The souls wait in the Place Before Birth. It is a great, huge place containing every possibility, and every soul can do every thing it might imagine while it waits to go into the great wide world. Some souls sleep and laze and relax, by riverbeds or in the hearts of stars or under the dappled shade of pinepepper trees. Some souls work, and pick piles of peppermint pickles and collect seashells and build palaces from them and beautiful works of art. Some souls frolic and play, chasing animal souls through ocean waves or digging holes and playing hide and seek. Some souls sit in quiet reflection. Some try all these things while they wait.
And some souls, some souls face the Empty.
The Empty stalks the Place Before Birth. No one knows where it came from or why it is there, but it stalks the souls of the Place Before Birth and steals from them their love of life and turns it to nothing and leaves empty holes in the place where life should be. Most souls go on in happy oblivion, unaware of the Empty, unaware even when they have been touched by it. Some souls discover the Empty and run and hide from it.
Some souls do battle.
The little souls of Olive and Logan frolicked together often in the Place Before Birth. Their best friend was another soul who was the finest climber in all the Place Before. Up and down it could climb, anywhere, no matter how smooth or how high, and would toss down snapdrizzle and carrots from cloud towers for everyone to eat.
Olive and Logan were climbing clouds below their friend when the Empty came. It grabbed hold of their friend so tightly the life was almost gone by the time Logan and Olive came to their friend’s aid. Armed with nothing but a cucumber and a quick wit, the two souls engaged.
Logan hopped on the Empty’s back and recited poetry. Olive batted balls of cloud with her cucumber, smashing them into the Empty’s face. The Empty thrashed and grabbed Logan from its back, hurling him tumbling from the cloud. Olive catapulted from her place on the cloud, grabbing Logan from the air and swinging with him into a nearby cumulus. Together they dove back into the attack. Olive performed a quadratic equation with interpretive dance while Logan drew the numbers of pi to a thousand decimal places to climb back to where the Empty fed.
Interrupted again, it turned on Logan and Olive, a sharp claw of absence slicing the air, tearing off the piece of soul that would be Logan’s left ear After Birth. Olive used the Empty’s distraction to tug her friend’s foot and pull him free, tossing him into the safety of a distant cloud. Then she and Logan grasped hands, leapt, stomped on the Empty and dislodged it from the cloud, as they launched themselves toward their injured friend.
They grabbed up their friend and bounded cloud to cloud, over a star, and into a waterfall that they rode down to a moonlight lake, where they sunk safely to the bottom and sheltered in the coral souls. There they fed their friend soul sips and nibbles of their own love of life until it revived. Then Olive turned her ministrations to Logan. She took a portion of her soul ear and fashioned a new ear for Logan. Though it wasn’t quite complete and would be missing a notch when he was born, it would be perfect in every way. And Olive then rearranged her own soul ear from what remained, and though it would be shaped a little different than her other ear when she was born, it would be perfect in every way.
And so the three friends joined hands and swore always to do battle with the Empty, in the Place Before and After Birth, and left the lake of moonlight to frolic again and keep their watch against Empty.