I lean over her and feel her breath on my old face. Too many years have I been in this world, too many times have I been in this situation. Ages ago I would have wanted to run away. But you get used to pretty much anything if you have to. I had to get used to this.
Her face is glowing with youth, her cheeks are red, her lips open, the sweet breath comes in long, hard gasps. Her eyes behind the closed eyelids move. She has a nightmare. As I touch her forehead, a shiver runs through her body. She has high temperature. I can feel it even though my skin cannot feel anything at all. She turns her head and backs away from my cold hand as if to get away from me.
“There is nowhere you can run, now, my dear child”, I whisper to her. “I´m afraid your time has come.”
She sighs in her sleep as if she heard me. Sometimes they do. Usually they don´t. Especially the middle aged ones don´t seem to see me at all. While dying in a car crash, or while jumping off cliffs or while eating the last unheatlthy dinner, they do not have to time to look out for Death. It´s children and elder that open their eyes. I prefer it when they are asleep. There is a peacefulness, a weird calmness about the scenery then, as if nothing life-changing is about to happen. They follow me easily. Almost willingly do they glide from sleep to death. I wish I could take all of them with me during sleep.
She mutters in her sleep and turns again and this time she opens her eyes and stares at me.
“I knew you´d come tonight”, she says. No tears in her eyes. She is an extraordinary child. Children rarely ever talk to me. They rather cry. But she is the exception. Though tears cannot distract me, they do hurt. Some might not believe the pain my soul is in. They might be able to relieve their souls from any sorrow through death, but death only makes matters worse for me. I can´t die. I never will. I will go one, forever existing between life and afterlife, never will I know which part of the world I belong to, but always knowing that neither would accept me. I´m the bane of human existence, I´m the end to all life, the taker of loved ones, the destroyer of lives, the ultimate battle to fight, a battle you´ll always and inevitably lose.
But here she is, looking at me with dry eyes. “Does it hurt? Dying, I mean?”
“It won´t hurt”, I assure her.
I´ve said this many times. Since I came into being as one part of the balance of life, I´ve said this to all people that have lived, in many languages, in many countries, at many times of day or night, in the strangest places and always, always with utter honesty. It won´t hurt. Not for her.
“You don´t have to be sad, you know”, she says, her voice hardly above a whisper. “I said goodbye to them all.”
I am unable to speak as pain chokes me. Instead, I stare at her. She glances back at me, a feverish shimmer in her eyes. I know that I should take her now, take her out of this world, before the sickness clouds her consciousness and drowns her in pain. But I dare not move. I know the pain that will follow. I have felt it many of times, as if she was my child and I her parent. By taking the live of someone, I become the projection screen of the pain the family feels. I suffer through it as much as they do. They might lose one friend, one parent, one sibling, one grandparent or one child. But I take more than one life a night.
She reaches out and puts her hand on my arm. “Do not worry about my Mum and Dad. I´ve said goodbye to them, too.”
I sigh deeply and close my eyes for a second. It´s time now. I can feel it. It´s when the restlessness of my body reaches its climax. Only death can take me out of misery, if only for a second. After the life is put out, I fall. When I reach bottom, the emotions overwhelm me. I feel pain one cannot imagine. I am burdened by the ache I cause, blinded by the sorrow, worn down by my duties.
As I get up, I listen to the silence of the night. No sound reaches my old ear, only a breeze comes in from the window, carrying in it the faint smell of the approaching summer like a sweet promise of a better life.
“You won´t feel any pain”, I assure her – and myself. As I take her dying pain onto my soul, I lean forward and put my hand on her chest, feel her heart do its last beats, listen to her taking her dying breath. As her life slips away under my hands and her body turns to a mere, lifeless shell, I hear her whisper in the air as the breeze takes her child soul away:
“Goodbye to you, too.”