Bunch of real live people. Have seen skin in over 60 years. This shit must blow your minds. All that time sitting in church, or bowing towards mecca, even eating a chicken heart from some voodoo witch doctor. None of that stuff told the real story. We were thrown down there blind, meant to make the right choices. Not all of us had the best example as how to do that. I’m the cliche. Raised without a father, fending for myself in a family of seven boys. My momma was so tired after a 14-hour day that she didn’t care if we were making our grades or smoking crack.
Life isn’t fair. Oh well...
I know y’all looking at my face. Nasty, right? Nothing compared to how it felt. Once half your body goes up in flame and no matter how much you roll and roll, pain just sears into your bones. Everything else is a walk in the park. Why 500 years sitting in the bar I burnt to the ground isn’t the worse punishment I could receive.
Except for the little ones. I hear them calling to their parents. Begging for help. Now and again, I’ll see one – run right across the doorway or looking out the window, crying in the corner. I try to talk to them, but I’m not who they’re looking for. I know they’re just visions created by the angels and demons who create those mini nightmares for us, but that doesn’t cut down on the pain I feel. I never had children of my own. I’d have liked a few. I guess, in a way, those phantom kids in my own little limbo are the closest I’m ever gonna get.
But that’s not why I’m here...
Maggie asked me to talk to you a little bit about our deal -- me being a Floater for this Hannah Donovan. Well, I don’t know her and I don’t owe her, but Maggie stated that my redemption lies in performing a selfless act. So I’ll crack a few skulls and shut some mouths for the fate of my soul.
Be nice to see earth again, anyway. I miss the simple things, man. Like the sun on your face, or a nice cold beer, or even hearing the choir practice for morning service at 16th Street Baptist. Now that’s a taste of paradise.
If I could convince Donovan, I’d go see my youngest brother, Charles. He’d be about 86 at this point. Boy was the toughest of all of us, on account he was the youngest and a human punching bag – ‘til he got big enough to punch back. I wonder what he’d think of all this spiritual nonsense. He was the religious one in the family, Jesus and cross tattoos covering his body, always fingering rosary beads. You’d get that million-mile stare if you spoke the Lord’s name in vain. We’d stopped talking for years before I went down for that arson job. Charles called me “sinful,” said I wasn’t to be around his family, his good church-going family.
He was right...
I keep my distance. Let the dead lie, as they say. Let Charles believe in his symbols and bible-verse. He’ll turn out better in the end anyway.
As for me, I got to keep this girl from getting hurt. She’s gonna have all 6’8”, 290 pounds of me as her shield. Best advice I can give her is stand back and watch a mean man do the one thing he knows better than anyone else – to knockdown, to destroy, to reign down the fire.
If we make it back from this, Maggie’s promised a reduction in my sentence. “Good behavior.” I’ll refuse it. I earned that time. It’s what I deserve. I heard Donovan killed herself back on earth because of the death of her husband. I’ve never known anything about love like that, but I can respect it. Just as long as I don’t have to hear about it. Like I said, not my bag, man.
Something I do need to see for myself… Maggie tells me Donovan can hold her own against 20 hardened souls in this place. “Hardened” around here is no joke. I’m curious to see just how bad this girl is. Make my job easier, anyway. Either way, like I said, I’m all in.
So that’s it. I got my orders, and the big man is ready and able. Apparently there are two other floaters who Maggie signed on for this insane soul-collecting mission. One of them – she tells me – is one of the most terrifying creatures she’s ever set eyes on. A real-life monster of a man. Well, I look forward to seeing just how mean this monster is.
So, I’d take questions, but I’m not much for keeping up the small talk. Plus, not really sure I’d have the answers. That’s more the angel’s territory.
Hmm. Looks like Donovan is calling.
Time for Mr. Napalm? Nah. That’s who I was...
You can call me Tyler.