AS Afflatus: Issue Two

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Prompt Submission

Sun Jul 23, 2017 12:29 pm

word count: 1084 | warnings: child death
prompt: Death felt a flicker of fear.
            • Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.

              When the most basic function in the human body becomes hard to preform, you know your time is running out. This was the case for young Isabel, who was only sixteen years old. She was laying in a hospital bed, fighting against death, but she could feel it coming. Each breath was a painful struggle that left her with little energy. She rarely felt hunger gnawing at her stomach, and when she did manage to eat, it came back up. The signs were obvious; her life was coming to an end, even if everyone around her was in denial.

              "Your time isn't over yet," Isabel's mother said. She had a tiny smile on her face, even though her eyes were watering from tears. She took her daughter's hand and squeezed it. "My only child isn't going to leave. You still have to graduate, you need to get your driver's license, you have to get accepted into college. It's...not your time," her voice cracked and she turned away. Softly, she said, "The doctors will find a treatment."

              "I don't think they will," Isabel whispered. She closed her eyes, unable to look at her mother's crinkled face covered in tears. Her throat was starting to tighten and burn, and though she wanted to stop it, she could feel the tears spilling down her face. "It'll be okay Mom. You raised me well-"

              "Don't talk like that!" her mother said, voice shrill with pain. Isabel's heart twisted. She was trying to comfort her mom, but she was only adding to her strain. Isabel decided to keep her mouth closed. The situation was already horrible; she didn't need to make it worse.

              The door to the room swung open. Isabel turned her head and opened her eyes, seeing a doctor step in. "Mrs. Mabe, could you please step outside for a moment? Ms. Williams would like to speak with you. She's already talking to your husband, who just arrived." He said. His voice was calm, as if Isabel wasn't lying on her deathbed.

              "Okay," Isabel's mother said. She slowly pulled her hand away with her shaking fingers. She dabbed at her own face with a tissue before standing up, shuffling to the door. She glanced back, gave Isabel a weak smile, then left, leaving Isabel alone with the doctor.

              The doctor sat down, folding his hands in his lap. "How do you feel?"

              "Lousy," Isabel honestly said. She was uncomfortable from the tubes coming out of her arms, nose, and chest. She also felt weak and nauseous.

              "Right," he nodded and forced a small smile. "You're handling this very well for someone so young."

              "Thanks," Isabel mumbled. She wasn't handling this well at all. Sure, on the outside she acted fine and happy, but on the inside, she was furious. Why did she have to be sick? Why did her parents have to go through this? Why couldn't she live her life out fully? She, of course, had no answers to these questions.

              "Dealing with...illness is very difficult," the doctor said, motioning his hand at her. "You could be better within a few days or a couple of weeks. might not."

              "I'm going to die," Isabel stated, forcing the emotion out of her voice. However, once the sentence left her mouth, she broke down and began to cry. She wasn't going to make it. So many other kids experienced miracles of battling cancer or other diseases, but she wouldn't. She wasn't going to have one of those success stories.

              "You may be right," he whispered. He opened his mouth to say something else, but was interrupted by a loud wail coming from outside the door. Coldness slipped into Isabel's heart when she recognized her mother's voice. "I'll see what's going on. For now, rest." The doctor stood up, walking out the door. Isabel sighed and closed her eyes.

              When she opened them again, the usual bright room was clouded in darkness. The thick curtains were closed, the overhead lights off, and the door shut. There was no one in the room, which only made it more eerie. She wanted to pull the blanket up and hide, but she couldn't move her arms.

              "Hello, Isabel," a raspy voice spoke. Her eyes darted to the far corner of the room. A looming figure cloaked in shadows stood there. His face was hidden by a cowl, and his arms were covered by long sleeves. Isabel could barely make out his skeletal hands that were gripping a scythe.

              "Who...are you?" she squeaked. The room had been warm earlier, but now it was freezing. She shivered and hugged herself as the figure took slow, steady steps towards her.

              "You already know," he chuckled. "I'm Death, the one thing everyone fears."

              Isabel was silent for a long time. Her heart beat quickly while her breathing came out in rapid gasps. He was here to take away her life. She was going to die, going to leave her parents...

              A curtain shifted, letting in a brilliant ray of light. Death hissed and stepped back. Isabel focused her eyes on the light, trying desperately to gain some courage from it. As long as there was light, she was safe. This thought reminded her of something she had forgotten.

              "I'm not scared of death," she said, raising her chin. She swallowed nervously, but forced herself to stare at the hooded face. "In fact, I'm looking forward to it. I'll be in Heaven with Jesus."

              Death was silent for a few moments before he spoke again. "What about your parents? It's not fair to them."

              Isabel didn't think it was fair either, but she understood that was because of her human thinking. "There's sin and evil in this world, and sometimes we have to suffer because of it. Or, this could all be part of a bigger plan God has. I don't really know the answer and I won't until I get to Heaven."

              Death felt a flicker of fear. The only thing he was scared of was someone who didn't fear him. "So be it," he hissed and vanished.

              Isabel smiled softly. She had done it. She had beaten death. Well, rather Jesus had conquered death for her, but she had at least found the courage to face it. A sense of peace washed over her. She felt tired, so she laid down and closed her eyes.

              She passed away peacefully in her sleep.
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Prompt Submission

Mon Jul 31, 2017 7:02 pm


Words- 2,017
Prompt-Death felt a
flicker of fear

He often re-traced his steps, walking through a valley of constant tragedy and loss. The stones stood row by row, marking the empty shells of once-living people as their physical form rotted and their soul resided wherever they belonged. He let his degraded hand pass over the rough surfaces, some of them were smoother however, new upon the soil. He could feel their past in the stones, a story written in a piece of earth that marked a dead man's ground. Forward he continued to walk, the mist hanging low with the star-filled sky above him. No living would be there. He wasn't even living.

Pulling away his hood, the skeletal figure looked much less menacing. The light from above illuminated him, showing his age in the different marks upon his bones. Some were a coppery color, some were a deep blood red. Scrapes and scratches were upon his body as well, even without flesh, he appeared as he had seen a whole life time.

And he had.

His life had been wonderful. It seemed like ages ago, and he wasn't wrong, it was. It was the colonial times. The building of houses in a large amount of land that he had never seen outside of his British childhood. It was here he had settled down. He married young, a wonderful woman named Elizabeth. Unlike a lot of arranged marriages in the area, they had gotten along really well, even could have been considered in love. His name? Well, in life it was Augustus Smith. He really hated that name. Hated it with a passion. So he chose to go by James, his middle name in life. James and Eliza had three wonderful children and lived in the woods, raising both corn and goats for some coin and sustenance on their little farm outside town. Yet, that had been his mistake. In the wake of wanting peace and love away from the hustle and bustle, he had sealed his and his family's fate long before he even begun to build.

The winter was much longer than he ever imagined. It was filled with frozen toes and grumbling tummies as the food that they once had never lasted. Beginners luck just didn't strike them. The corn never lasted and the goats died quickly and were eaten just as fast, leaving nothing behind. It was their youngest, a boy about six that died first from the starvation. They fought their hardest to just bury him, but the other kids succumbed to their stomachs' constant grumble, them in turn then went to eat their sibling, begging for forgiveness in the process. Both parents, now mortified of their children, watched them as they ate their brother, yet didn't pay no heed to the freezing winds that touched their cheeks and froze their toes. Within the next couple hours, they had eaten and curled up to sleep, allowing the snow to be their final pillows as their breath ceased and their hearts stopped. At least they had died not hungry. The parents now sat in a single room cabin. Praying for some salvation from the pain and agony they held, their bodies deteriorating and the loss of the very babies they had raised and called their own. It was then, that Death answered their call. First, he came and retrieved their young, carrying their souls to an afterlife of play, happiness, and constant love as all children are deemed innocent and don't deserve punishment in death. Then he waited.

Both of them swore they could see him, the shadow that stood in the corner, the gleam from his scythe being the best way you could see him. Sometimes it was his crimson eyes that illuminated the fireplace, replacing the flames that should be there providing heat but was just a cold creation of stone. Either way, he was there, watching for the young couple's final breath to pass through their lips and help them descend into the realm of death. It proved that Eliza couldn't hold up as well as he, her body going limp in his arms as he tried to warm her, tried to protect her from the very thing that she was terrified of. In her final words to the man she married, she gave him a piece of ribbon with a moon upon it. It had been a gift to her from her mother upon their wedding day. A final smile crossed her lips as she kissed James goodbye, then closed her eyes, falling into a final sleep. He had cried over her body for hours, blaming himself for the four bodies that would have to be buried under the soil the moment spring came about.
That's when the shadow came over. His eyes showed nothing, but it seemed the very air that breathed through his bones carried a compassion that even the grieving man before him. Gently, exposing the ancient bones that were once hands with skin and a tender touch, he touched the woman's forehead, and carried her soul away, leaving the empty body. For a small moment, James's tears stopped, long enough to be in an awe that she was so easy to take away from him. The simple touch that took her away to a calm place, and leaving a body with scars and scratches of a tough struggle in life. It was just so easy.

As Death returned, he came upon the man. Almost as hollow as a dead body, but still animated by the breath that passed through his lips and a heartbeat that showed life. Wishing the man mercy, and wanting some for himself, he touched his hand to the man's temple, offering rest...for a short while. The man breathed out one last time and went limp, hoping to see his family one last time. Yet, that wasn't what Death had planned.

Spring came quickly after, the bodies of the family found by neighbors that lived a distance away. They were horrified to have found such a dark scene before them. How desperately they wanted to blame the man that lay slumped against a wall, but seeing the whole family dead seemed to prove that there was no foul play in this wooden grave. Deciding against letting someone else live in the house, with fears that it may be haunted by the very family that built it there, they buried the bodies upon that land, burned their home to the ground, and forbid anyone to live there. Hoping to save them from whatever curse that befell the small family. Life went on about them, the bodies now rotting beneath a layer of grass and soil, giving back to the land that they once reaped. Yet, one body seemed to melt back into the earth slower than the rest of them.

Years passed, the bodies skeletal by this point and long forgotten. Their land was already re-transformed into a farm and everyone had passed that once knew about the family that died so tragically that winter so long ago. The day had been long, the midst of summer harvest as families strained to beat the winter and gather enough food for not just themselves, but the community around them. These people, a whole new generation that followed generations after the ones that first stepped fourth upon the land, reaped the soil much more efficiently and more bountiful than the previous attempts. It was here, that Death's plan was to come into play. Night fell over the land, sending the living to their homes for rest that would end when the next sun rose. It was in the cover of this silent slumber that the man that for generations had sent the dead to their final rest, would get his chance to rest. Kneeling down before the soil before him, feeling the soul that still existed within the land from all those years ago. Putting his hand over the ground, he called to the man below, called to him to stand upon the ground once more. It was here that a hand shot forth from the ground, digging itself out of the soil. Death felt a flicker of fear in this moment, watching as a soul that should have existed in the afterlife, take form once again before him. Was it like this when he was re-awakened?

It took a short time for the entire skeletal body to now stand before the man of death himself. Even if the body had no face to show expression, he radiated confusion and terror to see not only himself but death before him. What had happened? Everything seemed like a bad dream that only a horror book could have created. Yet, here he was, a body rotted and now just bone that managed to stand. James wasn't sure of what to think or do, but stare in awe as Death stood, taking away the charcoal robes that covered his rotted body and the weapon he once carried and put them in a pile between the two. It didn't take words between the two men for them to know what was to be done. James knelt down, taking the tattered cloth and sliding it over his bones, the sleeves covering his arms and the robes falling down to his ankles. For a final measure, he took the hood that hung on the cloth behind him, and pulled it over his skull. Just as in the stories, Death took form once more, just as the many generations of Death before him. With a final act of compassion, he allowed the man to crawl into his once grave and buried him there, and took his soul to rest. James watched as the man walked over in a new form, skin upon his body again but definitely more spectral. The man smiled at him, mouthed 'thank you' and walked away to meet a woman who held an infant in her hands. They were dressed as medieval peoples, but their clothes held burns upon them. He was burned alive... Shaking the thought away, feeling the call of another soul needing rest, James stepped forth into life once more, ready to take souls back home.

He smiled to himself. The memories of his life, even death, was still fresh after all this time. Yet, it was his turn. Eternal rest was calling to him and he had already chosen a successor. Just as his second life began, he raised his hand over the grave of a man who died all too young. His soul was restless, as it should be. The ground trembled as the bones of a man struggled to break through the casket that held them. Death took time in this moment to take off the robes that he once wore, and put them on the ground between where he stood and where a man would stand. There, he waited in a suspenseful silence, ready to go back home. His attention was returned to the ground as the grass dared to break as glass. If James could have smiled, he would have. Excitement was what he felt. Ready to see his wife and children once more. Just as he did, a hand shot forth from the ground and pulled up a body that had long decayed as he did. The men exchanged looks, a look of both understanding and honor between the two. Taking the form of Death, the man then allowed James to crawl into his grave. With the soil above him, he felt a tug. Something he had never experienced before. Soon enough, the pull went away, leaving him standing as himself once more. His clothes covered his body and he could see flesh hands. Looking back, he smiled at the new Death, and ran over, calling to his wife and children, taking them in an embrace. The feeling of love rushing over them all as the family was reunited after years of being worlds away.

Death has his cycle, never ending, never ceasing. The only question that can truly be asked is, who is next?
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