art by Ron Sanders
Death and His Lover
by Getty Hesse
Death's dead lover sits opposite him, his chest still, his flesh a mirage.
Jerome is naked, as spirits are, and he seems so real Death imagines if he reached out he could stroke the dark satin skin, the rough-hewn muscle underneath. But were he to reach out, his hand would simply melt through air longing to be human, so he doesn't.
Death sips Earl Grey. He prefers Oolong; it reminds him of his late mother, Death before him. But Jerome enjoys it as well, and the first night after he was run over he had gazed at Death's mug, following it with his eyes as Death sipped and placed it back on the mahogany table. The only flavor of tea that Death knows Jerome hates is Earl Grey, so that is what he drinks, and Jerome seems grateful.
The other spirits are loud tonight, Jerome says without saying anything, a ghost-voice, more projected thoughts than anything else.
Death nods in agreement. For seven days, he has not opened the Gates of Going, and a week's worth of dead, at least a million, roar the next room over. But one of the advantages of the voices being merely thoughts is he can repress them, like he would an unpleasant memory.