Counting. He did it often.
He numbered the seeds, and measured out the stars, and assigned numerals to the various lots assigned to the place.
Or, rather, all of these things he tried to do, for the stars were far too many more than his crystal cloud eyes could see, and the graves stretched to each horizon where they became a single, dull smear, and the seeds never ran out.
The only thing he could be sure of was how many he had grown. How many he had birthed.
His shovel kept track of that.
Three hundred fifty-six.
The wood of the shaft parted as his thumbnail formed another short and shallow ravine in its surface.
He grinned at the fresh scratch.
Three hundred fifty-seven.
With shadows playing tag across his face, Tham's lips fell to match the top of a nearby headstone.
The young man lay in his white pauper burial clothes in the mire beside his grave, laid bare and empty in the moonlight. Still gathering his strength, his blue eyes still un-fogging in the morning that burnt inside him, he blinked up into Tham's face,
The sky rained seeds and the youth stared around at the objects strewn before him.
"Plant, water, light--," Tham pointed to the objects in succession-- seeds, flask, candle, "Oh--," striding to the next mound (a forsaken, lonesome affair) he unsheathed a half-tarnished spade from the soil, where it had been left so long before, "Dig."
Tossing the shovel at the still somewhat-listless hands, Tham winked a mausoleum eye over his shoulder, turning booted feet towards the sea and sky.
Alas, the willowy figure was gone, leaving the young man with only the moon to keep his company.
He took up the aged wood of the shovel's shaft in his hands and used its end to pry himself from the ground. With the blade stuck deep in the soil, he leaned against it-- rough, earthy-- It kissed his face.
With sleep threatening to overtake him, he turned with a moan to the hole he had been saved from. It its damp bottom, amongst the standing water and debris, lay his coffin, broken, poor-- Its stench of pine still laid upon his clothing, clothing that was stained with dirt, with mud; and torn.
He touched these rends numbly, fingers brushing petals. The daisy stretched itself towards the lonesome moonlight, craving warmth, nourishment. This was his new namesake, so to speak, his pulse and lifeblood. By its growth he would continue functioning; craving perfection, like a man-made clock tower with a heart.
He raised unsure eyes to his old identity, the plain, curved tombstone reading only one thing--
So he had been right, all along. Right in thinking all Reapers to be callous, vain individuals, nothing more than self-anointed gods of this reality they preached about and gave out selectively.
Hypocrites. Birth, light, and then--
Had he truly walked off and left him, a fledgling crow in winter?
It had all seemed like a vicious dream. . . A nightmare.
"Beautiful name; Hermes."
The boy paused in tracing the stone trench of the 'H', enveloped in the shadow of the returned hero.
"It means, 'the messenger'."
The boy, Hermes, stared up into the star-spun beauty of this man, his arrogant, proud stature, his smooth, knowing brow-- In an instant, Hermes regretted whatever he had perceived of him, thought of him. He was good, he was holy-- He shown, a silver-gilded idol in the moonlight.
As he set his eyes on this saintly figure, a soft, deep sound, like a purr, murmured from the man's lips.
"It'd be good if you lived up to it."
"Yes--," Hermes bit off his words. If he could only capture this creature, make him stay-- This Reaper was an anchor, a weight of worth and purpose, and without it, he was lost in this new realm of sky and abyssal holes with dimensions of only one hundred forty-four feet to become lost and entangled in. And he knew he could.
He had the sudden urge to grab hold of the man's feet, for they had started moving away again, leaving him.
Pathetically, he had called to him a fourth time, repeating himself for a second time.
"Yes?" The man half-turned, the whispering breeze catching his long casket-wood hair and embossing his eyes with moonlit shadows.
"Your name-- What. . . ? What is your name?"
"Tham. Don't forget it."
And again, Hermes was left with the blackened hill and the cold moon and the loneliness of this grand, horrible, spectacular place.
The loneliness crawled like demon weeds through his chest's void, leaving only the face, the voice, the name--
The name etched like one in Death's book in his mind.