The torchlight flickered in the small stone room. Two metal stools stood across from each other. I sat on one, and she the other. Her crimson dress flowed down her legs, hanging around them like a veil. Every inch swirled with red and crimson, dancing around each other like waves. Though they danced, the colors never blended. The dress hugged her body above her hips, flush with every svelte curve. One leg was crossed over the other, and her hands rested together in her lap. Her hair was as dark red as her dress. Her face was flawless, with high cheekbones and lips that could have belonged to a snake. Though here face was blank of all emotion, the corners of her mouth tugged upward just the slightest bit. Her eyes may have shone blue, if I could have seen her irises. If she were human.

In the place of every muscle fiber of her iris was a weapon. Swords, guns, daggers, arrows, spears, axes, bombs, ropes, chains, knives, water, fire; every weapon ever used to maim or kill shone in her right eye. In her left pupil was a fractal composed of all the dead that had ever existed, layer upon layer of infinity. Her left iris displayed millions being starved, tortured, or succumbing to disease. The images grew less horrifying as they stretched to the edge of her iris. Her left eye composed the whirlpool that each of us will someday be caught up in. I recognized too many faces in that eye.

I stared at her, leaning against the back of my stool. The soles of my shoe were flat on the floor, and I crossed my forearms over my waist. My lips were a tight line.

“Does equivalent exchange still hold?” I asked.

“Yes.” She replied. I blinked. Of course it did. I pressed my lips tighter together and took a deep breath. Exchange would be worse than useless. I forced myself to relax against the will of every muscle in my body. They strove forward, not back. How ironic. My body was chiseled with solid muscle, built over years of powerlessness, and yet here I was again.

I remembered the last time we had met. All of the force in my body converged in a single punch that landed squarely on her temple. It was like punching solid rock, but worse were the millions of needles that stabbed every nerve in my hand as if the very touch could have killed me. Throughout the whole thing, she hadn’t budged, hadn’t so much as blinked.

I could do it again. A thread tugged each of my muscles forward, asking me to do it again while the ones I loved swirled in her left eye. That infernal iris, the ones that walked the inner edge, spurred me forward.

How useless. That iris was the lip of a volcano, and I was in chains, powerless to stop the one perched precariously on the edge.

My body relaxed. I stared. So did she. She had been staring at me the whole time, though it was hard to see where she was focusing when images swirled in place of her irises. She was eternal, and every head bowed to her, alive or dead.

I could ask her to spare one person. I could ask her to take my life. I could ask her to end suffering, I could ask her to begin it. I could ask her to stop tormenting one person. I could ask her the fate of those in her iris, or at least for the near future. I could fight for all the world and get nowhere. She was absolute.

“Is there anything after?” I asked.

“I am Death.” She replied.

She touched every moment, every joy and every pain. She lay behind romance, legacy, graves, wars, trade, power and wealth. You could go as far as you like, and it doesn’t even matter. We could try and outrun her. I could try and destroy her. How useless.

“Is there any meaning in life?” I asked.

“I am Death.” She replied. She smiled softly. My brows furrowed. She was so pretty, so terrifyingly beautiful when she smiled for that brief moment.

“Can anything stop you?” I asked. She nodded almost imperceptibly. My eyes widened.

“What is it?” I asked. A voice echoed in response, even though her lips remained still. It whispered, but I could only catch syllables until I tilted my head.

“Do not challenge the Red God” the whisper said. It was the voice of a small child. My gaze snapped back to hers. It was the last thing I saw.

How useless.