He grabbed her hand, and his fate was sealed. A deal that hadn’t been examined before the lines had been dotted, with a soft touch from death. She was beauty incarnate, yet with a darkness that followed her. One in which she enjoyed and relished in. His journey would start with her, and end in the valley of the unknown.
Before, he lived a life of solitude and anguish. Trapped under the weight of everlasting sadness, or so he thought. His days were filled with mornings he did not want to wake too, and nights spent tormented by the day that preceded it. There was a darkness inside him, one that followed him with every breath he took. Yet, as she told him, there was a light that still shone throughout his soul. A piece of himself he could never quite understand. But in the moment he touched Death’s hand, he caught a glimpse of what could become of his soul.
The bench cleared away from the two of them, leaving them in the vastness of the white surroundings. An infinite room that had no end in sight. There was no breeze to give any hint of where a direction might be, if there was a direction in the first place. When he arrived he swore this place was heaven, but soon found it to be more of a waiting room of sorts. One between life and death, heaven and hell. The two of them stood silent for the briefest of time, holding hands like a young couple does on a second date. He could feel the cool touch of her hand pulsating with his. A vibrant beat coursing threw her veins, into his. Her cool touch was met with his sweaty palms. The calm beat of her palm was dampened by his now shaking touch. A small bead of sweat could be felt creeping down his forehead, as he began to feel unsure of his hasty decision. Did he really make a deal with death? What deal was it anyway? Had she put the image of his mother in his head? His mind began racing around every concern he had, blurring his vision. His knees began to buckle under the immense consequences of his mind, and he began to fade. Drifting into a sleep he wanted so bad to welcome. Then the white room faded, and his dreams took him.
A soft kiss awoke him. A breeze that felt cool to his warm cheeks. It nipped at his body, nudging him till he his eyes adjusted to the place that he was now in. A quaint house stood in front of him. The blue paint of the home was beginning to fade, chipping off at the corners of the old place. Light brown patches dotted the grass, giving the illusion of a childs drawing that hadn’t yet been completed. A few bushes lined the edge of the small home. An old rose-bush he thought to himself, but the beauty of the flower had escaped the old garden. Leaving nothing but brittle sticks and a soon to be tumbleweed. Above the dying garden sat a deck, that wrapped the house from front to back. Creating an inviting scene to an other wise dead home. He examined the deck and saw an old rocking chair that matched the age of its surroundings. A relic from years ago. He stood from the road and brushed himself free of the dirt on his pants. His eyes still examining the blue house. he felt drawn to it. As if his soul was begging to venture inward. With that thought the women appeared next to him.
“You feel it don’t you?” She asked.
His mind had begun racing as she began to speak. Reverting back to the questions he had before, in the white room. “Whats going on? Where are we?” He heard himself say.
She did not answer. Instead she began to walk towards the home, gliding her way down the old beaten path in front of the deck.
“Hey! Look I get it. I’m dead. You’re Death. I get that part. What I don’t get is why you wont tell me anything about our little deal. One in which I put my faith in, so im not moving till you start talking.” He made an attempt to cross his arms and let his stubbornness out, but felt foolish doing so.
She paused before stepping onto the deck, and faced him. Her smile still beamed, and it made him feel like a child. A mother being patient with her young one. “You have questions. But first you must come inside. There is work to be done.” She said before proceeding towards the door.
He was about to protest, but thought otherwise. There was no point, he thought to himself. Everything up until now had been a complete blur and he thought it best if he continued to let it happen, rather than fight. And headed towards the old wooden door, following just beyond an arm’s length behind her.
The inside of the tiny home was nothing spectacular. An old sitting room that once housed many sets of shoes was now only holding one set. Imprints of feet that walked on the carpet from years ago, gave off a guided path towards the last set, somewhere in the house. Pictures lined the walls from the entrance, all the way down to the kitchen. A small hallway connecting the two. He made an attempt to look at the smiling faces that dotted the wall, but couldn’t quite make out the details, as the women seemed to ignore them. Keeping her pace steady.
They rounded a corner into the kitchen. A relic from years long ago. A blue tint resonated from the appliances, giving them a look from a 50s home and garden magazine. Wallpaper made of flowers was fading, as was the old wooden floor beneath them. A soft steam rose from the stove plate. Releasing a pleasant aroma of sage and honey. It whined as it became hotter, breaking the silence of the home. Only to cease once the old women reached for the kettle, extinguishing the loud whistle.
He was spooked at the sight of the old women. A frail lady, had been sitting off in the corner of the room. She wore an old sundress, made of fading hues of yellow. Dotted with flowers that sagged from years of sun exposure. But she shined brightly through the old cloth. Her skin was wrinkled, but had a youth to it that reminded him of old movie stars. And how they never seemed to feel the way they looked. A crossword puzzle had been nearly completed before she rose for her tea. Scattered across the table in a chaotic way only she could understand. She poured herself a cup of tea, and slowly made her way back towards her work. Blowing the steam from the edge of the small cup as she went. A small grimace came across her face as she drifted downward towards the old wooden chair. Followed by a sigh as she came to a rest, focusing back on her puzzle. He hadn’t noticed until now, that she could not see the two of them. To her, it was an empty house. Unaware that she shared a room with Death.
“This is Beth. She is 83 years of age.” The women next to him said. “And today is her time.” She said casually.
He was beginning to understand that Death didn’t care much for extra words. Always speaking without much subtlety. “You mean… today is the day that she dies?” He asked somewhat nervously. She simply nodded.
His heart began to flutter at the simple gesture. Was he going to have to kill this old lady? He thought to himself abruptly. He had never killed anything in his life and wondered what he was doing in that room. Why had she brought him here?
“Beth has lived a full life. She has fostered many children in this home. This day has been accepted by her, making the transition much easier.” Death said with a smile. He was starting to dislike the smile she emitted. The first sight of it made him feel like a school boy, staring at his crush. Now he could see past the childlike grin, and only saw death.
“I don’t know what you expect me to do. If you think I can kill her then you’ve mistaken me. I have no desire of this.” He said, demanding her attention.
“You will not be required to do so. At least not now. In time.” She said, averting her gaze back to the old women. The floor creaked as she began to step for the women in the chair.
Out of desperation he grabbed her before she could advance, stopping her before step another inch. “Wait! You can’t just kill her!” He said nervously. He hadn’t realized how tightly he grasped her arm. Only to recognize that the women barely noticed, brushing him off like he was fly on her shoulder. She stared at him for a second until his hand had returned to his space, and proceeded back towards the women. He quickly saw this and ran to her. Screaming for her to run, for her to escape the unknowing grip of death. But she did not budge. And kept at her crossword. “Why cant she hear me?!” He asked himself out loud.
“Please. This is the natural order. It is her time. She will welcome me and accept her fate.” She said calmly, as she waited for him to step out of her fateful path.
“No! Who are you to know people’s fate!” His voice rose with every word, exploding into the small room.
“I am Death.” She said, her grin was slowly fading with every action she had to explain to him. For the first time he could see annoyance in her face. And the three little words caught him off guard. Death comes for all, crossed his mind. Up until this point, some part of him thought she was lying about who she really was. His mind making up excuses to the hallucinations he thought he was partaking in. But now, reality was creeping into him, sending a cold shiver through his spine. At a loss for words he stepped aside, his head hung low.
She stared at him until he was out of her path, waiting until she had room to proceed. Her smile slowly returning as she made her way towards the old women.
He didn’t know what to expect. Perhaps a ball of light would come from her. Or maybe she would just disappear into thin air. He decided to hold his tongue and merely observe Death’s transaction. Death approached her with a grace that he had seen the first time he met her. She sat opposite the old women and placed her hands on the table, a few inches from the wrinkled palms that sat across. She paused for a moment, and reached out to take the hand of the women. With a single touch the old lady, in her worn sundress, collapsed on the table. Her freshly brewed tea flew from its container as a stray hand knocked it off its axis. A gasp came from his mouth as he witnessed her death. He was expecting something more subtle, and did not anticipate such a sight. He wished for the moment to end abruptly, but his wishes were not granted.
Death leaned over the table towards the limp body, carefully avoiding the dripping mess on the table. Her face nearly touched the poor lady’s cold skin, as she put her lips to the women’s ear. She whispered something sweet, but he could not hear what. He was surprised when asked himself what she had whispered. Curiosity was overpowering the sickness that rumbled inside his stomach. What happened next, caught him off guard. Giving his unsettled nausea fuel in which to burn.
From the lifeless body arose a faint glow. A shapely image, he thought to be a soul. The room seemed to be feeding the glowing beam that emitted from the corpse, giving it fuel to shine brighter and brighter. It did not float away from the body, merely erecting itself upwards in the chair. Soon the ball of light began to take form, creating a mirror image of the body that laid sprawled out on the unfinished crossword puzzle. Soon, he could tell, it was the women. But she was younger. As young as the women he had seen in the hallway pictures, just a moment before. She was quite beautiful, he thought to himself nervously. He hadn’t noticed yet that he was unable to move a single muscle. Frozen in time as he watched the women’s soul rise from her cold body.
Within a few seconds, a young women sat atop a lifeless old vessel. She looked frightened as she became aware of this fact. Looking down at her old self. Frantically she searched the room out of instinct, attempting to figure out what was happening to her. Only to catch the eyes of Death sitting across from her.
“Wh-Whats going on?” She asked timidly.
“Hello Beth.” Death said with a loving smile. “It is time.”
The woman was about to speak, but the words seemed to hit a chord somewhere deep inside her. He thought back to when Death had spoken to him in the white room. And how easy her words seemed, even with the lack of explanation. He wondered if she had that effect on the dead. Perhaps she spoke the words that needed to be heard, and not give words that would let the mind wander into oblivion.
“I am dead, arnt I?” The women asked softly, staring at her illuminated self. She held her hand up to her youthful face, and was surprised when she saw through the transparent limb. The way a child looks, when examining something new. Death simply nodded, waiting for the women to come to the conclusion she knew to be true. After a moment, she caught the gaze of Death once again and spoke softly. “What happens now?”
“Now you leave. This world is no longer where you belong. When you are ready, take my hand.” She said as she extended her hand across the table.
The women looked at her nervously. “Will it hurt?”
“No.” Death said casually. “It will not hurt.”
“Whats it like on the other side?”
“That is a question in which I cannot answer. What happens next is of no concern to me, as I am merely a bridge.” Death said. It was the first time he had heard her explain something so clearly. “You must have faith.” She concluded.
The women seemed flustered by the answer, but quickly let it go. With a soft sigh, the women nodded, and grabbed Death by the hand. With an explosion of beautiful light, the women disappeared, vanishing towards the ceiling of vibrant light above. And just like that, she was gone. Leaving behind an old, run down house, and body she once called her own.
“Where did she go?” He asked as soon as the light had vanished, leaving the two of them alone in the kitchen.
“The soul decides its fate before the soul knows of it. We do not give insight on such things for it is faith that carries their confused soul.” She said as she rose from the seat.
He wanted to protest the answer, but thought otherwise. What was the point? He thought to himself. He was already dead and following death as she went along doing her job. Besides, her lack of subtlety was enormous and he feared he would never truly get answers to the questions that burned inside him.
“I can sense this is difficult to understand. But if you must know one thing know this. The natural order of things states that we must provide a very essential tool. Without Death there can be no life. The souls must have f-”
“Faith. Right.” He interrupted. He felt bad for be snippy with her but judging by the same expression on her face that she had held this entire time, she didn’t mind. Instead she began to exit the kitchen and made her way down the hallway towards the door. She paused before the door and waited for him to catch up. It took everything in him to move his legs, and found it difficult to move an inch. Was it fear? He thought. No. More apprehension than anything he assured himself. He stopped next to her and waited for the door to open. Before it she spoke once more.
“We must be going. There is plenty of work to be done. I have shown you how to facilitate death. Now you must do as I did, as well as comfort them to the next life. If you do not get them to go willingly, they will be trapped here for eternity. This is very important.” With that she opened the door. The dying lawn faded and soon they were in a poorly lit room. Judging by the flashing monitors and smell of cleaning supplies, he could tell they were in a hospital room.
A young boy laid upon the white linen bed, tubes sprawling from his weak body. A women sat next to the bed holding the boys lifeless hand, weeping uncontrollably.
Then he realized what he had to do. And his heart dropped.