Juggernaut called Time

7. Halcyon and on and on

Death was the ultimate release. He could make anything cease by causing human bodies to fail to perceive it. So, in a way, his power was to stop things. Stop pain, stop suffering, stop grief... stop time.

He remained human for as long as I knew him. He couldn't afford school, so he dutifully helped the priests as an altar boy during the day and slept at the convent orphanage at night. People continued to die, but my town's death rate quickly declined after Damien arrived at the convent. He maintained that this was merely a coincidence, but some of the nuns believed him to be some sort of good omen. He laughed while recounting this to me.

"Me, of all people, a good omen!" he snorted, toppling back into the grass. We were alone in a corner of the cemetery again, laughter ringing through the open air. "You'd think they'd have noticed Death at their door!"

Our courtship soon became common knowledge in the town proper. The same "handsome blond boy" would walk me home from school every afternoon, and every evening my father urged him to stay for dinner. Papa never complained about having to feed another mouth; on the contrary, inviting Damien in encouraged my father to invite more guests for dinner, friends and family alike. My house became full of laughter again, just like in the days when my mother was still alive and healthy.

I learned what it was like to be drunk on happiness, forgetting about the future for the time being to live fully in each day with the people I loved. But time flies by in a whirlwind when one is that inconceivably happy; before we noticed, three years had passed and Damien was asking my father for my hand in marriage.

Three months earlier, we were in my bedroom while my father was away, under the covers and in each others' arms, listening to the pouring rain. Damien had been silent for hours, but he suddenly spoke to me in a whisper.

"Arianne, do you remember who I am?"

I sleepily shifted my gaze from the rain-spattered window to his violet eyes. "Of course," I told him.

"Who am I?"

"Death." I hadn't said his real name in so long that it sounded unfamiliar; strange, even.

Death gently tightened his hold on me.

"I wish we could stay like this," he murmured into my ear, more for his own benefit than for mine.

"But I'm going to die soon," I replied hazily and matter-of-factly, trying to shake off the last few remnants of sleep from my eyes. I could feel him frowning, feel his sadness envelop the room- a warm blanket of cold, black grief.

"Can I change the future?" he asked desperately. "Change the course of Time?"

"Only as easily as I can cheat Death," I said without thinking. The words had come from somewhere else.

The air in the room went still as Death contemplated this for a while, holding me to his chest for a moment that seemed to stretch out forever. I could hear his heart, his mysterious, traitorous heart, beating out an unfamiliar rhythm, breath deep and ragged to match. Then he brought me to full wakefulness with the soft touch of his lips.

None of it made sense; none of it ever would, at least to us. We made love for the first time that day, and we both knew it would lead to a future neither of us wanted to happen, but we had no choice but to accept it.

I could not change the things I saw, so my foresight was not a blessing, but a curse... a curse from which Death was the ultimate release.