Emil had watched people grow old and die around him for an eternity. Coleen only understood it as a concept. As numb as she felt now, she knew it would affect her when it happened. When Emil died. Then she would fall numb again. It was not a big deal.
“Something other than being a homemaker,” Emil clarified.
At one point that might have enraged her. Coleen could not feel beyond the numbness of peace and reconstruction.
“I could be a homemaker,” she mused, the thought no longer a sexist insult. Someone who fixed, who did not destroy. Something she could be appreciated for doing… unlike what had happened.
“You certainly have become odd since losing your throne.” Emil placed the broom aside and sat at the table. He had bought what she had requested (like the apples), but under the grocery bag was a rectangular box. Emil opened the box and slid it to him.
Coleen took the lid and closed it. “You need to watch what you eat now. Food can kill you.”
Emil did not even blink. “Food has killed me.”
She took the box from the table. “Then let’s not repeat the experience.”
Forgiveness still smiled up at him, unfazed by the dark abyss they must have seen there by looking directly into his eyes. Then there was that look in their own eye, one he had started to recognize. It came very rarely, but always preceded a certain word that Death was beginning to understand the meaning of. The more he came to understand it, the more he believed Forgiveness didn’t understand this simple mortal concept. It came to show more of Forgiveness’ oddities, despite being a mortal being…
“I’ll leave you to whatever it is you’re doing out here,” Death said irritably. “Though you should return to her soon, if you wish to keep your place. Time means different things to us than it does to you, you must remember.”
“Can I call you Dad with the time I have?”
Death ground his teeth. “Immortals are not what you think us to be, angel. Family is a mortal concept. I think you would do best to remember this, if you wish to spend what time you have left amongst the living remaining around us. Before you become mine.”
Forgiveness had something they wished to say, but Death did not linger in which to hear what that was. He left. For a moment, he thought he had left alone, but his jealousy subsided when Pup remained in pace with him, at his side. Death slowed down, stopping as the life around him fled. As living things were supposed to do.
It was Shu-fang’s fault the gods were so interested in her. She remembered it as though it were hidden behind a veil, where someone was shining a flashlight through the other side and into your eyes and you would tell them that wasn’t how it worked, that they needed to give you the flashlight so you could at least make out shadows, but the other person was insistent this was how it worked.
Meaning to say, Shu-fang didn’t remember the details, it had been a while. Plus, a whole lot of it blended together, like the weave of said veil.
The battles of mortals had all been the same. Fighting them had seemed important at the time, before she realized something important.
Mortal battles were sort of dumb.
There was a time she had thought they mattered. A cause that she believed in, a belief she shared. Maybe Shu-fang would have done better creating her own kingdom and fighting for herself, but the thought had never crossed her mind. Shu-fang didn’t think an immortal would make great choices for the rest of mankind. The gods were immortal and they sure didn’t. And despite everything, Shu-fang still considered herself human.
Bri stepped forward, holding her hand down in front of Orifiel. Malak watched her do so, knowing the truth of the matter didn’t matter. The fact that dealing with Orifiel would be so much more difficult than any of the other messengers, no matter how cooperative he would try to be, did not matter. Bri would persist as she always had.
While the wait before her next words was not the same, the rest of the action felt so familiar. As if they had fallen only yesterday.
“My name’s Bri. I’m here to help you.”
Orifiel would no longer be able to see the past as he once did, the fall had begun the process and soon enough all of what made Orifiel a messenger would have drained away. Those pupils began to focus on Bri’s hand, then upon her face.
“Malak?” His voice was quiet.
Malak’s tone lost the ever-present edge. “We are here to help you.”
Orifiel took her hand.
“In any case,” Malak continued, “it does appear that we don’t have to continue further west. This is the strongest lead we’ve found.”
“And one of the strangest. I don’t think I’ve ever known a messenger to start causin’ so much ruckus so fast.”
“You mortals allow for much more oddities to prevail the larger the population there is to deviate from,” Malak explained. “The less people there are, the less tendency there is for a stark contrast from the normal to be acceptable.”
Bri corrected them. “We mortals.”
At one point, this would have offended them. They might have become angry, stormed away, ignored her. Now it simply resounded with the feeling of hollowness that Malak hadn’t become accustomed to yet. Part of the human condition, they supposed, but it had never been an interest of their before, which left them at a loss to comprehend any of it now, no matter the years.
“Anywho, people congregate with like minded individuals for similar goals. I think that’s something everythin’ does.” Bri nodded, agreeing with her own sentiment. “Where should we go from here?”
Malak closed their eyes, shaking their head. “If we had come across anyone other than a human being walking on two legs, I believe the both of us would be on the same page.” Bri was just as capable, if not more so, of realizing what didn’t belong in the world. If she hadn’t been, the both of them never would have met. They would not be doing this now.
Who knew where Malak might be. Or Gotzone. Inglebert. Vangelis.
They were looking at HER with those big, big eyes. As if they weren’t asking for the impossible. As if they weren’t asking for their death.
SHE could have held on. SHE never did, not before. SHE knew better than to hold on for too long with most. Everything had an end eventually. HE reminded HER of this every day.
But they were HERS. The first thing SHE had ever had. They had given themselves to HER, unyielding in their attempt to broach HER initial distance.
Then time passed. They grew old, as everything did. Except for HER. Except for HIM.
They could have lasted a little longer, she knew. Even without HER help. SHE could let it be as it normally was and they would survive for a bit longer.
But HE was here – the one SHE usually loved to see. But HE was here – not for HER. For them.
“they’re mine today” HE said. There was no emotion in his voice, not today.
They smiled up at HER. “It’s okay.”
HE kept everything forever. SHE had everything for such a small period of time. SHE had to smile for them, if it was the last thing SHE could do.
SHE would say farewell.
The world would turn.