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Death's Dilema

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Death perused the empty field, several tumbleweeds drifted absent mindedly across the barren wasteland and down the hill. He sighed, knowing what lay ahead the empty field’s apparent lifelessness. As he glided across the parched grass, the Earth hardened, sensing some unnatural force was at work, and shriveled away like a spider at his touch. Death smiled, knowing that no matter what would happen to this world, he would always remain its most powerful supernatural force. Stopping at the center of the field, Death breathed in through his cloaked nostrils heavily. There was a scent, which lingered like the aroma of freshly baked apple pie, except this scent was not pleasant by any means, for it reeked in the most unsatisfying manner possible, and Death smiled, recognizing its rank odor.
Taking another whiff of its pungent fumes he picked up on another scent, his nose shriveled immediately at its horrifying smell. He knew it well, for wherever he went it followed, it was her smell, the smell, of Life. Involuntarily he grimaced, this job was now 75% less pleasant than it was originally going to be, and he frowned thinking of how he would have to put up with her optimism and “angelic voice” when he was trying to do his job. What an irritating little prick…

The wind gossiped with the weeds that skirted the dense forest stronghold as Death proceeded towards a little shack at the top of the hill, the leaves, seeing the arrival of Death, giggled by brushing up against each other and darting away from sight.

Upon reaching the door, Death waited, trying to eavesdrop in on the sanctuary of the dingy hut and pick up any sign of distinct noise within. After waiting for several moments, he glided across the threshold. The hut consisted of the bare necessities one needed for a meager life. A small fire pit resided in the center, and smoldered from recent use. A bed sat pitifully at the left hand side of the room.

A woman lay upon the bed moaning, her skin drenched in perspiration, her lank blonde hair stuck to her skin. So drained of energy, she did not have the strength to get up, and so she lay back upon the linens groaning louder still. Scanty blankets covered her wasted figure, and from the doorway Death could see how Famine had drained her well, for her ribs stuck out prominently against her skin. Covered in mud and dirt, her facial figures were scarcely recognizable to the human eye, as if she were meant to be just another part of the lifeless scenery. Next to her, radiating her beautiful angelic aura, sat Life, cross-legged. She cradled a bundled up figure which wriggled furiously within her grasp. Not looking up, she smiled, she had sensed him coming.

“You are unusually late,” she said, her voice the sound of church bells on Sunday morning, her smile was so bright, that the dingy hut seemed to have more of a pleasant look to it than it had when he had first arrived.

“I got distracted,” he said gruffly, discarding his thin cloak next to the door.

She nodded, and continued to work with the bundle. Pretending not to notice the small wriggling life form, Death proceeded to the bed side, where the moaning woman began to toss and turn in an unsettling manner.

“How long has she been like this?” he asked, not looking at Life.

“For twenty minutes or so, she delivered just after mid-day.”

At the word, “delivered” Death frowned, he couldn’t stand to hear the mention of babies, he only liked them when they were dying from typhus or fever, they were more amusing then.

Crouching down next to her, he stroked her dirty skin, and the poor woman shivered, turning frantically over in his direction to see what had touched her. As always, she wouldn’t be allowed to see him, yet now, the feeling of dread that builds inside one’s stomach before going down a rollercoaster began to escalate within her. Death smiled his toothless smile, and the wind outside grew bitter, howling its funeral drone.

“What will be her name?” Life whispered, looking at the bundle. Death frowned, irritated by the sound of her voice.

“How should I know, it’s not like I care,” he was miffed, because he knew that the baby was healthy, she had that horrible stench to her.

“That’s not true,” Life protested, looking up from the baby, “You do care,”

“Absolutely not, don’t be stupid,” he snapped, “I have no dominion over those who are in the living that is you’re…” he racked his brain for the most insulting word in his vocabulary, “revolting profession,”

Life said nothing, but smiled all the more, her radiant glow seeping through the baby’s blankets and the walls of the dingy hut.

Death returned to the woman, and this time, touched her face. The woman gave a horrible shudder, and began to writhe around in the linens, her groans escalated to a scream, which pierced the relentless wind.

“Stop that!” Life screamed after several minutes, “That- that is foul! You shouldn’t play with your food, didn’t mother ever tell you that?” her beautiful face streamed with tears, and she put down the baby to look at him.

Death roared with laughter, “Mother didn’t have an effect on me stupid, this is my job,” he puffed out his chest in pride, “And playing with women suffering from eclampsia, is my favorite pass time, it’s such a rare ailment these days, and the rare ones are always the most entertaining, oh how I long for the days of the Black Death again, the Europeans were positively hilarious in their futile attempts of preventing it,”

“You are so horrible,” Life whispered, and her tears began to spill upon the parched ground, each drop sparked a chain reaction, for grass began to sprout between the cracks of the Earth.

“Stop you’re crying,” Death commanded, “You give me a headache, and anyways,” he smiled, “You can never admit that you hate me,”

“I do not hate you,” she said obstinately, “I disapprove of you, but it is in your nature to be this way, and I am not one to change your nature, for it is not mine to change,”

Ignoring her, Death placed his other hand upon the woman’s other cheek, and brought himself over her until he was face to face with the woman, her cries were softening, as her last resource of energy was depleting. Finally, when the last thimbles of hope had detached themselves from her lip, she opened her eyes one last time. When the dying take their last look upon the Earth, they always see Death’s face, and her eyes rolled back in her head in horror. Her body grew limp, and her fragile frame sagged against the linens, dead.

Death smiled in satisfaction, reveling in the newly created smell which emanated his ominous stink. He got up, and from his cloak took out a small phial labeled with the date. Opening the woman’s mouth ever so gently, he put the phial to her lips, and gazed in fascination, like always, as the woman’s soul slithered out and crawled into the cold glass confinement.

Capping the phial slowly so that he was sure it was secure, he stared at the small little revolving piece of string, it glowed dimly against the glass walls of its cell. How could one little string, fragile and innocent in every way, give men the power to wage wars, save lives, and forge creations that only the heavens could condemn?

Realizing that Life was watching him closely, he tucked the little phial within his cloak, and rose to leave.

As he reached the door, Life said quietly, “I am so sorry for you,”

“What?” he said, the previous satisfaction from his recently completed work disappearing with her comment.

“You work so hard, believing that you are all powerful, and that you have everything you want in the world when really, your sick fascination with souls is what makes you like them,” she looked at him tenderly, “what makes you like a mortal,”

“Shut up,” Death said in a dangerously low voice. Outside, the wind stopped howling, and the leaves stopped gossiping.

“You are like them, Death, you fascinate over things, and your fascination over souls is what makes you different,” she pondered in her wisdom, “You long to be like them, you collect souls, so that you may feel like you can relate to them, the humans, and try to intone yourself to their beliefs and habits,”

“I do not wish to be mortal!” he roared, “Why would I wish to be mortal, when I have all this,” he gestured madly to his ominousness, “All this power, to use against these weak minded organisms that are useless against my will,” he paced the hut of the floor, “I could even kill you if I wanted to!”

“You cannot kill Life,” she said simply, smiling at him sadly, “You know this, the last time you tried to rid yourself of me, you merely created love,” her eyes sparkled at the memory, “and riddle me this brother, if you are so powerful, then why don’t you rip the life from this newborn, as you know you can do, but choose not to,”

Life looked at him intently, and Death clenched his fists. “I could do it,” he said finally, “I could do it you know, rip the life from that child,”

“Then why don’t you?” she said, her voice matching his low tone.

“Because there has to be humans,” he said, in a stupor, stuttering, “There has to be humans so that-“

“So that what?”

Death glared at her, knowing he was beaten, and turned to leave, grabbing his cloak as he went. Just before he left however, he heard Life whisper, “So what should her name be?”

“Eve,” he whispered back.



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