Atlas looked on into the hazy night. The wind blew cold and harsh, or at least it was cold, she realized. In fact she couldn’t feel anything anymore. It all happened so fast…
She was driving home from the Orphanage For The Troubled, her place of work, when her car was hit. The memory was as clear as day. The fear as she tried to swerve out of the way. The blinding headlights. The loud screeches of tires and the clashing of metal.
Then… nothing. It was quiet. It was not cold or warm. It was dark. The next stimulus was laying on a bridge that was blanketed with snow. The snow wasn’t cold as she laid there in shock of what happened. Being smart, she didn’t need someone for an explanation. Atlas knew she had died.
Peering into the old fashioned candle street lamps, Atlas walked along the bridge alone. Her long coat flapped around her. The flame, protected from the winter, was able to softly flicker without a care in the world. What am I supposed to do now, she questioned. Am I just trapped here? Leaning against the stone rail, Atlas put her head in her hands and took a deep breath. She then heard a peculiar sound that resembled wings flapping. But this sound was softer and calmer than a bird. She turned and saw a young woman, close to her own age, standing under one of the street lamps in all black and wearing a long coat like Atlas. The light softly illuminated her face, allowing Atlas to see their eyes had sunset orange in the middle and black around the rim. Atlas slowly walked towards the woman, her curiosity getting the better of her.
“I’m happy they decided to keep these candle lamps here,” the woman said, still looking at the flame. “Reminds me of when I was younger and they were brand new. What do you think of them, Atlas?”
When she was younger… these lamps look close to a hundred years old, Atlas realized. “I thought they were very unique. Made this place special,” Atlas answered, looking at the woman’s beautiful eyes.
“Things out of time can generally do that. Do you know who I am Atlas?” The woman looked away from the lamp and looked at Atlas with a warm gaze.
Atlas took a moment to think. Inhuman eyes, knowing my name despite never meeting before, remembering century old lamps, appeared after a strange noise… “Are you here to collect me? I assume you are some sort of Angel of Death”
The Angel nodded. “You are right. And I am here to get you. But I figured we could chat first if you wanted. You are naturally curious so I guess you have some questions that only I can answer.”
As Atlas and Death walked through the winter landscape Atlas told her everything. She talked about her kids at the orphanage; feeling her time was cut too short when she had just finally made progress and the kids had opened up. Death listened patiently to Atlas' worries and tried to calm any concerns.
“I know my close friend was asking how to take care of them all… but I don't know. I feel like those kids’ futures are now even more uncertain,” Atlas admitted to Death.
“It’s perfectly acceptable for you to be uneasy with the unknown.”
“I guess my next question is cliche, why are we put here only to be snatched away without any warning?”
Death chuckled and was able to immediately answer. “The meaning of life is different for everyone, and it can often be described using one word.”
Atlas raised her eyebrows as an opportunity to know more about this being presented itself. “Did you ever get a word?
“Yes… I was a human, just like you. And part of me still feels like it is.”
“If you were human, how did you end up here?”
“As a young girl, my father sent me out to try and sell matches. But I couldn't get anyone to buy them. Fearing my father’s wrath, I stayed out in the cold.” The talking stopped and The Angel rubbed her hands together as she looked towards the ground. “I didn't last long. The next thing I knew I had a job to do that I didn’t get the chance to do while I was alive. I age much slower now, and I get to help people for a long time until my job is handed off to someone else.”
“How will you know who to give such a crucial job to,” Atlas asked in astonishment.
“The universe always makes sure that the right soul will come in time. It will be my last job when my form turns old to train them. Just like what my mentor did for me.”
The Angel and Atlas stop walking. As Death watched, Atlas looked over the frozen lake under them. Atlas makes a somber face as she thinks back to the amazing day she had and will never get to experience again. “Sometimes it just feels like we were born only to die, hopefully a long time later,” Atlas lamented quietly.
“We weren’t just born to die, we were born to make life mean something, however long our lives may be.”
Atlas looked at Death as her eyes began to water. “Did I succeed?”
The Angel looked back at her and smiled gently. She pulls out a match and with a snap of her fingers it ignites. “See for yourself,” she answered. Atlas looked into the flame and saw all the children in the orphanage playing with the toys and eating the sweets she had brought them; this is their first holiday anyone cared enough to make it special for them. Atlas laughed as tears fell down her face. They all look so happy, she thought. “You held the weight of those children’s worlds on your back, making your word a very powerful one. Empathy. You saw those kids and decided to give them something that not many think is possible for those like them.”
Atlas turned to look at the Angel as she wiped the water off her face. “Would you be able to watch over them for me?”
“Don’t worry,” Death said. “You left someone even better than me to do that…” The flame showed the children continuing to play with their things as Atlas’ friend walked to the group and sat down on the floor with them. “We don’t just create meaning in our lives, but we can also create meaning for someone else as well.” The match slowly dimmed its strong glow until the match had gone completely out. Atlas looked towards the ground and smiled. She took a deep breath in and lifted her head to look at Death in the eyes with a smile.
“I’m ready,” she said, and Death outstretched her hand.
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