Borne out of a random idea that bit me and didn't let go. Concerns two figures who are more alike than I thought. So I made them meet.
Subject: a conversation. Setting: somewhere in space.
SO WE MEET AGAIN.
"Yep, it appears like it. Hello again. My, my, you look younger every time."
THANK YOU. I WOULD SAY THE SAME, BUT YOU LOOK DIFFERENT EVERY TIME.
"I rather like this one, though he's been through a lot. Well, you've seen them all. I always thought it's funny that you'd be here – hardly thought you'd belong in this world."
THAT'S NEITHER HERE NOR THERE.
"Well, it's just, it's not something I thought was your domain – this is hardly real death, is it?"
The reply he receives is a simple, neutral shrug.
"Oh well, let's get this over with then."
HOW MANY DO YOU HAVE LEFT?
A short exhalation here, a blown 'hooooffff' as insubstantial as the breathless vacuum of firmament, and then
"I think this one's number ten."
I RATHER LIKED THE LAST ONE. HE HAD AN INTERESTING ACCENT.
"Yeah… but I thought I could do with a bit more hair, you know."
IF ONLY MY PROBLEMS COULD BE SOLVED THE SAME WAY.
"You know, we've never really talked."
NOT REALLY PART OF MY JOB DESCRIPTION.
"Still, all these times, it's been very rude of me, never had time for much conversation – always been in the middle of stuff, life-and-death, saving-the-world, A-gain, blah blah. Anyway. I'll start: how are things?"
Were there eyebrows, they would have been raised.
SAME OLD, SAME OLD.
"The horse? The granddaughter?"
SUSAN IS WELL, YES. AS IS BINKY. A pause. Chatting does not come naturally.
SHE IS NOW ENGAGING IN THE LONG AND PROUD PROFESSION OF TEACHING SCHOOLCHILDREN.
"Ah yes… She's called Susan as well, I remember. Of course. Yes."
"Oh. Fine. Oh, yeah. Brilliant. Doing great. Yep. Fantastic."
Myriad stars around their cosmos burst and blaze in the hollow pause that follows. Space stretches past them, the weight of infinity, and even though Death has met so many people in his time, conversation starters are still a difficult task.
I HEARD ABOUT THE TIME WAR.
Brief mortality… nothing compared to how easily he kills the subject.
THEN IT IS TRUE.
"Weren't you there, clearing up?"
NO. SUCH A SCALE IS BEYOND EVEN MY DOMINION. I WATCHED FROM AFAR.
"So did I."
IT IS STRANGE THAT ONE MUST STAND APART FROM ALL OF IT. TO BE DISTANCED, SAFE, ALWAYS, BUT ISOLATED. ALWAYS WATCHING AS THE THIRD PERSON.
"You're talking about the war."
THE WAR? OH…YES...
Silence… constellations bloom and die in this momentary eternity of social awkwardness.
"Tell me." another question, "Are you ever lonely?"
The skeleton seems to ponder this, his rigid face betraying no emotion, yet there is an unmistakably wistful tone to his leaden speech.
I WOULD ANSWER, WERE IT NOT FOR THE FACT I CANNOT DESCRIBE HOW LONELINESS FEELS OR WHETHER I HAVE EVER FELT IT. YOU ALWAYS CHOSE TO BE ALONE. TO BE ALONE IS TO BE WHAT I AM.
"I didn't choose this! God, I didn't choose this."
WHAT WE WANT AND THE CHOICES WE ARE GIVEN ARE OFTEN TWO DIFFERENT THINGS.
"It wasn't my fault. I'd give anything…"
WHAT WOULD YOU GIVE TO HAVE IT ALL BACK? YOUR FORMER LIFE? YOUR HOMEWORLD, INTACT? YOUR PEOPLE, RETURNED?
A pregnant pause, as the one who is the last of his kind ponders whether loneliness has made him selfish, too eager to preserve that which would be better left to pass. Was he ever made for society? Or perhaps he was, is, and always will be, destined to live like this, flying, through time, through sky, living on without an 'until' to break it. Sleep does not play a big part of his life. Alone and unique, they have all loved him because there was no one else quite like him in existence…
He meets the twin blue stars eyeing him; he stares back.
"I couldn't answer that. I think I'd scare myself with what I'd say. I know it would never happen, and I could never make it happen. My life is what it is now."
THIS PERPETUAL, NOMADIC JAUNT THROUGH TIME? THE BLUE BOX STILL HASN'T CHANGED, I SEE.
"Naah, it's been stuck like that some time now. I like it, actually." The solemn tone is broken, "Funny things, aren't they, humans? I got this from their world, of course. They never cease to amaze me. The stuff they can create! The things they think of!"
THEY HAVE A REMARKABLE TALENT FOR INVENTING THINGS THAT AREN'T THERE, IN MY EXPERIENCE. TELLING STORIES, MAKING THINGS POSSIBLE THROUGH WORD AND WILL THAT WOULD OTHERWISE NEVER BE. THIS DIALOGUE, FOR EXAMPLE, IS HIGHLY IMPROBABLE.
"Amazing stuff, imagination…"
Silence lapses again, as the two figures come to realise the same thing:
"I envy them."
There is no audible response.
The question hangs. The expressionless face does not move. But for a moment, the blue stars flicker.
I THINK YOU HAVE OTHER PRESSING MATTERS TO ATTEND TO, DOCTOR. SAVING THE WORLD AGAIN, FOR EXAMPLE. WE BOTH HAVE JOBS TO DO.
The scythe performs a blue descrescendo of light, and then the figure is gone. In a similar manner to all other humans, except for the flash of light, and the… rather distorted reincarnation. But he was gone, anyway.
And Death stares into the vast infinity of space and time and life, and his eyes reflect nothing of the world he has seen. Odd, how, after so many times, they had never asked each other's name. Both of them (curious, really), nameless, their being characterised with only a title of what they performed for the world.
Death whistled for Binky, and as the horse galloped near, looked up at the blue steel of his scythe.
I ENVY HIS SONIC SCREWDRIVER. WOULD BE SO MUCH MORE VERSATILE THAN THIS CLUNKING THING.
And then he mounted the white steed…
(WHO NEEDS A BLOODY TIME MACHINE ANYWAY)
…and was gone.