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A tenth life

The ninth time she died, she found no path back; nothing to climb, no crevice to sneak through.
“Come,” Death said.
“Shan’t,” she said.

Death shrugged his bony shoulders. Cats can not be argued with.
“Then I shall not see you again.”
“Your loss, I’m sure.” She washed her paw.

She was alone, on a featureless plain stretching from horizon to horizon under a starless sky.
She washed her other paw, then had a nap.

She picked a direction, then wandered, napped, and wandered some more until she got bored. The plain did not change, neither did the sky.

When she woke again, she noticed a faint smell of cheese. She stood up, stretched, sniffed the still air, and wandered towards the scent.

After a while, she found a boy in simple clothes.
“Hello,” he said, “can you show me the way home?”
“Did you not meet someone tall, skinny?”

“I’m not allowed to talk to or follow strange men,” the boy said earnestly.
She nodded. “Fair enough. Do you happen to have any cheese?”

The boy smiled. “I’m a cheesemaker’s apprentice.”
He looked around. “But… my basket is gone.”
She sighed. No cheese? Then what use was he?

“Stand up,” she said, “as tall and proud as you can.”
The boy obeyed, and she jumped up on his shoulder, and then to the top of his head.

She looked around. Far away, she could see a tall, dark figure, walking off with another person.
She jumped down.
“Follow me,” she said.

They hurried after Death and his companion, and eventually they reached a little farmstead.
There, Death abruptly changed direction.

“Sorry,” they heard Death say, “my mistake. It’s this way.”
Had he glanced to the side, he would have seen her and the boy, but he didn’t.

A woman came out of the farmhouse, and the boy stared at her.
“Grandma!” he shouted, “it’s me!”
He ran to her, and she opened her arms.

“I knew you were coming, dear,” she said, “but I feared you’d be lost.”
“I had a guide!”
He got out of her embrace.
“Do you have cheese?”

The boy’s grandmother laughed, and went inside. Soon after, she returned with a saucer with grated cheese and cream and chopped liver.

She thanked the boy’s grandmother, and she waited until they went inside before she began eating.
When she was done, she noticed a shadow.

Death stood next to her, looking out over the plain.
“Sometimes,” he said, as if talking to himself, “there are those who are lost.”

She looked up at him, but he did not look down.
“I can’t see a way to guide those who won’t follow,” he said.
“Subtle,” she said.
“I know.”

Told in a series of linked tweets, started with no idea where it was going.

Published inShort story