Prompt Short Story: If Only

I can’t forget the moment. It still replays in my head. Along with all the others. They fight to be the memory that fucks me up that day. 

This one is the accident. A rainy day, just turning to twilight, streetlamps just being lit, bouncing their light off of raindrops. The street smells like wet horse and smoke from the stacks across the river.

I’m walking, looping my way home from a visit to a friend via the park, dripping wet and slightly grumpy that my favourite hat and jacket are likely ruined. I don’t see the carriage, don’t even hear it until it’s too late. The driver, blinded by the dusk and the rain, doesn’t see me in time. They swerve, but it’s too late. I get slammed and thrown aside, and they crunch into a lamppost.

They’re ok, mostly, some whiplash and some bruises from being thrown off, but that’s all, and the carriage was fortunately empty.

Me? I don’t remember anything til I wake up, hovering above my own body while a surgeon in a grubby white coat, wielding barely clean tools, tries to save me. It’s clear they’re failing, and even now the idea of those unsterilised tools being used on me makes me shudder.

It isn’t that which is killing me, though. Internal bleeding, broken bones, head trauma, I’m in a bad way and I can feel myself dying. A surgeon even today would struggle to save me, and the surgeon I came to know as Isaac Bridgewood, along with his nurse, and wife, Eliza, does everything he can.

Then I hear a voice. Sweet, soft, mournful. I turn and see a woman. Her eyes are lavender, ancient yet young and full of life. Her face is impossible to describe, it seems to change, moment to moment, without me being able to pinpoint exactly what’s different. Only her eyes stay the same, and I look into them as she speaks. I think she is there to claim my life, and I try to prepare.

But no. What she wants is so much worse.

“My sweet Maria,” she says, smiling at me, “How nice and yet how sad to meet you face to face. You’re supposed to die now. In this moment. But I won’t allow it.”

I stare at my body as she speaks.

“You see I am Death. Yes, that one. Yes I sometimes wear a robe and carry a scythe, and occasionally I speak IN ALL CAPITALS, it depends on whose life it is I’m taking. But you, sweet Maria, your life I refuse to take.”

Now I stare at her, those eyes fixed on mine. 

“I caught a glimpse of you as your mother died all those years ago, that infection from a cut when you were but a baby. Then again, as you sat by the deathbed of your father. Each time you looked around for me, tried to bargain not with Gods or Devils but with me. I began to watch you. I fell in love with you. I know,” her eyes sparkle as she laughs, “Death in love with a human. But there it is.”

I stare at her for a few moments, “What do you mean?”

“I mean I’m not letting you die. Live, Maria. Live. Love. Enjoy all the things this world, can, and will, be able to offer. I place my mark on you, my Maria. Live!”

She leans forwards and kisses my cheek. I feel a burning somewhere down by my right hip, and then I wake up in my own body again, with Isaac’s face right above mine.

His eyes widen and he leaps back with a cry, the canvas sheet he is preparing to sew me into dropping from his hands.

I sit up, feeling my body for wounds and injuries. I’m healed. Isaac – when he can speak again – tells me I’ve been dead for hours. But now I live. And on my hip is a small raised ridge in the shape of a scythe.

I’ve lived each day since. I’m just over 200 years old but I look the same 22 as the day I died. I can’t die. I’ve tried, in my lower moments. In others, someone else has tried. Life can get pretty dramatic when you’re one of Death’s chosen.

One of. Yeah. I thought for a while it was just me – that in all of eternity she’d only loved me. Foolish, I know, but they found me, after a few years. We meet once a year, share stories, introduce the occasional newbie to the club, commiserate with those of us going through the various slumps we get. She’s never shown herself to any of us a second time. We don’t even know if she remembers us, or pays attention. We all have those marks.

I can’t be hurt. I can’t age. I don’t even get tired. I have to leave wherever and whoever I know every few years so nobody realises. I’ve had to fake my own death when something happens that should have killed me.

Being Death’s crush is the sort of thing people write trauma-filled Young Adult novels about. If only it was that ridiculous and trope-filled and clumsy-sweet.

If only.

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Prompt used:

Death was calling for me. I could hear her voice. I thought she would claim my life. What she wanted was so much worse. (from Samanthaallaker.com)

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