He had sought it out earlier than most.
At 16, he was calling upon its name, the one word leaving his lips in a painful howl.
It met him then, tearful and grieving as he was, and the sight of it, more than its sudden appearance stunned him into terrified silence. He had expected a monster with bloody fangs, the foul stench of dead bodies permeating its coat of black. He had recoiled, merely imagining the merciless bead-like eyes, hungry to witness yet another slaughter.
But the real thing was so much more terrifying. It was eerie and…beautiful, though he could not see its face. It was clothed in flowing robes of white to which clung a light, sticky coat of dust and grit. It advanced with grace and not murderous intent, as though it could not walk but only fly.
He stared, still stunned at this ethereal entity that could only be Death.
And though its cloak, like a veil on its face, betrayed nothing of what might lie beneath, he could still feel its strong, binding gaze on him.
Death remained still, waiting as if.
And that was when the reality of it all came crashing down on him. Here was Death, this murderer, standing before him, all dressed in white.
“My friend! My friend! You—you murdered him!” he bellowed, his shaking finger pointing at the white, otherworldly figure.
Tears stung his eyes once more, and the pain in his chest returned tenfold.
There was Death, standing before him, its robes of white billowing around like the very air around him was sacred. And his friend, his friend laid in the earth, buried under the ground, never to surface again.
The thought of it, of his friend’s lively face now…dead, now covered in dirt sent his heart beating to a mad rhythm. His eyes screwed shut in spite of his desperate attempts to keep them open, for fear of Death that was still, he felt it, gazing into his very soul.
As he gasped for breath and struggled to open his eyes, a smell of dirt and smoke hit his nose. The air around him grew colder and suddenly, something glacial and wisp-like pressed against his forehead.
As his head fell back into the darkness, he could recall only one thing.
A voice, clear and pure, unlike any he had heard before, uttering words he would never forget:
“Many die of broken hearts.”