This Is Death
A single stone stood in the morning sun’s glow, its edges rough and chipped. All around, weeds crawled up the nearby fencing, entangling through the worn timber. Dirt and plants covered the words chiseled in the stone.
“Gara-Vae Once dirt, now dirt again”
A single hand, gnarled and worn, caressed the stone. A large grin stretched across its malformed face; layers of molars were exposed as the grin widened. Its long-gnarled fingers dug deep into the loamy soil; as it licked its lips, it dug deeper into the grave.
A boy sat watching from a nearby rock, his expression blank as the monster dug into the grave. A smile started in the corner of his mouth as the corpse of an elderly lady was pulled from the ground; he watched as the monster climbed inside. Stretching the skin over itself as if it were a suit, the skin snapped, and the rot slowly disappeared. Where once a monster stood, now only footprints of an elderly lady. The boy watched till the elderly woman walked out of sight; he then walked in the other direction towards a spire that protruded from the forest’s canopy.
As the boy walked, he hummed, he hummed to the song being sung by those standing before the spire. Enrobed, they stood with hands raised high, worshiping the spire. The boy wandered through their ranks unobserved; he walked under their eyeliner till he reached the base of the spire. He gazed upwards at the man who led the chant, tugging on his robe till he looked down.
“I like your masks. Can I get one too?”
The chant slowed as, one by one, the cultists noticed their leader speaking with a child. He knelt before him, lowering his head to eye level.
“Hop along, little one; death walks these woods.”
“Ha, I get it. Hop along, and you are wearing rabbit masks. That is really funny, even if your masks are really creepy.”
The man stared through the glass eyes of his mask; tattered fur fell from his mask, landing on the small boy. The man reached out, grabbing the child’s arm.
“You are to leave unless you wish death upon yourself.”
“But, mister I am scared. Would you please hold my hand?”
The man looked at the child, releasing his arm.
“The god of Death does not pity those who are scared; he blesses them with death.”
The man returned to his standing position, turning to face the Spire. Once again, he started the chant; the others followed. The boy stood with his hand outstretched towards the masked man.
“Those who beckon for death sometimes find it.”
The child reached beneath the robes of the man, touching flesh to flesh. He collapsed to the ground, lifeless. The chanting stopped entirely as the boy tried to pick up the mask from the body; with each touch, more of the mask disintegrated in his hands, revealing the face of the leader.
The boy turned around to the masses of people now staring down at him.
“You stand here, day and night. You ignore the roles I bestowed upon you; you have neglected the dead. Now you shall replace them.”
From the tree line emerged more twisted gravediggers led by the corpse of Gara-Vae.
“Meet my angels; they care for the dead. Pulling their bodies from the graves and replenishing their form as it was moments before death. They do this so their souls may work this dirt once more before moving on. A job you were all supposed to do.”
The child clapped, and the hordes of gravediggers started moving inwards, herding the cultists towards the spire. The grave diggers’ size dwarfed the Holites that stood before them; they used their size to intimidate them till they were hard-pressed against the spire. The boy had started to climb, taking a position above the scared masses of Holites.
“You are all weak, you sang your song to summon me, yet you had not done the job I tasked you with. I have answered your call, and I have graced you with my presence. Now you can all suffer in Hell.”
As his final words sounded, the gravediggers started consuming those closest to them, they chewed everyone they could and ripped the others apart when they broke the lines. Death and the corpse of Gara-Vae watched as the false worshipers were consumed by the vile angels of Death.
Gara-Vae’s corpse turned to Death, looking down at him.
“Hollow has no Hell. Everyone knows we live 100 years in one life, or through reincarnation, then we are born as gods in our own universe.”
Death closed his eyes as he took in the sounds of his followers being crushed under heavy jaws.
“All the gods looked down on this planet, angered by those who claimed to follow us. They built shrines and bowed, but as soon as we burdened them with tasks, they abandoned us. Furious, we demanded a hell to send those who break their vows. Now those who fail us have to spend an eternity in Hell before they re-incarnate.”
“How long do we give eyes to the dead? Once we have finished, what do we do with the corpses?”
“You do it till you feel their soul leave your body, then you consume their corpse. Burying bodies is barbaric.”
Death walked away from Gara-Vae, chanting into the air he disappeared.
The failed followers found themselves intact, standing in a barren wasteland. Above the violet sky shone down upon them, heating the rocks underfoot. Some tried to remove their masks.
“Why can’t I pull it off? Why does it hurt?”
Death wandered out from behind a small pile of rocks.
“You are now one with your masks; you took the look of Shadow Rab’s. A symbol of death on our planet, now you shall embody them as you serve your sentence in hell.”
“We did nothing but serve you; we read all your signs and did what we thought you wanted. Why are you punishing us?”
Death sneered at the man. “You served wrong, you read wrong, now suffer your just punishment.”
Death walked back behind the rock from where he emerged. “I have a whole dimension to govern over; I have no time to explain this plane to you. Just know death does not exist here, so try not to die.”
Deaths failed followers stood in Hell, confused, disfigured, and afraid.
“Can you hear that?”
The group listened, the faint sound of drums started to creep up through the rocks. Where once a dull beat sounded, a full choir roared. Voices, drums, and horns all sounded off in unison. The Rabbit men followed the sounds to come across a city of bones and skin. Streams of blood cut through the landscape, dividing the bone structures and steaming a red mist into the arid air.
“Since the first have been on Hollow, they named its land for its lack of hope. We now know it as Nyil-Vispyr; what do we call this place?”
“This land is what we asked for; this land is death; this is Karavaston.”