Everyone had faith in what they grew to believe. There was one promised aspect in life that they wished was not true: Everything with a beginning will meet its end. The difference was time. I would watch humans die every day. I would feel their pain as their soul was ripped away from their body. The level of goodness hardly matter. The pain was greater than experiencing your flesh being shredded by piranhas. My name is Lakendra and I am a reaper.
Unknown to some, reapers were once humans chosen by the angel of death to serve. The only part of me that reminded me I was once human was the existence of my emotions. All reapers had that. And if they allowed their emotions to cloud their judgement, their immortalised body will slowly decay. Skins would dry and crack off, flesh would slowly be eaten up from inside till there would be nothing left but bones. Then the bones would slowly weaken and fracture. This process would take days, but the pain gave an illusion that it lasted for centuries. By the next daybreak, there would be nothing left but ashes.
That was for those who were weak, but the strong ones survived through centuries. To avoid the presence of a creature that lived forever, the angel of death created a test once every century for those who had served for over a hundred years. One that would challenge a reaper to open up himself to emotions. Cruel, but that was our life cycle. My life cycle. I had served for five centuries. This year, I would be tested again. God knows what Azrael, the angel of death had in mind for me. I strolled down the forest alone in my long black cloak. Crickets and toads sang to the moonless night. Stars decorated the pitch black sky. The breeze blew by and then I heard, "Lakendra."
When I turned, there stood Alderan, my mentor. He had the appearance of an eighty year old wise man. The colour of his skin was fading, making him look almost pale. His eyes were very light grey as his hair was pure white. "Master," I greeted formally with a slight bow. Alderan chanted and the ground shook. Two dark forms emerged from the black ground, morphing into fierce-looking Pegasuses with glowing red eyes. Alderan and I ascended the animals and soared into the sky. Finally, arriving in another part of the forest, where the Pegasuses rested upon a tree top. Below were people surrounding a bonfire. There was something unsettling about the area. I felt the presence of unrest souls everywhere. What was this place?
The men and women below held lit torch in their hand. They were growling, yelling and some, praying. Why? Alderan said, "Your task is to watch."
"Watch?" I repeated in puzzlement.
"If you end her life, you'd fail this test. If you provide aid for her in any way, you'd fail too," he explained briefly. Her? I thought. Then a carriage arrived, pulling a cage behind it. Men crowded the cage as it opened. They were pulling and tugging strong, heavy chains and revealing, a child – a five-year-old girl. Her ear-piercing scream rumbled through the silent woods.
"Please, please! Let me go!" she pleaded. She then screamed for her mother, who watched her being taken away with empty eyes.
"Master, I'm not quite following of what's going on," I said with a gentle voice.
"The town people accused the child of being a witch because of her ability to see the unrest souls," Alderan replied heavily.
"And her mother?" my breathing became almost unstable.
"Embarrassed. Humiliated. She'd rather safe face than protect her only daughter."
The child shrieked at the top of her lungs, but the people's shouting were just as loud. They tied her wrists, one to each tall pole made of wood, leaving her suspended above the bonfire. I felt her fear; her grief; her loneliness. The heat slowly consumed her flesh, dried her tears. This was wrong. She did not deserve this.
"Do not disappoint me, Lakendra," Alderan warned me.
Her pain was agonizing. It was stabbing me in my chest. Blood flowed from her eyes. She was far from death, but her pain lived within her intact soul like a parasite sucking the life out of its host. At that moment, a tear streamed down my cheek. After centuries, I finally remembered how it felt like to cry. "Forgive me, master," I breathed. My hand stretched out and curled into a fist, I had her soul in my hand. I gently separated her life from her body to not add up her pain as mine did. After a moment, I smiled as I felt her soul roaming freely.
"Why did you…?" Alderan demanded.
"Because that was me, centuries ago. A child does not deserve this torture just because a single human decided to play God. Witches, treacherous creatures."
"But why did you do it?"
"She is just a child. I was a child. We did not deserve this," I said.
"You'll die," he stated firmly.
"You mean, I'm dying," I laughed weakly. A pain struck suddenly, as if I was being skinned alive. As if my bones were broken all at once. When I looked up, Alderan was gone.
Days had passed, I dare not to look into something reflective. The pain continued to torment me, I climbed desperately up a hill. I wanted to see the light of down for the last time. "Miss?" a sweet voice called softly. I turned and found a child who was struck by fear as she set eyes upon my face. She was the child I last took life from.
"Be not afraid. I mean you no harm," I assured her.
She appeared convinced. "Why did you save me?" she asked, sounding almost guilty.
I crouched down to her level and smiled, "The pain will never end even if I did not save you. Whenever reapers take a life, they feel the pain of the dying person. I'd rather save you and die today than watch you suffer and live throughout the next century of never ending pain."
The child smiled. The sun rose behind me and I felt the warmth of its rays. The child took my decaying hands in hers. I closed my eyes with a smile on my face. When my eyes opened, I saw that the child stood as tall as me. I looked at my reflection in her black eyes. I was a child again.
"Hello, my name is Sybil," she grinned.
"Hello, I am Lakendra," I replied sweetly.
There was a silence at first, then we both burst into laughter. "Race you to the rivers?" Sybil invited playfully. We ran freely through the woods. The light shone upon us as if God was smiling at us. Peace filled the atmosphere. The pain? We were glad as it was finally over.