The Afterlife: Richard: The Rainbow Lake

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the Afterlife collection
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Richard had heard of the Rainbow Lake, but he hadn’t visited it himself. It was somewhere he wanted to take Caitlyn, when he had a chance, because he knew she’d like it. After Charis had moved on he found himself focusing entirely on his job, so he didn’t have to get close to anyone, and he was hoping that by being friendless Death he would be able to put everyone off – then Samael had knocked on his door, the angel who had walked away, which had changed things more than he’d ever expected them to. Sighing, Richard ran a hand through his hair. If it hadn’t been for Sam and his insistence that even Death needed friends he would never have been in the position that he was when Caitlyn found him sitting on the night beach.

Some of the other Deaths had been there. A couple had gone with Samael, before he decided that saying goodbye once more would have been too difficult, and then a couple went alone, because they wanted to learn more about it, which wasn’t a surprised. Everybody wanted to know about the Rainbow Lake, but no one actually knew why it was there or where it came from. Really the only people who might know something were the deities and Richard knew that they’d only talk about something if they thought it was a good idea to, because they knew that some information might affect the way people lived their lives… or their afterlives.

As he ran a hand through his hair he took out the first of the journals. During the lonely early days he had read all of them, from cover to cover, so he felt as though he had friends. Richard shook his head. He realised now that how he’d reacted to Charis leaving had been stupid, because he always knew it was going to happen, but that didn’t make things any easier at the time, and for the first time he could think of her without it being painful. That was entirely down to Caitlyn and Samael. The journal he was holding was one of Charis’, he’d read it more times than he could remember because it felt like having her close again, so he flicked through without really thinking about it to the time she’d visited the Rainbow Lake.

***

I only knew about the Lake because I read the journals that were left behind by my predecessors. Unfortunately it’s been the way I’ve learnt about being Death, the places of death, and the rest of the afterlife, and, even though I am grateful to the writers for being so thorough, I promise that I will guide my successor. Whoever it is will need it. That seems to be what the others never realised, but then they didn’t accept the responsibility of training the next Death after Samael walked away. Honestly, I can understand the Death who lost him to have made that choice, because of the feelings between them, but the others…

Even though a part of me doesn’t want to be I am angry with them. They made their decision based on what he had done, when they shouldn’t have, as he made it based on what he had been through. Yes, he walked away from his successor, but I think it was more than he was walking away from the pain he felt and the memories he had made within Death’s house, as he couldn’t stand it any longer. I wish things had been easier for him, because then I wouldn’t have been abandoned, and might have been visiting the Rainbow Lake with him instead of alone. However it’s been reading about it that has made me fascinated by it, so I’m going there today.

As I normally do when I’m visiting somewhere in the afterlife I haven’t been before I will be taking this with me. Even though I find I have a much better memory of events here I know that the day will come when I want to move on. It won’t be anytime soon. There’s still too much for me to do and the others all wrote in at least five journals and as this is just my second I know that I have at least three more to fill, but I have a feeling I’ll be writing much more than some of them did. Four of the Deaths, between the time Samael walked away and now, only wrote down who they’d brought back from Earth, who they’d removed from the places of Death, and some other very basic journal entries about what they were doing on the days when they weren’t busy.

Occasionally I wonder if they might have had a second, more personal, set of journals, that they chose not to leave behind, because they didn’t want anyone to read their innermost thoughts. I did actually think about that myself, but I want the Death that follows me to be able to read them and, hopefully, be able to remember me as I was during the time I was training them. When I try to imagine what that might be like I find that it’s almost impossible, because I can’t imagine what it will be like to know that I need to move on again. Although I know that I have to I don’t want to ever leave the afterlife behind. I’m happier here than I ever was during life.

That’s why I’m visiting the Lake, actually. A couple of the Deaths before saw things in it, images that they didn’t know would be a part of their lives in the future, and I can’t help hoping I might be lucky enough to do the same thing. I don’t have any friends here, as such, but I do have plenty of acquaintances I have this feeling would like to be friends. Especially Elizabeth. She keeps telling me that I need to have friends, and she’d been friends with Deaths before, so she knows what to expect when I do leave, and yet I still keep my distance. For me, personally, it’s easier, especially as I know what my life was like when it came to friends.

Now that I have the chance to have what could be true friends I should, really, grasp it with both hands, and not doing that might be a mistake. I’m just not ready to. All the other Deaths, after Samael walked away, were alone. They never felt comfortable in the position, which is probably why they didn’t last as long as the Deaths before Samael’s choice. Every time I read about him I can’t help wishing that I could meet him, but I don’t think I’m going to be the one who does. I think that will be my successor, because I will be the one to change things. My plan to guide him, to teach him what he needs to know to do this job, will be the one that changes the future.

At least I hope it did, if you’re reading this, Death that follows me. If you’re thinking that I made a whole lot of promising that I didn’t keep I apologise – no reason is good enough for walking away from you when I know how difficult it is to be Death and to work this out alone. My only guide was the journals the Deaths before had left behind, which, sometimes, don’t feel like they’re enough. Having someone there to tell me, when I’m doing something, that I’m doing it right, or wrong, would be the best thing I could have. Yet my predecessor, who went through the same thing that I did, chose me and then walked away, and I don’t know why he made that decision.

Knowing why probably wouldn’t make things any easier, but sometimes I wonder if maybe it might. If I understood why he chose to walk away, to leave me to do this alone when he must have known how hard it would be for me, I might be able to forgive him. I’ll never be able to forget what he chose to put me through, though, and I feel like that’s my failure. Being Death makes me different to the other spirits, or I feel it does, and if I was truly on another level to them I’d be able to forgive and forget. Or at least that’s what I think I should be able to do. To hold on to this anger at a spirit I met once, when he chose me, is something I really do think of as a failing.

Elizabeth told me that none of us are perfect. We’re nowhere near that stage. Not even the angels are, but then they’re not like us. She talked to me about it once, when I asked her why Samael would have walked away from the Deaths, because I thought it would help to hear someone else’s opinion. It helps that she knows Uriel well, as it means she’d have an understanding of the angels that I wouldn’t, as I’ve never met them, even though I have read about them. However it seems to me like Samael, at the time, knew who he was, and then something changed that. It’s not something the Death ever found out, so he never gave a reason for why the angel of death walked away from the spirits who once only helped him with his job.

Uriel, and the other angels, have never really known why they exist. This isn’t something Uriel’s talked to Elizabeth about, but she can sometimes feel his confusion, as though he’s not sure that he’s making the right decisions all the time, although she says it’s something he only ever seems to feel around her. She believes it’s because he knows her well enough to be able to lower his shields slightly and he won’t do that around any of the other spirit guides – some he’s actually known longer that her. The more she talked about him the easier it was to almost understand, and accept, why Samael made the decision he did, no matter how angry I am at him for making it. Up until that Death he was entirely certain that he had made the right choice to work with the spirits.

What happened to change things I can only guess, but one thing Elizabeth said to me stood out. The angels are learning how to deal with their emotions, the same way that we do, and I can’t help wondering if Samael started feeling something he’d never expected to feel for one of his Deaths. Before that we had been work colleagues and friends, which made saying goodbye hard enough, so what if he’d started to fall in love with one of us? Could that have been what made him chose to walk away? Even though I don’t think I’ll ever be the one lucky enough to know the truth it’s enough that I know he, like the other angels, aren’t perfect either, so sometimes the choices they make are really stupid.

And once again I have gone off on a tangent. Journals are wonderful for that. Much better than conversations, because I don’t have someone looking at me funny as I’m talking too much, or I’m saying the wrong thing, or I’m connecting something to something else that shouldn’t, as far as they’re concerned, be connected. That was always one of my problems when I was alive. Either that, or being too quiet. I couldn’t win and being here, being Death, makes things so much simpler. I can sit here with my journal and write as much as I want. No one is going to tell me to stop. I don’t have a sentient journal that will reply to me.

That would make for an interesting work of fiction though.

Sometimes I think it might be nice to be able to have these sorts of conversations with someone though. It might be something I could talk to the next Death about, because whoever it is will need to be taught about Samael and the decision he made to walk away from the Deaths. Will I tell them what I’ve been thinking about now or will I wait for them to read it in my journal? Until I met them I don’t think I’ll know what will be appropriate, but we might even have already talked about this already. Should I apologise if we’ve already had this conversation? Again, I don’t know. I know so little about the Deaths that came before that I have no idea what the Death who comes after me might be like.

There are Deaths I know a lot more about than others, as how well I know them depends entirely on how they used their journal. If they used it in the same way that I do, to write down their innermost thoughts and beliefs because they didn’t trust anyone else enough to talk with them about these things, then I know them about as well as I know anyone in the afterlife. Even Elizabeth. As they did write down what they were feeling I understand why they chose to move on rather than train their successor. My predecessor was one of those who wrote very little in his journal, sadly, so I know very little about him, and maybe that’s why I believe I’d never be able to forgive and forget. He knew that one day I would read them, even though he had no idea who I’d be, and in the same way that I have been writing for whoever follows me he could have helped me as much as he could using his journal.

Maybe, like me, he never wanted to be Death. He simply took the job because he looked into Death’s eyes and realised that his predecessor couldn’t keep going any longer. When I look through the journals it’s easy to see that taking this position became much harder when Samael walked away, because then the Deaths didn’t have anyone there to support them. Before that Samael had been a rock for all the Deaths, he’d taken on the job of training them, he’d showed them what they’d need to do and been there for them when they had a particularly bad day. Then, with him gone, everything changed.

For the Death that lost him it was especially hard. I can’t imagine what that time must have been like for him and I wish things had been different, but they weren’t. Even though I do feel sympathetic towards him I can’t help thinking he could have handled the loss of Samael much better than he did, which makes me wonder if Death had fallen in love with the angel. That theory makes the most sense, because he literally seemed to come apart at the seams when he realised Samael wasn’t returning, and if any of the Deaths could have done with a friend it was him. Elizabeth said she tried, in the same way she’s tried with all the Deaths, to become his confidant, to give him someone to talk to when things got bad, but without Samael there he shut down. He did the job as he was training and didn’t have anything else there.

I believe that’s why there have been so many Deaths since Samael moved on. They were alone from the beginning and seemed to chose not to trust anyone when they realised that their predecessor had left them to learn how to do the job alone… which got harder when they found out exactly what they were expected to do. Some days my job is easy. All I’ll be asked to do is travel to Earth to guide a spirit to where he is meant to be, then I’ll pass him on to whoever his spirit guide is, and that will be it done. Other days it’s not. Being asked to bring a poltergeist back is the hardest thing, because they don’t want to leave. Normally I won’t be able to do that unless they’ve been exorcised, as that is when they’re at their weakest, and I’ll be able to literally drag them to the afterlife, which takes a lot of doing sometimes.

Sometimes I wish that wasn’t a part of my job and yet I know there’s no one else here that could do it. I’m the one who was chosen, because of whatever it was my predecessor saw in me, so there must be something special about me, even though I have no idea what it might be. There’s a possibility it’s simply because I am the kind of person who doesn’t care about being alone that makes me the right person to be Death. When I chose my successor I’m going to be looking for something different – the strength to be able to let down his shields so he can have friends, even if those friends aren’t Samael, because he will need them. Unfortunately I know that I’ll make things difficult, as I’ll get close to him and then have to leave him behind, but hopefully it won’t affect him too badly.

Why do I keep saying he and him? Even though I don’t have any real idea what gender the my successor may be I can’t help thinking I’ve seen him before, in my dreams, and that he will be male. I’m not certain, because it’s not as though I sleep a lot, being dead and all, but I still sometimes sleep. That’s something I learnt from one of the journals. Apparently it helps spirits like Death, the guides, and the Dream Weavers (those who do important jobs that mean they’ll spend centuries in the afterlife) to rebuild their energy. Most of them didn’t write about their dreams, if they had any, so I don’t know if it was the same for them. When I sleep I dream, more than I did when I was alive it seems, and often I dream of a tall, dark, handsome man, who’s currently living what appears to be a very difficult life.

Unfortunately I can’t see him in my mirror. That only shows me the soon to be dead and he isn’t soon to be dead. He might not even be alive right now. I don’t truly know what I’m seeing, but I know he’s different, otherwise I wouldn’t be dreaming about him. Of course I might just be dreaming, although I would think that was more likely if I didn’t see him every time I slept. Like I said I don’t sleep a lot, maybe once every fortnight or more often if I’ve had a particularly difficult spirit to bring to the afterlife, so I don’t dream very often, and they do seem to be going in chronological order for me, from one day to the next, which makes me think that I’m seeing a life that will happen rather than a life that is happening. I am certain that I’ll meet him, some time in the future.

***

The Lake wasn’t exactly where I expected it to be, but that wasn’t a surprise. Every one of the Deaths has said that it moves, although not in such a way that some of the places in the afterlife do, and I wasn’t entirely certain that it would show itself to me. Fortunately I think that the mood I was in, having spent the time before going there writing in my journal, had some effect on the mood of the Lake itself, so it was calm and seemed almost pleased to see me. I don’t think it’s sentient, as such, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a sentient being within it somewhere, who is the reason for its moods and the way it reacts to certain people. When I was there I couldn’t help wondering if maybe that was where the creature from Loch Ness stayed when she didn’t feel like being in a cold loch in Scotland.

I sat by it for a while – probably for longer than I expected to, because it was so nice to be there. The waters changed while I was there, from colour to colour, as though it couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, and I was wonderful to be able to see as many as I did, although I didn’t see either the purple or the gold phase. Occasionally I did see what I can only call visions within its depths, usually when it was in its white and black phases, which didn’t happen very often. They’re something I need to think more about and the best way to do that, for me, is to write them down. So, Death who follows me, you are welcome to ignore what comes next or read it, whichever you prefer. Before I started writing this for you I was a little uncomfortable with the idea of someone reading this, but I’m glad that you will.

So, the visions.

At first I wasn’t certain they were visions, because the first one showed my own life. I thought, to begin with, that they were memories that the Lake was showing me, for whatever reason, but I think now that it was just starting with something simple. Although, now that I think about it, it wasn’t simple, as it was showing me my life from the point of view of a woman I loved very much – my mother. She moved on to her next life a little while ago and I still miss her, even though I know that she is simply a spirit who chose, that time, to incarnate as my mother during that lifetime. We had a good relationship, yet she still didn’t understand the choices that I made when I was alive.

We had time to talk about it before she moved on, which was nice, and I think she actually appreciated learning more about me, about the lives we had lived together before and the lives we hope to live together in the future, when I’m done being Death. In the vision she was watching me make bread, which was something I did a lot when we lived together, because I was more skilled at it than she was. She knew how to use our skills to her advantage and her skills to our advantage, so it all worked out well. My father died when I was young and it was important that we all pulled together. Even though it was hard, sometimes, that was exactly what we did, and in the end I chose not to marry in order to stay with her, while my two younger sisters made their own families.

That time we were talking about one of my younger sisters, who was the reason we were making the bread, and the man she had chosen to be her husband. He was a good man, someone who wouldn’t take her for granted, so we’d offered to keep them stocked with bread until she had a chance to settle in to her new home, which was an offer they both appreciated. Even then I had a feeling that my sister would continue asking me to bake her bread until the day she died and that is exactly what happened, but I knew that was simply because it wasn’t one of her skills. She would continue to make me her medicinal salves, for the very same reason. It’s a conversation I remember from my point of view.

My mother spent the whole time wondering why I didn’t want a husband. Was it fear? She remembered being scared before she was married. Scared of what her husband would be like, scared of childbirth, scared of raising children, scared of letting them go when the time came, scared of losing one or more of them to an early death… the list of fears went on and on, but I didn’t share any of them. I wasn’t scared of getting married. Part of the reason I chose not to was my distrust of people, which made it hard to make any vows to them, and I wanted to stay with my mother. I never wanted her to be alone, because she has always been there for me when I needed her. If she’d have asked I would have explained that to her, but she never felt comfortable doing that.

Now that we’ve talked about it I’ve realised that she was scared of what the answer would. She was scared that I was stayed with her because I felt I had to, but that was never the reason. I never once felt like I had to do anything for my mother, even though I liked to do things for her, as she was a strong woman. Before my father did she might not have been, I didn’t know her that well then as I was six when it happened, my sisters five and four, but as she spent more time being both the man and the woman of the house she became that way. I remember one time when a man came courting her, because they viewed her as a fertile female as she already had three children, she told them that unless he was willing to see her as something more than a brood mare he could walk away. After that she got a reputation for being cold and aloof, even though that was the exact opposite of her.

For a time she tried to talk me out of becoming Death, because she knew it meant I wouldn’t be sharing her next life with her and she thought she’d miss me. When I went to guide her back to the afterlife after she’d died once more she said she didn’t even notice that I wasn’t there with her until the end, as that’s when some spirits begin to get memories of lives they’ve lived before, but during the time she spend looking back at it she realised she had actually missed me more than she realised. There were moments both of us were certain were points when she was thinking there should be someone else there, as we’d been thinking I might be her daughter once more – but she was going to incarnate as my father, instead of my mother.

Then I realised that I was needed in the afterlife more and her plans changed. She decided to move on to her next life with the man who was my father as her mother, to see how loss would affect her in that situation, and promised she would be the one to be lost in the next life, which he decided was a fair way of doing things. Even though I really wanted to my mirror wouldn’t let me see their life, but I think one of the Record Keepers felt sorry for me because he’d let me in once every month or so to read their books. It did help me when I went to get her, so I talked to him about that and asked if I could see if it would work with spirits I didn’t know as well.

It took me a little while to convince him, but I did, because he became just as curious as I was to see if knowing something about the spirit that I was helping, something that the Council hadn’t told me in the files they send, might help. The next two times it did, so we decided it was something that would work for most spirits, and then the next one I got was more stubborn. She wanted to haunt her ex-husband, because of the choices he had made, which, considering what he’d done, was understandable. Unfortunately my job is to get the spirits back to the afterlife, not to let them stay on Earth because I understand why it it they want to.

My first stop was the Record Keepers. Together Max and I went through her lives, to see if there was anything we could use to convince her to return. I wasn’t expecting him to help, so it was a nice surprise, especially as there were several points in time that seemed like they were something I could work with and it helped to be able to talk to him about what he thought might work best. When I went back I talked to her about the lives she had lived before with the man who was her husband. Fortunately learning that she had been the one to betray him in the life before helped, as did learning they had been siblings in a previous life who had supported each other through everything.

While I was talking to her I realised something important that the Deaths before seemed to miss about the job. Yes, we are here to guide the spirits to the afterlife, but that doesn’t mean we can’t show them compassion and empathy. Although, now that I think they weren’t right for the position, I wonder if that was a part of the problem. Someone who is meant to be Death can do just that, while those who were given the job because his predecessor wanted to move on were stop gaps, they were never supposed to take on the duties of being Death, but they wanted to help the one who had come before.

Now that I am Death I’ve realised that is the most stupid reason to take on a job, but it was why I did it and I don’t doubt that it will be why my successor does. It’s strange to think that one short vision, where I was viewing my last mother’s perspective of a conversation we had, could get me to think so much about what it means to be Death. Maybe that was why I saw that one, because, even though we haven’t seen each other for a while now because she’s living another life, she still means a lot to me. Whenever she returns we make certain to spend some time together and catch up, although it’s very different to the catch ups we might have had if I had made the decision to marry in my last life.

Instead of talking about the spirits that I’ve guided back to the afterlife I could have told her stories about my children, even though I’d never really wanted them, and she could have told me stories about the men she was dating. That was actually the first question I asked her when I died, because she was my greeter – did I stop you from finding someone else to love? Having her wrap her arms around me and tell me that I was asking stupid questions was the nicest thing she could have done. She loved me, she accepted that I didn’t want to marry (in the end), and having me there to the end of her life was something she appreciated more than she could possibly put into words.

She followed that up by asking a stupid question of her own. Had my attachment to her made my later years more difficult? It might have done, if I didn’t have such a close relationship with my sisters, but one of my younger sisters, in preparation for the day our mother died, had created me what would now be called a granny annex. I lived with them, paid them rent, and still made her bread, in return for this lovely space that they’d built just for me. My nieces and nephews loved having their auntie live so close, especially as I taught them things that their parents hadn’t – like how to make good bread.

The next vision was one of a past I hadn’t been a part of. It was the day when Samael chose to walk away and I’m not all that surprised that I saw it when that was something I had been thinking about before I left. As I have Death’s journals I have always been able to see it from his point of view (the reason I have never called the Deaths by their name is because very few of them chose to put their names in their journals, as though once they became Death they were no longer the person they were before) but, obvious, I have never had a chance to see it from Samael’s point of view before.

It was the first time I’d ever seen him. Did he look anything like I was expecting? No, not really, although he did have wings. That was what told me it was Samael rather than a spirit. At first there was no sound, but it was obvious that the two of them were arguing about something. I had a feeling it was the last time they’d seen each other, from the tears that were streaming down both their cheeks, although I told myself not to assume anything. There was always a chance that I was seeing something else. While there was no sound I took the time to study both of them.
Death was wearing what appeared to be a cloak of some form. I couldn’t see any of the clothing underneath very well, as he was wearing entirely black, so he kind of looked like a shadow. The strangest thing was his bright blond hair and blue eyes. His hair was long enough to brush his shoulders and he was fortunate that he was dead, otherwise his lovely black clothing would have been covered in light hairs. When I finally saw his eyes I could see the pain in them and there was a part of me that wanted to wrap my arms tight around him. If I’d have been there that’s exactly what I would have done, as well as telling him that if he was strong everything would be fine. He just needed to keep going, instead of letting the loss of Samael affect him as badly as it did, but there was no one there to tell him that.

Samael had blue hair and eyes, and the longer I looked at him the easier it was to tell that he shimmered slightly. I don’t really know how to describe it, because it wasn’t something I was expecting, and I have a feeling that it’s something they tone down the majority of the time, but because he was so upset it wasn’t something he was focusing on. Instead all his attention was on Death, on the argument they were having, and, most likely, on the decision that he’d made. He needed to walk away, even though he didn’t really want to, for his own peace of mind. The most time I spent looking at him the more emotions I felt coming off him, which I’m guessing was something to do with the lake.

He was already beginning to regret the decision he’d made. Walking away from someone he loved seemed like a mistake, but he couldn’t say goodbye again. Not to him. Another tear trickled down his cheek. It didn’t matter how often he was called a coward, or any of the other names that were being used against him, because he knew he was one. Afraid of losing someone he loved. Yet that was exactly what he was doing by walking away. Even though it was his choice he was still saying goodbye. Breathing deeply he brushed a hand through his hair, trying to keep himself together, trying not to let the arguments change his mind, trying not to let the proclamations that Death loved him back affect him.

Knowing that Death loved him back didn’t help. It didn’t change things. He was meant to be nothing more than a colleague, someone who supported Death at the hardest points, but falling in love with him wasn’t a part of that. Someday Death would move on to another life and being in love with an angel, someone who never left the afterlife, would make that so difficult for him that Samael knew walking away before they felt too much for each other, not that they didn’t already, was the best option. That way at least he’d be able to move on when the time came.

“I’m sorry,” he said, again, for the hundredth, thousandth, millionth time. He’d keep saying it, until Death understood nothing was going to change his mind. “I never meant for this to happen.”

“You think I did,” Death replied, scrubbing the tears off his cheeks with the side of his hand, looking as though he was either going to explode with rage or fall apart with grief. “You’re an angel. I never even thought you existed until you walked into my house and said you would be training me for my new position, looking all sure and certain of yourself, when I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that someone had asked me if I wanted to become Death, my predecessor looked at me with those damned sad eyes that told me he couldn’t do the job any longer, and I said yes, because I’m obviously an idiot. Only an idiot would have let this happen to them.”

“This isn’t something you let happen.” Samael sighed. “You became Death because you were meant to be. It was after that everything went wrong, because I did something that should never be done, and I’m sorry.”

“How many more times are you going to say that? It doesn’t change anything. You’re still going to leave me to deal with this alone, because you’re scared of what you feel for me, because you’re scared of what it means, because…” He shook his head and seemed to be trying to calm himself down, although I didn’t think it was working very well. “Sam, I get that you’re worried about feeling more for me than you should, as you’re an angel and you’re going to be here for the rest of your life, however long that turns out to be, while I’m going to leave at some point, but that doesn’t mean you should walk away.”

Samael shook his head. “I have to.” He looked as though he was close to falling apart too and I couldn’t imagine what he was feeling, but I did side with Death in the argument, because as far as I was concerned Samael was being a coward. “Even though you think I’m reacting out of fear I’m not.” He ran a hand through his hair, looking as though he was trying to work out how he should word his thoughts. “The last thing I wanted to do was hurt you, but I need to take some time out. You’ve been Death for a century and I’ve been the angel of Death since I woke.

“When I think back to the moment when I opened my eyes I realise that was all I knew. I was the angel of Death. Unfortunately I had no idea what that meant, so I had to work it out, alone, because I knew the others were just as lost as I was. None of us had any idea why we existed and we still don’t. That’s what I’ve been trying to get you to understand. I thought I knew what I was supposed to be doing, but now I’m not so sure.” He took a couple of steps forward. “Before you took on the job I was thinking of taking some time out and then… I met you. I decided to put taking some time off aside for a little while. You’re someone who is meant to be Death, so, even though I was tired before, I kept going.

“Now that I’ve done something as stupid as fall in love with you…” The silence that followed told me that he hadn’t expected to say that out loud. “I said that wrong.” He rubbed his face with his hands. “Being in love with you isn’t stupid, you aren’t stupid, it’s just the situation… I don’t know how to deal with this and I’m reacting badly and I know that, but that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t do this any more, and it isn’t just because I’m in love with you. There are so many reasons I can’t do this any longer and my feelings for you are just one of them. I’m so sorry.”

Death took hold of Samael’s hands and looked at him. “I don’t think I can do this without you.” Death’s anger seemed to have faded. “Sam, I don’t want you to feel like you have to keep doing this for me, but I have to be honest with you. Even though you say I’m meant to be Death there are times when this job is too much for me.” He shook his head. “I think it would be too much for anyone to do alone and if you walk away now there are going to be Deaths that follow me who won’t have anyone there to support them, which will change them and not for the better. Take some time out if that’s really what you need to do, but come back to me, please.”

Tearing his hands out of Death’s Samael stepped backwards. “I don’t need a couple of years.” Whatever he had been feeling before it was obvious it had turned into anger. “I have existed for over two millennia. I have been guiding the spirits of the dead here ever since then and it took me a little while to convince the Council that I needed someone to help me with the job, because I couldn’t do it all alone. That didn’t change anything for me, I was still guiding the spirits of the dead and I still do, even though you do the majority of the works now, because I thought that was what I was supposed to be doing. Now… I look at you and I feel superfluous. Even though you say you need me you don’t truly mean that.

“You need a friend. You need someone to listen to you talk when you’re having a bad day, someone to hold you when you’re crying, someone to celebrate with you when something good has happened. You don’t need the angel of Death.”

“How hard is it for you to understand that you are my friend? It doesn’t matter to me that you’re an angel or that you’re the angel of Death. Walk away from the job, if that’s what you think is right for you, but don’t walk away from me. There’s no reason for you to.”

“Apart from the fact you’re Death.” Samael sighed. “You’re my best friend, you’re the man I’m in love with, you’re Death, you’re a ball and a chain, you’re my freedom and my prison, and if I don’t walk away from you then I will never truly be walking away from the job. No matter what you say it is going to be impossible for you to give me the time I need, because you’ll want to talk to me about you day, about the spirits that you’ve met, and if that happens then I’m not actually going to be taking the time out that I need.”

Sadly I agreed with that. If Samael stayed friends with Death, the way Death so desperately needed, things would be just the same. Nothing really would have changed and that’s what Samael needed. As I sat there, looking at the Lake, looking between two people who wanted to be with each other, but couldn’t because of what they were, all I wanted to do was step into that time and wrap my arms around both of them. There would have been nothing I could do to fix things, not really, but I could at least have made them feel a little better, like they each had someone there for them, which is what they needed.

Death obviously did as well because he slumped, tears trickling down his cheeks. “If you really need to go, Sam, then go. Let’s not drag this out any longer than it needs to be.”

“No.” Samael shook his head and stepped towards Death again. “I’m not going to leave you in this state.” Samael wrapped his arms around Death. “Even though I knew this was going to be hard I wasn’t expecting it to be this hard.”

“You weren’t expecting me to argue.”

Samael smiled. “I was expecting you to argue, but I wasn’t expecting them to make me want to stay with you.” The smile faded. “Honestly, if I could stay I would. I just know that if I do I’m not going to be Samael for much longer. I’m so tired.” He kissed the top of Death’s head. “All I wish is that it wasn’t you I had to walk away from, because this isn’t fair on you. I love you, more than words can say, and I don’t want to leave you, I don’t want you to have the weight of being Death on your shoulders for the rest of your time here, but I should have stopped a long time ago.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“There are Deaths, and then there are Deaths. Before you took the job I spent a lot of time working with Deaths who only took the job because they felt sorry for their predecessor, which is one of the reasons someone often find themselves in the position, but normally there’s something more to them. A spark, a reason the Council chose them, but it’s been hard, recently for someone to find a spirit willing to do this, and there’s been a lot of Deaths who’ve lasted a century or less, because they aren’t meant to be doing this job. It’s been too difficult for them to keep going.” Samael sighed. “Honestly, even though it was disappointing, I understood.

“How could I not? It wasn’t until you because Death that I saw the spark again. I have no idea how long it’s been, but much longer than I’m happy about, and that’s why I stayed. Of course I never expected to fall in love with you, which has made things difficult, and as you’re the first true Death is a long time there are more poltergeists to be dealt with than there would be normally, because the others didn’t have the compassion that is needed to be able to truly understand why there are spirits who want to stay on Earth.”

“I never wanted to. Life had been difficult and I was glad to move on, although I never expected this. It’s not the sort of thing you could really expect from death.” Death wrapped his arms tightly around Samael as though he knew for certain it would be the last time. “Meeting you was just as unexpected.”

“Becoming Death wasn’t.”

“That made more sense to me than meeting an angel, Sam, because I never believed that angels existed. In all honesty I had trouble with God, not that I ever would have said that out loud, and now that I’ve met you I finally have a reason for not believing in him.”

“Just because I wasn’t created by Him. He might exist. He might even have made me, because I have no idea how I ended up in the angel’s lounge and neither does Mikhael. When he went to sleep the night before I wasn’t there and then when he woke up in the morning I was curled up in the same place he was when he woke.” Samael bit his lip. “I’m glad Mikhael was there. If I’d have been alone…”

According to the journals Gabriel was the first of the angels, but no one knew what had happened to him between the time that he woke and the time that Mikhael did. It was something Gabriel preferred not to talk about, which always made me think something bad had happened to him, so he choses not to be a part of the afterlife any longer. For him it’s the better option. It appears to have also been the better option for Samael during the last millennia, but seeing that conversation with the Death of that time, the Death he did actually fall in love with against his better judgement, I can forgive him for not being here for me.

For the first time I truly feel sorry for poor Samael. I wish I’d understood before, wish the Deaths before me had understood, and I will do my best to make whoever follows me understand, but I know it’s not that simple. Without seeing what happened between Samael and the last Death that spent time with him it’s impossible to truly accept that walking away really was Samael’s only option. It was possible to see that just by looking into his eyes, because, even in the Lake, they were so tired.

***

Richard had read that entry before, but only once, and he realised why for the first time. Until he met Samael he’d been angry with the angel of Death for walking away from them, for not being there when he was needed, so listening to Charis explain that Samael really had needed some time away had just made things worse, and reading that entry had annoyed Richard so much when he first read it that he wanted to throw the journal across the room. He though that the Lake was showing Charis what she wanted to see, confirmation of her theory, rather than what she should see, which was what really happened the day Samael had walked away.

Having a chance to get to know him had changed all that. Richard had heard the pain in Samael voice when he talked about the Death he walked away from and since Caitlyn had found out about it the two of them were trying to find the spirit who had been Death at that time. Unfortunately it wasn’t as simple as they wanted to be, but that wasn’t going to stop them. They were going to find him, there were going to reunite him with Samael, and after that it was up to the two of them to work out what was going to happen after that. Of course they both knew it might go wrong, but from the vision Charis had Richard didn’t think it would.

The entry was one he’d show Caitlyn, because it might help in her hunt for him, as he’d stopped using the journal as a journal not long after Samael had walked away. After a scribble of ‘he’s gone’ all that was in the journal was lists of the spirits that Death had guided into the afterlife. It wasn’t exactly a surprise. Richard couldn’t imagine wanting to write anything if he’d lost the person he loved and it was easy to imagine how hard it would have been if Caitlyn had moved on before he did. He put Charis’ journal down, looking for the one that had been written by Samael’s last Death.


***The Afterlife: Caitlyn: Sacred Calling >>>

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