The Taylight Zone - Anthology Seven

03 - Ice - Beth (formerly Beaker)

"Police are baffled by the latest string of mysterious disappearances occurring all over the continental US. In the past month, more than one hundred teens have been discovered missing, their whereabouts unknown. Many of the teens had no reason to have left home, and with the common occurrence of disappearances around the states the police have begun to rule out the possibility of runaways. They are beginning to think the disappearances are related to a certain extent, mainly because of the strange events that friends and family of the missing have described. All across the country, people are giving the same story as to what happened to their missing loved one. A summary of the data states 'A slight case of insomnia occurred, followed by mysterious disappearances from the home late at night. Eventually the child disappeared and never returned.' Further research is being conducted at labs and offices throughout the country...."

Taylor Hanson clicked off the television with a laugh and set the remote down on the table in front of him. For the first time in his life, he was up at four A.M. for no particular reason except for the fact that his body just wouldn't go to sleep. Although he felt both physically and mentally exhausted, the familiar sensation of sleep just didn't want to overcome his tired, weary body. He threw a pillow up against the end of the sofa, then laid his head back upon it.

Taylor closed his eyes in an attempt to coax his body into losing consciousness. After several minutes he let out a groan of frustration and opened them again, only to find a girl about his age standing next to him. Taylor jumped and tried not to scream in fright, although the urge was nearly overpowering.

"Who are you?" he demanded, cowering into the couch corner. The young girl smiled, and kneeled down so that she was closer to his face.

"My name's Blaze," she told him, flipping her long fiery red hair over her shoulder. "I've come to inform you of your future." Taylor looked at her strangely, and then laughed.

"I must have fallen asleep or something. There's no way I couldn't be dreaming," he said. "But wait, before I see the Ghost of the Future, aren't I supposed to see the Ghost of the Past and the Present first?" he joked. Blaze could only glare at him, her dark brown eyes taking on a deep and stormy gray color.

"I'm serious, Taylor. I'm here to tell you something I don't think you're going to like," Blaze tried again. Taylor stopped laughing and peered at her, confused at her sudden change of tone.

"Look, ok, I bet this is some sort of sick trick to get my autograph, right? How did you get in here anyway?" he asked. He reached out and attempted to rest his hand on her shoulder, but gasped when his fingers went right through her.

"What the..." he mumbled, fear growing in the pit of his stomach. Blaze nodded sadly.

"I'm sorry Taylor, but this is real. Your destiny was long ago chosen for you, and now I've come to tell you what exactly you will be doing for the rest of...well, for a really, really long time," Blaze explained. Taylor could only stare at her, his bright blue eyes wide.

"As hard as it is to believe, you're going to die tonight," Blaze said bluntly. Taylor shook his head furiously.

"What?? Why? How?" he asked, his voice raising an octave in fear. Blaze gave a small smile.

"You should feel honored. You have been chosen to help me retrieve the spirits of those who commit suicide," she said. Taylor's eyebrows raised in shock.

"So I'm going to commit suicide tonight?" he questioned. "That's news to me." Blaze sighed in frustration and shook her head.

"No, just let me explain. For the past month I've had to build up my strength by capturing souls of those who would help me gain the power to give you enough strength to be pulled into the other dimension," she explained. Taylor gave her a skeptical look, and she pushed forward.

"I was sitting here watching you. I know you saw the report, Taylor. That was me. Those kids just faded away, and right now their spirits are in the recovery room at the other dimension. Eventually they will be gradually put back onto earth, into this dimension, with their memory erased. All of them will have the story in their head that they ran away, and if they're found, that's the story they'll give. It happens a lot, although usually the people at The Office don't have so many disappear in such a short period of time. It looks too suspicious. But this is a big job, Taylor, and you're going to need a lot of strength.

"Right now, I'm talking to your soul. In a second I'm going to reach in and pull out your spirit, and you'll be able to see your sleeping body. Around five A.M. your heart will give away, and when they find you tomorrow morning you'll be dead. The autopsy will confirm your death as a failed heart," she told him. Taylor's face dropped.

"So I won't get to say goodbye to my family?" he asked. Blaze shookher head.

"I'm sorry. You'll be able to watch them from the other dimension, though, when you're not on duty," she assured him. He just sat, staring blankly into space. Blaze knew he was trying to figure out why hebelieved her.

"Ready to come with me?" she asked, reaching out her hand. Taylor reluctantly stretched his own hand out, and Blaze pulled on it firmly. Taylor toppled onto the floor, and when he sat up he saw his body asleep on the couch.

" this is real," he said softly in disbelief. Blaze helped him up, not replying.

"On our way to the other dimension I'll explain what your job there will be. Normally it wouldn't take very long, but since you're new we have to go through a lot of red tape," Blaze said. Taylor gave her a strange look but didn't say anything.

"Now, relax your body and close your eyes. You're in for a ride," Blaze said, taking his hand in hers. A few seconds passed, and then Taylor felt as though he were being lifted off the ground. The room began to spin, slowly at first and then it blurred into a mass of colors. The colors grew brighter and more psychedelic within minutes, and then Blaze released his hand.

"Alright, you and I are the retrievers of the spirits of those who have committed suicide. It's not a fun job, but it has to be done. Our job is growing more and more every day, sadly, but after about a million years we'll get moved. For now we're stuck with one of the least wanted jobs, though," Blaze explained. Taylor was too wrapped up in digesting everything at once to really comprehend, but he nodded.

"When we get to the other dimension you'll have to go to The Office so they can make you official. It takes about fifteen minutes, max. When you get out I'll show you the ropes. Actually, I was told that you're not really going to understand so I'm also gonna show you The Book, where it proves that you were written to do this since before you were born. Actually, something rare happened, and your little sister Zoe will be joining the other dimension, too, but not until she's about 19. We can look it up later, if you want. You'll have to go into a three day training session which is boring as hell, but when you've finished you'll be able to start your work. I'm telling you now, though, there is one absolute solid rule which you can never, ever disobey," Blaze said seriously. "And that is that you're not allowed to look in the books of others. We have a book which we share that tells us what souls we'll be retrieving, and you're welcome to look at it as soon as we get there. By the way, you and I are also going to be sharing a home - it's a bit like a dorm room, and really cramped, but you'll get used to it," Blaze finished.

"Here we are. You're going to be pulled directly into The Office, and I'll be by in about ten minutes to pick you up," she said. With that, Taylor began to fall into the other dimension.

Fifteen minutes later Taylor emerged from The Office, his head spinning. The Director of the entire dimension had just explained everything to him, but it all seemed so surreal. Blaze was waiting for him in The Office's waiting area.

"So Ice, I'm assuming he told you about your new name?" she asked. Taylor nodded, remembering what The Director had said to him.

"Here, everyone goes by a code name. Your partner is Blaze, named for her fiery red hair. You shall be known as Ice, for your cold, icy eyes. Simple enough, right?" he had laughed. Taylor could only noddumbly.

"I brought something for you to see," Blaze said, handing him a large book. Ice stared at it with awe, knowing that he held the future for so many people in his very own hands.

"You can skim through it, if you like. I think you'll be really surprised at what you see four months from now," she warned. With that, Blaze disappeared. Ice sat down in a large chair and opened the book directly to the page designated for that day's date. He saw his file name highlighted, and was puzzled over why he had made the suicidedirectory.

File Number 002398825984: Hanson, Jordan Taylor. Designated to join Blaze (see file 002398749752) as retriever of suicidal souls. Died from heart failure, January 28, 1999. Shall be known as Ice.

Then he realized that he was only listed here for the same reason he had been highlighted - because he was becoming someone of importance in the other dimension. And since this was the only book he was to read, his death was listed and treated as though it were a suicide - which was why Blaze had been the one to retrieve his soul.

Taylor flipped ahead four months to see if he could figure out what Blaze had been talking about. His eyes rested on two names in horror, and he sat speechless at what he saw.

File Number 00239954879: Hanson, Clarke Isaac. Died from self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on May 16, 1999.

File Number 00239954880: Hanson, Zachary Walker. Died from self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on May 16, 1999.