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.