"Another inconclusive story done." I said to myself, finishing the writing on the empty book with a flourish and putting down my pen, and putting on it my signature.
Death Record #387
~ Xylouris Trigger
I closed the formerly empty notebook and leaned back, reveling in a job well done. I looked over at my current guest, who was soon to be sent back into the swirling morass that is the center of the universe, that vital place that is both the source and the end of all life.
He was in pieces, beaten as if falling from a huge height. Not surprising, as he had just declared his cause of death as suicide by dying.
"That wasn't tragedy, my friend. You underestimate the forces arrayed against you." I said, in response to the question he had asked me before he had told this story. "Fate itself conspired to kill you, or at least turn you into a nuisance. A tragedy is where a man dies due to his own greatest strength becoming his greatest flaw."
He nodded, wordless, unmoving. It was perfectly natural for him to feel that way, but he couldn't go into the next life like this. He would end up just as depressed and hopeless as he was today. In fact, I got the distinct impression that he was only doing this because he thought that he would no longer exist, that he would disappear.
Although technically true… his memories will impel whomever inherits them, and destiny will follow. In over to avoid that…
The answer was simple. I needed to give him hope.
Imagine a knight, someone who holds honor and control of their own actions, priding himself on his strength and glory. Imagine that he is glorious, decorated in many battles and hero to many villages. Imagine then that the knight stumbles upon a secret. He discovers that his travels, his victories, his battle honors earned through deceit and treachery he knew naught about, his heroism only a product of chance and luck.
Such a person, who placed such pride in their own capability and strength, would be devastated to find that out, and would wish that they could never exist again, such would be their shame. But shame would not be all there was.
They would see themselves as too weak to exist, and therefore doomed to die.
That was the nature of the challenge I was facing right now.
I looked over at him, but he moved not a muscle. His entire body seemed to be asking "Can I go across yet?", his eyes and hands moving impatiently. In response, I did the only thing I knew how to do.
I got tea. I went to the small kitchen that I kept, took the boiling water off the pot, sprinkled some leaves in a cup, then poured in the boiling water. Carefully walking back to the table, I put it in front of him.
He said nothing.
I sat down across from him and stared at him. He stared back, his silent stare telling me to let him pass.
"You know, the longer we do this, the longer you'll have to stay here. It may not look like it, but I can wait forever." I said, taunting him with my eyes. He said nothing, but I thought I saw his eyes open wider a bit, his nostrils flaring in anger.
I knew that I had him. This would work.
"So, this is what you really are. The kind of person who would stare down someone who would do you a favor before you are sent back into the world. Distasteful." I said.
The entire response was calculated. I was attempting to stir up some passion in him, that I might redirect it to something more productive. It was a maneuver I had not been used to, but one learns quick when learning on the job. And indeed, like some magic words, it worked.
"I don't see what kind of favor you could be doing me, denying a dead man his peace." My guest said, spitting the words out. "Just let me go."
"No." I said. "Not until you stop being blind." I said.
"Blind? I know exactly what I am." He said, looking at me with his arms crossed, anger on full display. All I needed to do was to stoke the fire.
"That you may, but you do not seem to know what it means to live." I said, crossing my own arms in a calculated defiance.
"Shut up!" He yelled, slamming a hand on the table so hard I was afraid he would upset the tea cup. "People have been trying to do that for generations, so how the hell would you know!?"
"Precisely the proof I have that you don't know anything." I said. I knew, from the story that he had told me, that I had him. Victor Hunter was a man of pride, the kind of person who would never allow such an insult to come to him, especially because it came from an intellectual standpoint.
Despite what he might say about himself, his classmates considered him smart, and although he protested that it was false, there was still truth to their words. Perhaps, there was more truth than he himself realized.
"Alright." He said, his voice going up in anger. "Then tell me what living is." He said, perfectly calm and reasonable now.
"What is the purpose of a berserker, a mad warrior who only rushes forward without care for his own life and limb? A linebreaker, using a combination of psychological warfare and ferocity to carry the day." I said. "What is the purpose of a knife, a sharp tool with a grip that uses the natural leverage of the human hand and wrist? To cut and thrust, despite some people who may have thrown them." I said.
"And so?" He asked, impatient but nodding. He accepted my points, which was good. The first part of any good argument has even your opponents nodding their heads.
"Such are people." I said. "They move forward on the axis of time, never looking back, always marching forward. Time waits for no man." I took a sip out of the glass of water in front of me. "And time leaves behind no traces."
"So what?" He asked. "I'm moving forward, but you're the one stopping me! That portal is both the beginning and the end, and right now my life has reached its end!"
"No." I interjected. "You still carry guilt. Remove it, and I shall let you through."
"Idiot." He said. "You're an idiot, you know that?" He asked, his voice returning to its impatient level and about to overflow. "Do you know what I've done!? I changed a world to my whims, without even letting the people have a say! I've made them lose fights, do stupid things and turned them into my twisted perversions of themselves!" He screamed, hysterical. He took a few breaths, as he wasn't the kind of person who liked to say things hysterically. Calming himself, he continued in an almost-cheerful and sanguine tone, but of the hollow kind that reminded you that it was all self-derision.
"One of the worst things a person could do is to force another to change. I did that on a grand scale, using the world as my toy." He said. "How can I even begin to forgive myself for that?" He buried his face in his hands as his anger turned to sorrow, the true reason behind his actions.
Only now could I begin the change. I stood up and put my hand on his shoulder.
"Child, I have lived longer than you and I can see things." I said. "I can tell you, right now, that nothing has changed." I said, and I held out my hand, which was covered in a fog of white, as one might perceive a cloud from the ground. To me, it was simply a cloud, plus a spell that I was casting.
But as I saw his eyes fixate upon the cloud in my hand I knew that I had him. For me, the spell would show absolutely nothing. After all, I was never the target.
He, however, would be seeing how he had had no effect on the world, the ways in which his wrongs had no effect, the way in which he disappeared from the memories of the world he believed he wronged. He would see the myriad ways in which the things he had tangled were untangled, the ways in which the problems he believed he caused just disappeared.
"Now comes the hard part. One of the people of that world is extremely powerful, and she expended a lot of effort to fix your mistakes." I said, as he finally looked away from my hand. "Don't let her efforts go to waste. Forget the past and face the future." I declared this as he sat down, eyes boring a hole in the floor as he went to think.
I stood up and took my notebook. I had done all that I could.
I left him now for my private study, as I knew that there was no doubt that when I came back he would be gone.
I also had someone I needed to talk to. Entering my study, with the rows and rows of shelves and books that were in it, I slid the notebook I had just filled up into the empty space farthest from the entrance. This was quite the mysterious library, as whenever I thought that I would fill up a shelf the place seemed to grow by a bit, perhaps to accommodate the stories of the newly-deceased beside legends long-forgotten.
I looked back to the door, and there she was, resplendent in purple and her blonde hair pulled back a bit, looking effortlessly glamorous. At least, that was how I would describe her if she had been in a Death Record.
I knew from experience, however, that she was far from effortless or glamorous. I went straight to business.
"I showed it to him, just as you planned." I said, as a vorpal sucking noise could be heard throughout the house. I smiled. "Looks like it worked perfectly."
She smiled, probably relieved that one of her plans had gone off so effortlessly. She said nothing, sensing that I wanted to go on.
"One question, though. Is what I showed him true, or is it just something you cooked up?" I asked.
"You slow little boy." She said, brushing a few errant strands of hair back. "You should know that there are things beyond your scope of understanding."
I shrugged. "Call it a side effect of the job." I said. "I get really, really curious."
She smiled, a fleeting expression, as if she was remembering someone. Even if it was only a moment, I knew it had been there. In the next second she regained her composure, her purple tear in reality opened up behind her, the red eyes staring out of it, and I distinctly felt their penetrating gaze, which struck into my very soul. Playfully, she left me with one last phrase.
"If you're so curious, find out for yourself~!" After this, she leaned back, and then she was gone.
I sighed. After all, as I had told the boy myself, "forget the past and face the future". If nothing remained of what had happened, then nothing remains to matter to the future.
I shuffled back to my foyer, ready to let in the next guest, who was already ringing the bell for the door. It was a polite yet insistent sort of ringing, both soft and persistent.
"Knock knock." I said, and threw the door open.