You take a long breath, as if air was suddenly a foreign and exquisite delight. Blood begins to return to your limbs, and you feel life flowing back into your extremities. Your fingers twitch, your feet become warm and regain their feeling – and a kind of glee overtakes you.
You sit up, finding yourself on familiar ground. The battlefield where you had died, except it seems the fighting had long ago ended. The remaining light cowered behind the horizon, perhaps ashamed of the misdeeds carried out this day.
The arrows that had erstwhile penetrated your flesh lay to your side, covered in blood. Moving your hand around underneath the blood-stained fabric of your shirt, the holes in your chest appeared closed up with fresh skin. Your pain was almost gone. A lingering sensation of burning remained, but it was faint, and compared to the breath of life – irrelevant.
But it seemed yours was the only breath in a field littered with the corpses of men. Why, of all these sinners, was your soul chosen to become a reaper? Maybe the Death God was being ironic.
No matter – I am still mortal. I can die of dehydration, or famishment. Even though I will be brought back, it will still be a slow and painful death…
And you are thirsty. And very hungry.
Desperately pushing yourself back up on your feet, you look around and sway, as if re-learning how to walk.
Crows dot the field, and flies buzz around, feasting on flesh that was beginning to rot. You grab one of the many spears defiantly protruding from the ground, and lean against it with your shoulder, using it as a walking stick.
Careful not to trip up over any of the bodies, you make your way down the towards the river.
But the river is no better. Crimson stains the land, making its way into the water. Corpses float in their windless, watery grave. Their skin blue – long ago exsanguinated. Others would probably vomit at the sight, but this was not the first time you had to make your way through a blood-stained apocalypse. Thoughts of a more practical nature pester you.
I suppose I could die of disease, too. What about old age – can I die of that? What then, am I reborn? I really should have asked more questions before I agreed to this.
“Ask them now, why don’t you?”
Shocked by the shrill voice among the stillness of the dead, you glance around until your gaze falls upon a crow, resting on a nearby broken skull. It looks at you, and then Karr-Karrs, “Where there is death, there you can find me. Ask, my faithful servant, what you want.”
“Will I die of old age?”
“What then? Am I reborn a child?”
“No, you will awaken in the same body, but of your current age.”
“So I will always return to this age. And how many other reapers are there?”
“Many. Few. Perspective matters.”
“Surely a number would suffice.”
“Your world is not the only one, and I am not the only Death God. I cannot say.”
“There are many Death Gods?”
Karr-Karr he said, and flew away.
Many worlds? Many Death Gods? What have I signed myself up for?