Reaching a bony hand toward Astor, Death smirked with his toothy face and hollow eyes. “It’s alright,” he assured. “You’ve come so far alone. Let me help you the rest of the way.”
Astor lifted one armored hand toward the figure clad in tattered black robes, but reeled it away and stepped back. He bit his lower lip and shivered, blinking away tears forming beneath his eyelids.
“Afraid?” asked Death, tilting his head. “Crying isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather one of remaining strong for too long. Fear is natural before the unknown, but you needn’t fear this unknown because, unlike before, you’ll have a shoulder to lean on–a hand to guide you the entire way.” He moved the hand closer.
Astor gulped harshly. Looking toward the reaper, he sniffed, a singular tear rolling down his cheek before falling away into the foggy nothingness below.
Death tore at the cloth dangling from his right sleeve, removing a length which he carefully set in Astor’s palm and closed all fingers around it. “I will wait however long you need,” he assured. “Mourn what is gone, but enjoy whatever lies ahead.”
“But where am I going?” Astor asked.
Narrowing his gaze, Death turned about and looked into the infinite distance shrouded by mist. “What do you believe in?”
“I–I’m not sure…” Astor replied, lifting the cloth strip against his eyes. He cautiously dotted away each tear. “I… haven’t ever really believed anything…”
“Then perhaps an adventure awaits!” Death pivoted back toward Astor and gestured toward the mist ahead, his hollow eyes calmly beginning to glow a vivid blue. “Sometimes we have no destination set for ourselves. Sometimes we simply travel until we feel it’s enough. Our destination is determined by our fulfillment and however that may be, only you can decide.”
“Then… will you travel with me until I’m satisfied?”
Nodding, Astor inhaled deeply and took three long strides toward the reaper. He silently gazed upon the towering figure for a short moment, frozen and tense. Releasing the dampened cloth within his fingers and the held breath, Astor reached upward and grasped Death’s bony hand, his posture quickly relaxing.
Death’s smile grew, and carefully he wrapped each finger around the mortal’s. Warmth emanated from the bare bones.
A calming aura instantly surrounded Astor. Every tear remaining upon his face dried and the mist ahead cleared away, revealing an open, infinite distance disappearing beyond a sunny horizon.
Together, Astor and Death tightly squeezed one another’s hands and stepped forward.
“I think I’ve found my destination,” Astor declared, smiling at Death.
The mortal nodded. “Perhaps fulfillment isn’t based upon a place,” he posed, “but maybe it’s… a thing. A friend. Who follows you into the unknown regardless of where it takes them. Because they know, whatever happens, they’ll always have each other.” Astor once more squeezed the reaper’s hand tightly.
Smiling back, Death nodded and returned the squeeze. “It would seem so, my friend. It would seem so…”
Magnus Hjaelmar Tomasko (he/him) is a transgender ftm author who runs Dawnbreaker Dystopia and spends his time writing sci-fi and fantasy lyrics, poetry, short stories, and novels, sometimes attempting to explore theoretically complex subjects through his works.