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Why do I play with Death?
You read that right
Don’t worry; it’s not actual Death, and it is a metaphor! But how cool would that be to walk alongside Death as equals? A profound and powerful thing made a companion. Maybe that is a way that we could genuinely understand Life and Death as a whole, just like what occurs during the ballad, The Gardener.
The Gardener Lady Death, you’ve come again. We first met when I was ten. Mistake with the butcher knife, taught me I really wanted life. You kneeled beside me on the linoleum floor. You smiled at me as if we had met before. Tried to greet, but my mouth was too busy swallowing air, words edged between prayer. You showed me your hands, fingers covered with golden wedding bands. You sighed like Mom and said, “Boy, you didn’t seem to understand, that death is scary, like the wedding band, a commitment that you need to be prepared for. Hold my hand. Close your eyes. Think of bright days where time flies, dragonfly hums and stabbing spider webs with sticks I will seal your door, but if you open it again, I can’t promise I’ll catch you anymore,” Lady Death, you’ve come again. We first met when I was ten. I wanted to do something with my life, pledged to fight. Maybe I was hoping to see you. You came when I still believed in dragons, the same vein of believing in the Tooth Fairy and God. But as I am bleeding out on the grass, I see you walking toward me and I wonder; Why did I forget that you are real? You always were. I wanted to believe that I was immortal, that I healed myself because I am a miracle. I learned today that that isn’t true. I am a human that is dying in front of you. I saw that girl plucking flowers in the wake of men eager to take. Soldiers yelled to evacuate. the girl was focused on the blooms she clutched in her hand. I thought I was faster than Time pushed the child out of the line. Body collected metal like a magnet. Now. Here we are, my body lying on the grass, stagnant. You stood above me. Your white armor ignited by the Sun, the light haloing your body, like the angel that you are. I told you to kiss me. I told you to let me slip between your fingers and let me walk by your side. I am tired, Lady Death. What you are is what I need, I am ready to be set free. You sighed like Mom, and said, “You ask for a kiss, but Death isn’t romance, boy. It seems that you don’t know what you are caught in between except for the enemies’ fire. You aren’t a hero for dying dumb. I heard what your men told you, they told you to run. You thought you could make a name for yourself by attempting to beat Time but you saved that child when I was ready to take her. I had lost hope until you interrupted the Maker. So boy, look at my armor white as snow, when you are clothed in sheets like this, you are ready to go.” Lady Death, you’ve come again. We first met when I was ten Mistake with the butcher knife, taught me I really wanted life. Doctor says something has delved deeper into me than any other man-made metal has. It has wound itself around lungs and it will take other articles of my vessel if they attempt to pluck it out. So here I am, staring up at a ceiling that is as bleached as the sky the day I was dying on the hillside, bound around a sheet as white as snow, machines beeping to the sound of a heartbeat that is starting to slow, drugs dripping into my mind play over memories that I had forgotten where mine; bright days where the time flies by stirring sticks around spider webs dragonfly hums blooms clustered in a little girl’s hands Mom sighing a woman at my side fingers covered in golden wedding bands haloes ignited linoleum floors - Lady Death, you’ve come again, We first met when I was ten. Boy, here I am. I made a mistake with the butcher knife, taught me I really wanted life. You had so much time. You told me to close my eyes. Close your eyes, boy. I wanted to do something with my life. You had so much time. I told you to kiss me. Close your eyes, boy. I think it’s time. You had so much time. Now, it’s time, boy. Now, you’re mine.
In the Gardener a boy meets Lady Death three times; when he was ten years old, when he enlisted, and when he is an older man about to pass away. The supernatural intervenes in two out of the three meetings, leaving the “Boy” not only healed but a little wiser about what it means to die, “Boy, you didn’t seem to understand that death is scary, like the wedding band/ Death isn’t romance, boy.”
Even when the Boy asks, she does not reap because she knows it is not his time to go. Death notes how the boy is young and bold, things that need to walk the earth longer. While he is healing from the shrapnel in his chest, she tells him, pointing to her ornate white armor, “So boy, look at my armor white as snow. You are ready to go when you are clothed in sheets like this.”
In the third act of the Gardener, the Boy is now an old man, lying in a hospital bed as his sickness (cancer) pushes past treatment. Alone in his room, he starts to transition to his conclusion. His mind is a flurry of memory; a girl carrying flowers in her hand, his Mother, wedding bands, stirring spider webs with sticks, until he realizes he has a visitor, Death. Even though it is his time, Death is solemn about carrying the act out. She has seen the Boy grow, and despite his tribulations, he lived his life out in the end, shown as they exchange measures of the meter until the boy’s voice fades away into silence, and Death finally allows the boy to transition to the afterlife.
I have also imagined Death as an optimistic character. She claps peers’ shoulders at pubs and cackles, her home heavy with the scent of drying flowers and her eyes golden like the Sun. She takes pride in her role in life, as grim as it may be, to mortals because it is necessary to keep the world turning. She tends to the crop, not shear it to the ground, trimming the dead ends and collecting new souls.
Death has also been thought of as a lesson in itself in the form of necromancy. Necromancy, if you have never heard of that, is the idea is the art of communing with the dead. In a project, I have a character who turns to this dark practice to learn about the roots and power of her lost civilization. As she grows in mind and body, she becomes a proficient fighter and historian for her people by rooting herself into their phantom etched past and igniting a brighter future.
So, why do I play with Death? It is fun! What other chance do mortals have to manipulate such a Goliath of an element? We can make this character whatever we like; a barista in a coffee shop who warns customers of the cons of fighting against sleep. You could make a traditional Grim Reaper, exposed skull and all, or make Death a simple person who will reveal their true selves later in the story. What does this do? It allows us to downsize and enhance different aspects of Death by making them a fictional beings, which is super beneficial if you grew up dreading the idea of dying, which is me. I am that person.
Thank you so much for stopping by to find out why I play with Death. Please comment below if you make Death a character in your stories as well, and of course, keep writing. Thank you!