Nicholas Flamel was very surprised when the door into his room opened. Despite his best attempts, he was at death’s door. He was famous for having saved the lives of so many, but he could not save himself. When he first fell ill, people came from all over to say their last thank you’s. But they stopped coming as he lost feeling and movement in his limbs, and then his chest, all the way up to his jaw. Now, all he could do was move his eyes around his empty room, as a machine pumped his blood and breathed for him.
The mysterious visitor made more sense once Flamel saw them. They were dressed in black robes, with a hood obscuring their face in darkness. Black fog rolled off of them as they drifted toward the bed. At their side hung a dark scythe which they swung at Flamel right as his heart monitor went flat. It passed through Flamel and the bed, with the black fog rolling off of it as it raced through the air. Flamel was able to stand up out of bed, but he left his body behind as he did so. As nurses and doctors fled into the room shouting, Death looked at Flamel and said “Would you like to go somewhere quieter?” Well, less “said” and more projected the thought into the room. Flamel nodded as the room faded to nothing. Not black, just nothing. “Well it took you long enough. I’m surprised you didn’t take me earlier, with how many lives I’ve saved from you.”
Death laughed. “I was actually helping you.”
Confusion spread across Flamel’s face. “Wait what? Why? How?”
Even though he couldn’t see Death’s face, Flamel knew that Death started smiling. “I’ll answer your second question because it’s easier. To start, some background, I think Terry Pratchett said it best in his book Soucery:
‘It is a well-known established fact throughout the many-dimensional worlds of the multiverse that most really great discoveries are owed to one brief moment of inspiration. There's a lot of spadework first, of course, but what clinches the whole thing is the sight of, say, a falling apple or a boiling kettle or the water slipping over the edge of the bath. Something goes click inside the observer's head and then everything falls into place. The shape of DNA, it is popularly said, owes its discovery to the chance sight of a spiral staircase when the scientist’s mind was just at the right receptive temperature. Had he used the elevator, the whole science of genetics might have been a good deal different.
This is thought of as somehow wonderful. It isn't. It is tragic. Little particles of inspiration sleet through the universe all the time traveling through the densest matter in the same way that a neutrino passes through a candyfloss haystack, and most of them miss.
Even worse, most of the ones that hit the exact cerebral target, hit the wrong one. … Many civilizations have recognized this shocking waste and tried various methods to prevent it, most of them involving enjoyable but illegal attempts to tune the mind into the right wavelength by the use of exotic herbage or yeast products. It never works properly.’”
Death continued “It’s not exactly correct, but it’s close enough. I have a limited amount of control over these inspiration particles. I can guide them so that if one is close to hitting someone, I can redirect it just enough to hit them. Or I can redirect it just enough to prevent an insight. I rarely use this power, but for you,” Death chuckled, “well, I used it quite a bit. Not to keep ideas away, but to move them closer to you.”
Flamel could not help but burst out at this point and half-yelled “But why? Why go through the trouble? I saved people, kept them out of your hands! Every insight I had I put into keeping people away from you!”
Death smiled again. “Do you take me for some form of hunter of the damned, chasing down my prey? No. I am a gatherer of souls, waiting for them to ripen before harvest. You say you saved those people. But you only delayed me. And that is my goal.” Here Death paused a moment before continuing “Humans are wonderful. You fight me so hard, and yet I always come. The joy is in the fight, not in the victory.” At this point the tone of Death’s voice changed, and their face changed to a snarl. “I abhor wars and those who cut short other’s lives. Who are they to hasten my domain? Who dares to deny me my time? A quick death on the battlefield is just that, quick. There is no mourning the person right in front of you. They were here one second and gone the next. What kind of death is that? There is a reason I wield a scythe, not a sword. I harvest what is ripe, not take what is still strong.” Death paused, continuing to sneer.
Flamel said, mostly to fill the silence, “So all those activists protesting war and promoting peace, you were helping them too?”
Death beamed. “Yes, I was. But you were my favorite. Even where there were wars, your techniques helped many survive. You fought me tooth and nail every minute you were awake. And you did so good. And really, I must thank you. Because of your work, infant mortality went down. Giving birth became safer. Quality of life increased. All of this contributes to more people being born and living to adulthood.”
“Where they can have more children, feeding the cycle and giving you more souls.” Flamel wondered aloud.
Death smiled as a parent smiles at a child who has done something correctly. “Exactly. You are starting to understand. Everyone comes to me eventually. It is … inevitable.”
Death paused to let Flamel consider this. Eventually, he continued: “And now it is your turn.” The black fog rolling off Death grew thicker until Flamel could no longer see Death. Soon, it covered Flamel as well. Death's robe split and his wings unfolded. Angel's wings. But not of feathers. They were wings of night, wings that were shapes cut through the matter of creation into the darkness underneath, in which a few distant lights glimmered, lights that may have been stars or may have been something entirely else. And as the darkness enveloped Flamel, wrapping him tightly like a warm hug, he heard Death say “Oh well done my child. You were magnificent. You fought valiantly, but now it is time to go.”