Between Life And Death

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Literary_Dreamer, Feb 21, 2013.

  1. Nicholas Logan Asher
    Jul. 19, 1993
    Apr. 21, 2012

    A heavy black boot stomped out the epitaph. Nico leaned on that foot but no matter how much he ground on the headstone, he wouldn’t leave even a grass stain on it because he wasn’t really there. No, Nico’s real was about six feet beneath him within a vault and probably looking just almost as fresh as he had on the day of his funeral, thanks to all the preservatives they’d pumped him full of. Nico had actually watched that part with a sick fascination. He’d tried to attend his own funeral as well, but he’d not been able to stay. Thankfully, no one had been able to see his distressed departure.

    “Are you ever going to tire of this place, boy?” Nico turned to see a tall, strongly built man standing about ten paces off with the hint of a smirk on his face. Samuel Gallagher was the previous owner of Nico’s new title and he still looked after his successor. Sam was expected to do so until Nico until he got his footing in the position he was taking over but Nico suspected that Sam did it less out of duty and more out of genuine concern. Apparently, Death was selected for heart.

    “Probably,” Nico answered, turning back to his headstone. “But not yet.”

    Nico wondered how long it would take for his grave to lose its fascination for him. As the final resting place of his body, it was the only connection to life that Nico had kept. He didn’t dare visit any other places connected to his life. He’d probably stop visiting the grave when he forgot about the living people who visited it. His mother, who came religiously to take care of the flowers (and they were beautiful) when she wasn’t really a religious woman in any sense of the word. His father, who only came rarely but had cried at Nico’s funeral when Nico had never seen him cry before in his life. Friends…Well, Nico’s friends came even more rarely than his father but he supposed that was because he didn’t have many and they were all living their lives, and Nico was glad for them…

    “I’m glad that you’re taking this time to wax sentimental or whatnot,” Sam said, “but you do have work…Thanatos.”

    Thanatos, that was the name of the Ancient Greek god of death and Nico’s new title. Nico was only called Thanatos in the Underworld, though, where the Greek titles thrived. His title translated to Death and his role was that of the Grim Reaper.

    “Right…sorry,” Nico said. He checked his watch quickly. The watch was a battered old wristwatch, the same one he’d been wearing when he died. The face was smashed in but that didn’t matter. The purpose of the watch was not to tell time but to show him where he needed to go in order to collect his next soul. Why his watch worked that was, Nico didn’t know. Sam had explained it to him but it hadn’t made sense and probably wouldn’t until he’d been Thanatos for longer.

    The moment Nico saw where he needed to be, he was there. It was still a weird feeling, even after a year of practise with Sam’s help, to suddenly be where he wanted to be. It only worked when he was consciously aware of it, though, which was a good thing because he’d be continuously hopping from place to place at the whim of his memories otherwise. Again, Nico wasn’t sure why it worked, only that it did. A year wasn’t a very long time to have been Death and Nico had only been an apprentice at that, so there was still much he had to learn.

    Once the cemetery had been replaced with his new surroundings, Nico looked around. It was clearly a hospital and there was something familiar about it, but a niggling in Nico’s mind told him he didn’t want to know why. Instead, he turned to the door in front of him. He always landed just outside the view of the person about to die because he had to make an entrance. Nico hated making entrances.

    Nico wasn’t a very impressive figure. He was only about average height and he was slim. Most of his slenderness came from him being fine boned and having a natural lack of fat. He was disinclined to exercise much, so he probably would have gained weight as he got older had he lived to get older. His face was handsome enough but there was too much boyish softness to it to be truly dashing. His hair was thick and dark and straight, but not worn in any particular style. In life, Nico hadn’t been particularly worried about his appearance; it was funny how death, or becoming Death, changed things.

    Nico swept into the room through the door, nothing could bar entrance to Death. A family was gathered around the bed of an elderly woman. She appeared to be sleeping but her eyes fluttered open as Nico approached. She was ready to go, he could tell, and had only been waiting for his arrival.

    “I’m sorry I made you wait,” he said, touching her hand lightly. The moment his skin touched hers, she let out a little sigh and then was standing beside him, though her body remained on the bed.

    “You’re not like I expected,” she said.

    “I know,” Nico answered sheepishly. He was supposed to act impressive before the dead but he hadn’t yet mastered that and he wasn’t sure he ever would.

    “You’re less frightening, but I like that,” she told him.

    Nico had received many comments on how non-frightening he appeared. He supposed it was partially due to his baby face and partially due to the fact that he’d abandoned Death’s traditional black cloak in favour of a more modern, long black coat. Since Death always had a pale complexion, no matter whom Death was, the flowing black cloak had made him look skeletal. Nico had gotten tired of startling himself every time he caught his reflection in a mirror so he’d traded out the cloak, much to Sam’s disgust. The feedback had been mostly positive, so Nico was keeping the coat.

    “Thank you,” Nico said, and offered the woman his arm. She took it and they walked out into the hallway.

    “Where do we go from here?” the woman asked.

    Nico tried to give her his full attention but he was caught off guard when someone passed who gave off the same strangely familiar feel as the hospital. His first instinct was to follow her with his eyes, but he forced himself to turn back to the woman.

    “I cannot go with you from here,” he said. He pulled a large silver coin from his pocket and handed it to the woman. “There are others who will help you on your way. Give this to the boatman and he will treat you well. Now, if you see the light, go to it. Those are the gates to the afterlife.”

    “I see the light,” the woman replied. She let go of Nico’s arm and began walking away. Nico could not see the light himself because he’d already passed through it, but he knew that she’d found it when she vanished.

    Free of his charge, Nico turned to look for the person who had caught his attention just a moment before.
  2. There had been a time when Catherine was weak, not to mention shallow. Growing up, she had sought popularity, despite having everything she needed as things had been between her and her closest friend. Why the girl had not been happy with this, even she couldn't quite say. Her parents certainly hadn't pushed her to make hundreds of friends, so that wasn't it. Maybe it was just that old chestnut - the grass is greener on the other side, along with a healthy dose of peer pressure and no doubt, the unhealthy influence of the media. Whatever it was, she had made a mistake, and as a result of it had lost the only true friend left.

    Catherine was not that girl anymore, and she vowed never to be sucked into something as vile as those wolfish packs of girls that paraded the halls of any school in any country. Now, she had turned to her studies, immersing herself in them in the hope of either forgetting or at least calming those memories of who she had been. The previously brunette girl had even gone so far as dying her hair. It had been an utterly random choice of colour, made on the spur of the moment in the hairdresser, and now she had pinkish red hair, cut longer and left to its own devices these days, rather than styled to within an inch of its life, as she had once done. It was a practical cut, and most importantly, entirely different.

    The same went for the clothes she chose to wear, and the make up she used only sparingly. Why dress up so garishly anyway? Once upon a time it had all been about flaunting what she'd got, although admittedly that was fairly little. Catherine was decidedly average in most respects, and content with that. Her skin wasn't perfect and her nose wasn't straight, she certainly wasn't a busty blonde and of course there were the various scars she had earned during her stay in hospital. She was just a girl trying to get through life as best she could, although in all honesty she still wasn't entirely sure where her now excellent grades would take her. Decisions, decisions.

    On one seemingly normal day, Catherine found herself walking the corridors of a wonderfully sterile hospital. The smell almost made her gag, but thankfully she caught herself. She hadn't stepped foot inside one since her discharge, and really hadn't intended to go in ever again. Unfortunately, her grandfather needed a hip replacement, and now the granddaughter was doing the responsible thing in supporting him. Her heart was all aflutter as she walked, feigning confidence along with a sense of direction. In truth, the young woman was hopelessly lost and on entirely the wrong floor when she very nearly ploughed into a cart of old bed linen.

    The cause of this near accident was in one of the rooms, where an old woman lay with her family. And seemingly someone else. Catherine stared for several seconds, certain that it was Nico, the very same person whose funeral she had caused, and then had the discourtesy to miss, thanks to still being bedridden. How he could be there, she didn't know, because it wasn't possible. Although that night was permanently wiped from her memory, save a few choice snippets, thanks to a slight head trauma, she knew he was dead. Definitely not in that room.

    After several seconds had flown by, Catherine did manage to get a grip, putting it down as a mirage brought on by dehydration, stress, anything. Even so, she made a definite effort not to look into that room again. Instead, she did the grown up thing and finally asked for directions. She was always getting lost, it was one of her most recognisable characteristics, along with the redness that invariably filled her cheeks when she had to admit her errors.
  3. “Nico, we’re leaving,” Sam said. It had been three days since Nico had become Death’s apprentice. He was going with on all of Death’s journeys but he wasn’t yet allowed to take souls. He tried to pay attention but there wasn’t much to watch so he was sometimes distracted.

    “I thought you said we were invisible,” he said, not taking his eyes off a very elderly man who was staring directly at him. There was something in the man’s eyes that told Nico that he wasn’t just looking through him.

    “We are,” Sam said. He followed Nico’s gaze then added, “Just not to everyone. If someone is going to die soon, they can see us.”

    “How soon is soon?” Nico asked, feeling bad for the old man and his family.

    “It depends on the person; never more than a year or two, usually less.”


    “…No…” Nico breathed. The girl was Catherine; he could see that now as she asked for directions from a passing nurse. It was strange, he hadn’t seen Catherine since the night of his death and she’d changed since then but he still knew it was her. Perhaps it was the power of love, not that Nico particularly bought into that. Nico was in love with her, he had been for some years now, but his belief that love could bridge all gaps and cure all ills.

    Nico’s negative response wasn’t to seeing Catherine, though. He was glad to see that she was doing well. He was a little worried to see her at a hospital, but since she wasn’t in a hospital gown he wasn’t very worried. His negative response was to one of those unexplainable feelings, something that came with being Death no doubt, that she had seen him. He didn’t want her to see him, not until she was a hundred years old with a long, full life to leave behind her. Even then, he’d be reluctant to take her.

    Nico was instantly in his office where Sam was reclining at the desk and reading Jonathan Swift’s latest satire on the afterlife. He looked over the edge of the book. “What’s the rush, kid?”

    “How do you stop someone from dying?” Nico asked.

    “…You don’t,” Sam answered. “That’s not in your job description, kid. You collect souls; that’s all. Ease the way to the afterlife. You don’t go around deciding who lives or dies.”

    “But I love her!” Nico cried, distressed.

    “That’s nice, let her die,” Sam said. “Then you can be together forever.”

    “But she’s too young to die,” Nico argued.

    “And you weren’t?”

    “Maybe I was, but I’m already dead. Hell, I’m Death! Shouldn’t I get a say in who dies?”

    “No,” Sam said, “just drop it.”

    “I can’t drop it.”

    “You’re stupid, you know? You’re the stupidest person I’ve met. I almost regret making you my heir.”

    “You shouldn’t have chosen me, then,” Nico said.

    “I said almost,” Sam replied. “But I suppose you’ll have to learn the hard way, then. I’ll take back my old duties until you’ve failed miserably at saving her. Then you can move back into this mansion with Mrs. Death, okay? But I’m not going to wait forever. If she’s not dead in a year, you’re coming back anyway. Now, let’s get you a golem.”

    “A golem?”

    “A dummy body,” Sam clarified. “You can’t go as you are. You’ll rip her soul from her body if you touch her and she’ll think she’s crazy anyway because only she will be able to see you. You don’t want to use your real body, either, because…well, you were hit by a truck. Don’t worry; we’ll get you a golem that works just like a living human. Even a doctor wouldn’t be able to tell the difference…”
  4. When she finally made it to the room in which the old woman was staying, Catherine thought she had put that little mirage behind her. Of course, she wasn't yet aware that her skin was dreadfully pale, and she had been nibbling on her nails since seeing the person that must have been Nico. Although the conscious part of her dismissed the idea that it had really been him, somewere in her subconscious something knew. It wasn't possible to see something that clearly, only to have it be a figment of ones own imagination. She knew it was him, whether or not she knew she knew it.

    "You look like you saw a ghost. Are you alright, love?" Her grandmother asked, immediately noticing the pallor that had replaced the usually healthy glow of youth. Catherine had never had particularly tan skin, but the difference in health and shock was still easy to see.

    "I'm fine, just not a fan of hospitals...You know." She gave a wry smile, and instead of allowing the silence to linger, went on to give her grandma an affectionate hug, finally seating herself next to the ageing woman.

    The visit lasted more than an hour, and most likely would have carried on much longer, had the staff on the ward not insisted that the patient got some rest. So, with reluctant goodbyes, the two parted ways and the younger of the women got the bus home. Despite her college being only a half hour drive from her parents house, Catherine had opted to try the residential route, wanting to put her teenage years behind her - become an adult in all the ways she could. Cutting the apron strings with her parents was just another way of forcing herself to focus on leading a sensible life.

    So far it seemed to be working, Catherine had used the solitude of student life to her advantage, often returning to think of the past years, as well as mulling over what the future might hold. It was difficult, and the girl had spent many nights in floods of tears, thinking of all the damage she had done, but as time moved on, so did she. Some wounds were still raw, but time was indeed healing them, even if it was a horribly slow process.

    That night, after excusing herself from the activities of the evening - mostly concerned with drinking ones weight in beer - Catherine returned to her room, where she dug underneath the bed for one of those boxes so many people had. It was full of photographs, some were important to her, some were just junk that hadn't been thrown away yet, but she looked through them all. The incident in the hospital had understandably caused her to wax sentimental, and so she lingered over the various snapshots of life with Nico before her defection to shallow idiocy.

    Not long after sifting through all these photos, Catherine found herself feeling rather sleepy, and thankfully she listened to her body. She slept well, without dreams or disturbance, leading to a refreshed pair of eyes opening in the morning. She had only one class today, and so the process of getting herself fully awake took a while, Catherine dawdling from shower to clothes to breakfast. Of course, once she was ready to face the day, the young woman proceeded outside, intending to spend much of her time in the library, or if the weather permitted, outside somewhere. Fresh air was good for the soul, or so someone had once said.
  5. The golem was most difficult to make than Nico had first anticipated. After several botched attempts, he left the golem to Sam and turned his attention to making clothes for the golem since he couldn’t transfer the clothes he wore as the spirit of Death to the golem. There wasn’t much to do with the making of the clothes other than choosing fabric. The sewing machine worked on its own, another one of those things Nico didn’t quite understand about the Underworld.

    In life, Nico had always understood everything or, if he didn’t, he made sure to find out. There were a few things he didn’t understand but he hated not understanding and was glad they were generally few. Nico had been the top of his class in life, and he’d been sensible. He’d had a good head on his shoulders and his parents were proud of him because they knew their boy was going somewhere in life.

    In death, Nico understood almost nothing. He was learning what he could but most things simply didn’t have an explanation. Things often worked simply because they worked. It had driven Nico mad at first and he must have been a terror for Sam to live with, but he’d slowly learned to live with what could not be explained. He still had an irresistible urge to understand things and find out how they worked, but he learned to let it go when he couldn’t find out.

    The sewing machine was a good example. He’d needed it to gain a new wardrobe for the Underworld, lest he be stuck wearing the clothes he’d died in forever. When he’d seen it make a shirt from a scrap of cloth with no direction from any visible hands, Nico had become obsessed with finding out how. He’d been stopped just short of smashing the poor thing by Sam. Now Nico had formed a sort of tentative truce with the machine. He observed it closely but was not allowed to touch it besides feeding it more cloth.

    Dawn was breaking before they actually had the golem complete and dressed. Nico thought it looked sort of like a mannequin from a shop window and found it intensely creepy. Sam assured him that it wouldn’t look so lifeless once Nico had possessed it, but Nico wasn’t sure he believed his mentor. Irritated by Nico’s distrust, Sam ordered him to possess the golem to see for himself. Nico was astonished to see Sam’s assertion proven right. He spent nearly an hour before a mirror, unable to believe that the face he saw was not his own living flesh but an artificial being Sam had spent the night crafting.

    When Nico was convinced that it was real, he made the decision to jump to the living world the same way he’d been doing since he became Death’s apprentice. He instantly knew that it was a mistake. Leaping from place to place in the blink of an eye with one thing for a disembodied spirit, it was completely different when one had a body to become completely disoriented by the jump. He didn’t know where he’d landed, his head pounded terribly, and he only just stopped himself from vomiting right where he stood.

    It was a beautiful morning, but he spent most of it miserably. Eventually, he got over the side-effects of jumping and he adjusted himself to having a body again after a year. Once he felt well enough, he went looking for Catherine, on foot because he didn’t dare go any other way.

    It didn’t take him long to realise that he had absolutely no idea where to start looking for Catherine. He was about to give over to despair when Sam appeared, smirking as usual.

    “Havin’ fun, kid?” he asked.

    “So much, I could die,” Nico answered.

    “Careful, remember no one else can see me,” Sam said. “Just the dead, the dying, and the going to be dead soon.”


    “Anyway, need some help?”

    “It would be appreciated,” Nico answered dryly.

    “Well, you’re pretty near where you needed to be,” Sam said. “You should find her…” He looked around, “two blocks that way.”

    “Right,” Nico said. The ambiguity of Sam’s directions made Nico disinclined to trust him. Catherine could be in a building two blocks in the direction Sam had indicated and Nico would never find her. He started walking anyway. Some direction was better than no direction, after all.
  6. Catherine had attended her nondescript lecture as usual, taking notes diligently, though it appeared that several of those around her were almost catatonic. Why half these people even bothered getting out of bed, Catherine would never understand, but she supposed it was nnot for her to judge. She supposed that it easily could have been her, slacking away at college, getting by on her looks, plagued by promiscuity. She counted herself lucky that she had come to her senses when she did, though of course she would always feel massive amounts of sorrow over the exact circumstances of that final decision.

    When the unfortunately rather dull lecture had ended, the young woman packed away her various items and set off to find herself something to refresh her mind and body. Luckily for her, there was an excellent little coffee shop just around the corner from the campus, and so she headed towards this place, as she usually did on her free mornings. Her satchel was slung casually over her shoulder as she walked, tying her newly red hair behind her head, seeing as it was a fairly windy day, and she had no desire to acquire a hairball any time soon.

    Shortly after rounding the corner, Catherine unknowingly found herself just a few feet from Nico. Of course, it was impossible for her to know this was happening, and she continued on into the shop with only a minimal sense of anything being off. She felt a bit odd, but put that down to needing something to eat and drink. So, without further ado, Catherine ordered herself a small coffee, along with a nice oat biscuit. Nothing too decadent of course, she didn't want to spoil herself, this was really for practical purposes. This was a quiet environment, suited to a little more studying.
  7. Nico stared, dumbstruck, as Catherine walked obliviously by. He made a note to believe Sam more often, now that the former Death was being proven right more and more often. Shaking his head to stop himself from being distracted by remembering all the times Sam had probably been right but Nico hadn’t believed it, he followed Catherine into the shop.

    As Nico entered the shop, the smell of food wafted up around him. It wasn’t particularly heavy, but the golem’s sensitive nose picked it up clearly. Nico had to stop for a moment to savour the scent. It had been a year since he’d last smelled food and he hadn’t realised how much he missed things like that. He noticed that he wasn’t hungry even though he hadn’t eaten in a year (and the golem had never eaten before, at all) and it made him wonder if the golem needed to eat at all. Nico was nearly distracted from his goal again and had to set himself back on track.

    He scanned the dining area for Catherine and quickly found her sitting by herself. He moved over to her table and sat by her.

    “Hi,” he said, “It’s been a while.” He gave her one of his signature smiles, the one that said he was incredibly uncomfortable but was making the best of the situation. It was almost natural except for the panic just behind his bright blue eyes. “Please don’t do anything drastic,” he added. “I know it’s a little…unusual to see me here but I’m not here to do anything bad, I promise. All I want to do is talk, okay?”
  8. Perhaps it was lucky that she hadn't yet picked up her coffee cup, because the start Nico gave her was enough to have caused her to splash herself in the face with the hot beverage, had she been holding it at the time. Thankfully, that hadn't happened, but it might as well have. Catherine felt almost as if she had been punched in the face, though the colour had drained from it drastically. She wouldn't faint, nothing as dramatic as that, but part of her really wanted to. The sudden need to face Nico after all this time was enough to make her feel pretty woozy, not to mention guilty and generally upset. Raw feelings were involuntarily called upon, though the predominant emotion here was fear. Nico was dead, but this was undoubtedly him. There was no getting away from that.

    For close to five minutes, Catherine sat and stared, her eyes saucer wide, heart motoring on as if it was racing towards its final beat as quickly as it possibly could. All the while, Catherine simply gazed glassily at Nico, still desperately trying to process what was going on.

    Thankfully, after this time had passed, Catherine was finally able to speak. "But you're dead." It was a foolish observation, but it was something that most people in this situation needed to say, just to make it seem real. Once this had been said, she was at least able to say what she had wanted to say, ever since that night. "I'm sorry." She didn't want forgiveness, she just wanted to say it, just in case this was her final descent into madness. At least if she got this off her chest, then perhaps she could just believe she had made peace with the dead.

    Once this was said, Catherine dare not say anything else, was simply too dumbstruck to do so. She half expected him to dissapear again, and was waiting with baited breath for this to happen. Perhaps he would morph into an entirely different man, a very perplexed man that would be too.
  9. Nico waited patiently for Catherine to respond. He felt guilty for startling her so and wished he’d had another choice. No matter where he chose to reveal himself to her, though, he would have startled her. After all, who wouldn’t be startled by seeing someone who had died?

    “But you’re dead,” she said at last. At least she hadn’t screamed it. The only person likely to have heard was the man at the table next to theirs, and he was absorbed in a book, likely a reading for some class judging by his age and the proximity of the shop to the university. Catherine followed up the sentence with an apology.

    Nico was fairly certain he knew why Catherine was apologizing. He could understand why she would feel guilty over his death, in a reverse situation he would have felt the same, but he didn’t blame her for it. There were plenty of other things she’d done he would have appreciated apologies for but not this, not when a drunken truck driver and Sam had been for more responsible for the end of his life than she was. He even counted his own stupidity above her involvement. One day he’d tell her that but not right then in that very public shop.

    “It’s rather rude to tell someone he’s dead,” Nico answered indignantly, trying to make a joke, “but since you apologized, I’ll forgive you. I just realised that this isn’t probably the best place to say what I want to say so why don’t you just finish eating and we’ll go for a walk or something when you’re done?”
  10. How he could be so...jovial, Catherine didn't understand. Of course, she couldn't understand any of this, and as such she did not respond in any way when he made his little joke. For the time being she would just feel rather cold, not to mention confused. It was also safe to say that she certainly wasn't hungry anymore. If she had managed to keep down her little snack, it would have been a damn miracle, so instead of taking him up on the offer as it stood, Catherine simply rose from her seat almost as soon as he had spoken.

    "I'm not hungry. We can walk now..." Perhaps he'd disappear now. Or not. He was still just as solid as when he had been alive, and she sort of wanted to poke him - just to be sure. Thankfully she didn't quite get that far, instead just walking slowly and slightly shakily out of the establishment, ensuring to keep this apparition of Nico in her sight at all times. A part of her wanted him to disintegrate into thin air, but an equal or greater piece wished that he would stay here forever. Needless to say, she had missed him greatly, and wished to make amends for the time she had spent using him, not that she felt she ever could.

    "Please, explain. I don't understand." Catherine finally admitted after a time, not really looking where she was going, in favour of constantly staring at Nico, always trying to process this extremely odd reunion.
  11. When Catherine stood, saying she wasn’t hungry, Nico could only nod. He couldn’t blame her for losing her appetite. Who would want to eat with a dead man sitting next to them? Even if he wasn’t a corpse, it was still creepy.

    Catherine was a little unsteady as she walked out, so Nico caught her elbow to steady her. “Careful,” he said.

    When Catherine asked him to explain, he sighed. “I’ll try to explain,” he said, “but not all of this makes sense, even to me, so I’m not sure how much you’ll understand. You were at the hospital yesterday, right? I saw you. More importantly, you saw me, didn’t you? That’s a problem because, unlike today, you weren’t supposed to be able to see me yesterday. There are only special circumstances under which I should have been seen yesterday. Because you saw me yesterday, something bad might be about to happen to you. I’m here to stop that. Actually, I’ll be here for the next six months in order to make sure that bad thing doesn’t happen to you…which reminds me…I have no place to stay for the next six months…” Nico laughed, he really hadn’t thought through his plan to save Catherine very well. “Anyway, that’s about as best as I can explain things right now. I’m sorry if it’s still confusing.”
  12. Although she had not wished to do so, Catherine couldn't help but flinch as Nico touched her. The thought of a dead man touching her was not the most pleasant, and although the sensation was nothing unusual, it was still impossible to fight off the instinctive wish to shy away from him. Hopefully he would not take it personally, as it was certainly not intended that way.

    As they walked, Catherine listened, often glancing nervously around, as if perhaps there would be someone with a giant net to come and catch the crazy woman. Apparently not. It seemed Nico really was here, and visible to all around, not just her. It was still difficult to process, of course. When he had finished his explanation, it was some minutes before Catherine deigned to speak again. He had explained little, but it was still enough for her to gain a vague picture of what exactly was going on here.

    "I'm going to die." She said plainly, having jumped to that conclusion early on in the conversation. She didn't seem all that upset by the revelation, or supposed revelation, though of course she had no desire to end her life. She believed that things happened when it was time for them to happen, and fate should not be tampered with. It had taken her a while to come to that conclusion, but her philosophy had been fast tracked by the death of what had once been her best friend.

    "Nico, why come here? If it's meant to happen, it will." She paused, looking him directly in the eyes for the first time since the encounter had begun, "Go home, wherever that is. I've already done enough damage, I won't be a burden to you in death as well." She was surprisingly level headed, though to be fair she was still in shock. Even so, her words still rung true. She had hurt him in life, and regretted that every day, she wouldn't be a source of anguish now. He had his afterlife, and whatever it was, he needed to live it free of her.
  13. Nico was silent for a long moment, arranging his words. He had a strong reaction to what Catherine had just said but he wanted to be clear, not simply rant on about his new philosophies.

    “You know,” he said, beginning slowly as he finished putting his argument together, “when I was alive, I did whatever I was told to do, especially if it was you who was telling me. I didn’t even have to think about it. If you were asking, the answer would always be yes. It’s an easy way to go through life but not a very smart one. A lot of bad things wouldn’t have happened if I’d been a little stronger and a little smarter.

    “That is why I am going to tell you something I should have learned to tell you a long time ago. No, Catherine, I will not ‘go home, wherever that is’. I have six months here, and I fully intend to stay for the entire time. You may turn down my request to stay with you, but that doesn’t really bother me. A little hardship won’t hurt me.

    “As for your philosophy of ‘if it’s meant to happen, it will’ all I can say is that it’s the cowards’ way out. It is for people too afraid to take fate into their own hands. I should know; I used to think like that.”

    The speech was bold for Nico and not very much like he’d been in life. He’d done a lot of thinking after he’d died. The changes in him were a long time coming, though, and they likely would have happened eventually even if he’d lived.

    Still, Nico felt bad for being harsh, so he added softly, “Death is a real person. He doesn’t have to take someone if he doesn’t want to so long as they don’t force his hand. That’s why I’m here, to make sure you don’t force his hand because he doesn’t want to take you.” The words expressed more Nico’s hope than his actual conviction. He’d never fought a death before so he didn’t know if it would work.
  14. Unsurprisingly, Catherine was quite taken aback by what Nico said. It was so unlike him, but it was a welcome change. Although she would not immediately agree with him, she was glad that he had indeed learned a lesson or two. Of course, it would have been alot better if he'd learnt to tell her no before the car accident, but what's done is done. Catherine did not dwell on this fact any longer than was necessary, and instead thought on what had actually been said.

    After a time, the young woman did speak again, though without much conviction. She wasn't sure how she felt just yet, but she was not fool enough to miss the determination in Nico. "Do what you will, then. And stay with me, if you want to." She doubted he would even want to, but then again, she had not expected him to wish her to live. After her cruelty, she would have expected him to push her out in front of a bus, rather than attempt to prevent whatever event was supposed to cause her death.

    "But Nico, are you saying you've become death?" She had to ask it, even though the idea sounded pretty ludicrous to her. But, this was all pretty mad in her eyes, so what was just a little more insanity? She asked this question mainly to stop herself either bursting out crying or laughing, or perhaps throwing herself onto him and hugging him half to death - or to life? Who knew. Catherine didn't know what to do, apart from maybe apologise again and again. There were too many things that hadn't been said while he was alive, and she needed to make ammends.
  15. “Thank you,” Nico said. “I’m glad to know I’ll be able to have a roof over my head for the duration. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to the possibility of sleeping outside.”

    When Catherine asked Nico if he was saying he was Death, he froze. There were rules about what the living could and could not know about the afterlife. The identity of Death was one of the things the living weren’t allowed to know. Nico hadn’t realised how much he was letting slip.

    “I never said I was Death,” he told Catherine. “I said Death was a person and that he decided not to end your life. That doesn’t make him me. I may have had some potentially annoying input on the subject which would account for my being here. I don’t, however, have final say on whether you live or die.”

    Nico was walking a dangerous line and he knew it. He wasn’t technically lying but it was close enough that he wouldn’t be able to defend himself if Catherine found out and called him a liar. Death and the afterlife were dangerous topics, so Nico decided to take the conversation away from them and change the topic.

    “But what have you been doing over the past year?” he asked. “You’ve clearly changed your hair. You’re attending university now? I always heard they had bigger and better parties. Is it true?”
  16. Catherine didn't press the matter of death any further. She was confused as it was, and although the explanation wasn't necessarily one hundred percent satisfactory, it was hard to tell what was what, and so she just let any of her questions slide, not wanting to get into the ins and outs of what decided on life and death. She supposed that the less she knew the better, and so instead of asking more, Catherine answered Nico.

    "Well, I've just been studying, really." Catherine shrugged, running a nervos hand through that so obviously changed hair of hers. It was a small touch, but it was more than noticeable. "I wouldn't know about the parties. I'm done with that. Well, apart from my parents anniversary, if that counts." She doubted it did. That little soiree had been little more than an afternoon gathering of friends eating cake and drinking champagne far too early in the day. It definitely wasn't the raucous atmosphere that she had so loved just over a year ago. She'd been one of the wildest, though to be fair her behaviour had only got really out of control when she'd been plied with drinks - particularly in the last few months of her party life.

    "Nico, I'll say it again, I'm sorry for what I did to you." She had intended to wait until later, but the guilt was eating at her, and she just needed to get it off her chest. It was selfish, but at least for the right reasons this time. "If I could go back, I never would have left you in the dirt like that, or used you like I did." It was feeble, but she felt it to the depth of her heart. "There's no excuse for it, but I apologise." Whether or not he accepted it didn't matter. She had done what could be done.
  17. “You’ve changed…” Nico said, awe creeping into his voice a little. “I’m surprised but it suits you. I only hope that this change wasn’t brought on by my death. I’d hate to think that was what it took for you to come to your senses.

    “Also, thank you for your apology. I never thought I’d get one. You were horrible to me but…” Nico cracked a grin, “I think I can forgive you.”

    Nico took a step and his leg nearly collapsed under him. He was suddenly plagued by fatigue more intense than he’d ever felt before. It was all he could do to keep himself conscious and standing. He swayed for a few long moments, seriously thinking he might soon become acquainted with the pavement in a way he’d rather not. Apparently, the golem was not very good with “gradual”.

    Nico might have been afraid of the ravenous hunger that would undoubtedly attack him the moment the golem needed nourishment but all he could think of was going to sleep. Slowly, he began to speak, hunting for words through the haze that was clogging his mind. He could only hope that the words coming out of his mouth were the ones he had chosen in his mind.

    “I’m sorry, Catherine,” he said. “I’m suddenly rather tired. It’s been a long day, coming back from the dead and all. Do you mind if we go to your place so I can…take a nap…or something?”