Death’s Love (3611 words)
By Annemarie Bogart
The haunting tune wafted from the parlor. Death walked towards the sound, his stride slow yet determined. He never needed to rush; eternity granted that convenience. Alana sat at the piano, her hands danced effortlessly over the keys, results of the years of classical training. Raven-colored tendrils cascaded over her slender pale shoulders. She played the same tune every time he visited; it invited serenity into his ungodly world. He treasured its sound.
“We meet again, Reaper.”
Alana’s seductive voice sang over the music, warming the hallowed room.
“Alana, I do believe you kill so many just so you may see me. I am flattered.”
Alana stopped her solo and stood from the bench. Her red satin gown slithered into place, hugging every curve on her dead body. Her fangs became more pronounced as her lips upturned into a wide smile, still glistening with blood. The candles showered her beautiful pale face in a soft yellow glow.
"Had I a heart", the Reaper thought, "it would surely skip at such beauty."
Alana hoisted her dress and stepped over the carcass on the marble floor. Blood still poured from his ripped throat, forming a sanguine pool under his head.
“When are you going to admit you love me, Reaper?”
Reaper closed his lifeless eyes, wishing the words hadn’t been spoken.
He remembered back to the first time he had come to collect one of her prey. When he had entered, she knelt of the floor sobbing. He had known before she told him that she was a new vampire. Some things Death need not be told. Her aura was dead, yet she was very much alive, an abomination of the normal cycle of life. He had seen others of her kind, but none had ever struck something inside him. Something he did not know existed. Between visits, he longed to see her. Though he would never speak the words, over time he grew to care about her.
“Why are you crying?”
Bloodied tears ran down her pallid face. Her mouth fell open, her blue eyes widened. Her body fell back somewhat, recoiled most likely by his appearance. The sight of him usually had thit effect, even on the undead. He didn’t take offense.
“I am a monster! I cannot control what I do. Help me!”
Death bent over and stroked her long hair with his bony fingers. It was more for her comfort than his; he was unable to feel its silkiness, though he imagined the sensation. Her odd immortal fragility made him want to help her, to comfort.
“You do not need help, child. You merely need practice. It will come to you.”
She sat up and pulled away from his touch. Her eyes’ sadness changed to indignation.
“I did not choose this! I do not want this to come to me!”
Death shook his head; her ignorance refreshed his cold heart.
“No one chooses to die, no one picks the circumstances in which they are led to their demise. Suicide, you may counter. Well, child, it is never anyone’s goal to take their life unless they are pushed that way. That push, is in fact, the choice they never had.”
The girl’s hand caressed her victim’s hair. Under her breath she mumbled prayers, he recognized the wording. He had heard them on occasion. He marveled at the power of faith these words had on those who spoke them. After touching her fingers to her forehead, chest then shoulders she stood and walked to the windows. Death never knew the undead were able to make religious gestures without pai.n Lightening from beyond the glass barrier flashed like a photographer’s camera, illuminating her sad face. The raindrops sliding down the outer glass mirrored the red trails on her face.
“I know this is difficult to hear, but in time, things will get better.”
Her eyes remained focused on the darkened night away from the room, the house, and Death. He heard a sob stifled. Sometime silence was best; he refrained from speaking anymore. He knelt over the corpse and slung it over his shoulder.
“I thought you just took their souls?”
Her shaky voice interrupted the silence.
“I thought I would help make this easier on you by removing the body.” With ease, he stood upright and walked towards the door, leaving her to grieve her lost life and begin to embrace her new one.
Today, she was a far cry from that frightened girl he met almost a century before. Though she was the same age, roughly nineteen life years, her killing maturity made her appear more sophisticated, less vulnerable. The questioning eyes that bore into him now were proof of that. They did not hold a hint of unknowing, only impatience. The fact is that he did love her, something he never thought possible, a feeling he never knew existed, but the heaviness in his chest made him understand. The ease of their conversations, the excitement of just approaching her mansion, it all pointed towards the dreaded word he knew he could never admit to. A relationship with anything was not possible. Entities such as himself were attuned to this, and lived their existence without want of anything. He followed the trail of the newly dead; it was all he had known, all he had wanted, until he met Alana.
“Well, admit it, Reaper. Then maybe I can stop over-indulging myself.”
Yes, she definitely was a far cry from the girl sobbing by the window. Everything about her, now, oozed confidence. She sauntered towards him, getting closer than any other entity dared stand without thoughts of repercussion.
“Alana, you know that of what you speak is not possible. There could be no relationship between myself and any other. That is the way it is. I can accept that. You must, too.”
The Reaper stared at his dear Alana, wondering if all the special attention he paid her had now proven to be a mistake.
“How do you know it’s impossible? You cannot deny there is a bond between us, Reaper. Is it because I am a vampire? If that is the case, make me like you.”
Her hand rested on his frail shoulder. Her cerulean eyes gazed upon him like he was some Adonis. He knew he was not. A mirror across the room held the image of them, such opposites in everyway; while she held beauty, his likeness forced repulsion. The dead grey skin stretched over his skull lacked emotion, and life, instead flaunted his skeletal head. Her pale skin glowed, her high cheek bones flush with pink, her skin always held more color right after feeding.
“Alana, please. I am not like any other. I have roamed from the creation of all things. My labor is to collect the damned after their life is extinguished. I do not live, Alana, in any sense. I am Death.”
Her eyes brimmed pink, and Reaper looked away. It took much now to make her cry, she had gained strength and fury these past few decades. His words were hitting her hard. He hated to upset her, but there seemed no other way for her to accept the situation.
“Yes, you are Death, The Reaper, The Angel of Death, Pale Death. Have I missed any?”
Her tone meant she had recovered from her temporary grief, and she intended for this battle to see through. Death sighed and shook his head, and braced himself for the rest of her speech.
“But, you have life.”
His black eyes met hers, and her full lips rose into a brilliant smile. Her slender hand caressed the thick black feathers jutting from his back.
“Your wings are proof that life remains inside you. If I were to pull a feather, would not another grow?”
Reaper tilted his head. Her question intrigued him. No one had ever come close enough to attempt such a thing. If he lost a feather himself, he was not aware of one taking its place. Things like that just didn’t cross his mind. Not much ever did.
Alana pulled an ebony plume from her dark tresses; he had not noticed it before. She held it, her smile widened.
“I took this from you on your last visit, as an experiment. I wanted to see if one would grow in its place.”
“Alana, that wouldn’t prove…”
Alana walked around him to inspect the spot from which she had taken the feather. He never remembered even feeling her take it. He wondered now how many he may have lost over the years. Grow back? Is such a thing possible? Her hands parted the black plumes, searching for new growth.
“It was right there, I swear that’s where I pulled it from.”
Reaper could hear the disappointment in her voice. Her fingers continued to probe his wings looking for something he knew now she'd never find.
His voice boomed, vibrating off the stone walls. Porcelain cups rattled on their matching saucers. Her fingers froze immediately.
“This madness will end today.”
Alana backed away from Death’s feathers that ruffled and then relaxed. She walked around to face him. Fear passed over her eyes. He recognized the look; he’d seen it so many times. But, never from her. He wished what she wanted could be, that there could be something shared between them, that he could make her happy in ways she needed, but he needed to face reality. Something had to.
“Listen to me now.” His bony fingers entwined around her frail wrists. She tried to pull them free, but Death’s grip is unbreakable even for those who still possess some form of life. “You must stop wasting your after-life on this notion that we can be together. You must be with our own kind. For you to waste what time you have left after your life was extinguished so quickly in the human form would be a tragedy, Alana.”
A wrinkle formed between her scrutinizing eyes.
“My kind? There is no such thing as my kind. The others, I despise them. They are killers and sadists. Their life style is perversion. I will not be part of such an immodest people.”
She looked down at her restrained wrists then back to his eyes. He opened his hands and let her go. Alana stomped across the room, pushing a crystal case off a coffee table as she did. Shards of sharpened glass tattered across the hard floor.
“Make me like you, Reaper. Then, we could be together.”
Her fists curled into balls, her posture straightened. Reaper shook his head, her demand beyond impossible.
“I would not know how to do such a thing. I do not know where I even came from, Alana, I just am. There is no other entity like myself. My sole mission is to collect the dead. It is all I know.”
“Then, collect me, I am dead.”
Her voice wavered briefly. For that one moment, she sounded much like she did the first time they met, helpless.
“I only collect the souls of the damned, Alana. Those whose lives have been taken by another human. You are aware that I have no power to take you.”
Alana turned, her arms folded over her ample breasts that peeked from the silk bodice, teasing his dark eyes.
“What happens to me when I die?”
Death knew she would ask the dreaded question one day. At one time, earlier in their friendship, he had prepared the whole speech for her, and waited to give it. As time went by and their bond grew deeper, he buried those words and wished never to speak them, or have to think about them. But, her one question broke them from the confines of his subconscious; they invaded his conscious mind, making his skeletal body shiver.
“You are already dead, Alana. There is no more for you after this. If you are to be killed, you will disintegrate, and go back into the Earth. Your mind, your body, your soul, all will be gone.”
Alana’s eyes widened before turning to the floor, unable to meet his. Death knew his eyes most likely showed sorrow, it would be an impossibility to conceal, even for him.
“This is why I ask you to live this given after-life, Alana. Please, do not waste it on illusions of something that cannot be.”
Alana’s eyes filled with blood, blocking the familiar blue he loved. Orbs of glistening purple replaced them. She reached inside the top of her dress and pulled on a black chord fastened around her neck. Death had never noticed her wear it before.
“I want you to have this, Reaper.”
She produced a key dangling from the delicate twine. Reaper stood puzzled for a moment. Doors were never an obstacle for him, so keys were a bit obsolete to a thing such as himself.
“Reaper, since I cannot give you myself, I will give you as close as I can get. This is the key to this mansion. It is nearest and dearest to my heart. Everything in it, I treasure. My piano, my photographs, my possessions. I want you to hold the key to it all, as a symbol of my feelings for you. This key unlocks memories of happier times, when I lived here with my family, before they were brutally murdered by “my kind”, before they made me like them. But, you already knew that, I suppose.”
Death could feel the grief surround her. It made her features shine less, take on an icier paleness that he was not used to.
“I did not take your family, Alana. They were not damned. People damn themselves during their time amongst the living, not the way they die. They are not with me.”
Alana smiled though her crimson tears began to streak her perfect face. Her luminescence returned. Her heeled feet ticked against the marble towards him. She raised the chord over her head and placed it over his. It rested with a small clank against his bony chest. It radiated warmth. Alana smiled and caressed Death’s sallow face. His lips formed a smile, the movement so foreign, his cheeks burned from the effort.
“I will do what you say, Reaper. I will not like it, but I will do it, simply because you say.”
Reaper nodded and took her chin in his gaunt grasp. He gazed into her beautiful eyes. He caressed her china-white skin, wishing he could feel its softness.
Without another word to disturb the sentiment, Death turned and walked over to the dead man on the floor. He knelt down and slung him over his shoulder, it had become a ritual now. He stood and proceeded past his Alana, not meeting her eyes as he passed. He couldn’t bear seeing them again, not today. Death marched from the parlor, and took flight into the dark skies, his heart heavy with confusion.
Reaper sat in his underground and contemplated all that had transpired. Is there a way? He reigned over the souls of the damned; did he possess more untapped resources, some power he was unaware of? Death’s thoughts raced through his mind, spinning wildly. He went over his role over and over, unaware of why he did what he did, or how he even knew to do it; he just did, he always had. Was there more?
The Reaper arose from his stone chair and paced the rock floor. His footsteps echoed throughout the caves, making it seem like another entity occupied the massive space with him. He knew that was not the case. His life was a lonely one. It never bothered him, until he met Alana. Now, his only thoughts focused on how to get her to join him, to rule this underground fortress together.
Death stopped suddenly. His head tilted as he considered the absurdity of his next thought for just a moment.
“I may not be able to kill a human, but maybe, just maybe, I could kill the dead.”
The Reaper’s voice boomed all through the stony undergrounds, its reverberation seemingly bringing the walls to life. He felt a weight lifted from deep within. His new discovery empowered him. Once the thought formed in his head, and resonated there for a moment, he knew it was not just a thought, but fact. He felt it deep inside.
The Reaper took flight, his wings beating against the cool night air. At this moment, at his greatest breakthrough, time felt of the essence. He needed to share this with the only other creature he cared for, his Alana.
Reaper soared through the mountain’s peaks. The familiar mansion’s lights twinkled like tiny stars on the small hill some miles to the left. He turned towards them, a fluttering feeling filling his chest. He hadn’t heard from her in a few days. After receiving the key, he had expected such. Plus, he knew how stubborn she could be; she would hold out on feeding just to avoid the inevitable.
Then he felt it, the calling. Something in his mind just clicked, and it was like gravity pulling him towards something. He could not avoid it, not that he ever tried much to do so. Just that one time, and he found his attempts to fly in the opposite direction to be in vain. It was like he’d been lassoed by the waist, unable to go forth. From that point on, he followed the feeling, and did not fight it.
This night the pull came from somewhere quite the opposite from the unknown. The pull was unmistakably coming from Alana’s mansion. Death smiled, his love could not hold out anymore. She wanted to see him, even though she could go without feeding for a few more days.
Death beat his wings, the flapping whipped against the wind. He ascended with more speed then he ever knew he possessed. Death never hurried, until now.
Reaper walked into the front hallway. Its eerie silence unsettled him. No familiar tune greeted him. The smell of fresh blood permeated the air, drifting into his nostrils like the aroma of a fine wine.
The parlor showed signs of struggle. Vases lay in porcelain pieces on the floor. Fresh flowers sprayed across the marble in puddles of water. The rose-colored fainting couch was knocked over, three of the four legs jutting from its underside.
Death saw his offering lying prone behind the floral sofa. His eyes bulged from their sockets, lifeless veins still popping from his untouched neck. Reddish-purple fingerprints laced the skin above his collar.
Death stood and peered across the room. He heard a soft whimper from the far corner. He noticed a trail of blood leading to the moan. Alana. The Reaper flew across the room, his massive wings crashing one vase that had escaped harm from the previous battle.
Death’s breath caught in his throat. Alana lay splattered on the cold white floor. The fainting couch’s missing leg protruded from her chest. Her frail hands seemingly held the weapon in place. She coughed, blood bubbled on her lips. A dark pool spread under her.
Her raspy voice choked his name; it only had the strength to utter one word. Death could see the life leaving her. Her skin began to turn from its luminous white to pale grey. She smiled a final goodbye before closing her eyes. He heard her last breath escape, a soft hissing sound, taunting him. Her toes shriveled as the disintegration process began.
Reaper leapt to her side and placed his bony hands on her face. He felt the softness of her flawless skin; his fingers caressed the newfound sensation. His eyes drifted to her feet. The withering stopped under his touch. He knew her life was extinguished. He arrived too late.
Death sobbed; for once he wished he could cry real tears, wanting the wetness to soak his sallow cheeks, making him simply be able to show what he feels inside. Bending over her lifeless body, Death kissed his love softy on her still-moist lips. He closed his eyes, embracing the sensation, forever locking it in the confines of his consciousness.
He raised his skeletal arms over his fallen Alana. The fading continued, taking away her beauty before his eyes, and leaving a brittle shell in its place. Death wailed in anguish. His hands slammed down onto her, cutting through her flesh. Both hands grabbed their intended target and with a final tug he ripped them apart from the corpse.
“I love you, my Alana.”
Reaper stood from the body, his eyes cast away. He strode from the parlor, passing his intended offering. He would return for him later. The pull no longer gravitated him towards the body. Death’s grief overcame the sensation.
Death wailed, its sound resounded throughout the countryside, through the mountains; he wanted them all to know something special was lost this night. He cried in her honor.
Reaper whittled the lone bone. He crafted perfect holes through its top. His fingers tapped over each opening. It felt comfortable in his grasp. Her bloodied heart sat before him in one of her prized porcelain dishes, handed down from generation to generation in her family for centuries. In the underworld, her heart did not wither, but remained frozen in its freshly dead state.
He hunched over and placed the handmade mouth softly between his lips. He closed his eyes and blew. The familiar tune echoed in the depths of his barren caverns. Its soothing sound filled his ears and precious memories of his Alana flashed though his mind. For the first time in all eternity, Death mourned.