I just saw a local production of Once On This Island as was blown away. Every actor and actress on that stage did their job perfectly. Even better, Papa Ge sang extremely well, as did Ti Moune: sometime during "Promises - Forever Mine Reprise" I started to dream up this little fic, stunned by the song. By the end of the play the fanfic idea was overtaking my mind! So I obviously had to write it down and share it.
The wave swelled, broke, and then retreated, but under its crest the girl drifted into the shallows of a sandbar. Her body was not bloated as Agwe had kept her a delicate treasure under the water, careful to keep her sun-browned skin free from blemish. Her wet body glistened under the sun, her hair tangled with salt, and the dress clung to every curve of the dead girl. The waves rolled her through the shallows as Agwe pushed away, whispering his goodbyes in the rush of the foam.
Papa Ge picked her from the sea, ever so gently. He cradled the girl in his strong arms and brushed a strand of hair from her peaceful face. Now only did he have to walk from the sea to the shore, and his journey would be over. The promises had been kept.
He started off slowly, the water dragging at his legs. Once again he glanced at the girl in his arms and felt something flicker in his chest, a pang of… sadness? Regret? Guilt?
There were promises made in the darkness…
It wasn't his fault! This was his job. It's not as if he had heart. That was Erzulie's game – jabbering on about the 'power of love' – not his. Papa Ge was to take a soul, not examine its depth.
Be gentle, Erzulie had whispered. Be gentle with the girl.
So he cradled Ti Moune as gently as he could, even though he recognized that he was only obeying command. It was only because Erzulie had won – love pitted against death – and that he was forced by laws of respect to listen to the love goddess, and held the girl softly. No other reason. He could not feel anything, ever.
I am the road leading to no return.
He was Death. And Death did not love.
As he waded through a tangled mess of seaweed up to his knees, he noticed that the hem of Tim Moune's white dress was dragging. He gently folded it back over her body and then bit his lip. Why was he feeling an ache inside? Why should he ever feel sorrow? The other gods had let tears fall. But Papa Ge did not cry over death! Papa Ge was Death!
He won't be able to be gentle, Agwe had said. It's not in his nature.
But he could lead the girl, gently, so gently, to Askaka. He could take her hand, take her soul, and she would be safe… But he remembered that when he had passed his knife to the girl, urging her to kill her beloved, he had closed his fist around hers for a moment. Her hands had been soft, and warm. He now pressed his own palm to his cheek, and found it cold as ice. Cold as death. Even the body in his arms was warmer.
She really was beautiful, even in death. Beneath the closed lids, he knew her eyes were amber as honey. And he knew, because he was the god of Death and could see souls, that beneath her skin she was as bright as the noon-high sun, and sparkled like a rushing stream in the moonlight.
Secret of life nobody wants to learn…
But why was he thinking this? What was it about Ti Moune that threatened to change his ways? Erzulie would laugh if she saw him now. She would tell him that strange ache was love, of course, the most powerful feeling of all. Ridiculous.
But what if – what if he wasn't all just Death? If he could stop a heart from beating in a single instant, would it be so difficult to make the blood flow once again?
Agwe, we all know that deep inside Papa Ge is capable of love, Asaka had said. She had tried to muster up a playful tone, but her somber eyes and wilted flowers gave her honest feelings away. I bet he acts just as romantic as Erzulie when he is alone.
Was it folly to think he could be Life? It was an audacious thought. He could start the blood flowing… But then Erzulie would be proved right once again. Love can conquer Death, her voice murmured on the wind. But why should he care about that haughty, histrionic woman thought of him?
Now the water was at his ankles and his time was almost over. Papa Ge stopped walking only a few feet from the sandy shore and glanced from side to side. The trees of the island waved at him, the waves of the sea crashed pleasantly. The water licked his feet like the tongues of little wildcats. In his arms, Ti Moune was still and silent. But he thought he knew how to awake her. If Death could cooperate with Love for once, perhaps she would spring to life.
The god held her, so gently, and leant his face towards hers. Slowly, tentatively, he placed a kiss on her lips. He felt the odd twinge in his chest again, and a prickling was felt in his fingertips. When he pulled back he was sure that he saw her eyelids flutter, a glimpse of amber irises. He thought he saw a breath rise in her breast. But perhaps he was mistaken, for she didn't move again.
He waited, held his breath. His heart beat fast like a rabbit's in his chest. Wait – his heart? When had he ever felt his heart beating before?
Stumbling towards the shore, he gasped for breath. His gentle, gentle grip on the girl let her slowly slid to the grassy outcrop above the beach. He carefully arranged her dress by her sides and her warm hands across her chest. But her hands were now cold. And as he watched, the ground twisted and broke open, swallowing the body and then melding shut again. Only a mound covered in wildflowers was left. Asaka had laid the girl to rest.
He journey over, Papa Ge collapsed by the grave underneath a gnarled tree. The bark shifted to his back as Asaka tried to comfort him. A srpay of water hit his face gently - Agwe trying to reach out from the sea.
Papa Ge slowly took his hand and pressed the fingers to his neck. To his warm fingertips he could feel the gently beating pulse, beneath his ear. This was new, unusual. A bead of sweat rolled down his forehead.
You are a part.
A pure gray dove flew over the tree. From her claws a small flower dropped, swirling down to where Papa Ge sat solemnly. It sparkled in the golden sunshine, fluttered in the wind, and in his hand the god caught the gift from Erzulie. He could almost hear her laugh like chimes in the breeze. Anger started to grow in his chest; she had won once again, and had to flaunt it.
But he would show her. He closed his fist around the flower and it started to smolder. He let the ash fall from his hand, where the wind gently blew it onto the mound where Ti Moune lay. Everything was still. Suddenly his eyes started to sting, and he wiped at them furiously. He was Papa Ge. He was Death!
Stalking into the forest, the trees turned to watch him go, the waves whispered their condolences, and the wind pulled at his clothing. He ignored the other gods' reassuring touches and silently walked away from the grave. He didn't look back because... he didn't care.
I am the car, racing towards distant shores…
Death would not be gentle again. But in his chest, his heart pounded like a drum... Gently, it beat. Gently, gently.