A chilling wind swirled through red-gold leaves, leaving behind delighted shouts of the small children who played in the depths of stirring leaf piles. Parents watched from inside doorways and through windows, dismayed at the insistence of their children to go outside in the biting autumn wind and grey skies. In a small community such as theirs, there really wasn't any worry about anything dangerous except catching a cold and the occasional bullying teen. The narrow road they lived on was quaint and peaceful, with charming little brick houses decorated for Halloween lining the street. In the midst of Jack-O-lanterns, friendly ghosts and squealing children, a dark figure leant against a tall maple tree, surveying the touching seen—soon to be one of tragedy.
The boy was no older than sixteen, with a black hoodie, dark blue jeans and grey Converse shoes. Rumpled black hair tossed in the icy wind, whipping dark strands over pale skin. The few parents that noticed the newcomer—who seemed to have appeared out of thin air—barely paid attention to him, marking the stranger as a bored delinquent adolescent. But if anyone looked closer, they would have noticed how the dusky locks moved even when the wind wasn't blowing, how his skin was a pale grey and his form flickered every now and again—as if he wasn't there. And if anyone looked close enough, they would have seen the strange shadowed aura around him, or his radiant electric blue eyes.
Thanatos was used to being invisible—most either didn't see him or didn't care. He silently observed the playful, screaming children and watchful parents. His luminous eyes landed on a small girl whose name and age was engraved in his mind like so many others. Little May Evers, six years, three months and nine days. A petite thing with mousy brown hair smoothed back with a pink bowed headband, a matching pink fleece jacket over a denim jumper and tiny patent leather shoes. Huge green eyes, wide with childish joy, raised to meet Thanatos'. May waved at the newcomer, a large grin on her young face. Thanatos waved back, giving a tiny smile in return. The girl waved him over to play in the leaves with her, as she was the only one in her family's pile. Thanatos shook his head; he was here for business, nothing else. May frowned and shrugged, continuing on with her throwing and jumping in leaves.
He hated this part of his job; even after so many decades, he still hadn't grown used to this type of assignment. Children were always so hard to deal with….
A flash of silver caught his eye, turning his head to see a car headed towards the children. Calm parents, used to the drill, called out a warning. Most of the kids scrambled out of the way, save one little May Evers. The child was too absorbed in her play that she didn't hear the shouts and warnings until her mother called her name, rushing towards her. But the car was speeding too fast for either May to escape or her mother to reach her. Thanatos closed his eyes seconds before the car hit.
Beeping horn, screeching tires, desperate shouts, and it was over. Thanatos opened his eyes to see the girl's mother sobbing on the ground over a small body, parents herding their own children inside and giving comfort—and a transparent replica of May Evers desperately shaking her mother's shoulders, calling "Mommy? Mommy?".
Thanatos glided over to the heartbreaking scene, placing one hand on the ghostly girl's shoulder. May looked up into the stranger's eyes, green meeting blue. Her bottom lip quivered as he lead her away, stopping at the maple he had been leaning on. May's transparent form trembled as she silently regarded Thanatos.
"Who are you?" she asked quietly, the quavering warble that most ghosts had sounding tiny and hollow in her small frame.
Thanatos stared back at her—she was too young to understand what had happened, though he was thankful she hadn't felt much pain. His eyes glanced over the dark stain on her pink coat—a visible reminder of how she parted this world.
"I am Thanatos. Most know me as Death."
"You don't look like Death."
Thanatos raised an eyebrow. "Oh? And …what exactly does Death look like?"
"He wears a big black dress—"
"Yeah, that. And he's a skeleton. And he has this big sie…sie…"
Thanatos chuckled. "That is how most mortals imagine me. It is my true form, but I prefer this one. It helps me…how do you say…blend in. More modern, hmm?"
May gave him a sad look. "Will I ever see Mommy or Daddy again?"
"How about Jack?" she asked, glancing back to the flashing red and blue lights of the ambulances that had arrived, "My big brother? He's at this school. Daddy called it collage."
"Mmm-hmm. What about him? Will I see Jack again?"
May seemed satisfied with his answers. Following Thanatos as they walked to the next world, she slipped her hand into his. Thanatos' lips quirked slightly as he allowed it; she was so young….
"How did you know what I look like?" he asked, honestly perplexed by the little girl's knowledge of him. May looked up at him with her giant green eyes.
"Jack is you for Halloween."