I stood in the corner of the room, enveloped in darkness, as I stared at the old man on the bed. His eyes unfocused, his mouth stuck open unable to be closed by the frail muscles of his face. I fidgeted with my beaded bracelet, pulling on it and letting it snap back against my numb wrist. I counted the ticks of the clock down the hall, matching the pull and release of my bracelet to the beat of the second hand. On the forty fourth beat, his chest rose and fell for the last time, and a bead dropped from my bracelet. One dark red bead rested on the bed where he laid; one bead for one soul. As I stepped out, I looked to the sky and saw one of those pesky birds fly in. The soul carriers; their feathers were a tauntingly gorgeous white that were never tainted by the filth they rolled in. Vile creatures, those things, so full of themselves. One soul carrier for each soul bead. That was how it worked.
I did not have much time to think before I was moved to my next assignment. Young humans filled each desk, slouching and glancing constantly at the leisurely moving clock. I watched the older human, the teacher, drone on about useless things, pointing at figures illuminated on a white surface. Twenty three students sat quietly. Diligent scribbles of useless nothings on their papers, whispers of silent jokes followed by snickers, and the drifting thoughts of the dreamers. Such a pity. I heard the steps of the boy in the hallway. His heart thumped erratically, his breath a nervous rhythm, and his hand tapping against the cold metal of the trigger. The oblivious peace of this classroom was suffocating. I pinched a bead between my thumb and forefinger. Pull, release, pull, release. I tugged on my bracelet once more; the string gave out, snapping off my wrist. The sound of the shots masked the sounds of my beads hitting the floor. Too late. Twenty five beads, twenty five shots, twenty five empty casings. I picked up the last bead, holding it carefully in my hand. It glowed faintly with only a slight reddish tint, hinting that it was not its time yet. But the force of nature was once again defied by the avarice of humankind. Twenty five beads, full of the captured souls, gleamed faintly in my hands. Countless beads wasted on praematurus mortes: premature deaths. These souls did not even get a soul carrier of their own; they were not sent back to their creator until they completed their remaining time. So they just sit in vast nothingness until it was time to meet their maker. Such pitiful fates for these untimely souls. The small boy holding the clump of metal in his arms had eradicated every breath of life in this room, including his own. I knew it was not his intention to hurt anyone; he was just desperate. Humans, such fragile yet tenacious things; makes you wonder how these things define destruction. I stepped out of the classroom with my bracelet wrapped around my wrist once again and the twenty five beads resting in my hands.
With the bead in my hand, I travelled back to my world. I made my way to the Forest of Void. The air was dark and heavy, saturated with emotions of despair, longing, and vengeance. I dropped the bead in the dry cracked soil and watched as a bare dry tree sprouted from it. The souls were trapped in these barren trees, sitting with nothing but their thoughts of regrets. When they have completed the time of what should have been the remaining days of their life, they would be sent to be judged for eternity.
“Another praematurus,” Adaraves sighed, as she hovered around me. “Such a shame, I bet this one would have tasted delightful,” she fluttered her wings in front of my face, “Wouldn’t you agree?”
“I do not concern myself with the likes of you. You, carriers, disgust me, feasting on souls for the price of your travel. How barbaric,” I replied. She dragged her talon-like nail along my neck threateningly.
“Well, at least I can cry for the souls I devour,” she cackled, “you poor thing. Your curse prevents you from dropping a tear from those eyes of yours, eternally chained to that wretched bracelet of yours. You don’t even remember how you became Death in the first place. What sickening crime you must have committed to be punished like this. How barbaric,” She pushed me away from her. “It would be so nice if we could be civil with each other,” she taunted. She flapped her feathery wings gracefully. I could only stare as she grew smaller and smaller in the sky. Those wings she flaunted in my face were no different than the beads on my wrist. It was her chain of punishment that she could never break free from.
It was not long before I was at my next assignment. The baby lay in its crib, multiple tubes attached to it. It was barely breathing on its own. Two humans sat outside, one male and one female. Its parents. The female cried silently in her hands, while the male leaned his head against the wall behind him, with his eyes shut tightly. Time to go. I took the bead back to the forest and dropped it. However, from the bead sprouted a tall luscious tree; it was a beautiful sight. Something was wrong. I turned around. The dead barren forest was slowly coming to life. The trees sprouted luscious green leaves and their roots dug deeper into the rich moist soil. The trees grew higher into the sky until a single ray of light could not shine through. I let out a guttural scream. There was a small squeak behind a tree, and it crept out in front of me. I gasped at the sight of her. She was small and everything about her, her skin, her long flowing hair, her aura radiating off of her was colorless. Her skin as white as my skin was black. The only thing to contrast the whiteness was her shiny black eyes staring at me with tears welled up in it.
“Are you Death?” she said to me.
“Yes, and this is not a place for you. You, who is called Life,” I replied coarsely, “What have you done?”
“Those poor things,” Life cried. A tear dropped from her face and fell to the ground. As it hit the ground, making everything glow and move again, getting bigger and more lively.
“Stop crying!” I barked, but the damage had been done, “Tears symbolize life. Your tears are breathing life into those who should not be living.”
“I can’t help it,” Life replied, “Surely, they must be given a second chance. It is not their fault. To be trapped in this barren cage, it’s too sad.”
“Do not question the balance of the world. Do not interfere,” I said, “that is our existence. Look at what the world has become.” The world was thrown into a chaos. Fires raged and eradicated everything in its path, incurable diseases plagued all living things, humans harming other humans over their differences, frightful beasts that could not be tamed ravaged the lands. Beads were dropping left and right, none of their souls able to be collected. The world was being destroyed. Life stared in horror as the end of the world approached rapidly. I fell to the floor; tears that I have not felt for an eternity streamed down my face. I looked back to Life when it let out a shriek. The blackness of its eyes began to spread all over its body. It sobbed but I saw no tears. Suddenly, I felt a warmth radiating in my body, the darkness receding from my hands. There was no longer a bracelet latched around my wrist. It was then when I had realized what my punishment was for. I had been punished for interfering with the balance of the world. But now that was no longer my burden to carry. The title of Death was now chained to the one that was once Life, and I was no longer enslaved. For the first time, I was able to see what Death was and the beauty of it shocked me. Death fell to its knees with trembling hands. “Do not fear what you are,” I advised, fading away. When I could no longer see Death, I closed my eyes and followed the light to face my judgement.
So before the memory of my existence as Death parts from me, I’ll tell you my story. I’ll tell you of a time where Death became Life.