The Curse of Briar Michaels: Part I

It is time for a new adventure. Another story in another world that looks very much like ours, and perhaps is. Now, throughout time there have been people who have known Death, in one way or another. I speak of the person of Death, not the natural phenomenon. One generation of these cursed, or perhaps gifted, people had a unique experience in that they all found each other, and they saw how their abilities could interact. Theirs is a story of fear and love and heartbreak and learning. Theirs is a story of Death. And, of course, it is also a story of death.

Part I:

Everyone has an opinion about death. There has never been one view on the natural expiration of a human life that every living being has been on board with. Some choose to see it as the end, others believe it to be a beginning. Some believe we only die once, others see death as a point on an ever-repeating cycle.

Yes, everyone has an opinion about death. But not everyone has a relationship with Death. Most people live their whole life (or lives) blissfully unaware of his existence. They talk about their opinions and their beliefs and they never pause to notice, or even consider the possibility of, the shadowy figure that accompanies each expiration.

There have been people throughout time who have noticed. People with certain gifts or curses or sixth senses. They know the real story. They know death is the work of a being. They pop up every once in a while. Most of them live their whole lives unaware that they are not completely unique. But sometimes, they find each other.

Dushan, Asuka, Aislinn and Briar may have had much better lives if they had never found each other, but such was their fate. And please, don’t question me about fate right now. That’s another debate for another story. Right now, let us focus upon these four.

Dushan could hear Death: its footsteps as it approached, the ripping apart of body and soul. He could hear it through walls and over the general cacophony of life. It was a sound that made him feel cold, and yet he described it as the sincerest sound he had ever heard. There was no dishonesty in it. It spoke a truth that no one could deny: everything, and everyone, comes to an end.

Asuka could smell Death. She knew nearly a month in advance that a person’s life was beginning to spoil. She said it was a scent that was rotten and nostalgic and something else she could not quite put her finger on. Like some foreign spice that was only used in some particular recipe. The scent tasted like copper and reminded her that we all had a finite number of days.

Aislinn saw Death’s true form — a horrific ghost slipping between ignorant humans. That was the only description she ever gave anyone. She refused to depict the creature for anyone, even those who had curses of their own. But whenever she saw the ghastly figure, she froze and stared and goosebumps rose up upon her chilled skin.

The fourth member of this band of cursed souls was different from the rest. Briar could touch Death. While the others had struggled to cope with their abilities their entire lives, Briar had lived unaware. Dushan, Asuka and Aislinn had become friends as teenagers. They graduated from high school, got an apartment in the heart of Chicago and did their best to live normal lives. Two years later, Aislinn became the first of them to fall in love.

Briar Michaels had been an unforeseen addition to their lives. He was outgoing and vibrant. He had deep green eyes and messy brown curls. And he was an outsider. Dushan, Asuka and Aislinn did their best to avoid close relationships with outsiders, but Aislinn seemed unable to stay away from Briar. It was as if they had a special bond beyond any normal romantic attraction.

No one realized how deep that bond went until one day, as Aislinn and Briar were walking down a busy sidewalk, Aislinn stopped suddenly. Briar was confused. He didn’t know what was causing the petrified look in Aislinn’s eyes. Without fully meaning to, Aislinn pointed toward a man a few feet ahead of them. Well, Briar thought she was pointing at the man.

Hoping to find a way to understand what had Aislinn so terrified, Briar reached out toward the man. Suddenly his hand came into contact with something full of contradictions. His hand appeared to be touching nothing but air, but he could feel something solid against his fingers. It was silky and bumpy, cold as ice and hot as flame. He didn’t know what it was, but it was worthy of the fear on Aislinn’s face.

Briar screamed.

The noise snapped Aislinn out of her daze just as Death moved out of Briar’s reach. The man ahead of them on the sidewalk dropped to the concrete and Death disappeared. Slowly beginning to realize what had happened, Aislinn grabbed Briar’s arm and pulled him away from the growing commotion. Briar was still stunned and sirens were now blaring and Aislinn was doing everything in her power to keep the growing number of tears in her eyes from streaming down her face. She was doing everything in her power to make it back to the apartment before she fell apart.

When she got there, she called Dushan and Asuka into the living room. She could tell by the looks on their faces that they were fully aware someone had died, but they did not know what had really happened. Briar was finally regaining his senses. He managed to choke out the words, “What happened?”

That afternoon, life got a little more complicated for all of them.