Reflections of an Anthropomorphic Personification

She'd been a god at one point.

Goddess, if one wanted to get gender technical. Which goddess? Ah, so many. The Morrighan, Ane, Kali, Coatlicue, Hel, Miru. Gods, too, although she'd been male at that time. Hades, Anguta, Yen-Lo-Wang, Azra'il, Votan, Ndozin. So many more, so many names that not one mortal could remember them all; even if that had been all they'd dedicated their lives to doing. She remembered them, though, and whispered them to herself as she went about her work. They were a part of her now.

She wasn't sure just why she liked being called a deity. God or goddess, it didn't matter to her. The acknowledgement was what mattered, although she didn't know why that should be, either. In ancient Rome they'd sung to her, called her Jupiter, the god of war, their version of the Grecian Ares. It was almost as though they celebrated her, though they didn't. Of course they didn't. They celebrated the fact that they were alive, and that their enemies might go to her before they did, and in case they didn't live to celebrate again. It was ironic – the Greeks had always been big on irony – that they sang to her as a god of war in order to keep themselves from the god of death when they were really one and the same.

In the islands that they now called the United Kingdom, they'd called her Macha and Badb and Nemain and Anu – the Mhór Ríoghain, the goddess of war. The Great Queen, a goddess of fertility and magic and sovereignty, and still the goddess of warriors and strife and death. Like many of the wilder tribes, they'd made her more than a death figure, and in that pantheon – the Túatha Dé Danann – she had not gone to war with her people. With the Fir Bolg, yes. But in Ireland she'd never been the enemy.

In the long ago times, the times so long past that she didn't even have to think in terms of the human lifespan to know that it had been thousands of years, in the time when they hadn't even named the spirits, for to name was to summon, they'd given her a name. It was spoken rarely, for they had no wish to bring her to them at most times. But when someone died, they laid out a feast, and at spot nearest the fire they placed the choicest foods and the best of the furs for their guest. Then the shaman spoke her name and offered her food and drink before requesting that she take the soul of the recently dead with her. And she did.

Some of the earliest had called her a goddess, and she did enjoy that name. God suited Death just as well, though. But this new name…

"Anthropomorphic personification," the former English professor informed her curtly.

Anthropomorphic personification? It sounded like a disease of some sort, a long, lingering disease. She knew a lot about diseases. It wasn't, of course. People didn't die of anthropomorphic personifications, and she was certainly considered the leading expert in such things. Because of anthropomorphic personifications, maybe, but not of them.

And what an interesting name. Anthropo: Derived from the Greek word anthropos, which meant human. Morphic: Again, Greek, meaning shape or form. A personality in a human form. What a typically human name. After all, she'd been Death for as long as life had existed. Couldn't they be called necromorphic personifications? And when she was a raven, then what was she? A corvusmorphic personification? Coraxmorphic?

She considered this as the professor waved his hands and said a great deal of things that she ignored. Most of it seemed to center around the fact that he was a very important man, a possibility for dean of the university, and he certainly had no time for such paltry things as dying. He had papers to write on the connection between Shakespeare and Christopher Marlow!

"I don't have time for students to play jokes on me and pretending to be the anthropomorphic personification of Death of all the things! Why can't you dress up as Calliope next time?"

She seemed to be running into a great deal of Grecian things, muses and words included. Strange that he was an English professor. If he didn't want to deal with the Grim Reaper who Americans seemed to favour, then fine. Maybe something from his Irish background would appeal more. A mental twist, a flash that was lasted for less than a nanosecond and gave off very little light and the Mhór Ríoghain stood before him, copper hair waving in the same impossible wind that caused her scarlet cloak to flutter. A raven sat on one shoulder, a sword in her other, and she looked down at the man.

"Professor Reginald S. Turner, I am not playing a joke on you. You're dead."

He blinked and stared at her. "The Morrighan? I didn't see anyone washing clothing on my way to work today."

She nodded her head graciously, as only befits a goddess. "But you did not die in battle." This one seemed sensible enough, at the very least. The last spirit she'd spoken to, a girl who'd fallen down a set of stairs and snapped her neck, had been hysterical and had blamed her for her injury. As if there was so little death in the world that she needed to create more on her own. Humans were perfectly capable of doing so on their own.

The impact of the fact that he was dead hit him seconds after she had relaxed, and he proceeded to wail: "But I have so much to do!"

The raven clacked its beak impatiently, and the wind caused her cloak to snap with an extra loud cr-ack. The now silent Turner stared at her as she scowled at him. She'd been getting more and more annoyed over the past years, and she was fairly sure it had something to do with the recent human attitude towards Death. They wanted someone to shout at, to blame for all their failings; they wanted a thief who stole loved ones against a leeched health. Perhaps there really was something to the anthropomorphic personality theory.

"Professor Reginald," she snapped, sounding like his long-dead grandmother and knowing it. He'd been terrified of the old woman, partially because of her personality and partially because of the fact that when he was young – his soul, that is, not this body, but several hundred bodies previous – he'd been killed as a sacrifice to old gods by a woman who looked very much like his grandmother. Gods that, Death noted, had no current anthropomorphic personalities of their own. She was the oldest, and the everlasting. "You said you had a paper to write on Shakespeare and Marlow? Fine, do it when you get to the Summerland."

"But my research –"

"Ask them about it. I think their souls are still there."

"Still! Where do I go after that?"

She narrowed her eyes. "We had this conversation the last time we met, Professor Reginald. Think on it and I'm sure you'll be able to remember."

"Back here?" he offered after a moment.

"Good lad. Yes."

"But I won't be able to remember any of the work I do there until after I die again!"

"Yes, because people will think you're crazy. You'll have a few good hunches for the next paper you write, though. Don't worry about it."

"Just put me back. I have to get my affairs in order."

The raven clacked its beak again. "If I put you back, your soul will be trapped in a dead body. You won't be able to move, and you won't be able to communicate. Moreover, you won't be able to get out until I pass by here again, and I don't think you'd like to be cremated while aware of it."

He blinked, surprised, and then sighed with resignation. "Very well, my lady Morrighan. I'll come with you."

Her only reply was a faint smile as she rolled his soul into a tiny little ball that gleamed in colours rarely seen by mortals. Of course he would come with her. In the end, almost all of them did. She looked down at the paper he'd been writing on and then carefully emulated his writing to add; Poisoned. There. That should take care of that.

She'd left a few behind on occasion, but she did so less and less often. When the world was younger, dozens of spirits had remained behind as totems and benevolent spirits to guide the living, but they'd been afraid that she might choose to revoke her gift. So they'd risen up in revolt, demanding that she give them part of her power, and she refused, doing what they'd feared most. Now she only let the very rare, very persuasive mortal remain behind.

Strange that the professor hadn't asked what had caused his death. Most did, except for those with obvious explanations. And he could have very well lived for another few decades if it hadn't been for the fact that he'd threatened another man's ambitions to be dean of the university.

The Mhór Ríoghain shrugged to herself as she set off to her next job. No matter. She was the Mhór Ríoghain, the death of warriors and goddess of sovereignty, not a goddess of justice. As she walked she waited for the next name to come to her mind, along with the small tug in the proper direction, and another faint smile touched her face.

Jasper H. Ellingham, dean-incumbent and poisoner of Reginald S. Turner.