Life and Death by Odessa Silver

Long strands of my black hair smothered the smooth skin of their exposed throat. One kiss and it ended. The body stared back at me with sightless eyes. 
I didn’t care for the dead. 
Only the dying.
I cast it aside.
Death rattles echoed in the nothingness of space calling my name. I came to them, giving each a kiss; no beating and thumping of hearts, only silence. As my lips hovered over to kill the last, my chest lurched and the body cried out.
“Not quite dead enough,” Life chuckled, his lips brushing the girl’s fingers.
“They never are for you.”
I suppressed my growing annoyance, everywhere I went Life followed. Although he insisted it was I who followed him. A perpetual thorn in my side, he always tried to best me, to steal my kills and bring them back. In response I left fields of rotting bodies, all for him.
“Perhaps your touch is weakening after all this time?”
“Never,” I said with my back still to him. “I can kill anyone. Even you.”
Life laughed, the sound melodious like birds tweeting in trees, the same ones I turned to corpses. 
“You can’t kill me.” He said, stepping into view. “But perhaps a little life would help you.”
Without hesitation, Life’s golden skin caressed mine as he reached up on the tips of his toes and kissed me. I stood taller than him, stretching like a shadow along the ground. My black hair fell around enveloping him in my darkness. 
Thump. Thump.
I gasped as my chest surged for a breath I never normally took. 
“Idiot,” I spluttered and pushed him away. “You really think a kiss of life will do anything to me?”
Even after centuries he managed to surprise me. I didn’t hate the feel or the strangely sweet taste which lingered… I tried to ignore the sensation in my chest, fluttering away in the breeze like birdsong. More voices whispered, layering as others joined in until a cacophony of cries led me closer. A war clamoured, I could feel the despair and terror as weapons clashed, skin sliced and tore open, fists connected with hardened armour breaking the bones inside. I followed the mental screams of those ready to die. They were all calling my name; I smiled. It was beautiful. 
There watching the bloody scene unfold was War; the short fuzz of hair and her face smeared in blood, it splattered down the white ripped dress covering her scarred body. The sash of broken swords gleamed across her chest however, polished and loved, the only part of her that remained clean. War gave me opportunity, but all too often it overwhelmed me, the whole battlefield wailing for me. She was the other thorn digging in my side. 
“Playing games?” I said, stopping beside her.
“I wondered how long it would take you.”
Metal clanged against metal as hundreds of soldiers clashed. Yells of anger and pain, but something was... different. I watched each strike. Blows caught short or landed with no fatalities. A battleground usually was my feast, one I loved to harvest, but there was no death here. 
“What did you do?” I said anger starting to burn through me. “Why is nobody dying?”
“This isn’t for you.” She grinned. “I’m having fun; can you not feel the desperation? I don’t need death getting in my way today. And seeing you squirm, makes it even better.”
“All war is for me,” I scoffed, “just like each life is mine. Let them die already.”
War grinned and gestured to all the soldiers in battle, “these lives are mine. I am the voice in their heads which urges them to fight. I give them the cause to maim and be maimed. You may pick up the pieces after, the husks of broken bodies ready to give up.”
“And after all that, both of you are wrong,” Life interrupted, appearing next to us. “I gave them the essence to begin with. If I hadn’t brought them to life you would have no-one to make fight, or lives to take. All those people out there? They’re mine.”
I watched him carefully, his green hair rustling in the wind and golden skin shimmering in the dying light. 
“You cannot save them forever. Everyone dies. Just you wait, these mortals will be dead before their morning.”
With a smirk I lifted my hand ready to poison the airs around us all, I could kill them in one fell swoop. I’d be the victor from this ridiculous war.
“No you don’t,” Life said taking my cold hand in his. “Have your fun tomorrow. Let these people fight for what they believe in.”
“Believe in? They follow the whispers and the goading of a war-crazed battle hungry being who want to just—”
“At least I don’t want to cease their existence in an instant.” War took a deep breath and added with fervour, “how can you not love the fury and desperation of a man fighting for the last ounce of his life?”
I huffed and glanced at Life, who still held my hand and smiled. “You two are insufferable. And I have mortals to kill.”
Leaving them to admire the disaster of a near bloodless war, I listened for the next voice calling for me. Somewhere among the cooks that fed half mouldy food to the soldiers a young girl choked on a chicken bone. I could see her in my mind, lips tinging blue as the air stagnated in her throat. Just one more moment, oh just the tiniest bit more and she’d be mine. All mine. Gliding through the air, honing in on her position, I found the place. Voices screamed, begging, pleading, crying out for help. 
Anything. 
Anyone. 
Just to save her. 
I’d save her. 
Long strands of hair reached out and wrapped around exposed flesh, I took her cold face in my hands and pressed my lips to hers. And with that she was lifeless. The wails around me intensified; did they really have to be so loud? Pitiful. I withdrew and left them to it. 
Although; I smiled. 
Perhaps War’s soldiers would come back harmless, tired, hungry… Perhaps I could give them a meal to die for. Perhaps it’d be their last.
A quick search led me to the steaming cooking pots, cooks stirring the contents with boredom. Standing right in front of their dead eyes I pulled hairs from my head and dropped them in. It would be fantastic, their stomachs would churn and liquids would spew from both ends as a poison ran through their veins; I’d take them all in one fell swoop. War and Life would see their little game reduced to blood stains and broken bodies. 
It would be glorious. 
Drifting above into the atmosphere, I smiled at my chaos. For now, another world called out; it was time to move on to Lux, a planet covered in tall grasses. The inhabitants were clumsy and stupid. I hated having to take them all because they’d not yet learned how to avoid dying in dense undergrowth. How hard was it to not go too far? And then the idiots tried to rescue each other and ended up dying in multitudes. War hadn’t helped the matter either by teaching the Luxians how to trap animals… and other Luxians. At this point I was close to just killing them all. I’d done it before after accidentally making a plague too contagious. Oops. 
And then Life had to come and fix my little problem; I had no inhabitants to kill anymore. He loved that too much, gloating with a smug smile I wished I could wipe away.
Dried dirt and yellowed flora, this world was in the midst of a drought. Mortals and animals clung to watering holes both scratching an existence. I could spare them the humility, the suffering, the oh so delicious desperation. They wouldn’t last much longer anyway, so it’d be a nice favour. An ounce of peace amongst the desolation. 
My bare feed padded along the dusty ground until I found the next voice, a metallic trap had snapped shut on his leg, breaking the bones into splinters, leaving behind a river of blood. He was more than ready for my kiss. As were all the rest. I smiled. 
War couldn’t start another game here if they were all dead. 
I could take Lux from her and watch all that smugness crumble away. These were her favourite people, groomed ready for conflict, taught them strength and ruthlessness, and now I would undo all that. Every last action. 
Hurried feet, staring eyes; they could all watch me as their worst fears sent them into a frenzied panic. The first family succumbed to asphyxiation as I stole the air from their lungs. Warriors fell on their swords, cooks choked on their food, and disease took the rest. Airborne, deadly. Just like me. One by one the cries turned to silence.
Then it was all over. 
I smiled. 
Lux now splattered in blood and ruin. There’s the river they wanted so bad.
Laughter broke the silence. Wilting flora darkened green and burst to life. No, no. Not again. I would not let him. He was mine.
“What are you doing?” Life asked with annoyance. “I didn’t repopulate this world so you could slaughter them. Again.”
“Maybe not,” I said inching closer; my heart fluttering in the strange way it had before. “But I can’t help myself, I just love killing so much.” Life’s breath tickled along my cold skin as I closed the gap between us. “Watching their eyes glaze over as I take the last part of them. All for me. And do you know what?”
Life’s eyes glittered, his brows dipped in confusion. “What?”
I grinned. “I think you’d love it too.”
Pressing my lips to his, he tried to pull away but I was stronger. My kiss of death gripping him, stealing every last drop of life. After a moment his body collapsed on the floor, lips blue and chest unmoving. 
Thump. Thump.
Life’s eyes stared, cold and lifeless. “You had to go and kill me too, didn’t you.”
Laughter filled my mind, singing, humming… No screams or wails. My battlegrounds empty. I hated it. Where were my calls?
It was as if…
Life smiled at my horror. “You hear the joy, don’t you?”

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