A Gift for Life and Death (pt13)


The blade hit the skull and it went flying off into the distance. Death watched as his hound chased after the bone, catching it miles away. He chuckled, moving over the muck of the swamp as it tried to collect the rest of the bodies before Death could have fun with them. Well, the suffering was over. At least, the suffering of those he had come to collect.

Even the plants that lived in this swamp, the insects which couldn’t get far enough away, the frogs who had been injured by what had transpired here… they would come to him, in their own ways, as their bodies failed them and their lives came to an end. So simple. So artificial. They didn’t last very long. They never did.

Pup came back to him, tail flinging itself every which way, happily bringing back the skull. It was slimed, swamp slime, and Death tried to take a step back as Pup dropped it on his head, but he still got it all over his robes. He made a face, then ignored it to reach up for the large hound’s jaw.

“Good boy.”

With a big huff, Pup lay down to allow Death a good access to scratch at his jaw. Then he became impatient and flipped onto his back, showering the air with muck and exposing mud and blood which lay upon his bones. Death rubbed his stomach, what the hound obviously wanted. Then he leaned against one of his ribs, cleaning off the already clean head of his scythe. He didn’t want anything on it when it went to storage with the rest of his scythes.

Though if anyone realized he had more than one, well, he would have to deny it. Death only came in one form, after all.

Passage of Time

The days passed by with increasing speed. Every step the research took them forward, the more giddy they all became.

Except for the head scientist. He was as taciturn as ever. And noticing that was what kept her from joining in the excited joy of the others. Even the most reserved of them couldn’t refrain. They were so close. Yet none of them could have been as reserved as the doctor, who never smiled. Who never had a good thing to say. Who watched their process as though something might go wrong.

Nothing can go wrong, she told herself. He was always like that. He might have been in charge, but he was also always like this. His seriousness didn’t mean anything would go wrong now. It didn’t say anything. His closest assistant was not fazed by his mentor’s emotionless nature at all.

She bit her lower lip. It was fine. They were close. So very close.

The days passed by with increasing speed. It was too late that she realized it didn’t just feel like that, but that time was passing by much too quickly and no one had noticed.

Associate. That sounded better.

She somehow managed to balance precariously between being a complete pain in the ass and their only friend. Friend was pushing it, so they would never say it out loud. Associate. That sounded better.

“What did we find today?” they asked, wishing she would stop bouncing about the room so they could concentrate.

“Oh, plenty!” She nearly spun in a circle before settling down. There were times they didn’t believe she was real. Placing the wraps of cloth on the table, she let them to open it themself. Thankfully. She’d probably drop them on the floor after opening from all of her nervous energy. “What are we doing with them?”

They didn’t respond. Until they appraised the bones, there was little point in replying to her needless questions. They unwrapped each bone, looking them over and looking for signs of anything that might give them the immediate clue they were important.

No, not today. “We’ll take the samples and ship the rest off to the agency.”

She sighed, sticking her lip out in a frown. As if she were eight. “Aw.”

Perhaps it said something about them that she was the only person who wanted to work with them.

And another

They sat there in silence.

Then again, Brother had been doing that for some time. He tried not to look up, to see what Brother was reading. Because that was what Brother did, read.

Brother turned a page.

It wasn’t like they both weren’t adults at this point. He really should have started acting like one. Not like a child. Not following Brother around as if he was the only thing that could float during a flood.

He looked down at his own paperwork. He had started bringing work home with him because he wanted to get more done. Maybe because Brother would be proud that he was so focused on his career. Well, it certainly hadn’t gotten him dismissal. Yet it hadn’t seemed to given him pride either. More like Brother hadn’t expected less of him.

Maybe he should have been doing this work in his office, instead of out here, where his brother had decided to read his book. Perhaps the problem was that he was sprawled out over the couch, because that was how his brain worked.

Or he should just focus, because he was already here. He might as well work. He needed to do so.

Brother turned a page.

And so did he.