Adam wanders, confused in his own faith.
The human realms open and close behind him as he passes through them - drifting through the Roman Empire, wandering the mountains in Tibet and helping a lonely traveller up a long stretch of rubble strewn path, travelling on a train across Japan in 2300 and watching as a woman in front of him writes a letter using 21st century English because she's a student and needs to practise.
Humans learn. They change. They evolve.
But Adam is not meant to. Adam is not meant to change and to choose his beliefs - he is not human, and he is not given the freedom of the Above's favoured ones to pick and decide for himself. He has a job in the grand scheme of things, a role to play.
And he refused to play it.
Unsettled and unhappy, Adam keeps wandering, searching for souls but finding none that require his guidance until he reaches the Middle East - a phenomenal seat of Learning for generations, progressive and educated in the Middle Ages.
Inside a house made of white plaster, cool despite the blazing sunlight outside, he finds a young woman.
She's been dead less than a day, younger than Adam first suspected, but the grey of her tongue tells him it was not a peaceful death, not a nice death, not a timely death.
Mourners surround her, women weeping and wailing - outside in the courtyard, a father paces, but he’s listless and pale.
The soul cracks a mirror in anger but doesn't seem to notice Adam.
Not until he touches her shoulder.
A sigh, a tear, another shake of the mirror. No words are needed, no words at all, and Adam respects the distance that she seems to want.
She's not tall - not tall at all, but something inside of her makes her seem bigger, even in death. The way she carries herself too - Adam sees signs of wealth all around her and it seems to have pervaded her even in death. Her clothes, though dark, are shot with gold thread, the carpets are rich and colourful, the food on the side is half eaten and cast away, where Adam knows it will not feed the hungry or the sick.
Gold coins are strewn on the floor, but a dark trail of blood mars their brightness in the sunlight.
He doesn't know what happened to her - it's not his position to ask, it's not his role or right. He is there to guide, to lead, and watch for the souls who need him, and they come from all walks of life, of death, of something in between that lead them to him. He has to treat them all the same, and her wealth and her past mean very little now.
Some souls need carrying, some needing dragging, some need a hand to hold.
Ashaki holds her head up high and the jut of her chin, and the darkness of her gaze tells him she's ready to go. She is. Not him. And Adam nods, opens the way to The Waters, and she walks behind him. Not subserviently, not submissively, but following.
The Waters dust with purple as she moves across them, soft bejewelled slippered feet leaving no trail on the surface as she pads behind him.
Adam cannot send her to the Beyond. Her eyes, dark and solemn, tell him she's not yet ready to travel that final journey, and he steps aside to allow her to pass onto the path back to the human realms.
She takes a moment, an age, an hour, an eternity, to look at him.
She touches his hand.
And leaves him there.
The air smells of ash and burning and fire.
Adam knows it well - cities sacked by invaded are often burned, or wildfires spun out of control, a single house turning the sky orange and smoky - it all smells the same.
Behind him lies a smouldering wreck of a house, a strange hole in the row of terraced houses, their red bricks blackened and dripping from the hoses of yellow clad firemen.
Everything is the colour of a fire here.
It was a flop house, it was the eighties, it was a time of punk and rebellion, it was a cigarette carelessly discarded, it was an accident in the centre of New York that stopped the fire truck from getting here sooner, it was their fault for living in a squat, it was wrong, it was something that needed investigating, it was a tragedy…
Ash lies in front of the fire, her head shaved to just a long strip of blue and green spikes, her nose pierced, her skin smudged with smoke. She’s so still.
Her leather jacket is under her head, and a green sheet laid over her. No breath in those lungs, no life in those eyes, no love left in that heart.
Ash ‘Freedom’ Jenkins, that’s her name, despite Jane Doe approx. early 20s on the brown tag pinned to the green sheet says, and she is twenty four when she dies, and the soul that rises to stand beside her old body doesn't say a word to Adam. Yet again, so quiet but those eyes, those dark dark eyes say more than she understands.
Adam knows just from that first glance he won't be sending her to the Beyond. It's so rare to know before crossing The Waters, so rare and so strange, but her face, her pretty, dirty, still face on the ground and the same again standing before him, slightly glowing says it all.
Once again The Waters bloom purple in her wake, pooling like lilies behind glass underneath her Doc Martens with tartan ribbons for laces and she says nothing to him.
His hand doesn't burn where she touches him, but as she walks away, Adam can't help staring at his hand, his wrist, his perfect skin that suddenly feels too...