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Courting Death

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Loving her is like loving Death.

When he met her he didn’t know how right that was. She was dark-skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed. A shadowed mystery accented with skirts the color of ash, tattered and flowing around her ankles; the cold winds yelped and jumped at her feet, swirling leaves like fire and sending them after her like hounds to a master.
She was beautiful in black clothing, her mane of wild hair curling softly against a rounded face and almond eyes.

Sollux fell in love immediately.

And so did Aradia.

Loving her was like loving Death.

They’d fall into bed beside each other and she was still cold, her skin ice under his hot hands. She’d warm to a point but it was still as though her blood ran thick and languid in her veins, eventually he invested in more blankets and never ceased to curve his naked body around hers, holding her fast against him through the night.
It was peaceful for months.

Then he started noticing it. Sound in the back of his mind, tip-toeing forward and making him whip his head back as he made his way into the village. As though someone was behind him calling his name. It got worse, louder, as time went on. He never mentioned it to Aradia, she’d just worry and fret in the way she never quite did. That’s not to say she didn’t notice, however.

Each time they’d sit, eating together and conversing, Sollux would hear some hollow, cold and spine-chilling scream in the back of his mind and whip his head around, staring at the blank wall behind him. Sometimes they made words, masculine voices, feminine voices, in languages he understood or didn’t – they were all the same to him. He would look back and give her a soft smile. She’d return with a sad one, like she knew.

Eventually it started to blend, voices upon voices, pleading for help like they were just about to die. Some begged for release, others for saving.

Some forgiveness. Through tears and vomit they cried and screamed in his head and Sollux had no idea why him. Why he was cursed as they infiltrated his dreams, clawing at him with bloodied and broken nails, ripping at his arms as they scrambled against him, burned husks of bodies twitching as the stench of vomit and shit and death and blood filled his nostrils and forced him to jolt awake in a cold sweat.

He always thought Aradia was awake beside him because he woke her up thrashing. She held him with sad eyes and even lips.

“I need to show you something,” She said one day as Sollux fought the onslaught of voices. He nodded and got up, following his lover out of their small cottage, out towards the worn and dusted dirt road. There, among the over-grown grass alongside it, a creature kicked and whined, it’s mangled legs dripping red ichor like paint to hide the green.
“Aradia, any particular reason you came out here to show me an injured dog.” He knelt beside it, hand resting on its side. “I mean, we can’t help it… it’s hurt too bad. Didn’t know you were an animal lover.” He moved to stand up, but Aradia rested her hand on his shoulder.

“I need to show you something and I need you to understand. I never meant to hurt you, Sollux, but once it started, it was irreversible. Being around me was dangerous enough – but being loved by me was something else. It was… My touch was too much. I’m truly sorry.” She joined him kneeling, her hand guiding his off the dog, replacing it. She carefully stroked his fur and the creature responded with a whimper. “It’s okay my child,” she assured, curving a finger under its chin to tilt the head up. Her almond eyes drifted closed, her hand formed a gentle fist under the chin, her knuckles just brushing the soft fur.

The dog went still, its ribcage halting the struggle to expand. Sollux watched in a muted realization.

She opened her hand, palm to the sky, and a wisp of… something… drifted up.

Loving her was like loving Death.

He never saw her again after that. Not even as the years ticked by, as the voices surged in intensity then lulled, then surged once more like the tides washing away etchings in the sand. Years, decades, centuries. Sollux moved through all of them, never changing, never wasting into nothing.

Stuck in his ways, in the sounds of the to-be dead pleading, Sollux knew the answer to the age-old question: What’s a fate worse than Death?

Easy. Being loved by her.