A deep grey haze hung in the room. Particles in the air floated quietly like glitter suspended in oil. Particles of ash, soft and light. All around the room, a blanket of this same soft ash lay several inches thick upon everything, floor and furniture and Christmas tree alike. Time seemed suspended, like it had poured out a millennia into this room and run itself dry. I sat on the floor, covered in the same ash. Unsure of the hour. Uncaring. And blanketed in emptiness.
Drained like time around me, I felt no emotion as warm tears caressed my cheek. They simply came of their own accord and hanging my head, I watched them fall, each drop disappearing into in the ash that had settled between my crossed legs as I sat. Motionless.
When my neck finally told me that time was indeed passing and that it was weary of reckoning it in this position, I tilted my head back. The tears changed course taking a new heading towards the corners of my mouth. My eyes found a photo framed on the wall. Draped in ash like snow on a branch, it was surprisingly unobtrusive. And even though it was a color photo, it too seemed grey. Save for your eyes smiling out at me. But this too was a dimmed imaginary likeness. I let my own eyes close. And realized then, that I was not alone.
I hadn’t heard him enter. Or maybe I had but didn’t care, being too engrossed in my own thoughts. I hung my head again and turned slightly to one side, halfheartedly inquiring as to who was there. I didn’t need to see his face to know that it was the Angel of Death, in his sometime role of Ghost of Christmas Past. The rustle of his robes and the swirl of the ash told me his intentions in a moment. I closed my eyes and waited for the sickle to swoosh. And waited. And waited.
I opened my eyes just as he leaned his instrument against the wall. Dejection set in quickly and brought a new wave of tears. Death stepped lightly in front of me, crouching down to my level and resting one limb on his knee. I kept my head bowed, not out of respect or even fear, but engulfed in sorrow.
“But why?”, I sobbed.
“I’m sorry”, Death answered quietly. I felt one boney digit under my chin lifting my eyes to where his would have been. And looking into the black sockets I saw only the emptiness that I felt reflected back at me. Until he tilted his head slightly to one side. It was such a slight, un-Death-like motion. And then I saw a great sadness there as he wiped a tear away. I could imagine the corners of his mouth in flesh instead of bone and would later remember that he had smiled sadly at me.
“Sweet child”, he whispered gently, stroking my hair softly, “I know your pain. It drew me here, for I feel it deeply. I know what you wish. But I can not take you with me.” The words seemed to hurt him and I wondered if Death could cry.
He pressed his fingers against my cheek and his touch seemed strangely warm. Strangely alive. Strangely loving. I leaned into that touch, needing it desperately.
“For you see my sweet, you have no love. Without love you have no hope. And without hope, you have no soul for me to take.”
With that he began to withdraw his hand. I wanted so urgently to reach out…to grab that hand..to keep him from leaving me. Alone. But by the time I realized the desperation, it was too late. He’d already picked up his sickle and began to walk towards the corner of the room wherein a single line of bright light cut across the corner.
“I’m sorry”, he whispered again and without turning back he stepped into that band of light. I flung myself after him, reaching to touch just the edge of his cloak but I was too late. He’d already vanished. So all I could do was lay my body with no soul down, curled up on the floor under the dim Christmas tree. I closed my eyes there and let the pain wash cleanly through me again, becoming still and silent. And the ash began to reclaim me once again. Alone. In pain. And not even worthy of Death.
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