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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Fantasy · #2160837
Every person is offered a choice before shaking off the mortal coil.
In the cold winter night, sheltered in a secluded alleyway of the Imperial capital, a shivering man makes the right choice.

He hasn't had to eat anything in days. He hasn't had a decent meal in a month. He pulled through last winter at a friend's place. That friend had enough sense to move away since. Before the frost set in, he still had the power to work at the docks. Herric the dock-master usually spat on him, but he made enough money to buy himself dinner and a spot in a stable.

However, as the degrees dropped and the puddles on Main Street froze to the bottom, his strength started to wane. With every passing day he felt weaker; his arms shook a bit more. Until finally, he dropped one too many of the precious sword-fish. Herric threw him out.

“Go, bother someone else. You’re not worth my coin.” He said.

The man didn’t plead. It wouldn’t have made a difference.

He wandered for a few days, trying to find some work. They turned him away every time; they shut every door in his face. He tried to beg, but he didn’t know the right spots. The Beggars’ Guild wouldn’t have let him there anyway.

Exhausted and numb, he wandered into a side street. He put his back to the wall and sunk down onto the ground, defeated. “I’ll just rest here for a bit.” He told himself.

That was three days ago. He hasn’t moved since.

The nights came and went. Having lived on the streets for years, the man was familiar with cold, but that didn’t make it any more bearable.

In some ways the first night was the worst. His toes stopped hurting after that.

Maybe he could stay here for a while.

By now, he stopped hurting at all. He wasn’t even hungry anymore. Just tired. So tired. Yet for some reason he couldn’t sleep. It was as if he was afraid of what would happen if he fell asleep.

But, he couldn’t resist any longer.

“Just a few hours. I’ll move on then.”

His eyelids, covered in white frost slid closed and his breathing, already shallow and shivering, slowed even further.

Then it stopped.

A few minutes passed in silence. A sharp breeze swept through the alleyway, chasing snowflakes down its length.

The body remained slumped against the brick wall, its snow covered locks pushed into its face by the slight movement of air.

The wind subsided and apart from some rampant flakes dancing through the air, nothing moved.

A figure emerged from the shadowed corner of the alleyway. She wore bulky black robes and a hood, but if anyone saw her, they would have noted that the clothes didn’t quite fit her. The robes hung from unnatural angles, as if whatever was underneath was thinner than any human.

The figure approached the body and stood above it for a few moments. Another miserable life snuffed out. A gloved hand of skeletal fingers appeared from under the robes, and traced a quick symbol with her fingers.

An old habit, a sign of solidarity.

The figure turned around and strolled out of the alleyway. The evening shadows stretched after her form, as if trying to latch onto her ankles. They always did that.

Even though she wasn’t happy about what happened, she was still relieved.

A long time ago, she looked down on people like the man in the alleyway. Those who ceased to fight, those who gave in.

She thought them weak and cowardly, to give up and stop moving. She despised that weakness and swore she wouldn’t ever be so weak.

Now, she knew better.

She knew the choice every person faced, after shaking of the mortal coil. She knew the spectre with the glowing eyes that appeared to everyone, before passing. Appeared and offered a choice.

A choice to pass on to whatever was beyond or to return.

To keep breathing and moving.

Not many make the choice to return, as surprising as it may be. Dying is a tiresome thing and the light at the end of the tunnel is beckoning.

But, there are some, who are desperate or angry enough to choose not to cede to the grasp of afterlife.

What they didn’t know was the form in which Glowing Eyes would grant their wish.

They hoped to return in glory, as an immortal hero. A return surrounded by cheer and happiness. To the welcome of friends and family. To the open arms of a lover.

Not as a creature of fangs and teeth in a warped body of blackness and sinew. Not with that glint of madness in their mind, that hid behind the glare of Glowing Eyes.

Not as a monster.

Yet even if they didn’t know, that was what He offered them.

It was her job to make sure those who made the wrong choice didn’t cause too much harm to others. To safeguard man, from the pride of its own kind.

As she strolled down the street, surrounded by the stretching shadows of dusk following her, she wondered about that time she made the wrong choice.
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