Emily and Death
The corn was too dry. Leaves were withered and brown, looking as though they would crumble at a touch, whispering almost-words as the breeze pushed them together.
Roots pushed above the cracked soil as if to escape away from the dryness and heat.
"It's not fair!" Emily cried.
Her feet made no impressions in the sun-baked dirt between the rows. Neither did her companion's.
"You aren't supposed to look like that! Death isn't sweet and pretty and nice!"
Beside her, the Grim Reaper slowly bowed it golden head.
"Answer me!" she demanded.
"What do you think Death should be, Emily?" it questioned in reply.
Emily shook her head in frustration. "Like . . . like . . . evil and horrible and black. Bony and dry. Decay. Rotten. It should smell like death. It should be like . . . that!"
The two had come upon a dead thing. Half a rabbit, ravaged by dogs, left to the uncaring sun and black flies. The insects swarmed the corpse like a cloud. What flesh remained was maggoty and putrid. A shocking whiteness shone in the sunlight—the rabbit's grin to Emily. Its blood had stained the ground darker.
The stench made her back away with bile in her throat.
"That's death!" she exclaimed. "Death is that think on the ground—death is all around in this field, with the corn dying and the dirt already dead!"
She gestured wildly. Then, not understanding herself, she angrily wiped a dusty hand over her face to remove the tears.
"People have different theories of Death in whole world over, Emily," the Grim Reaper said softly, in a voice of windchimes.
Its hand of ivory touched her shoulder.
Emily jerked away. "Well, they're wrong. Something as beautiful as you shouldn't bring so much unhappiness to the world. You're wrong."
She turned away from it.
"Don't you think, in an ugly world, that the last sight anything sees before it goes beyond should be the most beautiful?" its silver voice suggested in a whisper.
The girl closed her eyes and fresh tears coursed down her cheeks.
"Yes," she replied in sudden recognition.
She turned back and answered only the whispering corn.