Death adjusted his tie as he studied his reflection in the clear glass of the store front. His suit was immaculately cleaned and unruffled black silk. The dress shirt beneath was a crimson the color of a phoenix flame at birth; when he moved the color would swirl and the flames would breath to life. He wore a perfectly folded handkerchief in his front pocket of the same color. It had never been used. The tie he was fidgeting with was white silk that stood stark as winter snow against the fire red of his shirt. He could walk through a sandstorm, wade through a blizzard, or waltz in a hail without worry of a single thread worn bare. Yet still he tweaked his tie and brushed his lapels as he stared at his reflection partly broken by the bright white letters proclaiming “Myrcella’s Bakery – Best Cake In All The Burroughs”.
His gaze passed through the glass, his hands finally falling to rest at his sides. He wondered for the thousandth time how any one of these succulent sweets would taste on his tongue. The color and beauty of the creations was his only solace, his eyes his best sense despite his efforts at emulating the others.
The cakes towered high on counter tops, layered in pinks and blues and whites of many tiers. Swirls and twists and shapes of all kinds lay soft on top in varying color and size, or climbing the sides of each tower. But, for a moment, all he could see were castle battlements overrun with bodies, the dead a soft gangway as the others marched inexorably on to conquest. Even his sight was never free of duty and his temper was lost as Candyland’s demise continued with men of white frost forming to climb their way to the highest peaks of sweet snow and a cruel end.
He returned his gaze to the reflection in the glass and reached his hand to the face he saw. The pale white of moonlight shaded his skin like a pearl, glossy and varied. The skin was stretched taut, not a wrinkle or hair could be found. A small nose and beady black eyes gave nothing away as his hand dropped once again to his side and he stared a moment longer at the figure he had constructed over these thousand years. It was a façade, but it eased their fears with fascination and in some ways made him feel closer to those he served.
“Have you heard about Myrcella?” A passing pair of woman Death assumed were beautiful gossiped. “She’s been ill they say, took with cough a month or two past and it won’t let loose. I hear Mary thinks it might be her time.” She looked grave, as expected when speaking of Death, but hardly concerned about Myrcella’s fate. She was more interested in the gossip itself than the tale it told.
Her companion nodded sadly, “I have. It is such a shame; I remember the days were always brighter when I could take home one of Cella’s cakes. She would smile and tell all the children the same thing, ‘now don’t spoil your dinner just to taste those cakes, they’ll wait for you and if they don’t more are always here’ like she was our kind old grandmother.” She smiled at the memories. “Perhaps the day is coming when no more cakes will be waiting,” she whispered quietly to herself as the smiled faded, a last glance paid to the passing storefront, and Death once again remembered who he was. As she walked he saw her skin dry and crack, her lips burst and decay, and her skin wash away in a breeze of dust as time tore her away to his eyes.
The two passed him by without the faintest glance as the conversation continued, moving on to better and brighter beginnings he would never be a part of. His gaze followed them for a time as they passed further down Market Row, passed bakeries of a different sort. Breads of all kinds glazed and buttered were lined sumptuously in the windows drawing many an eye. Further still his gaze followed the pair past market stalls of peppers and peas and other produce in varying shades of red, green, and yellow. He would never know their taste. He kept watch as they continued further through the throng, the rest of the streets denizen all ghosts before his eyes, as he stared clear through them like the glass beside him.
The street was filled with these glass ghosts wondering here and there, some moving quickly, others plodding along, each moving to a destination. Into stores fronted by awnings, grand statements of quality brazenly stroked upon them, they stepped. Up to stands lined here and there, wares like rainbows after a midday rain, they stopped. Over to carts that rolled along, their hawkers crying out among the morning throng, they yelled.
Death watched in silence the scene of life a moment longer. He turned away, back to the frost white letterings still proclaiming Myrcella’s wares. In time it would all fade away and he would see the ash and dust of its passing. Yet, for the moment, it existed and his thin grey lips stretched slightly towards a smile.
A harsh cough carried down from above. Death tilted back his head to gaze at the second story. Duty called.