Six months prior, Death had grown tired of waiting for mortal souls to die and so, raised up an army to take their souls by force. Death was a legend needing no introduction, but the stories surrounding him did not do him justice. The stories never fully encapsulated that feeling of seeing that black cloak suddenly come into your sight or that scythe of his slashing through the air. No, they never prepared you for what it would feel like to look in the face of Death.
Jack, Senna, and twenty or so other mortals had retreated underground beyond Death’s grasp. For six months, their little community lived in peace, but like everything in their post-apocalyptic world, it was short-lived.
“Jack, I’m scared,” Senna said, the fear palpable in her voice. They had gotten word that Death was closing in and it wouldn’t be long before Death and his army sniffed them out.
Jack looked at her with as much love as two eyes could muster. He leaned into her and kissed her lips softly and sweetly. When he pulled away, his voice shook as he said, “Me, too.”
“Then, stay,” she said gripping his arm tightly.
He shook his head sadly. “And wait for Death to come for us? I don’t think so.” He got up and went over to the crudely drawn map on the wall. “This’ll work, Sen. I’ll take a few guys and we can lead Death and his men away. You can take the rest of them to Kor Aj.” Kor Aj was a colony rumored to be the safest place for mortals. It was said that the place had been blessed by monks and that Death wouldn’t dare step a foot near it. As content as they’d been in their little group, they had no need to venture out to Kor Aj. Now, it would seem they had no other choice.
Senna shook her head vehemently. “Kor Aj is at least two days from here. We’d never make it.”
“We have to try,” Jack reminded her.
“You don’t understand,” she told him. “I don’t think I could make it. I can’t do this. I’m not Moira. I’m nowhere near as brave or courageous as she was. They need a girl like her leading them, not me. I’m too afraid.” Moira was one of those people you’d describe as swashbuckling. It was a word usually reserved for pirates, but for Moira, it just fit. She was strong and brave. She was the type of person you’d want to follow into the great unknown. It was Moira that should lead them, Senna thought. If only she were still alive.
Jack brushed his hand over his face and sighed. He sat on the edge of the cot, leaning his chin on one hand. “I don’t want you to be like Moira,” he said finally. “She was reckless and if given the chance, she would’ve gotten everyone killed.”
Senna gasped at his blunt assessment of their dearly departed friend. “How could you say such a thing?”
Jack looked Senna right in the eye. “I’m telling you the truth. What you call courageous, I call stupid. There’s a fine line, I know, but she was on the wrong side of it. Don’t get me wrong, Moira was great. She was a heck of a fighter, I’ll give her that. But she had no fear, nothing to lose and when you’re leading a group of people, it is fear that you need to make sure everyone stays safe. You should be afraid. You should worry because if you don’t, someone dies.” It never occurred to Senna to look at Jack not just as the man she loved, but as the leader of their community. She wondered at the weight that must be on him every day to keep his people safe. He was courageous and brave and wonderful and somehow saw those same traits in her. He thought that she had what it took to lead their community to safety.
“You really think I can do it,” she asked him.
Without hesitation, he said, “Without a doubt.” He smiled at her and she smiled back.
She wrapped her arms around him in a hug. “Even though every inch of me is petrified?”
“You’re smart,” he said. “And I know you’ll keep them safe. It’s okay to be afraid. I’m always afraid,” he chuckled. “But, you don’t let fear stop you.”
“But how,” she wondered. “How do you not let fear freeze you where you stand?”
“Courage,” he replied. “Real courage. Not the courage that has you jumping out of windows. The courage that acknowledges fear, but overcomes it. You’ve always had the courage to keep fighting, to keep living, to keep loving.” With that, he placed a soft kiss on her lips. “I’d follow you any day.”
She smiled and nodded her agreement with Jack’s plan. She would lead them and it wasn’t because she was the bravest or the strongest or was without fear. It was because she could move past that fear and have the courage to keep moving forward. She would have courage even in the face of Death himself.