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Life and Death

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In the night, a man clad in black made his way swiftly through the darkness. Pale gray eyes looked up to the sky, noting the promise of rain. He stuck to the sidewalks of downtown Boston, avoiding the orange glow of the streetlights like the plague. Between the weary denizens of the city he weaved, careful to keep his hands in the pockets of his long, black coat. To the people, he was nothing more than a shadow, a shivering breeze, or a chill in the night. How strange it was, he thought, that they go on so unaware of the darkness around them. With a smirk on his pale face, he pressed on.

Only the truly nocturnal meandered about at that time of night, so when the man turned a corner and found himself alone, he was not surprised. Continuing down the sidewalk with silent footfalls, his mind was utterly blank. No thought was given to the tall buildings that surrounded him like the walls of a grave, and there was no notice for the light sprinkling rain that began falling from the clouds. Everything was just as it always had been and always would be, wandering aimlessly and listening.

Then a song, like leaves on a breeze, floated down the street. The man stopped. Looking around, he saw nothing save for a lonely line of streetlights and the empty, damp street before him. Perplexed curiosity settled heavily on his mind. Without much control, he found himself following the minor melody. Off the buildings it echoed, adding confusion to his determined search.

The man glided quickly down the sidewalk until he found a narrow alley where the song seemed to be amplified. He could make out every note, every minor pitch and major resolution. He was close. Carried by the tune, the man made his way down the passage, dilapidated brick walls guiding his way. The man paid no heed to the shattered glass that littered the uneven pavement or the occasional alley cat; his single-mindedness eliminated anything other than the song. He had to find the source.
From the gloom of the alley, he could see the glow of a streetlight ahead. Picking up his pace, he followed the light like a moth to the flame. Soon he found himself at the edge of the alley, where the shadows met the night. His curiosity building, he peered around the corner and froze.

There, on the sidewalk of a narrow road, she glided. Everything about her was light, from her pale blond hair to her flowing, white dress. Her porcelain skin seemed to give off a light of its own as she slowly made her way down the street. She was humming, her minor song lifting up the man's very being before gravely setting him down. He kicked himself for having not known.

From the darkness of the alley, there was no way to stop his mind. He thought about the scarce few times he had seen her, how they always seemed to meet under the worst circumstances, and only then for a brief second. Where he was the chill that instilled fear of the night, she was the warmth that brought man to study the stars in awe. She was the budding of the flowers in the spring, the light that shone through the clouds after the storm, and the young trees that grew through the ashed of a forest fire. And there he stood, the frost that destroyed vegetation, the tornado that decimated civilization, and the inferno that devoured entire ecosystems. He was her antithesis. There from the alley, Death found himself in the presence of Life.

Like every other time he saw her, his mind was in utter turmoil. Enticed by the very thing she was, the very thing he could never be, he also hated her. She would never know the burden that he carried heavily on his shoulders. For every saddest moment, he was there in the shadows, and all she ever knew was light. Never would she understand the crushing anguish that he desperately tried to ignore. For this, he despised her almost as much as he loved her.

Death stepped out of the alley toward Life, though he was not quite sure what he would do with her attention. But in that moment, a screeching sound echoed down the street, capturing his attention and eliminating the song that had drawn him from the shadows. Around the corner, a rusty, beat-up car flew. Drunken cheers could be heard as the car careened down the street like a runaway train. All too quickly, the sound of crunching metal filled the air as the car found a lonesome streetlight. The light flickered, trying in vain to hold on, before going out completely in a spark of defeat. An eerie silence ensued.

Death turned quickly back to Life and found himself caught in her gaze. There in her sky-blue eyes, he felt like the sun had finally risen after an eternal night. The warmth of Life spread through him, the weight lifting from his shoulders. A sense of hope and contentedness instead settled upon him like a blanket of snow. In that mere second, he felt more than he had in his entire existence. He found that, if given the choice, he could stay there, locked in her eyes for all of eternity.

But in that next second, Life disappeared, flickering away like the bent and broken streetlight. As quickly as it had come, the warmth escaped the man, leaving a cold sadness in its wake. He stood there for a moment, just another second, trying to grasp the warmth that had left him, but it slipped through his fingers like the rain through the night.

The man in black turned to the carnage of the wreck, his shoulders slumped with hopelessness. He could hear it now, the intense ringing in his ears calling for his presence. He was needed. Gliding swiftly toward the damaged car, Death let go of everything he had felt, sinking instead into silent stoicism. Everything went back to as it always had been and always would be, wandering aimlessly and listening. Always listening.




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