The Bicycle and Death

Just the simple story of a bicycle and Death.

*Character of Death is loosely based on Markus Zusak's character, Death. However, knowledge of the Book Thief is not needed to understand this short fiction*


1. The Bicycle and Death

The colour green is one of the most versatile shades of all, when you think about it. Not only is it emblazoned like a banner across the rolling emerald fields and crooked hills that lean against the sky like they've been there forever, it is also the paint that's splattered so starkly across envy, and greed, and the sneaking kind of saccharine desire that whispers the sweet songs of temptation into your listening ears. When you take all of this into account, it's really not at all surprising that it's also the colour of Death's favourite bicycle. 
The day he acquired it was ordinary, at least for him. Everyday was ordinary for Death, because every day was the same - an ongoing, never stopping dance routine that he's practiced so often it bored him. It is like that when you live forever - a mind numbing mismatch of one extraordinary event after another and another, melting and merging until one fragile past can barely be recognised from the next jumbled moment. Though each day brought new wonders, (for Death's job took him round the world and back, held him witness to every corrupted, twisted event that composed the history books) the wonders were never any more astounding than they had been the day before, or the year before that. 
The vast amount of souls he was instructed to carry back to Heaven seemed to grow with every passing hour: a patent leather suitcase of duty and responsibility that had somehow chained itself to his arm when he wasn't looking. He went about his job with a heart weighed down by the bleakly blank tedium that came as a package deal with forever, and even as he swept the waiting souls from their decaying bodies he couldn't help but wish for freedom, or excitement, or just become the key that might unlock his chains.
As it happened, the bicycle was all three.
The day he acquired it - stole may be the most appropriate word - he was surveying a very important battle from a mountain of regulated mandatory brick. Although the battle was very important to the people fighting it Death found that he didn't particularly care who won, as long as he had some souls to take back to Heaven so that he could get paid at the end of it. He was silent as he stood, awaiting the point where the armies would clash, screeching nonsense cries of hopeless triumph and tear stained regret, and then the soldiers would fall like ragged dolls into his arms and he'd deliver them up to Paradise. It was very boring, waiting for something he knew was inevitably going to happen. 
The medics of one of the sides rode bicycles of a startling shade of brashly plastered green - and when he looked upon them with eyes worn by time he felt a strange sort of stir shifting deep inside his heart. 
He had not felt this sort of stir for a long, long while; when you are immortal you do not feel much. But still, Death recognised this sudden feeling as the dully blunt blade of want and desire. 
Watching the medics, pedalling the mounts of luxurious green, Death decided that he wanted a bike of his own. 
Springing swiftly from his approved position (above and separate from the human war) Death trod on feet more silent than the silence itself to take up residence behind the medics. He was still waiting, but this time far more eagerly, his eyes alight with an anticipation that no mortal thing could ever dream to smother. He waited for the medics to die, and to say their last salutations to a world that had not done them any good. He waited for the perfect opportunity to steal the bicycle from the clutches of their fading hands with his own hands that would never rot and would never fade, even in the midst of a war that nobody would ever know about because the rest of the earth was too wrapped up in their pressing first-world problems to care that much at all. 
When the bodies finally began to fall around him, like snowflakes twirling in the wind, Death did not collect their souls as he should have done. Instead he skulked silently, tailing the medics that risked their lives so foolishly, hoping that his very deathly presence would somehow be strong enough to attract bullets and bombs his way. Which, coincidentally, would not harm him, but would definitely harm the medics. 
A grenade, a hand-bomb, a knife to the gut - he wasn't picky. 
He was correct in hoping his presence would help, and Death wasn't forced to wait that much longer.
A glistening silver bullet ploughed through the air on ice-skates of ash and shadows, towards him, and towards the medics he'd tailed so shamelessly. Hitting a man, his skin so coarsely tanned from the burning Summer heat, it embedded itself deep into his temple, sinking further and further until it relieved him from his blood in flaking crimson goodbye kisses. 
The medic let out a cry of shock - a cry of roaring, throbbing pain that could not hope to be concealed - and the man spun in a sadistic mockery of a pirouette from his bicycle, collapsing to the floor as it crashed down on top of him. The green mixed with the red in a way it never should, curdling and melding together until it seemed pointless to try and tell them apart. 
No one stopped to pick the bicycle up and no one cared to help the medic, although later the survivors would all cry false tears and pretend to be in mourning for a wise, good man they didn't know. Around the dead man and his riderless bicycle the battle raged on, and the list of the fallen piled up until the sky was glossed and varnished by the care of skin and bone, their bodies floating limply in a sea of iron-tinged blood and tears. 
Death ignored this. Death no longer felt compelled to carry the souls to Paradise.
Death rode away on his new green bicycle. 
He was free.

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