The Hope Beyond the Night
Not everyone has heard of the name ‘Thanatos’, but its meaning isn’t hard to comprehend. The God of Death – that’s what I was. It meant exactly what it sounded like, disguised by the ambiguity of its term. And though it proved relatively simple to understand, few actually realised the responsibilities that came with it.
It's easy enough to condemn someone whose sole purpose as a God is to kill. But what they didn’t realise was that being the God of Death came with some... Less than ideal side effects. As Thanatos, I could feel the pain of every being walking the earth. Every weary sigh, every cry of frustration, every anguished tear. Life is cruel and brings more suffering than one might realise. Once humans could grasp this truth, they would understand the pity I felt. Why I felt the need to usher the scattering of desolate, lost souls to an eternal realm of peace and repose.
Eros, on the other hand, was the God of Life or the will to live. Call it what you want but it was undeniable that his job was incomparably easier than mine. When most people in the world are ruled by Eros, optimistic and motivated to keep on living, of course it was. But those that he left behind were the remaining few who were despondent and lost. Cast aside and abandoned, it then became my job to pick up the pieces. To grant them their wish and escort them to an eternity of peace. Just as Eros guided the living in their pursuit of life, my job was to give the forgotten souls one final push, ending their suffering and granting them the tranquillity that they deserved.
Nevertheless, there were definitely times where I felt myself thinking twice. Was death really the only way? Was there some truth in what everyone was saying about me? But I forced myself to push those thoughts away, to the very back of my mind, hidden away in a forgotten corner. And I kept on seeking out more lost souls. Souls that were wilting away, on the brink of decay. And I saved them.
He first caught my eye when I saw him staring over the edge of the roof of his apartment building. An aura of despair and hopelessness seemed to follow him wherever he went, and his agony was almost tangible. I immediately felt drawn to him.
Every once in a few days, he would spend his nights on the roof, gazing vacantly into the endless night sky. His visits became more and more frequent, each time making his way closer and closer to the edge, but never beyond the fence. But it wasn’t enough. I knew that what he needed was one final push, and he would finally be free.
I observed how he was exploited at work, how his family turned their backs to him when he was at his lowest. How he almost found love but it slipped through his fingers one too many times. How he struggled to even get up in the morning, merely living out the bare movements of life without any vigour or purpose. But it didn’t matter, because I would be there to save him. To end his suffering just as I had done for millions before him.
Being the God of Death also came with some perks, such as the ability to transform into the being of one’s greatest desires. I could appear in the form of a human’s ideal companion and captivate them. And so one day, a beautiful girl moved into the empty apartment beside him, with a petite, oval face, porcelain white skin, round mesmerising eyes, full pink lips and a voice that resonated like that of an angel. The moment he first set eyes on me, I knew that he had fallen head over heels. I had successfully captured his heart.
I introduced myself to him and we got acquainted. At first, my intentions were clear. Spend enough time together to make him care, take him home with me and then he would be free.
It started off as a simple coffee date when he ended work the next day. It then led to frequent brunch outings and even a trip to the seaside. We started meeting more and more often. He would invite me over to his home after work and I would cook him meals as we spent the night playing card games and watching anime. Occasionally, he would try to cook for me instead, and his feeble attempts always made me laugh.
However, our favourite thing to do was always to sit on the roof of our apartment building where we spent most of our evenings watching the last rays of light disappear into the earth, making way for the sprinkling of stars that blanketed the night sky. He would tell me about his struggles at work and with his family, and I would always be there to listen. The more time we spent together, the deeper in love he fell. But what I didn’t realise was that I too was starting to feel a foreign feeling of warmth blossoming in my heart…
The first time I tried to save him, I led him back to the rooftop where it all started. Just one simple word, seven letters sent to his LINE account: “Goodbye”. I didn’t know if it would work or if he would even know where I was. But minutes later, he was there. Panting, catching his breath from climbing up the long flight of stairs. He staggered towards me, pleading. Begging me to stop.
I meant to take him with me, I really did. But I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. Maybe it was something in his earnest gaze or the concern in his voice, but spending the past month with him made me understand humans more. Maybe it was the faint glimmer of hope flickering in his eyes. Had it been there before? If it was, I couldn’t recall it. Or maybe I had grown weak. Were the decades finally starting to catch up to me? Whatever the reason was, I swore that I would succeed the next time. I won’t fail, I promised myself.
But the next time, I wasn’t able to do it. Neither was I able to the next. Or the one after that. It appeared as though the more caught up he was in trying to rescue me from death, the more he forgot about his own desire to end his life. And the more time we spent together, the stronger the glimmer of hope in his eyes became. At first it was just an ember. But now it blazed bright, like a determination. A purpose. A hope. For the first time, I started to doubt myself. What if I was wrong about him? I started to feel like maybe he wasn’t ready to die after all.
Before I knew it, we were celebrating our first Anniversary together. Even for an immortal like me, it was the longest and happiest year of my life. When did I try to lead him up that rooftop again? I really didn’t remember.
What I did come to realise was that his eyes weren't black, but instead a deep shade of umber with hints of ebony. I knew how he would tug at the hem of his shirt when he was nervous, and that his favourite food was curry udon, without the potatoes. How he had a knack for solving jigsaw puzzles upside down, and that he would name each and every one of his abnormal collection of teaspoons. How he was afraid of birds but not roller coasters, and that his dream was to become an art teacher. It made me realise that maybe there was more to a human than just living and dying, just like there was more to existence than the dichotomy of life and death. Maybe what they needed all this while wasn’t a reason to die, but a reminder of why life was worth living. And through this revelation, I uncovered a newfound understanding about my purpose as Thanatos. And I knew what I had to do.
It wasn’t easy, but I left that night. Because I knew that he would be alright. While he was once lost, he had now found himself again. Just like how I’d found a new purpose for myself.
Maybe for the rest, there was hope. I just needed to help them find it. While Eros aided those who desired to keep on living, I, Thanatos, would help to guide the desolate back to the path of life. And so alone, I laid my eyes on him for the last time, and took off racing into the endless night sky.