The Passing of Death
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When I was a child, Death liked to knock on my door at night and sing loud, bawdy songs. He thought they would keep me awake at night; that was his only intent at the time, to disturb my slumber, I who was always so quick to smile and laugh. The god thought the singing would really get on my nerves, and, when I didn't respond, he would only sing even louder. I thought they were lovely, just because Death was singing them to me through the heavy oak door of my bedroom.
I had never heard most of the songs that Death sang to me; I believe he made many of his melodies up, pulled them out of people's dreams, perhaps. They were not sad songs, which I thought was odd. They were just different. And, every night, Death had a new song to sing.
I don't know how I knew it was Death who sang to me. Death had a hollow voice, like someone was crying, deep inside their throats. But it wasn't the sound of one person crying, it was the sound of many people weeping. I suppose my mind just naturally linked the sound of weeping to the dark god, and so I discovered who sang with the voices of the sorrowful. It seemed logical, and it was, in all senses. For somehow I knew it was Death who sang to me.
I mentioned the songs to the others once. Many of them just slept in the same room as I, the others slept nearby, but, when I would go through the humming one of the songs that Death sang to me, they showed no recognition. I asked them once, if Death's songs kept them awake. They all turned to stare, and not a word passed between us. It was unusual, to me, that the songs went unheard by all of the others. I finally decided that I was the only one he wanted to have the songs heard by. Perhaps Death was self-conscious, or I was held the favor of the god. I wasn't sure, at that time, if that was a good thing or no.
I never discovered why Death sang to me and not to anyone else.
As I grew older, Death came to grace my nights less often. Every time he did come, a black hearse would pull away from my home the next morning. My elders all said that yet another friend of mine had fallen to the fever, and that they had gone away for help. I knew better, though. Death had sung of their passings to me, and each hearse carried another person that had been claimed. I learned, as the days went by, that Death's song had always done such things. Except it had, before, always been strangers that had been taken away. Perhaps too many people passed away each night for him to come and sing of them all; war was in the midsts, after all. Now the god only came to sing of people I knew, and that was often enough.
There was a time, when I reached an age close to what I considered adult-hood, around thirteen, that Death stopped coming to sing to me. Yet my friends were still passing from me, into Death's hands, at least one every day. They all left quickly. But he chose not to sing of their passings, and it took me a long while to accept that all my friends went to their passings unsung. It also made me ponder where Death had gone, and if he would ever come to sing the lullabies of passings again; I fell asleep every night wondering if I had somehow fallen out of Death's favor.
I had just passed my fifteenth birthday when Death came again to sing to me. And, as I listened to the song, I fell cold, for I knew who it was he had come for. Death had come for me this time, though I was not to pass to the place where my other friends had been taken. Not yet, anyway. No, Death, I learned, was still fond of me, and wanted me to take the god, a host, one may say, so that he could pass in the world as myself.
There was a reason the god wanted to do so, I also learned. Death knew that war raged among the colonies and the Earth, and that I had been chosen to fight in it. But he was fond of me and did not want me to pass away with the soldiers, another unsung passing. No, Death would take host in me and keep me safe. I would be me, with my smiles and grins, but with Death's shadow in my wake, to fight my battles for me and ensure that I would not die another unsung soldier.
I left for Earth soon after, in a suit they had called a "Gundam." The suit was called 02, and I was given the same name, to be used when the doctor wanted to contact me. Death found this amusing, as my own name already meant two. I found it fairly humorous as well, though for not the same reason he did. I had chosen my own name, after all, and the doctor had known that when he called the suit 02. I laughed only because if I was 02, there had to be a 01. So I was not the only human suckered into this war against my will. I had agreed to fight only to protect my home, which Death refused to take special care of, even for me. Death had claimed that it was impossible to make exceptions when it came to passings, though he had made one for me.
I met the pilot of 01 soon after I arrived on Earth. He was cold, and heartless, it seemed, though I was told, by the god who lodged in me, that it was only because the other pilot also had a god living in the mortal shell. Death spoke of the other god, whose title I was never given, with bitter distaste, and warned me to keep away from the human. Death had apparently known of the boy's parasite, which I had begun calling the god in me, in secret. When we first passed the human, through me, the god had taken my gun and fired, hitting the boy in his leg, and in his arm. I had protested the killing of the boy, and Death, worried that I would grow angry with the god, had agreed, covering the foretold actions, once again, through me, by pretending that I had been trying to protect the girl who was with the other human, which was foolish, as it had been obvious that she was in no particular danger.
It was about that time that Death let me regain control over my body, just in time for the girl to grow angry at me and for my surprise to show on my face. I then brought the gundam I had found earlier, on the ocean floor, from the blue depths, where Death had bade me to conceal it. Death was displeased with this action, and another person that I recognized from home had his passing song sung that night.
I met up with 01 often after that, and the other pilots, none of whom I had suspected existed. Besides myself and 01, there was 03, 04, and a 05. Only 01 and myself had parasites lodged in them; 01's parasite, I learned from Death, had a firmer grip on the pilot than Death did on me. The other god cared for the boy as Death did me, but could not permit the mortal to walk free, as 01 had a tendency to be suicidal at times. The other parasite, I suspected, was jealous of Death and did not want the mortal he favored to walk into Death's grasp.
The gods, at times, had other business to attend to, and would desert their mortal shells. It was the rare times that both gods were gone at the same time that 01 and I would talk of times when we had not been controlled by the parasites. He had a worse time than I, or so I believed at first. The real pilot of 01 was insecure and frightened. His parasite had been controlling him since he had aged into double digits and lost the man he had considered a father. I told him that I seemed to remember the song that Death had sung for this man 01 had held dear. 01 was, after I told him this, scared to talk with me at first, but we both learned, after awhile, that it helped to share our experiences with someone who was on common ground as ourselves.
Death did not like it when I talked with 01, and he slowly, without my total awareness, began to take a tighter hand to my being. It wasn't until I talked with 01 the next time that I realized that Death was doing to me as 01's parasite had done to him. He was taking control.
I didn't smile as often as I had before Death had taken a hold on me, and I didn't smile at all when the god had left me temporarily. It was Death, I later learned, who was making me smile when I was occupied. The dark god had, all along, slowly been taking control of me. My words were no longer my own, my expressions no longer that of my face. It was Death who was talking, it was he who was contorting my features into those of his own liking. Death had not liked the person the war was making me become, and was doing the best possible to bring back the days of my childhood, where never a moment passed without a smile and a laugh.
Neither 01 nor myself knew what would make the parasites stop this nonsense. Death had already fallen out of my favor long ago, and 01's god had never been in his, as my fellow pilot had been taken by force. I reasoned with myself that Death had requested that I take him in, and that, in turn, I could force him out. But I could never bring myself to talk with Death over the matter; I learned later that Death had known of these plans and was not at all happy with them, so he kept me from speaking of them. It troubled me that he also had readiness to my thoughts, if they were not carefully guarded. He did promise, though, that he would leave when the war was over, and, when it did finally end, it seemed that the god would honor his promise to me.
My friend 01 was not so lucky. His parasite had decided that the girl who had been named queen of the world would be a fine match for the pilot, and was commandeering 01 towards her. But the girl had fallen in love with the god, not the person 01 really was. I doubted that she would want my friend to lend her the strength neither of them seemed to have.
Death, in turn, who had not left me after all, had found a girl he wished to place me with. I think he believed that she could force the old me, the child me, to return. But Death had chosen poorly, this girl, who pined after me as 01's chosen did for him, only perturbed me with her presence. Death, caught up in his own matters, never seemed to notice this, and I was caught in the web that Death and this girl had woven for me. The god seemed to leave me less and less often; there were a few times that he offered to take me with him to his business, as though he felt uneasy leaving me without him to guide me. I always refused the courtesy.
I was no longer a person. Death had stripped me of my humanity; I had no feelings, I found that it hurt me to try to laugh on my own. By controlling me as he had, Death had managed to only set back his plans for me. I was becoming the person that 01's god was making him appear to be, a cold, heartless mortal; the façade that Death had disguised me with was exactly the opposite of what I had become, and I resented the god for it.
I wanted revenge, and I knew just how to get it. It would, however, take time to prepare, and I would have to wait to set the plan in motion. I would have to wait for 01.
My chance came around Christmas that year, what was called the year After Colony 196. Death, sensing trouble, had been forced to speak again with the god controlling 01 and was journeying to the place where 01 was most likely to be. Death had been also keeping contact with the pilot of 04, a bright, cheery boy, almost as I had once been, in hopes of reminding me of how wonderful it was to be happy. When this matter came up, I simply shook my head and informed the god of the internal struggles 04 was faced with each day he lived. Death had been displeased with this viewpoint.
01, I found, had changed. His parasite had hardened him to the pain my fellow host was receiving, though he still was not as his parasite wished him to be. The gods left us to reminisce as they spoke, far away in whatever place the gods can speak in all secrecy, and I told 01 of my plan. He smiled at me, and I smiled back, something that I had not done by my own choice for what seemed like years. 01 knew, as I did, exactly what we would be risking, if we indeed chose to carry out this act against our parasites. We set a date and time in which we could rebel from the gods, a date that was about three months in the future, and we settled it at that.
There was another war that year in which Death fought for me, though it was brief and ended with little bloodshed. 01 had a worse time of it than I did, I believe, as the girl that had been chosen for him was seized and his god forced him to go after her. He was successful, of course, his parasite would not let him be anything else. Death engineered the battles so that a man who had passed the previous year, the brother of 01's chosen, returned to assist the Gundams, and, though he tried not to let me discover the fact, to protect me. The war ended soon after it began, in favor or the side we had supported. Death had made it so, bringing the old man in charge of it all to his passing, though the passing of that man was supposed to be two years in the future.
Death compared the sequence of battles to a game of chess, with all the strategies and secrets, and I silently argued with him on that. In chess, you could lose players as you did in war, but, in the game, only a few of the lost players were important, and you could always start a new game and bring them back. In war, all of the players were essential, each lost life openly displaying an error made by one of the other players, and a lost man could only be brought back when Death cheated and made it so. Also, in chess, there were two opposing sides. In real battles, there were many sides and many alliances, which made the distinction of forces very difficult to recognize. The forces were not all colored in different garb, and there was no way of knowing if your next friend was one of your own or of another.
However, the game had one similarity with the battles of war. As in chess, there were no real evils in battle. We would wish it so, in order to clear our consciences of the blood we had shed by soothing ourselves with the knowledge that the other had been evil, but there were no truths to such battles. All of the players were trying to win, true, but not so that they could reign evil over the world. Each player tried to win, of course, but only so that they could bring aide to their homes and their family. No man on the battlefield and no babe sleeping at home in their bed had evil in their heart. Each person was simply trying to bring about what they considered the good of the people. There were no pieces of white and black, only one shade of people who, in their hearts, held a combination of both the black and the white, a color indiscernible to the naked eye.
I later told 01 of this quarrel I had held with Death, and he had laughed. When I had come to the part of the colors, he smiled and declared that the color was none other than that which is known as fuchsia. When I had questioned as to why he thought this, he told me that fuchsia was a bright color in which no white and no black are concealed, but which has origins from colors that descend from the somber blacks and whites. Therefore the color in each heart is fuchsia, and that all chess pieces should be colored so.
The day that 01 and I had agreed on quickly came upon us. Early in the morning, when my parasitic god was groggy and swept by sleep, for gods do, indeed, slumber, I challenged his hold over me, throwing it off of myself in a single burst of strength. Death was startled by this and did the only thing that came to his tired mind. He cast himself from me and sent me along to my passing.
The passing was like being swept up in a tornado and being carried to a place that was cold and lifeless. I understood, then, that this was not the land where Death had taken the other passed souls, but a land that came before the other, a sort of waiting room for the afterlife. It was not long before 01 joined me there.
When our parasites realized their folly, they each hurried over to the place where we were waiting and attempted again to force themselves into their shells. If the two of us had been alone, they would have succeeded. But the power of two is stronger than that of one, and the gods could find no method of returning to their hosts. So they sent us back to the world of the living, as it was not our time to pass, and banished themselves to the realm in which they reigned. We were free, after years of enslavement.
I'm sure that the other pilots, all of whom we kept in contact with, wondered at the sudden change in our demeanors. I, the happy boy they had all known me to be, retired into a state of sullenness. I was not heartless or cruel, or even indifferent, I just did not always try to force an optimistic view and a smile on others. It is true, though, that I later learned to smile as I had before Death had taken me hostage.
The change in 01 probably shocked the others the most. Where before 01 had always been merciless and cold, perhaps even cruel, he could now be found to smile and even laugh, things that had before been unheard of, unless he had been destroying something. 01 was a human being now, not the mindless drone everyone else had made him out to be, and I too was human, not the mobile statue with a smile carved into a bright face.
Many years have passed now, and 01 and I have remained great friends. We call each other by our numbers now, not the names that the parasites had used for us. Our fellow pilots have picked up on the fact and have begun to call us by our numbers as well. It is, in truth, the same names we have always gone by, though translated into a different language. Heero, the word for one, and Duo, the word meaning two. It is all the same.
The girls chosen for us left us soon after we deserted the gods; we were no longer the people they had loved. We could not say that we blamed them; we had been planning to leave them only a week later. We had been spared the trouble of doing so, and, though we never brought our suspicions to words, I believe we both hypothesized that the gods still kept close watch on us. We both married, eventually, and started families. And when impossible things seemed to go our way, we would exchange glances and know that the gods had stretched out their hands again.
But it seemed that they had learned their lesson; they never tried to imprison us again.
Our wives went to their passings a long while ago, and 01 and I are marveling at once again being free men. We have moved in together, two very old friends living in the same apartment. Our fellow pilots are also passed souls, all having gone one after the other. 01 and I are the only survivors of the wars, soldier wise, anyway, and we are rather proud of the fact. Even the girls who had been chosen for us have gone. We stay up at night sometimes and wonder how it is that all our friends have all ready gone to passing when we have not, then decide that it is the work of the gods. We don't mind that meddling; we know that when it is time for us to pass, the gods will not hesitate to bring us back to them.
We went out the one day last year and bought a chess set, and painted each piece a bright shade of fuchsia. We're hoping that, as long as the pieces remain in such a color, there will be no more wars and no more need for the gods to gain control in a world that is not their own.
Everything is alright now. We have each reached an age that is in triple digits now. 01, being the elder by three months, is 102. I will never reach that age, though my birthday is but a week away.
For I heard Death singing to me again last night, and I know very well what it meant. My passing will not be too long from now, and 01's will surely come only a few days after my own. I'm sure that neither of us will protest it, surely, as we have each lived twice. For death, in my experience, happens once, but life happens twice. The first time it is given, the second time it is chosen. We were both given life, at our births, then we chose to recover our lives when we cast off the gods. Our deaths will be welcome, I'm sure. We have lived long, thanks to our gods.
The two gods of death are waiting for us to return, and it is time to reward them for the time they have spent waiting over the past eighty-six years. They have waited long enough for the passing of Death.