I woke up coughing and spluttering, gasping. There just wasn’t enough air. Blood was spilling through the neat wound placed vertically across my neck. Falling onto my hands, down my shirt, onto the obnoxiously white floor below me. Was it white? Or was I just losing so much blood I was getting dizzy? I tried to keep awake enough to find someone, anyone to help me. Surely someone had a cell phone or something? Maybe…I couldn’t think straight. Where was anyone? Every one had disappeared. And everything was white, so fucking white. I could hear voices, but they sounded so far away. It didn’t matter, I wasn’t going to make it. I thought maybe I would just sleep and whatever happened happened.

ZAI! Zairi wake up! Please!” The voice sounded like a young man’s, but the owner of the voice wasn’t here. I was alone. I just wanted this to be over. I shut my eyes tighter. Why wasn’t I gone yet? I should be feeling nothing by now. Zairi, I need you to get up, you’ll be okay. Please wake up!” There it was again. I wished he would just shut up, but I opened my eyes. I immediately regretted it. The dizziness came back in one massive wave and the insides of my stomach instantly emptied onto the ground below me. By now, a lake of blood, vomit, and who the hell knows, probably urine had appeared below me, and I was laying in a puddle of just about every bodily fluid imaginable.

“Zairi…” a female’s voice this time? My limbs were growing numb, a feeling that I can remember from sitting on my feet wrong or sleeping on my arm, but this was worse. It was as though there was no blood left in my body; I could barely move. “Zairi, you have to keep moving. Get to the door, you will be alright…” I don’t know why, but this voice seemed more trustworthy than the man’s.It was soothing and didn’t sound so distant.Her voice gave me hope. I tried to look for this door. It didn’t take long.

I found myself in a long, white hallway. The light was obnoxiously bright, which only made my wooziness much, much worse, but I could see a door on the far side. It was black, stark against the white surrounding it. It was so far away. The man’s voice was diminishing into sobs, “Zairi, my Zai-zai…I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…” Why couldn’t I see him? Where the hell was I? All that came out of me was a strangled choking sound followed by excruciating pain. I collapsed back into the “me-puddle” and hardly noticed the disgusting splashing sound my body made.

“Zairi, you must move toward the door,” it was the female speaking again and I turned my gaze to the door and groaned. I needed to reach this woman. She would have answers. I knew she would. I would crawl if I had to. Reaching out, I tried to pull myself up but could only get a couple centimeters. Pain shot from my neck and through the rest of my being and I could feel myself trying to scream, but was cut off by the gaping wound in my neck. The pain was unbearable, and I could feel tears running down my cheeks. Christ, it hurt so bad. I tried to drag myself just a little further, and the blood, rather than pouring out of me, reduced its flow ever so slightly.

Another foot, another step closer to the door. The dizziness started to fade, but not enough for me to gain my sanity back. Another. And another. The blood had almost stopped now, but I couldn’t quite get the air I needed. Every breath was a labored gasp and I could feel my heart pounding against my chest. The feeling was rushing back to my hands and feet painfully quick and I collapsed again, curling into a ball. “Ms. Iato, you simply must get to that door.” I groaned and started dragging myself again, most of the me-puddle getting pulled along with. “That’s it, come along now…”

The hallway seemed to stretch on forever. The labored gasps turned into deep breathing, and where my condition should have worsened with my constant moving I found myself getting better. It was a fucking miracle! I placed my hand over my throat and found a long scab where the wound was apparently closing up. I left the me-puddle behind and took a deep breath, and it wasn’t as ragged as it had been. I breathed again, even deeper. Jesus Christ, air never felt so good. I got to my feet with shaky limbs, but I was almost stable. I could yell I was so happy, but something still wasn’t right.

The further I progressed down the hallway, the better I felt. I was healing unnaturally fast, and it was fucking great! I never appreciated feeling normal until then. I kept placing my hand against my throat, and the scab eventually left, being replaced instead with a ribbon of a scar across my throat. I had a feeling that even with the healing, the scar would stay. “Lady! I’m coming!” I yelled. “Can you still hear me? I’m alright!” But the voices, both of them, were gone. The hallway was silent with the door now right in front of me. I looked down to see my blood and other bodily fluids had left my clothing, not even leaving a stain. In fact, all of me, save my new scar, was as good as new. I felt better than I had in my entire life.

I looked up at the door which now seemed to be giving me the stank eye, daring me to open it. Why shouldn’t I? This had been my end goal for the entire agonizing process and it didn’t look like there was any way else out of this shit hole, which, after the journey, was now quite literal. I pulled the simple handle, which felt like metal, but like the rest of the door was also black.

What I found inside was not exactly what I was expecting. Where there should have been something monumental, a path outside, or even one back to normal everyday life, was instead an enormous waiting room. I looked around, and there were plenty of people sitting or standing around. On one end of the room sat a shelf with thousands of expired magazines of all kinds, in almost every language I could think of. Directly opposite of me, a man with a too-cocky-for-my-taste grin sat behind a desk. The chairs were placed neatly around the room in groups with a table between each of them. The entire thing was almost exactly what one would expect in an oversized hospital.

What was peculiar was that everyone in the room was around my age. Everyone. There wasn’t a single elderly person, or even a middle aged person. Everyone was dressed differently, and most appeared to be wearing stuff that maybe an elderly person would wear, what with the floral suit jackets and what not. But even these people were my age. There were people from all nationalities, and only a couple looked up to see me. A lot of these people looked incredibly happy, and I began to wonder if they had been healed by this mystery healing place thing, coming from their own stupidly long hallways like I did. They, like me, seemed to have found themselves waiting indefinitely for the asshole behind the counter to call their names. The asshole had two doors on either side of him, one white and one black. As names were called, the owners of said names seemed to get kind of excited. Others didn’t seem too pleased.

Sitting in that waiting room, I realized I was gone by then, no longer among the living. I was fucking dead. I don’t know why it took this long for me to figure it out. But, I wasn’t expecting to die that day. It just didn’t make sense. I was too young. I was later told that most people who die go into denial—especially the young ones—but I couldn’t stay there long. I had my throat sliced open like a fucking turkey on Thanksgiving. I couldn’t deny it. It was just strange that I didn’t piece it together faster. I also knew I was destined for the black door, and I had no idea why.

“Iato, Zairi.” That was my last name, followed by my first. Sounded too formal for my taste, but then, this was the after-life. Not like I had any say in it. I tried to keep my face calm and collected. The dick behind the desk wasn’t gonna get to relish any fear from me. After all, I died a pretty terrible death, it wasn’t like passing through a door was going to phase me. They could throw whatever shit they wanted to at me. He directed me to the black door, as expected. The cocky son of a bitch smirked as I went. If I wasn’t surprised by the former, I definitely wasn’t surprised by the latter.

I went through the door without any fuss (which was more than some of the others I saw), and found myself in what would have been a dark room if it wasn’t for the bright ass light shining down on me. After my eyes adjusted, I could see that I was being watched through a two-sided glass, like the kinda shit you would see on Law and Order. At least, I assumed I was. I couldn’t see anything but the glare from the light being showered onto me. If there was one thing I fuckin’ hated, it was being scrutinized. I squirmed under the light for what felt like ages, waiting for something to happen, someone to something. Judge me. Whatever. I just wanted it over. Finally, a door that had escaped my attention opened and a kind looking lady smiled at me.

“Ms. Iato, welcome. You are the newest to the demon realm.” I about shit a brick. The voice that was guiding me here belonged to the lady in front of me. I don’t know what I expected her to look like, but it wasn’t this. She looked fake. Not like Barbie fake, but like, porcelain fake. I didn’t think she was capable of not smiling. “My name is Anita Wakahisa, and I’ll be your guide for a short time.”

I stood there looking at her dumbfounded, until the words that she had uttered finally made themselves at home in the area between my ears. “Demon? I’m a demon? Didn’t think that’s how this shit works,” I didn’t know what else to say, and I figured getting some sort of information would probably be a good thing.

“Not how you think it does. You are granted immortality to an extent as of now–”

“To an extent?” I cocked an eyebrow.

“Yes, to an extent.” Her reply was patient, despite my obvious distaste for the situation. She had probably dealt with thousands of others like me. Maybe even hundreds, just today. “You will never age, get sick, or starve. You no longer need to. However, death by malicious intent will remove you from this world.”

“And then?”

“And then you are no more. More souls will take your place, and the world will keep going. The angels and demons will continue to war and slay each other, mortals die and their place, and new souls are created, filling the place of the mortals. Think of it as a circle.” Anita’s hands were placed flat against each other, and I just then noticed that she was wearing a kimono. It was crimson, naturally. As if the waiting room wasn’t cliché enough. Her “skin” glinted off of the light that was raining down on me. She looked like a Japanese doll. That’s what she was. But alive. Fuckin’ creepy, despite how beautiful she was. Her permanently smiling face was painted to look like a Japanese geisha and she was gorgeous.

“So. You’re telling me that I have the potential to be murdered. Again.” This new world was bullshit.

“Precisely. But you have the chance to defend yourself.”

I find myself cocking an eyebrow at her again, urging her to go on. She actually had my attention now, as if she didn’t before. How could I do anything but pay attention to this smiling angel..er…demon in front of me?

“You can choose to sacrifice something in order to receive a weapon. The greater the sacrifice, the better the weapon.”

“Sacrifice? What, you mean like…a fuckin’ goat or something?”

“Part of yourself.”

I blinked. Part of me? Did she mean, like, an arm or a leg? She must have seen my confusion because she immediately answered my question.

“It could be anything. It could be part of your body, but as your body is now in pique physical condition, a sacrifice such as a finger, would maybe get you a small weapon at best.” She stepped into the light and her kimono fell to the floor, revealing her completely to me. With the exception of a belt around her waist containing a sheath, she was stark ass naked with every inch of her gleaming in the light. Her raven black hair fell below her waist, and her body was slim, with joints more like a marionette than a person. I fidgeted. She was beautiful, yes, but seeing as how I didn’t bat for that team, it made me fairly uncomfortable. “I was an actress in my former life. It was my everything. It was a way for me to escape. I decided to give up my ability to act in order to survive. As a result, I am no longer able to move as I once had, and my face is no longer able to convey any emotion, save the one you currently see. My skin was changed to porcelain, and my movements are limited to that of a doll’s. All of that changes when I have this–”

With that, she unsheathed what was hanging around her waist: a long katana. Her skin stopped shimmering, and her face became fierce, dropping the smile she had held. She was now one daring someone to mess with her. “This is Fumetsu, the weapon I received by sacrificing part of my inner-most being. It is because of my sacrifice that I am still alive.” She sheathed her weapon and her skin returned to the porcelain that it had been before, her endless smile returning. “Fumetsu has slain many angels, and has prevented my death for well over three hundred years.” I blinked. “It’s now your turn to decide if and what you will sacrifice to stay alive,” she slipped back into her kimono with much effort and turned her attention back to me. “You have ten minutes.”