The one that died did not appear stubborn. But, the ones that did not look it were often the most stubborn.
It was a young woman. I did not wonder how she had died, nor did I care. Most assume that nearly all die when old, by their standards anyhow. That is not the case. But again, I do not care. It is not my place to care.
She dashed about, pleading and screaming, wanting people to see her, hear her, feel her. No one would. Except me.
We were in a busy street. We couldn’t have been that far from where she had died. She wouldn’t have been able to get that far before I felt the imbalance caused by a spirit roaming this world.
Finally, she seemed to notice me staring at her. “Can you- Can you see me?” she squeaked.
“Yes,” I said. “And you must come with me.”
She baulked. “Why can you see me?”
“Well, dear, you’re dead,” I replied with a small smile.
She sighed sadly. “Well, it explains a lot.” She cocked her head. “Are you dead too?”
I chuckled a bit, happy that she just accepted it. I so hated when they put up a fight. “No, love. I am Death.” I punctuated the statement with a small bow and a hand flourish, as I always did when I introduced myself.
I couldn’t read her face after the proclamation. But, to be fair, I had never been great with human emotions or behaviours.
“Death?” She shivered, a touch of awe and fear in her voice. “But… you’re a girl?”
“Yes, and no. I am Death, but I do like to be a girl.”
“You’re younger than me?” Now she was confused. Even I could tell that much.
I laughed darkly. “I highly doubt that. I watched from the corners of space and time as this realm was pieced and pulled together by powers even I do not dare to question.”
Her eyes grew so wide I became concerned they might pop out of her skull. “Will you not take them one day? I thought Death claimed all.”
“Oh, I shall. But that is not to say that until they are weak and darkness claims them, that they could not overpower me. Could you imagine if the world went on without me? Chaos. Pure, undivided chaos,” I explained.
“So you are not the most powerful…” She struggled for the right word. “Being?” She finally decided on.
“Perhaps not to the one who wants power now, who is not willing to wait, who is focused on such obscure things such as grandeur. But I am willing to wait for the slow passage of time to claim all. To watch the final chapter of this world, and all worlds to come,” I murmured.
“Do you like death? Do you want to watch the world fall? To be the only thing left in the whole of everything?” she questioned. Leave it to death to make one a philosopher.
“I do not care about ruling time; I do not care about being all that is left. I live for the stories. I want to watch everything, the tales that are spun into the fabric of existence. That is all I care about,” I answered.
She said nothing else, and I assumed that she was finished with her questions.
I beckoned for her to follow. “Come now. You must go with me.”
She stared at the cracked concrete for a few seconds.
I was growing impatient, but I decided the least I could do was let her think for a moment.
“Before I go, can I ask you a question?” she finally asked.
I pursed my lips. I hated questions. Why did I have to die? Where will I go now? Can I say goodbye? The first two, I did not have the answer to. Yes, strange. But it is not my job to know the answers to these questions. Only to ferry on the stubborn souls that do not go willingly. And the third… It was always no.
Once upon a time, it saddened me. The pleading souls, begging me to let them tell their children, wives, husbands, parents, friends goodbye, that they loved them, and not to mourn. But now, like many of things, I did not care. The cold progression of time had tarnished my soul, darkening it, stripping away what might have once been human.
But, I nodded my head. Let her ask. I would give her the same answers I gave everyone else.
“How many stories have you seen?” she whispered.
I clasped my cold hands behind my back, smirking a bit at the girl. So, so rarely had someone ever asked me a question along the lines of that one. Perhaps this girl was smarter than she looked. Perhaps she had a soul similar to my own, one that lived for the stories of the world.
So I sat her on a nearby bench, the soft wind blowing her hair into her eyes. She stared at me intently, no doubt wondering what was going to happen now.
I told her stories. She smiled and smiled, a beautiful thing. A thing I so rarely saw.
Soon I found myself smiling as well. Truly smiling.
So I spun together the stories of the world for her. I wove them from the forgotten past. I told until the day moulded into the night, and after that, until the stars dimmed, and the sun arose once more, shining life into the cold, empty street.
However, we could not stay there forever. So I told the girl the time had come and she must come. She did not fight; she did not plead, she did not cry. She came with resolve and dignity.
Right before I passed her along to wherever it was she would go, she smiled one more time. “Thank you.”
I smiled back. “You’re welcome.” And I knew that no matter where she went, good or bad, or even if it was nowhere, she would pass on the threads and words. The one thing that no one, not even me, could resist.