Serialized Science Fiction.

Strange Origins
Tom Haynes

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Chapter 1: The void, or someplace that was nowhere, like Vinita, OK

Your health means nothing to you until you get sick, and then it means everything to you. He had been content with his lot, going through his days, and then the illness struck. Suddenly his days were longer and what little joy there was, well it was sucked out. He aged from the inner youth to his outer old man.

For the life of him, he can't remember how he died - no lingering regrets, no exploding anger at the world, he just stopped being whats his face. He seemed to be drifting.

"Well, are you just going to give up?" he heard a voice, a man's voice, It sounded like it was at the bottom of a well, but as he focused his attention, it became crisper.

"Who, who is it?" he mumbled into the void. Several lights started to swirl, coalescing into a larger blob.

"It doesn't really matter does it? You are dead and if you can't muster some life, you'll stay dead. Samsara is costly, not to be wasted on slackers like you." responded the blob.

There had been little emotion in the days up to his death, his condition seemed like depression, which in a way was a downer. But without a misbehaving immune system to screw with his thoughts, his emotions stirred back into a semblance of life. "I want another shot!"

"No, I can't give you the full monty - you'll have to inherit a screw-up. I'll find you a recent undiscovered deader and you'll have one chance to show you are worthy to enter the cycle of Samsara." The blob morphed into a large set of lips - with some pearly whites glistening underneath.

His thoughts scrambled - did he want another humdrum life? "Give me adventure! If it is my last chance, then I want to roll big. Let me double down, let me live life to the fullest.."

The blob further morphed into a black duck with fangs hanging down from the top beak. "Doubling down isn't worth it to me. If you are willing to triple down, I'll give you the adventure of a life time."

Jack, his name was Jack Lee, thought about it, "What do you mean, triple down? What is harder than starting in a new life?"

"Quack, quack. Sorry, the body wants to quack. How about starting with your old life in a new world. I'll give you the local language, written and verbal, at the level of your native one. But no world knowledge." The Duck offered.

"No, I'll be ground down with the illness, my age, and probably made a slave right away. I don't want the man or the system to own me!" he vehemently exclaimed.

The Duck patiently offered up some concessions, "Okay, you have to start with what you have, illness included, but if you manage to persevere, you can get past all of it. You can get rid of the immune system disorder, you can become young again, you can be free, and you can have the adventure you want."

"I'll give you a cultivation method, I'll even let you choose which one, but that is it. No martial arts, no spiritual tool or companion, nothing else."

Jack thought about it - cultivation - he had been an avid reader of online Chinese Wuxia serials. He was guessing that The Duck knew that

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