Death’s Betrothal  - Rebecca Jan Lane

 

Death’s Betrothal

When  Death o’er shadowed his icy absence, 
Her beauty off put 
tho he’d gathered a thousand others
He turned his hourglass lid
Unscrewed along ancient threads
 And sprinkled the sands that nigh ran out
Into her hair and eyes.
 Gold on gold they shone.
Her eyelids closed still as if she were dreaming.
 She breathed, eyes opened 
Foggy and misty still, unknowing which slept she woke from.
‘Thank you,’ she said.

 Death stepped away , they never spoke to him.
Fitted the lid against the hourglass, there were no more sands to spare 
And stepped away when he stopped
A hand, her hand the shadow velveted cloak he wore,
 Her fingers clutched him tightly.
‘I said thank you,’ 
She looked at him. Not through him, or past him,
Her eyes fixed in his blackness where they had not blinked for a millennia, and reflected silver back to her.
With a voice, dusty as the pharaohs tombs, whispered and cracked
Spoke back.
“You’re Welcome.”
The words came out before he knew it, he’d forgotten how they sounded in the air around him, 
On their way to her.
And that was the beginning of Death’s Betrothal.

Balance must be kept. 
With her sparing, a tally was made,
 An extra soul with interest culled from the living
But Death’s arms are strong. They have carried for a very long time.  
The shadow extended……
Upon the starless skies
When winter first hinted
Death returned
She was waiting
His eyes shone silver 
Two pinpricks in the night
She moved a chair out, invited him to sit.
 ‘I do not pay visits.’
‘and yet you are here.’
Neither could ignore that simple fact.
Death labored, moved in and out of days
His shadow fell across door ways, and windows.  
 Always somehow stopping and pausing at hers.
Until Death himself took a wife.
Or rather she took him.
 ‘I see you,’ she said into the darkness.  ‘your eyes give you away.’
Death stepped out of the shadows away slightly beginning a small glow.
 ‘I had forgotten I had them, that they could be seen.’
‘You don’t remember?’
‘I have little use for mirrors.  The dead don’t look as they go.’
‘But you aren’t dead.  You’re Death.. but..’
“I am neither dead nor born.  I exist.  Because I am Death doesn’t mean I am dead.’
‘look behind you.’
He turned to see the window.  His eyes shone back at him distant moons.
They flickered.
‘they look like stars,’ she whispered.
‘they look alive.’

The skull the color of ancient papyrus complete with cracks like dried river beds, 
The creases and cracks scattered fore and aft 
A thousand stories for a thousand years
They shone when she kissed them, tracing their paths.
So Death took a wife.

It was a working marriage. 
Not all couples can set up house, have dinner at five thirty and bed by ten.  
Some have other responsibilities.
And it was very happy until  work got in the way.
 ‘you’re early,’ she said.
‘no, I’m not.’ 
The silver eyes sputtered.  
‘I’m on time.’
She paused for a moment then sat down, understanding trickled in.
‘Will it hurt?’
Death shook his head.  ‘just like walking to another room for a lie down.’
‘what’s it from?’
Death pulled a small scroll from his sleeve.  ‘Blood clot.’
She smiled weakly.  ‘I must have forgotten my medicine.’
‘it would appear so.’
‘is it only me?’
‘the order says.. two.’  He looked up, and an echo inside him sounded.
‘can’t we fudge it a bit? Find a way?’
Death was silent.  He was good at that.
‘I was hoping for it to be a surprise…. For it to come before this.’
He had been human once, and the ache of family gnawed at him.  
‘there is a way.’
Death and his wife walked to the veil, 
She laid down, partially in, partially out.  
Between the worlds,  
The small bump in her belly lay just barely in the other world.
 In water, blood and silence, the baby was born 
From death and Death, to life, 
Between the veils of life and death.  

Pale breathing the child’s howl shattered the silence.
‘Are we going somewhere?’                                                           
  Her voice was confused.  Her eyes wide, unfocused.  Blank.
She did not know him.
Death stood and breathed deeply.  
He had hoped against hpe that this would be the case.
But Marriage vows were almost like a spell.  Until Death do you part.  Until Death separates you.  
Her death wiped her memory, of her Death.
‘That poor thing.  Is someone going to care for  it?’
 The baby whimpered.
“My sisters will watch over him while I am way.’
‘how many sisters?’
“I have three.’
 And at the word, they slowly appeared like shadows taking form.
One wrapped the baby in a blanket, the same black velvet his father wore.  The edges still raw from the scissors.
The second brought bottles, and a measuring stick. ‘they’re going to watch how he grows.’
 The third carried a spindle and a basket of knitting, silver scissors shining.
Rocking chairs, and a cradle appeared.  The second sister scoopped up the baby in her arms and began to hum him a lullaby.
‘what’s his name? it is a son?’
‘yes my  son… his mother… died.’
‘that’s awful.  What’s his name?’
‘Adam.  Adam  Nightshade.’
A good name.  I always liked the name Adam.’
‘So have I.  I have a very old friend named that.  He was the first Adam I ever knew.’
 She turned away and began to wander away in the darkness 
Until he caught her hand.
‘Here, let me lead you.’


(C) Rebecca Jan Lane