by C. Ikpoh
Death comes to us all. It kisses us ever so softly, bestowing the pale light of darkness upon our crowns. Amidst this, the hooded knight rides the horse's skeleton to our side, awaiting death's lips to release our skin from its grasp. We are then consumed by the black shade cast by the knight, channeled to the decisive moment we all must face. Where will the skeleton horse cease to gallop on your ride?
Is it wrong if I do not fulfill my life's purpose that God has destined for me because I know when I do fulfill my purpose, the angel of death that has been patiently hovering over me will use his magic?
The coldest winds cannot match its frigid feel. The darkest nights cannot match its blackness. The sharpest blade cannot cut to its depth. The hottest flame cannot match its heat. Hopelessness is in its arms. Despair is in its hands. Death is in its fingers. Judgment is in its fingertips.
The Black Forest is the home of death. Vast and inescapable, each path is infinite in length and elliptical in its shape. Lifetimes are lost along these trails as the inhabitants wander them aimlessly. Seconds are years as the clock of eternity continues to tick away.
The beasts are not permitted to walk the paths allotted for humans. Nevertheless, their influence is felt. Beyond the brush are the peering eyes of the serpent and the jackal, nudging you towards fatal missteps. The breeze is the voice of death angels, instructing you to mind your way. While the sun rises in the west, it sets in the east as the tides flow away into the deep pockets amidst the ocean where waves form and crash underneath the surface. The night bathes you in the moon's illumination, and the lunar reflection makes the eyes of those who cross your path blood red. Fear, anxiety, pain and depression rule the air entering your lungs. Your flesh freezes and becomes rigid, making walking unbearably painful. Your slow pace allows for death's rain drops to pound on you like hammers from the sky, bruising your body. All of this is unrelenting until the Morning Star brings with him the sun. As the rays of light cross the horizon, warmth caresses your skin, thawing your muscles. Then, almost instantly, the sun blazes your exterior, burning you to your core.
Ashes are all that remain of your body. They are swept away by winds caused by the flapping wings of death's angels. Soon thereafter, you are reconstructed. Your ashes are bonded again with your spirit, forming your earthly existence once more. You find yourself on the infinite path inside the forest. Realizing death is your reality, you must forge on. The jackals and serpents rejoice in your return. Death welcomes you to its home in the Black Forest.
I swam the river of tar. Without air, without light, I maneuvered into depths untold. My limbs creased the liquid, signing my name into the river's current. No breath was taken, for one was not needed. All for me to do was swim. And swim I did, deeper and deeper towards the black bubbles tickling my skin. They spun me around as I danced with air where there was none. The greater the depth, the thinner the tar became. As it became easier to navigate, mermaids swarmed around me, guiding me safely past the final markers of time and space. Alas, the tar transformed into wind while the mermaids released me. I floated to a slow halt as the winds raged against my surface with a supernatural force. When they abruptly stopped, I opened my eyes. My being trailed off extremely slow akin to how fog does from the morning dew. Gently, I dissipated into the light ahead of me. The portal was opened and I was welcomed with love. I went home.
On Judgment Day, the sickle of the Grim Reaper will rival the sword of Uriel. The pitchfork of Satan will rival the blood of Christ. The darkness of Hell will rival the light of Heaven. Yet, nothing will rival the voice of God. It is the ultimate weapon. Above all it reigns supreme. When we witness its power, will it call your name?
There is no sweeter song than that sang by the angels of death, and no warmer hand to hold than that of the Reaper. Lord willing we will be received well on the other side after holding his hand and listening to their choir's song.
My black attire fits me all too perfectly. Every article fulfills its purpose exceedingly well. The fabric is contoured to my body in an intimate fashion. Each one of my imperfections is hidden, while each perfection is accentuated. The aesthetic appeal can only be described as immaculate, and my skin swims in its comfort fit. My limbs no longer need to move. The black attire moves them for me. I am beyond graceful in my everlasting nocturnal wear. No superior garments exist.
In all the planes of existence there is no better tailor. The Lord of End sews all measurements. Every life decision has been noted, dressing me for this day. Only he could know the final outfit within my wardrobe of judgment. The alterations of repentance are no longer available. There exists no one size that fits all. It would be unforgivable to refuse such a work of art. After all, only I can wear his creation. I ensured that with each passing second of my life. Ticks on the time-piece of the universe tocked to the tune of my heartbeat. I alone sifted the granules of sand below to the bottom half of my earthly hourglass. The tailor used every ounce of detail I provided to accommodate my design. How splendid he is to have done so. How splendid he is to present me with my black attire.
What if, on the journey of life, you could pinpoint the moment you began the final lap? What if you could realize that you came around the final curve and were on the home stretch? Would this not alter your viewpoint on life? Would you not wish to slow your pace, even if just a minute amount, to enjoy what life you had left?
Many would answer no to these inquiries, portraying strength, fearlessness or faith as either a facade or admirable traits. But how could any of them have experienced the latter and feel that way? I am firm in my faith, but is it not human to cling on to all I've known my entire life -- my physical existence -- even if ever so slightly?
It is true we begin to die the moment we are born. However, allotted are the many years to shape and mold our eternal placing in the afterlife. During those years we are afforded a growing future. Yet, for those who have passed the point of no return, their future is dwindling along with their life span. Those who have proceeded beyond the point of no return, they are being fitted for death.
What if suicide was not an automatic sentence of damnation? What if it was an honorable way to decline the Lord's gift of your final days; a way to expedite your return to eternal salvation after being touched by death's hand and called home? Would it not be prudent to return to God sooner rather than later?
Death is a lady - a violent lady. She is not to my particular liking, nor is she the flight of my fancy. This she knows. Death understands me all to well. Nevertheless, she visits my bedside every night. She slips under my sheets, freezing the warmth within the linen womb wrapped around my body as I sleep. Her sharp chill awakens me. "Death is a lady," she whispers to me as she wraps her cold, steely hands around my neck. Slowly, my eyes close once more as the air escapes my body. "Love me," she softly declares next. To the night we go.
The lunar celestial plane is vacant. Death has the right of way. Unwillingly, I am guided to lands far away from my home. At the stranger’s bedside, she places her hands over mine and my hands over theirs. Her victims never expect our visit. It shall forever elude me why she chooses those who are young and clueless on the nights we share together. Why does she never take me to hold the hands of the fulfilled and fragile? Only Death can know such things it seems.
As we travel, our spirits are at odds. Hers molests mine with the savagery of loneliness. Death knows no other love like that which she forces upon me. It pains me to admit we share such a bond. Yet, I have become familiar with it. I know Death's love more than that of any woman. She is the mate to my soul that forbids my soul's mate, wherever the unknown woman may be. I fear one day I will find my fated love and Death will take her from me as any jilted lover might do in a fit of jealous rage. I wonder...
"Shhh...," Death whispers in my ear. Her voice licks my eardrums reminding me no thought I possess is my own when we are together. She does not want to be bothered by my contemplation of imaginary women. Therefore, she slays my imagination. With a simple exhale through her clenched teeth, she brings genocide to my mind. I am a slave - physically, mentally and emotionally. Her fingers inappropriately touch my surface while her words convincingly seduce my consciousness. Her raw passion overwhelms my heart. I shiver in uncomfortable shame as a black mist exits my mouth. The midnight air beneath us becomes impregnated with our decaying offspring. Those underneath the velvet rain cease to exist. Indeed, Death takes what she wants without exception.
Her use for me has retired. She returns me to my abode, allowing me to reconnect to the umbilical cord within my linen womb she tore me from at the night's beginning. I smile at death to not delay her departure, for she refuses to leave without receiving my false sense of gratitude for being permitted to share the midnight sky. Warmth creeps back into my skin slowly but surely. As it does, my conscience reviews the guidance I provided for the souls I engaged on that night.
Gently, I weep as I turn my back to her. Death has no room for my sorrow. She is overflowing with her own. It is then I ponder that perhaps she resumes this routine each moonrise not to achieve joy, but to escape pain. My heart pities Death upon this thought. Nevertheless, as she slyly cackles under her breath while dissipating through my bedroom wall to return to her place of morbid solace, I am reminded why pity is a fool's emotion. I am left with only the faint echo of her voice as it trails off behind her. “Death is a lady,” she reminds. “Love me."
Nothing loves me as Death loves me. It has waited decades for this moment, for me to come home to it. The finality of Death's kiss is the definitive ending to an epic saga. Together we shall reign in the hereafter, and as we conquer eternity, may the world remember love did not bring me life. Love brought me Death, and I will forever be grateful.
To be absolutely honest, you have never been just another entry. Since the moment the Scribe penned your name into my ledger, something about you has been distinguished from the rest. Low and behold, millennia later I find myself baffled by your elusive mortality. Forbidden to be collected, you are the singular exception within the exception of His rule. You, Sochi, are the "Great Eraser" of God's only mistake: vampires.
Yet, you are a product of His infallible nature. Whether it has all been in conjunction with a singular destiny, or a simple adjustment made to disguise an erroneous judgment, you reflect God's unparalleled knowledge. This fact is set to remain until He sees it fit to call you to His side. Until then, you will continue to erase the evidence of God's great blunder. This, Sochi, I cannot tolerate.
You hunt and murder vampires, a creature of His making. Nevertheless, you are allowed exemption, and will ultimately receive His highest honor. All the while, you exist as vampire yourself - an abomination of His grace. Concurrently, I am commanded to exercise no action against you. I must watch as you operate freely with impunity, feeding upon God's greatest achievement, mankind, to fulfill your own desires. This is unacceptable! I will stand for it no longer!
I write this letter to you in order to inform you of a fact. Your destiny no longer resides within that of God's plan. It has been rewritten. I have penned a new end to your story. You shall no longer be allowed to steal a centuries worth of sand from Father Time's hourglass whenever you desire. Indeed, soon you will feel my hand on your shoulder. This I promise you, Sochi. And the last face you will see will be that of me as I ravage your spirit, denying your soul the ability to be collected. Your crime is one beyond that of any before it - beyond Lucifer's and Judas' crimes. Through you, I will show God the error of His ways. I will bring a new dawn to eternity, one that allows for our Lord and Master of all things to be imperfect while remaining at the helm of the universe and everything beyond it. In order for me to retain the integrity of my eternal oath, in order for justice to be served upon the Most Divine, you, Sochi, must die.