Rated PG; death, injury
Prompt: End your story with someone dancing in the rain.
When I woke up, I was somewhere else. I was still in the river I had fallen into. But I was floating upright, calmly. I was breathing. If I wanted to, I could probably speak. In front of me was a figure in a black robe. A hood obscured their face in darkness. In their long, thin, blue fingers, was a scythe. Oh no.
“I didn’t think I would die yet.”
“And yet, here you are.”
The figure spoke in a surprisingly normal voice. High and clear. They removed their hood. Blue skin, white, flowing hair. Bright, grey eyes. A nice smile. Almost human. She took a clipboard from her robe and checked it.
“Sinclair, I regret to inform you of your passing. You drowned.”
I looked around at my watery surroundings. “No duh.”
Death--I assumed this was Death--smiled politely and continued reading.
“In the short term, what could have been done to prevent this death was either: A) Filled your tank up with gas before leaving the house, thus preventing you from having to walk to a gas station, or B) Not walking at night on the railing on the bridge crossing the Shinano River. Well, one of the bridges.”
I groaned. “Oh, that’s what did it.”
“One of the things.” Death said. She flipped the page on her clipboard. “In the long term, to prevent this death, you could have learned to swim.”
I frowned. “What’s the point of this?”
Death looked up from the paper. “Excuse me?"
“Why are you telling me what I could have done to stop my death? It’s too late.”
Death returned her clipboard to its mysterious place in her robes. “It’s akin to a scolding after you scrape your knee.”
“So, is there another life?” I asked. “Reincarnation.”
“No. Though we do get that question a lot.” Death responded. “It’s not possible.”
“So, why tell us how we messed up? We’ll never use this information.”
“So you regret your actions.” Death said. “Now, come on, we must be going.”
“Where? The afterlife?”
“No. To look back on your life.”
“Why would we do that?”
Death rolled her eyes, though not unkindly. “The same reason I just said. Now, come on.”
She holds out her hand. I know I’m in no position to decline, so I take it. We’re surrounded by a cylinder of black smoke. It swirls around us. The water is sucked out of it. I stand on dry ground. Then, I’m lifted a few centimetres off it. Death smiles in a practiced way. Winds picks up and ravages my hair. I feel it sting my nostrils. My eyes water. Death keeps up the smile.
I fall back down. The smoke and wind subside. I’m standing on a wet road. Rain Clouds are in slowly dripping water. A car whizzes through death and I. We are unscarred. Only spiritual projections. We’re looking through the slightly grimy glass of a diner window. On the other side--in a booth with someone I almost recognize--is me. My hair is long, dyed, and pulled back. My eyes are tearful. I’m squeezing the hand of the person, who isn’t squeezing back.
Oh. I remember. I did a semester abroad. I dated someone. I remember it didn’t end well. The person speaks. Kacey, I remember. Though there’s a layer of glass and rain, I can hear every word perfectly when I start listening.
“. . .clicking anymore.” Says Kacey.
Young me's eyes close. Tears spring from them. I try to look away, but I can’t. I have to watch the tears. Have to make sure they make it to my chin. They leave shiny streaks on my puffy, red cheeks.
“Please.” I choke. I look like I’m going to die.
Kacey’s head shakes. “I’m sorry it had to end like this, Sinclair. I really hope you find happiness.”
Then Kacey stands up. Turns around. Walks out the diner. Walks away, down the sidewalk. Death observed the retreating figure silently. She turned to me. My eyes were wet, my vision blurry. The rain drummed harder on the street. My clothes didn’t get wet, but I felt every drop.
“That was. . .the love of my life.” I say.
It came back to me; the long nights, the lingering kisses, the sweet baking. Sweaters too big for me, the feeling in my heart that we were destined to be together forever.
“Yes, it was.” Death says.
When I looked at her, she frowned sympathetically. Practiced over and over.
“You two would have gotten married if you hadn’t taken that night job. Then you would have cared more and been there when you were needed.”
I let out a sob. It echoed, like my sorrows were running through time. I sniffed and wiped my face.
“I should have never taken that stupid job.” I mumbled tearfully.
“Yes, that’s the point I’m trying to make. Let’s move on.”
I whipped my head around to Death. “There’s more?”
“Of course there’s more.”
Death snapped her fingers. Life moved sideways, such as when one swipes to the next picture on a phone. The new world was familiar. It was a busy intersection. Rain poured down, making puddles in potholes and droplets on windshields. I recognized this place. Oh. Oh, please, no.
Death shushed me, and pointed. There I am, as a teenager. Wearing sneakers and a raincoat. My backpack is getting soaked. I try not to look. But I know I have to. I’m listening to music, lost in my own world. I’m looking both ways, to see if it’s clear of cars. I didn’t want to wait for a light. I had to get home.
“Why do I have to watch this?” I choked out.
That time, the rain was soaking me. My hair, my shirt, my jeans. Death didn’t look at me.
“You know why.”
I see the street is clear of cars. I step out onto it. I’m not looking. My brain is somewhere else. I’m skipping. The blue honda is coming. It’s coming very quickly. I’m almost halfway across the street. But I’m not fast enough.
The devastating crunch. I felt the pain ghosting down the leg that still limps. That time, I got to see the horrified looks of bystanders. One child starts screaming. I stood, frozen, watching the driver hastily get out and dial 119. I stand and the rain gets down my shirt and sticks my hair to my face.
Death put a hand on my shoulder. Rehearsed, Ingenuine.
“That was hard to watch. This tragic incident could have been avoided if you had waited for the right time to cross, as opposed to jaywalking.”
“Stop.” I dragged out between bared teeth.
“Stop doing what?” Death asked.
“Stop telling me what I could have done differently!” I yelled.
The tears dripped down. Thunder crackled. My socks were heavy and dark.
“There’s nothing for me to do now! Just stop!”
“I have to do this.” Death replied sympathetically. Fake.
“Oh my god, can you say something genuine, for once?” I screamed.
“I am genuinely telling you we have to do this.” Death spat back.
Lightning streaked across the sky. Death’s robes shook violently in the wind.
“Will you just drag me through everything that scarred me? Why?”
“I’m helping you adjust to the afterlife.” Death replied.
“How?” I yelled.
In response, Death swiped again.
We were on a street. My childhood street. Rain poured heavily. Thunder roared. Lightning sparked. I was beyond the point of return with my soaked garments. I looked up to the second-story flat I lived in with my parents. There I was, sitting next to a window, reading. I couldn’t have been older than twelve. I enjoyed reading while listening to the soothing sound of rain.
I couldn’t remember a time my life had changed while I was reading a book during a storm. I tried to recall a memory, but can’t. My whirling mind calmed. The storm didn’t.
“What is this?” I asked coldly.
Death didn’t respond. She kept staring at the young me. Her eyes finally showed some genuine emotion. A glisten of genuine sadness.
“So many rainy days wasted. You never had a good thing happen to you on a rainy day.”
Death sighed sadly. “You never took the opportunity to enjoy one.”
I stared back at the young me. Wrapped up in the pages. Maybe I should have gone out, just once. Maybe rain would have made me happier. I stared at the street. Cracked and filled with holes. Puddles had collected in them. One was near my foot. I kicked it, flicking water towards death. A splat of water landed on her pristine robe. Death’s eyes zeroed in on me.
“What are you doing?” She asked.
“Enjoying the rain.” I croaked through a sore throat.
I kicked water at her once more. She stood back. I jumped in a puddle. Splashes mixed with the fallen drops. I jumped again. And again. I jumped until my heart felt full. I held out my hands to the sky and opened my mouth. I tasted the sweet rain running through my veins and being pumped through my heart. Death watched. Her smile seemed genuine. I grabbed her arm and pulled her in.
I died. But rain had not caused it. And now, I exist, with my family and with Death, because rain isn’t what I fear. I fear the change that’s inevitable. The regrets Death has shown me. The tingle in my chest when I see her, that means she has helped me, and I owe her. But I do not fear rain. There’s too much time for that.