Explained: A story where the main focus is death, in any fashion.
- The death in the story is metaphorical rather than literal.
- The story is a poem or contains poetry.
- The protagonist is death, or death is otherwise personified in the story.
- The story involves life-after-death in some way (afterlife, resurrection, etc).
- The story involves immortality.
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- Read ALL entries.
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- Please post explaining your vote and why.
- Please provide helpful feedback on the entries.
- Do NOT post anything insulting or offensive about the entries.
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- Do NOT tell others which entry is your own.
Components required for advanced entries: 2
When this entry’s over you’ll be dead
Yes, it is true what you just read
This message carries curses
Evenly shared among the verses
When this entry’s over you’ll be dead
That kid last month who cut his wrist
One of the kinder deaths on the list
You’ve written your last post
Soon you’re nothing but a ghost
You’ll die from what you love the most
When this entry’s over you’ll be dead
Stripped of life and drowning in red
There’s an evil within this guild
That will ensure that you are killed
When this entry’s over you’ll be dead
As you read it gets worse with every line
If you stop reading now you’ll be just fine
But warnings you suspend
You’re curious on the end
Lurching near a fate from which you can’t defend
When this entry’s over you’ll be dead
You dare brave the dangers, go ahead
Gender, income, nation, no matter
You are on the devil’s platter
When this entry’s over you’ll be dead
Shallow gazes turn towards your heart
Powers soon to rip you apart
Your soul looks like food
To spirits in the mood
You’re attracting powers you can’t elude
When this entry’s over you’ll be dead
But you can’t sense what we have led
Currently in your room
Unseen hungry spirits loom
When this entry’s over you’ll be dead
An abstract hand caress your cheek
You can’t see them, but your soul grows weak
Spirits kiss your soul
Eager to snatch their goal
When you’re done reading they’ll lose control
When this entry’s over you’ll be dead
Your life dangles on a shallow thread
Knives easily slit your throat
Your innards slowly bloat
When this entry’s over you’ll be dead
It’s like being written in the Death Note
And an extra cruel ‘cause of death’ he wrote
All you can do now is wait
For your eternal fate
Review and comment when you’ve become ‘the late’
When this entry’s over you’ll be dead
I’m sorry if you didn’t get wed
A “save me” thread won’t help
Though you’re free to squirm and yelp
When this entry’s over you’ll be dead
Your skin is stung by a thousand needles
Body soon to be ravaged by hungry beetles
Your existence in pieces
The moment of death slowly freezes
The number of hungry spirits only increases
When this entry’s over you’ll be dead
There is no one to go in your stead
Don’t bother shedding tears
They’re feeding off your fears
When this entry’s over you’ll be dead
You’ll be killed, rendered into nothing
You can’t sense, but the chills aren’t bluffing
You had tons of things to do
None of which will now come true
The Grim Reaper now stands behind you
When this entry’s over you’ll be dead
There is no future where you will head
Only seconds away now
By reading, you allow
the spirits to use their plow
The last sentence will seal the vow
When this entry’s over you’ll be dead.
This entry’s over. You are dead.
In the real world you lie pale with dread.
Current you is an illusion
Created by your delusion
That you’re not really dead
Accept the truth. You are gone.
Your curiosity has forever won.
Now ask: Was it worth it?
You died. Gained any wit?
Letting this entry kill you didn’t help a bit.
Continue your unlife as you please
Nothing is real, but be at ease
You died a moment ago
You can still gain satisfaction though
In this replica which you now show
Live however you want, do a ton
This isn’t real, what you do won’t affect anyone
Go out there, live your “life”
Fight everyday strife
Just always remember…
You are dead.
It was a beautiful day. The sun shone brilliantly, smiling from just behind the wispy white clouds. The sky had that light, mid-morning tinge to its blue hues, and a perfect breeze rolled the red autumn leaves gently across the yard. All the world held a serene quiet, that peace of the morn broken only by the chirping of birds.
But that wasn’t what the young saw. The sky and the world was gray, to him. The leaves were tattered brown skeletons, long bereft of life’s luster. The sun was not smiling, but grinning balefully, mockingly, and only those gray clouds, those ugly puffs in the sky, offered him mercy from its haughty, pale gaze. There was quiet, but it was not serene; there was no peace, no tranquility to it. It was simply silence, dead silence. Perhaps he might have felt differently if he could hear the birds, but he could not. He was sobbing too loudly to hear.
Yes, the adult, the man sitting in the dew-covered grass was sobbing, and he damned well didn’t care what anyone thought of that. No, he did; but he didn’t care enough to stop. He sobbed and sobbed, his chest heaving rapidly, his hand tearing at the root of grass that he just could not tear, no matter how he tried. Why he even tried to tear it, he didn’t know. He just had to break something. He had to. He didn’t think. He couldn’t think. He just sobbed.
“Why?” he blurted out suddenly, lifting his red face from his knees. He didn’t even open his eyes to ask, not that it would have helped. The tears had long since blinded him, and he’d tossed his glasses on the grass in frustration. “Why?” he asked again, staring down at the mound of dirt before him and the sad wooden sign he’d meant to stand up beside it. “You were just so little!” His chest heaved again, and he covered his face again. “You,” he finished in a whisper, “you were the world’s best dog.”
Yes. That was it. He was crying over a damned dog; a bitch, if anyone dared to ask. And was it wrong to do that? The young man sobbed for several minutes more, growing louder as he went. Nobody was standing out there with him, nobody came to comfort him. It was, after all, just a dog that had been buried. That was it. She was just a dog, and he needed to hurry up, shut up, and get over it. It wasn’t like he’d lost his child, not that he ever had one...
...except, he did. She was his child, and he did lose her, his little Drusilla, the one that was going to be alright. That’s right - “She’s going to be alright,” the vet had said. “You’ll be able to pick her up this afternoon.”
He’d gone to work happy and relieved with that thought, that day. He’d gone to work, telling everyone how his precious girl was going to be okay. His buddy manning the Drive-Thru laughed a bit, though Cindy sincerely told him she was glad to hear it. And then, he’d driven to the vet, and...
...and he went home to learn that his family had gotten a call from the vet that afternoon, saying that little Dru had succumbed to her stomach virus, sadly. How would you like the body disposed? the vet had asked. We do communal dog cremations, the vet said. And his parents had given the answer for him: You can do that.
That’s right. His dog, his sweet, sweet baby, just a puppy, had died without having her family there to hold her when she went... And the young man didn’t even have ashes to bury.
He’d wanted to make a little shrine for her, just... something to remember her by. He didn’t want to forget. He remembered how mean the little girl puppy was when he’d first held her. Drusilla had nipped at his finger, and she’d scratched his legs more time than he could count. She’d torn up the carpet, shredded a curtain, ate wood, gotten behind the refrigerator and somehow unplugged the wire... She was a mess of trouble, she’d caused him so much trouble. Someone had dared to comment that it was probably a good thing she was gone, and it had taken all his energy not to punch that rat bastard in the face.
She was his baby. He remembered the times when she wasn’t a little monster. Dru had such a canny intellect, such a bright light in her eyes; the way she learned things, opening low cabinet doors and figuring out patterns in his behavior and climbing up onto the counter just to lick him in the face... She wasn’t just a dog. She was his baby. She was loving when it was just the two of them in a room; she’d jump onto the couch and rub up against him, lean her little black muzzle against his neck. So bright, so loving, so energetic... and all before she was even a year old. Drusilla was his baby.
And now she was dead. Now, he sat before an empty mound of dirt, and he had cried himself to the point of choking. He had no more tears to cry. His eyes had run dry. They stung. They didn’t sting enough.
He wanted to think that he’d see her in Heaven. He really, really wanted to - but he couldn’t. He didn’t believe in Heaven, though he wanted to. The young man had always been jealous of people with faith because they didn’t have to cry like this. They didn’t have to fear death the same way; they didn’t have to sit down and really, truly believe that the end of everything that was their most loyal friend and their little girl... They didn’t have to believe that end had come for good. No, they could believe they’d see her again, that they’d meet her when they’d done their good deeds on Earth. He wanted, so badly did he want to have faith. But... No. He didn’t believe.
That was it. LIttle Dru was dead. She was dead, and all that was left for her was a second life as wormfood. No, not even that; she was a pile of ash. The young man didn’t know what even happened to ash. A weak, raspy sob escaped his throat again, and he dug his fingers as deep as he could into the dirt, as if he could somehow reach deep enough to pull her back out. He knew he couldn’t.
What was worse, though, was that... nobody would remember her. She’s just a dog, they said. It’s been a week. Get over it. No, they didn’t understand; she was a dog that was smarter than a four year old child. She’d been every damned bit as brilliant as the kids he’d seen walking to school with their backpacks, and he hadn’t even gotten to enjoy four months of life with the energetic, cunning, conniving little furred devil before her life had been snatched away from him by a damned virus.
Nobody would remember Drusilla. Maybe one or two of his family members would remember her twenty years from now, but after a generation, they’d forget about her. No... He was the only one that cared even a damned bit about her.
If the dog had been a, well, a person, people would remember her. She’d be in everyone’s hearts, that’s how they’d say it; she’d have a place in the family history, that word-and-picture story passed down from generation to generation. She’d have a place with everyone else in the family; she’d be in the photo book, and people would tell stories about how she’d died when she was so very young, and stories about the wonderful, cute, and silly things she’d done as a kid; and she’d be immortalized forever in those stories, in that photobook, and in the things the retelling of her story would pass on to those who heard about her.
But, no. She was ‘just’ a dog. Nobody gave a shit about her. She wasn’t going to a heaven, and she wasn’t even going to be remembered by whatever was left of his family once he died of old age. She wasn’t even a blip on a history page... She was that infinitesimal speck of nothing between two letters in a word.
That was why he was here. He took several deep, heavy breaths, forcing himself to focus on his task. He picked up the carving knife, and then he picked up the board of wood. He etched the words carefully, letter by letter, trying to make his shaky hands stay still. He wanted this to be perfect. It was a stupid, meaningless gesture, but he had to do something. He had to. He scraped away little bits of wood. He cut himself once, too, but that was one thing he wasn’t going to cry over. He scraped and scraped, etched and etched, until, as the sun was reaching its noon peak, he’d finally finished.
To my little Drusilla,
For being the best dog a man could have,
And for everything else that comes with that.
I miss you,
And he signed his name below that.
He did, then, go quiet. He let himself breathe, having finished what he’d come to do. I’ll grow some flowers here, he thought. I’ll put a little fence around here. It’ll still be here when I’m old. It’ll still be here when I die. It will. She’ll be remembered.
Maybe it wasn’t faith, but it was hope. The young man felt just the slightest bit of a catharsis. He felt just a little bit better.
Then, he could almost see his favorite little dog again, sitting there on his lap, staring up at him with those bright, expressive brown eyes, a mischievous grin stretched across her canine face, as if she’d just done something very evil again...
The young man broke into one last sob, and smiled. “I miss you,” he whispered, tapping the wooden shrine, “my little Dru.”
The Death of DeathPart I
Those who dwell in darkness assert the absence of light as the cause of their shame. The warmth of his grace is distant—but within sight—as such, when darkness elude bewilderment will strike. Here follows the long path, which from darkness leads up to light, trod by the being unfamiliar with Yggdrasil and Paradise. A reversal of wonder even the Muse cannot comprehend; nonetheless, I invoke her aid to my adventurous song. Suspecting trickery and deception, the craft of the most unclean—nemesis of all—the being, named Death, traversed the ascent to light, from the Underworld, with caution and vigilance. For all his obligations had been revoked, his sentence heard and judged by the most bright, Gabriel, of all the transcendent who in Heaven reside, as faulty. The former burden of attending to the fallen, now lifted, to song in his voice had inspired, as he ventured forward on his journey. Alas, not a minute passed, a creature near the river Styx, near the edge of Hell, vast in size, halted his pace; this was Ukobach—Engineer of Hell—a conspirator who Paradise lost before the dawn of man, and to the edge of the Underworld was assigned to guard, the borders of Hell, in jealousy and disdain. He spoke:—“Stop! Ye who goes there! I know you, who of the Underworld forever owe service to provide freshly departed souls of mortals; you, who carry the only armament worthy to end the lives of his children, who traverse fire and ice unscathed, who defy space and time, who saw the rebellion, who saw the Fall of Man, who has lived as long as the Father himself; Where are you going?!” Death, confused and muddled, at the creature of horrid posture gazed, readied his scythe to violence and blood convey if he were to be attacked; thus he replied:—“Be gone horrid creature! You of impious shame! Traitor! I have not the slightest idea of what you speak! I am but a simple farmer, condemned to the end of my days in the grace of light! Stand aside; for I do not belong here, my life is no longer at the whims of the morning star!” Unconvinced by farmer’s meek attempt at deceit, Ukobach, the creature—the daemon—darted at Death like the stupendous monster of nightmare that he was; screeching and hissing, cursed words out of his mouth emanated, to frighten the poor farmer. The battle, long in duration, and vast, dried the river Styx of its corrupted waters, and exterminated all lesser daemons, the size of tiny animals and insects, in its vicinity. By its uncanny destruction and ruckus, the battle had caught the attention of Moloch, a daemon Prince—Lord of Hell—and enticed him to seek it out. Surprised and awed, the Prince, at the fallen comrade, Ukobach, gazed; this could not be—that a simple farmer had struck down a mighty daemon of hell with such force; thus Moloch spoke:—“I recognize you, lost one; you are the great shadow, the one who surpasses us all in cosmic grandness and purpose; why did you, who do not bow before God or Satan, deem Ukobach worthy to fall beneath your blade? To what manner of twisted realm have you sent his soul? Speak!” To the reason of this intimidating inquisition, Death did not know; trembling before the Lord of Hell he thus replied:—“Mercy, Oh great one! I am but a simple farmer, and granted to me the passage to light has been, by the grace of our Father, who in Heaven reside among the brightest of creatures! The name you give to me—the great shadow—is not the name given to me by my birthright! I am John, harvester of crops, and provider of nourishment for the weak!” Unlike his subordinate conspirator, Ukobach, Moloch did not see past Death’s deception, if it by any means was so, that, in fact, deceit was eminent; however, such intention was not imposed by John, the harvester. The rite of passage, grand—to say the least—on all accounts that matters, rewarded Death with safe passage beyond the borders of Hell, into the vast unknown, to pursue the calling of light which lingered at the top of the ascent.
For nine times the space that measures day and night, Death traversed the vast unknown. Across endless plains of tar, brightly ablaze, he trod in agony, no longer immune to harm as the creatures of Hell had believed him be; over jagged mountains, beneath black oceans, through chaotic storms, and chilling winds he struggled with only the faint hope of light at the end of the ascent as his guide. Day and night he cursed, the Father and the Traitor alike, as to why he had to suffer this immeasurable pain to reach the end of something he did not understand. Every other hour, a creature of the vast unknown—one more bizarre than the other—emerged from the depths to bite a chuck of his flesh, as they had starved since the dawn of all that exist. Fatigued and with sorrow he thus cried:—“Father! Thou who art in Heaven! Why have you abandoned me? Why must I stride across grassy plains of needles and ascend mountains without end? Why must I drink tar and converse with bizarre creatures that eat at my flesh? I do not deserve to be cast out of darkness only to forever dwell in Purgatory with hope of distant light in my heart! Cruse you! Curse you!” His words were unheeded by the powers that be, howbeit, not unheard; from the depths of the murky waters rose, a creature no greater in magnitude than a man, with slender tentacles and a thousand eyes; it spoke:—“Crave for ardency, from the creator of all, will you, young one; foolish, but admirable, considering your predicament which vacillate your faith. Why have you come here, tiny one? To what manner of end can possibly entice you to venture these empty lands? You are lost, young one; tiny one; I can show you the path which from this darkness leads up to light; Yes! Yes! I can show you; If! If I can taste your flesh—yes! —I must taste your flesh before you can know the path which from darkness leads up to light.” The farmer, sickened and revolted, at the horrid creature gazed in awe, unable to fathom its gruesome posture, protected all his limbs and flesh; weary and doubtful; thus he replied:—“You are horrid! Never have I gazed upon such a monstrosity! To what twisted end, what warped magic, what cursed means do you intend my flesh? Your ungracious servants have done nothing but nibble at my skin for days! I will not allow you the same pleasure!” The creature thus replied:—“Then you shall not know the path, tiny one. Never shall you leave this place of neither darkness nor light; never shall you see another soul of your kind; never shall you know the end of your journey, and it shall drive you mad.” The farmer, the being—Death—refused to heed the creature’s demand. Vexed and exasperated by the farmer’s decision, the creature, the one of alien posture, of outer Gods from distant realms, commanded his servants to nag at Death, every minute of his journey until driven mad. For a thousand days, and a thousand nights, the farmer traversed the vast unknown with creatures robbing him of tiny pieces of flesh every minute. When all hope seemed lost, when day and night was molded by dull shades of Grey, and when distant stars no longer held their sway, the farmer reached the end of his ascent. Overwhelmed with relief, and joy, he laughed at the creature that had followed him all this way; thus he spoke:—“I did not succumb to your vile intentions, daemon! I am impervious to Sloth! I am impervious to Wrath! Tremble, as I stand before you, daemon! I am the epitome of Diligence! I am the epitome of Patience!” The creature, albeit defeated in his scheme, did not succumb to the farmer’s taunting; thus he replied:—“Fool; a nibble of your flesh, for a thousand days, and a thousand nights, has granted me your entire body and soul; you are the epitome of Pride, young one. However, through your folly you have granted me relief, passage from this cursed place, this place of nowhere, and thus I thank you. Sacrifice is the height of humility, tiny one.”
Death basked in the Light, as in Heaven bright and ardent, as he trod along the shores of smooth sand and stone. His flesh, now mended, now the shape of one who is most loved by the creator of all, stirred sensation of which he had never experienced; the caressing touch of the Wind, the warmth of Earth, and the suave of Water. He had traversed to the Garden of Eden; the place in the cosmos of which no daemon, or creature of disgust, could tread, except for the one who corrupted all of Mankind. This was the reversal of wonder incomprehensible to the Muse, and all who roam between Heaven, Earth, and Hell; a Paradise for the most unwanted of all, yet unknowingly; thus he spoke in awe:—“Never have I gazed upon such beauty, indescribable by Homer, Virgil—all the ancient poets—that I may to this day assert that I no longer tread in darkness nor in shame of the light; yet, I do not understand! I do not comprehend, how this has been granted to me by means of which I do not knowingly deserve! Is this the grand scheme of the morning star? Is this a punishment by the Father? What new devilry is this?” By the sound of thunder, and flash of light, the most bright and transcendent of them all appeared, Gabriel, the one who had set Death forth on his journey to begin with; he spoke:—“John; for that is your name; a name bestowed upon you as a mortal, by the grace of the Father, and by the love of the Son. Do not fear, for I am Gabriel, messenger of our Lord, the Father—creator of the Heavens and the Earth. Ukobach and Moloch did not deceive you, nor did they impose lies about your identity; you are Death, but no more; your journey was your transformation to humanity, your death, and the road to Paradise. Do not dwell in bewilderment, for darkness cannot touch you here. But heed my words; Heaven lies far above, and shall not embrace you until the day you die once again; Death is the road to awe, one of which you have conquered; do not spoil this tremendous gift granted to you by the Father.” John, now known to him as such, by that name, for he did not remember his former life of death, stood in awe at the gaze of Gabriel; his story, surreal to the height of comprehensible imagination, escaped John’s grasp, yet he chose to believe the winged creature before him. Not a minute passed before another man appeared before John—Gabriel now gone—they stood alone to converse; thus the stranger spoke:—“Greetings! Friend! I must ask of you, your aid; for I, being poor, have only my dreams, of life and prosperity, yet I have been robbed, of both! I will die an agonizing death; unless I can acquire of you, your flesh and blood to sustain me; please, help me!” John, embarrassed and awkward, at the stranger gazed; thus he replied:—“I have no obligation to help you! I have suffered more pain than you can imagine stranger; I deserve to bask in the light unharmed, and to live the life of a mortal, so that I may transcend to Heaven upon my death!” The stranger gazed at John with pity, forthwith he unsheathed a blade, and with it, penetrated John’s heart; thus the stranger replied:—“You truly are foolish, tiny one; how can you be bestowed humanity if you have no interest in being humane; without compassion for your fellow man. You are a creature; you are Death; and you deserve no more, no less.” And thus, John, the being, the farmer—Death—was cast from the Garden of Eden, down to the depths of Hell, past Purgatory, and all the realms of evil, forever to dwell as the creature he was destined to be.
Consider a world much like our own.
The same sun rises over the same crowded cities. The same fog muffles the same sleepy rumble of cars. The same shops open their doors with the dawn, doors which still ring with the quaint little bells that sound just a hair less cheerful than they did a century ago. Consider the same warm smell of a small café’s first batch of coffee for the day. Consider the homey wicker chairs, the metal grating tables that are never quite comfortable but never empty either. Consider the tiny sandwiches, pastries, and croissants that line the wax-papered shelves under the fluorescent glass, teasing the air with a hint of butter and none of them cheaper than four dollars each. Consider that all of the donuts are already gone. Consider the same benevolently receding haze of sleep that pervades these shuffling businessmen and waitresses and lawyers and doctors, and in a time before, perhaps receded from the blacksmiths and tailors and tinkers and sailors. Everyone is just getting their coffee. It’s business as usual.
That is, for everyone who has a job.
You see, this world resembles our own very, very closely. However, the resemblance isn’t perfect.
Take the man in black, paging through the classifieds in the corner there, for example. Consider the man in the black coat, black pants, and black shoes, black gloves, and black tie, which has little white trilobites on it. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much of an imagination; he has only his memories, and it’s easy to work with what you know. He’s a white haired old codger, small, slight, with bit of a gut, a bit of a beard, and an old fashioned mustache. A lit cigarette droops from his lips, burning blue and trailing not even the smallest hint of smoke. A glimpse of teeth when he taps his ashes reveals a whiteness that chills to the marrow. You know he isn’t blind- that’d be Justice- but he still wears the same circle sunglasses that are black enough to have reflected Man’s vanities since the beginning of time. The others are oblivious, because he's too obvious be be Death.
That is, until a relatively short while ago.
Unfortunately, the field just isn’t as personal as it used to be. Nobody could be blamed of course, what with world wars and machineguns and nuclear bombs and the internet. It stands to reason that one anthropomorphic personification simply can’t take care of it all, and we just need someone more modern, no offense meant. The afterlife just isn’t a place for a psychopomp without much imagination if you catch my drift, not to say that your work hasn’t set the standards for quality. It’s just that we want to try someone new, someone fresh, someone who can innovate and think globally and speak Spanish too- your service has been an example to us all, of course. I’m sorry sir, but you’re just going to have to learn to let go. Pass away, so to speak, ahahahahaha… No hard feelings.
And just like that, Death himself is sitting in the corner, crossing out the listing for Terry P.’s Plumbing Experts, Help Wanted, GOOD BENEFITS!!! Predictably, he does so in black ink. Old habits die hard. He knows that he can’t turn his nose up at too many of them, not in this economy. For Boss’ sake though, it’s not like he can fix things for a living. Industrial work is out of the question as well. Insofar as he had found his work enjoyable- which was to say, never- he had particularly never enjoyed the appointments he would have to make at the factories. Much too messy. The fact of the matter is that he’s running out of options.
A splash of color catches a curious glint from the shades.
BALLOON MAN WANTED AT LOCAL PARK. MINIMUM WAGE. HOURS OFFERED.
See, that was something nice and simple right there. When you really got down to it, it wasn’t that different from the last job. Same coins paid, same strings cut, same bright colors floating away into the endless sky. Same rush of people all around, just living, until they decide to take a break for a while. The memories drifted by behind his black hole glasses, along with a familiar touch of pride in a job well done. Yes, there had been times- all the times in this world and the next, in fact. Perhaps he had never been very good with customer service, but he was a professional. He had always done his job well, and quickly, and had always been kinder than usual to the little ones. After all, it was the families that deserved the real sympathy. But enough reminiscing, he decided. It was time, as they said, to move on.
For the first time in his existence, the Old Death made a beginning of something. He finished his donut first though.
Now consider the park. A short concrete sidewalk runs alongside the dirty asphalt of the busy city street, where the cars go too fast and sound too loud. A little ways down the sidewalk, past that first bend, is the playground. It runs much too close to the street, but there haven’t been any accidents here. People are very careful when it comes to the safety of children.
Next to the playground is the small stall, black letters overhead spelling out BALLOONS in a jaunty monochrome. Death is only selling red ones today, but that’s okay. The ice cream man had already parked his truck in the parking lot on the other side of the grass today, and even the smaller ones know that you can’t eat balloons. Everyone is quite satisfied with everything.
Kids play and push and yell at each other for another turn on the swings. They try to drag their older siblings into their games, and said siblings try to drag their charges into the dirt. Both find intermittent success. They fall, scrape themselves up, cry a bit and brag about their band-aids. Yes, things were just fine. That is, until the old one notices a little girl approaching his stand.
She is eight years, seven months, twelve days, sixteen hours, and almost fourty two minutes old. He, more puzzled and surprised by this little girl than most of what he’d seen over the years. She simply stares, hazel eyes clear and sharp and young enough to trust what they see. The fact of the matter is that she sees him exactly for what he used to be. He knows this, and she knows that he knows. She takes in what she sees- a black cloak, a shadowy cowl, an exposed skull, and an imposing scythe- and he can't force her to see otherwise. Her eyes narrow in suspicion.
“Are you really Death?” She accuses, arms crossed.
He stops, nervously adjusts his glasses. A car whistles by behind him, scattering papers out of the gutter. What feels like months of consideration are squeezed into the next few silent seconds.
"NOT QUITE.”The Old Death replies.
She places her hands on her hips, regards him with a lopsided stare. Appraisal slowly shifts into approval. She shrugs, smiles, and hands Old Death a quarter. He’s passed the test, and she walks away with her balloon. The old one exhales a little sigh of relief. That was much easier than expected; perhaps interacting with the living isn’t too-
Oops, she’s lost her balloon.
Almost immediately, in fact.
Uh-oh. It’s drifting towards the street.
Isn’t there anybody there to watch her? She’s gotten too close to the curb, and won’t stop chasing the little red balloon.
He watches the tan Hummer speed in from the middle distance, ignoring one stop sign, two.
The car whistles closer, until the brakes begin to screech, and the horn is blaring, and people begin screaming all at once.
The dull thunk is barely audible.
There isn’t any blood.
It all happened so quickly.
The Old Death watches.
He inhales. He exhales. His hands tremble at the balloon strings as he watches what happens next. A little light floats up from the discarded, doll like corpse, dancing through the press of hysterical forms. Hazel. It alights on a gust of wind a few feet away, and hovers. Death watches the black sedan fade in from the middle distance, ignoring turns and bends and physics the street it's using. He begins to bite his lower lip-
can’t expect the newer ones to use horses anymore, but that’s fine. A figure steps out. Same black suit, same black gloves. It wears a black aviators, dark enough to have reflected Man's vanities since roughly two weeks ago.
Its small plastic nametag reads ”20134”.
It is sexless. It is emotionless. It is sterile. It is appropriately lifeless, for a New Death. It's more or less the same as the old one.
The little light trembles, frightened at what’s to come, what could be. With the surreal precision of a doctor, the figure in black ignores its worry, grips the soul tightly and draws a shiny little silver scalpel from an inside pocket. The thread is cut quickly, cleanly, perhaps a bit too harshly. The child’s light is pocketed, and with a little nod at its predecessor, Death gets into the car and drives away. The balloon man watches it turn the corner into the afterlife, tears streaming down his face.
For the first time in his existence, the balloon man had taken off his glasses.
the gears are turning
the clocks are winding
marching ever onwards-
A piercing wail split the night, sending various birds of scavenge to the air. "Get out!" the voice screamed, torn from the throat of a lone man. "Get out of my head!" The man began to moan quietly, rocking back and forth on his knees. His hands were burned and scarred, his face weeping and bleeding. With each teetering movement of his body, the ground beneath became stained anew.
After a few minutes, his moaning dwindled away, and he lay his forehead to rest against the ground. He was fracturing. Something kept calling to him, singing, drawing him away from the solidity and familiarity of his existence. He feared that he knew what called him, but refused to acknowledge it in more than passing terms. Any attempts for that thought to encroach into the forefront of his mind were repressed and rejected.
He had to keep the voices out.
With a shaking breath, he raised his head from the ground, and climbed to his feet. Iron creaked in protest as he did, armour stiff and misshapen. Dents and gashes where as common as the metal itself, an equal battle between the wounded and the protected. Looking to the moon, he tried to empty his thoughts.
Around him, the dead gazed and said nothing. They had heeded the call, and had left him.
the constant crawl
and deadly tears-
The man beat at his temples with the palms of his charred hands. The voice had to be removed. Banished and purged, leaving his mind to it's own workings. He couldn't heed the call. Wouldn't. Instead, he would await the dawn. Await the salvation and carry on. He wasn't ready for the dead, wasn't ready for the journey. Leave the endless dead to their hidden machinations and rotting calculations. Their schemes and taunts would go unheeded.
From their wary flights, the scavengers began to return. The heralds and harbingers, messengers and monarchs of the end. They arrived in droves, before time could begin to exact its toll, and they stayed afterwards to tear apart what remained.
The man cursed them, and began stumbling along. To where, he did not know. The goal was not a destination, simply an action. An empty attempt to move on and escape, as though distance could hinder the flow of time, chain it's greedy hands, muffle it's eager cries.
A crow screamed. Another answered, and soon a cacophony of bloody cries and shuddering wings filled the air. Each feathered form abandoned it's meal, spread it's wings, and took flight. An all encompassing array of black wings and black feathers hiding the black clouds of the night. Below, the red ground was revealed, as were the armies of the fallen with it. An endless sea of the broken and departed, of shattered shields and broken swords. A landscape made up only of uncovered graves.
A body moved. A kneeling form, an angular woman with blood for hair, slowly rose to it's feet. The man stared. He had not expected another to resist the call. Another to survive the brutality. Especially not a woman such as this. Unarmed, clad in nothing save a simple cloak, no sign of protection. No means of defending herself from the atrocities that rendered this ground tainted and stained.
Her eyes caught his, and with a smile, she opened her mouth.
drag them down
as row by row
step by step
they sink to the ground
The man's eyes widened as he stumbled back. "Stop!" he wailed, a hand raised in a futile attempt to ward off the noise. A dead hand grasped his living ankle and dragged his down. Sharp rocks and sheared metal tore at his hands as he tried to crawl away. "Please," the man begged, red tears leaking from his eyes, "please leave me. I can't- I can't go." An arrowhead pierced through one of his crawling hands, causing him to cry out and collapse. From the corner of his eye, the man could see the lightening of the horizon, the beginning of salvation.
The woman drew inevitably closer.
the ground calls to all
a return to bliss
a journey to light
a red candle at night
the obsidian pillar
the settling of sleep-
The halo of bloody hair draped itself over the mans terrified eyes as the woman knelt over him. Her hand reached out and lightly stroked his jaw. It was not an act of attraction, of sexuality or base desires. It was one of curiosity, attempted calm, a failed bond. It was the call in physical form, yet not in the shape of swords and arrows. It was the long avoided hand of time, trying to tear the man from his existence of solidarity and familiarity. As his scattered mind fought to move his frozen limbs, the first rays of dawn caused the bloody hair to ignite and blind.
The woman smiled, and pulled.
the gears are turning
the clocks are winding
marching ever onwards
the constant crawl
and deadly tears
drag them down
as row by row
step by step
sink to the ground
the ground calls to all
a return to the bliss
a journey of the light
a red candle at night
the obsidian pillar
the settling of sleep
the settling of sleep
banishes the life
the hesitation of thought
embraces the clock
the grinding gears
turns hidden years
Few were born with the oëfir, a mark somewhere on a person's skin that allows the user to channel abstract, magical energy from their surroundings into concrete spells and enchantments. Those born with it were revered as potential mages that could pull an entire village from poverty to prosperity. As such, any child who bore the oëfir was raised under strict tutelage and allowed very little time to explore their own interests.
Caerys was one such individual. His oëfir had manifested on his left forearm, twisting across it with its pale azure sheen.
He'd proven talented with its use, and eager to acquire more knowledge and power through it.
However, still only seventeen winters old, he also yearned for adventure not typically endorsed by his training.
Caerys dodged deftly though the trees, fleet-footed and agile as he was. Small branches whipped by, sometimes scraping his skin, tugging at his wiry brown mane, but he payed them no heed, intent on reaching the glade before his competition.
Three yards left and slightly behind him ran a girl of sixteen summers, with fiery auburn hair tied back out of her eyes. She was slender but tough, and her golden eyes were set in determination.
The glade fast approaching, she unleashed a sudden burst of energy and passed him, breaking through the shrubbery onto the open grass.
A scream tore through the air, launching birds from the trees to the sky.
"Ekho!?" he cried, rushing into the glade.
Two large men stood in the clearing, looking startlededly at Ekho. One carried an axe, the other a bow, both clad in leather armour. Coins of gold, silver, and copper were littered at their feet, as well as a butchered pig. Caerys instantly recognized them as brigands from the mountain settlements, come to rob the less-defended farming villages of the south.
The second one raised his bow and fired an arrow at Ekho. The first charged Caerys with axe held high.
Caerys deflected the axe with a pulse of his oëfir and knocked the man out with another.
He turned to see Ekho crumple to the ground, gripping an arrow in the center of her chest.
As she fell, Caerys was frozen in shock. It was only when the brigand fired another arrow—this time at him—that he reacted, blasting both projectile and archer aside in one sweep of his arm.
He knelt beside her as her eyes flickered open and shut. He poured his oëfir into healing her, but he already knew she would die.
As her eyes slid closed and a last breath slipped from her rosy lips, he whimpered "I'm sorry."
They found him shortly thereafter, crying at her side. They never left him alone for long.
Ekho's death was tragic, but the town quickly got over it, moving on to the fall harvest. Caerys, however, could not let go. Where all the other children had always deferred to him in awe, Ekho had become his only friend since a very young age, as though she were drawn to his need of company. She had been his stalwart companion, and the only joy outside of magic in his life.
So when she died, he isolated himself.
Two days following her death, he found a book of legends.
Three days after, he had discovered the Eogu orb.
On the fourth day, he stole her body, preserved with his oëfir, and left to steal it.
The Eogu orb was a powerful atifact said to contain the knowledge needed to bring the dead back to life. However, the mages of the past, having studied it and found it to contain a great curse to be unleashed with its use, declared it an object too dangerous and too sinister for mankind. As such, they confided it to the care of a wandering hermit to be cast in the sea.
And yet, some scholars believe that this hermit instead kept the Eogu, hiding it in an abandoned lighthouse by the shore only he knew of.
Of course, the man got drunk and told a young mage all about it; and though this mage encrypted the location and gave his only manuscript to a quaint farming village with no magic-users, Caerys happened to have been born in this village and easily decoded the text.
A week had passed, and Caerys sat upon Burdo, his granite-coated horse, with Ekho tied down in front of him.
Salty spray floated in the sea breeze as they meandered across the sand. The sun burned crimson as it descended past the horizon.
It was not long before they came upon the lighthouse.
It was built with large blocks of stone, and stood perhaps sixty feet tall. Caerys climbed the stairs to the top.
The room was completely bare, save the large mirror and an orb to produce light. He knew this orb must be the Eogu.
Taking it into his hands, he searched it with his oëfir. Almost instantly, he could sense its purpose. It was a map, a guide. So long as he carried it, it would lead him to its resting place: the temple in which it was built to be used.
He'd be going north.
Caerys found a vessel willing to take him, Burdo, and Ekho to the arctic tundra of the north—no questions asked.
Once he'd been deposited on the icy shores, he began the trek across the snow, assailed by blizzard and cold.
They arrived after travelling a fortnight through the treacherous snows.
An immense barrier of stone stood before them. Its walls were rough and weathered by decades' worth of powerful winds and frost.
Descending from Burdo, Caerys approached the cliff face and passed his hand over its icy surface, gazing up towards the sky, trying to see the top. It was as if the ground had simply split down the middle, and one rose miles above its brother, to stretch for the sky and leave it in its shadow.
With a sigh, he pulled the Eogu from his cloak and, focusing his oëfir into it, shone it upon the rock face.
A resonating groan came from the rock, and blocks of stone began to retract into the cliffside, forming a vast staircase. It spun in a straight-edged spiral, each step thick enough for five men abreast, and seeming to extend both deep under the snow and up the cliffside.
Returning to his steed, he caressed Ekho's pale face. "We're almost there," he whispered softly.
Taking the reins, Caerys led Burdo to the stairs. Glancing at the Eogu, he muttered, "Looks like we're going down."
His oëfir glowed brightly as he extended his arm into the immense cavern before him.
Carved directly into the stone, it stretched a mile deep and half that tall. Enormous columns, so wide that ten men would not be able to wrap themselves around one, spanned the length of the hall in two rows. Despite its immensity, his oëfir was enough to show him the entire chamber, as if the cavern amplified his power.
Caerys gently lifted Ekho from Burdo's back, holding her in his arms and supporting her head against his shoulder, before starting towards the far wall.
Each step was measured, precise, as he strode across the hall, the girl in his arms. He moved slowly, the only sound the receding whinnies from Burdo, waiting by the entrance.
Caerys gazed at Ekho's peaceful face as he walked. She was perfectly preserved—he'd made sure of that long ago, with a complicated enchantment he'd learned from the town's mortician. Her skin was pale as ash, mantled by her silken auburn hair. She bore a delicate nose above thin rosy lips. He could feel her body against him; soft, light, and slightly warm from the effects of the enchantment.
Within a couple minutes, he'd reached the end of the hall.
A large stone altar stood before him. It was a thick slab of rock, attached to the floor beneath it, intricately etched with ancient sigils and images of mighty spirits. Jutting out from it was a small block with a spherical slot. He gently set Ekho down on the altar and pushed the Eogu into the slot.
Light exploded forth from the orb, and Caerys was knocked to the ground by a sudden concussive blast of air. The light, as pure and bright as the sun, coalesced into a form vaguely resembling that of a man.
Gathering his courage, Caerys called forth, displaying the oëfir on his left arm. "Spirit! Obey my will!"
"I am not a mere servant, mortal. I am a guide. You have come here with the dead. I assume you wish to undo it?"
"Yes! Bring her back! Show me how to revive her!"
The spirit paused for moment, as if assessing the young man. "I cannot bring her back."
"But they said—"
"Silence. I did not say she cannot be resurrected. But it is not I who can do this. It is your burden." He paused again. "You must bring me souls. Absorb the souls of ten thousand men into this orb, and with it you can bring her back. The Eogu will grant you great power, but it is you who must take the spoils."
With that, the light was drawn back into the Eogu, and the chamber was again dark.
Pushing himself to his feet, Caerys approached the altar and tugged the Eogu from it.
The first kill had been hard.
He'd found a criminal, a murderer, a rapist, a man already destined for the gallows. He'd snuck into the prison, stole the keys, and located the cell.
The man had looked up when his name was muttered. He'd had thick hair, tangled and dirty and filled with grass. Upon seeing Caerys standing there, holding the keys, he approached the bars, assuming his sentence had come early. With a knowing grin, he looked Caerys in the eyes. His eyes were a deep green, and as he drew closer, Caerys could see the stubble on the man's chin.
"Time for me to go, eh? About time, I—" he began, before Caerys grabbed his neck with his left arm and held the Eogu up with his right.
His oëfir shone intensely as he sucked the man's soul through himself and into the Eogu. The convict flailed and screamed and cried, and after a couple minutes, hung limp. The Eogu glowed a bright blue before fading back to its translucent grey.
That night, Caerys had wept deeply, sleeping in the stable with Burdo.
The next day, he returned to the prison, and killed all the convicts who remained.
His blade stabbed deep into the breastplate of the mercenary. With an audible click, a surge of blue energy lashed out from the sword and pulled the man's soul into its metal. Caerys tugged his blade from the limp form and swung it into another man, faster than the eye could see.
Another flash of blue, and the man was dead.
A couple years had passed since Ekho's death, and Caerys had mastered the art of killing. He'd quickly discovered that a man closer to death could have his soul ripped from him far easier. He'd forged a blade of iron, enhanced by the power of his oëfir and bearing the Eogu in its pommel. He'd learned the way of the swordsman, slaying hundreds to sate the thirst of this cursed blade.
And he'd come to thirst for death himself.
His blade transfixed the heart of a grizzled veteran, and blue flashed forth.
At first, he hunted criminals, brigands, bandits. But there were not enough. So he became a mercenary, an assassin. Yet still there were not enough targets. So he set out, alone, to slay armies.
For every man he killed, he became more powerful, his senses more acute. Hundreds had fallen to his blade, but he searched for thousands more. To the peoples he'd terrorized, to the cities he'd razed, to the empires he'd brought to kneel, his onslaught had no end. He was feared from across the land, earth, and sea.
His blade tore through one man and bit into the flesh of another.
Soon, his reaping would be complete.
As the last man died upon the battlefield, Caerys smiled. With a thousand bloodied corpses at his feet, he was ready.
Caerys was a shade of his previous self. His skin had gone from youthfully fresh to an icy grey. His eyes, once a deep brown, had changed to a pale, glowing azure, similar to the oëfir on his arm, which now glowed without cease instead of solely when he used magic. His hair had become even darker, now a slick inky black. He wore a thick cloak that hid most of his figure and cast his face in shadow.
He stood—with Burdo at his side—above Ekho, as young and pure as when he'd first left this cavern. After so long, he barely recognized her.
Raising his sword above and alighting the tip upon her breast, he channelled the souls of ten thousand dead into her corpse. Streams of blue energy tore themselves from the blade and consumed her frail form. Caerys cringed from the light, bringing his arm up to cover his eyes, when it abruptly became dark again. He looked back down at her.
Time stretched by, and all was still. Then, with tears in his eyes, Caerys gently stroked her hair.
Ekho's smoldering, golden eyes flickered open.
The room was cold and dark, the feeble light of torches mounted on a vague shape that reminded one of a wall the only aid to the eyes of the man that was walking into it. The man was alone, and yet he wasn’t; for he did not walk of his own volition, and his feet did not respond to the commands his brain sent them. His body was beyond his control, and yet his mind was still his, so that he could only observe himself as he was being forced to head towards a fate that was completely unknown to him. A prisoner outside of shackles, but a prisoner nonetheless, he followed the orders of the unseen and unheard jailor that was leading him deeper and deeper into the dark depths of the room. Amidst the faint torchlight his eyes could see a tall, bulky dark shape, yet he could not tell what it was straight away. Only when he was but mere centimeters away from it could he see the small, stone steps that led up to a stone platform, reminiscent of a pagan worshipping or sacrificial shrine. Only when he was allowed did he look up towards the shrine and saw a cold, grey throne with an equally stone-cold man sitting atop. The only thing that could be seen of the man was his face, yet it alone was enough to terrify him and make him want to avert his eyes, but as it had been thus far, he was his own master no more. Their eyes met, and the prisoner could feel them looking past him and into him; looking below and beyond the flesh and staring deep into his soul. And, most horrifically, he could see through his jailor’s eyes into his essence, for it was no soul that this man had. His eyes were portals to his innermost being, a being ancient, terrifying, cold and ruthless; a being with one purpose in this life, a purpose known to all and to which all played a part in, for his eyes were the beginning and , more importantly, the end of all that exists, past, present and future. The man sat up, or at least it appeared so in the eyes of the prisoner, and with a cold, hollow voice he heard Death speak to him.
“Welcome. While I know you have many questions to ask me, I would prefer if you didn’t ask them. Contrary to what you might believe I am not one to waste time, or to save it; there is a precise moment for everything and so I simply act when it is time. Since I already know what you want to ask I will simply speak, and all your answers will be given to by the time I will have finished. And while your first question might be the most important one, by the nature of this meeting it has to be answered last.
As you have undoubtedly seen and sensed already, I am ancient. I have existed since time began and even before that, for it was I who reaped the chaos and nothingness, and from its amorphous and infinite corpse time sprung forward. I was there when the First life began and it was me who ended it; and I have seen the cycle repeat itself in all of its forms and variations, large and small, from the death of an atom to the death of a universe itself. I have seen reality wiped clean and reshaped more times than I can count and every time I was there to reap the dying world and to birth the next one by that action. I have taken ants and Gods and to me they are one and the same, and so I invite you to contemplate, if you can, what I am and what you are before me.
I have always been fascinated by your kind, as with others over the eons. I remember the First One and the moment they realized who and what I am and the fate that awaited them, and their respect and acceptance to this day amazes me. I have had entire races bow down before me and declare me their master of their own free will, and I have seen beings that their power you cannot even begin to imagine crumble beneath my wake. Creation itself has surrendered to me countless times before and countless again, as such is the Order and the Nature of things. And I have always respected those who understood their role in the Grand Play and who had accepted the turns of the wheel.
I remember proud warriors paying tributes in blood and gore, beasts untamable, mad and blind bow their heads and drift away in silence. I have greeted many of those who sought me out purposefully and many more who awaited my arrival as that of a friend and embraced me as their kindred. I have taken entire races under my tutelage, and they remain with me to this day, satisfied with their part in the Great Circle. They consider it to be the only meaning that exists in this world, and so it is, as one can only hope that one day they can understand their place in the Puzzle, and there have been countless who have searched for theirs in vain. They did not understand nor could they accept that they are but a speck of dust in the Desert of Reality, and they never shall, in all eternity. There have been those who have ended Universes because they understood that their purpose were to end, as it is for all things.
Yet there have always been those who wished to change that. I have seen billions upon billions trying to alter their fates, to cheat, cry, beg and fight against their future and their ultimate destination. Gods and men have tried and failed to banish, enslave or elude me and they have all failed as the clocks of destiny ticked away at their feeble and limited time of existence. Each and every time, in the end, I have taken their hand and led them onwards, to that dark, chaotic abyss from which even I cannot escape. For even Death cannot escape Death, and one day, when time itself dies once more, I shall return to my birthplace and the Cycle will begin anew.
And then, at the start of a new Circle, you came, the ones who call themselves human. As I watched you grow from lowly infants to thinking beings, I felt like I had found a worthy race to watch and, perhaps one day, interact with, for at the beginning, your Elders understood mine and their role in the Grand Scheme. Whole civilizations prayed to me as a God, and more than once did they seek me out, not in fear, but with hope that I would bring them peace. Warriors came to my arms as friends, for they knew that to die for something other than themselves was glorious and honorable. They did not cower in my presence, but held their heads high knowing they were greeting me as their equal, not their conqueror.
But then you began to change. Man had started to believe himself the most important thing of all, not realizing he was just a grain of sand in a desert, small and insignificant. And in his arrogance, he thought that he could defy even me, that I was but an obstacle in the way of his greatness. Many of your race tried to cheat me, outrun me or even bind me in vain, using what little knowledge he had glimpsed in the course of centuries of the nature of the world. What he called powerful and fearsome magic I saw and laughed, for he had but the strength of a germ compared to the power I wield. And when he had forgotten those ways, he sought to make himself immortal using science, not knowing that a tool is merely as good as its wielder, and that as long as he failed to see the truth, he would be powerless against me.
And so the days went by, and I watched in disappointment as you fell more and more in love with yourselves, and watch that love destroy you. I watched as the sinful, the cowardly and the power-hungry sent the innocent and pure to my doorstep in droves, and I could not help but pity your foolishness as one pities an ignorant child that thinks he is king of the world. I watched as you renounced your old ways and their Gods for new ones, and I was sad to reap them, for they had been born from wisdom and respect, and with such it was that I took them from this world.
All this I saw, yet it was not the first nor the last time that I would see it. But then something happened that has never happened before, and never will again: You decided not only to defy me, not only to defeat me but to kill me. Me! You have no idea what is the size of your idiocy and hubris by even having such thoughts, and yet you did not stop at that, no. You actually set out to carry out the deed, to end the one who ends all. Your first attempt was perhaps the one closer to your goal, and yet it was merely an anthill before the flood; you gave yourself, through long lost arts and knowledge, combined with science, what you thought to be everlasting life.
Of course, it was not true immortality that which you bestowed upon yourself. I, at the time, saw what you had done, yet I allowed you to be, since there had been many before you who had done the same. Yet while I thought that you would pursue knowledge and wisdom like the others, I saw you spend your days in pursuit of me, and of a way to end me. Again, I dismissed your efforts as futile and childish, and again I turned my attention to the workings of the Great Will. And only when you started to interfere with what was and what was meant to be did I realize the greatness of my error.
At first you tried to move through time itself, to correct what you perceived as wrong, and I had to do nothing but sit and watch you fail as the Plan corrected itself every time you upset it. You began to see that your actions were without meaning, yet you continued down your foolish path nonetheless. I might have even felt the faintest of sorrow for you at the time, but you made sure that that would change soon enough. For next you learned how to leap from once Cycle to the next, and then you started wreaking havoc in an unprecedented scale. It was you who started a war against me, a war you could not win yet one you fought nonetheless. And my patience started to wear thin.
So I subtly started to manipulate the threads of Fate, putting obstacle after obstacle in your path. Twice you eluded my traps in the Mountains of Peril, after you crossed through the Gates of Transilor, and even made it out of the Mine of Solitude, even though it seemed as though all hope was lost. You evaded the Shadow Hunters in the jungles of Kumongo, and even managed to trick the Hordes of Emiran into signing that damned treaty with the Empires of the Black Pits. Still, I did not wish to take you before your time, and so I did not put more drastic measures to use.
And then… Then you took one of my own. I am still surprised as to how you came to know of the existence of my Avatars, my hand-picked aides in my eternal work, yet that was exactly what you did. And instead of seeking their counsel or their wisdom, what did you do? You bound the first one you found, and tortured her beyond madness! Yes, I am well aware of what you did to Eternia, my youngest. She was merely a child, still learning of the ways of the world, and yet you did things to her so detestable that even I cannot speak of aloud. And when you discovered in her broken mind what you needed, instead of granting her the release she deserved, you left her forever in the Timeless Caverns to writhe in pain and madness for all eternity. In that moment I knew that I had to act.”
And now Death stood up, and in his previously cold and soulless eyes raged a fire born from a wrath fiercer than the burning heart of a sun. He started at the man for a long time, then slowly walked down the stone steps and kneeled, whispering into the man’s ear. “Your first question was undoubtedly "Why am I alive before you?" I'll now tell you why. You went further than anyone ever has and fallen lower than anyone will ever fall. You waged war against forces you could not even begin to comprehend, and you have lost; all because you thought I wronged you when I took your beloved when the time had come. You once were just and noble, but now you are nothing more than a stranger wearing the face that once belonged to you.
I gave you more chances to give up and accept your role in the Plan than anyone before you and anyone that will come after you, and yet you chose to throw them away, all in pursuit of your childish vendetta. You have caused more harm than you can possibly imagine, and for that, you deserve neither pity nor reprise. And yet I can still see in your eyes the same drive that you had when you silently vowed to yourself that one day, our roles would be reversed, and you would stare down at me as victor and vanquisher. And I know that unless you succeed, you will not stop, even if it means the destruction of reality itself.
So instead of killing you or breaking you before I release you upon the unsuspecting world once more, I will grant you the thing you wish for the most. I will allow you your victory. You have done so much in order to defeat me, and I shall grant you my defeat; for there is nothing that can defeat me except that which I cannot destroy, and so I shall grant you true and complete immortality. You will never die, and you shall continue to be long after even I have perished. You will watch as Universes die and give birth to new ones. But you will not be able to move. You will not be able to speak. You will sit upon my throne, for ever, and you shall observe everything. And when, for the world, a moment has passed, you will have lived for a million years, all spent frozen in a single moment in time. Perhaps then you might realize the graveness of your error.”
And so the man was led to sit upon Death’s throne, and at the moment he was placed upon it, time stopped all around him. He could see everything, and all of it was as still as a picture in a frame. The only thing that moved was Death, laughing at his helplessness as he faded into darkness, and the only scream he heard was the one in his own mind, a scream that no one else but Death could hear.
This pathetic soul thinks that
Death is his true path
Life is cruel
Life pains me
This entire world thinks that
Life is bliss."
"Who said that!?"
A few feet from our melancholy friend
A foreign figure came into frame
This person appeared almost perfect
His face lacked any flaw he might mend
Even the way he sounded astounded
Our much dumbfounded melancholy friend
"I am a man of many names,
Permanently roaming this damned planet
Among mindless men and animals alike"
Like I believe any of this
Likely you're insane for this
Permanently roaming this damned planet
Becomes mindlessly dull over time
So now I'll toss a coin for our lives."
As the sad man stands with awe and jaw agape,
The arcane stranger obtains an ancient piece of change
Heads and tails polished to obscurity
"This is a fate that you cannot escape.
If you came here to die then why
Would you mind?"
Flipping the coin three times
The stranger casually records results
Hardly an iota of interest
Slowly going out of his mind,
Our friend felt his climbing pulse.
What are you doing out here?"
Why do you sound so full of fear?"
"Cut the shit!!"
"From curious to furious in an instant...
I'll allow you to listen to the real truth
Only because your luck prevailed
Ignoring your roaring affront,
The first coin toss spared you
And the second allowed my truth
to be unveiled
We're here for the same reason:
A place where no one will find the body.
It is pure coincidence
That we both ran into somebody."
Hurry and get your point across
"We'll finish eventually."
"Can you read my thoughts?"
Stop me when you please
I've been known to ramble on
I am the star of many stories
And I'm sure you've heard of some
My methods are so cruel
Only out of necessity
I must maintain many rules
For peace and tranquility
I cannot tell you why
As I too am unaware
But I am unable to die
Without peer to compare
Wars have been waged
And nations have burned
All in my name
Which I have rightly earned
The prize of an immortal man
Has claimed countless lives
So eventually they began
To call me Death
How utterly absurd
I believe his every word
"So I'm assuming you kill
The people you find
To prevent the fall
Of all of mankind?"
"You're reaching a bit
But yes, that is right
However I hate it
So I offer a fair fight.
I should kill you
As you know too much
But I gave you a chance
And you came through in the clutch."
Receiving a pardon from a man named Death
Still resolved nothing in his mind
Our friends's lungs had been out of breath
For a very long time
"Kill me anyway
It's the reason I'm here
And the reason will stay."
"Unfortunately my friend
I can do no such thing
My ritual has yet to end
The third thing the coin told me
Is that I have to try
To help you in some way
In this case
The direction of my care
Is your current crisis."
"You can do nothing for me"
The man turned to leave
"Where do you think you go
When you disappear?"
"There's no way I could know
But it'll be better than here"
"No it won't.
I've lived forever
Watched the world grow
I know that I have never
Seen a person who glows
I've traveled to the towns
Which tired texts tell tales of
I've been met with resounding
Results and lack-thereof
If my time wandering
Has taught me one thing
It's that there is nothing.
The only mythic thing I have ever seen
Is my immortality
And I believe it's the only mythical thing
That there has ever been
I am a true anomaly
Sadly, I've inspired much fantasy..."
"Then who created all of this?"
Do you think he gives a shit?
An entire universe
We are pigs walking on dirt."
"How is this supposed to make me feel better?"
"Life is the greatest thing that exists.
Not because it's divine
But because it isn't."
Death stopped himself
Mere words would not mend this man's mind
There was only one way to help
Regardless if both were disinclined
"You let me ramble...
But enough of that
You've won your gamble
There is no going back
You have forfeited your life
Before this point
So now I claim it as mine
And you best not disappoint
I'm going to show you
The wonders of the world
Whatever petty problems you once possessed
Will soon be cured.
I have ways to make you follow
If you are thinking of running
But hopefully you will allow me to show
You that life is always worth living."
They sat on the edge of the world watching the sun set and the moon rise. Neither seemed to be saying a word as they sat. His hand touched hers. She smiled softly as she took his hand in her own. This was one of those rare times where what they were didn't matter. The pair sat in silence for a little while longer until a shrill scream pierced and shattered the silence they had been enjoying. A heavy sigh escaped the female as she moved to stand. He grabbed her wrist and looked up at her with pleading eyes. "Please. Don't go." The sadness in his eyes broke her heart. She reached with her free hand to touch his face. He leaned into her touch. "I have to go my darling and you do as well." Neither wanted to leave. Finally, it was her who pulled away from him. He could hear her sobs as she ran from him.
How long had it been since that sunset at the edge of the world? It seemed like yesterday to her but it had been many decades to those around her. She walked through the humans, watching a mother chase a child while the father watched on. A smile tugged at the corner of her lips as she saw the mother scold the father for not paying more attention. The smile faded as she realized she would never have a family like that. Before she could fall into that familiar pit of self-loathing, the sound of a rapid heartbeat caught her attention. Her head tilted to the right as she listened hard for the fluttering. Ah! There it was. She looked up and over, her eyes landing on a young man standing on the curb. His wife had just left him for another man. He had nothing else to live for. She sighed, shook her head, and walked over to the man. As she lay her hand upon his back, she leaned forward to whisper in his ear. "I'm so sorry." As the man turned to try and see who was talking to him, she pushed. Her eyes closed as the screaming started.
He winced as he watched her push that human into the path of a vehicle. The screams made his heart ache. He should have gotten to the man first. He could have saved him. Instead, he spotted her and froze. She took that man's life and walked away as if it was nothing. At least it would seem that way to others. He watched the way she followed the family for weeks. Even from so far away, he could hear her soft sobs as she walked through the humans gathering around the scene. Why did she have to do it? He had so many others working for him. Why did she get those? This had to be his fault. Why else would she be punished that way? Someone knew. Someone had to know.
Weeks passed by. Soon they faded into months while those months quickly became years. Every time it was the same thing. They give up, she apologizes and makes them do what they couldn't do without her. None see her as she helps these people. None care to think of what these do to her. She weeps and mourns for these people more than their own families do. This is her punishment. She should have known better than to trust others. One other had known and that person had betrayed her for the promise of power. Now she was forced to hurt those she once walked among. There had been so much more before this. Her life had been enjoyable and sweet. She had love. She had everything. Now she had nothing but darkness and hate for herself. Her beautiful features turn ugly as she scowls. Her fingers clench into fists and her body shakes. She throws her head back and lets out an ungodly scream that morphs into a heavy sob as she falls to her knees.
The scream echoes around the world. Those in the between ache for her. They all know what has happened to her and what has happened to him. Neither is happy. Both suffer because of their love. For she is Death and he is Life. She takes while he gives. He is beautiful and loved by all. She is hideous and hated. Few welcome Death to their door but all welcome Life. She fell for him and he caught her. Now they are forced to compete over those who would take their lives. She wins most of the time. He hates seeing her pain but when she is near, he is unable to move. She never seems to know he is there. Sometimes he wonders if she has forgotten. Then he hears her whisper his name. Its such a sweet sound on her lips. It makes his heart swell but it also pains him so. Today he watches as she tightens the noose around his neck. She kicks the chair out from under him and turns her back. Today he does not stay away.
She is crying when she feels him. The hairs on her arms stick straight up. The air is electrified. "You should not be here." Her voice cracks. He sighs. Instead of replying, he simply takes her into his arms. He holds her close and lets her cry. She sobbed heavily into his chest. He still says nothing as his hand strokes her dark hair. There are no need for words as Life comforts Death. No need to ruin what is so perfect. His light against her dark, her arms around his waist. She slowly calms down. He pulls back to look down at her. She wears a smile and god, is it beautiful. "You should not suffer alone." He tells her as he leans down. Their lips meet in a kiss. Neither hurt nor ache. All they feel is love and for just a moment, everything is peaceful. She break the kiss and blushes. They move to kiss again but the sound of a scream once more interrupts their time together. This time, she says not a word as she backs away. She simply winks and vanishes. A smile plays on his face as he gives chase.
Ethereal clouds, giant white pillars, a chorus of angels singing. All of that was absent, except the last one but it was being played on loop through the building, occasionally being interrupted by dreary announcements on keeping up the good work. Leighton’s hatred of reality was evident as he stamped the form to allow a fish to be reincarnated into a shark and his table shook slightly. He often wondered if this was Hell or something worse.
Having died in a car accident at the age of 18 because his friend decided to go through that ‘You Only Live Once’ idiocy and jump a stop sign, he was now a pencil pusher along with the millions of other Death Helpers. Wasn’t even a badass name, just a Death Helper. That was his eternal reward: Immortality, working in a grey building with around 200 other poor souls in a fluorescent lit office and chairs that were on the cusp of being comfortable. He stared at the application for a cow to be changed to a fly, picked up his pencil and wrote that it was going to be a human. Though he didn’t care much for the job the rules had to be followed.
With 1.78 deaths per second on Earth alone and even that, only humans, it was a logistical nightmare. Taking into consideration the deaths of all the little flies and bugs and sea creatures and aliens; Leighton was now part of a team ensuring that transitions went smoothly and then keeping them on file. He had a black hoodie on as a uniform, complete with a name tag and a pocket for his pen. He didn’t require food or sleep or rest, so that he could do this forever and ever and ever. Oddly he was compelled to want to do it, as much as it vexed him. It brought him a muted sense of happiness that seemed to grow with each passing stamp..
Still, every once in a while he had the urge to look at his reincarnation history. He picked up the folder and leaned back on his chair, tilting so it was on the back two legs. It was pretty sad reading. As a bug he was always smaller than the other males, as a peacock his feathers weren’t bright, as a panther he was born blind and as a human he died as a teen. All of that meant that he had never had a sexual relations. Well, there was that time when he replicated himself when he was a bacteria and he wondered if that was considered masturbation or not.
“Hey? Can you help me?”
Of course, he’d lived a pretty happy life aside from that. No real complaints. His parents were real good people and…
“Hello? Excuse me?”
Leighton jumped back, still leaning back on his chair, causing gravity to make fun of him again. He rubbed his head as he got up and saw a pretty face perched on two hands as she rested her elbows on the desk.
“Uh…hi!” he was terrible around pretty girls, not helped by the fact that she had burst out laughing at Leighton’s misfortune. She waved apologetically as her laughter rang through this office, with the occasional snort mixed in, though Leighton couldn’t help but smile. It was just an infectious type of laugh and in retrospect, the situation was kind of funny.
“Ahahaha! Ok I like you.” She said calming herself, “My name is on the tag – do you have any stickers?” Leighton finally managed to properly look at her and was a little dumbfounded at just about everything about her; her white hair, her green eyes, dark blue eye shadow, ruby red lips, her black hoodie and short pink frilly skirt – she was like a walking rainbow and like a rainbow you couldn’t help but stare at it. Her tag read Kagami Rei.
“N-no, you could ask the supervisor she might have….” Leighton looked in the direction the lady in charge normally was.
And she was gone, running around looking for Jeanna but only finding her desk. He heard a rattle and then the sound of something breaking. Kagami came back after 5 minutes and held some colourful stickers and some marker pens.
“Got em!” She said sticking pictures of stars and skull and cross bones on her reincarnation folder. She crossed out her name and wrote it again in fancy handwriting as they spoke.
“From who? Did you go into the meeting room?” Leighton asked, remembering that there was a supervisor meeting today.
“No, I just bust open the desk and took them. I left a thank you note and an IOU for a new lock.” She said and put a sticker on his name tag, looking quite happy with herself. “Wonder why a supervisor has these anyway.”
“She has a performance chart on the wall. If we do good we get a star and if we do bad then we get the skull and cross bones. Get too many and you get sent through those……” Leighton said looking around nervously. The Super was going to be more than a little upset at the state of her desk, but he was more jittery at the prospect of having to go through those doors.
“What? That’s so cool! I want to have all skulls! Then I can be like a pirate!” Kagami yelled, ignoring or not hearing the final part of Leighton’s comment. She put her leg on the desk, apparently claiming it as she pointed randomly to the ceiling. Leighton tried so hard not to look up her skirt but the thigh highs were like a beacon forcing his eyes up there.
“No peeping!” Kagami smacked him over the head with her folder but did so with a grin. “Anyways, you are my Captain and have to navigate me through the treacherous waters of this shark infested office.”
“Uh…so I have to do..?” his face red and flustered at having been caught
“Train me! Let me know what you do here so that I can do it better and more piratey.” She said before adding, “Arrrr!”
“Oh, so you’re a new person. I suppose it should have been obvious, I was just distracted by…well you.” He said mumbling the last two words, though she didn’t appear to be listening as she stepped off the desk and sat beside him with a notepad and pen.
“So what do we do here?” She leaned over peering at the papers. She smelled really good, a warm and spicy cinnamon aroma. He loved cinnamon as it always made him remember the French toast with maple syrup and that spot of spice that his mom used to put on it. “Hello?”
“Ah sorry, your perfume just reminded me of ….you smell nice.” Leighton didn’t really want to admit something so corny to her. You don’t impress girls like her with chat like that.
“Thanks! Always reminds me of home and the cinnamon rolls my dad used to bring home on Sunday.” Kagami said resting her head prettily on her hand. She just didn’t give a second thought to what she said. It made him feel a little sheepish for not saying it right away but ironically still didn’t want to say it because it wouldn’t sound right and…
“You think a lot don’t you?” Kagami said her nose almost touching his and her large eyes looking innocently at his. God, he’d never been this close to a girl before.
“I…well…the thing is….” He backed away, feeling as uncomfortable as he’d ever felt. What was she thinking getting that close? They’d only just met and there was all sorts of invasion of personal space. There had to be certain ways of doing things before you got that close or even before entertaining the idea of…
“You shouldn’t think so much. It’s not good for you.” She said and reached over to one of the papers, “see, if you hadn’t thought about it so much, you could have kissed me just then.”
She sat back comfortably in her chair and looked at the paper, leaving Leighton a flustered pile of goo. What was up with this girl? Did she want him to kiss her? Totally not likely. She was way out of his league, she was cheerleader material and he was a member of the roleplaying club. It was never a match. He should just give up even trying.
She wrote something with her pen and a stamped down with authority, before throwing it down. “So this little guy is a human now!”
“Huh?” A piece of paper fluttered in front of him with a stamp on it authorising a scorpion to skip several levels and go straight to human form, “Nonono oh shit, you can’t do that!”
“Because they have to go through the life stages one by one, if they miss one then they won’t learn whatever life lesson they would have learnt from being in that stage!” Leighton said grabbing the paper in a panic. There was nothing he could do. It had the stamp and that thing could not be erased.
“But it’s more fun that way!” Kagami almost whined and went for the stamp again, only for Leighton to grab it. “Gimmie!”
“Hell no! Look, now this guy is going to be a predator. Probably a rapist or a psychopath.”
“Or he could be the leader of a corporation or a football manager, ooh maybe a pirate! Let me do another one!” Kagami said clamouring over Leighton.
“No!” he wriggled free and stood up. Kagami suddenly hunched over and put her fingernails out like some sort of jungle cat.
“Grrrr!” she growled. Leighton backed away.
“Don’t you do it.” He said pointing at her. She feinted a move forward and Leighton jumped back. She grinned. He sighed. “Shit.”
The pair went running through the office dodging the other workers who paid them no heed. In truth he had never really paid attention to them before, they just seemed really into their jobs, with a kind of eerie smile on their face. Kagami stepped over two desks and pounced on Leighton, who dodged expertly, sending her crashing into a photocopier. She sprang up, hissed and resumed the chase.
They did a few laps of the office before taking a left turn and having Leighton stop suddenly, dead in his tracks. Kagami went flying into his back and landed ungracefully on her backside.
“Hey! What did you do that for!” Kagami said holding her nose.
In front of the pair of them was a huge set of red double doors, with lit torches on either side and the helpful sign of ‘HELL’ on the top of the doors.
“Looks fun! Let’s go!” Kagami said getting up and charging forward before being yanked back by Leighton.
“Ok, I know you’re eccentric and fun loving, I get that but this is quite literally the gates of hell and you want to idly stroll in there without thinking?”
“No I want to leap in there and spin! I told you, you think too much! Just follow your gut.” She chirped.
“Yeah my gut is telling me to stay here.” He pointed back towards the office and his initial conviction for that statement faded quickly as he heard an almost uniform sound of paper shuffling and stamping. The hum of the air conditioning was almost hypnotic and the lights seemed to drain the energy out of him.
“Mmm-hmm.” Kagami said, “I’m going.”
“But it’s Hell! Whips and chains and…”
“I didn’t know you were into that! That sounds fun too!” Kagami said bending over and looking back at him, “Go on, spank me!”
“I’m not…well, I…dunno, I might be….it’s…” she laughed and stood up as his face went almost a shade of purple
“Oh, it’s so much FUN to get you flustered! You have to come with me!” Kagami insisted as she pulled him towards the doors.
“No, I mean seriously. Eternal torture. Boiling pots of acid and spiky things and being eaten alive. Forever!” Leighton tried to stand his ground but as Kagami pulled him with both hands, his feet took involuntary steps forward.
“Or it could be a massive party for people who were too cool for Heaven! Maybe it’s just a matter of taste, like people who like reading and watching TV go to heaven and folk who like excitement go down to Hell!”
The statement triggered a deep chain of thought in Leighton’s mind about what good and evil were and if they actually existed. In his absent mindedness he let go of Kagami who spun around and ran towards the doors, pushing them open and leaping like an excited dog chasing a Frisbee. She turned in mid air.
“I’ll wait for you!” she yelled, her face filled with joy as she fell into utter darkness. Leighton threw a hand out to try and catch her but she was gone. Her infectious laugh growing quieter and quieter until there was nothing.
He sat at the doors that slowly closed in front of him and was in utter shock. It was ridiculous. It was Hell. One does not simply just leap into Hell. And yet she did. Leighton walked back slowly to his desk, his feet following the rhythmic sounds of the stamping and shuffling of paper. He sat down and picked up his stamp.
It seemed meaningless. She had only been with him a few hours but he really, really missed her. Maybe it was the fact that there was no-one else to talk to, or maybe it was the fact that she was the first girl not to think he was an utter loser. Maybe it was simply the psychological phenomenon known as the proximity effect where you are more likely to make friends with people who you are physically close to, and she certainly had no issues with getting close. Or maybe…
“You think too much”
Her words reverberated inside his head. He really did. He looked back over to the doors. All he knew was that he had been sat in his chair for 5 minutes and it had felt like it was hours. He looked at the paper in front of him. A fly should become a spider, but he picked up his pen and write that it was to become a human. Who knows what she might become!
He got up out of his chair and walked over to the doors. This was the most ludicrous thing he had ever done. What was he thinking?!
“You think too much.”
He emptied his head, opened the doors and jumped.
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