Death sat quietly in a meadow, the wind was combing the earth as it moved each blade of grass back and forth. He watched a flower as the pedals moved slightly, refusing to leave the bud it was attached to despite the wind’s encouragement. To Death, it signified a certain persistence; that each being had its own way of holding on to life. He wanted to reach out and touch the pedals on the flower and feel their texture. However, he knew if he approached the flower, then it would die at his touch.
Death loved this meadow and had come to know it well. He would often come here and watch the sun and the moon move across the skies. By now, he had learned every star in the night sky from this meadow and could draw an exact picture of every tree, flower, and constellation of stars. He even made it a point to stand on the peak of every mountain that stood proudly above the valley and look down towards this meadow. Each mountain seemed to give a very different point of view of this meadow, almost like each mountain knew it differently.
‘Kind of how each creature views life. All so very differently.’ He thought to himself.
He looked at the ground around him where he had been sitting for hours. The ground was completely bare of life; there was no trace of grass, insects, or animals anywhere. Just dirt. Before he sat down, it was covered in grass and dozens of small flowers dotting this bare spot. The path behind him also was bare, revealing every step he took as he made his way to this spot. He looked back up and tried to forget the loneliness that had already overtaken him.
He looked around the meadow as he searched for a companion. He would accept anything that was brave enough to come to him and keep him company. The animals and birds that populated the area were hiding from him and watching from the trees. Everything was afraid to come out into the open and much more afraid to come to him. He knew that he could go to them though, that there was no escaping him. He was the ultimate predator, nothing could out run him or hide from him, and nothing could escape. But he also knew that if he came to them, they would die just like the flower would. He was completely alone.
He searched for answers as he starred at his newly made skin. He had taken the lifeless bodies of several of the creatures whose time had passed and cut off patches of their skin. He sewed them together to make a skin for his bones so that he would feel more alive. For a time this made him fell less lonely. He had the fur of a wolf on one arm and the fur of a lion on the other. His hands had the feathers of a raven on the right and falcon feathers on the left hand. The horn of a goat and an antelope occupied his head along with the skin of a human and the beak of a hawk was his mouth. Various furs, feathers, and parts of dozens of animals made up the rest of his body. But the novelty of his skin had died by now. It seemed like nothing he would do would make him feel more alive and less lonely, and every living being still knew what he was.
Death buried his head into his crossed arms, which were resting on his raised knees. His hood came down over his face, blocking out most of the sunlight. He was in his own darkness now and imagined himself as just an empty robe sitting in the middle of a meadow. He listened as the wind ripped through the small holes on one side of his hood and out the other. He could feel the wind all over him as it entered the holes that covered the body of the black robes. He felt less like he was alone and more like he didn’t exist at all.
‘This is much better’.
Death raised his head and crossed his legs and thought back to a time when he watched a deer die. There was no cause for the deer’s death other than old age and there was nothing he could do to keep the deer alive. He stood over the deer and watched as it kicked its legs and tried to stand up. It rolled around on its back and then tried to lift its head to look around then rolled over on its other side, facing away from Death. It started to bury its nose in the dirt during the fray that it was having with itself.
It was an honest struggle for the deer as it fought for its life against an enemy that it could not defeat. That particular deer had truly seen its better days. It was blind and nearly deaf and barely able to find food for itself. It had been roaming around aimlessly for some time, going deeper and deeper into the woods. It was just by chance that a predator of the forest had not caught it by now. As Death towered over the fighting deer, it seemed like the time had come to where a different kind of predator would lay claim to the poor deer’s life.
The deer looked up at Death, who stood over it as still as a statue. The deer’s eyes rolled in its head and its tongue fell out of its mouth as it finally went limp and died. It didn’t understand that if it had just given in to death in the first place, its suffering would have ended without the pain and struggle that it had just put itself though.
Death tried to wipe the memory from his mind. ‘Is it really that bad?’ He thought, closing his eyes to visualize another memory.
He stopped at the edge of the woods as he came across two wolves. There was a dead rabbit between them, which he already knew about, but he also knew that something else was about to die. The wolves were watching each other, their paws were planted in the dirt as they crouched and snarled back and forth, occasionally licking their lips. The air was tense as they made continuous eye contact and both refused to submit to the other.
He had been watching the two wolves for a few minutes already as they prepared to fight, circling a dead rabbit that one of them had caught. The rules of the fight were simple: the victor lived and got the rabbit and the loser died. Finally both wolves ran at each other, jumping on one another and trying to grab the other by the throat. One wolf let out a yelped as its ear was bitten and then began snarling, trying to bite its enemy anywhere it could.
To Death’s surprise, it pulled its ear out of the others mouth and jumped, biting the other wolf’s snout and began shaking its head. Death could see blood pouring out of its mouth as it let go and finally got a hold on the throat of its enemy and shook his head viciously. He waited, listening to the yelps of pain coming from the wolf’s raised snout; it almost sounded as if it was repenting. He looked away and moments later the wolf that was still alive had claimed victory, as well as the rabbit.
Death walked past the wolf silently as it scarfed down its lunch, blood still seeping from its ear. He placed his hands on the head of the dead wolf and closed its eyes with his thumb and finger. It was much easier than the deer that he had to watch struggle. In death, the wolf seemed peaceful and calm as the deer seemed so violent and irate during its struggle for life.
Death opened his eyes and woke from his vivid memories. He watched the grass again, still waving back and forth. He noticed that the trees had even gotten in on the dancing as the leaves were swaying on the branches. Everything seemed as if it was a part of the same mold, all of it was directed by the wind. He looked around for more things moving in the wind to try to forget the pain of watching everything around him die. He didn’t want to be the one common factor of every death. He lowered his head onto his arms again and searched for a sense of happiness.
Life stared out into the meadow and watched Death wallow in his misery. She could feel the animals rubbing against her legs as she leaned against one of the trees that surrounded her. Her long hair blew in the breeze as if every strand were dancing. Her dress was like water flowing in a river and seemed to have a sound if you could listen hard enough. Her eyes were as bright as the sun and could peer into anyone or anything and seem to judge a human based on their worth, even though it seemed rare that she based her judgment on their accomplishments.
She was barefoot, her dress coming down just to her ankles and went up and over her right shoulder. She had the figure of a woman who was ready to bear her first child; strong hips and large breasts. However, she could never have children; she was the mother of every living thing on Earth. She had chosen this image based on the acceptance that this image is beauty.
She looked down at a dog begging for her attention by panting its tongue and wagging its tail. She looked down at it and smiled, wondering why it was even loyal to her. Then she kicked it and watched it writhe and begin to run away only to come back to her, like any loyal dog would. Her smile turned into a laugh as she thought about how foolish the dog was to come running back after it felt what she could do to it. Then she turned her attention back to death. After standing there for hours, Life was finally fed up with watching Death and decided that she was finally going to do something about him. She couldn’t understand Death and she had never tried.
She began to think silently to herself, ‘Day after day, he sits and watches. He steals the life from creatures that roam the world and leaves their bodies lying around. Now he’s mutilating them and making a skin? He expects something to come to him?’
She had hundreds of questions flowing through her mind. Most of these questions she had already concocted an answer for. Whether those answers were correct or not mattered very little to her, but she chose a question that she knew would torment Death. She stood and thought about how she was going to ask the question and precisely which words she should use.
As the question finally gained potential, she moved out of the woods and into the meadow. Even though she was the essence of life, the animals that were loyally by her side had now abandoned her and left her to approach Death alone. The flowers that had not yet bloomed began to proudly expand and instantly reached the peak of their glory. It was as if she made time go by faster as each flower that she passed bloomed rapidly.
“Hello, Death.” She said as she walked near.
Death slightly turned his head and saw her feet, then resumed his mournful position. He refused to stand or even look at her for any period of time.
“I have a question for you; take your time on answering it because I expect a fantastic answer.” She told him with a slight giggle in her voice. When he still didn’t move or respond, the taunting giggle disappeared and made her recoil slightly out of anger. “Well, my question for you, Death my dear, is this: Why do the creatures of the world love me and hate you? Why does everything rather live than die?”
Still, he gave no response to her daunting questions.
Questioning herself about whether he had heard her or not, she said, “Well, that’s my question. Think about it for me, will you?” She turned and walked proudly back into the woods as if she had accomplished some great task.
Death waited and gave Life time to make it back into the woods before he raised his head. He looked around to make sure she was gone. She was and he was finally alone again. He thought about the question, ‘Why do creatures,( assuming she meant all creatures,) hate death, (as in the absence of life,) and love life, (as in…) Or did she mean hate Death as in me? And love Life as in herself?’ He looked around again, at the animals that were still hiding. ‘It seems that they do hate me, almost personally. But I’m not going to assume that’s what she meant.’
He thought about the pedal of the flower that refused to leave the stem. How persistent it was to stay on the stem and stay alive. Then he thought about the wolf and deer that he had seen die. The deer struggled to stay alive and prolong its life and its suffering. Even the wolf had gone into the fight expecting to live. He was sure that the wolf never would have thought that it would die, especially over a rabbit. It had always seemed strange to him that the creatures who suffered the most always seemed embraced life more than any other creature would.
“Why?” He asked out loud.
He thought about the question that Life had given him, searching for a fallacy in the question and its wording. He knew it had to be one of Life’s deviant tricks and just another way for her to get the satisfaction that she craved.
‘Speaking of tricks, I have a question for her. How should I ask this, Why is it that…’
He began to think of how to word the question as he watched the sunset. It always felt to him like the sunset and sunrise were a form of life. He would always watch them as the sun and moon would rise and set, completely unafraid of him. It had always given him satisfaction in knowing that they would be there. No matter if he was Death, the sun and moon seemed like the only loyal things to him. Then the stars, they seemed to be the only things unafraid to stare at him. It was a shame that his only friends were so far away.
The next day, he watched as a few animals at a time would gather the courage to come out into the meadow and play. They would still keep their distance from him, but it seemed that they no longer feared the open field.
He had been mulling over this question all night and he thought that he had come up with a suitable answer, but was still uncertain about what exactly Life was referring to when she said ‘life and death’.
‘Is it her and I, or is it the actual process of living and dying in terms of creatures?’ He continued to bash over the question, wondering what exactly her tricky question and its wording meant.
A few hours after the sun had raised, all the animals ran to the left side of the meadow playfully as Life left the woods again. It was the same place that she had come out of before. She approached Death with a smirk and began to ask for the answer to the question. Death remained in the seated position that he had been in this whole time. This time however, he raised his head to look at her.
He could hear the footsteps getting closer and the river-like sound that her dress was making. This time she had an entourage of animals following her, birds resting on her shoulders and the flowers began to bloom and little closer and a little bigger even near Death. She walked up to Death and he watched carefully as she grinned at him and opened her mouth to ask…
“Before you ask,” Death interrupted to Life’s dissatisfaction, “I have a question for you.” As he finished, he noticed Life cringed and eventually returned to her prideful posture. He had hoped that he could have the chance to interrupt her right as she was about to speak and this hope had come true.
“Yes?” She prompted for the question with an exasperated motion of her hand.
“Why are you biased against the creatures that you so proudly let live?” There was a long and awkward silence as he noticed the confusion in her eyes. “Okay, for example; poor men and rich men, smart men and ignorant men, strong and weak. What do they all have in common?”
Life was taken aback; she knew that this was Death’s way of proving her bias and her deviance. “They all have life.” She replied, “It’s just determined by their lot in life. If they’re poor, then they should be poor, just as long as they reach their potential.” She said, almost as though she didn’t expect any of the poor to ever reach the potential that she had just spoke about.
Death glared at her, “Liar!” he said through his teeth, and continued, “You just want to see them suffer. You only favor some and not others because those who are rich are beautiful, those who are strong are arrogant, and those who are smart are greedy. All three of them are like you. It makes you look good to have money, strength and intelligence. All that matters to you is that the image of life is the image of yourself! The rest is left to Death as far as you’re concerned. But to answer my question, the only thing they all have in common is that they all will eventually die! The all will one day be mine.”
Life was completely disarmed by this retort. She stammered, searching for the words to say to make this right and prove to Death and to herself that this was not the case. She tried to find the words to prove Death wrong. She had treated many of her creatures horribly, but this creature she could not control. She had finally gone one step too far.
“Now, for the grand-fucking-finale!” He said, standing up on his feet, looking down on Life. “The creatures of the world…”
“love life…” The creatures around Life ran away in fear.
“and hate death…” Life took a step back.
“because it’s so damn easy…” Death took a step towards her.
“to love a beautiful lie…” Tears rolled down Life’s face.
“and to hate the cold, dark, pitiful truth!” Death’s skin that he had sewn together began falling off piece by piece and fell to the ground in a rapidly rotting pile. The feathers blew away and the antlers turned to dust. All that was left was his bones and his robes.
He starred at her, face to face; the face of a beautiful woman, whose skin was flawless and young starring at the dusty skull of a long lost dead man. Death lowered his head as ashes seeped out of his robes and the socket where his eyes were just moments before. Life watched as every last bone of Death turned to ashes and blew towards her. The ashes of Death crept through the holes covering his robes, whipped through the air and seeped into her. She screamed as the burning ashes painfully forced themselves into her skin.
And she heard Death whisper one final thing: “And now we are one…”
Life was utterly terrified and couldn’t even begin to understand what had just happened. She turned around and began to run towards the woods. She looked back and saw Death’s robes blowing away from her and towards the center of the meadow. She stopped running and turned back around to take a better look at the spot where Death had been sitting moments earlier. She began to slowly walk towards the place that Death had been sitting to search for answers, just to understand. She noticed as she was getting close that the flowers were not blooming.
She quickened her pace towards the dirt patch and as she approached the spot, it remained bare. Frantically, she fell to her hands and knees and began touching every grain of dirt she could. Nothing happened, not even a single flower bloomed. She looked around the meadow, “Come here!” she called out to the animals. She watched as some of them ran into the woods and the others stood still, watching her curiously. One of the animals that were watching her was the dog that she had kicked.
“Get your ass over here!” She called out to it. To her dismay, the dog turned around and ran back into the woods. She watched the dog run as more tears fell from her eyes into the dirt. Her arms and knees collapsed from underneath her and she lay in the dirt where Death had been sitting. She was spread out and felt so hopeless. It wasn’t long before she stopped crying, opened her eyes, and realized that she’s not so different than Death was, she was wallowing in her misery worse than he would. Refusing to let this be true she weakly pushed herself up and staggered back into the woods.
She had made it to the edge of the woods as her skin was burning with pain; she tried to put her hand to her face and screamed as the pain shot through her. She fell to one knee and thought about giving up, but it just wasn’t in her. She used the help of a tree to stand up and saw her dress, now covered with dirt and ashes. Cursing death, she stood up, trying to maintain her proud posture. It felt to her that she just couldn’t stand proudly anymore, but wanted to prove herself wrong. She entered the woods and began the journey towards a pond close to the center. She used any tree she could to keep herself standing upright and tried not to stop at all until she made it to the pond.
With the help of the trees and after a grueling and painful walk through the woods, she finally had made it to the pond. She would always come to this pond and watch the few fish that occupied it make ripples on the surface of the water as they came up for a breath of air. She always thought that it felt relaxing, but today it felt more like a haven to her. She had stopped crying and held her breath for a moment as she approached the water’s edge. She looked around her as she waded into the water and sat down, feeling the comfort of the water as it eased some of the pain of Death’s burning ashes. It was instant relief as she dipped her head under and felt the cold water wash away some of the burning that Death’s ashes had caused. She raised her head out and looked at the sky and decided that she wanted to see her reflection in the water’s surface. It was terrifying to think that her beauty might be destroyed now.
She took a deep breath and exhaled as she gathered the courage to look into the water and see her reflection. She lowered her head and looked at the water to see that her hair had turned gray and her skin was covered in wrinkles and scars. Her eyes that shinned like the sun were now dim, they still shined but not nearly as brightly as they used to. Then she noticed her dress floating in the water as a normal dress would. The sounds of the river that the dress would make were silent, the dress seemed completely normal. She gazed at her reflection for what felt like days, but she didn’t cry. She just looked at herself and at what she had become.
She stood up in the water, using the rocks to help her up. She made her way back to the meadow, able to carry herself this time without the help of the trees. As she entered into the open, she looked in the middle of the field and saw something that she decided would be a suitable new outfit for her to wear, Death’s hooded robes.
She limped through the grass and the flowers, both of which seemed indifferent to her presence. Life picked up the robes and pulled them over her head. When she had pulled it down, she began some adjustments. It took a while for her to get the hood on properly so that it didn’t fall down in her face. It took her even longer to tie the sash around her waist properly into a knot that wouldn’t come undone easily. She finally tied the sash and made a final adjustment to the hood as she was now wearing the robes of her loathed counterpart.
She glared through the hood, noticing the holes and trying to adjust her eyes to the new darkness that the robes had engulfed her in. The robes were uncomfortable and irritated her skin, making it burn again, just not as bad as before. For the first time, Life didn’t feel prideful. She felt somewhat somber, coming to acknowledge the fact that death was just another part of life in the same way that night was just another part of the day.
An idea swept across her mind and left her smirking at the irony. Her idea was that she should make a new skin to cover her scars. ‘Perhaps the skins of dozens of animals, feathers, and antlers on the forehead?’ She thought. But it just felt so wrong, not that it would be bad to have a new skin, it was just that it felt like hypocrisy. Why should she have a skin when she despised Death for having the same thing? She walked over to Death’s spot, feeling a bit like she assumed he did and sat down in the empty dirt patch.
Life looked up and noticed the sky had prepared a multitude of colors for the sunset tonight. The colors would bend off of the clouds and celebrate the sun’s arrival in a different part of the world as well as a farewell in the meadow. She watched the sun and felt like it was watching back. Even though she was just a shadow of her former self, it felt like the sun was comforting her and keeping her safe from sorrow. Now that she was destroyed by death, the sun felt like the only thing loyal to her.