*picture not mine used for inspiration*
A short story
By Serena Mossgraves.
Another job, too many this year. It seems like I have taken so many bright lights across the river. Each one so unique, but all humbled by the sight of my river craft. It is never what they expect.
Some expect a religious experience, heaven or hell. That is not my domain. I am a simple guide. Taking each one from the last moment in physical form to a transition point in a more spiritual place.
The river that divides the two is my home. Glistening, it is the tears of grief that the gods cried when their children forgot them. A proper divider in my opinion. Myself, I have been called many names… Reaper, Charon, Death… Or my favorite is Apocalypse.
I am not a god, nor even a mortal creature. The name for what I am has been forgotten nearly as long ago as I was created. And I am fine with that. For naming something gives you power. I have grown accustomed to the freedom of anonymity.
Once the mortals pay for the journey, we move quickly. No, it has never been as the stories about me go, my payment is not coin. I have survived on either story or true emotion. Some are too afraid to give me their stories. Those are the ones who end up trapped. Haunted by the stories they cling to. Innocents, they pay with the grief of those who are left behind. I prefer not to take the joy of life from them.
Still even though each is unique, I didn’t expect what I found that day! Most of the other creatures left are mortal…. Mostly human. The angelic blood that is left is so watered down that most have forgotten that it even existed. The few actual angels remaining are immortal, so I am not supposed to see them. Yet, there one was. Somehow an immortal being had died. Angels are genderless, not in the absence but instead because they are true Hermaphrodites. I found myself staring into her beauty and feeling a sense of impending disaster. Her snow white hair, ashen skin and ice blue eyes were all so very compelling. Add in soft white wings and she seemed almost unreal.
If one of the immortal beings could die, what did that mean for me? For the first time, I considered refusing to ferry a soul across. There was nothing to force my hand, the choice was always mine. Finally, I sighed. “Tell your story to cross between, or do not, and here remain!“
It was the same thing I told everyone, though at that moment I found my desire waning for the story that was about to flow. I remembered every story, from the first to the last. It felt like I was doing a disservice by hearing the story of this soul. It was my catastrophe. For in her story I lost my self and the will to be impartial.
The angel hesitantly looked up at me. I believe that she was as worried about what her death meant as I was. Immortal beings were not meant to be able to die. Their bodies healed themselves more quickly than most were able to be injured. Her story would be one that would shake my world.
“I was given to protection of the innocent. It was my nature, so when the divine stepped back… It was what I decided my job was. I have served as caretaker for thousands of injured innocent. The children called me Frosty the Snowman. The ones who sought to harm the innocent would face my wrath. The children sang songs about me.
I had created a safe place for those who had been hurt. I was pleased that I was able to use my magic to freeze those who would hurt the children. They would try to run. Lock themselves in panic rooms and the like. It didn’t matter. I could see them and their guilt, no matter where they hid.
I have been doing this since society began. I became so very overconfident. I did not count on the pieces of faith that still remain. The last child I sought to protect was being chased by a creature who understood darkness. He has demons in his employ.“
I saw the sudden fear as the Angel trailed off. The fog that passed across her face. “Only the divine can kill the immortal… And demons are but fallen angels. Each of the immortal are shards of the divine. I had forgotten that. And it cost me… And those who I was protecting.“
She was lost in tears. She did not want to leave the children… I could see it. For the first time in my experience I was torn. Though I was nothing more than a guide, I wanted to play god. The river was divine in origin, a connection to the creators.
“How much are you willing to give up? What is most important to you? There is a way, but as with all magics… There will be a cost.” I warned.
Her reaction was knee jerk and emphatic. “Anything! For the children.“ I sighed, knowing what I was about to offer would be a regret for her later on.
Still, having warned her I offered her an option that I would never have offered to another. “Take this cup, and scoop out some of the divine tears. Drink, and should you be found worthy, then your life will be returned to you. Though it will not be as you expect it. The cost will be paid.“
There was no hesitation as she reached the cup down into the dark water. I couldn’t be sure what was going to happen, but I could guess. I was no longer an active participant in this tragedy, and for that I was grateful.
As she drank, she began to change slowly. First, a warmth to her coloring, then the air about her began to chill. There was a growing luminescent glow around her. Growing to a crescendo much like an orchestra, peaking with her turning a crystalline white, then in an instance she fell apart in a pile of snow on the deck of my ship.
The pile sat there, unmoving, for what seemed like an eternity. Then almost lazily a small wind funnel started lifting the snow. I watched the snowman form. I was not sure where the hat and pipe came from, but with magic it was not something that I really needed to know. “The magic returned the life to you, it granted the wish in your heart to return to being Frosty. Be cautious, for you are still vulnerable to that which the divine made. I wish you good stories, until we meet again.“ I dismissed her to return to the world of the living.
Every now and then I hear about the snowman, and the protector of the lost and broken children. Whether she regrets that choice, that I will only discover should she again come to me for the ride into the other side.