TW: Speaks of death a lot
“Help!” He screams. “Someone help me!”
“No one can hear you.” I say, my voice flat. “You’re beyond human help.”
Thunder roars from outside, rain pounding against the windows. The wind picks up, swishing against the doors, and rattling the shutters.
“Somebody! Save me, please!”
It’s always this way. They get scared, and I’m forced to take drastic measures. They never believe it’s their time, but it is.
“Silent.” I order.
I reach out, placing a single finger on his head. He goes still, eyes blurred and unfocused.
He’s a replica of the solid body on the floor, but a floating appearance of it, flickering in and out of focus. A ghost, in human terms. It’s normal to be anxious, which is why I prefer the old way of things-we didn’t used to give them a moment to take it in, they were just sent into the light, to move on.
“You’re moving on now, to a better place.” I say, reciting the familiar words. They flow off my tongue easily, having been reused over and over throughout the years. “Are you ready?”
“Yes...” He says, eyes fixed on something behind me, my words falling on deaf ears. “Into the light...”
I watch as he stumbles to his feet, moving to the bright sphere of light floating above his collapsed body. His fingers stretch to touch it, and at the first brush of contact, he disappears in a flash of light.
I sigh, looking around the messy room littered with broken bottles, and sticky puddles of old alcohol. There are too many deaths this way.
His actual body lays in a pool of deep red blood, a nasty cut on his forehead. His fingers are loosely wrapped around the top of a bottle that’s half shattered on the ground.
I hear a light buzzing in my head, that tells me there’s another death happening soon. I give the room a last glance. Someone will find him soon.
“My baby...” The woman sobs, reaching out once again to no anvil. “I’m so sorry.”
With deaths like this, we’re allowed to give them as much time to grieve as they need.
“I can’t go back?” She whispers. “I just have to watch?”
“You may move on if you’re ready.” I say, waving a hand. The bright ball of light appears beside me, but she backs away.
“No, I’m not...I’m not ready.”
“You’re already dead. Nothing can change that. You may wait to pass, but you will have to eventually.”
She says nothing, staring at the hospital bed in front of us.
Hospitals are always so jarringly white. The sheets on the beds, the walls, the doctor’s coats. Maybe it’s peaceful for some people that are passing.
“He’s going to grow up without a mother.” She says, not quite talking to me anymore. Her gaze shifts from her body to the man crying beside the bed. “My husband, what will he do?”
“He’ll be okay.” I say gently.
She doesn’t seem to hear me, and continues to stare at the bed.
“Protect him.” She whispers, cupping the pendant on her necklace. “Let him live a good life.”
She murmurs beneath her breath, head bowed. Tears pour down her cheeks as she speaks softly, then finally, she stands. She turns to me, and nods.
“They’ll be alright.” I tell her as she reaches out to touch the light. In a second, her body dissolves, gone from the room.
I glance at the bed where her body lays. Her dark hair encircles her head like a halo, but her face looks peaceful.
The man, her husband, cradles the child close. He may grow up resenting his son for this, and the son may hate himself. But it’s not my concern.
A buzz directs my attention elsewhere, and I’m gone.
The teen wavers on the edge of the building. They ignore the rain soaking their clothes, eyes cast to the water churning below. Their hair, dark as the sky, sticks to their pale face. I stay behind them, watching, waiting.
This isn’t an unusual death either. I’ve only dealt with a few like this, and I stand quietly, waiting for it to be over.
“You’re here for me?” They ask, their voice breaking the silence, thick with tears, and nearly drowned out by the rain.
I startle. They couldn’t possibly be talking to me.
“I can see you. You in the black cloak.”
They can see me? “Me?”
“I’ve seen you all for years.” They tell me, head tilting to look up into the sky. Water pours from the sky, and they spread their arms, welcoming them down. “No one’s ever spoken back.”
I shouldn’t. “How can you see me?”
“I died a few years ago. I almost didn’t survive. The doctors saved me.”
“So why are you here, wasting it?”
“My family didn’t even care. They got the call, but not one of them went to the hospital to see me. I was one less problem for them. I got back home and found out they were ready to just move on. I’ve been living by myself for years, trying to come up with a reason to live.”
“What did you come up with?”
They let out a bitter laugh. “Nothing. Can you believe that? Nothing in this world was worth it.”
“You have no friends? No one will miss you? You’re ready to move on?”
“I haven’t had a real conversation with someone in ages.” They murmur. “So. You’re here for me?”
“If you go through with it.”
“What are you, anyway? Grim Reaper? God?”
“I’m one in millions. I’m no one special.”
They step back, off the ledge. “I’ve done this, stepping up here, thinking I’m finally ready, dozens of times. “Maybe I’m not ready. But every time, I think, one more week. I can help someone. I can do something.”
“I try. But no one wants help from the homeless person living on the streets. I keep trying to warn them, but no one listens.”
“When one of you are hanging around, it usually means someone’s going to die. I try to warn people.”
They’re cheating death. “You...shouldn’t do that.”
“Not like it helps. No one listens. Sometimes I’ll visit hospitals, and make little kids smile on their last days. Gives me some purpose. But I can’t do anything to stop it.”
I shouldn’t be talking to them. This goes against so many rules. “Are you ready today?”
“I don’t know.”
“What are you waiting for? Is anyone going to care if you disappear today?”
“No. I want someone to miss me.”
“What do you want with your life?”
They think about it for a moment. “I want to help people. Even if they just hear what I have to say, then maybe later in their life it’ll help them.”
They’re silent now, starting at the dark sky. I stand still, my cloak billowing out around me in the rough wind.
“You know what I want?” They say finally. “I want someone to smile at me again.”
They turn, finally. Their clothes are old and ripped, and they look so tired. They can’t see my face behind the hood that shades my features. They walk closer, hands reaching up to touch my face. I almost don’t let them, almost letting my body fade into fog, but instead, I do.
Their fingers are cold and wet on my face from the rain water. They smile at me.
“I didn’t think I would be able to touch you. Wow. Your face is so warm. Are you human?”
“I was a long time ago.”
“So, you died? How did you end up this way?”
“I can’t tell you that. It’s a death secret. I’ve broken enough rules.”
“Okay.” They agree easily, their face breaking into a smile at the thought of me breaking rules for them. “What’s your name?”
“Do you remember it?”
“No... It’s been...a long time.”
They drop their hands. “Okay. I’ve decided tonight isn’t the night.”
“So, this was pointless.” I sigh.
“Not pointless. I’ve come up with a reason to stay.”
“I want to talk to you again. I just want to talk to someone again.”
“It’s not likely I’ll come across you again-”
“But if you do. Will you remember me?”
I say nothing, but they stay rooted in their spot, looking up at me.
“Alright. I’ll remember you.”
They grin. “I’m Maurlin.”
“Maurlin.” I repeat. I know I’ll remember it. I have nothing more to think about.
A soft buzz in my ear pulls my attention from their face. “I have to go.”
“I’ll see you again sometime.” They smile.
I slowly let myself fade, letting the wind take me away, pulling me into dust. I watch them turn to face the edge, then turn away, and I’m gone.
A nearly dead body. Gun wound. The person doesn’t look too bothered, and is leaning against the brick wall.
“Here for me?”
I stop in surprise at the voice. “Maurlin?”
They turn, and give me a lopsided grin. “It’s you.”
It’s been years since our first interaction. They’ve never left my mind, but I haven’t seen them again until now.
They’re dressed nicely, in a sharp suit, and their dark hair is combed back. But the dark blood stain growing from their side ruins the look.
“Yeah. You won’t believe how much my life has changed. I was able to speak at a seminar, and I got really popular for a while. I was able to take some college classes, but it wasn’t for me. I helped at a hospital for a while, in the ER. I told the EMT’s who was most urgent.”
“You idiot, you need to get help. You’re dying.”
“Why do you care? Isn’t that your job?”
I ignore that. I shouldn’t care. “You’re going to die.”
“That’s okay. I think I’m okay with that now.”
“What? Aren’t you living the way you want now?”
“I’ve lived my life. I think I was ready to go a while ago, I just didn’t want to disappoint anyone.” They laugh, but it turns into a wince. “Remember when I didn’t have anyone to disappoint?”
There’s nothing I can do.
“Don’t feel bad.” They say, smiling up at me. “I’m okay.”
“You make me wait years to see you, then you’re ready to die.” I mutter.
They laugh. “I missed you too. Maybe I’ll see you in the afterlife.”
“You can stay with me.” I blurt.
They lift an eyebrow. “Oh? How so?”
“When you die. Don’t touch the light. Then you’ll stay.”
“Is that allowed?”
“Since when did you care about rules like that?”
They smile, leaning their head back against the wall, eyes closing. “I missed you.”
It’s selfish of me, asking them to stay. But they’ve captivated my attention, and I can’t let them go.