Juggernaut called Time

1. Me and the Grim Reaper

He goes by many other names, but the one I loved most was "la mort". The French seemed to believe he was female. I couldn't blame them.

Death was beautiful, but he could not always be kind. When he first approached me in that empty playground for the first time, I heard the tiredness in his sigh. He should have had the exuberance of youth, but his pale face was masked in gray; dark lines circled his red-irised eyes. His long hair was pure white, dyed pink in the setting sun.

Rusty chains creaked while my twelve-year-old self sat in a swing with my toes planted in the dusty earth, slowly inching forward and back, dragging my black mourning dress to and fro. I couldn't see him as he approached from behind, but his presence wasn't startling when he finally sat in the swing seat next to me.

"Your mother had to die for this to work," he said as he swung halfheartedly. He looked like a defeated seventeen-year-old, not a god. "I'm really sorry, Arianne."

"I knew it was coming, so it's okay," I told him, brushing my brown curls aside to sneak a glance at him. "I hugged her as much as I could before it happened. So it's okay."

A flash of raised-eyebrow surprise crossed Death's stoic features; he clearly wasn't expecting a reply.

"If you can see me," he said in awe, brushing the back of his hand against my cheek, "then you..."

"...I can see the future," I murmured. "I'm the one you're looking for."

Even then, I could see a child running in my mind's eye. A child with his hair and my eyes. His sadness; my smile.

His blood-red irises were fixated on mine. They were no longer something to fear; now his unnatural eyes were something to examine, something to be captivated by... something to pity.

"Can I cheat you?" I asked, more out of curiosity than desperation. "Can I cheat Death?"

"Cheat Death?" he repeated, with a smirk that held no malice. "Arianne, if you truly loved me, you would have no need to."

"And if I didn't?"

"I would extend your life to eternity, but at the expense of another." Death looked away, but kept his hand on my shoulder. My hazel eyes fluttered shut at the touch.

"Your own?"

"Almost."

And then I saw it in his cool touch, the flash of a not-so-distant future: a delivery room on Earth, with a crying baby and a dead mother.

If the child lived, then I would die.

If the child died, then I would live.

His heir, my son.

Death's tears stung my own cheeks as he leaned forward to kiss me. The moon was in total eclipse; the stars seemed to shine even brighter as the moon was suddenly bathed in red. I was still too young, but the relentless juggernaut called Time would soon steal away these moments forever, locking them up in imperfect memory, and we would no longer be able to savor them together.

We had to outrun Time for as long as we could, though we knew in the end it would destroy us both.

He'd already known which life I would choose.

I'd already known that I had always loved him.