Have I met you before?
“It is my solemn promise that if I haven’t met you yet, one day I will”…
I have an unusual line of work, I’m not the only one doing it but despite all opposition; speed-dating, agencies, match dot com, irritating mothers who always know someone single “who’d be perfect”. I’m still top of the game. Best in the business. You might say that I was born to do it. I must admit in recent years business has been down. Divorce statistics are soaring and so many of the new generation are under the impression that “nothing lasts” and true love isn’t real. Yes, times are hard, but I’ve been at my job my whole life, I’m not about to give it up now.
My Name is Destiny, if I haven’t met you yet, one day I will.
Unnoticed by everyone around me I studied the scuttle of shoppers. I’m not a mind reader, I just get a feeling about people, and like I said I’ve been at this a very long time. It didn’t take me long to find someone, her name was Vanessa but I’d known her in another life as Annamaria, more than four hundred years ago in an England ruled by a tyrant, the year being 1519.
Vanessa was about seventeen the same age as when I’d first met her, when her parents were desperate to get her married off and she was undeniably in love with a man they were set against. I pushed gently and Vanessa stood up and made her way to the park, he was there with a dog. The dog helped me, he ran to her eagerly and the boy and girl met. Just a push is enough sometimes. On other occasions I don’t succeed and love is lost, but that’s not my fault! Sometimes my work collides with that of others who are in a similar line, I have no choice but to step back, pull out. Death has his work to carry out too.
In the park I stopped to admire some of my previous work. Sat on a wooden bench, was Albert and Shirley. Sixty three years ago today, I had watched him propose here. A Different bench, the trees much bigger now, he’d offered everything he had, and all she wanted was him. I was not surprised to see an old acquaintance lingering in the background. I moved towards him out of the sunshine and into the shadows, that familiar feeling stirring inside. He wore a grey waistcoat and his signature tie.
“How long?” The question snapped off my tongue but I contained the foul words of spite that were grinding behind my teeth. Already I was angry with him.
“Must be a Century at least, we met last in Paris…”
“Not us, her! I know you’re here for her.”
His charcoal eyes down, he answered quietly. “She has a heart condition, Albert’s taken such good care of her. I was waiting until today. Their last anniversary.”
“Yes I know”.
“You remember everyone don’t you? Every couple you bring together?”
“And the ones that I can’t” Bitterness laced through me, I shook it away, “You don’t remember them all?”
“No. It’s easier that way. I’ll take her tonight. He will follow soon enough; I doubt he’d want to go on much longer once she’s dead”
“No. Who wants life without the one you’re intended to be with?”
It irritated me that he could be so serene. It angered me that he could be so handsome!
I didn’t want an answer, I walked away from Shirley and Albert, and Death that awaited them. Despite being hundreds of years old the Angel of Death and I are only twenty. Time doesn’t touch us, and we were born together always meant to be side by side. But I bring love and he destroys it when he kills my couples. I hate him for it.
Another year went by before I saw him again, an early July morning he followed me into a farmer’s field.
“I have news” he said and I knew it was bad
“I don’t want to hear it” I never did
“You’ll listen to me this time damn it!” the grip of Death was hard on my upper arm and he spun me around, I slammed into his hard chest. “They’re sending me to carry out an extermination.” The heat from his body didn’t stop the freeze I felt inside.
“Yes. A flood, like before. It’ll wipe out half of this country and most of the next one.”
“The humans are killing the planet Destiny, action has to be taken. Their plan is to take down the population over the next three years and then the new generation will be more refined and have a better chance.”
“Better chance! On a world that’s half destroyed.”
“They’ll adapt, they always do. If they’re left in these numbers the earth won’t survive more than another thousand years.”
“What do they want with me?” I demanded
“You’ll have your job cut out for you, you need to take time in each continent, deliver hope. Otherwise the humans will give up after so much devastation.”
“So you’re going to go on a rampage while I’m left to pick up the broken pieces!”
“Yes” I felt sick at the prospect, while he was so calm. He saw my anger. And his mirrored it, he was upset that I could never understand or forgive him. But sometimes I said no to the Gods, he never did.
“Trees are dying every day,” he ground out “I’m carrying the souls of natural resources by the thousands. I’m following orders. You should too.”
I jerked back from him furious now. The sky had darkened and I felt the beginnings of a weather storm. It was us I realized as I shouted in protest; it was our wrath turning the weather. I couldn’t handle my thoughts any more, I was already grieving the loss of the people who were about to die. I took a breath and cleared my head, diving head first into Death’s mind instead. I felt and heard his thoughts and they buried mine.
The rain came suddenly and heavy then .We were still shouting at each other over the thrum of the water and Destiny’s blouse was soaked through and revealing more of her than I could handle. She glared at me her breasts rising and falling in anger and as suddenly as the rain had come I saw a flash of lust in her eyes. Quickly she turned away tried to hide it but suddenly confident I strode forward gripping her upper arm and jerked her back to face me crushing my mouth down on hers. It had been twenty years since we’d had each other. She always fought the need but eventually the hunger was too much and she’d find me. The rain was still coming down fast and we were wet even under the cover of the tree. She made a noise and her mouth opened as she pushed her fingers through my hair hungrily. If we didn’t stop soon we wouldn’t be able to. Then her hands were at my jeans, ripping open, pushing in. Her knickers went next, I picked her up and I had her braced against the bark of the tree, her knees high up around my waist. It was too late to stop, too late to think. The sky deepened in colour and a crackle of thunder echoed like an animal growl. For a long time after the storm it was quiet.
The last three years have been just as Death said they would be. War broke out in Europe; a number of earthquakes destroyed cities and when the chaos died down so had many people. I walked with him when he did the rounds; he collected the souls of the dead while I mended the broken hearts of the living. It’s not easy for him, I do understand that. It takes a lot for him to write names on a list of who must die and who shall live. The debris of the polluted planet washed away into the ocean where the gods are letting it decay into nothing. Life came down afterwards and began sowing as she had in the beginning. New forests over took where towns had been, wildlife thrived and the humans delivered healthy new offspring into a world with cleaner air. Death still lingered but that was because of me.
In truth everything was better, but I still eluded him. He came thundering in on me while I was sitting on a ruin watching a new herd of deer.
“You’ve been avoiding me.” He stated
“I’ve been doing that these past few centuries, have you only just noticed?”
“Don’t play with me!”
“Don’t raise your voice, you’ll startle the deer…see they can already sense you, they’re stirring.” I looked up and saw a genuinely tormented look in his eyes.
“I’m done.” He said “I have a request of you.” The way he spoke put me on edge, he hardly asked me for anything.
“What is it?”
“I want you to match me with someone else.” I was stunned for a moment, I could hardly believe what I was hearing.
“I can’t” I said bluntly
“To hell you can’t! I’ve had enough, you hate me most of the time, you won’t embrace what’s been written out for us, you alone have the power to change my feelings, now do it.”
“And who do you have in mind exactly?” I didn’t expect an answer, there was no one.
“Life” he said instantly, I was wrong. Life had always glanced his way, she liked the dark elements he contrasted against her power. This was her idea.
“She wants me.”
“Then have her.” I send him to hell first.
“I can’t and you know it. If you match me with her I won’t be in love with you anymore and I’ll be able to love her instead.”
“You’ll never love her like you love me, and besides I won’t have it.”
“You won’t have me but you won’t let anyone else either?”
I knew I was being unreasonable but he was a cheek to even ask, as if I’d ever give him over to her. She had no right developing feelings for him without my influence anyway. I wondered if anything had occurred between them, lust wasn’t my power it just came with love, but love didn’t come with lust. I was so angry and jealous at the thought that I heard a blizzard blow up somewhere. Suddenly I realised I wasn’t alone in my thoughts, and I turned angrily pushing him out.
“Get out of my head!”
“Why, you’re always dipping into mine when it suits you.” He wasn’t wrong, I read his mind frequently, and it was a bad habit. “I know you care about me, I can feel and hear your mind at any given time. But that doesn’t change that you keep abandoning me.” I wasn’t listening, instead I dove into his head for a memory of him and Life together. There was none of that sort, just her taunting him with the offer of herself. Death had killed her advances. I smiled slightly.
“If you don’t do this for me,” he said threateningly “I’ll ask them to interfere. Unlike you I always do as I’m told, they won’t deny me this one thing to break my soul from yours.”
Fear pinched me like the cold bite of ice, was he serious? Was he really that desperate?
“You wouldn’t dare go against me like that.” I wasn’t as sure as I sounded.
I felt Life turn up at some point, she lurked somewhere near waiting for him to leave me and go to her. I was so angry I lost my temper and sent a raging storm her way, it knocked her flat out with a desperate need for comfort, and she went soaring to the Fates, in love with all the three brothers. They were my dear friends they’d know what I’d done and be rebuffing her and she would weep. I wasn’t usually cruel, but I hated her for screwing with my work.
“I felt you do that.” Death said “You had no right hurting her like that.”
“Well if you care so much run to her!” I shouted “I don’t want you, I never have. I didn’t choose you!”
“I won’t come back.” He said quietly and I knew my words had hurt him. He disappeared before I could catch him and I panicked.
I screamed and cried and caused a rainstorm so violent it destroyed half the work Life had done with her forests. I felt the God’s anger that Death had left me to despair. I called and called and searched for him, every death bed, but he didn’t come to me. Months went by and I curled up into a ball, my work left to turn sour. Arguments, fights, violence, I called his name but he was gone. I knew he was alone, I wouldn’t match him with anyone, and despite his threats the God’s never called me up. I finally lost my mind when I summoned up my power into such a fury that it took most of my energy and sent it to find him to call him to me. I don’t know how he fought it but he didn’t come. It happened quite suddenly the day I was meant to die. I fell from the sky, and I struggled but I couldn’t stop it. The others tried to catch me but it was too late, I was hurling down to my Death.
The fall slowly became gentle, I fell and he was waiting. He caught me in his arms, my name was written in blood red ink on his list with harsh black lines scribbled through it.
“They ordered me to take you, they threw you from the sky because the way you’ve left everything.” he said kneeling down he sat me in his lap like a child and kissed me.
“Why aren’t I dead?” I asked clinging onto him.
“You think I’d take you?” he said softly “You’re the only order I’ll refuse. As long as I am who I am, you shall be mine, no one takes what’s mine from me.”
“I won’t give you up.” I said starting to cry now. “I called and called for you.”
“I know, but you needed to feel my absence for once in your life. The Fates told me you weren’t bearing it. They begged me to come to you. This past year’s been a torment for me as well, hearing you asking for me, sending for me and fighting the pull of it all. ”
“I’ll never let anyone else have you.” I said “I couldn’t stand it.”
“I know. That’s why you’ve never changed the way things are between us.”
I begged him not to leave me again. “You have to promise now you’ll love me out of choice” he said “I need you to forgive me each time I take a life, and accept that I’m yours.”
It’s been three hundred years since then. The world is adapting as it should, the air is cleaner than it’s been in years and salt in the sea has disintegrated the debris of the old world, the soil is richer, forests and fields, mountains and valleys take up the majority of the surface. I have met many people along the way, old acquaintances have been reborn and I’ve found them happiness and love. Death still comes and not always welcome, but I have accepted the hardship he carries and I have held him as he’s mourned the souls he’s taken, especially the young ones. As Destiny I have a responsibility to bring love and hope to the world. Sometimes I do as I’m asked but not always. There’s only one thing I can’t deny, at the beginning of time, when the stars first sparkled and I turned and saw a pair of ebony eyes looking back at me I knew we’d been intended for each other. This is my secret; I fell in love on my own, it was a hundred years later when Death first said he loved me that I took my pen and I wrote out names together. The first couple I ever joined was us and it was always meant to be so.
Word count: 2,772