Bane of DeathA woman whose presence prevents Death from taking a person. She also can pass on the ability to see Death to others if she touches another while in the presence of Death.
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About the Story
The next day went as well as Alicia could have hoped. Tracy showed up a little after three thirty in the afternoon, and they spent the rest of the day together having fun. Even mundane things like grocery shopping were fun to Alicia that day. After the last week and a half, time with Tracy was exactly what Alicia needed. It wasn't that she'd been feeling lonely, in fact she hadn't at all due to how often she saw Martin and the time she was spending at the hospital. But she also hadn't had any normalcy either. She wasn't working. She was still recovering from a serious auto accident and coping with a broken arm. And beyond all that, she was trying to come to terms with the fact that she had a unique and powerful gift. Tracy brought a sense of a normal life back to her. Made her feel like her old usual self again. Something Martin and the hospital couldn't do.
Alicia did have Tracy detour from their girls' day once for a short visit to the hospital.
"You're not sick of that place yet?" Tracy had asked her on their way.
"Not really," Alicia replied with shrug. "I don't know, maybe." She pressed her lips together, then turned her head towards Tracy. "But I made a promise. So it doesn't really matter."
Tracy's expression indicated it didn't much matter to her either. "Then we'd better keep it," she replied in reference to the promise.
Alicia only stayed long enough to sit with Maria until the older woman feel asleep. She was worried about Tracy. Or more specifically about Tracy meeting D. As much as Alicia wanted to tell her best friend about the biggest news ever in her life, she wanted more be able to hold onto Tracy as she was now. Alicia didn't expect Tracy would stop being her friend if Tracy knew about D and everything else, but she knew it would change how Tracy thought of her. Perhaps even how Tracy might treat her. How could it not? Alicia already thought if herself differently. And right now she couldn't handle it if Tracy changed too.
On their way out, Tracy looked at Alicia with admiration.
"What?" Alicia asked.
"You visit that lady every day, don't you," Tracy said.
Alicia nodded. "I promised her I would."
Tracy linked her arm into Alicia's as they walked. "You're a really good person," Tracy told her.
Alicia smiled, but quickly the smile faded. She pulled away from Tracy.
"What?" Tracy asked.
"Tracy, I have something to tell you," Alicia started to say, but hesitated. "I don't really want to, because I don't want things to change between us." She stopped walking, and looked to her friend.
"Then don't tell me," Tracy said as if it were the obvious solution, and kept right on walking.
"But I shouldn't keep things from you. We're best friends, it's not right."
Tracy turned towards Alicia with a very serious expression. "Alicia, you ARE my best friend. And that means I don't need to know anything you don't want to tell me. I trust you. I trust your judgement. If you ever feel it becomes necessary, I know that you'll tell me whatever it is. So, unless that every happens, forget about it."
Alicia smiled gratefully. She closed the distance between her and Tracy, and gave Tracy a big tight hug. "I love you," she said.
"I love you too," Tracy replied. Then she partially broke the hug by leaning back. "Come on, before we both end up in tears! We still have lots to do tonight!"
They both laughed lightly. Alicia nodded and let go of Tracy. "Right. So where are we having dinner?"
Two days later Alicia was back to work. One of her friends from the office, Melinda, offered to drive her to and from work every day since she was relatively on the way, which Alicia gratefully accepted. Until the doctors decided she could move to a small cast that didn't completely immobilize her right arm, she wasn't allowed to drive. That had been fine while she was on sick leave, but now it would have been a big problem. She couldn't ask Martin to talk even more time out of his days to help her get to work and back. And Tracy and her parents lived far enough away that they weren't even possibilities. But accepting her work friend's offer meant she wouldn't cause anyone much of an imposition, so long as she adjusted her schedule to accommodate Melinda's schedule. Melinda had school age children, and so she worked seven-thirty until four instead of nine to five like most of those at the lab. Alicia arranged with Susan for a temporarily altered schedule, and everyone was happy.
On the hospital front, Martin still made sure she made it twice a week for her normal volunteer schedule. He also brought her most every evening for her visit with Maria. The evenings he couldn't, Tracy brought her or Alicia took a cab. Things worked well like that for almost two weeks.
Then came the evening when Alicia and Martin arrived at the hospital to find Maria wasn't in her bed. She didn't have to ask the nurse on duty where Maria was. Every day Maria had been that much worse. She always told Alicia she felt better when Alicia was there, and eventually would fall asleep with a smile. And the next day she was always grateful when Alicia arrived. But last night when Alicia had arrived, Maria had thanked Alicia differently. She thanked Alicia for giving her the time she had needed for all her children to come visit her, so she could say all she needed to say them. She said her son, the last of her children to visit, had left that morning. And that meant the last person she had to say something to was Alicia. She had patted Alicia's hand with a smile, and thanked Alicia again. Then she said Alicia didn't have to come visit anymore, and sent Alicia away before she had fallen asleep. Alicia had come today anyway.
Martin put his arm around her shoulder. "Are you okay?"
It was a stupid question. The tears welling in her eyes had already told the answer to that question. "I knew she was slipping away from me," Alicia whispered. "She was such as nice person. Always had something good to say. And interesting stories. I sometimes wondered if we had have been in school together if we would have been friends." Alicia tried to laugh. "From all her stories, she would have gotten me into so much trouble," she said and started to cry instead.
Martin pulled her into a hug.
"Why couldn't I save her?" Alicia asked. "Why didn't I spend more time with her?"
"She didn't want you to," Martin replied, trying to make Alicia feel better. "She just wanted enough time to say good bye to everyone properly. You gave her that."
Alicia nodded slowly and tried to calm herself. "But I don't understand. Aren't I supposed to be able to save anyone?"
For a moment Martin floundered for an answer. "Maybe...," he slowly said, "...not? Maybe, there are some things beyond even your gift."
"Or maybe I didn't do it right," Alicia thought out loud. "I bet I have to be there, all the time, when D is around."
Martin hesitated to agree. That went back to their discussion in the car a couple weeks before. It was a question he was glad he didn't have to wrestle with.
"I'm going to go talk to D," Alicia told him as she pulled away from him. When he didn't follow her to the door, she stopped and looked back at him. "Not coming?"
Martin inhaled an held his breath for a moment. "Noo," he said as he exhaled audibly. "I don't think D would like that."
Alicia knew that meant he didn't think he would like what D might do. "Alright. I'll meet you downstairs?"
Not seeing D around the floor she was currently on, Alicia headed up to intensive care.
"Hi D," Alicia said as she walked down the corridor.
D stepped out from one of the rooms. "Alicia," she greeted neutrally.
The two looked at each other. It had been a while since they had spoken. Alicia wondered what D was thinking.
"I won't be by every day anymore," Alicia said. "At least for now."
"I know," D replied.
"Unless...," Alicia let her voice trail off as she tried to put words to her train of thought. "Why couldn't I save Maria?"
D tiled her head slightly. "Everyone dies Alicia. Whether you prevent it or not at a given point in their lives, eventually they will die."
Alicia knew that was the truth, even though it didn't explain why Alicia had failed Maria. She dropped her head some and lowered her voice. "D, what happens to a person after they die?" Alicia asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.
D remained silent for several moments, so long that Alicia looked up to make sure D was still there. "D?" Alicia prompted.
"I can't give you that answer," D finally replied.
Alicia narrowed her eyes at D. "Can't? Or won't?"
"Can't," D said firmly.
"Don't you know?" Alicia asked a bit incredulously. "You are Death after all. Where do you take people when they die?"
"It is," D tried to explain, "different, for you and I."
"What does that have to do with it?" Alicia replied with confusion. "Of course we're different. You're not human."
"Exactly," D agreed. "Our perceptions are different. Understand that all I know of your world is what you and your kind tell me. That and how and when death occurs."
"So... what? You can't tell me because you don't know how?"
"That's close enough," D answered with a nod.
Alicia shook her head. "Okay," she said, giving up on that topic. "Answer me this then. Am I on your list?"
D gave her a small smile. "Now Alicia, you know I can't tell you that. No one should have such foreknowledge of their destiny."
"Come on D," Alicia pleaded. "I'm not asking for when! I just want to know IF I'm going to die. I mean, is it possible? Is it definite? Is it not?"
D considered a moment, but then shook her head. "I will not tell you. But I will tell you why," she said before Alicia could protest. "No matter what answer I give you, you would start acting differently. If I said no you can't die, you would act cocky or brave or take risks you otherwise wouldn't, knowing you couldn't die. If I said yes you will die, then you would start constantly looking over your shoulder when I am around or questioning every decision with repercussions, wondering if this was the moment. No matter the answer, it is still foreknowledge for you. And so I will not tell you."
Alicia sighed. "I suppose that's fair." She thought a moment. "One more question before I go."
"I know there have been others before me with the same, um, powers as I have," Alicia stated.
"Are they still around?"
D shook her head. "Thankfully there has only ever been one at a time."
"What happened to them?" Alicia asked.
D held up her finger. "Ah ah. You said only one more question."
Alicia huffed. "Oh come on D, if they aren't around anymore, how did they die?"
"Who said they died?" D replied, looking genuinely surprised.
Alicia immediately fell back into confusion. "Are you saying they didn't die? You just said they aren't around anymore."
D held up her hand. "Enough questions for today." She started to walk away. "And don't expect me to answer them later either. Some things you have to figure out for yourself."
Alicia watched D disappear down the hall. Her mouth hung open for a while afterwards. Eventually she pulled herself out of her thoughts and headed for the elevators.
On the first floor as she passed by, Alicia wasn't too surprised to find the emergency room so busy. It was more than usual for this time of day, but not totally uncommon, especially if there had been some sort of accident or disaster. She decided to poke around on her way to meet Martin, to see if things were serious. If they were, she'd stay to help in her way.
Dozens of people were milling around, packing the place so much it was hard to see past the people around her. She gently pushed her way thru, silently checking on everyone. About half were bleeding from non-life threatening wounds. A few seemed to have cold symptoms and complained of high fevers, but nothing severe. The rest were in for various aches and pains, or were accompanying their children or friend.
Satisfied she wasn't needed, Alicia started to make her way back towards the door into the hospital, from which should would then make her way to the front to meet up with Martin. Suddenly she felt hands on her left arm and shoulder. She turned to see who wanted her attention, and found a man she did not recognize, and who did not look ill. He was distinctly looking towards the floor. Before she could ask him what he wanted she realized there was also a hand under her right shoulder and a fourth on her lower back that was starting to push her. "Hey!" she said with annoyance. "Watch what your doing!"
"I'm sorry," a woman apologized with sincerity from behind Alicia. But she kept pushing. Alicia looked back at the woman, who also was looking down, not seemingly watching where she was going.
Alicia quickly realized she was being lead toward the emergency room doors to the outside. She tried to pull out of the man's hold on her arm, but he tightened his grip. She tried to plant her feet to keep from being moved any further, but the woman behind her tapped the back of her knee with just enough force to make it bend, causing Alicia to loose her balance and stumble forward.
"Help!" Alicia called out. Just then a handful of other people around the emergency room called out for help as well.
"Don't worry, we've got you Alicia," the man said in an assuring voice, no doubt for any who had turned their way at Alicia's call.
Her eyes widened in fear. Not only was she being kidnaped, but it was well planned! Someone calling for help in the emergency room was not the attention getting thing Alicia needed it to be right then. Before she could think of something else to do, they had her out the doors. And sure enough, there was a car waiting. Which of course hadn't drawn any suspicion because there was a driver behind the wheel who kept looking towards the emergency room doors as if waiting for someone.
The man and woman put Alicia in the back seat of the car. Then the woman joined her. The man got into the front passenger seat and looked at the driver, who was a young male. "Let's go," the man said to the younger.
The first thing Alicia did was test the handle of the door next to her. Child locked. She hadn't expected any less, but she felt she had to try anyway. Next she looked around at the people in the car with her. As far as she could tell, none of them had guns. But she was still a captive nonetheless.
"Where are you taking me?" Alicia asked.
"We mean you no harm," the woman next to her said first to assure her she was safe. "We are taking you to the first church."
"The first church of what?" Alicia asked with a touch of uncertainty.
"Of the Light!" the driver responded enthusiastically.
The man next to him pointed out the windshield. "Just drive," he told the youth.
Alicia frowned. "Look, I don't know what's going on here but-"
"You will," the woman promised. "Please don't worry. The Reverend will explain everything for you."
Alicia took a deep breath to calm her nerves, hoping she could believe the woman, and trying to believe that they couldn't do anything to kill her anyway. She would just have to bide her time until she could find a way out.