It had been three months since he’d left. Not only had he broken her heart, but he’d also taken half her money and any valuable belongings she had. Stephanie felt not just betrayed, but embarrassed. How had she not realised what a monster he was? Why had she not worked it out until now? Why had she been so blind?
All that remained was the small apartment she’d been renting. Not for much longer. They’d been paying half each, but Stephanie couldn’t afford the whole apartment on her own. Again, she had been blind and dumb. The car was in his name, he’d taken that. The phone plan had been shut off because he demanded it, and apparently no one bothered to check to see if anyone else was still using it. Stephanie was running on a single light bulb and trying to use as little water and electricity as possible to save on utility bills. There were plans to move out, but those had been put on hold due to awkward contracts.
There was nothing but debt. Stephanie couldn’t see any way out.
Well, except one.
That was why she was standing on this rooftop, looking down at the street, watching people passing by.
She’d pass out in mid air. She’d never feel a thing. It would all be so easy.
There were two voices behind her. One of them was feminine, soft and sweet and gentle. It belonged to an incredibly beautiful woman with bright silver hair. She was wearing a short skirt and a crop top and little else. No bra. No shoes. A bag on her shoulder.
The other one though… It was not… Stephanie had no idea what it was, apart from the fact that it had been the first to speak. Black skin, yellow armour plating, a snout filled with teeth and hideous claws covered in what looked like sparkles and stars.
“Arkadin! You could have at least tried not to scare the shit out of this poor mortal!” the female shouted. “Why are you even here anyway?”
Stephanie rubbed her eyes, then wondered if she’d forgotten to take her medication that morning or something.
“To ask you why you’re here, Yisini…” the creature’s voice sounded oddly young. Like a teenage boy, his voice cracking ever so slightly. It didn’t seem to be a threat. “Across the universe there could be a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand suicides at any given movement. What’s so special about this one?”
The young woman, Yisini, didn’t have an answer. Neither did Stephanie, but she had no idea what was going on.
“I… uh…” Yisini glanced at Stephanie, then smiled. “Please don’t jump. It’s not good for your health.” In a brief flash of light, she was gone.
The other being, Arkadin, sighed, then walked over and stood next to Stephanie, looking downwards. “That’s not a good fall. You’ll still be awake when you hit the bottom.”
Finally, words managed to squeak out of Stephanie’s mouth. “W-w-what are y-y-you?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t introduce myself. My name is Arkadin, and I’m the God of Death. What is your name?”
“St-Stephanie… Are you… here to claim my soul?” Stephanie took a step back away from the ledge and away from Arkadin.
“No. There’s no such thing as a soul.”
The God of Death pulled Stephanie away from the edge, then sat her down on the ground. After some awkward messing around with his long, black tail, Arkadin sat down too.
“I just make sure everything gets recycled, reused and decomposed. There’s no afterlife or anything like that, really. I’m only here because Yisini appeared here, and I was curious.”
“Yisini?” Arkadin shrugged. “She’s the Goddess of Life, Birth, Love, Sex, Reproduction, fun things like that. She doesn’t normally leave her temple. Why are you planning on killing yourself?”
Stephanie blinked. “You…”
“I assume your life has taken a turn for the worst, you’re saddled with debt you can’t pay back and you are too scared to go to others for help. There’s probably some bad romance in there too.”
“How do you know…” Stephanie stuttered. Arkadin shook his tail a little, then tucked it away behind him.
“I’m the Thantophor, the Lord and Bringer of Death. To all things, not just mortals like you. To put it simply, I’ve seen a lot of suicides. There’s that same feeling of helplessness. But what most mortals can’t see or feel is the eternity of emotions you feel as your brain shuts down. As you die, time basically comes to a standstill and you have a lot of time to reflect. In reality it’s about three or four seconds, but in your head? Could be hours.”
Stephanie glanced towards the ledge. “I… I don’t understand.”
“Let’s just say, those last seconds of brain activity feel like an eternity. And most of the time, all I see is regret, as these poor victims realise that they will gone forever. There’s no afterlife, no palace in the clouds for the pure, no fiery pits for evildoers, no nothing.”
Arkadin got up and walked over to the edge, peering down yet again. Stephanie remained where she was, not wanting to go close to this creature.
“Regret’s one of the worst emotions. Not a good thing to feel. Guilt is a bad emotion as well. By my estimates, a jump from here would probably get a couple of other people killed as well. Whoever you land on, or perhaps a car crash from those not expecting it. Just more death. Then again, why am I complaining? In the time we’ve set aside to have this conversation, hm… about twenty other mortals have killed themselves. Probably more.”
“Are you… going to stop me?” Stephanie asked. None of this was making much sense to her.
“No. Not my decision. I hope you don’t jump. I hope you change your mind and live a normal life. Everyone and everything dies in the end, I just want less deaths to be filled with pain and regret. Because every mortal only gets one life, and I hate seeing that life thrown away.”
The Thantophor strode back to Stephanie’s side and lifted her to her feet. He then stared up at the sky and sighed.
“Oh no. I have to go. Got a natural disaster to deal with…” Arkadin put a hand on Stephanie’s shoulder and smiled.
“It’s your choice. You do what you want. I’m not going to stop you, but it’d be nice to decompose your body in fifty years rather than fifty minutes from now.” The Lord of Death paused, then smiled again. “That sounded dumb. You know what I mean. Look after yourself!”
And just like that, the creature was gone.
Stephanie remained where she was. The wind was beginning to pick up. The sun had gone behind the clouds. Cars drove by. People walked through the streets. Birds flew by. Something was buzzing. Everything was normal. Yet Stephanie felt different.
Something buzzed again. It was her phone. A text message.
“Hope you’re ok. Are you still free to dogsit later today?”
A message from her mum.
“Yeah, I’m still free…” Stephanie smiled as she headed back inside, closing the door to the roof behind her.