The Price to Truly Live
Updated: Jun 23, 2021
A short story inspired by a picture prompt.
Songs that helped inspire …
-You and Me (James TW)
-Sparkle (Your Name)
-Bleed Out (Isak Danielson)
-Older (Sasha Sloan)
Immortality: a feat no human could achieve, though one many would die for—a feat of the gods.
“And you would give it away as if it were a shell for a child’s necklace?” A man with skin blacker than night and eyes more golden than the sun stared disbelieving at the man and woman standing before him.
The woman’s piercing blue gaze met the black of her husband’s. Together, they nodded. “There is nothing left for us to do but live … truly live.” The man spoke softly as if his words would shatter some sort of glass workmanship. His grip on his wife’s hand tightened, their fingers entwining.
“And this,” the dark-skinned man extended his hand out to the heavens where a million stars twinkled back. “this existence is not living?”
The woman shook her head and her white hair spilled over her shoulders like liquid moonlight. A laugh clear as starlight left her lips. “No, Death. It is not. You cannot live if you cannot die.”
Her husband nodded, his dark eyes sparkling with love as he gazed at his wife. “She is right. Since the dawn of time we have kept watch over the earth. We have pulled the expanse of the heavens over its surface in the night and drawn it back in the morning. And every day I rise to chase after her across the sky, never reaching, never touching, just wishing, and chasing, and wondering.”
“And what of the humans?” The man’s hand tightened on the scythe in his hand as he turned to face the planet called earth.
The smile faded of the woman’s face and was replaced with a sad frown. “They no longer have need of us. They worship the new sky gods—Gravity, and Light, and Time. Their suns and stars and moons no longer need us to drive their fiery chariots across the sky. Our time has past.”
“If you give this away, you cannot take it back.”
“We don’t want it back,” they said in unison.
“And I cannot make you happy, or beautiful.”
“We do not need those either. We will make them for ourselves, just as the humans do.” The woman’s smile returned, shinning like a waning moon.
“We will have each other,” the golden man said. “And that will be enough.”
“There cannot be true happiness without pain. We have existed outside of suffering and therefore outside of true joy.”
Death clutched his scythe closer to him, a crease furrowing his brow as he hesitated. “Many would die for what you freely give.”
“Then let us die for it.”
With one last breath, one last plea in his eyes, Death nodded and extended his hand. “Take the other’s hand in yours.”
The man and woman’s eyes shone as they clasped their hands. Her dark skin met his golden hands and somewhere between shone all the stars of the universe. Their eyes gazed deeply into each other as if they were really seeing each other for the first time, and the last.
“I will watch you.” Tears formed a lump in Death’s throat. “I will watch you grow, learn, cry, suffer, fear, dream, live, and die. And I swear by my scythe you will not see me until you have given your last bit of life freely. Now go, and live.”
They didn’t spare him a second glance as his blade tore through their ethereal bodies. Their glory, beauty, and immortality shattered before him like glass, and, just like wind through the clouds, they were gone.
And so he watched, and waited like he promised.
He heard the screaming cries of babies, the laughter of children, the calling of parents and their tears, and shouts, and he watched, and waited.
And then, when the foggy drifted off the land and the sun shone through the clouds, he saw them.
They were so young, still only babes of children, and their striking characteristics were gone, replaced with common, uninteresting skin and hair colors, but he would recognize those dark and blue eyes across all ages and lives. Nothing could replace what shone deep inside of them. They were children, yes, but their love burned brighter than the sun, moon, and stars they had commanded ever had. There was no mistaking them.
The little boy’s eyes shinning like the sun he had once been, he placed a small kiss to the little girl’s cheek and she squealed with delight. They were too young to truly remember anything that they had shared before they were born, but, deep down, they felt that burning love that could never been quenched, and they would never forget that.
The slightest smile graced Death’s lips and he settled back to watch and wait.
Together, the boy and girl grew and changed. One of their families moved away. They attended different schools and made different friends. But every night they stayed up late, whispering things to the starry sky and late into the early morning sunrise.
The winds of time shifted and they met again at college. The moment their eyes met, it was as if they had never been away. The man swooped her up into his arms and kissed her cheek again, her clear laughter ringing as bright as the noonday bells around them, and before Death knew it, the bells were wedding bells celebrating their earthly union.
Never before had he seen such bright and joyful faces. It was then that he began to learn what they had been chasing after all that time.
Many times through their lives brought Death dangerously close to them. All he had to do was extend his hand and take one away, but he refused, remembering his promise. And each time that he did, each time he had breathed on one, his hand tight around his scythe, the man and woman’s love for each other had only grown, as if somehow, the inevitability, the closeness of
Death, could make each other all the more dear to the other.
So time turned and passed. They struggled and lived through a war. Together, they had children, and they in turn had children of their own. And the light of the love of gods burned brightly in all of them. The man and woman fought, feared, cried, loved, laughed, and lived.
And, one day, when they sat in each others arms on couch in their small home, it was time for them to die.
Quietly, softly, Death slipped through the door, making sure to shut it behind himself. He cloaked himself in a human form and hid his scythe under his cloak.
It took a moment for their old, dim eyes to see the man standing before them but when they did, they were not afraid. Their faces lit up as if seeing an old friend.
“So you have come. Welcome,” the man said. The woman greeted the same.
“Yes, I have come. I watched and I waited, and I learned many things. Did you find what you were chasing after?”
The man pushed the grey hair out of his wife’s star blue eyes as she wrapped her dark arms around his shrunken, old body and stared into the sparkling golden eyes that looked down at her with nothing but pure love.
“Yes,” they said together and then laughed. “I believe we did.”
Death smiled sadly but this time as he pulled out his scythe, he felt no sadness, nor regret.
“Then I will take what you give freely.” He raised his blade and just before he brought it down, the man planted a firm kiss to his wife’s cheek one last time, and one last time, her moonlit smile lit her face.
The blade pierced the air and tore through them, taking their lives, and leaving them silent and still in each others arms, smiles across their faces and all the light of the sun, moon, and stars shinning in the memories and love they left behind.
Thank you so much for reading! Let me know how you liked it in the comments below. I'm hoping to do one picture prompt short story a week alongside Katie Marie! Check out her rendition of this picture prompt here
And special thanks to @theglorywriters from Instagram whose reel we are getting our prompts from.
May the suns smile upon your presence
--Effie Joe Stock