Fiction Friday: Death at the Masque, I

Good evening, fine readers.

This month, I wanted to try something a little bit different with my Fiction Friday posts. Since this month just happens to end in the best grown up holiday of the year, I figured that we should celebrate it with a tribute to someone who is probably one of my favorite writers of all time- Edgar Allan Poe. Specifically, a re-interpretation of my favorite of his short stories, which is The Masque of the Red Death.

If you’ve never read it, please, go do that now. Or whenever, because the four Fiction Friday posts of October will be a continuation of the introduction below.

 

Without further ado, Death at the Masque.

 

Humans are very good at dying. They do this all of the time. Sometimes they practice before they’re called for their big performance, which they will eventually all give.

The thing about humans and dying is that they do and will do this, whether or not my family is there to do what we do. It’s not usually a problem. Who wants to jaunt half way across the land for a woman dying in childbirth? We come in when humanity messes up, when they do something stupid and kill off too many of them too quickly, and the gods look to us for help to sort out the mess. This one isn’t ready for death. That one has a fitful soul that will cause problems for the hounds.

For the first time in fourteen years, my family and I were not called in to deal with a war. Well, it wasn’t a war in the sense of two groups of human men fighting over a pretty-ish human woman or a useful-ish hunk of land. No, it was the sort of illness they called a plague. For the humans, it meant a rise in superstitions, piety, and mistrust of their neighbors. Them down the lane are dirty, they’d tell each other. The children are dying of hunger but don’t go near them or you’ll get the plague. As if they weren’t filthy beasts themselves. In the end, death made them all equals. For us, it meant we had been working for six months straight, following the path of the virus further and further into the Kingdom. Every village the same. Empty houses, dead livestock, withering crops.

We would get to work quickly. Father would rouse the dead back to life for a few moments, enough to tell my twin sister Dempsie who deserved to be retrieved from the in-between and sent to the pleasant side of death. She worked in the in-between alongside Mother, who would send other worthy souls to be reborn into human existence, to take advantage of another shot at being worthy of Heaven itself. I chose a select few who were either too precious to the gods to die or too innocent to be subjected to the gods’ true form in the afterlife. I stood over them, using my hands to smooth the physical decay and blemishes of death. I took breath from my lungs, met their lips with my own, and gave them my air. They would gasp, but be as alive and well as ever, and I would disappear completely from their memory. I hated to leave them in those barren villages, but they would surely make it. After all this, my family would pack our bags and move onward.

Over, and over, and over again. All because of a filthy, greedy, lustful man named Prospero.

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