Desmond looked confused at first. “Vid-ee-ya?”

“No, Vet-ee-uh. Vetia.” I don’t think they heard me too well. It was way more embarrassing than I was expecting and I kind of murmured it.

Adam was cringing a little. I knew it might be a bit cringey at first, but I liked it. He tried to sound supportive, though. “I mean, it’s not bad. I thought you were going to choose something that doesn’t sound like a D&D character, but I think we can get used to it.”

“Well, that’s kind of why I chose it. Maybe we can try to think of it like that or something? Like a new world with magic and shit, so why not go all in?” Brenden was still staring me dead in the eyes with a pissed off look on his face. “Well, there you go. I’m sure two syllables are going to truly be an absolute burden on everyone like you said. Especially since I look so much like I did before, and clearly give off the appearance that you associate with my old name.” There was a tense pause before Brenden seemed to give up holding his anger back.

“Is this a game to you guys?!” Brenden stood up and everyone went silent. “Is it cool and fun that we all died in a car accident, then woke up in completely new bodies, only to almost get trampled to death by a fucking wooly mammoth in the middle of nowhere?! Go ahead and come up with new names and become superheroes and shit. I want to figure out what the fuck is going on. I didn’t ask to be put into this body and I’m sure none of you all were either, but I want to figure out why!” He paused, looking over all of us, who could only respond with silence. “What the fuck happened to you guys and why are you acting like everything is okay?! Has it just been your dream to brutally die and then get sent into another world because of all those shitty animes?! Because that’s what it’s looking like, and we’re not in one of those stupid shows!”

He was right, to a degree. I was definitely more excited than scared when I realized what was going on. Maybe we were taking this too lightly? I took a breath and looked up to him. He’s a worrier. He always has been, and this was really stressful to him, so he’s getting agitated and confused. I took a breath. “Come on, Brenden, sit down. We’ll figure out what happened as much as we can. From the start.”

All of us remember our previous lives as much as we did in those lives. We were all from the same graduating class. The other four met in elementary school, then I met them in middle school. We have been best friends ever since. We were out for the night, some of us had just turned 21 and wanted to get dinner. Adam was driving that night. Driving by a massive dropoff next to a rocky cliff, the car was side-swiped by a semi truck and we were sent flying off the road, down the hill. It sounded like we all died pretty quickly. Everyone recounted a gray, misty place with odd visions and a presence of something that had an extrasensory way of communicating. All of our stories were almost exactly the same.

“We did choose these bodies then,” Brenden muttered, looking down at his hands. “I didn’t think I chose this, but it doesn’t feel bad. I guess it’s cool?” He looked up at me and Tells. “I didn’t mean to get on you guys earlier. It’s just a fucked up situation to be in. Sorry. Are you guys happy how you are now?”

I looked at Tells, and she started talking. “I don’t hate it. It’s not bad.” A little confidence would never be a bad thing for her. She was tall and trained like a warrior, dark brown hair and eyes contrasting her skin that looked like golden wheat.

“Do we all feel like that? I don’t know what you guys think about yourselves, but I think I look bangin’.” I figured we probably needed to lift the mood a little bit, and it seemed to work with the way everyone half smirked and a few of them nodded in agreement.

Adam stood up. “I’m gonna have to agree. I am fucking jacked!” He did a few strongman poses and flexed his muscles as hard as he could.

“You get a second chance at life and you decide to become a gym bro.” Brenden started cackling loudly like we were all used to him doing. “That’s some fucking dedication to the gains, dude.”

“That’s what I’m saying. I could be on Ninja Warrior looking like this! Yo, didn’t you get a book with magic in it? There’s totally some cool shit you can do,” Desmond hit Brenden on the arm and pointed to the book that was laying in his lap.

I laid back and started zoning out the conversation they were having. They seemed like they were at least somewhat at ease. It was scary being a new person in a new world, but also somewhat thrilling thinking about what new opportunities it could mean. The night sky was beautiful. There was a large moon that gave off an ethereal blue glow. It was calming, laying back and basking in the moonlight. I wondered what the people of this world called that moon. The constellations too. In this small clearing, we could see more stars than I had ever seen in a night on Earth, and a dazzling galaxy, like how I always imagined the Milky Way looked, but so much more colorful and shimmering like glitter in the sun. The endlessness of the universe and the infinite expanse was always alluring to me. My mind started racing on the possibilities of slaying monsters, getting tons of money, and living a life that felt like my own for the first time. For the good thoughts that came, I felt a sense of guilt for everyone I was leaving behind. I remembered my parents and my sister, who were probably preparing for my funeral, closed casket after what happened. I couldn’t stop myself from thinnking back to the feeling of having my neck and spine broken when the car was flipping. It hurt so bad, even though it was seconds before we rolled the second time and my neck fully snapped. I don’t even know how I remembered the details or why, but I didn’t want to.

Adam’s voice broke through my thoughts. “Hey. Vetia. You okay?”

I had been laying on the ground, quietly crying into my arm without realizing it. I sat up and looked at everyone, who were all looking at me like they were worried. I could tell they knew what I was thinking about. I wiped away my tears and tried to put up a strong front. “Yeah. I was just thinking about my family. I think I’d like to take the first watch tonight. I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep for a while. You guys should get some rest though. We have a whole new life ahead of us.” I stood up and walked over to the remains of the wagon, sat on top of one of the crates, and began looking out into the darkness. I couldn’t explain it then, but I could sense every living thing around us, their location, their feelings. The rest of the night, I felt nothing approaching as I sat there with my thoughts, quietly muttering to myself until the sunrise. And when the sun rose, I knew I had to start this new day without regrets. I already felt bad enough for keeping information from them, but I didn’t know when the right time to tell them would be, if there would be a right time at all soon.

A note from Ren Cory

This marks the end of the character introductions. We will be following these five as the story continues and they begin to explore the world. As of now, the chapters are still fairly short, so they'll be coming out on Saturday and Tuesday every week. 

About the author

Ren Cory

Bio: I'm an amateur writer, but I've got a story in my head that I want to tell. What I write won't always be amazing, but I really think it will get better with experience. I love reading and watching anything fantasy, scifi and anything in that sort of wheelhouse. I've always been inspired by those genres to be creative and do my own thing, creating entirely new worlds, histories, creatures, plants and the whatnot. I like trying out new ideas in the genres I love.

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