In parts 9 & 10, we find that War is like that, and get a glimpse of Death's past.
Parts Two and Three
Parts Five and Six
9. War is like that
“Erik,” said Moira.
“My dear.” He reached out a hand, turning over his calloused palm to stroke her cheek. She batted him away. “Ah, don’t be like that. Of the two of you, you, at least, might be spared. And Moira, you know how well I’d like that. Unnecessary killing is something I abhor, especially when that unnecessary death is of someone so beautiful. Don’t you agree, Death?”
Death did not like the familiarity with which War spoke to the Fate at all. He stood up straight and opened his mouth to say something virile and impressive to the mighty warrior.
“Save it, Erik,” Moira snapped. “We’re going to Council, and you can’t stop us.”
War sighed, taking off his helmet. “I’m sorry, my dear. But you should know that when I left, the vote was in favor of termination.”
“Was it complete?”
“Not yet. But it will be.”
“Then we still have a chance.”
War plucked the red rose from his vest and raised it to his aquiline nose. He inhaled deeply, glanced at Moira, and tossed it to the pavement. The toe of his boot ground the flower to pulp.
“Once upon a time, my dearest, divinest Fate, you refused my offer. Perhaps, if you had chosen me over… him, then things would be different. I would not be serving eternal penitence twice: once, kneeling in humiliation before Him and begging His forgiveness, and then again, watching you search through the eons for one, very lost soul.” His fingertips casually stroked the hilt of his sword. “I will only offer once more, Moira. But know, regardless of your answer, that this day holds nothing more for your pathetic, counterfeit Death.” War bared his teeth, sharp and white. “His term is over.”
“Counterfeit? If you really believed that, Erik, you wouldn’t be here, would you?” Moira glanced at Death. “Get on the horse. Now.”
“But I don’t understand,” said Death. “What offer? What’s going on?”
“I said, get on the horse! N--”
War swung, his iron helmet as large as a pumpkin smashing into the side of Moira’s face. She fell to the wet pavement, and War turned on Death, his sword sliding from its sheath in a ringing scream. Moira’s horse reared, bellowing with rage, and Death reached for a knotted hank of mane. Before he could pull himself up, War had bolted around the waving hooves and struck Death between the shoulders.
His head on the ground, he thought he saw Moira move.
And then he saw no more.
10. The Petty Thief
Parakeets fluttered and chirped, a blue and green tempest inside their wire cage. A box announced, “Paddle Ball! Fun for Girls and Boys!”, the toys haphazardly stacked within. The floor was brown, scuffed linoleum. Aisles and aisles of cheap, household necessities and the merely frivolous stretched before him. And at the back, a row of red-topped stools on gleaming chrome bases beckoned, waiting to be spun before a long, curving counter. Cheeseburgers. He smelled cheeseburgers.
Death stood in the entrance to the Woolworth’s of his teen years, the place where he had honed first his shoplifting skills and, later, picked his first pocket.
“Excuse me,” said a woman, pushing past in her tan, belted spring coat.
“Sorry,” said Death. Wait. Had she seen him? He look wildly around, finally catching himself in the security mirror atop a wall.
No skull. Well, a skull, but it was covered with ruddy, pockmarked skin. No robes. His leather jacket. By God, how he had missed it. He grinned up at his seventeen year old self in all his spotty-faced, scrawny glory, complete with—
“Hair. Oh my God, my hair.” He put a hand – a fully-fleshed hand – to his slicked-back black hair, and then to his back pocket where, sure enough, a plastic blue comb awaited. He drew it carefully through his hair, allowing a piece to fall in front. Very James Dean.
“This ain’t no beauty parlor. You gonna buy something or what?”
Barbara. Dear Barbara, cracking gum with her mouth wide open, horn-rim glasses nestled against her massive bosom and held there by a chunky silver chain. Her own hair was gray and brown and piled atop her head in a monument to Aqua Net. It never moved.
“Yeah. I’m looking for a present for my sister,” he said.
“Then get looking, and stop blocking the door.” She returned to her Tales of True Romance!, and Death walked away.
He stopped at the end of an aisle. Glanced back at Barbara, who was reading and also keeping an eye on him.
The game was on.
What did he need? Nothing. Maybe a pack of Topps, if they had any Superman. But that wasn’t much of a challenge.
He made his slow way down the aisles. He pretended to inspect a stuffed donkey, then coolly tucked it inside his jacket. His sister, Mandy, would love it. She was nine, and she had a thing for Eeyore.
A pack of pencils. Sharpener for the pencils. Hey, maybe he’d be an artist. Looked like he was being given a second chance. So sure, why not? That is, if the whole thief gig didn’t work out. Again.
A small pad of unlined paper. The jacket was beginning to get a bit bulky.
“Leonard dafuckingvinci, that’s me,” he said under his breath.
And then his eyes lit on the birds. A parakeet, stuffed in his jacket? Could he get away with it? He almost laughed at how thrilling it seemed.
He circled the cage, studying them. Watching how fast they moved, hopping from perch to perch. There were two doors. Lean in. Act like you’re talking to them.
It was simpler than it should have been. A blue ’keet flapped and then quieted in his fist. He slipped it next to the donkey.
Maybe he’d give it to Mandy, too. Maybe he’d let it go, once he was outside. He liked that idea better. She’d be happy with the donkey, and anyway, things shouldn’t be in cages.
The birds all went silent.
He looked up.
Moira stood on the other side of the wire enclosure.
His heart leapt and then fell again.
It was all a dream. He wasn’t seventeen. He was dead.
“Christopher,” she said.
His breath caught at her mention of his name. The doors opened behind her, the sun flooding in and lighting her hair on fire, strawberries and gold.
In trotted the beasts: great, slavering dogs, jaws opening as they spotted their prey and began to run.
She stared at him as if she hadn’t heard.
The dogs bounded. Sprang.
“Moira!” The birds exploded in chaos within their cage. She spun, dogs snatching at her, bringing her down. He ran, jacket opening and his stash falling to the ground, except for the parakeet, which burst out and disappeared towards the ceiling in a mad dash of blue.
TWO PARTS. I couldn't leave you on another cliff-hanger. (Oh, wait, but I did...)
This cheeky author has lots to do today, but hopes to get out the next part tomorrow, then after that, we are at the finish.
Death with violin by Daniel Egneus
His entire gallery is amazing.
Want to read on to part 11? It's right here.