If any could ever find fault in me as I fulfilled my merciful duties, that fault was my love. I loved every single living person, just as much as I loved those who had already died. King, peasant, whore, saint, I loved them all.
My only sadness was how none loved me, in return. It was heartbreaking. Every time I approached, the people I loved so dearly fled as though I was a monster, come to bring them agony and pain. No, that was my mother’s duty, and they adored her, but I was not bitter.
Mother’s duties were unpleasant enough as it was, and in her twisted mind, she thought herself a scion of goodness and love to those beneath us. She did not need me to think cruelly of her, even when she brought suffering upon the hearts of innocent children. Besides that, it was simply not my place.
She despised me for my own duties, much as the people beneath us did. It was little wonder, then, that she cast me down below the ground, to live in cold isolation. Trapped behind that golden slab, I tortured myself to find out why my own mother would cast me away from her bosom. No answers revealed themselves. I grew weak as I was forgotten and left to starve.
When I could bear this horrible life no longer, I gripped a sharp stone and dashed it against my head, thinking to end myself and bring myself the only mercy I would ever see. Instead, my spirit parted from my body and ventured across the land. It was crowded, noisy, and far too full. People were fighting each other over land and crops.
Children were crying.
No matter how horrible their wounds, the people above me never died. They lived with all of their pain, and they continued to grow more numerous. I was sorely needed. Slowly, I reached down to a man that was so old that his skin was more thin than a grape’s, and more delicate than a dried petal. I stared into his eyes, and he smiled as he seemed to see me.
“I think I will rest now.” He murmured to the passing fools as he died. His grateful expression renewed my hope, and I gathered his soul and sent it to my underground home.
I continued to seek out those who needed my mercy, and each died quietly. Some were thankful, others were angry or mournful of their fates. A few desperately hungry people tried to eat the bodies of the dead, and I made parts of their bodies diseased. The diseases killed quickly, as was merciful.
Mother took notice, and slowed my illnesses. She wanted the suffering people to continue their tortured lives. She banished my soul back to my body, and when I rose from the cold stone, I was surrounded by the souls of those I gave mercy.
I sought out the first old man, and I placed my palm on his forehead. “You who welcomed me like a friend seen rarely, I ask that you accept a duty that will bring mercy to others. Be warned– should you accept, many of those above will detest you.”
His voice was strong as he replied. “For the one who gave me mercy from a life of suffering, I gladly accept this duty.”
As he spoke the final word, his spirit changed shape into a skeleton robed in black. He had no flesh to be harmed, and the dark cloth would hide him in the night. I gave him a sickle to protect himself, and told him to whom and to where he must bring mercy. He left. He was my first harvester.
I appointed many more to the duties of a harvester, and they were beyond my mother’s meddlesome grasp. The rest, I kept within me, so that mother could not steal them away to give them new, torturous life.
The voices were initially maddening, and each moment, new souls brought me more noise, until I silenced them and explained that I needed quiet. They were much more quiet, and from them, I selected a few more to harvest those who suffered too long, or would if they were left to live.
One day, two women stood in front of my door and demanded entrance.
“You will die.” I promised.
They took it as a warning, and assured me that was what they wanted. From behind, my first harvester ended their lives, and for coming to me of their own will, I made new bodies for them, bodies that would feel no pain. When I asked if they were pleased, they assured me they were.
All was well.
Time and again, mother tried to limit me.
Time and again, I found ways around her.
Eventually, she confronted me in person. She was disgusted by the company I kept, and told me I should set aside my duties, though she did not call them that. She told me it was cruel of me, to steal the gift she gave from people.
“Mother, it is cruel of you to make those I love suffer so!” I objected.
“Then become one, and see for yourself that my gift is to be cherished!” She struck me, and from there, I woke in another’s body that was very small and fragile.
I was an infant with a twin sister. Our mother looked down at us with love, while our father gazed down at us with pride.
“What a strong boy!” the man bellowed in a deep voice as my previous memories faded, and I became an infant.
Time passed, and I grew into a child. My earliest memories are of playing with my sister. Our mother was loving, our father provided for us and taught us, and although we were poor, we were happy. Father protected us, and mother nurtured us, and we grew.
One day, Father didn’t return from his patrols along the borders of our small plot of land. Mother sent my sister to our aunt’s home, and I stayed home and waited for Sister and Father to return. Mother heard something and pulled my inside. She pushed me under the table and put the nice table cloth on it. She told me to say nothing and not move, and when someone knocked on the door, she walked to it and answered it.
“Where are the kids, fat cow?” The voice was rough and scared me. “Your man wouldn’t shut up, said we better not hurt them. Said nothing about his cow.” He laughed, and I heard mom scream. I was scared and couldn’t move. Through a rip in the table cloth, I saw Mother’s cut body on the ground. She writhed and struggled, her blood slippery. The man in the doorway walked in. He was alone, I thought, so I grabbed a dinner knife and lunged out at him. I cut his leg before he grabbed me and slammed my head on a wall.
I woke up enslaved. My mind was a haze of pain as I was forced to my feet and forced to heavy labor that my body was not accustomed to.
Many others died, but I remained alive.
I made friends with other slaves, and one by one, they died as our conditions became slowly worse.
One day, I was sold, and I was starved. I would have died, if my sister did not appear and use a stone to kill the handler. She freed me, and we fled. A boy helped guard us as he shot the guards, and I saw grim, frightening beings steal away the souls of the slain.
We fled, and the boy said his name to us. It was familiar, but I could not recall how. We thanked him and parted ways. My sister and I wandered the wilderness together, until we came to a cave. We entered, thinking to find shelter from a coming storm. Instead, we found a great golden wall, carved and molded with frightening images. As one, we felt cold approaching. My sister gripped my shoulder and whispered to me. “I love you.” as she had many times before. This time, her voice was scared.
I smiled at her, suddenly aware. “I love you. We’ll always be together. This is mercy’s hand.”
She stared at me in horror, until she saw my smile. She began to cry as our lives were cut by my harvesters, and together, we joined with my body. The girl was a human, and like others, feared me. I created a soul for my childlike human self, and the two mingled. She was concent, and my human self felt no pain. I was one again, and Mother had much to pay for. I sent plagues to bring and end to those slaves cared for badly. They needed mercy.
I sent plagues to kill those who preyed on others. I sent disease and famine forth, and many died as my merciful hand was opened to them.
Mother was angry, but I had new strength to defend myself, and she was banished from my realm.