The uncertainty of death, p.1
The Uncertainty of Death, p.1Y. K. Greene
THE UNCERTAINTY OF DEATH
Book 1 in the Four Horsemen Series
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The Uncertainty of Death
Book 1 in the Four Horsemen Series
Copyright © 2011 Y.K. Greene
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Dedicated to D.K. promise kept.
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THE UNCERTAINTY OF DEATH
Book 1 in the Four Horsemen Series
“You have me again Megan.”
Megan, a woman with the solid build of an Amazon and warm walnut hair, smiles a little wider and says nothing while her companion, a slender nondescript woman in an expensive suit, continues to stare at the chess board. The pieces are ornate; hand carved from stone and delicately crafted – feminine - in a way that the rest of the office is not.
Unimposing pieces, except perhaps for the menacing spread of the white and the dwindling resources of the black. D. stares harder, willing an escape to appear before her on the board. When nothing does, she sighs and advances in the only avenue left to her, lips drawn together in a fine line as Megan tightens the noose and bounces in her seat.
“Check and mate!”
D. sits back in her chair. “You have beaten me again.”
Megan nods and bounces a little more with pleasure. “It was a little harder this time though, you’re getting better. Really.”
D. frowns at the woman, “many of the nuances of language still elude me, but even I can tell you are not the least bit sincere.”
Megan had the good grace to blush a little and even stopped bouncing as she began to put the pieces back into their rightful places. “You’ll get better with time.” She paused to make eye contact, “all you really need is some practice - really.”
“Both are things in short supply.” D. stood and straightened her expensive Italian suit. Time was not her enemy in the way that Megan might consider it to be, but neither was it her friend. D spent virtually all of it working - one way or another - little was left for things like practicing games even ones as useful as chess. “Remember, not to tell anyone about this. I do not have the time to answer every challenge I would get if you did.”
Megan nodded, head still bent over the board replacing pieces. “Little good it would do me to tell them anyway. Rule number umpty-seven: One can not play for their life.” She looked over her shoulder at D. and winked impertinently, “and rule umpty-eleven: One cannot play to be the new Death.”
Death shook her head and smiled at the woman. You would think that having those rules written down and drummed into every one of her employees would make things easier, “true and true again. Knowing that it is not possible, barely stops them from trying.” She crossed to a door to the right of the magnificent oak monstrosity that was her desk and pulled a hooded robe from behind it, fear of failing is a much better deterrent. “I have not nearly the time to answer all the challenges that would arise if they all knew I cannot play games at all well.”
There was a snort from Megan as she straightened up from the table. “Never you mind me telling, though I’m surprised no one has figured it out yet.” She held up one hand and began ticking off fingers. “You have almost no free time as it is, let alone before you started the company. Up until you started the company you hardly interacted with anyone, human or otherwise for more than a minute. With that information it’s a wonder that you learned to speak at all let alone to read and write; and with such pressing concerns already where exactly were you supposed to find the time to learn every game ever played and master them all?”
D. shrugged, deciding against reminding her secretary that not every employee had that information and pulled the comforting weight of the robe around herself, clasping it at the throat. “You know I am no good with questions, Megan.” She said and pulled the hood up. Pools of shadows quickly obscured her features.
“I will have a window this afternoon, I think.”
Megan paused at the heavy doors turning slightly toward her, “alright D. want anything special when you come in?”
“I think I will just rest a while, no games this afternoon. Can you keep the others away from the office?”
“Most of them,” Megan said, “’cept maybe Ms. Roth, that woman’s impossible.”
Leslie Roth was one of the more irritating employees at the Philadelphia office. The woman was ruthlessly ambitious and having reached the lofted position of junior V.P. she was certain that the only place left for her to go in the company was to become Death herself. Forgetting or not caring that the position was already filled. D. smiled from the depths of the hood and instantly regretted it when she noticed Megan’s shudder. “Do not worry about Ms. Roth. If she really wants to see me she can have a special audience, just tell her not to be too surprised at what she finds will you?”
She did not wait for her secretary’s reply, stepping forward onto the Path and out of the Philadelphia office.
D. stepped into the darkened hallways of a hospital. In the distance she could see the warm glow of a nurse’s station but all around her was blue shadows. She paused now to sweep back her hood and run her hands through nondescript brown hair. Several strands came out in her fingers and D. watched as they lost color and shape and flowed over her hands becoming part of her again.
It is not enough, she thought as she watched the mousy brown strands dissolve back into herself. No matter the effort she went through to make the humans she employed more comfortable, something about her always put them on edge. She had gone so far as to follow their unconscious suggestions for her form, taking on the most unimposing aspects that they could think of then layering her physical form with the trappings of power, expensive shoes, designer clothing, antiques and priceless artifacts.
She had been female so long that she even thought of herself as such now, though in the beginning she had known no sex. After they had started calling her D. instead of Death she had thought herself to be making great strides. And still it was not enough, Megan’s shudder when she had simply smiled while hooded was indication enough of that.
Death sighed; the hood crept over her head to obscure features that were already blurring in shadow. This was not the time to worry about the people she worked with, there were appointments to be kept. D. relaxed some of the concentration that she had needed in order to appear the same to all of her employees. The shoes were the first to go, and she felt her feet relax without their confinements.
Another knot of tension drained from her body as she released each unnatural constraint on her shape. Tension drained from the abdomen as she let the suit go. Next it was a minute tension in the hands as she let go of the messy bun in her hair. Her neck and shoulders eased as her face dissolved to an indistinct shadow beneath the hood and now all that was left was a tiny knot of tension in her lower back. D. knew better than to try and relax that knot, it was a consequence of spending so much time in female form that she had actually begun to think of herself as a woman. Luckily it made no difference to the people she saw what sex she thought of herself as, so long as they could see her as they needed to.
Fully relaxed now, D. began to concentrate on stretching her senses out of the body she no longer had and along the very edges of her power expanding it outward. Now the unpleasant work of making sure that she was not seen began. Working carefully with the energy recently released when she dropped her office form, D. began to work a spell of disinterest.
There was little of what humans called magic that Death felt herself to possess, and none of them were exactly what could be considered pleasant. Most of them, like the Path o
The other magic was employed on a daily basis - the spell of disinterest. This spell allowed all the humans that she passed who did not wish to see her to not see her. Considering the reactions of the humans she worked with when D. appeared fully human, this little spell was invaluable. However it weighed heavy, the sure knowledge that almost every human being on the planet wished to disavow her very existence. Of course, there where a few, usually terminally ill and/or in great pain, that saw her through the spell. These were also the most likely to see her as something beautiful, welcoming her with open arms and tears. Those were bittersweet appointments. Sweet because they welcomed her and she could give them an end to their pain. Bitter because these people who welcomed her so gladly were gone almost as soon as she met them.
With the spell cast D. refused to allow herself to ponder the personal unpleasantness of its effect. She had an appointment to keep. A brisk pace on the Path took her beyond the nurse’s desk, around a corner and literally through the corkwood door on room 213. The first bed in the room was empty and the other was shielded by curtains so D. took a moment and glanced at the List.
Leo Kaylor, 6:15 Pacific Time.
A quick peek at the chart on the foot of the hospital bed confirmed that this was indeed Mr. Kaylor’s bed. D. slid it back into place and slipped around quietly checking to see if her appointment had any visitors. There was no one there, though the curtains on this side of the bed were open to admit the ambient light from the large windows. A quick glance at her watch revealed that she was running a little early so she grabbed a chair from under the window and pulled it over to the bed, settling in to wait.
While she waited D. took a good look at Mr. Kaylor. In the last three hundred years or so it had become routine for her to assign all names on the List that did not involve dangerous situations to her employees, though the circumstances of the death were not present on it, the List itself determined which ones could be passed on and which ones D. must handle herself. She had been so relieved with her diminished work load that she had not tried to push the issue. Well, he is a looker, she thought as she watched Mr. Kaylor’s sleeping form. His short platinum curls were plastered to his forehead in sleep and the lines of his face were all elegant curves that softened features that would otherwise have been too harshly masculine. If he has eyes to go with that face then I am beginning to see why I am here and not someone else. Her subordinates sometimes had trouble with bringing death to the particularly attractive. Men and women alike seemed to bulk at the fragility of such beauty.
Leo opened his eyes. For a moment D. was motionless and then a steady stream of expletives ran through her head in every language she could think of which - thanks to her hard won knowledge - was pretty much all of them. The man she had come to release into death looked up at her with the strangest, most compelling purple eyes that she had ever seen.
Leo opened his eyes, blinked to clear away the last of the sleepiness from his vision and smiled up at the person who stood watch by his bed. He could see very little of this unexpected visitor since they stood between him and the large window of his hospital room, though it was easy enough to make out that there was not much to see. They wore a long coat or robe that extended below the edge of the bed, it was deeply hooded and only the mouth and nose could be seen peaking out beneath it.
Still, Leo thought, it’s nice to see someone cares enough to stop by besides the hospital staff, police and reporters.
“So, who are you?”
Somehow Leo wasn’t terribly surprised when the robed and hooded figure answered, “I am Death, Mr. Kaylor.” Though the feminine tones of the voice weren’t exactly what he’d expected to hear, “I am sorry but your time is almost up.”
He smiled up at her again, “well that much seems obvious. Maybe I should have asked you what your name was instead.” His eyesight had cleared enough that he could make out the shape of her lips as they thinned in contemplation.
Wonder why Death has such a lovely mouth; he – carefully - pulled himself into a more upright position; his skin felt tight and hot all over this morning, the flaming sensation centered around the wound in his chest. Probably caught some kind of infection, which would explain the whole dying thing…
“Are you aware of Death Inc, Mr. Kaylor?” He shook his head weakly and frowned to discover the lack of strength in the gesture. Amazing the things one takes for granted. “I am Death. I had no mother and no father to name me. I have no equal no – peer, that I would need such distinction…”
Leo smiled at her again amused by the difficulty she seemed to be having with the simple question and interjected. “What is Death Inc?”
“It is a company I started some time ago to help myself keep up with increased demand.”
“I’m guessing you’ve got people – humans - running it then, since you said you have no equals?”
The corners of her mouth turned down at the edges, “yes – but Mr. Kaylor; you do realize that talking to me will not save you?”
Leo frowned, had he been thinking that? He gave a bit of a mental shrug, what does it matter? I’d like to know a few more things before I die. She was holding something out to him now, a tidy List of names and times.
“See Mr. Kaylor? You are at the top of my List.” She paused a moment to reach into the folds of the robe and withdrew an old pocket watch on a long gold chain. “And as you can see I am already behind schedule, I am sure that you can understand that I am very busy – “
“You don’t look too busy to me,” he interrupted hastily, more than a little eager to point out what he’d seen on the scroll; the time beside his name was slated for much later on that morning. “If anything you’re a bit early.”
She frowned again and turned the List around to look it over, grimaced slightly before tucking the List up the sleeve of her robe and inclining her head slightly to Leo. “It seems you are quite right Mr. Kaylor. I shall return for you later.” She turned to leave.
“No, please stay!” The idea of spending his last hour or so alone wasn’t at all appealing. “You see, I’ve no one to spend the time with; and I’m curious. How many people get to know you personally?”
The smile she gave him was small but genuine. “None. Mr. Kaylor, none at all.”
“Not even your employees?”
“Especially not my employees,” she paused a moment. “Humans are very – aggressive, Mr. Kaylor. Those nearest my position are too ambitious for close relations with the possible exception being my secretaries.”
Leo grunted, “please stop calling me that already. You might as well call me Leo, which reminds me; you still haven’t told me your name yet.” He lifted a hand to stop the protest he could already see forming behind that pretty mouth. “And please don’t tell me you don’t have one besides Death. I find it hard to believe that you work with – mortals, day in and out and they call you Death all the time.”
He was graced with the dazzle of another smile. “Alright. I will tell you what they call me at the office if you tell me what I look like to you.”
He blinked, doesn’t the woman have a mirror, then smiled, “alright, easy enough.”
“They call me D.”
“Well that just won’t do. You should have a clean slate of a name.” She was frowning at him again and he rushed on, “something that you can wear with out the shadow of what you are tainting it; a chance to make your own personality beyond what you do.” He thought about it a moment and then sighed, “how about Mitei? It’s Japanese I think, supposed to mean something like uncertain, undecided.”
The hooded head tilted a moment considering then straightened as she replied. “I am guessing from the feminine tones of the name that you see me as a woman then.”
He smiled and nodded at her. “Though admittedly I could still be wrong, that robe covers your head and body so well all I’ve got to go on is your voice and mouth really. I could be wrong.”
“You can see my robe? Well, what do you see when I do this?” She swept her hands up, pulling back the hood of the robe in one swift gesture.
It happened too quickly for him to remember that the majority of the images he’d ever seen of death were at the best skeletal and at the worst, decaying, too fast for him to be frightened by the memory. Too fast by far for him to even spend a moment wondering what he would see. In a moment, Mitei stood before him, un-hooded and for a bit longer than a moment he just stared.
She was pale, he could even say in all seriousness deathly so. The kind of pale that came only from a complete lack of blood in ones veins; except, when she turned a little and the light shone on her instead of backlighting her he was able to see the rhythm of something pale and faintly luminous pulsing beneath her skin. Her hair was also a gleaming white, so pure it looked to have never been touched by things as mundane as wind, water, or even sunlight. The only spot of color on her were her eyes. Large, expressive and hazel, her eyes stared at him from that ethereal face.
He did his best to describe Mitei to herself but got a frown for his trouble. She touched her face and then spread the fingers of that hand before her eyes.
“Are you in a great deal of pain, Mr. - Leo?”
“I suppose I would be if the pain killers weren’t working. Why?”
The Uncertainty of Death by Y. K. Greene / Fantasy / Science Fiction have rating 2.4 out of 5 / Based on31 votes