This is what we call a rough draft - extremely rough, as in painfully rough. Started months ago in the shower, is culminating into a story of (probably) ridiculous proportions. 

It's harmless for the moment, if a little sad, but will evolve (eventually, after years and years probably) into Spander.



The Timeless Prologue


by
Rayne Jelly


He ran and ran, through white halls, on white floors, through the twisted corridors of the labyrinth with no name. He was all ways running, panting, desperate to escape the threat of what loomed behind him and he could feel it haunting him, hunting him, and he knew that if he only reached the center of the maze that he would be safe, that the thing would disappear, and he could feel himself falling, tripping, recovering his feet in one desperate lunge and he fell head first against the door. Strong, sturdy oak painted white as the moon and lacking in a handle, he pounded on it, thumped on the door, felt to the edges of his reach for a door knob, or a knocker, or even a hinge. Still looking behind him, still anticipating a great, terrible, looming beast to come surging around a corner to do something unspeakable, to steal his soul or set his bones on fire and he screamed in terror, reaching still for a knocker or a lock – anything that proved for just a moment that he wasn’t grasping in the blinding white for nothing. “Please… oh please…” and just like that he fell inside.

The scene behind the door was strange… stark if nothing else – completely black and desolate and he could hear the howling winds all around him though he knew there were none. The only light to be had was a sort of glow surrounding three women, like they were standing on a spotlight, framed by the darkness but not frightened by it, and he approached them somewhat dizzily, frightened and feeling more alone than he ever had. “Hello…?” he asked of them, and they stopped their gossip and easy conversation of finishing each others sentences to stare at him. They were superficially identical, these woman, and their eyes ate into him, staring past his breast bone and he was nervous in their presence.

“Hello… where is this place?”

“That’s something of a mystery!” The first woman to the left replied, grinning at him, and he lifted a skeptical eyebrow.

“Okay… who are you?”

“I’m Death!” Still madly chipper, as though every sentence she managed ended in an exclamation point, and he said nothing to the effect of ‘deluded freak’ choosing instead to pass to the second woman in the room.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Death.” The woman said mildly, voice clear, warm and rich as she smiled at him.

He knew the answer, but he had to ask the woman on the far right, “Who are you?”

“Death.” Her voice was a rasp and a file, making him shiver in surprise.

“Oh,” he said mildly, and it was about all he could manage. “Death?”

“Yes!” In unison, the sound was an eerie combination that made his skin crawl.

“Er… should I go back the way I came?”

The women didn’t answer him, they seemed to flicker for a moment like a candle flame and popped out of existence, leaving him in the cold dark room that seemed to go on forever, and if he made a sound he knew he would have to wait years to hear an echo. Just as he was thinking of turning back, worrying if there was even still a door, the second woman popped back into existence just as abruptly as she had left it. “Hello again.”

“Hello. I’m Death.”

“So I’d gathered. …What happened to the other two?”

“Other two?”

“Yeah. You were here five minutes ago, I asked her what her name was and she said ‘Death!’ and then I asked you what your name was and you said ‘Death.’ Then I asked the third one what her name was and she said ‘Death’ and then you went away.”

“There are no other two. It’s just me. I like to keep myself company.”

“What… exactly are you…?”

“I’m death.”

“That’s what the other two said…”

“What other two?”

He lifted an eyebrow, slowly started to back away “Death has ADD,” he said mildly, and turned around.

“What are you doing?”

“I figure if I stand with my back to you then you’ll forget all about me and you won’t go psycho killer.”

“I don’t kill anybody!” She sounded vaguely hurt by this assessment and he turned back around to face her.

“You said you were Death.”

“Well… I am, but I don’t kill anybody.”

“Are you here to… not-kill me?”

“I don’t know. Who are you anyway?”

He opened his mouth to respond, give the girl a name and he just… couldn’t remember. Couldn’t think for a moment who or what he was. He knew simple things, concepts like time, food, heat, and pain, but he didn’t know who he was, or what he was, or where he’d come from, or where he was – or where in the whole of geography both physical and metaphysical he could possibly be and it left him… frightened. But she nodded to something that he hadn’t managed to say and said “Right then. I should check… back in a mo.”

Out of existence and blinking back into it again seemed like the flickering of a strobe light – he knew what a strobe light was, that was something. “Nope!”

“Nope what?”

“I don’t think I want to take you today,” she said vaguely… then grew a little unhappy. “But I might have to. I’m Death.”

“Yes. So you said. And so did the other two. The three of you have told me you’re Death,” he said a little frantically, trying to affirm it in his own mind though it made no more sense now than when he’d first heard it.

“Well… technically I’m probably an anthropomorphic personification of death. So, Death, but I’m really just a girl. I don’t think there were ever two more of me.”

“There were three of you!”

“Three of me? Oh… that must’ve been one of my off days.”

“ONE?!”

“What can I say?” she asked quite sincerely, then shrugged and looked up at the ceiling which had been painted like a sky. “I’m a looney!”

“You’re the grim reaper!”

“Yes.” She nodded. “That is my name.” Nodded again, high voice lilting in and out of her fragmented sentences. “Well, one of my names. I have many names. Lots of them, lots and lots, too many really – somebody called me a bastard! I don’t even have the right anatomy.”

“And what anatomy is that?”

“Parents!” She thought for a moment, looked grim in her quirky mindless way, “Bastard. You’re all bastards – not married before god, no no no, married before man!” A very officious nod this time, “It’s not very hard… just send a note up really say ‘God, I want to marry this person, and this person wants to marry me.’ And God says ‘Okay little dollies, you’re married.’ And you’re done.” He didn’t try to make sense of much of this, watching the thin white hands of Death pretend she had dollies held between her fingers and she moved them around and put them in a little imaginary house and left them to sit at a kitchen table.

“It’s not as though it matters, silly mortals – bastards are all just as human as the rest, and they all come to see me in the end – all animals are bastards, and they see me too. So much seeing – I don’t have a very active social life. And nobody really wants to be married before god, especially since people that aren’t bastards are no better than people that are. If you’re married before man you can commit adultery.” At this she gave him a knowing grin and a wry wink, picking up her invisible dollies once again and he listened to her wild monologue with something akin to horror and amusement. “But if you commit adultery and you been married before god, my ducks, things aren’t much fun at all after that, no no no, not very fun at all because he goes ‘poof!’ and she says ‘waaaaah’ because she cheated cheater cheater pumpkin eater, and it’s all her fault he went poof you see and she has to live with that guilt. … Until she doesn’t. Everybody comes to see me in the end, and some people come thanking me.” She was self satisfied for just a moment, and turned pouty. “And then there’s them what calls me a bastard. Bastards.”

“I don’t think you’re a bastard,” he said softly, trying to console her though he didn’t know for a moment why. “I think you’re a little bit cracked…”

“Cracked!” she snapped, and the word became an onomatopoeia on her lips, “yes! Cracked is what I am. I see so many people, so many, and I’ve never been one, ever. Except in that last moment, the rattle of the final breath, and everything is scared and there’s so much unhappiness…” she ended in a whisper, eyes wide and looking frightfully young for being so old. Still whispering: “So few… so few are grateful, so few ever want to go… so few ever want to see me.”

A momentary turn around of chipper facetiousness: “A girl just can’t handle that much rejection.”

“No… I don’t imagine a girl could.”

“So few…. They never want to see me, even when they think they do.”

“Is that why I’m here? You think I want to die?”

“No!” an abrupt snap, like a rubber band, back to the place she had been. “I know you don’t want to die – you keep runnin’ away, and it’s not as though I want to kill you – and I don’t! I don’t kill anybody! I just… usher them to where they’re supposed to be. I am just an under paid employee of a very, very, very large theater.” There was a moment where she seemed satisfied with this metaphor then with her eyes wide her voice grew hoarse again, and he could see why people often feared the specter of death. “The world is a stage! But you are not players, only patrons, sitting fat and lazy in your seats!”

“Why… why are you telling me this?” Confused, stammering, and just a little bit scared, he wanted to back away, but did not want to insult the girl, the woman, the anthropomorphic personification of natural phenomenon – whatever she was.

“Would you like to be a player my dove?” Chipper and happy once again.

“What?”

“You have a choice my darling – and they should not have given this to me to say – but you have a choice. You may continue to be a patron of the theatre, you can watch as a ghost because you are dead my love, quite dead. Or you can be something else, and I will not have to take your soul, or move it to where it belongs. I’ll never have to take you away! You can visit me, we can have tea!”

He coughed, for the first time feeling the mortal chest wound, seeing the dark patch of damp spread across his shirt. “Sure,” he rasped.

“No no my dear. You’ll want to think a moment.”

“What are the down sides?”

“Your heart… will always be in pain. You will see everything: As it was, as it should be, and as it will be. And your presence on earth… will be integral to maintaining life.” She thought for a very long moment, and he thought for a very long moment, dark patch of blood spreading down his shirt, dripping on the pristine white floor, turning grey as it hit the surface and dissolved – just an infinitesimal speck in the nature of the universe. “Doesn’t that sound lovely?”

He thought about it carefully, always in pain, always hurting as long as life persisted, and she had told him up front what he was getting himself into, but he looked into her eyes, wide, desperate, green and a little bit lost, and he wanted to pull her into a hug and embrace Death as no one had probably done before. “Yes. That sounds lovely.”



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