Death itself isn’t as bad as dying. It’s more… Peaceful.
Even as soldiers trampled overhead. As war drums and cold steel rang out. As innocents cried in agony and sorrow. There lay a certain peace in the stillness as everything faded into a deep nothing.
Tears cleared the dust off the fallen’s cheek. His blood pooled beneath him, spilling from his chest and splattered over his face and arms by the men charging through the battlefield. Pain stung him where he could still move. Black hair matted to the back of his head, arrows through his chest that slowed until he finally stopped breathing.
Mako roused from his sleep by a sharp prod to his side. He groaned, rolling his head over and glaring at the source. Shock plastered his face when he realized it was the skull of death itself staring down at him. Frozen and silent, Mako lay still as Death lowered his scythe down to his bloodied form.
“Is there anything you wish to take from this world…?” Death asked, tilting his head to the side. Mako looked around the battlefield, pondering over the few things that he owned back home.
“I don’t have anything worth taking.” He decided. Death nodded, hooking the scythe on Mako’s neck and cleaving through his mortal form. Mako shut his eyes tightly, bracing himself for whatever this plane had to offer, but he felt nothing. He squinted, looking down finding an iridescent form of himself. He patted his chest, his gaze holding on the green swirls that made his body. Death raised his lantern so he may have a better look at himself. Muttering, Mako tugged at his chipped armor and frowned.
“Is this it…?” He asked under his breath, a fog escaping his ethereal lips. Death let a low chuckle, his bones rattling with the shaky laugh.
“No, you have another purpose,” Death planted the staff into the ground and stood his scythe before Mako, “take it.” Mako looked at the weathered weapon with a cocked brow.
“W-what?” Mako gaped, taken aback and staggering from the offering. Death lowered his flickering gaze and sighed.
“I understand it’s unnerving, but now is your time to lead the fallen to their eternal slumber.” Death groaned.
“No way.” Mako refused, shaking his head, “I don’t want to be dropped into some job. I’m getting the slumber I’m owed.” Death grit his teeth, an impatient growl leaving a nonexistent throat. Mako returned his impatience with a hostile glare. The two matched glares before Death spoke up.
“Mother Maut is more patient than I. Perhaps she will hear your argument.” Death decided, snapping open his skeletal wings lined with stretched, ghastly pale shreds of leather and taking Mako’s arm. Mako struggled to pull away.
“Hey! Don’t you dare!” He cried. Death shot into the air without a reply. The shadowy fog of the abridging plane swallowing everything in sight now that Death’s lantern no longer held it at bay. Mako flailed against Death’s grip, barking insults, and spitting venom. Death simply dropped him. Mako screamed, the darkness engulfing him. He knew it was fruitless, but he tried to break his fall with his arms. He shut his eyes tightly, braced for impact.
“Stop teasing him.” A wise, hushed voice scolded. Mako yelped as an unknown force yanked on his leg, the floor an inch from his face. Death landed and let Mako land roughly on the freezing tiles. Mako’s full weight piled onto his nose and toppled him over. He held his face and writhed.
“Son of a-!” He cried.
“Here’s your new reaper,” Death stated simply, “he’s refusing his new post.”
“Is that so? Well, this is a big change. He has a right to be fearful.” Mother Maut nodded in understanding, flicking a feathered fan at the skeleton. She turned to the newly fallen, towering over his crumpled form. Mako rubbed the fading pain from his nose, wiggling it and checking for blood before remembering he no longer could bleed.
“Welcome. What are you called?” She asked. Mako glared up at the decorated vulture with one eye.
“You know who I am.” He huffed. Mother Maut’s sweet smile faltered, but her composure was quick to regain. She held a gloved hand out to him and lifted her beaked mask over her powdered gray hair.
“Come now, Mako. I am trying to be polite. What are your concerns?”
“Is that even a question? I just got drafted. I didn’t sign up for this.”
“It is a great privilege to be the guide to the afterlife! You’ll be the light for all the lost souls. The comfort for the fallen!” Mother Maut beamed. Mako rolled his eyes. Death smacked the backside of Mako’s head. Mother Maut dropped her smile and threaded her brow, her ghosting smile remained.
“This is very important… Once every millennium we indict a new reaper. Now it’s your turn. We need to give Death’s power to you before he fades for good.” She explained.
“That’s not my problem.” Mako huffed.
“It is now,” Death growled. Before Mako could protest, Death shoved the scythe into his hands and grabbed him by his shoulder-length black hair. His eye lights burned into Mako’s soul, the echoed utterings of a long-forgotten language drowning out the great Mother’s protests. Mako stared in awe and fear at the skull’s clicking jaw and boiling glare. But soon the skull vanished into a faint memory of a ceremony long behind them.
A skeletal figure stood over the weathered graves of an ancient battlefield. The engraved scythe in his hands prodding the dirt aimlessly as he studied the names on every grave stopping at the final, most familiar one.