and exhausted movements were no match for his furious, adrenaline-pumped reaction. He flew at me, his weight smothering my smaller form.

The back of my head hit the corner of a rock hard. Funny images danced before my eyes. Then I was being crushed by a heavy weight. The tip of a metal object scraped across my chest, causing a painful flesh wound as I struggled to remove myself from under the ton of dead weight.

Cain was gasping for air. I knew the reaction. It had happened to me more than once. It was his brain responding to the fact that no oxygen was being pumped to the vital centers of his body. So he tried to compensate by gulping in more oxygen—oxygen that incidentally, he couldn't use.

An unfocused look drew across his face as he winced. Then he seemed to grab a new dim resolve and acceptance. He almost smiled when he said, "I'm dying. Finally."

There was a bitter smirk that followed. "You…just called…the curse of the sevenfold…upon yourself."

My heart beat hard, my body awash with adrenaline. No, please

"Oh yes," he returned as if he could read my thoughts. I could see his milky gray spirit shuddering within his body. He wouldn't last much longer and he was trying to hang on for all he was worth.

Evil spirits flitted about us above, chattering greedily. Their evil emotions washed over me, even from this distance. They were waiting for this moment more than they had waited for any moment in the history of time.

And their thoughts were insidious. They didn't revere Cain, they hated him as much as they hated each other—as much as they hated God and existence itself; as much as they hated their lot in life and the hand that they had been dealt.

I felt a sudden pierce and tug and suddenly my abdomen was turning to spirit matter without my consent. Glancing down, I felt Cain wrapping a tendril of soul around mine tightly. Immediately with the contact I began to scream. The pain in his chest from the wound—it was so much more terrible than suffocating had ever been. He wrapped about me tighter and the agony rippled through my form.

My scream petered out into a soft gasping whimper. It just took too much energy to cry out as my body tried to deal with the spasms of pain. I felt as though my chest was going to burst with the white hot sensation.

Was this the curse of the sevenfold?

People were standing close now. I couldn't see them, but I could feel them yanking at Cain, trying to drag him off of me. They only managed to wiggle him about, drawing the point of the weapon sticking though his chest across me back and forth, like a hot and stinging breath.

"Don't!" I croaked.

Thankfully, the added pain stopped. I could feel Cain's thoughts drifting through my mind, frantic at first and then distant. They swum about on a random mission, firing less and less often.

I loved you Kate and you betrayed me…

No, I thought back above the agony. You only loved yourself.

I could feel his life flickering. His mind was about to go out like a snuffed candle. I waited with baited breath. And then it did. There was nothing left of Cain but a physical corpse and an empty brain, full of nothingness. His spirit resided in me for a moment longer, swimming about with my own spirit matter, leaving behind a residue that would never wash clean. And then he flew free of our tangled bodies to meet his subjects.

With a loud, mental screech, the host of devils flew at him, attacking him. I knew what would happen next. He would have to confront his worst fears and his most evil deeds. He may have been their king, but justice demanded that he too would pay for his sins.

I didn't get the chance to dwell on it, or watch the sickening party. Suddenly I felt as if every bit of my body was awash with acid and fire. Every molecule vibrated against the next, ripping and tearing so there was not one single millimeter of my form that wasn't spasming with a pain so deep I wished I could float off into oblivion. I thought I had felt pain before this moment. I thought I knew what pain was, but I had been wrong. The feeling was so beyond description that I thought I would go mad with the writhing. Over and over again I could feel the ghostly whisper of the wound being stabbed through Cain's chest. It hit me in the back and slid right through, cutting through internal organs at an exponential rate until the tiny sharp edge cut through my front. It felt like it occurred a thousand times over, but it was probably no more than seven times.

It felt like hours that I was encompassed in pain—sevenfold of not only my own wrongdoings to him, but of other's wrongdoings to him, and all the wrongdoings he had ever done to anyone in his entire life. Mentally I felt like I was being lied to, tortured, taunted, raped, stolen from, manipulated, stalked, burned, destitute, and every other form of evil imaginable all at once. Those sensations kept repeating themselves in my mind, followed by a face attached to that act. And then repeated over and over again. I didn't have to count it. If I had had the presence of mind to do so, I would have counted seven times.

Even long after the pain and anguish and mental domination had abated, I lay there beneath his cooling corpse, curled in a tight ball, just barely managing to breath. If only I could die; any normal person would have died from what I had just endured. And yet I was painfully aware of my sizzling nerves as aftershocks flew through my brain and echoes of the pain rocked over my entire form. I wanted to cease to exist at that moment—anything would be better than the countless evil memories that would be burned into my mind forever.

Slowly, I allowed my matter to turn into spirit form. With the change came the relief of leaving the echoes of pain behind. If only I could have left the memories behind. Cain's body slumped downward to fill the now empty space where I had once lain.

I heard the faint cry coming from my mother on the roof as she looked down in horror. She was staring in horror at the slumped form of Cain. I guess she saw me disappear from under him. "She's gone! Kate's gone! Someone get me down from here!"

The group that was huddled around John, trying to ascertain if he was alive or not, rushed back to Cain. I blocked them out numbly, staring at some spot on the back of the fence, letting my mind take a break. It was a blank slate. It was the closest I'd ever come to taking a vacation in my spirit form.

Something rippled through the sky, making the very threads of space quiver. I felt the ripple, but barely paid attention until a tunnel began to drill a way through the sky. It stopped right in front of me.

Oh, so now you want me? I recoiled—or at least I tried to recoil, but then I was caught up within that warm and loving light, basking around my form. It didn't make the memories go away, but I could feel the pain begin to disappear.

Forgiveness, the light around me echoed with the word. Forgiveness is memory without the pain of the wrongful act. Let it go, Kate. Let it go or it will eat you alive slowly over time.

With a faint mental smile, I dropped my reserves of anger and hatred and pain. The pure and wonderful light washed it away.

But how can you forgive me? I thought suddenly. I was going to kill that boy.

Greater love hath no man than to give his life for a friend. The response came to me, encompassing my soul in love, stripping away the insecurities layer by layer. Equally so, no greater love hath a person than to give their soul for one they love. It was an unfortunate choice you had to make. There was no right answer. You did no more than I could ask of any other person.

But the boy…I couldn't help but argue.

The boy will be fine, the voice in turn insisted.

As if on cue, a great rip of lightening streaked through the sky. In a matter of seconds, storm clouds had gathered over every inch of sunny, beautiful sky. The rain pattered down soft at first and then increasing in intensity to a steady thrum. It enveloped the battle field, washing away the evil that had been there once. The earth was cleansing herself of the crime.

"Oh Kate, my Kate," I heard the steady drone of my mom's whimpers through the rain. There was the soft sniffles of my friends cries and Adrian whispering. "Kate, you were the best friend I ever could have asked for. Go swiftly. You deserve a place in heaven if anyone does."

Then a softer, deeper and husky voice added to the mix. "I was too quick to judge." It was Zeke. He was kneeling next to Cain's corpse—the place that I had once lain—his hair soaked with the oncoming drops. He swallowed hard, a sick look on his face. "I don't know what was going on with that boy. But I do know that you have never had a bad bone in your body. I shouldn't have said those things. Please don't tell me that you're leaving me. I've never had a better friend—someone that cared enough to know the real me. I…I love you."

His eyes were wet with tears.

He repeated softly. "Don't leave me now. Please don't leave me."

My heart ached.

Deep from the earth there was a rumble of energy, flowing toward the surface. My focus turned in the direction of the upset. The rumbles of energy were coming straight from the center of the earth and moving into the boy. His entire spirit was alight with the energy as it sizzled through him. Slowly, his neck bulged and fell in different places as the bones beneath his skin began to rearrange into their rightful locations. The boy gasped with a slight wince and then he was made whole again. It was as if his neck had never snapped in the first place.

The boy sat up slowly, shivering and folded his knees to his chest. He checked out the pandemonium with wild and fearful curiosity. And then something seemed to click in his mind—as if he remembered what he had seen from the other side. He just sat there, shivering, and taking in all the memories.

And people said that miracles were a thing of the past—that they didn't happen in our day and time. Pshh.

I felt as though someone was wrapping a warm arm about my shoulders—except that I didn't have any shoulders to speak of. Are you ready, Kate? You've been through a lot. You've worked hard to make up for past wrongs and you have proven yourself worthy. Do you want to come home?

I turned my focus back wistfully to my father, who was dragging himself along the ground. He had left his wheelchair in the doorway. And to my mother, who was trying to ever so gently topple onto the grass below her. They were my family and they were the ones who couldn't immediately come to my aid, even though they were the ones who wished they could do so more than anything.

I promised them, my mind whispered out plaintively to the loving presence, that I would do whatever it took to stay with them—to grow and live out my life as a normal person. I need to keep my promise.

I was enveloped in another bout of love that was so sweet that I nearly shuddered with the emotion. That's fine. You have so much left to do, so much more that I would ask of you on this earth. But you have done more than your fair share for mankind, so it was my duty to offer you a way out—a chance to come home early.

Thank you, the thought was immediate and filled with emotion. I felt like crying. Thank you for that. But I think I'll stay. No matter what the future holds. I need to be with my family and friends.

Then only one thing will I do for you, the loving calm filled me once again, followed by a burst of energy that sizzled through my senses, altering me in some way that I could not define.

What did you do? The thought came out on a mental gasp.

I moved your biological clock back from eternity. You will now age like a regular human being again. You will not be expected to suffer to the end of the Earth as Cain was. You may live and learn and enjoy as a normal human. And eventually you will die and, pending your choices on Earth, wait in paradise for a short period before you come home.

I was pierced sweetly by the words. Why do you not show yourself to me?

Because you have many dark days ahead of you. Would you bring yourself to see me as I am and know me in all of my glory? You would be changed. You do not need the extra expectations on your soul. You are not quite ready for that, child.

I reacted with something that was like a mental nod. Yes, He was right. I took a deep, mental breath, thinking of the days ahead.

I must go now. Don't forget what you have felt today. It will protect you in years to come if you will only hold on to the goal in mind.

I barely had time for another thank you and a goodbye before the tunnel that had been drilled through space collapsed, disappeared altogether. The warm and golden light that had enveloped me ebbed away, leaving me with a numb reality in comparison.

I slid toward the ground, my feet becoming material just before they hit the soft and wet grass, spraying up small drops of water onto my legs as they appeared. Soon my whole body stood there, leaning against the back of the fence for support as I watched the people that were staring at anything but me.

Slowly, startling me, and everyone else, a blaze started from the wound in Cain's back—or what looked like a blaze. But then it spread out like a prism of colors reflecting through the rain-laden air. A rainbow of the most dazzling greens and blues, reds and oranges, violets and purples appeared. It glowed with an intensity that could not be ignored. The rainbow slid through the air to stretch across the sky.

My physical hearth thumped sweetly. It was a message from heaven. God was promising that there would never be another man like Cain. No other human being would be in God's presence without first proving their worthiness so that the situation could never repeat itself. It was a great comfort at that moment.

Slowly I stepped away from the shadows on the fence and moved toward the group of people that were congregating around Cain's lifeless form and the amazing rainbow that had started in the center of his chest.

Like a pot of gold, I mused. Because Cain's death really was a blessing. There was nothing better for the world. Maybe there was some truth behind the myth of the leprechaun and his gold. The world would reap the spoils of the absence of the most truly heinous villain to ever cross the Earth.

Even the Earth was singing merrily beneath my feet. She knew that there would be many more evil people to come before her death, but she was happy because the most evil one of all was gone for good.

Just as I was stepping forward to join my family and friends, Adrian glanced up through her dirty blonde hair, plastered with rain to look for the source of the noise. The noise was my footsteps brushing through the grass. Her gaze lacked any recognition at first, unfocused and faraway. Then they seemed to gain clarity.

With a giant squeal she rushed at me, nearly plastering me to the ground. I would have fallen if her arms hadn't caught me from behind. I moved to hug her back as she just kept repeating. "You're alive. You really are alive."

And then everyone was rushing at me. I was suddenly enveloped by a ton of bodies, hugging me and crushing me and laughing joyously. I truly felt at peace.

"I love you y'all," I choked out through the throng of bear hugs, and rib-cracking grips. "I really do love every one of you. You are my world and I wouldn't leave you for anything."

Slowly my eyes caught Zeke's over the tangle of arms and legs that surrounded me. His own midnight blue eyes were brimming with an emotion that I could understand. It was apologetic. He stood back from the rest, expecting me to chastise him for his rude outburst.

The funny thing was that I wasn't angry at him anymore. I was just happy to be here and to have the ordeal with Cain behind me. Slowly, my lips turned up in a smile. He reflected my facial features faintly.

I hoped he knew that I had forgiven him-that I cared.

With these thoughts of comfort in my mind, I hugged my family and friends even tighter because there was nowhere else I would rather be.