Which one of us is the God of Death?
The offering year for the God of Death used to be a somber and reverent occasion occurring once every nineteen years (nineteen being an auspicious number). It now takes place once a year and has way more skeleton limbo and cocktails.
-The Book of the Dead, Revised Edition
Alice sighed as she turned another page. The Sim’s Guide to Windenburg had been published in 1997, so while it was long on history from hundreds of years ago; it was short on any helpful details about the country in this century. Not that she was going to Windenburg, mind you. No, the entire exercise was to appease Ben, who had been going on about the baking contest nonstop since they saw the commercial last month.
“It has great mystical importance, Alice. The sages hid it away for centuries but now it’s back in the world,” Ben reminded her.
Alice rolled her eyes, “Yes, and since this is like the 84th time you’ve said that, I’m pretty clear on it.”
The librarian on duty gave her sharp look and shushed her. It probably didn’t help that Alice appeared to be talking loudly to herself.
She pointed at a “No Talking” sign and stormed off. As soon as her back was turned, Alice made a rude gesture and then quickly mouthed an apology.
It wasn’t the librarian’s fault that she was in a bad mood.
With another dramatic sigh that broke off into a squeak at a raised eyebrow from said librarian, Alice glanced around the room. The StrangerVille Information Center was barely a library. Oh sure, it had books and computers but it was really a gathering place for military personnel and research scientists. They all whispered at each other and drank sludgy cups of coffee from the 8 Bells bar next door. Occasionally, men in black suits like her father came in and motioned at stacks of papers, books, or computers that were then promptly removed. Even now, the only computers not taken by sims in white lab coats were marked “Ready for Hard Drive Transport.”
Not that the internet would be any help in confirming if this item of “great and terrifying power” was even real.
“I’m glad you brought that up,” Ben advised, “It’s powers are indeed terrifying. Or, well, the potential of its powers. Come to think of it, the creation of it was pretty terrifying as well. But fear not! I would say, based on my esteemed observation, that the benefits of it far outweigh the risks. In fact, it is imperative that you be the one in possession of this item…”
Alice resisted the urge to roll her eyes again and tried to tune him out by reading a page about dial-up modems coming Windenburg’s Modern District. Even for Ben this was a bit much. She had never heard him harp on something like this, not even the beginning of the reaping season, which he claimed was his favorite time of year.
“It is! But this is very—“
“Important,” Alice finished, “Yes, Ben. I’m aware. But you seem to forget I can’t bake—“
“You can learn.”
Alice snorted. “Are you addled?”
The librarian turned and growled in her direction. Alice lowered her voice to a whisper. “Besides, I don’t have any money.”
“What? We live in a hovel and you don’t pay for meals. How could we not have money?”
“We? Ben, please, I’m the one working. And in case you’ve forgotten, it’s a shitty part-time job at a convenience store so no, we are not rolling in simoleons. And for that matter…wait, hold the hell up, did you just call my house a hovel?”
“Well, technically, you don’t live in the house, you live in the backyard,” Ben replied.
She couldn’t argue with him but her trailer was NOT a hovel. It was…well…small and cramped and the floor was covered in an unnamed stain that Alice had purposefully decided not to investigate. But it was a steal and it meant that if she squinted, she could pretend that she didn’t still live at home.
It wasn’t always this way. At first, she tried parking at the trailer park on the edge of town, but she had trouble covering her lot fees and paying her neighbors to keep quiet about her strange behavior. Apparently, 2015 had been an offering year for the God of Death. Explaining why a parade of literal skeletons and hooded creatures kept walking into the yard leaving black candles and piles of skulls got old real fast.
“Ah, yes, I do remember. What a good year it was! Did you know that we got three sacrificial skulls from the San Myshuno reapers? What a coup!” Ben clapped his hands excitedly at the memory.
“Do you also remember trying to explain to the police that those skulls were not victims of a homicide and then standing outside in the dead of winter while they executed a search warrant?”
Alice paused to smile at one of her mother’s colleagues.
The woman gave her a look that was somewhere between pity and censure. Alice knew that look. It was the “There goes Valeria’s weird daughter. You know, the one who’s touched in the head and lives in their backyard because she’s a hot mess” look.
Alice shrugged. There was no point in even fighting it anymore. She resumed her conversation with Ben. “I distinctly remember you reanimating a corpse when they tried to pick up your precious skull collection. I spent two nights in lock-up until they finally concluded that it must’ve been a prank. And then they charged me for pranking the police!”
Ben sighed happily, “I know. Good times right? There was that dancer in your cell. What was his name? Cat’s Meow? He was great!”
Alice shook her head. Kyle, aka “Cat’s Meow”, had been great. Well, he was passable and her three month dry spell bumped him up to a “fine.” They spent approximately 48 hours together and hooked up three times. But Alice put the kibosh on it as soon as the weekend ended. She couldn’t have a relationship. There was no telling when Ben would flip the switch and she’d lose control and really hurt someone. And besides, anyone who spent more than five minutes with her quickly concluded that she was completely nuts. That was okay when you had consumed four bottles of nectar reliving the harrowing boredom you both experienced in StrangerVille County Jail.
In the real world, though, no one would choose Alice.
“I am only here because you promised to be quiet if I did some research about Windenburg. I’m holding up my end of the deal,” Alice gestured at the book on the table.
“Yes, Yes, of course. You’re right. I’ll be quiet. I promise.” And with that, Ben went completely silent.
“Finally,” Alice whispered.
She flipped through some more pages but decided that the history part of the book was probably more interesting, not to mention, up to date. She turned to a chapter called “Windenburg in the Age of Renaissance.”
She always found that period of time fascinating: what with the knights and the castles and holy llamas the handsome princes!
Alice stopped at the entry for Prince Vladislaus Straud, born 1475 to King Josef and Queen Esmeralda. There was a painting of him in some kind of warrior gear. His long black hair was braided back but a lock of it hung over his shoulder. There was a ghost of a smirk on his face that made him look at once handsome and dangerous. You couldn’t see what was under his armor, but Alice bet it was cold, hard, corded muscle.
She stopped to fan herself. When it came to Vladislaus Straud, 15th century Windenburg must’ve been falling all over themselves. She was falling all over herself. Rawr!
“Well, I must say, I do approve,” Ben said, and she could almost feel him peering over her shoulder.
“What? I’m not looking at him…I…I’m…reading about history!” Alice sputtered and then covered it with a cough when the librarian looked up from stacking books. She pointed again to the “No Talking” sign.
Alice groaned, grabbed her book, and moved to a more secluded corner. Fanning herself over some entry in a book? She really needed to get laid.
Ben continued, “It’s a bit unorthodox, but I would say it certainly counts as a good reason to go to Windenburg.”
Alice huffed and grabbed a seat. “Ben, you’re being ridiculous. Look, it says here, he went missing in 1507 and was presumed dead shortly thereafter. And since it’s been like, oh, I don’t know, 500 years, I think we can pretty well assume that he isn’t walking around Windenburg waiting for me to show up.”
Ben shrugged, “I mean, I don’t think he’s walking around Windenburg. He probably drives…”
“Ben. Stop it. My love life is sorry enough without you teasing me about long dead princes.”
Alice scanned some more of the chapter, “Besides, it’s a really sad story. He had a wife and a young kid when he rode out to Forgotten Hollow with a settlement party and was never heard from again. His mother and sister went mad and were imprisoned in the dungeons where they both died of gas and giggles, and his father was brutally murdered in his own throne room!”
Alice shook her head, sometimes it was too easy to get caught up in the fairytale version of history and forget that much of it was barbaric and dark. Even though he was most certainly lying six feet under in some undiscovered grave, her heart broke a little for Prince Straud.
She closed the book and returned it to the shelf.
“What? Is that the end of reading time?” Ben complained.
“Since it’s clear that you aren’t going to keep your end of the bargain, it’s time for us to go, Ben of the Unknowable Name.”
“Unpronounceable,” he corrected.
Alice walked out of the building and past the trailer park towards the hilltop neighborhood. She waved to Erwin who was rearranging items in his curio shop. On his head, he was wearing his “festive” colander (the one with the lights). In high school, Alice had been voted second weirdest kid in StrangerVille. Erwin had won first place. He was the only person who didn’t seemed fazed by Alice or her constant stream of chatter with an entity that no one else could see.
She wouldn’t call them friends, exactly. Not that she hadn’t tried. She mentioned it to Erwin once and he calmly explained to her that if she became his friend he’d have to bug her trailer and tap her phones because of her illicit government connections. “Do you mean my parents?” she had asked, but Erwin just narrowed his eyes and told her that in the coming war, there would be no parents.
Sometimes Alice liked to stop by and chat with him because it made her feel sane by comparison. He always asked about Ben and didn’t mind that Alice talked for the both of them.
Today she didn’t though. She was eager to get home and enjoy watching the flat screen tv in the house without interruption. Her parents would be out for a date night, her sister was safely packed away at Newcrest U, and Maverick, well, Maverick was probably at happy hour with the rest of the recruits.
Alice rounded the corner by the house to find that the cars were still parked in the driveway.
“Date night must be off to a late start. Detour through the park it is!” she declared.
“Detour! May I remind you that it is 7:30 p.m. and The Man Who is Not and Has Never Been Married is due to start at exactly eight o’clock! We can’t be late! How will we know if Karen gets the group date rose?”
Alice smothered a laugh. She didn’t regret introducing Ben to her favorite reality tv show but he was way more into it than she was.
Ben pouted. “That’s not true. Last week, you made fruity fizzy drinks to celebrate Amber being kicked off the show. Now she’ll have to go back to her job as a free spirit!”
Alice slapped her forehead, “Ben, free spirit is not an actual job. It’s just a joke. And we won’t be late, I promise. Just a quick stroll to kill a little more time.”
It was a nice walk. Ben continued to chatter on about the prize and about how well she could do as a baker if she would just apply herself. Alice was laughing at another one of his insane arguments when she nearly collided with Ted Roswell, StrangerVille’s mayor and her least favorite person on the planet.
“Ah, the indomitable Alice Martin, out for an evening stroll or out causing trouble?” he asked in a sickly sweet drawl.
“Nope, just out for a stroll, Ted. I try my best to stay out of trouble,” Alice replied, reigning in the frown that threatened to overtake her face. She would not call him Mister Mayor.
His eyes narrowed. “Oh yes, right. And your parents are still choosing to pay the fine over the zoning notice about your trailer in their backyard?”
Alice gritted her teeth. She knew he was the one who filed the notice with the county. Ted Roswell acted like he was president, not the mayor of some podunk town in the Oasis Springs desert. He had been wary of her ever since a fire broke out when her class was touring the StrangerVille Lab. His son, a chip off the old block, had made Alice’s life miserable. It was hard for her then, she was a freshman and still getting used to Ben being in her head. When the lab went into lockdown after the fire, Ted Roswell Jr. peed himself and Alice had to admit, she took some small delight in it. His family always believed it was her fault.
Because it was your fault, Alice thought miserably.
Emotions warred within her. She hadn’t meant for anything to happen. She hadn’t meant for anyone to get hurt. But she was so weak then, she didn’t understand Ben’s power or how dangerous it was. She didn’t—
Ben called to her, “Alice, you need to focus.”
Alice looked down, and did a double take. She was…floating? She gazed at her arms and legs like they were new appendages, ones she had never seen before and might betray her any minute.
“What the hell?” she gasped.
Ted cautiously backed away. “I always knew you there was something wrong with you, that you were something…unnatural.”
He spat the word unnatural like it was a curse.
The fury started in the pit of her stomach, clawed its way up her ribcage and then back down again to her finger tips. To Alice, it seemed like she was practically vibrating. There was no room in her head for any thought other than making Ted Roswell eat his words. The combination of words and righteous anger swirled in her head until they became a great jumble, knocking against her skull and begging for release.
The power that burned through her felt white hot.
And llama’s help her, she liked it.
Her body moved of its own accord. Had she done this before? There was no time to consider what was happening. Her head was full of words that sounded suspiciously like her own voice and not Ben’s. She gestured at him.
Words. Eat. Ted.
Two cowplants popped out of the ground and began snapping at him.
He leapt trying to dodge their teeth, “What in tarnation?”
His knees began to knock as he turned around. Both cowplants leaned in, drooling and snorting hot breath. His swallow was audible as he whispered one word:
That snapped Alice back to attention and she began to panic. What had Ben done? Why did she let him do this? Why didn’t she stop him?
A quieter part of her brain nudged her: Maybe it wasn’t Ben.
“Get away from there!” she shouted at Ted. But he was frozen in place.
Alice shouted again and pointed, panic making her heart beat erratically. “Ben, stop, please! I’ll do whatever you want!”
“Alice you have to calm down,” Ben tried.
“Calm down? I can’t calm down! Help him!” she urged.
But it was useless.
She watched in horror as a cowplant swooped down and gobbled Ted Roswell whole.
It took a minute for Alice to realize that screaming was coming from her.
“Alice, you have to calm down and focus.”
Alice ignored him and ran around the cow plants waving frantically at them, trying not to get too close.
“Don’t tell me what to do! Just…just…help me. Help him!” Her voice cracked. She wasn’t above begging. For this? To save a life?
She would get down on her knees and she would beg.
“Please,” she cried.
“Please,” she repeated. And then reached towards the cowplants as if to beseech them too. She was sobbing now, a messy, hysterical sort of crying that was half wail and half plea.
“ALICE! LISTEN TO ME!” Ben roared, “This is not me, it’s you. You have to stop this. Now focus. Pull the power back and focus!”
Alice gaped. She had never heard Ben yell before. He was always so reserved, so…contained. He was arrogant but not shouty. His words filled her head and pushed out all the panic.
She hesitated. “What do you mean…it’s me?”
Ben’s frustration was clear. “Just what I said. It’s your power. You called those two creatures here. You can also send them back.”
Alice shook her head, she didn’t understand. “But what do you mean? How can it be my power? Aren’t you the God of Death?”
And then, a horrifying thought occurred to her. One that made her whole mouth run dry. “Are you the God of Death,” she repeated, “Or am I?”
“What a ridiculous question! Is this really what you want to ask me now? In the midst of this crisis?”
Alice gathered her courage. She had seen lots of strange things—done lots of strange things. She had to know. “Well, it seems pretty important…so yes, that is the question I want to ask! Which one of us is the God of Death?”
“Fine.” Ben sounded defeated.
“Fine?” Alice let loose a breath she didn’t even realize she was holding.
“The truth is…it’s…it’s c-complicated,” he continued, his voice slipping on the words. “Y-You’re not the God of Death. At least, not yet…er…not c-completely…”
Could he feel the shock on her face? Because Alice was indeed shocked. Ben didn’t stammer. And he certainly didn’t sound unsure of himself.
“We can talk about it later. But for now, command them. Or destroy them. It’s up to you. You have all the power.”
“I…okay…but I don’t know…” she let the rest of the sentence drop. She was about to say she didn’t know how, but she sort of did, didn’t she?
She waved at one of the cow plants, but nothing happened. Think Alice. Ted was awful but he didn’t deserve to die. She didn’t want the plant to eat him. She just needed it to open up and release him…
That was it!
She gestured at the cowplant again. “Open,” she commanded and to her surprise, it spat Ted Roswell right out.
He scrambled to his feet making high pitched squealing sounds as he slid around on cowplant mucus.
With more speed than Alice thought possible, he ducked behind her. “Are you gonna kill it?” he cried. “Oh llamas! Am I already dead? Am I ghost? Can you see me?”
“Calm down, you’re not a ghost. You’re fine. Just…er…stand back,” Alice instructed.
She wasn’t exactly sure what she was going to do. I’m the God of Death? Maybe? She tucked that piece of knowledge away for later. There wasn’t time to deal with it now. She repeated Ben’s instructions to herself. She didn’t want to kill the cowplants, but neither could she leave them to terrorize her neighbors in the park.
“Stay calm. Focus,” she whispered to herself.
She would just send them back from whence they came. Alice spun and waved her arms in an arc, trying to summon some more power.
With a final flick of her wrist, the picnic table erupted in flames.
“Oh shit!” she exclaimed.
Alice waved her hands again but the fire just grew bigger and quickly engulfed the closest cowplant. What could she tell it to do? Sleep? Should she risk trying to call more power? Alice’s mind blanked as she tried to block out the sound of the poor plant screaming. Within moments, it was just a pile of ash and the fire moved onto the second cowplant.
She couldn’t let this continue. Its presence and its suffering was her fault. She walked towards it.
“Dust” she whispered. The cow plant burst into a collection of tiny motes. The flames, having been deprived of their energy source, subsided.
For a moment, Alice just stood there, unable to feel any emotion at all. It was as if she had been peeled open and scooped out and now there was nothing left inside her.
Ted hobbled over and began yelling but Alice was so exhausted, the words just whooshed by her. She knew the situation was bad, but she couldn’t seem to summon even an ounce of alarm.
“Run,” Ben croaked, his voice barely above a whisper.
And so Alice did.
Facial Expressions 2 by JoanneBernice
StrangerVille Park by lilsimsie (This is a great build, the only reason why there is a weird building in the center of the park is because I needed a way to trap and hide all of the sims that would not get off the lot!)