Death and Time (English)

Author: Selkin
Translator: Estoriel (Cave Scanlations)
Proofer: Tsukiko (Cave Scanlations)

Two clocks

Time stands still. For a long time now, my time has been in this stationary state. When a being is born, nay, even at the beginning of its very existence, two clocks start to beat. No one can see them, but they tick the entire time until one day, they stop and life ends. One clock moves forward and shows us how long we have existed, counting every second of our lives until the moment we die. The other one moves in the opposite direction and show us the time remaining to us, the time that is left until our death. Both start keeping time simultaneously, ticking out the same rhythm completely in sync and ending at the same time. Normally, nothing can stop this process. Absolutely nothing. However, one of my clocks never started to move. The Clock of Life that counts the time of our existence started to tick, but the other one stood still. It has never budged and thus, for me, there has never been a time of death preordained for me. I couldn’t die, no matter how hard I tried to end my life nor how desperately I wished for it. Never have I been able to find a way to stop that one clock so that neither of them ticks anymore and finally I could die. At first I didn’t notice it and didn’t know why it was that I couldn’t die like other living beings. Actually, centuries ago, I should have, for the first and last time, given up the ghost.On that day centuries ago, I was accused of sorcery and and was sentenced to be burned at the stake. Back then it was believed I polluted a well with black magic. That might have been true, I can’t really say for sure. I arrived in a village at the same time a disease broke out. It didn’t take long for people to connect my arrival with the outbreak of the disease, sealing my fate. The fire was lit and the flames leapt quickly into the air. All too clearly can I remember the crackling of the burning wood and how the world slowly disappeared before my very eyes, consumed by the fire’s fury. I didn’t even feel any pain as my body started to burn and only after some time, did I lose consciousness. When I recovered, everything was all black around me.

In fact, the villagers thought I was dead. Even I thought so, but at one point I felt a convulsion. I felt as if my body was in something. As I fumbled around in the dark, I quickly realized that the “ceiling” of what I was lying in, moved. After considering this for a moment, I pushed it aside. No sooner was this accomplished, bright light banishing the darkness I had found myself in, when a horrified scream pierced the silence. I had to blink a few times first, but then I could see something and sat up slowly. The first thing I saw was a grave digger, who, ashen-faced, stumbled and fell to the ground. He looked as if he had seen a ghost or something even more gruesome. He looked at me with his eyes wide open, reflecting his sheer horror. Me and nothing else. After some time, the man overcame his initial shock, sprang up and ran as fast as his short, little legs could carry him. As he ran, he screamed for help, that he’d met the devil himself. When I looked at myself, I would have liked to follow his lead and run away too, but how can I run away from myself? I couldn’t recognise myself any longer. Even though I couldn’t see much of myself, what little I saw was enough to scare the living daylights out of me, like I’d never felt before. My skin was burnt pitch-black, and in some places one could even see bone. Just what had happened? I should have been dead but I was still moving despite my burned body and didn’t felt any pain. I didn’t know what to think anymore. Yeah, I even wondered whether I was actually still a human, or if perhaps, I never was one at all. To this day, I haven’t been able to answer this question. After this incident, I fled at first to a nearby river that I had often visited previously to fish. Until now, I purposely avoided looking at myself in any way, but now I had to do it. Not long after, I could hear the gurgling of the river and soon reached my destination. I knew there was a mirror in a mill near the river that would suit my purpose. I easily remembered the path I had to take, because I had worked at the mill occasionally before. Unnoticed, I snuck into the building.

It didn’t take long, because I was standing right in front of said mirror and saw, shocked but also slightly relieved, my reflection. I looked like I always did. My skin was no longer black, nor were there any other signs of burns. No one would have ever guessed that I had been burnt at the stake. Even I didn’t. However, that’s really what happened and I knew I would never be able to forget it because the memories were burned into my mind along with the fire. But how could I have survived? Something like this was impossible. No one would have survived burns to the bone or recover so quickly if they did. No one. At least no human creature would be able to. Yet, here I am. However, my train of thought was suddenly interrupted, when, at that moment, the miller entered the room. He froze the second he caught sight of me, disbelief clearly evident in his eyes. Not even I could do this yet. Immediately, the otherwise serene miller sent a prayer to the heavens, and then, shortly thereafter, spoke words that I, to this day, cannot forget as they still resonate deeply within me. “It can’t be! I saw you die, you were dead! You were dead, you Devil from Hell!”, screamed my former employer hysterically.

I’ll probably remember this for all eternity. For as long as I live, because another incident followed those sentences that burned itself deeply into my soul. Since the miller made such a hasty retreat, he with the worst possible luck, fell. He died on the spot. To this day I think of this incident, not only out of guilt, but also because it was the very first time I saw a human soul. A bluish-white sphere emerged from the body and drifted up into the sky. This is also the reason why I don’t fear death, because I’ve learned through this experience that a human soul continues to exist after life and is indeed immortal.

In the meantime, I’ve, in fact, become the entity which people refer to as Death or the Grim Reaper. I appear when people die and guide their souls to the underworld, from where they travel to either Heaven or Hell. People’s deeds done over the course of their lives will ultimately decide the fate of their souls. From my undesirably long life experience, I know that the souls of those who have gone to Hell have a chance to go to Heaven after they have atoned for their sins. However, in some cases, I can even take the lives of those people, whose deeds, so completely unforgivable, have ended the lives of many others, by forcefully stopping both their clocks and thereby condemning them to Hell forever. Because of my own past I can’t approve of such behaviour nor can I forgive it. I know all too well of the panic and despair when one is torn from his life by fellow human beings. Therefore, I intervene and, in these cases, leave my own neutrality behind, when there are lives at stake. I also do this with those whose clocks never worked properly. As in the case of one of my own. However, I intervene before they get into situations in which they noramlly would have died. It’s cruel to live as I do, therefore I end theirs before it can get that far. Only my existence I cannot end because it’s already far too late for that.

I was the first and last whose death clock didn’t tick and therefore couldn’t die until this very day.

This never-ending solitude is something I would never wish on anyone. Living beings come and go, but each individual has its own destiny, life, its own environment, past, present, future and relationships with others who will mourn them when they die. It makes no difference be they human or animal because in the end, each has their part to play in life and are all equal in death. After the long existence I’ve had, I’ve witnessed a lot; I’ve seen lives come and go, people who I knew personally as well as complete strangers whose destinies affected me greatly, both positively and negatively. There were many beautiful and also wonderful moments, but the knowledge that the constant solitude would probably never end, was overwhelming and difficult to bear.
My existence is both a blessing and a curse, a curse that has grown bigger over time. I wouldn’t wish this destiny on anyone and for this very reason, I’ve taken on the role of the Grim Reaper. This role was bestowed on me after I suffered for many years with this destiny of mine, no longer knowing who or what I actually was. One day, Azrael, the angel of death appeared before me and assigned me my role and gave me the very same scythe that I use to this day. Despite all this time during which I have slowly been losing my mind, or more accurately, losing my remaining humanity, I still reliably fulfill this role. This is the only thing I have left. The humans, which I loved or who I met throughout my life, are since long dead. The people I’ve loved and cared for over the course of my life, as well as those who’ve merely crossed my path have long since died. Only I remember them still; their lives, their destinies, their happiness and their sorrows. But even my memories are fading with the relentless passage of time. And my clock still ticks. It will never stop, no matter what I do. I will always be the Grim Reaper for people, accompanying them to the underworld. And sometimes, I have to use my scythe to stop a ticking clock dead in its tracks. A never ending circle, but with death also come life. Just like there are always two sides to a coin, everything rests in equilibrium as dictated by an ancient law that has existed since the dawn of time and will forever continue to exist.

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