The corpse was as wet and musky as a dog rolling through his filth. The cold, frigid rain washed over it like it was part of the alleyway. The lifeless hobo’s eyes were fixed upon the worn, red brick wall just a few feet away from his lopsided face. The absent smell of his clothes worried Tyr, who wondered, if the rain stopped, what his nostrils would behold.
So it was a good thing he was dead. Tyr scratched his nose as the rain passed through his ethereal body. His thick, jet black buzz cut created a glaring contrast with his skin, which carried a touch of light brown from Hispanic origins. He wore a tan jacket with a popped collar and desert fatigues but his feet were nonexistent. Instead he hovered slightly over the ground like a ghost.
“Are you thinking?” Death said with a deep, giggly tone. “Don’t think, it hurts your brain.” He danced over Tyr like a dark, black haze of smog. The figureless ghost only had a mask to represent some semblance of an identity, crafted from ivory with some twisted face of laughter affixed onto it. Death’s giggle jingled throughout the lifeless street, echoing against the rain and windows of shoddy buildings, apartments, and storefronts. In the distance a clang rung back like it too knew what was going on, but the distraction held no sway against the silence and it took over once more.
Tyr punched Death in the face. “Oof!” Death started swirling around the air but went back to giggling after a second. “Oh,” he mused, inching closer to Tyr’s face. “Don’t be that way, you already know mortality only has so long before the inevitable happens!” His rampant giggling turned into a stampede of laughter.
“Don’t you get tired of laughing?” Tyr asked with a stony face. He crossed his arms and gazed at the lifeless hobo as some kittens nestled under him for warmth. They looked so sickly, so famished and tired that not a single mew came from their mouths, nor a flicker of movement after they huddled around the hobo’s dirtied jacket. “Jesus,” Tyr muttered, his stony face making no effort to change as he looked away. “That’s fucking depressing.”
“You know what’s funny?” Death asked like his own joke was too hilarious to hold down. “They’re all going to die too!” A boom of laughter flooded the empty street as the inhumane smog drifted around the air.
God damn it, Tyr cursed again, this time in his head. He thought it was going to be easy shadowing Death around, but it turns out Death is just some asshole who laughed at everything. As much as he wanted to finally pass over to the next world there was a reason he asked for this, and all this laughter and unsympathetic behavior wasn’t going to stop him.
“Ah.” Death floated down beside Tyr and extended a skinny, jagged arm towards the hobo and the kittens. The sound of tearing and grating flesh filled the alleyway as several tendrils extended towards them. The shadows around the two seemed to darken as Death extracted the souls of the hobo and kittens. Orbs of pure light stuck against the tendrils and quickly faded as they entered the endless shadow of Death’s arm.
Tyr watched as the kittens went limp beside the hobo. There was nothing else to say other than a small prayer in his mind. His feelings of helplessness and regret deceived the blank expression on his face. Eventually the time would come where he would have to confess all his feelings, and he knew it was as close as Death was to his face.
But there would be no giggling, at least. Death started snickering right in Tyr’s face and the Hispanic responded with another punch. The echoes of his laughter passed through the rain once more as a distant, loose clanging rang several times.
“There is no need to be so glum,” Death cooed. “Death is a part of life! It is a cycle that can be treated as static or as fate, but all in all it is a necessity. Darwin said that only the strong survive yet….” The monstrous smog spun around Tyr. “Humans are funny creatures, because the strong don’t simply survive on strength! Those nonexistent clothes on your back were not made by you! This mask wasn’t made by me, either, and these buildings!” Death twirled around the air and chuckled in what almost seemed sincere and human. “The materials, the foundation, the glass panes! They were not made by one man! Ah, you humans are strange indeed.”
“When is she coming?” Tyr asked impatiently now. “You said she’d be here by now.”
Death pulled a hand into himself and pulled out several birds made of shadow. He didn’t seem completely aware of the question until he jerked his head to Tyr. “Oh?” he mused again while moving his fingers with excitement. “Love is also a strange thing, don’t you think? What is love, exactly? Is it more than physical, or perhaps is it the envy one sees towards another? I find the basic principles for human survival pull greater bonds between two people. But as usual, you people are quite strange to place. God is strange!” He giggled again.
“Did you hear me?” Tyr asked, this time a bit more patiently. Death paused in the air and then gently spun around as he approached him. A long finger pointed towards Tyr’s right and he looked that way. There she was, wearing a pink hoodie and blue jeans, gazing sadly down at the sidewalk with her arms crossed. Her bright, blue eyes looked as if the light in them was about to get snuffed out, and her face seemed exhausted and worn out. Tyr’s face twisted into a frown and he felt his muscles tense.
“Remember,” Death noted, his voice almost twisted by the serious tone. However, his dark giggle bought Tyr back into present time. “Don’t let the objections of your physical world carry weight with your actions now. You have decided for yourself what fate to have in the afterlife; don’t expect any different from now.” Two long, dark fingers gently gripped Tyr’s head and forced him to nod. A cackle rose out from Death and in a flash of shadowy haze he disappeared from the air. Tyr sighed sharply as he stroked his hair and contemplated on his words.
Lily couldn’t feel her body. The numbing cold mixed with the horrific sensations of fear piercing her chest. She kept her eyes locked with Tyr’s as air left her lungs. The sound of the rain fell distant as the two engrossed themselves in the otherworldly encounter.
“Hey, Precious.” Tyr awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck. Being dead completely outweighed the stupidity boiling in his head. He wanted her to run while screaming at the top of her lungs just like anyone else probably would. Instead, she reached out a trembling hand and choked down a yelp as it passed right through his face.
“Jesus,” she whispered, careful to restrain the fear from tearing down her mind. Tyr was only able to shrug slightly. What the hell was there to say in this predicament? “How are you…?”
“It’s a dumb story,” Tyr confessed. He looked down at the pavement and continued. “How are you feeling?”
A bit of happiness swelled through Lily’s heart as she smiled meagerly. “Like shit.” The two started chuckling like a ball peen hammer completely demolished the realm of reasoning. They laughed for what felt like ages, forgetting how much of a strange encounter this was. Lily clasped her mouth and covered her gentle smile from the rain.
They heard almost every droplet come in contact during that moment in time. The outside world phased itself back in and Tyr locked gazes with Lily for a moment. He then sighed dejectedly and kept his eyes on the ground before looking back up to her.
“I’m sorry I won’t make it to your birthday,” Tyr admitted with a tone of utmost sorrow. Lily’s body started feeling the pangs of guilt. Tears began clouding her eyes despite her attempts to keep them down. She started sniffling as her cold, wet sleeves wiped away the tears coming down her face.
“I’m sorry,” she struggled to say as more tears flooded down her cheeks. “I could’ve just told you I would’ve driven you and….” She collapsed to her knees while burying her face into her hands. The wail of her voice reflected against the sound of the rain. Guilt clogged up her throat, anguish contorted her face and Tyr couldn’t do anything to comfort her.
“Lil,” Tyr said gently as he bent a knee beside her. “It’s alright. I still love you no matter what.” His face strained to keep going but he knew he had to say what he felt was right. Lily stifled the tears and sniffling, listening to his words as if they were the only things she could hear. “I don’t want you to be sad. Don’t let my death cause you anymore grief, alright? Don’t let me hold you down from being happy.” He cursed himself in his mind. The words didn’t sound right once he said them. He couldn’t figure out what else to say and simply watched as Lily went quiet.
“Thank you,” she said weakly. “For everything. I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me.” Even though it was futile she reached out and tried to clasp Tyr’s hand. His face coiled with restrained agony as he tried to hold hers.
Fuck! There had to be something he could do. After he finished then what, he’d completely disappear and be reincarnated into a toad or something? Nothing seemed feasible in the least, and he sure as hell didn’t want to see Death’s annoying face again.
But then it clicked. He felt the jarred gears of his mind turning and peered to the lifeless kittens in the alleyway. Death may be annoying and giggle happy but supposedly he was a very wise being, and Tyr felt so after contemplating on his last words.
“Lil,” Tyr said as she stroked her face with a sleeve. “Gimme a second.”
She looked up to him and watched as he went into the alleyway. Even though the dead hobo was still there Lily didn’t feel the least bit scared, especially considering all that happened. Tyr sank down beside one of the kittens and then moved a hand into it. The last thing Lily saw was a smile on his face before a blazing white light encompassed the alleyway for a second then and disappear.
Her eyes struggled to comprehend what just happened. A grunt of pain came out from her mouth as she rubbed her eyes. She knew that would be the last time she saw him and she felt a part of her heart break into pieces. Just before she prepared to leave a weak mew caught her ears and she rushed into the alleyway to see one of the kittens straining for warmth. A calico with white and orange fur gazed up to Lily and pushed itself into the hobo’s dirty jacket. Realization set in as she gently took the kitten and protected him from the frigid rain. While she hurried away home Death peered over from the rooftops and giggled.
“Humans are strange.”