The room was one he had visited only a few times before. It wasn’t cold, white and lonely, it was urgent yet warm. Hands worked busily as shallow breaths were taken.
He looked to the table, and down fondly at the soft, white furred body he knew so well. He sighed, his chest Iifting upwards, taking his already tall form even higher, only for it to slump back down as his breath escaped him.
Hearts beat faster as a smaller one faded, to return to beat twice more, before silence.
Death put his hand down to the table, placed it in front of the petite ferret. He stroked a thumb over her domed head, rubbed it over her rounded nose despite knowing too well how quickly those teeth could latch.
She looked up to him, this strange form. Curious ruby eyes watching as she was lifted into his arms.
“Time is a funny thing. If not yours, then whose? If not now, then when?”
He cradled her close, a smile touching his lips as little teeth tested the skulls in his beard.
“They aren’t the soft rubber of the ducks you like,” he said, a deep laugh following his words. “Yes, yes. You can try to take them but they won’t come loose. You’ve tried before.”
She tugged upon them anyway, a small noise coming from her lips, one that she hadn’t heard in sometime. When the skulls wouldn’t budge, much as she had been told, she moved onto the hourglass that clasped his robe together.
“You’ll have little luck with that, too. I can’t even get the damned thing off at times.”
Try as she might, he was right. Yet still her small tail twitched with excitement. A lightness, one that had begun to dwindle from her memory, was with her once more. Her thoughts went elsewhere, her head lifting, looking for someone.
“She knows,” Death said. He took his hand and placed it over her head, stroked her gently before taking a seat in the corner of the room. “She hasn’t been told yet, but she knows, Seb. She knows.”
Seb rested upon him as he shuffled down. He adjusted his robe so that it would wrap around her, but her body was soon just as much wrapped up in his beard.
Together they watched. A blanket brought to the table and a small frame lifted on to it. The same hands that had tried to save her now moved the blanket to cover her.
“Warmth,” Death said. “Warmth and comfort. You’ll feel it like you remember it soon.”
Time drifted by, minutes of another place blurred with the hours of here. Seb slumbered in Death’s arms and he held her patiently.
The room was quiet, empty of the living. Death knew that somewhere not far from them a heart was breaking and that in his hands he held one half of what would make it whole again. Soon, and as he had expected, he heard the other half as it neared.
A scratching sounded from behind a closed door, followed by a low but meaningful dook.
Seb lifted her drowsy head, a memory, a dream, but here and now, all in a moment that was very much real. She peered over Death’s arms as he reached the door, leaned her head over and forward as far as she could reach.
A pointed nose poked round the door, a curved and hunched back soon followed, a low dook spoke only to her.
Hello, old friend.
Had he tried to keep hold of her, he would have failed, and knowing this Death lowered Seb to the ground.
She soon leapt from his grip. Her legs flung into the air, her body twisted to the side, no sooner had she touched the ground had her front paws lifted once more. Two white bodies, one orange tail and one white, claws and teeth, ogs and dooks, together Kimble and Seb rolled across the floor and raced around the table.
Death returned to his seat and closed his eyes. People came and went but still this place was theirs and theirs alone. The calls of happiness began to quieten and Death opened his eyes at the touch of a nose against his leg.
“Have you asked for her to come?”
Seb looked up to him, her eyes told him her answer.
“Then there is no reason for me to take you to her. We must wait, as she will be here soon.” He lifted the ferrets up and onto his lap.
Kimble by Seb’s side, as she always had been, cuddled in close to her. They listened and watched, as people came and went, until a voice they both knew well was heard.
Death carried them through to a smaller room, one where upon a table a blanket had been laid.
A girl walked in, a red blanket with a pattern of owls across it clutched to her chest. She trembled as she approached.
“Seb,” her voice was quiet, tears still dropped from her eyes but she was calmer than she had expected to be.
Death placed the ferrets upon the table, and Kimble and Seb were soon clambering upon the girl’s shoulders, soon pushing their faces against hers and once she had wrapped Seb’s body in the red blanket, they found themselves in her arms.
The girl had felt so separate from her soul, so far away from her heart, but a wholeness now snuggled safely in her arms. “I’m here, Seb. I have so much I need to say to you, and I’m sure I’ll get it wrong, but you need to know how much I love you.”
Seb knew, just as Kimble had, she had always known.
They remained in the warmth of her arms, the comfort of her embrace, as she held on to the red blanket. They heard the words that were whispered into rounded ears and felt the tears drip upon closed eyes.
“I’ll talk to you
through the stars
and through the flowers
in my heart
and at all hours
Listen for me, Seb
because I’ll be listening for you, too”
Seb snuggled closer against her, a small paw clasped around the girl’s finger.
Time shrouded the room, allowed eternity as brief as a second to pass over an hour. Death waited before them, his head bowed, only lifting at each attempt the girl made to say she would come back for her soon. There was no goodbye. He knew she had a promise to keep.
“Your body needs to stay here now, but only for a couple of nights, and then I’ll be back for you. But your spirit is coming home with me. Home to Kimble.”
A deep dook told Seb that what their girl said was true. Home was together and that is where they would be. A place where Kimble had also once been guided back to.
Death watched as the girl gave Seb a kiss goodnight. A thousand kisses wouldn’t be enough and he knew this well, but he sensed the time was coming. At full height he stood, his head only dipping to give a nod to Seb that said farewell.
He would never see her again, for she was to go home.
Curled up beside Kimble, Seb rested in the girl’s arms. She left with heart and she left with soul, and even though the loss may remain longer with their girl, Death knew that in time she would realize that she never lost them at all.