Seeka Enduros is a writer originating from the Void™, which is currently located in East Tennessee. Of 26 years of age, his main inspirations for writing are anime, videogames, manga, Stephen King, Yoko Taro, and random miscellaneous items he comes across. He is no genre. He is all genres.
An Intimate Occasion with Death
'An Intimate Affair! A Fatally Romantic Concert with Marin Edinborough!"
Johnathen had been a mere passerby when he saw the flier, scouring the night for a good beer after leaving his previous haunt. The words tangoed for only a moment in his vision before resting in their places. A free performance he wouldn't have minded. Opening the door, an alluring and dark melody deluged and engulfed him and swallowed him into the bar.
The source of the song was a sublime creature upon the stage. Spotlit by a light in the rafters, his pale skin became luminescent.
What attracted Johnathen most was that voice. Nothing could be heard over it. Or more likely, he didn't want to hear anything over it. Every word became a frigid rippling through his bones, leaving Johnathen wanting to crumble in the doorway.
Barely reaching the bar, he ordered a house beer as he sat in the final seat at the end of the black marble countertop. Johnathen's eyes returned to the singer, his ears never having left the song.
Finality was in every note, Finality that curdled his blood after crumpling his bones. Finality, as if every song was a swan song
The end came. Applause arrived slowly, before the crowd of patrons stood entranced in their ovation. This was the first time Johnathen noticed anyone in the surrounding darkness of the bar. Not that they mattered.
The performer stood from his chair with a curtsy. "Thank you all for coming to my performance. As always, it was a pleasure." His strides were long as a winter's night and proud as a black swan. Throwing his long legs over the maroon leather barstool, he settled into the seat.
With a slender finger tipped with a long oxblood lacquered nail, the performer ordered, "the usual, Tantalus."
The bartender gave a nod, clasping a wine stem with pinched fingers. It was placed in front of the performer, being filled with a ink-black wine.
Here was a chance. This scintillating performer who ached with a hurt that called to him. He slipped out of his own stool and into the one beside the singer.
"That was a marvelous performance." His right hand was on his bottle of house beer, his left tentatively spidering to the performer. "Marin, right?"
"Yes." Never did his ice blue eyes leave the glass of wine. His right hand retreated away from Johnathen's. "And thank you." The smile was insincere, and his words just as devoid. Empty, meaningless words, spoken with lips painted jet black.
Johnathen's aura was invasive as he leaned in. It also reeked of the mid-priced booze from the bar that he previously left. "I believe your name should be 'Striking'." He purred, furthering his invasion of Marin's personal space.
He swirled the wine in his glass, clacked a melody against the glass, and avoided eye contact. There was the beginning of another motion to invade Marin's personal space. His ice blue eyes rolling promptly stopped that. "I came here to perform. Not to be picked up by strange drunkards."
His pick-up line a failure, Johnathen feigned incredible hurt. "Ah, how you wound a man's pride!"
"Unfortunately it wasn't a fatal strike."
As Marin turned his attention back onto his wine, Johnathen faked a rather dramatic and horrible death, as if he had been brutally stabbed in the heart.
"You may want to tell us your name so we can tell the coroner what to put on your toe tag?" Tantalus had spoken in a deep, clear voice, mildly amused
Faking a deep curdling cough, Johnathen spoke his name.
"I'll tell the gravestone chiseler as well." Marin sipped at his wine, never staining the rim of the glass.
Johnathen made a sudden recovery, about to make another unneeded comment when he gazed over Marin's body. A black shawl, a mixture of lace and gauze, couldn't hide the scars that trickled over his shoulders in angered mountain ranges.
"What is with the scars?" Johnathen pointed to the interwoven ugly past on Marin's back.
Shifting the shawl until it hid his shoulders, Marin finally turned to meet Johnathen eye to eye. Fierce ice had turned to a ravaging blizzard, embellished even further by the expertly applied eyeliner and pale blonde hair.
If looks could kill, World War Three had been started and ended right there.
A malicious cold chill froze Johnathen in place despite his want flee. His eyes widened and he did everything to not gaze at Marin.
Marin took away his cold eyes, the blizzard lightening to a flurry, and turned his body back toward the bar. A few calming breaths were taken. "I apologize. That is still a bit of a... sore subject for me." Downing what was left of the wine, Marin straightened his posture, no longer slinky and languid. For a few moments, he toyed with the black bow on the back of his head, making sure it was in place. Then he returned to resting his head on his hand. Exhaustion shrieked through his make-up, and one could see where the weight of the world settled upon him.
Worlds away were the other patrons, too far away to hear, and none wishing to intrude upon lands of Marin, Johnathen, and Tantalus.
"You want to know the story?" Marin said plainly, like it was boring fact.
Johnathen, enraptured by all that was Marin, nodded.
"The boy can tell a story." Tantalus commented, shining a glass. Mild amusement shown in his voice.
A darling laugh slipped from Marin's black lips. "Spoilers, darling, spoilers."
Crossing his black lips with a finger, Marin shushed Johnathen and Tantalus both. "Let me tell my story."
The bartender rose an eyebrow, snickering. "Yes, yes, tell the drunk why you sing."
Johnathen was offended. He was not a drunk. He just happened to be drunk. "I am not ordering another beer." He muttered.
"One doesn't rush a good story."Marin raised his own brow. "I know my tale is tall, but your drinks could afford to be taller themselves. Quite stiff on your spirits." With the tip of his nail, Marin clinked his wine glass. "More please."
There was a little hmph for a laugh. It was followed by a tilting of the wine bottle, an inky river becoming a pond at the bottom of the glass."How droll."
Victorious light flashed in Marin's eyes. "Now, my story. Yes."
The shawl was allowed to drape across his lower back, and Marin lifted up the locks of hair covering his neck. The stretching maze of intersecting burn marks was revealed.
"I died in a fire." An oxblood nail glided over the scars. "Seven years ago, when I was fourteen or so."
The interlocking of the scars was hypnotizing. "You died?"
There was a nod, Marin gazing at his reflection in the wine glass. Beyond his face, a shallow black pond. "Not impressive of a story. But I died, even if it wasn't for long." The gaze traveled to his hands, and Johnathen noticed how there were similar scars disfiguring his hands. Fingers and knuckles with their miscolored hills.
Marin pianoed his fingers, taking in every scar. "I had surgery for the scars on my arms. I didn't want to fix the these." There was an offering of his hand to Johnathen, as if he were bequeathing the sight of his scars. "The ones on my back and neck are majestic, yet problematic. My nerves were flayed and filleted. Some have sunken into my spine."
"Did something fall on you?"
"Right, my story. I was searching for my mom and brother, when the beams of the ceiling decided to fall. My back just happened to soften the blow between the beam and the floor." Marin spoke as if he were talking about an annoying acquaintance who decided to leap upon him, and not a fatal experience. "I was pinned to the floor, but unconsciousness took me before the flames."
His index finger took a few twirls in the air before landing on his lips. "I awoke, thinking I'd never awake again, and there he stood."
"Death is always a man, Johnathen. Death is always a man." A tinkling giggle escaped his lips before they curled and crinkled into the corners. It wasn't a storyteller's smile. It was the smile of someone taken."At least, my Death was."
"Death stood before me, and the world had stopped entirely. Everything was colored gray, even the flames lapping at my home." Marin outstretched his arms in a quiet slow manner, and Johnathen could hear slow motion crackling. "Then, with the weight of the ceiling still heavy on my back, he pointed a long, bony finger and said:
'My child, you are one far too young to die. It is beyond your ken, before your settled time. But if you wish to continue living until your designated time, you may enter into a contract with me.'
And before me, a contract materialized, a collecting itself from dust, a paper ancient and from beyond this realm." His index finger loomed over the middle of the wine glass. "Death pricked my finger with his scythe and spoke:
'Your blood shall be your signature for nothing is more binding.'"
With a tap, Marin mimicked the motion of that day, and into his black wine an imaginary drop of blood fell.
"My blood hit the paper, and spread into my full name, and unconscious
I was again." Leaning back, Marin gazed at the wooden beams of the bar as if he saw the Milky Way beyond them. "I woke up in the hospital with doctors and firefighters calling me a miracle. I knew better." Leaning heavily on his left arm, Marin smirked. "Death came to me, when I was alone, after the news cameras and reporters and all the unneeded people left. He explained the terms of his contract."
Marin took on a fierceness that sharpened his face. "Once a year, on this day, you shall sing for me, in the ruins of your home. If I deem your performance satisfactory, you shall live for another year. If unsatisfactory, our contract is null and void, and you will die where you stand."
A fluttering sigh, Marin's fingers lingered over his lips. "And so, I sing for him, on the anniversary of that day." The ice of his eyes were melting into a dream, and Marin appeared far off, in a world even farther off than that their little dark corner of Earth that was the obsidian bar.
"I found that tale rather impressive."
Tantalus rose an eyebrow. "Even if it's a bit hard to swallow."
"Not as hard to swallow as some of your drinks." Again, Marin teased as he gathered himself. "Actually, I should be heading home now. Tomorrow is a big day."
"Huh, why is that?" Johnathen leaned over, interested in the idea of Marin's home.
Sliding off the stool, Marin sauntered to the entrance, before glancing over his shoulder.
"Why, its a matter of life and death."
Frigid was the air on his trek home, a reminder of what he was to do tomorrow. Meet with his reaper, sing out the heart Death allowed to beat. The heart that beat against his chest as a drum.
"Tomorrow we meet again." He whispered breathily.
All throughout the year, he spent planning for this moment. Everything was already prepared when he returned home to his apartment. All refined to a fine, glimmering point.
Every year was a climax built upon all his previous performances.
And every year, Marin wished to top himself. Best himself.
He gave his life for this performance, for that was what was due.
'An Intimate Occasion with Death, an annual concert special!' A tinkling laugh from Marin's lips. Today, he painted them pomegranate red, to match the roses plaited and braided into the swirls of his pale hair. White lace encased his body. White meant new life, and that was made it was Death's favorite color. For Death was said to love life, and would adore the color.
Languid, Marin strolled to where he once lived. All the pain, the anguish, yet he could never let himself leave the city. Not to mention his contract. Every year, on the anniversary. Maybe that's why he wasn't as shattered as he could have been.
Obligations had to fulfilled.
There was a husk where his house stood. Scorched earth and charred remnants of foundation. Nothing found the bravery to grow there, only blackened ground spread for the acres where his house had stood.
"I am afraid I have been here too often for life to find this place again." The voice was low, rumbling, gravely. It held secrets of the universe no human should know. But there was a softness, a soft down lining underneath.
Marin twisted a lock of hair around one of his fingertips, still painted oxblood."It is all well. I do believe it is a reminder for all that has happened, and a reminder well needed."
"Those damnable men were apprehended this year, correct?"
A smirk crooked the edge of Marin's lips. "Yes. They were captured and one of them spilled their guts with only a little nick." A deep breath rose in his chest. "It is a weight lifted from my mind."
With a pivot, ice blue eyes met pits of condensed fog, dancing in the sockets of Death's skull.
"You are rather... ravishing as always." Death complimented, voice plain and ordinary. Still his eyes traveled along Marin's slender form, head to toe.
Marin performed a twirl. Long slumbering ash rose to meet the trailing hem of lace, staining it a bit. He made a light tsk, but still smiled. "Oh well, it befits me."
"As many things do." A finger, slender and extended beyond human means, reached out for Marin's face, following the jawline. "Life befits you." The finger momentarily lingered on the apples of Marin's cheeks, before retreating into his bony palm, then his robe. A robe so black, folds and wrinkles were unseen. No light escaped to shape death. Only his hands, creepily long, and his skull stood out of his garb. His head was that of a raven with and elongated beak and towering twin antlers of a stag.
"Is there anything you wish of me, before you start the performance, Marin?"
"Yes. As always, a piano."
Death snapped his fingers. Tendrils of ash and smoke wrenched and shaped from the ground, forming a piano the color of smoke with keys created from ash. A petite piano bench with a smoky tufted velvet seat wrenched out of the ground alongside it.
"Same one as always, I see." Marin gave a grin, stretching his fingers over the keys. "Same as always." A few notes stained his fingers grey.
Death summoned a chair for himself, a creation of bones snapping together around a seat of black tufted fog. His ancient yellowing bones clattered as he settled into the makeshift throne. Laying his chin along the curve of his lengthened fingers, his other hand lazed upon his scythe, "You may begin," he announced in his ominous voice.
Only a nod was given before the notes of the first song were released.Again, he performed as if every song was his last, a swan song. Original songs, created in the wake of his experiences. 'First Death','Starved by the Fire', 'Milo and the Gods of the Toy Chest','Quiet', 'Grief', 'Phoenix','Flowers and Burn Scars', and 'Asphodel'.
The finale approached, and Marin's heart beat in beat n his chest like a jailed bird trying to wrench free of its cage. The closer, this song, was something he had only finished the previous week with touch-ups. Even his closest confidants didn't know the existence of the song.
"And now, for my final song, 'Til Death Do I Part'." Marin gave a wink, Death fidgeting a little in his throne, and began his song. Every moment of the song was this engulfing power the whispered around one in this growing dark cloud till it swallowed everything whole.
"'Til death do, I part." The note was held, accentuating Marin's high and lilting voice. It was romantic, Marin having held eye contact the entire time with the reaper in his chair. As the note trailed out into the emptiness surrounding them, Death rose.
"Bravo. Bravo!" His ovation was a starkly loud rattling of bones that fought the silence that had surrounded them. In the middle of 'Flowers and Burn Scars' Marin had thrown one of the roses in his hair to Death. There was a reach for the beloved red rose, but Death stopped himself, allowing it to fall to his feet. For a few moments, he admired it, always turning his head to it during the rest rest of the show. Hastily as he could, he plucked the rose and tossed it at Marin's feet. Having decayed in Death's fingers, it lost its luscious red color, now a merely sepia husk. But Marin still accepted it.
"Thank you, thank you. I'll be here again next year!" Holding the rose close, Marin gave a wave, as if this was a theater or stadium, overflowing with people. Even though it was only a singular entity he had performed for.
No. Because it was a singular entity. Death, who he owed everything to. His life. His passion.
"So will I be living another year, or did my performances reach a limit last year?" Already knowing the answer, Marin played coy.
"I do believe you will be living for another year." Death spoke, the contract materializing from the ash from the ground and dust in the air. "And... I should admit something to you."
"This contract has been a rather... elaborate ruse."
And before them both, Marin's name spread until the entire page was soaked red, the contract then scattered to crimson dust that shimmered then lost.
"We, representatives of Death, are only allowed in the physical realm for a limited amount of time." He approached, reaching outward tentatively. "For decay soon follows us." Instead of brushing a renegade lock of hair from Marin's face, Death reached downward, plucking a dandelion.
In only moments, the dandelion aged, decayed, became dust in Death's fingers, and fell to the earth.
"Death is only allowed so many moments with life." Death turned his gaze from the dust in his hand to Marin. The darkness in the sockets shifted, and there was a sullen, hollow look of the black fog. "Solemn it is, for, ever since Death has existed, so has Life. Death has always been in love with life. All life."
Again Death reached out, stopping short of Marin's face. Just almost. Always just almost.
"I've been in love with you since the day you were born. I just... saw an opportunity, in that fire. When you were fourteen."
Pale skin now changing into a dashing red, Marin couldn't bring himself to meet Death's sunken sockets. "Since I was born?"
"Many times I have visited your family, and each time, I grew more enamored with you."
The ashen foundation was where Marin's eyes fell, remembering all the despair visited upon his family. "My family was a magnet for you, was it not?"
"I've never seen so many born under such dark stars." They were watching each other now, as Death told his story. "Many of your aunts and uncles died while traveling. Cousins who fell to illness. Your grandparents dead of malnutrition and miscare. Your father, shot. Your mother and brother died in the fire."
"Is it bad, that maybe, I have been so visited by your kind, I'm not heavily attached to those who have died? I think Milo affected me the most. Only because he was so tiny. Small. Young." Marin clutched himself tight. A sullen smile spread across his face. Feelings inside of him bubbled just underneath his skin, making it crawl. He scratched at it, feeling where old scars used to be.
Death shook his head, pity shaping the fog. "I apologize that you were not allowed to grieve."
Rubbing his arms, Marin calmed."It is okay. I have grieved in my songs."
"But I have adored you. Every moment." Death closed the gap between the two of them, until they were almost touching. "That contract was a charade. The moment you sang, showed that you had a passion, that you found a reason to live... I could have released you. But no." Death released his scythe, and reached for Marin's face with both of his hands. Never touching him, just lingering in an almost cupping of his face. "I've continued this ruse for seven years. Seven years you have been building a wonderful career around your songs. You've built a house of success upon the foundation of tragedy."
Eyes becoming a wild blizzard again, Marin glared at him. "Do you think I became this way on my own?"
Death averted his eyes.
"I only became a singer because I had no other choice." His hands gripped Death's beak, forcing him to look Marin in the eyes. "I did not become who I am today without the push. A reason to strive every year. Build upon myself."
Mortification shook Death's bones, cling clanging them together in his robes. All he could do was gaze at Marin in an embarrassed manner.
The blizzard again soothed itself, a gentle snowfall. The rough grab transformed into a tender caress. "I would not be where I am without you. Passionately blazing my own path. I turned the embers of my past in a bright future. I may not be famous but I have a following large enough to pay my bills, and others asking for me to write for them."
His arms flapped about, Death fearful of Marin's touch. But never did he dare stop him.
A tinkling giggle from Marin."You're rather silly." He stood up on his tiptoes, kissing Death upon the tip of his beak.
Death found himself so afraid to touch Marin, but he allowed himself to land his fingertips on his delicate wrists. They sunk into the pale flesh, and Death felt a warmth. Miraculous joy ran through him, and he grew more joyful as the warmth stayed.
"What is this? You're not dying!"
"Maybe I've been so exposed that Death can touch me." A playful smile crossed his face as he embraced Death. "Thank you for everything you have done. Everything you will do."
"Now, now whatever do you mean by that?" Still flustered, he was unsure of what to do, and what was happening.
All of that stopped as Marin clung to him, the warmth seeping through his robes of void.
"I have dedicated my life to you, in a way. Why not continue this way?"
"Do you mean marriage?" Death nervously pressed his forefingers together.
Again, Death averted his eyes. "Would you not rather-"
"I have never been attracted to anyone. I think you know that." Marin teased, tapping his finger upon the tip of the beak.
All his life, Marin had never written a love song. Not one for himself.
The only love song he had written, was about falling in love with Death.
"Maybe..." Again, he was horribly flustered, but he saw the only course of action was to hold Marin close.
Those eyes, so cold, much like death, fought against Marin's body, so naturally warm.
Death, tall and looming, released Marin from his embrace, only to shift to one knee, his antlers still lingered in the sky, making him still taller. No matter. His two hands engulfed one of Marin's in a bony entanglement.
"Will you marry me, my songbird?"
"Yes!" No hesitation.
There was much to be done. Much to do. Celestial bureaus and such had to be contacted, and paperwork filed. Not the first time, and probably not the last.
Death has always been in love with life.
Life has always had it own affection for Death.
"What else would one call a singing phoenix?"
"It is a lovely nickname."
"You are a bard of your time, are you not?"
It seemed to be a match of who could fluster the other the most. "That may be going too far." Again Marin giggled, and his face turned warm and red.
"To me, it's not going far enough." With his hands, Death plucked another rose from the bouquet that sprouted from Marin's plaited hair. In his hands, it didn't decay but atrophied and petrified, as he shaped it into a ring.
"For the one to spend eternity with me." Death presented the ring, slipping it onto Marin's finger. Beautiful stone petals wrapped around a lovely core. Decay hadn't effected the petrification. It was a perfect stone replication of the bloom that was in his hair.
"It's perfect." The stone didn't weigh or crush his finger. Featherlight, and growing lighter with every second. As if he had already been used to this idea for centuries.
"For my songbird."
"What does one say, if they marry death? Is 'till death do us part' a little ironic?"
Both laughed, in tune with each other.
"I can be appreciative of a little irony."
"Then till death do us part."
"Till death do us part."