Chapter 1:

The Mystery of Life and Death

A Lesson from Thanatos.

What is the meaning of being alive?

How can you even describe death?

What do you call someone who's neither alive nor dead?

As I asked these questions, I stared upon the figure beside me. The cold wind brushed over her long brown hair, overlooking a woman with porcelain skin.

To the unfamiliar, ‘she’ must have been an angel.

But to me, ‘she’ was the tragedy of seven years ago.

The beginning of the suffering.

The day Anna was killed.

The day I should have died.

It is said that there are two types of people:

Those ruled by desire for life – Eros,

and those ruled by desire for death – Thanatos.

Most people are the former, but I am the latter. And for some reason, Thanatos had not yet allowed me death.

I had tried everything I could to end this suffering, and every time, ‘she’ stood in my way; how unbefitting of the god of death to save lives.

Like she’s trying to tell me something.

Something that I still failed to grasp—

“Sire!”, a voice interrupted. “We’re losing too many! We must fall back!”

“No need. Push forward.”

“But sire, we’re dying out there!”

“Soldiers are replaceable. Besides… we’re so close to victory.”.

“Tch. Affirmative.” He bit into his lip.

He marched away, but I caught ‘that’ look. The look of fear and disgust everyone always gave me.

I never cared. I wanted them to hate me, to rip the limbs off my body, freeing me of life in this wretched world.

That look brought me back to the encounter with Alice before the war.

I was nearby when I heard her soft cry. She was running towards me, her blonde hair swaying with every step.

Alice? What was she doing here? It had been a while.

“Dad, please stop this. Come home, please....”

“No, not when I’m this close to victory.”

“You and your stupid revenge! Can’t you just grieve like a normal person? It’s been seven years. Any sane person would’ve moved on!”

Sane? Normal? Two words that could never describe me.

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“No, you’re the one that doesn’t understand here! Not when you left me all alone after mom’s death!”

She paused, for a second. Looked me straight in the eye.

“I bet that if she was still here, even she would be disgusted with you!”


Ah, there I had done it.

Alice’s eyes watered. She turned and ran away, but not before I saw 'that' look in her eyes.

That’s it.

There was no coming back. Even Alice was against me now.

Please, God. Hear me now. Take my life already.

As I made my silent prayer, I glanced at the figure beside me. ‘She’ was silent, staring at Alice’s fleeing figure.

Her eyes were wet with tears.

Mere fantasy, I sneered. What would The god of death be sad for?


A voice broke me out of my thoughts.

“We’re closing in.”

“Good, continue pushing.”

There it was: striking as always, that scent of death: dead bodies and gunpowder.

Neither Eros nor Thanatos ruled here, only desire for victory.

Even as I did my bloody work, I couldn’t help but think on my earlier questions.

What is the meaning of being alive?

Is it an intense love, the man kissing a woman’s picture as his death draws near?

Is it responsibility, the old veteran protecting a fresh recruit from enemy bayonets?

Is it pride, the cannoneer who slaughters a line of infantry in a single blast?

How can you even describe death?

Most assume it is the separation of body and soul.

But then what is a man whose body lives, but whose mind is dead?

What is a man, so close to death, though his eyes shine bright, as if about to begin some wondrous journey?

Nothing. I had no answers to these questions. I didn’t even try at the last one, knowing the outcome from the first two.

Life and death are indeed full of mysteries. Would I ever have the luxury of solving them?

I bet ‘she’ knows the answer. But I could never ask her myself.

The great clamor started to subside. The battle drew to its conclusion.

“We’ve done it, Anna,” is what I would like to say.

And there it was, at last. This ugly feeling inside my heart that wouldn’t subside. So, it was true. Vengeance’s flame had burnt me to nothing—and yet I still lived.

What could ‘she’ want to teach me, anyway?

And at once, my breath grew heavy. There was a warmth emanating from my chest—wet, crimson. I felt the ground slip from me as I slammed into the dirt, sending my lungs reeling and groaning for air.

Is this it? Is this finally going to be over?

I can’t wait to be reunited with Anna.

I hope ‘she’ doesn’t interrupt me again.


A familiar cry. Alice? You don’t need to be worried about me; I’ll be reunited with your mother.

I could feel my arm again—or at least, I could feel something warm. I struggled to turn my head with whatever strength I had left.


I didn’t understand. Why would she cry for me? She should hate me.

“Why? I’m a horrible person. I left you. I’m not worthy for tears”, I choked out.

“I never hated you.”

“I killed so many.”

“I don’t care.”

“I was a disappointment to your mother.”

“No, you’re not.”

“I’m just a terrible person.”

“You’re more than that.”

Those words sparked something—warm, fuzzy, within me. Something I’d forgotten for the past seven years.

“Someone, call a medic!”, she shouted.

“Just let me die.”

“No, not like this! There is much to do! I blamed you for not being there. But I was the same. For these long seven years, I wasn’t there for you either.”

“It must be hard, right? To have the whole world crushing your heart.”

“But that doesn’t mean you need to wallow in misery forever. You can move on.”

“Dad, you were a good man, once. Your country needs that side of you again, I need that side of you again.”

Just as she said those words, I could feel them gathering around me. My men. Was it finally time?

Then I saw their faces.

Why would they cry for me? Didn’t they hate me?


They all looked at each other and nodded.

“We’ve all lost someone important from this war. We understand the pain,” said one of them.

“My family can finally rest well, knowing we have won. Despite some… unnecessary sacrifices,” said another.

“Little rough there,” someone chortled.

“I’m just being honest,” the man huffed.

Some soldiers, and even Alice, chuckled.

It had been seven years since I last witnessed that smile. And I would soon miss it. Inexplicably, I could feel a tear creep from my eyes. Would I never see it again?

So that was what it was.

At long last. My answer.

What is the meaning of being alive?

Being able to cherish Alice’s smile.

How can you even describe death?

Death is the day I can’t see that smile anymore.

What do you call someone who’s neither alive nor dead?

A fool.

For not realising the joys of life.

For not realising that the fear of death gives life its meaning.

“I truly am a fool,” I said. The hot tears streamed down.

Finally, I had a chance to redeem myself. ‘She’ would fix me like always, right?

I could feel my body growing colder. It started to become quiet.

“Do you finally get it?” she whispered.

As I fought to breathe in, I started to realise why ‘she’ couldn’t let me die.

I cannot die twice. Not after my first death, seven years ago.

The death of the mind, although my body lived.

How can there be death, when there’s no life?

All this was just a roundabout way for me to regain ‘life’ so that I can truly be ‘dead’.

“You’re so cruel, Thanatos,” I chuckled.

My sight began to fade, but then I could see her at my side, reaching out to me with a soft, delicate hand. I looked deeply into her eyes.

“Thank you for everything.”

‘She’ broke into the warmest smile I had ever seen on her.

It was like seeing Anna smile again.

They always say that the God of Death would resemble your heart’s desire.

I never really noticed before, but ‘she’ had always appeared as Anna. Just like when we first met.

I struggled to reach for her hand.

I’d found a reason to live, but it was finally the time for me to be reunited with Anna.

I’ll tell her how much our daughter has grown up.

“Let’s go.”

Your hand in mine, we set off to escape from this world.

Not from the frustration this world brings us,

but from the memories that tell us how beautiful this world is. 


A Lesson from Thanatos.