Death went into the city, though she did not have an appointment. She rarely bothered with appointments these days; anywhere she went, there was work for her. Why, just last week, there was that little boy in – but never mind.
It’s so easy for them, these days; Death wonders if they take it for granted. They have as many options as there are stars, and the threat of consequence dwindles. Their concerns are few: How many bullets are desired? How fast shall they tear? How loud?
So it was these thoughts that distracted Death when she arrived in the city. She could taste its hate like stinging citrus, and its fear like ice. But she could also taste Love. She stopped and wrinkled her nose.
“Making progress, then?”
“Slowly.” Love stepped out of the shadows. “You’ll find there are fewer for you today.”
“Still, there are some. You can’t keep me from all of them.”
“No,” admitted Love. “There will always be some determined to hate. There will always be a handful lost to fear. They drown in it, or they let it eat them, complaining and justifying all the while. But there are many more who reach for me, who find their footing, and then show others how to stand. Even you used to know the worth of lives; did you forget, like they have?”
Death didn’t appreciate being made to feel she’d done something wrong. This was her job, her purpose. Hatred wasn’t her responsibility. So what if it made her job easier? Wasn’t that everyone’s goal – to work less for greater reward? And Death’s rewards flowed like red rivers these days. She was in demand, her and the strengthening Hatred with his vice grip and his wilful ears and his mocking words.
Even now, she realized, he was shadowing her, watching where she walked, scattering his fetid seeds in her wake, sowing them ahead of her. She hadn’t realized how frequently they collaborated these days.
As for Love – well, Death could see the appeal. Love tasted like aching sweetness: the last late summer peach, the final sip of the toast to a friend who is going far away, the fleeting fragrance of an embrace. Death was lonely, and Hatred very lonely, but Love was loneliest of all – and strongest, and bravest, because Love didn’t mind the loneliness. Her work was too important. Hatred minded; that, thank heavens, kept him weak.
Death didn’t mind. She would go back to setting appointments, like she did in the old days. If that meant letting Love win, well – Death was not proud.
“You can’t keep me from them forever,” Death said.
“Of course not – but you can wait your damn turn.”