Destiny does not leave his garden. Yet Destiny is everywhere, written into the fabric of space and time, across every universe that ever was and ever will be.
It is the oldest paradox in creation.
Destiny sees the child the when he is born. He sees him struggle for breath against weak and failing lungs. He sees the child’s mother weep as the infant’s fever soars.
She does not know what Destiny knows. This child will not die in his cradle. He will not die of pneumonia when he is eight, and he will not die when he plunges his aircraft into pale arctic waters. His destiny is writ larger than this, and he will outlive his mother by more than a century.
But his mother does not know this, and Destiny cannot tell her.
Destiny does not leave his garden.
Death is fond of all her children. She plays no favorites, but there are some she holds closer than others. There is one whom she has known for many mortal lifetimes, and she has grown accustomed to his presence. She thinks she will miss him, when his time is done.
He does not know that his time draws near. Like all gods, he thinks himself beyond her reach, though he has sent so many souls to her throughout his thousands of years making war.
Like all gods, he thinks he is freed from her brother’s chains. He thinks that his destiny is his own to forge. But the circle must draw to a close: the rules of his own people demand it.
In due time, he will come to her, as all creatures must. And she will take him by the hand and guide him to whatever resting place he chooses for himself. He will dwell with her for a time, until the circle begins again.
Death keeps no favorites, because all must come to her doorstep in time. But she thinks that when this one comes to her, it will be like coming home.
Many children dream of running away to the circus.
Dream sees the landscapes they conjure for themselves, the brightly-colored tents, the cheerful animals, the waving banners. There are thousands upon thousands of incarnations of the same dream, and he sees all of them.
There is one mortal, though, who does not dream of running to join the circus, but of running to escape it. And when he wakes, the dream follows him, clings to his skin like a shroud of memories that refuse to be cast aside.
The mortal sleeps in brief increments, waking often, hoping to escape his dreams. He does not succeed. He sleeps. He dreams. And when he wakes, bathed in sweat and memories, he curses the Lord of Dreams. He does not realize that his enemy is not Dream, but his own past.
Mortals often weep and gnash their teeth, and claim that Dream is bringing them torment, but they do not realize that they carry their nightmares with them willingly, dragging them behind like a shackle.
Dream does not pursue this mortal. He rarely pursues anyone. They all come to him of their own accord.
All creatures, even the most primitive, even the most passive, possess within themselves the capacity to destroy. Humanity has almost turned it into an art.
Destruction knows this. But he thinks that this mortal, this strange angry creature, these two souls sharing one body, does destruction better than most. Cities crumble, and even gods fall under the wrath of his fists.
The terrible irony is that, unlike so many of the beings Destruction has met over the years, this one takes no pleasure in destroying things. Oh, he’s all madness and rage when one part of his spirit is in control, but once the mortal wrests himself back under command, he is more miserable than ever.
On the days that Destruction is feeling philosophical, he thinks that this mortal is the most perfect encapsulation of human nature he has ever seen, the compulsion to destroy followed by desperate remorse as soon as the damage is done.
There are few mortals Destruction singles out as objects of pity, or as objects of admiration, but this angry, unhappy little man is one for whom Destruction feels both. How can he help but pity the mortal when he knows — knows only too well — that the thing the mortal most wishes to destroy is himself?
She is beautiful, and that is why she belongs to Desire. She knows, as far too few do, that desire kills far more effectively as a blade.
And she is a killer. But the name she chose for herself reveals so very much about her nature. She is one who builds her web to lure her prey. She lures them with her body and with the feigned vulnerability of a snake who pretends to be dead until its enemy is within striking distance. Then she injects her poison and lets their desire rot them from the inside out.
How could she ever belong to anyone else?
She holds her own desire at bay, afraid of it as only one who knows Desire’s power can be. But Desire is woven through every living thing, and she knows — she must know — that she cannot evade her fate forever. She will come to Desire eventually, like metal drawn by a lodestone, and then she will suffer the same fate she has dealt to so many others. She will one day know for herself what it is to desire.
Watching her succumb will be sweet. She will fight it, beautiful murderer that she is. But she will come to him in time.
They all do.
Despair finds him when he is young. The first time he weeps alone in the dark, she watches and carves open her cheek in solidarity. Every time his father lays another mark on his soul, she opens a new wound on her body. When his parents die and all hope of reconciliation is forever destroyed, he drinks himself to sleep and Despair pulls out her intestines in handfuls.
Once, he almost strays into her sister’s realm, but the electric shock that brings him back is almost an agony in her own flesh, and Despair wishes for a moment that she could feel it as he could, the molten rock in his chest, the pulse of anguish the comes every time the men lay hands on him. It only worsens when the old man dies for him, and she watches avidly from inside her hall.
She doesn’t cling to these mortals as some of her siblings do. It does not matter what they do. It all comes to the same end. Like this one, so many of them chase their end desperately. But Despair knows her sister cannot be courted so easily. She will come in time. But for now, he is hers.
Despair watches. And Despair bleeds.
He’s always been hers, long before he fell into the void.
She followed him when he slipped through the cracks between worlds, the raw open spaces where there was nothing but emptiness . He always knew she was there, and sometimes she jostled against his side, pressing in so that he carried her mark even when he drifted back into the physical realm.
She thinks that maybe she loves him a little, as much as she can love anybody. His mind is such a delicious jumble of structure and chaos, passionate purpose and gaping emptiness.
When he falls into her realm, she keeps him there for a while, crooning to him and whispering secrets. Then she lets him slip through her fingers and sends him to her enemies, the war-makers who wear a thousand faces, those strange creature who tear apart worlds but have no love for chaos.
He doesn’t remember the time he spent with her, or the things she told him. None of them ever remember. But he carries her words with him, and she knows that someday soon, he will come back to her, and this time she won’t have to let him go.