The Weight of a Child

⚠️ ⚠️ Content warning. DEATH. CHILD DEATH. ⚠️ ⚠️

Riley was doing well. We had been together a month, and they were learning quickly. They had been quick to pick up on the rituals, the delicate hand and the calming that they needed to give the departures. 

It was going smooth until last Wednesday afternoon. I told Riley to coke with me to the park. There were kids playing, swinging, sliding, running around and throwing sand. One little boy was tormenting a blond little girls in French braids. I whispered to Riley, 

“She will need your assistance when she falls.” Riley’s face fell sharply, and I felt the tremble in the staff as they struggled to hold me up. 

“You can’t possibly mean…her?” They whispered, their voice giving away the fear in it. 

“All who must pass on need a guide. You are her guide. When she falls, she will be in agony. Your job is to take the pain away and send her on.” Facts. Always stick to the facts. Humans are emotional. It takes time to desensitize to this kind of life. 

Riley’s  grip tightened on my staff again, and their head bowed low. 

“This is going to hurt.” They said. 

We watched from the hilltop as the little girl ran up the play structure, trying to get away from the little boy. The boy called her name, “Emma, don’t run away!” 

They were at the top of the slide and the boy caught up. 

I urged Riley to start walking. “Let’s move closer to the slide.”

They walked slowly, eyes transfixed on this little girl, little Emma, with the boy pulling her braids back. She was trying to pull away from him, with all her strength. 

Then the boy let go. Emma shot forward and tumbled off the top of the slide and over the lip to the right. 

“Ahh-gh” Gasps sounded from the park as she hit the sand with a crunch. 

Riley covered their mouth with their hand and shook their head. 

“Hahah! Emma, get up now.” The boy shouted from the top of the slide. 

I shifted the weight and pulled Riley forward. 

“She needs you Riley. Help her.” 

Riley started cautiously, then walked faster to reach her. They reached out their hand and touched the little girl’s body. Her head was twisted at a wierd angle and her face was contorted in pain. 

“Emma?” The boy asked, sliding down. 

“Emma, get up!” He shouted. 

The kids had started to gather, pointing and whispering. “Is she okay? What’s wrong?”

Riley leaned forward and gently took hold of her hand. 

 “Hi, Emma. My name is Riley, and this is Scythe.” 

Her blue eyes stared widely at us, but she didn’t speak or cry, just swallowed once and nodded. 

“Are you ready for what awaits you?” Riley was choking on their words, tears falling from their eyes. 

“All you have to do is..” they fumbled with their words, but I do have to admit, they were doing well with their first child. 

“All you have to do is take my hand. I will help you find the way.” 

“It hurts.” She said. Riley’s grip tightened on my staff and I wavered under their trembling arms. 

“Take my hand, and I’ll take the pain away. It won’t hurt anymore.” 

“Wipe your tears.” I whispered. Riley waved me off, choosing to let the tears fall. 

“Are you hurt?” She asked Riley, and reached for their hand.  When she took his hand, her soul lifted from her body, and Riley stood up with her. 

She looked down at herself and at her form and back to Riley, understanding instinctively. 

“Can I say goodbye to Matt?” She asked. 

“The boy who pushed you?” 

“Yeah. He’s going to miss me a lot. He might be mean to people, but he’s nice too.”  She smiled and reached over to Matt. 

Matt was down on the ground, yelling at Emma’s lifeless form. 

“Wake up Emma. Please wake up. I’ll stop pulling hair. I’ll stop calling you names. I’ll do anything. Please wake up!” He was sobbing and trying to bargain. 

Riley looked sad and didn’t stop the flow of tears falling down their cheeks. His grip on me relaxed as he watched Emma accept her fate. 

“Don’t be sad, Matt. I don’t hurt anymore! I hope that you won’t hurt anymore one day too. Then we can play together again.” She placed her hand on his shoulder and Matt looked at her. 

“I’ll see you again, Matt.” She said. Matt stopped and stared, but then went back to the body and took her hand. 

“I’m sorry Emma. I didn’t mean to. Please wake up.” 

“I know you didn’t mean it. It’s okay. ” She then reached around and hugged him. She was smiling when she looked back at Riley. 

“I’m ready now, are you?” She smiled, and then gave Riley a hug too. They nearly dropped me in their shock, but caught me. 

“Alight Emma. I’m okay. Let’s walk you to the other side. First take my hand.” She grabbed their hand tightly, and then he swung me. I sliced a small opening in the dimensions, to allow her to pass through. 

“Emma, through that door, there is someone waiting for you to arrive. They will call your name. Just touch the scythe, blade and you can pass through.” 

She looked up with her wide blue eyes and turned back to look at herself. 

“I’m scared.” She whispered.

Riley crouched down beside her. 

“I know Emma, it’s okay to be scared. But you are so incredibly brave. It’s not going to hurt at all.” 

“I don’t want you to be sad.” She said. 

Riley hiccuped, a cross between a laugh and sob. 

“You’re sweet Emma, and you are the nicest person I’ve met. I will miss you, but there are some lovely people waiting for you.” They squeezed her hand and smiled. 

“Okay. I’ll go.” She reached up to touch my blade, and Riley lowered it for her. 

Her hand was warm against my cold steel, and I trembled as I switched her energies, making her able to pass through the dimensions. I whispered to Emma

 “Be good now Emma, I’ll see you again some day.” 

She smiled and bounded through the door, not giving us a second look. 

Riley sealed the door and fell to the ground sobbing loudly. Echoing the sobs and screams from the park. 

“Is there nothing we can do?! Why her? Why was she taken?” Riley sobbed for a long while letting his grief pass through. 

I stood silently above him. Emotions were not a part of who I was. I was an instrument, a tool to be used have them cross worlds. I don’t form attachments. 

“Scythe, how do I keep going?” They asked me quietly. 

” Stand up. Walk away from here.” He used my staff to pry himself away from the ground. 

“Take one step after another. When the others who held me felt like this, they called it the grief cycle. Eventually, most are able to shift right into acceptance. One day, you too will pass through my door.” 

They stopped walking and looked up at me. 

“When I get to that point, I will be broken and begging to be released won’t I?” The young one holding my staff was wise. 

“You will be burdened by many stories like this one. The weight of carrying me will become too heavy, too painful to carry. You will whither. 

But when you ask to be released, you will see the ones we have reaped. And they will thank you for making it an enjoyable experience. Try to think about that instead.” 

They thought for a moment and we got to the office. Riley laid me down against the wall and crumbled into the couch. 

“I’m already exhausted.” 

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